Pittsburgh has a success story to tell. We have turned around a total collapse of our economy and reemerged as a leading city in medicine, education, technology, and the arts. And the media has taken notice. Pittsburgh has been named the “Most Livable City” numerous times, been featured in national newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post. Recently, I was even interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company about the community efforts to restore East Liberty. The one thing missing from this success story is a Mayor and a city government that engages with other cities around the world on economic development, policy issues, and arts and culture. It’s great to have positive media promoting our city, but we need to think bigger and begin engaging with cities across the United States and beyond.
1. Re-joining the Conversation
One of the many ways that we could start reentering the conversation with other cities is to re-join organizations like CEOs for Cities, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Urban Land Institute, Smart Growth America, and others. These organizations bring together city leaders from all over to talk about policy issues, share initiatives that are working in their cities, and learn from one another. These are both learning opportunities and chances to promote our cities while building relationships that can lead to economic development initiatives and other partnerships.
It is particularly important that we re-join the Pennsylvania Municipal League as a full member. The PML is a union of cities in Pennsylvania that band together to lobby the General Assembly on critical policy issues. I have served on the PML as a member, paying the membership fees through my City Council budget, but the City of Pittsburgh has not been a full member for several years. As a result, we are missing out on opportunities to join with other cities in fighting for more resources from the state and for policy objectives like public transportation funding and environmental protection. While, also lobbying against legislation that would be harmful to our cities like weakening payday-lending regulations. Any effort to influence the General Assembly will have far more weight if we join with other cities in our great state.
The same goes for lobbying the federal government. Pittsburgh currently has no local voice in Washington, D.C.; consequently, we are not putting forth an agenda or working closely enough with our members of Congress. I will re-build these relationships locally and nationally to help bring Pittsburgh back into the conversation. Our city can’t expect to take on the state and federal government alone. I will build a coalition strong enough to ensure we won’t have to.