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TheGerbil

Must we keep reporting on this stuff?

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http://post-gazette.com/pg/08192/896076-53.stm

Big surprise, the city's population went down again. Those of us who bother to look into it further will realize that it's the same old pattern, births outpacing deaths (and not enough new people coming in to make up for it). This is not news.

My issues with this article:

1. Although they point out that it is city population only (not metro area), they don't bother to mention that many of the "larger" cities they list have much bigger physical areas. Nor do they compare metro area populations, which are a more accurate measure. Thus the article is very simplistic and potentially misleading.

2. They don't talk about the underlying reasons for these patterns. Thus they are enabling the continuation of the myth that more people move away from here than other cities.

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Regarding the bigger physical areas of other cities, unlike Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, or DC, Pittsburgh isn't condemned by county/state borders or physical borders from annexing its neighbors and thus expanding its size. The reason that Pittsburgh has remained at 55 square miles since the 1950's or so is mostly because PA law makes it veyr hard for a city to annex land. A huge part of the reason for the law is a result of the some bad karma following Pittsburgh's annexation of Allegheny City. Basically, while PA law at the time required that, for annexation of another city or borough, the majority of the people in both municipalities had to be in favor, Pittsburgh used its influence to have the law temporarily changed so that annexation could occur as long as the majority of the *total* people in both municipalities were in favor. When the vote came, the majority in Allegheny voted against annexation wheras the majroity of people in Pittsburgh voted for it. Since Pittsburgh was more than twice the size, the result was that the "majority" of the total people in both municipalities was in favor and thus annexation was allowed to proceed. After that annexation, many municipalities staterd demanding changes in state law. As a result, the state made it much more difficult to annex land. In the past, cities and boroughs were able to annex land away from townships almsot willy-nilly. Much of Pittsburgh's growth came by its annexation of lands from many townships such as Lower St. Clair Twp. (no longer existing), Penn Township (now Penn Hills), Reserve Township, Wilkins Twp., Baldwin twp. etc. That avenue was cut off after the state tightened up the rules of annexation around 1960 partly in response to the Allegheny City fiasco which was still fresh in people's minds and, indeed, Pittsburgh hasn't annexed any new lands since then (with the last annexation, I beleive, happening in the 50's when it annexed some land from Baldwin Twp.).

Thus, while it is often said that ciites like HOuston, Phoenix, etc. got large my annexing land, Pittsburgh had that as an option open as well but, beacuse it abused its rights, bad karma came into play.

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I'm not sure about other cities, but having lived in Charlotte for 20 years and watching the city gobble up almost the entire county, I'd say that annexation is so much easier in these other cities. I can only think of 5 or 6 municipalaties in the county. Charlotte was able to eat it's suburbs. Sprawl was happening and the city would wait for the area to grow enough for it to annex. I don't believe there was any kind of vote on this by the residents. I remember that a town in an adjacent county that had the Nascar Lowe's Motor Speedway annexed the speedway (after being asked, because the speedway wanted to be able to serve alcohol) which wasn't even adjacent to the town. The city changed its border by adding a 10 or 20 foot strip of land along the highway from the then present city limits to the speedway, (which was a few miles away) and then spread out to encompass the speedway and its surrounding parking. Just an example of the liberal annexation laws in the state.

I guess my point is these growing cities ( Charlotte, Pheonix etc.) don't have to deal with the messiness of trying to annex an incorporated area, so they cover absolutely huge areas. I was looking at this web site Census and the population per sq mile and you see cities with 971 per sq mile in the top twenty five with a land mass of 758 sq miles. Compare Pittsburgh, not in the top 50, with 6000 per sq mile with a land mass of 55 sq miles. The rankings seem useless.

But here in Nashville the headline for the article in the local paper was how Nashville is in the top 25. Meaningless.

One thing that did puzzle me when I looked at the web site was how some cities actually shrank in size. New York lost 5 sq miles. What happened to it? Is it annexation in reverse?

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Good question. I don't know the answer, but perhaps some little neighborhood decided to become independent or join a neighboring town. Probably for tax reasons. Everybody wants to live in the city but not actually in the city.

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I'm not sure about other cities, but having lived in Charlotte for 20 years and watching the city gobble up almost the entire county, I'd say that annexation is so much easier in these other cities. I can only think of 5 or 6 municipalaties in the county. Charlotte was able to eat it's suburbs. Sprawl was happening and the city would wait for the area to grow enough for it to annex. I don't believe there was any kind of vote on this by the residents. I remember that a town in an adjacent county that had the Nascar Lowe's Motor Speedway annexed the speedway (after being asked, because the speedway wanted to be able to serve alcohol) which wasn't even adjacent to the town. The city changed its border by adding a 10 or 20 foot strip of land along the highway from the then present city limits to the speedway, (which was a few miles away) and then spread out to encompass the speedway and its surrounding parking. Just an example of the liberal annexation laws in the state.

I guess my point is these growing cities ( Charlotte, Pheonix etc.) don't have to deal with the messiness of trying to annex an incorporated area, so they cover absolutely huge areas. I was looking at this web site Census and the population per sq mile and you see cities with 971 per sq mile in the top twenty five with a land mass of 758 sq miles. Compare Pittsburgh, not in the top 50, with 6000 per sq mile with a land mass of 55 sq miles. The rankings seem useless.

