Thursday, November 30, 2006

House Divided

News is that Pennsylvania's 156th Legislative District was decided in favor of Barbara McIlvaine Smith(D), giving the Democrats a majority in the state house for the first time in a more than a decade. Yet it is still amazingly close. If this session really starts 102-101 then all sorts of things could happen. A decade ago both the state house and senate were about as evenly split as possible. Party switching by members is not unheard of. State Senator Frank Pecora, Mike Doyle's former boss, switched from Republican to Democrat and by himself altered the balance of power in the state senate. Before that Representative Tom Stish of Luzerne county switched from Republican to Democrat Democrat to Republican, which also single-handedly switched the balance of power in the state house. With 203 members lots can happen. Death or just illness could make the house evenly split at any moment. What if just one member is absent. Or as is becoming common, a legislator who is also a reservist gets called up. Cases like Senator Pippy who kept his office while away for a year (or in his case actually elected in absentia) may not be feasible since it could switch the balance of power. Even a member's extended visit to the water closet could result in parliamentary maneuvering. This could be very interesting to watch. The most important person in Harrisburg these days may be the house parliamentarian.

Even stranger things have happened elsewhere. In the mid 1990's Democrats appeared to have lost control of the California state house. Then Democratic speaker of the California House Willie Brown (later to be Mayor of SF) enticed two republicans to switch parties in exchange for them actually becoming speaker of the house. Quite an offer. Who knows what is being offered these days to potential party switchers either way.

Anyway, the map above is what the state house looks like from the general election just completed. Even here you do not really see the mythical "T".


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pittsburgh vs. ...... Lower Merion?

Here is something I didn't catch. According to this article, the Borough (wait, it's not even a borough, it's the) Township of Lower Merion in Eastern PA (2000 pop 59,850) now has more taxable property value within its municipality than does the city of Pittsburgh (2005 pop: 316,718). $13.7 Bil vs. $13.5 Bil. How can that be? Obviously some higher value homes in suburban Lower Merion. Concentration of government and nonprofit property owners is another reason. There is also this little problem of differential property vacancy rates that may not even be accounted for in those numbers. See this Bloomberg story today discussing the issue of vacant properties and property liens in the City of Pittsburgh.


Exurban-less Pittsburgh

So this is no shock. But according to a new Brookings report Pittsburgh has virtually no exurban communities. It actually ranked 82 of 88 regions across the country in terms of the percentage of population considered exurban (2.1% in 2000).

What are exurbs? Exurban areas are generally considered the areas on the periphery of a metropolitan area that are showing signs of growth as metropolitan areas expand. It is not exactly a term that has a precise definition, but generally describes rural areas rapidly transforming into suburban communities. In percentage terms these areas have shown some of the highest growth in recent decades. Exurban growth is generally low density residential development and is widely considered 'sprawl' as popularly defined. This report is talking about the region, but if you are interested here is a map of population density in Allegheny County. I am not sure if I have something similar for the MSA.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Planning Pittsburgh

Worth a read is a book just out on the history of planning in Pittsburgh: Before Renaissance - Planning in Pittsburgh, 1889–1943 by John Baumanand Ted Muller Edward


Monday, November 27, 2006

Don Cannon and the Onion

The Onion (the US version of the Carbolic Smoke Blog) is picking on local news anchor Don Cannon this morning. Supposedly he revealed his nearly quarter million dollar salary on air last night. I presume the story is just fiction like most Onion content, but you never know. The Onion sometimes sneaks in some semi-real news in there. Could Don make that much? News anchors have a wide range of salary. In small markets I bet they make not much above minimum wage, but in top 10 markets I would believe they crack a half million. Where Pittsburgh fits in that range I do not know. Back when Don was there with Paul Long every night Pittsburgh was a larger market so I bet he commanded a decent salary. Today I dunno, not only is Pittsburgh a smaller market today in both a relative and absolute sense but also Don isnt the main anchor anymore. But Don may have some local cache with local viewers that could help him bump up is salary a bit.

More on Pittsburgh wages: I probably should update this, but I once put online a comparision of local to national wages by occupation. If interested you can see the entire list by clicking here.


Saturday, November 25, 2006


Lots of discussion of Pittsburgh in comparision to two other regions: Oakland and Minneapolis and the impact of immigration in this paper: IMMIGRANTS AS URBAN SAVIORS: WHEN IMMIGRANTS REVIVE A CITY AND WHEN THEY DON’T: LESSONS FROM THE UNITED STATES by Gregg Zachary. I will have to add this to the reference list I give out for the weekly question I get about why Pittsburgh has so few international immigrants.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Make realize best City of Pittsburgh

Something I am going to regret writing, but this thought got stuck in my head as too funny. Hopefully all of my friends downtown are out of the office today.

