While I don't think it's what the Post-Gazette intends, the paper offers a devastating history of the Allegheny Conference's failure to "rebuild," "reimagine" or other wise "revitalize" Pittsburgh. Come on: $14 million for a movie about the French and Indian War? Does anyone think that Microsoft, Toyota and Intel will banging on the mayor's door begging for office space? Why does anyone think that would be more effective than a $14 million check to the owners of one of those companies? I would be against that, too, but at least it would offer some chance of success.
Read the rest. It's extremely ugly, especially for a quasi-governmental agency casting about for millions to celebrate the city's 250th birthday in 2008:
The sustained effort to change the image of Pittsburgh started, really, with the creation of the conference in 1944.
In the early 1950s, while rebuilding Pittsburgh after World War II in partnership with Pittsburgh Mayor David L. Lawrence, the conference paid $45,000 a year -- about $330,000 in today's dollars -- to house a team of nationally known photographers at the University of Pittsburgh that documented the many changes. Many of the photographs ran in national magazines, presenting the story of the city's transformation with artistic flair.
The conference tried again in the early 1980s to reposition the region's image, with 18 of the biggest companies in Pittsburgh pledging $800,000 for 16 full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal touting Pittsburgh's many strengths other than manufacturing under the title, "Dynamic Pittsburgh."
In the mid-1980s, a series of new ads touted Pittsburgh's designation in 1985 as "America's Most Livable City" in Rand McNally's inaugural and highly publicized ranking of the nation's major cities. Billboards even ran in the Atlanta area reading "Greetings from Pittsburgh -- The Nation's Most Livable City. Y'all Come."
But those efforts failed to move the needle much.
Studies in the 1990s confirmed that nothing has yet replaced manufacturing as the region's engine of growth and prosperity and that the image of Pittsburgh in much of the country and world was still of a blue-collar, smoky industrial city with lots of steel mills -- never mind that most factories had been closed and tens of thousands of workers abandoned the region for job prospects elsewhere.
I really do think society would be better served, first, with a $14 million movie about the failed promise of absurd urban redevelopment schemes. Add up the money squandered in Pittsburgh alone. God, it's depressing.
Next, I think it's time for someone to stand up and say, "Look, let's forget about the city's damn image. The area built an image as an industrial place by making steel, not producing movies about making steel. And it will build an image as a vital place by becoming a vital place, not by making movies about Indians and French guys in the 1760s." Seems obvious, maybe, but it looks like it still needs said.
The Allegheny Conference has been trying to build the city's image since 1944. Got that? 1944. Sixty years. Polishing the city's image doesn't work. It just doesn't.