Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fire Bill Steigerwald

Dear Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,

Please fire Bill Steigerwald.

I haven't read such vitriol since reading about Nazi Germany in high school.

Oh, wait but that's fitting. He compares talking positively about Pittsburgh to talking positively about Nazis.

He goes on to spout ridiculous fallacies:

Nor did the Times note that Pittsburgh’s ever-dwindling, ever-aging, relatively poor and under-educated population (down in the city to 310,000 from 650,000 about 50 years) is subjected to crippling high taxes and deprived of basic city services like reliable snow-plowing.

Does he live in Pittsburgh? I do. My street gets plowed. I'm not "crippled" by high taxes. And nullspace has many many things to say on our young people NOT fleeing. Under-educated population??? Is he a moron?

Yes, we're in debt. But we're hardly alone in that. NYC was in ridiculous debt in the 70s yet somehow managed to become the poster-child for our country. They still haven't paid it off.

Yes, there are school problems, but as far as I can tell, Pittsburgh has some programs in place that are trying to address these issues. And please give me a city that doesn't have problems with schools. Maybe Philadelphia? How about LA?

You see, cities that have pioneered deindustrialization, shed huge chunks of population and shifted to service economies that run on curing sick people, college kids and government bureaucrats, as the former Steel City basically does, are now recession-proof, the rationalizing goes, because they’ve essentially been in low-grade recessions for decades.

Bill seems to be the only one in the country who thinks that an economy based on health care and education is a bad economic plan. Have you seen the number of Rite-Aids and CVSs that litter the landscape? And if a 3.9% unemployment rate is low-grade recession, he must think the whole country's been in a recession for decades.

This is a man who clearly hates his hometown, the city of Pittsburgh. Please, don't continue to pay him to write about it. He's pretty old. If you feel bad about kicking him to the curb, you can couch it in terms of your recent buy-out.




Schultz said...

He has a point.....in fact he made many valid points in that column. This entire excerpt is pretty much spot on, save for the "undereducated" part, although, I do find a lot of Pittsburghers to be ignorant, or racist, despite their education levels. You may disagree with Steigerwald, but I think it's a good thing that someone is doing something other than going ga-ga over the fact that Pittsburgh was in the NY Times.

Anyway, the Times – like the Plain Dealer and the parade of other national media that periodically traipses to this great town to gawk and glorify Pittsburgh’s many natural and man-made assets – forgot to tell its trusting readers that the city of Pittsburgh (where the Steelers and young Mayor Luke Ravenstahl play) is bankrupt and essentially in state receivership.

Nor did the Times note that Pittsburgh’s ever-dwindling, ever-aging, relatively poor and under-educated population (down in the city to 310,000 from 650,000 about 50 years) is subjected to crippling high taxes and deprived of basic city services like reliable snow-plowing.

Nor did it note that Pittsburgh's city schools spend more than $20,000 per student per year yet are hemorrhaging students annually.

Nor did it note that the city has wasted scores of millions of tax dollars on failed Downtown retail redevelopment schemes, subsidized professional sports stadia and a series of mass-transit boondoggles like our under publicized “Tunnel to Nowhere,” a 1.2-mile, $435-plus-million light-rail tunnel under the Allegheny River.

illyrias said...

The only thing I agree with is that we are relatively poor.

Do you really feel like you're deprived of basic city services? Which ones? Do you really think we're ever-aging? If so, please read nullspace's posts a few more times.
Do you really think we're ever-dwindling? Yes, we had a severe drop in population but many studies have shown that are population is no longer in free-fall and should start rising shortly. See today's population article in the Post-Gazette.

I agree that he has a point that just because the NYT or Forbes praises us, we should all just sit there and gloat. Obviously, we know better than the times. But he is off-the-hinge negative and spouting fallacies.

By the way, did I mention I just moved here 1 1/2 years ago? Did I mention I'm under 30? Sorry, all this down-on-pittsburgh-young-people-are-fleeing-no-jobs bullshit just pisses me off. And Bill Steigerwald appears to be the poster-child for negativity about Pittsburgh, so he gets my anger.

old man neill said...

i used to wonder why i was so angry in the morning. then one day i quit reading the ptr during breakfast. problem solved.

