Monday, August 31, 2009

Global Face Of Pittsburgh

For those of you who don't know, that's Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. Given the reactions to my earlier post today about the Pittsburgh reniassance, I thought I'd offer an alternative narrative about the state of the city that the world will see:

It is hard to imagine a cooler political figure than Mr Fetterman in contemporary America, who appears totally focused on broken-down Braddock, and what can be done to make life better there.

That's from BBC News. The global press isn't just hanging out in the Golden Triangle, despite the best efforts of the Pittsburgh city bosses. And go figure. They think Rust Belt Chic is cool.

I can hear Anthony Bourdain laughing. Baltimore builds up this gorgeous habor and you take you audience to the Mean Streets. Has everyone forgotten the Bronx of 1979? At least Giuliani was able to clean up Manhattan.

There is something special going on in America's shrinking cities. From Aaron Renn's Twitter feed, the doings in Springfield, MA:

Perhaps local efforts should stipulate their own criteria for success. At a recent public meeting sponsored by the Springfield Institute, more than 90 members of the community gathered to discuss and debate which municipal performance indicators mattered most to them.

Commitments to places and to the people in them can be interpreted as substitutes for one another. My fellow Economix blogger Edward Glaeser, for instance, argues that the goal of compensating victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans would be better met by giving individual residents checks than by trying to rebuild the city.

But the urban planners Randall Crane and Michael Manville emphasize the potentially complementary characteristics between investments in individuals and communities. Commitments to places often represent commitments to those who live in them, helping create confidence and trust, assets sometimes described as social capital.

Some of our cities will probably lose the race to reinvent themselves. But some local economic development efforts could win big. That’s why I’m cheering for Springfield’s social entrepreneurs, who rank high among my local heroes.

Civic innovation going on in places such as Springfield and Youngstown is the real Pittsburgh story. This makes Fetterman, reluctantly, a celebrity. It is a different kind of urban vibrancy, perhaps an acquired taste. It won't measure up to your city. That's not the point. We are witnesses to a new urban paradigm.


Robert Pontzer said...

Amazingly, that Braddock article didn't mention "Pittsburgh" once.

Aron Goldman said...

Thanks for the Springfield shout out! Put Buffalo on the list, too. At least for learning purposes: