Thursday, October 03, 2013

Pittsburgh's Paradox

So I am still trying to find the gluon that explains these two recent pieces in a unified theory of Pittsburgh's development history.We are stuck in a Tom Murphy dialectic.

Take first this reflective piece in the PG: Playoff baseball to give PNC Park time to shine

The article expounds on a pretty undeniable reflection on history that PNC Park would not exist if not for former Mayor Murphy's perseverance after the collapse of the Regional Renaissance Initiative (RRI).Remember the RRI? It was the multi-county half percent sales tax measure that was going to fund building TWO new stadia town along with a new convention center and a series of industrial parks. The proposal was put up to a referendum which failed everywhere resoundingly, even within Allegheny County. The RRI failed even within the city of Pittsburgh I will point out. 25 of 32 city wards voted against RRI, balanced a bit by overwhelming pro-RRI support concentrated in city wards 7 and 14. An even stronger case could be made that the David Lawrence Convention center in its current LEED certified glory would not exist for Mayor Murphy's effort to see the project funded after RRI. That is something  I have mentioned before, yet something systematically revised out of history.  Just think, no new convention center, and likely there would have been no G-20 and the world would continue to think Pittsburgh was a backwater bygone of the Rust Belt.

But now compare the PG story to this post recently written by Bill Steigerwald on his blog: Peduto’s Paradox — Free advice to Pittsburgh’s next mayor.  Bill shows some pretty clear antagonism for the former Mayor and all that he accomplished during his tenure, especially that which was accomplished against the popular will, as it were. The post focuses more on the proposed Fifth and Forbes retail concept, but the same arguments were made against all that Murphy engineered to fund the new stadia and convention center.  Ironically much of the opposition to Fifth and Forbes was raised by the small businesses that would be displaced by the development.  People loved the card store and even more so the 99 year old wig store that was in the construction zone.  Where are those businesses located now? There is a small bit of construction going on right now coterminus to where the Fifth and Forbes construction would have been concentrated.

There may never be a resolution to the two viewpoints on what Murphy accomplished in office. At least not before the historians take charge of the debate which will not be for decades.

Anyway....  The full history of how PNC Park was built is of course much more convoluted than the PG article suggests.  Take a look at the original proposal for what would become Three Rivers Stadium. Read the original 1963 Stadium Proposal put together by the URA.  Look familiar?   That original vision did not last and was replaced by the multipurpose (or no-purpose) architecture that became Three Rivers Stadium (which only exists virtually today as a web site , and semi-virtually, or pathologically, as a local government of course).   Later on it would be Mayor Sophie Masloff who suggested the need for a new baseball stadium was needed here despite the existence of Three Rivers

Of course the need for the stadium was predicated on there being a baseball team in town that needed it.  People forget the Pirates almost left town when longtime owners the Galbraith's announced they intended to sell the team nearly 30 years ago in 1984. Not the easiest of environments to get a prospective owner to invest in a Pittsburgh-based asset. It was Mayor Caliguiri that put together a coalition of owners to buy the team and keep it in town back in 1985. Think how easy it would have been to justify moving the team away from the economic miasma of Pittsburgh to any of the fast growing and team-less regions in the South or West in the decade before MLB expansion came to fill the void. The city became the owner of last resort and used a variety of public funding mechanisms to buy the team. For a time the city of Pittsburgh was, along with a myriad set of corporate partners and Carnegie Mellon University, the owner of a professional baseball team.  That coalition was a real public/private partnership and bridged the team until it was eventually resold to the McClatchy led coalition years later. No denying the role of the city and in particular mayoral leadership in that.

Still, the vision for a new baseball stadium that became PNC Park only came together because Murphy was willing to continue working to fund the project despite the aprobation of the voters.  It was a characterstic that wound up costing him dearly in terms of popular support.  Yet without the very same characteristics, it is pretty unlikely there would be a new baseball stadium in town? If the stadium had not been built, would the Pirates be in town today?  That is a rhetorical question actually. Part of the deal in constructing PNC Park was a pretty ironclad agreement the team would have to stay in town for at least 30 years. (read the actual contract if you wish) 


Anonymous BrianTH said...

