Sunday, November 11, 2007

The poster child

The Trib turns a critical eye on the Allegheny Conference in an article on the front of today's paper. Perhaps the most significant passage:

If the conference ever starts to accomplish the business-oriented agenda it claims to support, it could help the region to recover, several urban-policy experts contend.

Cutting business taxes and regulations remain the best ways to expand an economy and jobs, according to John Charles, head of the free-market Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Ore.

Portland is a darling of urban planners for its strict zoning, regional government and subsidized mass transit. But Charles thinks the Portland region is wasting money by expanding its streetcar network and unveiling a $57 million Swiss-style aerial tram.

"You don't try to pick winners and losers," said the University of Pittsburgh graduate. "You don't try to have this grand vision. The nice thing about cutting the corporate income tax is, everybody benefits. You're not cutting a deal for a handful of people."

Pittsburgh has done a good job of promoting itself, said Joel Kotkin, economic and social forecaster with the Milken Institute, an economic research group in Santa Monica, Calif. Yet now it needs to work on substance.

"Pittsburgh's sort of the poster child of out-of-scale ideas," said Kotkin. "Huge airports, fancy convention center, the stupid light-rail to the stadium -- that kind of stuff. Stuff that I think is pretty secondary but apparently has support from the top of the business community.

"The city gets extremely good press in many ways nationally, but when you look at the performance, you say, 'I don't get it.' The city has made some progress, but a lot other cities have made a lot more." (link)

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