The Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) has announced it is seeking $3.1 million from the Commonwealth to pay for design work necessary to begin the redevelopment of the 28 acre Civic Arena site. And we all thought the Penguins would have the redevelopment rights. But that obviously does not mean they will be expected to pay all the costs of the redevelopment-no matter how much money they stand to earn from the site’s redevelopment.

Then, after the design work is completed, the SEA will want tax increment financing (TIF) to help fund the new construction on the site. Did it ever occur to these folks that the site is a very valuable piece of real estate and maybe should be sold to a developer who will fund the new construction itself? But having assigned the redevelopment rights to the Penguins, the SEA obviously feels compelled to find the money to help them redevelop the site. Call it the urban renewal project that never ends.

Now what all of this actually reveals is the unfortunate mindset of public officials and coddled sports team owners who hold the view that they have an inherent right to use other people’s money (OPM) to subsidize their pet projects. Nice deal if you can get it but it fosters a cynical and ultimately destructive view of government. Favoritism creates calls for more favoritism and it engenders a sense of entitlement in private sector players who are constantly looking for taxpayer money in the form of economic assistance. It weakens the very fabric of the free market entrepreneurial system. It makes for cronyism and mutual backscratching between business and politicians, the exact opposite of what should be happening.

Urban Planning Missed the Mark

The City development community is celebrating a big win today with the announcement that national retailer Target is going to set down roots in East Liberty after a seven year effort to lure the company began. There is a loan ($20 million) and a tax credit backed investment ($12.6 million) on top of $14 million in site development from U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds.

One official noted that "if we were able to stay on the short list during one of the world’s largest global recessions, I think that proves there’s a really good market in East Liberty".

What it might prove is that communities might be able to overcome the huge mistakes made by urban planners of decades past. East Liberty’s pedestrian mall was labeled as a prime example of "…Pittsburgh’s cockeyed urban planning" in a 2000 op-ed piece in the PG. Five years later when announcing plans for a pedestrian bridge near the development the head of the URA noted that the structure would go a long way toward "undoing 30 years of bad urban renewal".

Unfortunately there are no repercussions for bad urban planning or bad urban renewal, only vows to do better the next time.