Monday, August 28, 2006

A Successful Pittsburgh?

I hope this post doesn't brim over with verbal, dramatic, or Socratic irony, as it addresses a very serious issue... well, at least serious to me... and the overwhelming number of rhetorical questions I think that it may generate will probably do more harm than good. If it means anything to anyone, I will try to avoid claiming that Justice is the advantage of the stronger, and focus on a more practical question.

So, to cut to the chase, the question is this: what would constitute a "successful" Pittsburgh? The obvious question that precedes this very important question is this: "what do we mean by 'successful'"? *

This seems to be a very important series of questions, as there are several places out on the internet that seem to be very interested in the answers. What's more, there are a whole bunch of people out there that are professionally interested in what the answers are. And, there are a lot of answers.

My personal trinity of "success" involves jobs, low crime, and high quality of living. While these simple "measures of success" seem self-evident, I don't believe that they are nearly as simple as what they first appear to be. "Jobs" doesn't mean just "Jobs," of course, but "well paying, sustainable jobs." "Low crime" also would mean "the appearance of low crime; " "high quality of living" does not preclude high taxes or urban sprawl.

Of course, it's more than just jobs, crime, and quality of life; there are high school graduation rates, R&D transfer, number of children born into poverty, immigration, air & water quality, etc., etc. To try to put that myriad of data points into some sort of metric would be a hell of a task. Indeed, you could have a result were jobs went down, while environmental quality went up (post-steel Pittsburgh would be a good example); this doesn't necessarily mean that the City/Region was more "successful."

Politicians, of course, focus on "jobs" because it's something easily measurable and something that the electorate directly benefits from. Jobs lead to increased tax revenues, which lead to more opportunity for more programs. (Of course the other model says that an increase of public investment leads to an increase of the tax base, which leads to a lower tax rate and therefore more productive capital.) Anyway, jobs seem to be the easiest way to measure the level of success and one that people most often focus on.

But does this tell the whole story? I personally don't think so, as easy as it may be to measure. There may be a whole mess o' other metrics out there that more accurately measure what "success" entails.

Of course, therein lies the problem: how do we decide when we are "successful?"

Baring words like "synergy," "empowerment," "actualization of localized potentiality," and other buzzword bullshit, I'm open to suggestions.

Who knows? I might be the gal that sets policy on these kinds of things.

* I will avoid the question as to what constitutes "Pittsburgh."

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