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PghUSA

Brian O'Neill does it again, consolidate now!

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http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05198/538678.stm

Following the Pittsburgh City Paper's recent article on how utterly stupid it is to remain unconsolidated, straight talking local sage Brian O'Neill weighed in with some more elementary common sense. If we could ever get OVER the feudal rivalries between "boroughs" in this metroplex we could actually realize our true potential as one of the great global centers.

Pittsburgh has slipped again. We're now America's 56th largest city, down from 10th in 1940, and you can bet your autographed copy of the Rand McNally road atlas that we'll continue to slide even if the regional economy booms. Because Sun Belt cities don't play by our rules.

That is a fact many people miss when comparing the sizes of cities. Only passing mention was made in a story last week of a big reason that western and southern cities grow quickly: They annex their suburbs, turning commuters into city residents, whether they like it or not.

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Consolidation would benefit Pittsburgh considerably. Can you imagine what Philly or NYC would be like if they didn't do it way back in the 19th century?

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I realize now why Pittsburgh reminds me so much of European cities. It's the density!

I'm interested in seeing how the original urban core of the 20-mile-wide cities has fared relative to Pittsburgh. From my personal observations much of the original city ends up as a slum known as the "inner city" where the schools, services, and infastructure are left far behind, maybe with a 10-lane artery or two plowing through formerly vibrant and historic neigbhorhoods. I bet they lost way more population than Pittsburgh did over any given period of time.

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San Francisco and New York (Manhattan) might be the only two exceptions to that rule blueblack, but very good observation, I like how O'Neill did the piece a while back on layering over a Houston's or Denver's or Phoenix's or Jacksonville's limit line on top of metro Pittsburgh, it's amazing that those cities would stretch as far south as touching Canonsburg and as far north as Wexford and Cranberry, but Pittsburgh is hemed in tens of miles deeper.

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I think it's great that Pgh reminds many people of European cities. But the sad truth is that we're in the USA, and things work differently here. So this lovely city pretty much has to act more American in order to compete.

Makes me wonder, would some popular European cities actually fare badly if they were in the USA instead of where they are? And would Pgh do better if it was over there? We'll never know, but it's a very interesting mental exercise.

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I think it's great that Pgh reminds many people of European cities. But the sad truth is that we're in the USA, and things work differently here. So this lovely city pretty much has to act more American in order to compete.

Makes me wonder, would some popular European cities actually fare badly if they were in the USA instead of where they are? And would Pgh do better if it was over there? We'll never know, but it's a very interesting mental exercise.

Any truly European city would obliterate an American city, competitively speaking. They are far ahead of us with energy conservation, public transport, recycling, environment. Costs of services such as cable television, broadband, phones are much lower. The availability of resources for high density development (cranes, advanced construction techniques, workforce) are far ahead of ours. A small European city will invariably surpass a large US city in cultural offerings. Basically everything that we pride ourselves in as Pittsburghers and everything else that we want for the future, they already have.

If, by being over here you mean to introduce lower taxes (although, effectively bang-for-buck, you'd be raising them), lower gasoline prices, tons of undeveloped land, etc., then it would be like lifting a heavy load off a goliath's back. OTOH if you mean by being over here to introduce corruption and cronyism in local politics, a tax base that gets siphoned out into suburban areas (effectively ensuring that half the city's workforce is tax-exempt as far as the budget is concerned), then they'd have huge problems.

The reason that Pittsburgh wouldn't fare well in Europe is mainly because our public transportation is severely underdeveloped and we don't conserve enough energy to have a competetive edge there.

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The one thing that strikes me most about European cities is that unlike the United States, their cities made the region (or the region chose a city and stuck to it) there is a synergy an empowering of the urban areas, France is Paris and vice versa sure sure Marsilles and Lyon etc. but there is only one real city in France and that is Paris, Spain, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Amsterdam, Belgium, England, Poland are all the same way. Up until the end of WWII Germany was much the same but for political reasons Frankfurt, Bonn, Hamburg were more empowered (to keep away from centralization which brought the Nazi's into power somewhat), Germany itself only recently (on a time scale) merged Bavaria and Rhineland and Prussia and the others into one Germanic nation prior to that the Frankfurts et. al. were the political/economic/social/cultural centers of their collective universes.

