Sunday, November 13, 2005

Memo to Bob O'Connor

The Post-Gazette ran a feature this Sunday: memos from various people, providing advice to Bob O'Connor.

Here's my 300 word nugget of advice:

Congratulations, Mr. O’Connor on your recent election to the office of Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. I wish you much success during your term of office.

I would like to warn you, however, that you have just found yourself elected to what could possibly be one of the most difficult jobs in this country: Mayor of a Declining Urban Area. Pittsburgh fares better than its Mid-West counterparts, in some cases, but in large you have inherited a declining urban area and all the social and economic problems associated therewith.

Don’t expect to solve all these problems; it is impossible.

You will quickly find yourself hamstrung by the State Legislature, the Governor, the City Council, the oversight boards, various community groups, private citizens, the press, special interest groups and, yes, even your own bureaucracy. These actors will not make your job easier and their competing agendas will stymie your own ambitions.

Still, you have an advantage over all of these groups: you are the one who can set the agenda... should you choose to do so.

Should you wish the best and success for this City my advice is simple: first, find out what we are doing well and continue to do it. Second, find out what, if we made some marginal improvements, we would be doing well, and make those marginal improvements.

There will be those that will try to convince you that we can be everything, but they are wrong; stick to what we can do, not what we should do.

Finally, and this is personal, take time to listen to those within the bowels of 414 Grant Street and mine their experience; they are the ones who really know what’s going on, and can help you with what is going right in this city.

Good luck.

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