Sunday, July 09, 2006

Upscaling Trust

Pittsburgh suffers from acute Balkanization. Trust in government occupies increasingly smaller spaces, where neighboring municipalities are unable to act in concert. Chris Briem, a regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh, notes how polarized the debate about regionalization has become. To many, consolidating the overwhelming number of governmental entities carving up the region of Pittsburgh is the key to the revitalization of the area. To others, the thought of creating another large and bloated governmental bureaucracy is an anathema.

Whatever debate is gripping Pittsburgh, each side views the other with a great deal of suspicion. The entire region is suffering from a crisis of trust and few efforts are done with a broad base of support. Self-interest rules the political landscape and many innovative ideas are doomed to spin their wheels. As Briem notes, Pittsburgh is stuck in a century-long stalemate.

How do we break the impasse? Briem offers civil discourse as a solution. The trick is creating a forum where this can effectively take place. To date, regional kingmakers and other stakeholder leaders have failed to constructively engage opposing points of view. Pittsburgh is rich in brilliant visions of the future, but none of them align.

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