If you have seen Borat, the movie, and attended at the ACCD annual meeting a couple weeks ago: don't you think there is some comparison between the pesudo national anthem of Kazakhstan in the movie and the musical accompanyment that started the meeting titled "the grass is always greener". ok ok.. that is probably only funny to me I know.

just my opinion but that 'anthem' was the funniest part of the entire movie. The rest of the movie is quite sobering when you realize it just isn't about Kazakhstan at all. What is amazing about that movie is how many of the scenes were straight out of Candid Camera... just no Alan Funt at the end. There is a scene where Borat gives a fake rendition of the fake national anthem at a rodeo of all things. That scene could have gotten him hurt.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Plenty of gnashing over the news that Barnes and Noble is planning to close its downtown store on Smithfield St. which would leave downtown without a major bookstore.

or will it?

I bet this is just posturing on the company's part negotiating for a better lease. They may also be considering a different location in town which would put them in a good bargaining position. While it is possible that downtown could be left bookless it does seem strange. Whenever I am in that store it seems as crowded as a typical suburban B&N.

Makes you put in perspective the metric that pops up on occassion about Pittsburgh being one of the most literate regions in the country. That's an odd statistic as well. I am tempted to try and derive a number for the how we compare in terms of bookstores per capita. I'm not so sure we do so well in terms of used-book stores though.

It was pointed out ot me that there is a full service Barnes and Noble at Point Park University downtown. So things are not as desperate as they seem.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

round we go

Lest anyone think the mayor's race is the only race that will be going on in the city early next year. 5 of 9 city council districts have primaries in the spring. At least a few will likely be active races. Here are maps of the election returns from the 2003 primary cycle for 4 of these 5 races. I left out the Riccardi race since he didn't have a challenger. If there were just two candidates I did one map. If there were more than 2 candidates I did a map for each.

District 1
District 5: Sciulli Shields Smith
District 7: Bodack Kates Noszka
District 9


Monday, November 20, 2006

Parking economics

PG has a story today warning that there is no sign a parking rate decrease is in the works even though the parking tax is set to lowered a bit next year.

There is a story hidden in that article. The parking sales tax rate increased from 31% to 50% (a 61% increase) in recent years as a stop gap way to generate revenue for the city. But if you look at the time series of parking tax revenue, the $$ collected went up from 30.9 million in 2003 to 50.3 million in 2005: a nearly idential 62% increase. That pretty much is the definition of inelastic demand. When you factor in the higher gas prices of recent years it really has been much more expensive to commute into work in the city. Yet the revenue numbers indicate there has not been any decrease in parking utilization.

What does this say to all the people who predicted people would not come into the city because of the higher parking prices? and for other reasons casinos are in the news today. I am wondering how each of the proposed venues will impact both parking demand and parking supply downtown.


Sunday, November 19, 2006


Driving by I noticed that the new Borders in East Liberty appears to be open. I didn't have time to stop and verify that, but the Borders there on the corner of Highland and Penn Circle has been a long time coming. I would have to go check the history, but I swear the first mention of a Borders there predates any talk of Whole Foods coming to town.

The Borders is just another piece of development along the Shadyside-East Liberty border. I was at a lunch last week when someone posed a question starting with this premise: 'the most significant development for the city in the last decade has been the rejuvenation of East Liberty'. That is quite a statement. I was reminded of Mike Madison's musings some months ago about the meaning of the pseudo neighborhood of Eastside. I have some simple questions of my own. Mostly I wonder if it is fair to say East Liberty is being redeveloped at all. Seems to me that Shadyside is expanding more than anything else. Other than displacement, what is the impact on the long term businesses and residents of East Liberty? There have been a lot of residents displaced by the demolition of the high rises for example. Most had little choice but to move to other sections of town. And while I admit to being overly nostalgic for the now closed Bolans' that was in East Liberty, I am not sure how many of the other businesses in the central corridor are benefiting from the new businesses popping up. Are many people wandering out of Whole foods over to Penn and Highland for any collateral shopping? Maybe it is too early to judge.

