Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part VI

Pittsburgh Tomorrow contest results
Snapwire /​Pexels Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part VI
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Pittsburgh Quarterly invited readers and neighbors to offer up their best ideas for improving the region through the Spring 2019 Pittsburgh Tomorrow Contest. The 13 finalists chosen by the Pittsburgh Today advisory board were published online and in the Fall 2019 issue of the magazine. But the ideas of another nearly three dozen thinkers made the semifinal round out of the 115 who submitted proposals that ranged from grand to humble in scope. Here are the thoughts of a few of our semifinalists. More semifinalists will be published in the coming weeks.

Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part I” here.

Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part IIhere.

Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part IIIhere.

Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part IVhere.

Read “Ideas for a Better Pittsburgh: Semifinalists, Part V” here.

Bike Safety Campaign

Pittsburgh is in the process of becoming a bike friendly city. Yet, I find that cyclists and motorists are unclear how to safely and efficiently share our roads. I have heard cyclists and motorists complaining that the other creates dangerous safety situations. I’ve heard complaints from angry motorists that they’re behind a cyclist on a hill that has no bike lane for a long time.

Additional bike lanes would help. But my suggestion is that the city rolls out a public service campaign on television, radio, magazines and social media that informs cyclists and motorists how to safely and efficiently share our streets. I have seen bumper stickers stating that four feet is required between motorist and cyclist. But there’s been no campaign to teach travelers.

Currently, it seems everyone complains about the other, while each basically follows no rules. This idea could be a fairly low-​cost solution to what is now a problem that could prove to be a great asset to our city — bike friendly and safe.”

—Jean Davis

Homeless Central

Let’s create a center for our homeless — one place where all the services they might need are available. A place where they won’t have to move on after a few nights. In addition to providing beds, showers, laundry facilities and food, the center would be staffed with medical professionals, counselors and educators to help the homeless prepare for working a job and finding work. In exchange for being able to stay for an extended period of time, they could provide some service to the center based on their capabilities, such as cook, serve food, help keep the center clean. Guests would also need to agree to meet with a counselor and participate in an education program to help them get back to supporting and taking care of themselves.

Medical professionals could be a rotation with supervision in which the residents from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine participate. The same arrangement could be made with nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University or the Community College of Allegheny County, and dental students from Pitt. Counselors and educators could also come from area college programs. The center could collaborate with existing resources, such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Jubilee Soup Kitchen.

It may seem like this is idealistic, but there are other cities creating places for the homeless to at least sleep and get clean. This idea is to centralize the services so they are more accessible. I think this could help reduce the number of homeless people in Pittsburgh and change the lives of a group of citizens who really need it.

—Lisa Rasmussen

Neighborhood Help Line

Pittsburgh needs a Neighbor Help Line, both a phone number and a website. Pittsburgh has Snow Angels and Pittsburgh has Neighbor Day in April. We need a Neighbor Day every day, a system setup to be accessed by both the person who needs assistance and someone who can help them. For example, seniors who need their grass mowed could be matched with boy scout troop or youth groups, etc. Pittsburgh Neighbors Helping Neighbors 24/​7, 365 days a year.”

—Janine Hannan

Privatize Public Assets

My Big Idea for our region is a privatization process beginning with the Pittsburgh International Airport; specifically, competitive bidding among private sector investor-​operators for long-​term lease of the assets. Ownership would remain in public hands. But management, investment and operations would be handled by the successful bidder, who would also be responsible for making cash payments to the county. This is a common model in Europe, at airports such as London’s Heathrow Airport. And there are successful local models, such as the Phipps Conservatory and Aviary.

Please note my focus on the process. It should be scalable to other regional assets and should represent a breakthrough in the generation of wealth for all of the region’s residents. And since this is Pittsburgh, let’s go right to calling it ‘ARP2.’ This should not be confused with the collectivization of regional wealth for the benefit of, for example, Amazon. This is about the crystallization of existing wealth for the benefit of all. The cash proceeds could be distributed equally among Allegheny County residents to use as they see fit, ranging from jump-​starting a tech business to a few hours at the Rivers Casino.

The benefits include:

  • Transparency of regional priorities regarding both mobility and economic development.
  • Transparency of governance, which is currently inconsistent among the alphabet soup of regional assets ranging from the airport’s owner Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) to the PWSA and URA.
  • Leveling of the playing field for infrastructure investment. For example, ACAA channels resources to flights to Europe and Johnstown, but a transit link to the airport is the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s responsibility.
  • Benchmarking by the Global Marketplace of our regional stewardship of assets.
  • It will make all of us — not just the coterie of elites behind the Amazon bid — a bit wealthier and self-​confident.

Again, this is about a process. Surely this would be easier than scraping together billions of dollars of other people’s money for Amazon. Let’s set aside the national mood of loss of confidence in our institutions by putting the value of our regional assets in the hands of their owners, the citizens.”

—Henry Posner III

PQ Staff

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