Sunday, July 31, 2005

The road to ruin and other thoughts for a Sunday morning

Bill Steigerwald skewers local, state and federal officials for pork-barrel transportation projects that make big promises which never seem to come true, and for which they are never held to account.

In the long run, almost everything transportation racketeers want gets built. Nobody checks if the planners' promises panned out. Transit officials aren't prosecuted or publicly shamed by the media for the inevitable cost overruns. Nobody exposes the fibs that are always told to get federal approval for superfluous highways and under-used subways.

Indeed. As Robert Moses proved, elected officials and their minions love to build things, whether they are needed or not. This explains government's prediliction to build not only unneeded roads but also stadiums, convention centers, convention center hotels, etc. Politicians like pictures of themselves shoveling dirt and cutting ribbons with giant scissors. There's no apparent glory, after all, in merely keeping city streets clean and safe.

Speaking of cities, on Saturday, Steigerwald once again turns to Joel Kotkin for advice on turning Pittsburgh and America's other ailing cities around. I'm not always a fan of Kotkin (see this February post) but he has some good things to say from time to time, such as:

I think Pittsburgh can reposition itself as a very livable place. I think the key advantage for Pittsburgh should be affordability and quality of life. Why would somebody go to Pittsburgh? The answer might very well be that it's livable, it's urban, it's got history, it's got some great architecture, it's a good place to raise a family; you have relatively easy access to the countryside. Ask yourselves why you live in Pittsburgh -- and I would say this for almost any city -- and then build on that. ... People move to different places for different reasons. If you want to live a middle-class life in a decent way, but you still want to be in the city, then Pittsburgh may have an appeal. And stress the neighborhoods. One of the things I always try to tell cities is, take a look at your neighborhoods where people are moving in. Many times they have older houses, tree-lined streets. They have good churches and community institutions. Build on those places instead of constantly trying to prove to the visitor who comes from New York or Chicago, that, "Yeah, well we've got this hip and cool stuff, too."

(Steigerwald talked to Kotkin back in May, seeking his advice for presumptive mayor-elect Bob O'Connor.)

Finally, it's Sunday, and no matter what mood I'm in on a Sunday morning, good or bad, I can't help but summon the words of the late, great Johnny Cash:

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.


Blogger Furrow said...

Oh lord, they need to get in our blog comments now? Is nothing sacred?

I look forward to reading Porkabalooza (transit bill) and reflecting on how the majority party claims to be more fiscally responsible.

9:14 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I wonder if disallowing anonymous comments would eliminate spam. I'll see if it becomes a problem. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some urgent business with the Nigerian royal family that demands my attention.

9:35 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

For those of you who are befuddled by that exchange, someone left me a spam comment, which I deleted.

9:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not spam, but this was unusual:

I thought that at your current position you might find spinning such a story an intriguing assignment.

3:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:04 PM


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