Stocks & pedestal — Spring 2007

Pittsburgh Port Authority & college basketball
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What a year for college basketball in Pittsburgh! Regardless what happens in March, could there have been a more interesting and exciting hoops season anywhere in the country?

First, there’s Pitt. Their defense and passing have been a treat to watch since the Ben Howland days, and that’s continued, as has their great record, under Jamie Dixon. This year, however, is something special. Two mature, big men and a sizzling ensemble of ball handling, shooting and athletic talent: Gray, Kendall, Fields, Young, Benjamin, Graves and Ramon. The best in the Big East and a bona fide contender for the national championship.

A little down the road, Duquesne’s season has attracted national attention all year. The Dukes hadn’t had a winning season in 12 years and in the previous two had only won 11 games. The nightmarish shooting of five players in September made a team with weak prospects weaker. Left with only one regular from last year’s team, what could new coach Ron Everhart do?

Plenty, it turns out. Crank up the tempo and throw on the full-​court press. When the five on the floor get tired, bring in five new ones. Back and forth. Never let up. Wear out the other team. Everhart’s strategy has breathed life and excitement into the program, made Duquesne a winner again and provided a lesson in resourceful leadership for anyone who’s been watching.

Pitt and Duquesne — a slam dunk placement on the pedestal.

In the stockade: Pittsburgh Port Authority

For months, proposed reductions in bus service have played in the news: cutting 124 of 213 weekday bus routes, increasing farces from $1.75 to $2, and laying off 400 workers. At public hearings, riders have decried the changes and the hardships they’ll cause.

We’re putting the Port Authority in the stockade, but in this case, the Port Authority is really a proxy for public leadership. The problem is twofold. First, for years Port Authority management and unions let costs get out of control (a familiar theme around Greater Pittsburgh). Early retirement deals in particular are costing the Port Authority dearly in exorbitant retiree healthcare costs.

The other problem is the lack of a regional transit system and a dedicated source of funding for it. Smart regions have regional systems and a way of financing them. In our case, that means working with counties outside Allegheny. This requires leadership from the governor, the Legislature and the counties of this region.

And that hasn’t happened.

We applaud Steve Bland for trying to make the Port Authority system responsible for its costs. But Bland and the people who rely on the bus need help from elected leaders here and in Harrisburg.

Douglas Heuck

A journalistic innovator, Heuck has been writing about Pittsburgh for 25 years, as an investigative reporter and business editor at The Pittsburgh Press and Post-​Gazette and as the founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His newspaper projects ranged from living on the streets disguised as a homeless man to penning the only comprehensive profile in the latter years of polio pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk to creating a statistical means of judging regional progress that has led to similar projects across the country. Heuck’s work has won numerous national, state and local writing awards. His work has been cited in the landmark media law case “Food Lion vs. ABC news.”

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