Monday, January 06, 2014

Old meets new in Pittsburgh

While we wait for Victor Fries to show up, here is a cold Monday morning stream of consciousness.

If you have not seen it, social media is all over an article out of Chicago over the weekend worth a read.Chicago Tribune: New meets old in Pittsburgh. This city is cool. What's more, it's not self-conscious enough to care whether you know it. The lede: "I've never been to a city that loves itself more than Pittsburgh." What do I note more than anything else? The obligatory graf on food points out a French bakery and nary a mention of french fries in the sandwiches anywhere. This fellow obviously did not get the right memo.

I think Jim Russell summarized the article concisely by saying that "Sally Field Pittsburgh is dead."  You need to obsess a bit on the vast history of Pittsburgh ennui to appreciate that review, but if you do it is a pretty remarkable recalibration of our self-image. Still, near the end the author describes the echo he perceived of how (some) locals still think of Pittsburgh as a "washed-out casualty of the Rust Belt."

But yes, we take a long time to move past old perceptions. To quote the inimitable Ben Chinitz writing  in 1960!: "A white shirt will not stay white for as long as it does in any city in the country. But it will take some time to work off our reputation." For some for sure, Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh even past the transversality of the Keynesian long run.

Speaking of old vs. new. The other headline today is of course a small event Downtown today I seem to have heard about in passing. One aspect is a bit of irony in that many describe the change being all about 'youth' taking over the city-council building. The circumstances of LR's taking office being unexpected, but nonetheless he was indeed 26 when he took office, just over half the age of the mayor elect (or mayor depending on when you read this) BP who is 49 I believe.  Turns out that the average age of Pittsburgh mayors when taking office since 1946 is all of 48 50 (eek, original calculation I forgot Sophie, how could I?), a number pulled down a bit by the outlier that was LR, but still people seem to forget that both Pete Flaherty and Richard Caliguiri were both 45 when they took office, and even Murphy at 50 was just a tad bit older than BP today.

For those who like numbers, the age upon taking office for recent Pittsburgh mayors.

Bill Peduto: 49
Luke Ravenstahl: 26
Bob O'Connor: 61
Richard Caliguri: 45
Tom Murphy: 50
Pete Flaherty: 45
Joe Barr: 53
David Lawrence: 56
and of course Sophie Masloff: 70