Stocks & pedestal — Spring 2008

Gang violence & UPMC
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A 15-​year-​old East Liberty boy is gunned down in his car while ordering KFC with his mother and little sister. A 12-​year-​old North Side girl is killed in her house when “gang” members drive by and spray bullets at the home. Clearly, it’s time to take action to protect families from neighborhood gangs.

Some experts say gangs represent a complex sociological problem nearly impossible to solve. Difficult, yes. Impossible, no way. These aren’t organized gangs. They’re teens and young men who hang out, commit crimes and retaliate if someone wrongs them. They typically don’t have fathers who make them toe the line or help them understand long-​term thinking. The gang provides a social network — albeit one with precious little understanding of anything beyond the neighborhood.

These loose cannons need to be brought under control. The police and prosecutors must bring to bear the necessary resources so that “gang” members know the path they’re on leads directly to jail. But the community needs to let them see another possible path also. This path leads to jobs, respect and a future.

There are currently scores of nonprofits set up to help youngsters stay in school, move in the right direction and find jobs. Additionally, however, we need an ambitious public relations campaign in the most vulnerable neighborhoods to let these youngsters know about better options.

They’re our problem now. But they’re also our opportunity. And we can’t afford to let them ruin their futures.

On a pedestal: UPMC’s Promise shows leadership

If you’ve been in this region long enough, you’ll have heard the Greek chorus that often sings in the background, lamenting a lack of local leadership. “If only we had leaders, we could move ahead. If only, if only, if only.”

In the last few months, we’ve seen leadership in action. The leadership has been in connection with The Pittsburgh Promise, the ambitious program to provide money for college educations to Pittsburgh Public Schools graduates. We’re putting UPMC on a pedestal for pledging $100 million for this project. Things get done by thinking big and by standing up and standing for progress. UPMC’s lead salvo in this next, exciting chapter of Pittsburgh’s future had nothing incremental or tentative about it. It was a bold stroke, pure and simple. It was the kind of leadership people often wish we had around here.

Now it’s time for the region to get behind this leadership. UPMC’s pledge is to give an initial $10 million and then $10 million a year in the following nine years, providing the money is matched by an additional $15 million a year from other sources.

The Pittsburgh Foundation, under the new leadership of Grant Oliphant, is gearing up to handle contributions from individuals, organizations and businesses. Checks for the Pittsburgh Foundation-​Pittsburgh Promise Fund can be sent to the foundation at 5 PPG Place, 15222.

UPMC has set the tone for a brighter Pittsburgh. Leaders of other agencies should follow suit and make sure this Promise becomes reality.

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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