One of the constant complaints about downtown Pittsburgh--and one of the most frequent justifications for government intervention in downtown's revitalization--is the scourge of vacant buildings. They attract bums and crime and hookers and drugs!
That's true, I guess. So it might be a good thing that the National Vacant Properties Campaign held its annual confab in Pittsburgh this week. I didn't go. But I wonder if they discussed the fact that the owner of quite a few of those vacant buildings just so happens to be... The City of Pittsburgh. You know. The city that bought or seized the properties and then never got around to doing anything with them. Then complained that nobody was doing anything with them, and pointed to that as proof that further intervention was needed. Then passed them along to favored developers at a loss.
The argument against this kind of quackery is a tough one to make politically, as it removes a good deal of the power that city officials wield. But take a look at Mark DeSantis and his shiny new economic development proposals. What's number one on the list? (Emphasis added.)
First, DeSantis says the city government needs to get out of the real estate business. DeSantis proposes reforming the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the 21st century. This involves merging the city planning department and the URA and focusing on neighborhood and community development.
"We have the URA, but right now that does little more than serve as a real estate and relocation business for big companies. The URA should be driven by neighborhood and community planning, not by the interests and ambitions of private developers," said DeSantis.
I know where my vote's going.