This is always a question in urban redevelopment. I would call it the gentrification debate, but I have been disabused from using that term a bit. I recently heard from a noted urban scholar said he had just come from an entire confrence devoted to the topic and that no defintion for gentrification could be agreed upon. That and it has befome such a loaded term as to be dysfunctional in academic debate. So let's not call in gentrification, but it sure is change whatever it is labeled. One big difference between Pittsburgh and other regions is that many other regions are seeing minority migration to suburban areas. In Washington DC for example, Prince Georges County became the first majority black suburban county in a metro area back in 1990. There was news recently how Queens in NYC now has median black income above that of median white income which I bet is the result of migration flows out of Manhattan. I am not so sure there is a similar pattern here though.

PS. Anyone remember Mansmann’s?


Friday, November 17, 2006

more on neutron-burgh

Mark my words. The biggest economic story in Pittbsurgh over the next few years could be the expansion of Westinghouse/BNFL/Toshiba and related nuclear power work here. There is some important news on this. The senate approved a bill that would allow US firms to work in the India nuclear power industry.

You may have seen some of the news that talks about the potential of 2,000 new hires at Westinghouse. There is an awful lot going on in the industry. The NRC has a number of domestic nuclear power plants on their board for the first time in decades, China is bidding out who will build a generation worth of plants, Russia is talking about 25 new plants in the coming decade and Toshiba/Westinghouse has been looking at that business as well.. and now India. I hear that 2,000 number is pretty much their low end need for workers if they actually don't get some of these impending contracts. If they do get some of the bigger contracts out there I heard one person say recently it would be more like 1,000 new workers per month. That rate of job creation is probably not possible if for no other reason that the industry does not have that many ready workers out there.


Thursday, November 16, 2006


If that last post didn't bore my limited readership away.. here is something more current. Nothing really new but Interior Design magazine has a short online piece today about pittsburgh's Green Building initiatives worth a scan.


for uber-wonks only: Modeling Pittsburgh

Mark pointed out to me this post on AgentSka's web site on some new work out there in the field of urban simulation models.

I just have to point out the history here. Pittsburgh was really at the center of urban development simulation long before any of this recent work. My friend Will Steger who owns CONSAD here in town has been doing this for something like the last 50 years. He was actually brought to Pittsburgh to build a urban simulation model having worked at RAND back in the 1950's.

Consad's Pittsburgh Urban Renewal Simulation Model dates back to the 1960's was clearly ahead of its time. Will tells me that some of the basic equations in the model would find their way into the original SimCity computer program even. Similarly, land use planning has a seminal piece of work in the Lowry Model which was also developed here in town and forms the basis of many land use forecasting models to this day. For more on that see the decent writeup on land use forecasting in Wikipedia.

I know some question the relevance of such history.. but you can learn a lot from the similarity of current issues with the debates of the past. If you are interested you may want to read more of Will's contemporaneous thoughts in this article: Reflections on citizen involvement in urban transportation planning: Towards a positive approach. in Journal Transportation. Issue Volume 3, Number 2 / July, 1974. Unfortunately not online.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Casinos and the smoking ban

If anyone has any question about why the state legislature tried to exempt casinos from the forthcoming local smoking ban last month.. here is a news snippit via the Delaware New Journal that talks about a study showing how smoking bans cut into casino revenue by 10-19%. No small percentage. Just fyi.



Hold the presses. USAirways has proposed merging with Delta to become one of the largest airlines in the world. This may not be good for the region in that Delta has plenty of infrastructure already in place. Any near term expansion in Pittsburgh would become unnecessary. Even this call center we are competing for is likely to be put on hold until this is resolved, but this should be decided upon relatively quickly. How times have changed. Remember when the USAirways United deal was rejected on antitrust grounds.

The only silver lining... if Delta and USAirways merge, my frequent flyer account will have like a zillion miles in it. If only they could merge with Northwest as well... hmmm.

If you read into it, you will see that they have proposed this before to no end. However, they do seem to have financial backing. As always, follow the money and this time they seem to have citigroup $$ in on the deal. We will see.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Debt and taxes: does the city debt matter?

I suppose I ought to make some comment on the city budget out yesterday.. yet honestly it is what it is. There is no secret at this point that the city has this little debt problem. By any measure the debt owed by the city, especially if you were to measure it per capita for even better on a per household basis, is just off the chart for a major American city. Something has to give at some point.

So what some economists smarter than me have pointed out.

Huh? My own opinion is that debt will be the ultimate undoing of the city. Debt and pension payments are displacing ever more of the city's budget. Not much hope of refinancing any debt to generate even a few million, not much left to sell (like the water authority) and the peak of debt payments have been pushed out into the not too distant future. So the worst is yet to come.

