Pittsburgh should not pledge public money for political conventions

Pittsburgh should not pledge public money for political conventions

City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials are throwing their support behind VisitPittsburgh.org’s effort to bring the Republican and Democrat national nominating conventions to Pittsburgh in 2024.

So, how much public money is being pledged?

The Post-Gazette reports that Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey wrote his letter of support for the GOP confab on Saturday to national party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

“Pittsburgh is a world-class city primed for economic recovery and Downtown revitalization as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the newly installed mayor wrote.

So, how much public money is being pledged?

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald is reported to have written, on Nov. 18, his own letter of support for the Republican confab.

“We would welcome the opportunity to host … and look forward to having the chance to show you all of the reasons that Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is the best choice for your event,” he wrote.

So, how much public money is being pledged?

Allegheny County Councilman and county GOP chairman Sam DeMarco told the P-G that the opportunity to hold an event like this transcends politics, as it would show off the city to a national audience and generate millions of dollars in economic activity.

So, how much public money is being pledged?

Politico.com reports that Pittsburgh already is on a short list of four cities – along with Milwaukee, Nashville and Salt Lake City – to host the GOP event.

So, how much public money is being pledged, both for this and the Democrats’ affair?

Just about everyone on the “Pick us! Pick us!” list trots out the boilerplate manifest “benefits” of hosting such events. And the truth typically is the first casualty of such entreaties.

Take Mayor Gainey, for instance. He cites Pittsburgh’s “robust” economy, led, in part, by “education.”

But Pittsburgh’s economy has been flat, at best, for decades. And Pittsburgh Public Schools are an embarrassment in which an astounding 80 percent of students lack anything resembling proficiency in core subjects.

There’s an object lesson for the rest of the nation, right?

And how soon Pittsburgh officials forget the riots of past party conventions in other cities over the decades and how concomitant security concerns turned vast swaths of commercial districts into armed encampments.

There’s a great visual for that national audience, eh? Shutting down a downtown’s commerce always is an economic generator, no?

Think, too, of the debacle of 2009’s G20 Summit of world leaders in Pittsburgh. That was a disaster for the city’s public relations efforts and the economy alike.

City, county and party leaders will insist until the proverbial cows come home that hosting such events have “benefits” that far outweigh any costs.

And, citing “proprietary” strictures, they won’t tell taxpayers how much of their money is being pledged until any deal is signed, sealed and delivered. It is among the lousiest of lousy public policies.

The bottom line is that taxpayers have absolutely no business underwriting the political conventions of any party.

The fact of the matter remains that unsubsidized political parties should cover the cost of the increased impact they have on public services should they decide to choose a respective city for what long ago became a heavily scripted infomercial.

And any pol who heads any government agency – or controls any supposedly non-government agency such as VisitPittsburgh – who insists otherwise should be ridden out of town on a proverbial rail.

In this day and age in which the manifest detriments of using public money to subsidize such dog and pony shows is so readily evident, there’s no excuse for such public weal-damaging behavior.

Colin McNickle is the communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).