Is it prudent planning or just another in a long line of central plans preordained to fail?
The City of Pittsburgh has announced “ForgingPGH,” characterized as a comprehensive 20-year land-planning effort.
As the Tribune-Review reports it:
“According to the mayor, city officials face a choice: They can continue to work with developers who have their own plans for what they want to do in the city and work to meet their needs. ‘Or we can change the way that we do urban planning in the City of Pittsburgh. We can play offense,’ (Mayor Bill) Peduto said.”
What exactly does this mean? It certainly sounds a lot like “The State” yet again attempting to command the marketplace, does it not?
The city says it will spend the next year seeking input from residents of each of the city’s 90 neighborhoods. That information will be incorporated into a land-use plan to help guide future development.
Additionally, the city will hire two consultants – each paid about $100,000 – to evaluate Pittsburgh’s housing needs and to work on an economic development plan.
But, gee, wasn’t it just in January that, as the Post-Gazette reported it, “Peduto introduced the city’s new development leaders … saying they are a team ‘comprised to be able to address the realities of Pittsburgh today and Pittsburgh of tomorrow’”?
The Trib also reports the plan will take into consideration issues of equity and systemic racism during the process.
“We can put into our urban plans a model that breaks away from generations of disinvestment in our black communities,” Peduto said.
“We can turn that model into a different model. One that looks through the lens of equity in assuring that everyone has a place at the table for the future of Pittsburgh.”
But Peduto’s overriding rationale is a lesson in dichotomous ignorance of history, at best:
The mayor says the “ForgingPGH” approach was used in the 1960s and 1920s but has not been employed since Pittsburgh dealt with the decline of the steel industry and the loss of its manufacturing base.
“During the 1980s, during the 1990s, the beginning of the 2000s, there wasn’t much investment happening in the City of Pittsburgh,” Peduto said. “We were playing defense. We were trying to save our city and keep our head above the water.”
Hold the phone!
Weren’t the 1960s that Peduto so fondly recounts the era of such central-planning failures as the destruction of the predominantly black Hill District to build the Civic Arena, replacement of a large tract of the central North Side with the Allegheny Center abomination and the bulldozing of East Liberty?
And weren’t predominantly taxpayer-subsidized professional baseball and football playgrounds and the rebuilt convention center of the late 1990s and early 2000s touted as wonderful “investments” that would pay endless returns, all proof-positive of Pittsburgh’s next great “renaissance”?
Never mind, too, that public officials ram-rodded those projects down the people’s throats after new stadiums were overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box.
But, but but, we’re now told that Peduto’s plan will change all that. The people will be in charge. But, naturally, “The State” will direct that development on behalf of the people because, having listened to the people, it knows best.
After all, all we need is one more government intervention to end all government interventions, right?
So, what might this brave new world look like? For one thing, more publicly funded grocery stores in neighborhoods that likely can’t support them, right?
For another thing, it very well could be more faux “environmentally sound” development that likely has few real environmental benefits and is not sustainable economically, right?
And there can be little doubt in this “ForgingPGH” plan that developers will be forced to kowtow to even more “social justice” prescriptions – think of the already mandated paid sick-leave policy – that stand to defeat the very idea of “development” and strictly limit and even negate profit potential.
What might be next, attempting to force developers into projects at a loss?
Indeed, racism in public policy is abhorrent. But so, too, is “equity” not based on the kind of equal opportunity that free markets engender and for which sound public policy makers must strive.
Wrote Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World,” the 1932 novel of dystopian society:
“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Sadly and tragically, too many people long ago became conditioned to believe the “progressive” proposition that ever more government direction of the economy is needed to “level the playing field,” to “right capitalism’s wrongs” and to “make the downtrodden whole.”
Never mind that it too often has been those very government “solutions” that only exacerbate the very problems they are touted as “fixing.”
Whether “ForgingPGH” results in hardened steel or pot metal remains to be seen. But at first blush, it has all the makings of the latter.
Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org).