Does it matter? To be fair, the so what, is my own paraphrasing of an issue I overlook. A question is whether the city's massive debt is already capitalized into the cost of city housing. In other words, does the market take into account that the debt is out there and 'knows' it will eventually have to be paid by increased taxes on city residents? If true then the price of housing in the city is lower than it would be if there were not this massive debt-in-waiting out there. Basically you are buying a relatively inexpensive home in the city, but at the same time taking on the future tax liability that is known to be out there.

It may not be the best example, but if you think of the debt like some other negative externality, bad air or something, it might be easier to understand. You can buy a cheap home near a waste dump, but you are partially paying for that property by future health care costs you will incur by living so close to it. In other words, the bad air/land is capitalized into the value of nearby housing... There is no free lunch.

Is this the case for the city of Pittsburgh? This is undoubtedly a factor in local real estate prices in one way or another. The mere fact that city finances are bad has to be priced into the market. I do wonder whether the city debt is entirely priced into city housing for several reasons. The large number of abandoned, vacant, tax delinquent, or otherwise unused real estate probably calls into the question how much debt is can be priced into their market values. (market failure?) In a real sense there are a lot of properties in the region that may have negative fair market values. Some markets have a hard time with negative prices. Time consistency may be a problem here, especially since the eventual payoff of the city debt is an ethereal date we will likely never reach.

This is an issue that may be operating in many cities, but like so many things we are just a much more extreme example such that we will 'test' this hypothesis sooner than elsewhere. Then there are some interesting questions of what happens if property tax reform moves municipal tax bases away from property taxes into something else. What other asset could the city debt be capitalized into? It would be difficult to capitalize long term debt into income taxes because it's so easy to move out from under that burden. Land by definition can't move and so is the default reservoir of this future liability. The underutilization of land may call that into question to a degree. I could go on but you get the picture.

As I said, this thought was not my own though I wish it was. I withhold attribution for now since I am not sure the author wants to enter the blogosphere.


Monday, November 13, 2006

wonks only need read

There is at least one other person out there who thinks the past is important when studying the economy. The public is invited to an expensive lunch with free entertainment:

Altered States: A Perspective on 75 Years of State Income Growth
Speaker: Mark Schweitzer, Assistant Vice President -
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
November 30, 2006
Omni William Penn
11:45 Luncheon
12:30 Presentation
1:30 Adjournment
Cost: $35 for non-members

Sponsored by the Economic Club of Pittsburgh. For more information on the program and to register CLICK HERE. If you want to join here is the membership form or send email to


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Female Veterans

Worth a note today is that one the fastest growing groups of veterans are female veterans. More on the trend is in this VA report: Women Veterans: Past, Present and Future.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Pennsylvania Redistricting

Wall Street Journal today has a publicly available article that has a lot of good info on Pennsylvania political redistricting past and future. In the past I have done some redistricting consulting. For those who have not seen it there is this report on Voting Patterns in Allegheny County.

One thing to take from the news today that the Pennsylvania House is still up for grabs becasue of 19 whole votes in one eastern PA district is that this has real implications for the future. It's the state legislature that decides on redistricting not only for themselves but also for the congressional seats. If you have the power to reapportion districts you can create districts tailored for specific candidates pretty easily. 2010 is really not that far away in a sense and this election will have a bearing on what party will be in control 4 years from now when the redistricting process ramps up. I have looked at what the 2010 reapportioment will likely mean for Pittsburgh/SW PA in this article article (starting on the bottom of page 1).

but think about it. 19 votes in one district is less than 0.2% of the vote there. must be something like 0.001% of the PA vote (thats a guess, am too lazy to go look up the total PA vote count was)... So for anyone who thinks their vote does not count.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

not really a "T"

I am not sure what maps of the election results are interesting. Nothing really unexpected in anything I have looked at. But here is just the US Senate results by county. I tried to make the colors work into the proverbial Pennsylvania "T", but just couldnt do it. It's more like a blue "X" almost. Maybe this was not the right race for that pattern?

November 2006 General Election - US Senate


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Do Google Spreadsheets Work?

