Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pittsburgh Slams Charlotte

This post starts with another story for the Feel-Good-Pittsburgh crowd. The Economist has it bad for Pittsburgh, real bad. Of course, that's no reason to refrain from waving the flag of civic pride:
And that's exactly the problem with these "most livable" contests, countered Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

"Livability is in the eye of the beholder," he said, noting surveys tend to overvalue cultural institutions -- which benefit relatively few people -- and undervalue economic indicators such as job growth and low taxes, which benefit many. Places like Charlotte, N.C., attracted people for that reason, he said.

"I would think that livability would have to do with finding a good job. If you're just looking at cultural things, sure, Pittsburgh is a nice place to live, if you can afford to send your kids to private schools or live in the suburbs and pay high taxes for good schools, but people tend to go where they can find work."

Nonsense, said Mr. Onorato.

"No one is claiming Pittsburgh is perfect," he said, noting that Mr. Haulk "bragged a few years ago about how great Charlotte is, and now Charlotte is in total collapse."
Tell us what you really think, Dan. Charlotte does have some serious economic problems right now. And, I wouldn't pay much attention to the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. But can't we find a middle ground concerning Pittsburgh's economic redevelopment? This battle royale between boosters and bashers is on full display over at Pittsblog. Mike Madison makes a reasonable critique and you'd think he'd insulted the honor of Pittsburgh. I just noticed that something similar is going on in Lexington, KY. There isn't any room for civil discourse or outsider perspectives. That leaves us with polemics. The libertarians of Southwestern PA must always rain on the parade and the status quo politicians gild the turds.

I'll echo part of Mike's retort to the peanut gallery by way of a suggestion for our common cause:


Stephen Gross said...

I find many liveability (sp?) studies to be interesting, but limited. You're right that they often attribute out-sized influence of "major" cultural institutions, while ignoring the quotidien aspects of life in any particular city.

Back in Cleveland, the boosters harped on-and-on-and-on about the Cleveland Orchestra and the Rock Hall. I lived there for 5 years. Most people went to those institutions MAYBE once every two years.

On the other hand, I visited the lakefront every day (on Cliff Dr.). That was stunningly beautiful, and really made my life there wonderful. This makes me wonder: why do liveability studies always seem to miss the little things that make life good/bad in a city?

Jim Russell said...

Abstracting/modeling quality of life is difficult. Information about a place is useful, but knowledge about an area is what drives migration.

Richard Florida has tried to personalize the place index enterprise (e.g. "Who's Your City). Ultimately, that comes up short and isn't much better than any other rankings. However, as the Florida brand gains in stature, more people trust what he says.

I like to think of migration patterns as a map of trustlines. As Aaron Renn has stated, people make the city. Parochial attitudes trump stunning lakefront views.