What hurts American cities and is rather unique here is that New York City has LESS national representation in the highest legislative body then the whole state of North Dakota! North Dakota, Wyoming, etc. have as many electoral votes for President most years as Los Angeles, Detroit or even Pittsburgh.

If Pittsburgh was european then in the 1700s it would have claimed northern and western West Virginia, East Central and Northeast Ohio and maybe even the extreme west of New York State. It would have been the political, economic, cultural, academic, transportational hub of the Morgantowns, E. Liverpools, Youngstowns, Zanesvilles, Wheelings, Eires etc. etc. instead those areas look towards the Columbus's and Harrisburg's and Charleston's for political and economic reforms, they look towards Cleveland for FAA Regional Centers and Federal Reserve Branches, they look towards University Park and Columbus and Morgantown for Academic alternatives and medical services. To think that Channel 4 Pittsburgh is the sole ABC station for Wierton, Steubenville, Wheeling etc. as well as simulcast to Johnstown and Altoona but for the "Charleston beat" or "Columbus beat" affecting those areas politically and in economic (taxes, spending, loans etc.) ways the NBC and CBS affliates in that valley kill the Pittsburgh signal only a mere 30 miles away. If this was Austria or France or Sweden Pittsburgh influence would beam as far north as the outskirts of Buffalo and as far south as the outskirts of Knoxville, and their political, social and cultural worlds would depend on the decisions made on Grant Street and vice versa. Aw what could be. The Paris of Appalachia ;)

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The one thing that strikes me most about European cities is that unlike the United States, their cities made the region (or the region chose a city and stuck to it) there is a synergy an empowering of the urban areas, France is Paris and vice versa sure sure Marsilles and Lyon etc. but there is only one real city in France and that is Paris, Spain, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Amsterdam, Belgium, England, Poland are all the same way.

<snip>

If Pittsburgh was european then in the 1700s it would have claimed northern and western West Virginia, East Central and Northeast Ohio and maybe even the extreme west of New York State. It would have been the political, economic, cultural, academic, transportational hub of the Morgantowns, E. Liverpools, Youngstowns, Zanesvilles, Wheelings, Eires etc. etc.

This brings to mind the League of Cities in Europe centuries ago. This was a pact among key cities controlling ports and trade routes, and these several cities in reality controlled all of Europe. Kings were powerless against the economic might of these cities. When a king lay siege to Gdansk over unfavorable terms of trade, money flowed into the city from it's sister cities and in no time a larger army was raised that wiped out the king's. These cities in fact sponsored their national governments when not at war with them because they had a much easier time raising funds than kings did through the feudal system.

The rest of the story is about how these cities later became the focal points of heavily centralized authoritarian governments once national boundaries were drawn. The entire country would starve while kings and emperors played the role of grandious urban architect for their pet city. Present day dictatorships display this same feature. However, to me it doesn't seem like nationalization was in the best interests of cities. The city-state was a much more favorable set-up that didn't rely on national borders but on trade. So it's for a very different reason that cities became the focal point of dictatorships than when they were driven by their own best interests.

However, I don't think the modern European city operates in that fashion.

My grandfather had asked me why, when he traveled throughout the US, none of the great US cities serve as the capitols for their region, the oppositte from Europe. IMO it's like you were saying PphUSA, because our political system pits the cities against the rural areas, but cities are forbidden to line up with each other while the rural areas collude. Our regional boundaries were never drawn up to each encircle a major city. The capitals end up being in Albany, Harrisburgh, Albequerqi, places where rural interests can feel comfortable in their majority.

Instead of there ever being a national vote about what's best for Pennsylvania as a whole, the vote is a struggle for supremacy by either the blue (urban) or red (rural) interests. As a result, elections have more to do with the redistribution of tax revenue and modern vs rural mores than about setting goals and growth. They are zero-sum games (for one side to get their way, the other side must lose). Most European democracies aren't based on zero-sum games: they guarantee that if 1% of the vote goes to one party, 1% of the representatives will be from that party. It's not "two senators from every state, winner takes all." It makes a whole lot more sense and is more than likely a reason why their cities aren't such a mess like ours. We could at least attempt to reform our state legislature to be closer to what a modern democracy should be, and then our cities would thrive.

