Thursday, June 25, 2009

Credit where due?

Over on Pittsblog I mentioned recently how Tom Murphy is getting nary a mention in the positive press the convention center is getting of late. Good or bad he built it. It's the fact that he is being written out of history that is curious. The unhistory of the former mayor has reached the point where he isn't even controversial enough to rant at anymore and that post only drew a few remarks. I'm waiting for someone to actually say to me: Tom who?

Look, if you get me talking about the monetization of Pittsburgh's water authority in the early 1990's or the sale of city tax liens later on I will rant against how irresponsible the city's financial policies were through the 1990's. But I still am amazed that Tom Murphy gets no credit for the things that everyone agrees he is almost single handedly responsible for. Thus the story I see today about the city's bike trails and growing recognition in bike-world. Yet again not a single mention of Tom Murphy who was the one who pushed the bike trail system his whole time in office. It's hard to believe any of it at all would exist without those efforts.

I have said it before and will say it again... it's just a token of recognition, but let's rename the Hot Metal Bridge (or at least it's bike/ped twin some prefer) for Tom Murphy.


Blogger Denovich said...

People are idiots, might not be a satisfying explanation... but it probably is the most accurate one.

This post has excerpts from a study that shows how poor voters are at giving credit where credit was due.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 8:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let's do it. What's the first step toward renaming the bridge? A petition? Get Bike Pittsburgh behind it? Do we bring it before council? What kind of anniversary is coming up that we could link it to? (Jail Trail opened spring 1998, the city's comprehensive bike plan was introduced 10 years ago.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

After reading the blog post about Eve Picker's breakfast with the former Pittsburgh mayor, I get the impression that the person most responsible for the unhistory of Tom Murphy is Tom Murphy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

Tom Murphy's fan(s) had one chance to arrange a suitable naming to commemorate Mr. Murphy's contributions to Pittsburgh, but that opportunity has passed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Murphy Bike Bridge said...

Well, the biking story you link to is in the Trib and the Trib would never print a kind word about Murphy. Like Infinonymous, the Trib railed ad nasuem against Fifth and Forbes and other difficult, Murphy-backed economic development projects, while religiously ignoring his successes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 2:55:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

"...while religiously ignoring his successes."

That's because his successes didn't offset the extra taxes stuck on at the end of his time in office.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:07:00 PM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...


Tom Murphy did approximately as much damage to Pittsburgh (and the region) as any single person could have in the relevant period of time.

The Pirates stadium deal. Lazarus. Pittsburgh Wool. The McClatchy-Pirates deal. Lord & Taylor. The alienation of the state legislature. The Fifth-Forbes fiasco. The convention center timetable and construction scandal. The firefighters deal. The Sol Gross incident. The convention center context and size decisions. The water system sale. The North Side land giveaways. The pension fund advisory arrangements. The convention center hotel deal . . . I mean no deal. The Steelers stadium deal.

That -- plus insolvency, population decline in a growing country, a wrecked infrastructure, a moribund economy and general ineptitude in city government -- is Tom Murphy's legacy.

Murphy's pals made millions (although I believe he was more oblivious than corrupt, and still believe he started with a core of good intentions) while the city was driven into a pit.

Against that background, does anyone wish to try to identify "successes" that offset even one-tenth of the misery Tom Murphy inflicted on southwestern Pennsylvania in general and Pittsburgh in particular.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 5:02:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Since my goal is not to defend the overall TM legacy it’s hard to reply. But at least some of that is an awfully lot more complicated than that concise synopsis would imply. Funny thing is that G20 accolades or not I am not a fan of the convention center. But that does not justify the virtual rewriting of history. Even that anti-Murph paragraph reinforces the mostly indisputed fact that he is responsible for the building being built.. and built as it was. So my earlier point on Pittsblog is just how amazing it is that he isn’t mentioned at all… good or bad.

if Smurph was responsible for a quarter as much as that version of history implies, he ought to be talked about as one of the most powerful local politicians in recent US history.

But as Jim R. alludes to… no doubt many of TM’s PR problems are of his own making.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 5:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Murphy Bike Bridge said...

Just off the top of my head I'll put up South Side Works, the Pgh. Tech. Ctr. (if that's what those buildings are called along 2nd Ave.), the North Shore and yes, the bike trails, as just some of Murphy's successes that would offset Infi's list.

But more important is the Big Picture. Pittsburgh was in the crapper before Murphy became mayor (1994) thanks to the loss of the steel industry. Pittsburgh could have gone the way of other Rust Belt cities, but it didn't. Tom Murphy, a 3-term mayor (only David Lawrence holds the same distinction) had a lot to do with that. Leaders have to play the hand they're dealt, and Murphy played his very well. The accolades being showered on the city these days are rooted in the city's return from the dead, engineered in part by Murphy.

Arguing that Murphy caused every problem that the city faced for 12 years is like saying that Obama flew the planes into the WTC, started the Iraq War and made rain on New Orleans.

Friday, June 26, 2009 9:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Murphy Bike Bridge said...