But here in Nashville the headline for the article in the local paper was how Nashville is in the top 25. Meaningless.

One thing that did puzzle me when I looked at the web site was how some cities actually shrank in size. New York lost 5 sq miles. What happened to it? Is it annexation in reverse?

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I live in Antioch, TN. grew up near Pittsburgh and lived in Charlotte. Antioch is considered to be part of Metro Nashvillle, but it is a rather large area in SE Davidson county and does not carry a Nashville mailing address. It has a bad reputation and parts of it are really in trouble. I don't know when Nashville and Davidson County merged. But almost the entire county is Nashville. There are a few independent cities. I think this has been bad for Antioch. If it had incorporated on it's own it may have been able to concentrate on the problem areas. As it is we have a city that doesn't seem to care, governing our area. I have read how Pittsburgh would like to merge with the county to eliminate redundancy in government services. I don't know if they would like to merge with other municipalities, but if I lived in those other cities I would be against it. Just my opinion.

Just to keep this on topic, I don't think this was a good idea just to increase population of a city.

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One thing that did puzzle me when I looked at the web site was how some cities actually shrank in size. New York lost 5 sq miles. What happened to it? Is it annexation in reverse?

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Good question. I don't know the answer, but perhaps some little neighborhood decided to become independent or join a neighboring town. Probably for tax reasons. Everybody wants to live in the city but not actually in the city.

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I actually have no problem with the Byzantine nature of Allegheny County's multiple municipalities. It provides people with more choice. People can choose to live in a township with better schools, better services, etc., provided, of course, that they can afford to live in it. If all of Allegheny County were merged into Pittsburgh, chances are that while some schools would improve, many (Upper St. Clair, North Allegheny, Mt. Lebonan, etc.) would get fewer resoruces and would not be as good. Ditto with services. Many municipalities of ALlegheny County actually are pretty well functioning. Granted, this doesn't really do much for the Wilkinsburgs and the Rankins but I don't think annexation will necessarily help those communities either. If anything, there would be more incentive for the enlarged Pittsburgh to devote resources into areas which are more populated and declining aras like Wilkinsburg will get even less attention.

Also, annexation just to raise the population of the city to make it one of the top cities would seem to be a Phyrric victory in the end. Allegeny County has just under 1.3 million people so even if all of Allegheny County were to be merged into Pittsburgh, the enlarged Pittsburgh would still be only the 8th largest city (as of 2007) and will likely be only 10th by the time such annexation happens (since San Diego and Dallas are about to surpass 1.3 million). 10th largest would put it just one step above San Jose, CA and I don't think San Jose really has a whole lot of primacy within the country.

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I would never condone annexation just to raise the population. If I came across that way, it wasn't my intention.

However, Allegheny County has over 100 municipalities within its borders, which I think is way too much fragmentation. When I hear about issues such as West Mifflin trying to raise its entertainment tax to milk more money out of Kennywood Park, an alarm bell goes off in my head. The current setup simply doesn't make sense. A total merger of everything in the county may not be the answer, but we do need a more sensible tax structure. To continue the example I started, West Mifflin wouldn't be able to do that to Kennywood, nor would they need to, if we had a more logical way of handling taxes.

Ah but we've gone rather off topic here. Oh well, this is an interesting discussion. And it is nice to have some people chiming in with their experiences from other cities/counties. Thanks for dropping in, folks :)

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I guess what I was trying to say in a very round about way was that many cities increased there populations by annexing while the core city didn't really change much. The city moved to them, they didn't move to the city. I really believe that Pittsburgh will turn around the negative growth soon. It is a beautiful city with so many amenities and all the things people are looking for in an urban (possibly car ownership free, zip cars anyone) city.

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I have family in Pittsburgh so i've been there many times, actually they live in the southern suburbs but every time I go to visit them I'm always impressed by how many vibrant urban neighborhoods there are in Pittsburgh. The main CBD actually has a few examples of modern architecture that I like (the PPG building is probably the most distinctive modern tower i've seen, at least in the US) although there are too many vacant storefronts downtown. Squirrel Hill, Southside, and Oakland would, in any other city, be reasons to visit on their own. It seems that because rents are cheaper people are more free to be creative and have genuine local institutions that are affordable and accessible. While every other city tries to lure the upper middle class, Pittsburgh has restaurants, cafes, shops, etc. that were even affordable when I was just out of college. I would love to have any one of...Beehive, CD Exchange, the great Taiwanese restaurant on Forbes in Squirrel Hill, public spaces such as the point, Mt Washington (which has been getting better every time I visit, when I used to visit with my grandfather in the 80's you'd just go up see the view and come back, now there's 100's of people up there walking every night, some restaurants, and real genuine city street life) in my town.

Also, wouldn't another reason for population declining in cities that are built out be the general smaller family size?

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I was thinking the same thing. I work with a guy who grew up on the Southside. He was showing me his house on Google Street View. He had 2 brothers and 3 sisters. So there were 8 people living in the house. They had 3 bedrooms. He said most of the houses in the neighborhood had large families. That house today probably has a couple with 1 child or no kids in it. We are talking 30 or 40 years ago.

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