So I have been looking for something to test Google Spreadsheets with. The election returns may be a good slice of data for this purpose. So for all those data junkies and political geeks out there here is some composite Allegheny County election returns for various races merged together for comparison. CLICK HERE. For the moment, it all seems rather clunky to me, but I am sure they will make it better if they choose to keep it going. For example, I was going to put all the races in there but it has some serious size limitations for now, so I just pulled the bigger or tighter races.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

city school district enrollment

For the most part, I think it's bad form to pick apart news stories in the media. Journalists have a rough task in that they usually need to write 20 words on a topic that deserves 200 just to make sense of.

Nonetheless, this story deserves comment. There is the story today about Pittsburgh school district enrollment declining by 1,703 students or 5.5% of total enrollment from just last year. The story covers the "what" pretty clearly, but I think gets people all confused over the "why". School enrollment declined it explains in the very first sentence of the story because "families continuing to leave the district for charter and private schools". Really? Is that the reason or does that just sound good. I am sure the reporter didn't make it up and someone said it, which in the media means its fair game to report. Yet is it true at all?

Later on in the story it tries to back up that claim with some examples of charter and private schools with increased enrollment. One example is of 18 students, another with 75. It's hard to see how any of these add up to more than a few percent of the total 1,700 student decline. Something seems to be missing. In fact, if there were 1,700 more students in any of the finite set of City charter schools, would we not have seen a stream of stories to that effect at the beginning of September when the school year started. Even a fraction of that number would have caused huge strains in a number of schools. These are not big operations by design. It does give an example of an official in Woodland Hills accounting for 142 students who came from city schools.. but that is neither a charter or private school and so would seem to dispute the initial sentence and theme of the article. In fact, wouldnt you need to move to Woodland Hills to enroll your children there?

So why did school enrollment decline? One is sheer demographics. The number of young children entering school age years is lower than those finishing or exiting. That is part and parcel with what is probably the biggest single reason which is families of school age children reclocating out of the city and into the suburbs. Let's be clear, I am talking about relocation within the region, not regional migration although that is a factor as well. How many are leaving? I can't tell you a specific number, but let's say city population overall is going down 1% a year which is a fair guess. Does that mean families and children are going down 1% a year. Probably not. The city is retaining, possibly even increasing in both students and elderly, both of whom do not have a large number of children in city schools. That means the net loss of 1% per year is likely concentrated in families with school-age children, pushing that 1% rate a fair bit. So that and demographic shifts I will bet you good money make up almost all of the enrollment decline, not shifting into charter schools which is likely a small factor in this 1700 enrollment decline. To write off the decline as possibly a charter/private school issue only confuses the issue. Doesnt someone count the number of students in city charter schools.

So I really wasnt trying to pick on this story per se, but it does get to the bigger problem. Why would families continue to leave the city in disproportionate rates. The city can't do much about the relative attractiveness of larger suburban homes. That trend is everywhere and likely to induce young families more than others. But the city is also literally pushing people out of the city by the uncompetitive tax burden placed on city residents. Only in the city are you hit with 4% combined city and school district income tax. Again, these two taxes do not really impact students and elderly so they do not have the same incentive to leave the city but if you have one of more wage earners in a household, you have an immediate 4% raise moving out of the city usually. Thus my number one criticism of both the Act 47 folks and the ICA is that they act like they have solved a big part of the cities financial problems. As long as that fiscal imbalance exists, people will continue to move out of the city and the city's finances will remain a shambles.



Yeah, there is an election today which I am sure will provide fodder for the rest of the week. But some things are more important. Veterans' Day is coming up and I will let this figure speak for itself.

Number of World War II Veterans in Allegheny County

* 1960 data is for male civilian veterans only.
** 2006 data is 2000 data trended as if the subject population followed the same trend as the national WWII Veteran population projected by the Deparment of Veterans Affairs.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Peckham Birthday

It is a couple days early, but I thought some might want to send over birthday greetings to Judge Rufus Wheeler Peckham, nom de guerre for the infamous authors over a the Cabolic Smoke Blog, who was born November 8th, 1838. So happy 168th.