This is probably an awkward time to note this, but the economic literature regarding public expenditures on stadiums is pretty dismal, and I think it is a very good bet the City and County would have been better off if the stadiums had never been publicly financed, even if that meant the Pirates left for elsewhere.

So yeah, Murphy had a lot of personal responsibility for all that happening, but I would put that more in the blame than credit category.

Thursday, October 03, 2013 8:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Not Ken said...

Short version of Chris' piece: We live (mostly) in Tom Murphy's vision of Pittsburgh: bike trails, stadia, convention center, casino, and even, as Chris notes, a good chunk of "Fifth and Forbes" (between the new buildings and the rehab going on over there). Mayor Murphy certainly had broader shoulders and more pluck, grit and determination than most politicians--who are content to let the polls and their big donors dictate their views. Some might even call it . . . Leadership.

Thursday, October 03, 2013 9:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't put too much weight on the rantings of a hothead from the sticks. Some current and former Tribsters will never get over their Murphyitis. You had to be around the newsroom at the time to realize how central the effort to take down Murphy was to the paper's, and some reporters', sense of self-worth.

Oh, and uh ... TOM MURPHY BRIDGE!

Thursday, October 03, 2013 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Fine. Name the bridge after him. The years since have really lowered the curve as far as leadership goes.

Thursday, October 03, 2013 1:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quick error check on this piece, although Denver and Tampa were courting the Pirates in 1984-85, the very first sign of barbarians at the gate was New Orleans in 1981 in which Caliguiri actually had to go to court to get New Orleans and the Superdome to stop moving the Pirates out of the city.

There were 1-2-3 serious offers from 3 different cities between 1981 and 1985. Miracle the Pirates stayed in town in more ways than one.

Friday, October 04, 2013 8:48:00 AM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

I bet most of the people who view Tom Murphy unfavorably are over the age of 45.

Friday, October 04, 2013 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hard to overlook the backwardness of the fifth and forbes plan. the city still doesn't understand revalization and remains stuck in the psat
"The biggest source of controversy over the Market District proposal came from the city’s plan to use a blight designation on the district and employ eminent domain to acquire the property, with the expectation of selling it to a private developer who would bring in stores such as Pottery Barn, FAO Schwartz and Hard Rock Cafe.
“It wasn’t blighted before, but the plan caused it to become blighted,” Lynch said...Murphy’s plan was established because he didn’t think revitalization would happen on its own. Clark saw the Fifth and Forbes plan, along with the city’s investment of more than $50 million to establish Lazarus and Lord & Taylor department stores, as evidence it didn’t understand how to revitalize Downtown’s shopping district."

Friday, October 04, 2013 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

Just a note: Steigerwald characterizes the South Side as being a place that has thrived because government left it alone.

You know, the South Side? Also known as the East Carson Street Historic District, administered by the Department of City Planning, with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in facade improvements (among other things)?

Next they'll tell us that the Mexican War Streets are a tale of plucky individuals fixing up the neighborhood without any outside help.

Amazing how libertarians turn a blind eye to government intervention that fits their agendas.

Monday, October 07, 2013 2:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Old guy cheering the government shutdown said...

Keep the government's hands out of my Medicare.

Monday, October 07, 2013 4:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aiding people in fixing up their facades is child's play compared to the massive redevelopment schemes that usually aid rich people's pockets the most.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013 6:19:00 PM  
Blogger One J said...

insanity workout
kobe bryant shoes 2015
louis vuitton handbags
cheap ray bans
oakley sunglasses
kate spade outlet
louis vuitton outlet
michael kors outlet
celine outlet
concords 11
ray ban outlet
toms outlet
louis vuitton outlet
retro 11
burberry outlet
michael kors uk
ray ban sunglasses
michael kors outlet online
louis vuitton
burberry sale
retro jordans 13
oakley vault
louis vuitton outlet
burberry outlet
ray ban glasses
true religion
fendi bags

Tuesday, June 02, 2015 2:32:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home