Will we ever face the music?

Will we ever face the music?

There’s a spot-on, very eye-opening, passage found in a Jeffery Fraser article in the fall edition of the Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine on Greater Pittsburgh’s continuing population “leakage.”

To wit:

“The region may be a case study of resiliency, but for how long? Today, the local workforce struggles to grow with a hefty share of older workers on the cusp of retirement. A history of population loss carries a stigma that casts doubts on a region’s vitality in the eyes of employers. And decline raises long-​term questions, not the least of which is how a smaller tax base will pay for critical infrastructure built to accommodate a larger population.”

Noted one expert interviewed for the article: “At the very least, it places a significant drag on a city’s or region’s ability to pull out of its immediate trajectory.”

The same magazine issue “asked a group of the region’s leading financial experts to give their opinion on the following question: ‘If the Pittsburgh region were an investable security, what changes, if any, would you want to see before you advised your clients to invest?’”

There were a few of the usual rah-rah-sis-boom-bah-ers’ responses. But there also were a few that spoke truth to their recidivist Potemkin Village narrative.

Among them, this, from James Armstrong of Henry H. Armstrong Associates (paragraph breaks have been added to ease your reading):

Much as we enjoy being based in Pittsburgh, the city does not presently meet our criteria for investment. To make an investment, we generally need to see growing profits with a long runway and high probability of future profits.

“We also need to see a strong balance sheet, with a debt level that is easily serviced. And we need to see strong and durable competitive advantage.

“Pittsburgh is still shrinking in population and does not yet have a clear source of growing economic strength.

“Pittsburgh’s debt level and its future required infrastructure spending are by no means easily serviced by its present population and tax revenue.

“And from a competitive perspective, other cities of comparable size offer better circumstances to companies that can provide economic growth.

“We see signs of hope for Pittsburgh’s future, but at present, we would pass on the investment.”

The Allegheny Institute has been saying much the same thing for a very long time.

Have the region’s “leaders” finally awakened to this reality? Or will they continue to hit the snooze button and fall back into their perennially Potemkin dreams?

And what, taxpayer-funded professional sports complexes, convention centers, light-rail extensions, bike lanes, green energy and what other flavors of the day haven’t led Pittsburgh to Nirvana?

Spotlight PA, a new investigative journalism cooperative, laments thusly:

“Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation and its lawmakers are among the highest-paid in the country, yet, increasingly, they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking.”

Continues the recent story:

“The number of bills introduced in the legislature has fallen by more than 20 percent from its peak in the early 1990s, and the number of bills actually passed into law has fallen even more dramatically in the years since, according to an analysis of four decades of legislative data.”

Further notes the report:

“Lawmakers are filling the gap by introducing far more resolutions, the analysis found, often purely ceremonial statements that create task forces, urge Congress to take action on an issue, honor notable Pennsylvanians or mark special occasions like Banana Split Day on Aug. 25 or Hot Dog Day on July 17.”

Indeed, Pennsylvania’s “professional” Legislature, replete with corporate-like perks, has become an embarrassment to the prosecution of sound public policy.

That said, however, the fact that it is passing fewer and fewer laws should be a cause for celebration.

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