Friday, November 03, 2006

still seeking young voters

I know I have made this point before, but people still argue this point with me. It really is no secret anywhere that the key to elections are older voters. That is doubly true here in a region which has not only a large elderly population, but also an older population that is much more likely than elsewhere to have been in their current home a long time. It still surprises people just how extreme an impact this has here. I do realize people do not like hearing this but it remains true. Consider the most recent general election in 2005. General elections typically get more young voters than primary or special elections even. Yet here is the age breakdown of actual voters from November 2005 in Allegheny County.
So voters 60 and over make up 43% of the vote, those under 30 make up 5%. Thus for every voter under age 30 there were literally 8.5 voters age 60 and over. There were even 3 times as many voters age 60 and over compared to all the voters under age 40. If that sounds bad it really does not reflect the actual weighting a campaign would place on the two groups (young vs. old) of voters. If you were deciding how to spend your money targeting voters you have to take into account a few other things. If you identified an older voter from a recent election, other than for mortality and rather low migration rates you can pretty much be sure that voter will be voting in an upcoming election. Even if you find one of those twenty something voters.... That voter has a much higher probability of just moving away before the next election. Even if they don't move out of the region they have a high rate of moving to another district/municipality within the region. That and even though there are some young 'super voters' who always vote, most young voters can only only be counted on to vote intermittently, so you cant be sure that voter you found will even show up next time around... further diminishing their intrinsic value. In statistics this is the meaning of expected values. All of those factors compound to make the benefit of finding and convincing a young voter to support you even less than the already scary voter totals imply.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pittsburgh and the Appalachians

So this is not a book review as much as a pre-review before I get to reading it. I didn't catch this book published earlier in the year by the Univ. of Pittsburgh Press: Pittsburgh and the Appalachians. An interesting perspective for a region that tends to define itself narrowly. It really is true that Pittsburgh can be considered the largest city in Appalachia. Worth a look. Chapters include:

Introduction. Pittsburgh and the Appalachians in the New Millennium by Joseph L. Scarpaci
Downtown Pittsburgh: Renaissance and Renewal by Edward K. Muller
Pittsburgh as a Concentric Triangle by Kevin J. Patrick
The Steel Valley by Edward K. Muller
Joe Magarac and the Spirit of Pittsburgh Kevin J. Patrick
Pittsburgh’s Strip District: From Industry and Warehousing to Ethnic Chic Joseph L. Scarpaci
Pittsburgh, City of Bridges by Kevin J. Patrick
Chatham Village: The Enduring Legacy of Collaborative Genius by Christopher Cusack and George Pomeroy
A Community’s Struggle: Little Allegheny West Takes on the Pros by John Canning
Pittsburgh’s Suburbs: Hollowing Out the Core by Joseph L. Scarpaci
Factory Outlet Malls: Prime Outlets at Grove City by James T. Hathaway and James C. Hughes
The Decline of Space and the Ascent of Place: Internet Technology in Appalachia by James Bohland, Anita Puckett, and Jean Plymale
Appalachia: Rich in Natural Resources, Poor in Human Opportunity by sa Whitson, Lawrence E. Wood, Kurt Fuellhart, and Amy K. Glasmeier
Living on the Fringe: A Geographic Profile of Appalachian Ohio by Geoffrey L. Buckley, Timothy G. Anderson, and Nancy R. Bain
Central Appalachia’s Whitewater Recreation Industry by Lizbeth A. Pyle
Going to the Mountains: Deer Hunters in the Allegheny National Forest Region Deborah Che
American Heritage Rivers: A New Model for Watershed Planning
in Appalachia by Richard A. Roth
Seventeen. Pittsburgh and the Creative Age by Richard Florida
What Will the New Millennium Bring? by Joseph L. Scarpaci


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the quote

So... other than Mark, I didn't spur much interest in my question about the source of this quote:
...the Pittsburgh region's future depends to such a major extent upon retaining and attracting highly qualified and professional and technical people and business enterprisers, who are in demand everywhere and who command a high standard of residential amenity and cultural and professional opportunities.
Maybe it was because everyone assumed the obvious. But the obvious is not quite right by a couple decades. This all comes from Region With a Future. Volume 3 of the Economic Study of the Pittsburgh Region. Produced by the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association. Edgar Hoover, Study Director. Published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. 1964.

This was a big study that took several years to complete. It was funded by the Ford Foundation and issued in 4 volumes. The greater message in that study was that Pittsburgh's competitivenessss in steel manufacturing was clearly draining away for reasons that local forces would not be able to mitigate. The report's long range forecast for local steel output and employment was pretty much dead on. I suspect most didn't believe that forecast when it came out. Even knowing the future, it would have been difficult to deal with. At the time, steel, other heavy manufacturingng industries along with firms directly dependent on these industries pretty much dominated the local economy. Thus there was little to fall back on or shift into. But still, anyone who thinks there were no warning signs on where Pittsburgh's future was heading was pretty much putting their head in the sand. I would encourage everyone interested in Pittsburgh's future to at least scan Pittsburgh's past. Our path since then was laid out in excruciating detail over 40 years ago.