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Those are all very interesting thoughts! Really all I meant was, what if we took Pittsburgh, as is, and plopped it down in Europe, or took a smallish European city, as is, and plopped it down in the USA.

I've heard it said that if Pittsburgh were in Europe people would go out of their way to visit it. Somehow I think we'd get more respect there than we do here.

But yes, of course that is a very simplistic way to look at it. Eurpose does have different ways of governing than our country does. And different history. I can dream though... :silly:

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Those are all very interesting thoughts! Really all I meant was, what if we took Pittsburgh, as is, and plopped it down in Europe, or took a smallish European city, as is, and plopped it down in the USA.

I've heard it said that if Pittsburgh were in Europe people would go out of their way to visit it. Somehow I think we'd get more respect there than we do here.

But yes, of course that is a very simplistic way to look at it. Eurpose does have different ways of governing than our country does. And different history. I can dream though... :silly:

Brendan Gill, architecture writer for The New Yorker, 1990: "The three most beautiful cities in the world are Paris; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh were situated somewhere in the heart of Europe, tourists would eagerly journey hundreds of miles out of their way to visit it."

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Those are all very interesting thoughts! Really all I meant was, what if we took Pittsburgh, as is, and plopped it down in Europe, or took a smallish European city, as is, and plopped it down in the USA.

I've heard it said that if Pittsburgh were in Europe people would go out of their way to visit it. Somehow I think we'd get more respect there than we do here.

But yes, of course that is a very simplistic way to look at it. Eurpose does have different ways of governing than our country does. And different history. I can dream though... :silly:

Gerbil, those were great points, and very very true. You do realize though that on this board our membership will always extrapolate even the most minuet point :yahoo: one of the things that makes this forum such a great place. Oh and any exercise of the mind like this is never simplistic ;).

Evergrey,

terrific find my friend, I remember it being said, just didn't know the who, what, where, when and why.

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Very cool, I always wondered where that quote came from. What a nice thing for someone to say. I wish more people knew about that.

I just noticed in my last post I made a pretty weird typo. Eurpose? :rolleyes:

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Well, I like Berlin, too. :-/ I guess I went off on a tangent, but it was interesting to *me*. Back to consolidation?

I do think it'd be nice to consolidate, but my idea of consolidation is to expand T service.

But wouldn't it make just as much sense just to take out wage taxes in the place where people work, and keep them there? If you worked in Canada you wouldn't get away with saying "but I commute from Pittsburgh, so I'm only gonna pay US taxes." Let the suburbs pay for their roads with property taxes, and then they'll be begging to consolidate. Of course it's all rigged against the cities, so why would consolidation work either, more than just the appearance on paper of "growth?"

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Well, I like Berlin, too. :-/ I guess I went off on a tangent, but it was interesting to *me*. Back to consolidation?

Don't get me wrong, I was very interested in reading your points. You guys just gave more consideration to my throw-away comment than I expected! :)

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What hurts American cities and is rather unique here is that New York City has LESS national representation in the highest legislative body then the whole state of North Dakota! North Dakota, Wyoming, etc. have as many electoral votes for President most years as Los Angeles, Detroit or even Pittsburgh.

I don't know about less. In the Senate, yes. However, the division of the House of Representatives is dependant upon population. I do agree that each state having a minimum of 3 federal representatives (2 Senators and at least one Representative) unfairly favors residents of the smaller states.

If Pittsburgh was european then in the 1700s it would have claimed northern and western West Virginia, East Central and Northeast Ohio and maybe even the extreme west of New York State. It would have been the political, economic, cultural, academic, transportational hub of the Morgantowns, E. Liverpools, Youngstowns, Zanesvilles, Wheelings, Eires etc. etc. instead those areas look towards the Columbus's and Harrisburg's and Charleston's for political and economic reforms, they look towards Cleveland for FAA Regional Centers and Federal Reserve Branches, they look towards University Park and Columbus and Morgantown for Academic alternatives and medical services.
That would be interesting to divide up the countries into city-state fiefdoms. Pittsburgh would actually have a pretty large one. It would be really interesting on the East Coast corridor where many of the cities are shoe-horned next to each other. Boston would probably get all of New England except for SW CT which would go to NYC. NYC would have a comparatively small area that will take in NYS south of Albany, SW CT, northern NJ, and parts of eastern PA. Philadelphia would get SE PA, all of DE, and southern NJ. Baltimore will get NE MD and parts of PA (mostly York).