Oh yeah, meant to thrown in the Summerset housing development as another feather in Murphy's cap.

Friday, June 26, 2009 9:33:00 AM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

South Side Works? Cheesecake Factory gets a free building, taxpayers get a $100 million tab. The retail is already experiencing turnover and the cinema has had three management companies. At best, the jury is still out on that one. More likely, it just relocated some of the city's retail and office space at great public expense. Worst case is a replay of Lazarus and Lord & Taylor.

The North Shore? Mistake after costly mistake after more costly mistake. Only in Pittsburgh would anyone think of claiming that as a success.

Pittsburgh Tech Center? A modest success. Plenty of public money, though.

Pittsburgh was in the crapper? It's STILL in the crapper. Leaking population in a country in which that's nearly impossible. Insolvent. Run by knuckleheads. Digging a deeper hole every day. Not a single market-driven investment for decades . . . the only way anything gets built in Pittsburgh is if the public pays and the pals of the pols pocket a hefty commission. Threatening to take an entire region to the bottom with it. And its only hope and thought is to beg for a bailout.

Pittsburgh is a failed city. No one is more responsible for that failure than Tom Murphy. For every dime of good he wasted dollars. You want to name something for him? How about the pension fun deficit?

Friday, June 26, 2009 6:16:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I bet you are the fellow who wanted to impeach Murphy. That's fine, but seriously some of that is just hysterical at least in singling out TM vice his predecessors at the very least.

The bottom line is that the city the day TM took over was all but cash broke in a way that was not made public until TM won his election. City should have gone bankrupt right then but because the lawyers couldn't think past the then-recent Bridgeport, CT case where a federal judge wouldnt allow the city to go bankrupt... city folks here thought the same decision would apply to them. I think a decent lawyer could have made the case that Pittsburgh was in far worse shape... but that obviously was not going to happen.

So yeah, lots of bad bad stuff resulted from trying to keep the sinking ship above water. It is fairly amazing that the city has not collapsed further. Residential migration aside, one of the most remarkable things is the city has retained the same number of jobs that it has for the last 50 years. Even the concentration of jobs downtown has not gone down in decades. When you look at a lot of other cities that have seen edge cities suck out all of that it is a pretty remarkable 'success'.. not that I attribute that to TM as one shouldnt attribute all that blame you want to.

I wish it were a simple story.. it's not. History may or may not debate TM someday. For now I'm just saying that the rewriting of history is odd, bordering on orwellian. Go argue that the convention center and bike trails are bad, your perogative. But all the positive stories on those things that just ignore the guy is really peculiar.

we'll get around to talking about SS works someday some more. I don wonder how the retail stuff there is doing. I will say that to this day I have a moment of cognitive dissonace going over the Birmingham Bridge and not seeing the J&L plant looming over the neighborhood.

Saturday, June 27, 2009 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite examples of little known, appreciated TM benefit to city:

Baseball/Football teams usually control and make money off parking, which is why around the country stadiums are surrounded by surface lots. For all the promises to taxpayers about economic spin off from new stadiums, team-controlled parking prevents ancillary development, integration into neighborhood, good public/pedestrian access, etc. Why do even nice stadiums fail to live up to promise? This is often why.

As I remember the story, TM fought to make sure Pirates/Steelers were among few/only teams who didn't get parking revenue. Pittsburgh teams have incentive (or lack disincentive) to support development plans. All the office buildings, hotels, restaurants, etc., surrounding PNC Park? Wouldn't have happened without TM.

As Chris said, I'm not trying to debate or defend his whole record. Just one more way to show issues are complex, generalizations aren't helpful.

I wonder how long it will take for someone to blame TM for the McClouth trade?

Sunday, June 28, 2009 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...


I identified more than a dozen concrete (and in many cases devastating) failures attributable to Tom Murphy. That is evidence, in my judgment, not hysteria.

Murphy's predecessors were bad, his current successor is a joke, but the evidence indicates Tom Murphy as the person most responsible for the failure and misery associated with today's City of Pittsburgh.

If there is an argument to the contrary, let's have it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009 7:33:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

VoodooLounger, is that you? I can smell the piss and vinegar all the way down here in Georgia, so it must be you!

Sunday, June 28, 2009 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Seriously... any statement half has superficial as "Tom Murphy as the person most responsible for the failure and misery associated with today's City of Pittsburgh." is hysterical. I pointed out: the city of Pittsburgh was as cash broke the day Murphy took office as it has ever been before or since. And broke to a degree that had not been made public to that point. Is that not a counterargument to such a blanket statement?

I do have a my own longer version of the financial miasma of Pittsburgh... Which Murph is a part of course, but not the biggest part... but it won't fit in here. But the really over the top statement earlier is that the city of Pittsburgh is potentially dragging down the whole region. I guess you could disagree, but the region as a whole is doing relatively well of late. Many folks confuse the good news story for the region and the story just on the fiscal issues for the City of Pittsburgh.

Monday, June 29, 2009 3:25:00 AM  

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