The Manifesto Revisited

Having posted "The New Pittsburgh," at last I should go back and revisit an old post titled -- terribly optimistically and breathlessly -- "Manifesto for a New Pittsburgh."  It's four years old, which means that it comes from the Pleistocene of the Pittsburgh blogosphere.

The background and purpose of the post are laid out there.  The post itself offered seven "principles" to guide what we (it was a "we") thought should be the future of the city and region:

1. Connect and reconnect with the virtual Pittsburgh.
2. Bring new resources to the region. 
3. Energize Pittsburgh’s culture and community. 
4. Listen for new voices. 
5. Change the face of Pittsburgh.
6. Build on the best of Pittsburgh’s past. 
7. Recognize the geopolitics of the neighborhood.
Each one of those was accompanied by a bit of context and explanation.  Look at the original post for all of that.

Four years later, where are we?  For all of the ponderousness and seriousness of this, I think that it's still a pretty good list of ideas.

What's changed?

Most important, a lot of people who we met and talked with while putting the list together -- people who were, at the time (late 2006, early 2007) in the early stages of launching initiatives that were consistent with the Manifesto -- have gone on to execute things, or to revive existing things, with real traction:  Lenore Blum and Project Olympus; Audrey Russo at the Pittsburgh Technology Council; Carl Kurlander at Steeltown Entertainment and the burgeoning entertainment sector in Pittsburgh.  Christina Gabriel, then at the Heinz Endowments, seeded a lot of great things locally through Heinz's Innovation Economy program.  Jim Russell, who was a leading contributor to the Manifesto, has made "diasporan economics" something of a full-time gig.

The other key difference today is that the background conversation has changed.  Back in 2006, Pittsburgh's public sphere was full of what I later called the area's "Sally Field" complex:  It was stunned, stunned! to discover that outsiders thought highly of the place.  My sense today is that this pendulum has swung to the other end of the range -- not only is Pittsburgh collectively not surprised that they like us, but there is at times a collective sense of entitlement about Pittsburgh's status.  As in, of *course* NPR would run a glowing story on the city's alleged "renaissance," because Pittsburgh has been recognized repeatedly as an amazing livable place.  A pair of Super Bowls, a Stanley Cup, a G20 summit, pancake makers at the White House, and a boy mayor on the David Letterman show will do that, I guess.

The Manifesto isn't responsible for any of this, of course.  We were trying to capture a spirit of the time.  By putting the Manifesto out there again, maybe I can capture a slightly different spirit.  Whatever success Pittsburgh may have had over the last four years, that success is fragile.  The struggle for stability is far from over.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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