The political economic landscape is what sets Pittsburgh apart from other American cities. Pittsburgh's prolific and fragmented political geography is remarkable:
If you like government, the Pittsburgh Region is the place to be. We have over 1,000 separate governmental entities in the 10-county region: 10 counties, 286 cities and boroughs, 262 townships, 126 school districts, and 389 “special districts,” i.e., water and sewer authorities, airport authorities, etc.
Over 900 of these governmental units are in the 7-county metropolitan statistical area (MSA). That’s the 5th largest number of governments among the 40 biggest metropolitan areas in the country. On a per capita basis, we’re #1, with more governments per person than any other major region.
While archaic Pennsylvania state laws keep consolidation at bay, Philadelphia is still well behind Pittsburgh when counting governmental entities in a region. The Pittsburgh region is uniquely Balkanized. That's a significant barrier to policy and hurts Pittsburgh's economic competitiveness.
This geographic liability was once an asset and its legacy may be part of what inspires the Burgh Diaspora. Tomorrow, I'll investigate why the region has this strange political geography and how it unleased an industrial Leviathan.