Daily Archives: September 25, 2009

Pittsburgh: Welcoming the World

I hit the elliptical trainer hard this morning at 5:30 a.m. Around and around and around. Kind of repetitive, actually. Just like the early morning TV news shows, local and cable networks. Same stories. Just different venues. Wouldn’t it be easier and less stressful on viewers just to consolidate to one channel?

But then I wouldn’t have seen the story over and over again about Pittsburgh and the pro forma protests that accompany the G-20 Summit. And as those who stop by this blog regularly know, Pittsburgh is my hometown.  My parents and brothers and their families still live there, and I still have a strong attachment to the city even though I departed for Northeast Ohio more than 40 years.

DSCN0295So let me try to be helpful. For the anarchists who are in the Steel City today, if you have the time, go to Primanti Bros. for lunch. Order the Pitts-burger Cheese Steak and a couple tall glasses full of Iron City. It will change your view of capitalism. Well, maybe not. But at least I tried.

Here are the points.

I understand why cities want to host these events. They attract international attention and news media coverage. For Pittsburgh that represents a great opportunity to tell its story. And from what I can see, it is a very positive story — one of rebirth and redevelopment following the decades-long decline in manufacturing jobs. Good model here for Cleveland and Detroit and so on.

But with the G-20 Summit comes some risks — and some problems.

First, the news coverage of the protests tends to overshadow both what is happening at the meeting of world leaders as well as the story of Pittsburgh’s second (or is it third?) renaissance.

Second, the city basically shuts down — with stores and businesses closed and so on. I’m sure there is an economic benefit to all this from the standpoint of hotels, restaurants and so on. But I also expect there are some businesses and individuals who take an economic bath by being on the sidelines while others welcome the world.

And then we get to the protests. I’m all for peaceful protest. And I’m still a believer in capitalism and free enterprise — despite the fact that the Captains of Industry and the Wizards of Wall Street have done all they could to destroy capitalism and free enterprise — with some help from government officials on both sides of the aisle. (Gee, if I knew how to operate a video camera I could have helped Michael Moore with Capitalism: A Love Story. ) But the message that the protesters have — legitimate or not — gets lost among the tear gas and the hurling of garbage cans.

Pittsburgh Welcomes the World. Good.

And some in the ‘Burg have clearly benefited. Amazingly enough, the Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to play a home game yesterday afternoon — and with only about 3,000 or so attending, officials closed the upper decks and let everyone move down into the seats normally occupied by the capitalists. (Oh, what’s wrong me with?)

Of course, baseball fans in Pittsburgh are passive. That comes from decades of losing seasons, despair, hopelessness and so on.

Fortunately, as I mentioned when I wrote about the G-20 Summit in this space a month or so ago, the Steelers are playing out of town this weekend.

Otherwise, regardless of what you see on TV today — if the protests disrupted the Steelers game or fans, things would have gotten ugly.

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