Schultz said...

You mean the population article about the mayor wanting to contest the next census so we can catch bleeping TOLEDO Ohio in the population rankings?!!! LOL! I hope we do catch Toledo in the rankings

And yes, I lived in Beechview for a while, and Greenfield, and the services freaking blew. The police response was terrible, their inaction when called upon was appalling, and the fact that there is trash and blighted houses and properties in pretty much every neighborhood, well, that is just unacceptable. I wrote about this back in the fall of 2007.

Jermaine said...

I realize that it's off-topic Schultz, but how do you suggest they (we) fix the problem with the blighted houses? Easy to point out mistakes, but let us hear your proposed solution(s).

illyrias said...

I'm very curious to see if the mayor's goal of demolishing 640 houses succeeded this year.


Happily, a few were demolished in my neighborhood. And the building inspection campaign appears to have kicked at least one potential slumlord into action near my street. Since getting cited, he has put thousands of dollars into renovating his long-abandoned house.

Schultz, I'm sorry you had a bad experience living in Beechview. To be honest, I've only briefly been through there.

I guess growing up in the northeast, I expect blight in cities. In boston, albany, new york, one sees blight every where. It doesn't mean it's good. But I guess it feels like home.

Schultz said...

Jermaine, take a look at what Buffalo is doing. They are #2
on that list of vacated houses per capita, Pittsburgh was #4 or 5.

Back in the fall of 2007, when I wrote the post about Pittsburgh's problem on Green is Good, Buffalo's Mayor Brown launched a 5 year $100mm effort to demolish 5,000 vacant and blighted homes.

"Mayor Byron W. Brown recently unveiled a $100 million five-year plan to rip down 5,000 houses, about half of all the vacant houses in the city, which ranks second only to St. Louis in the percentage of vacant properties per capita nationwide.

Demolitions are nothing new in Buffalo — buildings on more than 2,000 vacant properties have been destroyed since 2000 — but Mayor Brown has determined that more must be done, because the city can no longer afford to prop up eyesores and death traps.

His office estimates that each abandoned house costs the city an average of $20,060 over five years in lost taxes, debris removal, inspections and policing. So far this year, 41 percent of all fires in Buffalo were in vacant buildings, and more than 90 percent of all arson cases involved abandoned houses."

"Buffalo is not alone in wrestling with how to save itself through selective destruction. Philadelphia’s efforts led to a mini-renaissance in recent years; Detroit has had more mixed results. Youngstown, Ohio, is debating whether to bulldoze entire neighborhoods and turn them into parks.

Under Steelerstahl there has been some progress, but not enough because while the city has stepped up efforts and increased its budget for demolishing blighted houses there are so many of them out there. They need to put out an aggressive plan of attack and heck, maybe even request funding from the Obama stimulus package.

Buffalo is not funding their demolition plan entirely, not even close. Their program has been getting a huge assist from the state and federal government.

Jermaine said...

Great answer and explanation. I share similar views to yours when it comes to blight and how even one house can ruin an entire neighborhood (or at least a block). I think we can all agree that we're dealing with a negative issue that needs to be addressed for the long-term health of our communities.

I guess my only question is what happens to the land/plots/area once abandoned houses are removed? I'm sure each property calls for a different and individual approach, but who's willing to look at the picture on such a small scale level? The way things are done today, I'd assume that they simply have one blanket approach.....but what is it or what would it be? And why?

I'm all for new parks. I think there's a serious lack of parks in our neighborhoods. Without getting too far off topic here, I'd like to point out that all (most) schools lock their gates to keep kids from playing on their premises.....we're talking about keeping kids from playing on swing-sets and slides. Locking gates doesn't keep "gangs" or "hoodlums" out because they can simply jump the fence. Anyways....what I'm saying is that we need more parks in Pittsburgh. However, a single lot from a razed building may not be the best way to go if it's sandwiched between two homes. My point is: put parks where you can, but build new homes/businesses where you can as well....each case needs to be individually evaluated.

Is it possible that we can implement a system similar to Buffalo's, except better? Is it too late to include something like this in our own "Pittsburgh Citizens Wish List" that Obama should be getting?

p.s. I checked out your blog and enjoyed several of your posts!