The only thing closely resembling a city-state in the US is DC because it runs its own district (though not a state) and, for all intents and purposes, domiantes Maryland and Virginia as well. The whole MD-DC-VA area is basically DC's "state" with DC as the center of it all.

To think that Channel 4 Pittsburgh is the sole ABC station for Wierton, Steubenville, Wheeling etc. as well as simulcast to Johnstown and Altoona but for the "Charleston beat" or "Columbus beat" affecting those areas politically and in economic (taxes, spending, loans etc.) ways the NBC and CBS affliates in that valley kill the Pittsburgh signal only a mere 30 miles away.

Do they actually actively kill the Pittsburgh signal??? I was under the impression only that cable companies there favor the local affiliates over the Pittsburgh ones (as they should). I don't think they block the signal any more than WPXI blocks WTOV (Steubenville) or KDKA blocks WTRF (Wheeling).

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My grandfather had asked me why, when he traveled throughout the US, none of the great US cities serve as the capitols for their region, the oppositte from Europe. IMO it's like you were saying PphUSA, because our political system pits the cities against the rural areas, but cities are forbidden to line up with each other while the rural areas collude. Our regional boundaries were never drawn up to each encircle a major city. The capitals end up being in Albany, Harrisburgh, Albequerqi, places where rural interests can feel comfortable in their majority.

The one exception is Massachusetts which is pretty much dominated by Boston. Also, Georgia is pretty much dominated by Atlanta. In fact, I'd say that if you were to draw up a fiefdom for Atlanta it'll extend from southern VA (where DC's influence trails off) to Jacksonville, FL.

As for NY's capital being Albany, it seems that, for all intents and purposes, the capital still is New York City. The rest of NYS has comparatively little influence despite what NYC people say. The governor of NY, for one thing, maintains an office in NYC (formerly in the WTC). Also, while this doesn't relate to state government, both of their senators are from the NYC area (well, one of them pretends to be :P ).

The closest the US ever came to having an "imperial city" the way London is for the UK and Paris is for France was back when Philadelphia was the largest city, the capital, the financial center, the cultural mecca, etc., etc. of the US. However, that was only for 10 years (1790-1800) and even then Philadelphia was smaller than Erie is today. I guess if the US were to choose an imperial city it would be NYC since its larger than the next two largest cities combined and is the undisptued cultual and financial center of the country. but then all the governing decisions are made in DC and the US is realtively decentralized.

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In television terms, Metros are designated market areas (DMA) and usually considerably (or at least somewhat) bigger than the actual metro, as they include farther fringes and in some cases whole states. Salt Lake City in TV terms is ALL of Utah. Atlanta does not cover all of GA though, as Savannah, Augusta, Columbu, Albany and Savannah are all TV markets.

When markets touch each other, there is "spill" as well, but the proximity of metros limits the size of anyone DMA in the region. Salt Lake is near NOTHING, so its boundaries are naturally going to be larger. Stuebenville-Wheeling is a market - in other words, it's big enough that it has two (in this case) stations that serve its DMA, and it just so happens to border Pittsburgh (and Youngstown).

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As far as the TV markets questions and the "killing" of signals in the Wheeling/Wierton/Steubenville markets, I might have been a little over zealous on that one. I don't think TV stations have the time or checkbooks to get into the signal stopping biz, however having spent some time in the radio industry and my bigtime hobby of every type of cartography (including signal reach maps), I am aware that the FCC forces stations to in laymens terms "direct" or "redirect" their signals. If anyone has ever seen a signal map it is interesting that most of them do not radiate out in a uniform pattern, in fact lots of them are more like a hexagon pattern. Most times (although not all times) this is because of an FCC license holder or a commercial affilate holder in a neighboring area. Signal to signal is a definite no no, and networks are loathe to have affilates with different signals (channel 3 Pittsburgh and channel 5 Wheeling) bleed into each other's turf to much. Just bad business from a network perspective. I am more familiar with the eastside of Pittsburgh so the west hills might indeed get some of the Wheeling signal, I'd be kind of surprised by that though. Again I doubt KDKA and the Wheeling stations are buying "jammers" but I am sure they would make calls to the FCC and Network if the CBS Steubenville station had direct competition from a strong KDKA signal. Also I don't know how they get those signal patterns where u can stretch it to Altoona but have it crack out on you at Burgettstown etc. I just know engineers are capable of "directing" them as such. ;)

