Pittsburgh Today & Tomorrow Annual Report

Municipal Time Bomb

The fear was real last spring as local taxes—the lifeblood of boroughs, townships and cities—were trickling in. The COVID-19 pandemic was closing or impairing businesses in southwestern Pennsylvania, the state and nation. The U.S. unemployment rate soared to nearly 15 percent. “We worried that our revenues would collapse,” said Scott Andrejchak, the municipal manager of …

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Breaking the News

With their traditional revenue models already suffering a long-term structural decline, local media operations have been further weakened by the government lockdowns and economic havoc accompanying COVID-19. Or as Tom Melia, Washington director of PEN America, the 99-year-old nonprofit that protects free expression, put it: “The pandemic has accelerated almost every contributing factor to the …

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Wanted: More People

Southwestern Pennsylvania staggered into 2020 in need of people, again. It was coming off of yet another year when deaths outnumbered births and the number of newcomers couldn’t keep pace with the number of residents moving somewhere else. The COVID-19 pandemic likely makes the already-long odds of a quick rebound in the region’s population even …

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Baby Boom, or Bust?

After a major power blackout left New York City in the dark in 1965, the New York Times suggested it led to a citywide baby boom, citing a surge in births at local hospitals. After Boston was hit with a blizzard in 1978, the Boston Globe predicted it would result in a baby boom. In …

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2021 Economic Outlook

Economic recovery prospects in the Pittsburgh metro region are challenging for 2021. Government-mandated business closures and capacity limitations have sunk the metropolitan area’s labor force into steeper-than-average declines, undermining the ability of existing household consumption and business expenditures to reignite economic gains in the near term. New stimulus from the federal government may well provide …

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Pittsburgh Today and Tomorrow 2021

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How Do We Attract People to Pittsburgh?

David Feehan, president of Civitas Consultants in Maryland, is a recognized expert in downtown revitalization. For more than 50 years, his work has helped improve dozens of cities and neighborhoods in the United States and elsewhere, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Austin, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Today spoke with him about ideas that might help …

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Gone Before Their Time

In Pittsburgh’s early 20th century industrial economy, danger lurked in rail yards, on the exposed I-beams of tall buildings under construction and in steel mills where gases and fire coexisted. “Ten minutes before, we stood there laughing, and not one of us had an idea there was anything wrong with that furnace,” lawyer and journalist …

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Crime Is Dropping, but So Are Relations With Police

Editor’s note: This story was first published in the Spring 2020 issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly. Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be one of the safest metropolitan regions in the nation, and the latest data suggest it’s only getting safer. The overall crime rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area stood at 1,687.7 per 100,000 residents …

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Sinkholes, Congestion and Amazon

On the morning of Monday, Oct. 28, a massive sinkhole, roughly 20 feet in diameter, suddenly opened on 10th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, swallowing the back half of a Port Authority bus. There were no serious injuries, and the cartoonish photos shared from the scene were generally met with delight on social media across the …

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Pittsburgh Today and Tomorrow 2020

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The Obesity Puzzle

Temptation lurks in gooey fudge icing layered in a slice of moist chocolate cake and the hot salty crunch of a french fry. The sight and smell can incite the body to ramp up blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance and salivary response—characteristics of arousal and excitement. It’s a response that Lisa Germeroth hopes to …

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Gauging K–12 Education Quality

Allegheny County residents are tough graders when assessing the performance of the public schools that educate 115,000 county children in grades kindergarten through 12, a far-ranging survey of their views on education suggests. Fewer than half give schools a better-than-fair rating for their class size, funding, student preparedness, parental involvement and diversity of the student …

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Local Economy Stays Healthy

Pittsburgh’s spirited bid fell short of landing Amazon’s second headquarters and the 25,000 jobs it promised last year, but the southwestern Pennsylvania economy continued encouraging trends in job growth, wages and unemployment on its own. Without the jolt of such a major employment stimulus, the region’s hopes are pinned on creating jobs with the companies …

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What’s the Big Idea?

As the kickoff to a region-wide competition, we asked a group of regional leaders to submit an idea, in 50 words or less, that, if enacted, would make Pittsburgh a better place to live. It could be something that wouldn’t cost a dime or it could be a multimillion-dollar public works campaign. Below are their …

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The Pittsburgh Flip

Tom Maiden has been renting in the city of Pittsburgh for decades. He has a well-paid job as manager of user services at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, and while he’s never shut the door on the idea of buying a home, the ease and convenience of renting is too compelling. “While renting might be slightly …

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Never-Ending Gap

The wide gap between incomes earned by white and black workers is a national phenomenon that won’t go away. And it’s particularly severe in southwestern Pennsylvania. African Americans living in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area earn 48 percent less than white residents on average, 2017 U.S. Census Bureau median income data suggest. Income influences …

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More People Are Leaving the Region. Does It matter?

Sometime in 2008, more people began moving into the cities and suburbs of southwestern Pennsylvania from other parts of the country than were leaving for places and opportunities elsewhere. It was a watershed moment, the long-awaited reversal of a decades-long trend of being on the losing end of U.S. migration patterns. It proved to be …

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Pittsburgh Today and Tomorrow 2019

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Gaining Critical Mass

Alfred Hunt knew a good idea when he saw it. And Charles Martin Hall had one. In 1886, the 23-year-old chemist had discovered a smelting process to make aluminum inexpensively while working in a lab he cobbled together in a shed behind his parent’s house in northern Ohio. Hunt, a Pittsburgh metallurgist, realized its commercial …

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What are “Waters of the United States”?

What are the so-called “waters of the United States” and why did the Obama administration expand the definition? To understand that is to understand the evolution of environmental regulation in the United States and how the nation’s courts have interpreted what’s protected. With the exception of the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Act, hardly any water …

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Region Gets Average Marks for Senior Livability

The Pittsburgh region has filled a trophy case with awards for being judged the “most livable” place in the nation by a variety of publications and organizations. But when the livability of senior citizens is considered, the region is less than a standout, an AARP index suggests. AARP scores the livability of U.S. counties based …

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