Pittsburgh's 2010: My Crystal Ball

‘Tis the season for predictions. Here are mine for Pittsburgh for 2010. These aren’t hopes or wishes; they’re what I think we will see in the region over the next 12 months.

1. Sports: Pirates observers (few people today hold themselves out as fans any longer) will endure yet another losing season in 2010, but the team will fall short of 100 losses. This is hardly a prediction, of course; it’s all but a guarantee. The Pirates are well on their way to becoming this generation’s Washington Senators. (The team has a couple of options: Make a deal with the devil, and lure Tab Hunter out of retirement. Or execute a move similar to one made famous at the trial of Al Capone: Take the entire major league roster, coaches, managers, and all, and ship them to the Pirates’ Class AA affiliate, the Altoona Curve. Bring the entire Curve roster and staff to Pittsburgh. Put them in Pirates uniforms. A AA-grade franchise deserves AA-grade players. Play ball!)

2. Arts: 2010 will be a breakout year for Pittsburgh’s emerging “young creatives,” especially the visual artists and musicians who have been quietly taking over the North Side and some northeastern neighborhoods for much of the last decade. Look for at least one Pittsburgh-based performer to take the national stage. The arts communities in Lawrenceville, Garfield, and the North Side will overtake the institutions of the Cultural District as the faces of Pittsburgh’s arts culture.

3. Business: The number of tech spinoffs from Pitt, CMU, and UPMC will increase. Pittsburgh will emerge as an East Coast hub for Google, which will hire more staff and occupy more space in East Liberty/ Larimer than it currently forecasts. At least one long-time “name” Pittsburgh company will go out of business in 2010. Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate will trail the national unemployment rate for an additional 12 months.

4. Education: Pitt and CMU will continue their two decades-long journey to the upper echelons of the international higher education community. The dollar value of sponsored research at both Pitt and CMU will continue to increase; their respective endowments will begin slow recoveries. The tuition tax debate of 2009 will enable the emergence (or in some cases, re-emergence) of Pittsburgh’s “second tier” of colleges and universities as leading voices on the future of region’s economy and culture: Duquesne, Robert Morris, Chatham, Carlow, Point Park. Negotiations over nonprofit contributions to the city’s finances, in the wake of the tuition tax détente will reach another crisis point in 2010 before a deal is reached.

5. Politics: The Ravenstahl administration will experience a serious corruption scandal in 2010. Much of the city will yawn, and the Republican and progressive Democratic Party constituencies that have been trying to unseat the Democratic machine for years will gaze at their navels, still too disorganized to capitalize on their good fortune. Harrisburg will not bail out the city.

6. Demographics: The Pittsburgh media will search for good news in Pittsburgh’s modest but growing Latino and Indian and South Asian communities. More often than not, they will miss the story. New grocery stores are interesting and colorful and fun for shopping; new professionals migrating to Pittsburgh have a greater bearing on the region’s prosperity. 2010 will be Pittsburgh’s year of the woman (women?) in leadership, across politics, business, and the nonprofit sector.

7. Law and Order: The U.S. Justice Department will announce a major antitrust investigation aimed at a Pittsburgh institution. The homicide rate in Pittsburgh will increase in 2010.

8. Community: The opening of the Consol Energy Center will anchor a revitalization of the Uptown neighborhood, but the Rivers Casino will continue to struggle to meet its revenue projections. Demand for housing will raise housing prices sufficiently that Pittsburgh loses its status as the nation’s most livable city. This will be a good thing.

9. Media: A Pittsburgh-based newspaper will cease daily print publication in 2010. Blogs and other social media won’t fill the gap.

We will see how things turn out. Check back a year from now.


9 Responses to "Pittsburgh's 2010: My Crystal Ball"

Katrina said... 1/01/2010 9:47 PM

I would like to challenge you to revisit this in 365 days and discuss which predictions were met and which weren't. I wish more 'predictors' would do this each year, and I am truly interested in seeing how yours play out. Perhaps it would be worth while for you to keep these in mind over the next year and if one of them is fulfilled, blog about it specifically. It would be interesting, to me at least.

Mike Madison said... 1/01/2010 10:15 PM

That is the plan.

1 said... 1/02/2010 10:13 PM

The only thing people love more than "Top [#] Lists" are predictions, and I ate this post without stopping.

Things you missed:

SportsThe Steelers become the first organization to purchase a guillotine and promptly say au revoir to two coaches and five players, much to the delight of a scapegoat-hungry city.

ArtsLV quickly ebbs into commercialized apartments and bars. "Brews over Butler" officially takes over as Pittsburgh favorite dive bar.

BusinessAfter a currency war with China, the dollar depreciates faster than the German Mark circa-1923; American steel becomes attractive to foreign companies and US Steel builds three new plants.

EducationTo finance their “voluntary” contribution to the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny universities increase tuition another ten percent.

PoliticsThree more years left! And then probably another four more years. And then another, and another, ad nauseam.

DemographicsPittsburgh still remains one of the few bastions of homogeneity or, as some comment through the year, the “real America.”

CommunityThe Rivers Casino files for bankruptcy even after receiving table games in April due to every Ohion city over 100,000 resident opening their own casino. The city neglects any and every district with a median combined-income under $50,000.

MediaChris Potter and Bram Reichbaum winner Pittsburgh Pulitzer Prizes for insightful, in-depth coverage journalism

Joe Polk said... 1/06/2010 12:13 AM

So which print publication do you think will call it quits this year?

Mike Madison said... 1/06/2010 11:06 AM

I'm not banking on a publication calling it quits - only that one publication will give up putting out a print edition every day. If I knew which one, then I would have written something different, like "The Pitt News will go entirely online." But I didn't. ;-)

Mark Arsenal said... 1/18/2010 1:53 PM

"New grocery stores are interesting and colorful and fun for shopping; new professionals migrating to Pittsburgh have a greater bearing on the region’s prosperity."

Define "prosperity". And don't forget that very often those new professionals bring along their families who might open the groceries and restaurants. A little from column a and a little from column b are best.

Mike Madison said... 1/18/2010 2:08 PM

Sure, a little from column a and a little from column b, and a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, and season to taste. Voila! Baked Alaska, or whatever.

But cities don't grow that way, and more important, they can't be grown that way. There is no recipe; there is no way to stimulate some optimal blend of urban amenities, jobs, innovators, and distributive justice that protects low income citizens and those that are aging in place. From a policy standpoint, there are usually only crude choices to be made (distinguishing crude from fine-grained), and when I write about "prosperity," I'm using that mostly as a synonym for "wealth," on an aggregate (society-wide) basis. Other things being equal, the region needs more money. What's the best way to do that? If you're a policymaker, you may not get to choose "column a and column b and a dash of seasoning." You are more likely to have to choose one or the other.

Mark Arsenal said... 1/18/2010 2:11 PM

Well, I never said "grow" - growth for growth's sake is what Phoenix and Las Vegas and Orlando do. I'd be happy with improved stagnation.

Mike Madison said... 1/18/2010 2:56 PM

And I didn't write "growth for growth's sake." ;-) To me, grow simply means evolve and change; cities do that, whether or not we want them to. (Even "improved stagnation" is a form of growth.) The question is whether policymakers should steer the ship, at least part of the time, or not. They can't always succeed, and they certainly can't and shouldn't steer the whole ship.

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About Pittsblog

Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at madisonian.net, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

Chris Briem of Null Space drops by Pittsblog from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.


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