Home > opinion, Pittsburgh > Pittsburgh Needs To Become More Progressive

Pittsburgh Needs To Become More Progressive

…. we are getting there, but we need to do more.

In one of my replies to The Burgh Blog I stated in a post the Pittsburgh is not progressive enough. This doesn’t mean that this is a bad city. It mean we need to move forward faster. Currently we are advertising ourselves and starting to be recognized as one of the meccas in medical and technology industries. We are also starting to be called “Little Hollywood” by developers watching us out west. This is a good sign … and it’s bringing people to Pittsburgh in record numbers to do anything from research and development, to movie filming, to getting an education, etc ……. the problem is it’s not keeping them here for long lengths of time.

This has happened before ….. remember the 90’s? Things were going great, but Pittsburgh held on to it’s past, and slowly all the things we gained trickled back out. Many times this is cause by people not wanting to change or change their thinking. Change can be a difficult thing ….. I change and embrace change because I know at some point it can make my life better. Do I necessarily like going through all the parts of getting to that change? No. Do I sometimes get scared that the changes may make things worse than before? Yes. Will I allow my fears cause me to stop change? No.

The problem many times with Pittsburgh is that the people that have grown up there will do anything to not see the parts of the city that represent their childhood go away. Candy-Rama is a good example, Kaufmann’s is another. Both of them were icons in our city – I almost cried when they were announced to be gone. Although I didn’t want to see Candy-Rama go, I knew the apartments that would take the place of the business would bring more people into the city – attracting even more businesses and more jobs and better living. The Kaufmann’s conversion into Macy’s brought a little better retailing and the Macy’s charm to the city – attracting people who like Macy’s. Macy’s also tends to be a better employer.

There are things that people coming into the city look at too, especially since we are getting people moving here internationally now:

* Art – people really look progressive at art, and many times something you or I as Pittsburghers don’t consider art, the people moving into Pittsburgh do consider art. Graffiti can be one style (not tagging or vandalism). So we have to provide venue for the types or styles of art people coming into the city want to see. If you don’t build it the people won’t come – if you don’t put the venue out there, the people won’t patronize it.

* Music – Pittsburgh is mostly a rock and blues city. Which is great. I spent many a night down at Nicks Fat City (when it existed) listening to those styles of bands and I’m also a Billy Price fan. I don’t necessarily like Diesel as much as I liked Nick’s, but it’s a nice addition to the SouthSide. We are there a little as far as accepting more music styles, but if you talk to any band playing what people are listening to outside of Pittsburgh and PA trying to make a go of it in Pittsburgh …. they will most likely tell you they will have to move out of the city because it won’t support their music or style because Pittsburgh is stuck on the same old thing. There goes their money and possible recognition for the city if the bands actually did make it.

*Living Space – we are actually doing good on this one (Mark Pyatt, Big River Developnment “The Cork Factory”, etc) have set the standards for Pittsburgh, and I believe the Cultural District will set another living space standard when they finish their projects. Unfortunately we need permanent people in those living spaces, not just 3 to 6 month renters.

Along with people mistakenly still knowing us as “The Steel City” and the “Smoky City”, we are also know as “The Safe City”. Not safe as in you won’t get mugged … but safe as in we only support “safe” music, “safe” radio stations, “safe” art, etc. “Safe” meaning that what is being done contains almost guaranteed possibility of at least working a little – maybe not being hugely profitable, nor generating allot of new customers. Unfortunately “safe” does not keep the new residents here with their money, knowledge, and talents. Remember what happened in the 70’s and early 80’s with the steel industry because it didn’t want to change?, and in the 90’s because the city didn’t want to be as accepting as it needed to be with tech companies moving in? We lost many chances to become a city people want to move to because we wanted to be “safe”.

Here is a good example of how change worked: The Firehouse Lounge in the Strip district started a house night featuring Steel City Funk. From talking to people that attended before I did, it took 8 to 12 months before it gained a really sustainable crowd. The point being that the owners embraced a change that normally did not include guaranteed success in a Pittsburgh based venue and gave the time for Pittsburghers to start accepting it, and the group running it time to tweak it to the area. We need to apply this attitude towards allot of other change in Pittsburgh. We tend to want immediate results.

I’ve been to places that I’ve grown to love, that are now gone because they wanted to be “safe” and avoid any chances associated with change. Don’t let Pittsburgh get that way. The people moving into Pittsburgh won’t wait for us to get past our fears of change and not being “safe” – they will just move to cities that have already gotten over their fears of change. Something our children seem to be in a habit of doing too, once they find out what is available outside of our city.

Remember – everything you have now was once something someone hated and spoke out against. (Rock Music, Sky Scrapers, Computers, Cars, Electronic Billboards, etc), so change has proven itself (although sometimes difficult) to be a vehicle to make things better.

Our current Mayor Luke is one of our better chances for change – and look at the flack he gets when he tries to make any changes or improvements. It’s the same flack the city gets from it’s residents when it tries to make any change.

I don’t want to see Pittsburgh disappear due to change, but change so it doesn’t disappear.

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