Pittsburgh: Past and Present

by Nico Chiodi

What was Pittsburgh like in 1988 when the original conference took place? How has it changed? What’s been the best change?
These were the questions that were playing through my head as I walked around the 2013 Remaking Cities Congress. As I interviewed people, I paid attention to their ties to Pittsburgh so that perhaps I could gather some insight into these questions. This is what I found.
My first question to all of them was: What do you think Pittsburgh’s greatest change for the better  has been since the first Congress in 1988?
Michael Sobkowiak, a Pittsburgher for twenty years and an employee of the Green Building Alliance responded by explaining that when he first came to Pittsburgh he saw so many great river trails and outdoor parks and barely anyone was using them. He considers the best change in the fact that these wonderful resources are now very popular.
“I think to me, the most exciting thing personally is to see the people using the outdoors.”
David Feehan, a Pittsburgher in the 60’s and again in the 80’s and now revisiting for the conference, thinks that the biggest change is people now relying on themselves for the things they need. When he came here in the 60’s and there was a problem communities wanted to solve, they would look to government, the unions, the corporations or the church. They never asked themselves how to solve the problem. Mr Feehan thinks that the biggest change so far is that the people take charge of their own lives and change it themselves. The government, unions and churches have no money and the CEOs are not from here anymore. The people are forced to look elsewhere for help.
Pittsburgh’s biggest achievement, argues Mr Sobkowiak, was when the G20 came to Pittsburgh in 2010.
“That got Pittsburgh noticed and seen as an internationally competitive city.”
What no one did mention, but deserves to be, is Pittsburgh’s world-class museums, library and orchestra, which attracts musicians from all over the world.
From talking to these people and hearing all over the congress about how exemplary our city is, I truly believe that Pittsburgh as a whole, although it may have its problems, is truly a world class city.

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