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Does anyone else think that seperating into a city/county government system in Pittsburgh would be a good idea? I think that if we (the city) offered annexation, and then eventual conversion into the county of Pittsburgh it would be much better for the city. We would have a city that shows a much higher population than is reported now. The city could then be divided into borough councils, but still all part of the whole. We could eliminate the income tax and cap the property tax, and encouraging the state to follow suite with a higher sales tax rate that includes clothing.

Then we are on the playing field with the sunbelt cities, but a far more interesting place to live!

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Absolutely, Mercury. That is precisely what I want to see happen. But sadly, the city hasn't got the power. Only the state can make this happen, and most of the state government is suburban legislators who would fight this tooth and nail. I really don't know what it is going to take. Maybe we just have to keep working toward it, with shared services etc, and eventually it will happen.

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Mercury . . . first off WELCOME! to Urbanplanet, hope you have tons of fun here and feel free to post any topic you like concerning Pittsburgh :)

To your post, I must admit I am confused on exactly what model you are proposing . . . it sounds like it would be something akin to the Miami-Dade metro Mayor where the County is almost like the "metro city" and the city proper still exists?

I would love to hear your exact proposal, you say bouroughs so that is more like a NYC consolidation of the early 20th century where the other cities are basically their own counties but all under the NYC govt.

I do remember a few years back where Pittsburgh mulled de-incorporating itself, basically tearing up the the city charter and saying "no mas" in which case Pa. law would normally make the county step in and run the former city's area . . . seems that the 190+ fiefdoms (municipalities that are run like sultanates) got wise to this and made Harrisburg exclude cities with populations over 100,000 from that option. It sounds like that path was the one you were most in favor of Mercury, if not let me know. I am eternally fascinated with metro forms of govt. so I love hearing different opinions and analysis on them.

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Thank you for the warm welcome! I have been reading the posts on this website for a few months, and it has really kept me inspired about the future of Pittsburgh. I am a fairly new resident, relocating in Fall 2004 from Los Angeles. I left because of the growing cost of living of life in sunny CA. Also, I am a big proponet of urban renewal, rather than a continuous explosion of the faceless suburbs. For anyone who has been to LA, they will agree that that is what LA is all about!

My proposal leaves the future up to the voters of the area. There is no dissolution of the city of Pittsburgh, as that would be detrimental to the region. The city itself would break away from Allegheny county and become its own independent city/county. This is like the model that Philadelphia is governed under. The people of the surrounding boroughs/fiefdoms (good word) could vote themselves into the city before the split happens. Then the city could be divided into boroughs like New York, so all parts of the city have a local council and representative government.

This shift would make the city have a much higher population and prominence in the nation, and keep us as a recognizable destination for business and new residents. It would allow the city to set its own competitve tax structure, and show that the city is the hub of the region, not just one of the faceless unimportant boroughs that surround us. I think a property tax cap and a shift to more of a sales/use tax in the new city/county of Pittsburgh, would help us turn around the population loss and work together towards a more cohesive urban center.

I hope that clarifys my idea a bit more.

MercuryPA

Highland Park

City of Pittsburgh

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I guess I misunderstood you a bit. I thought you meant the city would merge with Allegheny County and so would all the surrounding towns, so we'd have one big city/county. Then the city/county would be divided into burroughs (which would help all the towns and neighborhoods keep their identitiy and some independence).

The whole thing (formerly Allegheny County) would be called Pittsburgh, but it would contain burroughs with names such as Oakland, Fox Chapel, Mt. Lebanon, Homestead, etc. Pittsburgh would have one singular tax system, school system, government etc, but each borrough would have representation on the gov't.

I personally think what I just described is the best option, though it is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Your idea is interesting, but I am not sure how it would increase the city's population. Unless I am misunderstanding you again :)

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