Let's stop trying to attract new businesses. Let's forget about putting silly plastic dinosaurs on every corner. Never mind some well-intentioned program to remove the always freshly littered streets of the 'Burgh (at least the litterers are consistent). Let's just put a sock in the eternal optimists who claim we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Even the bootstraps have left town.
There are several great metaphors for the declining state of the county. The 31st Street Bridge comes to mind. Why does this giant steel piece of excrement still sit there -- in all its homely depressing glory -- over our underused, somewhat improved, but still largely crappy riverfront? I don't really know, but I assume it's because whoever is supposed to fix it has figured out that we're doomed!
How can I be sure we're doomed? Just look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Believe it or not, even though public-relations genius Kevin McClatchy had the temerity (or was it the classic sheer idiocy of someone who is doomed?) to raise ticket prices after they lost 100 games two years ago, Pirates attendance figures of recent years are still among the top 10 of all time. Plan B worked! It brought people into the stadium, the Pirates raised the payroll, and they STILL sucked the big wazoo. The Buccos are now engaged in a nationwide search for an even bigger wazoo to suck.
Brian Giles is gone. He is no longer doomed! Good luck, Brian. I picked up the sports page recently and saw the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals. How? Former Pirates Aramis Ramirez and Randall Simon hit back-to-back home runs! They too have managed to escape Doom-and-Gloomville. When he was with the Pirates, Simon was whacking the sausage. Now he's whacking game-winning home runs for a contender. (A contender? What's that?)
People always say Pittsburghers are friendly. Maybe. But mostly, Pittsburghers are grumpy. It's leftover grumpiness from the steel industry collapse, and it's now permanently genetically entwined in the average 'Burgher's DNA. The city's financial fiasco has increased the grumpiness exponentially. A public gathering of any sort often degenerates into one giant bitch-fest. Why? Because we're doomed! What else is there to do when you're doomed but bitch?
And despite a recent drop in the national crime rate, Pittsburgh is apparently destined to grow a new crop of criminals. Why? Because the mayor closed some swimming pools. Grumpy 'Burgh mamas get on TV and complain that now their kids will be "on the streets." The implication is they have no choice but to turn into burglars and crack addicts if they're forced out "on the streets." God forbid a little parental supervision might prevent the next generation of criminals. But, on the other hand, why bother? We're doomed!
I'm positive we're doomed because even the politicians are starting to tell the truth about jobs. I heard Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey say in a debate with Dan Onorato -- the other poor sucker who seeks to be king of Doom-and-Gloomville -- that we really ought to concentrate on expanding businesses that are already here rather than focusing on attracting outside business. A-ha! All that rhetoric from a host of politicians about attracting new businesses to Allegheny County has been a bunch of B.S. all along!
The latest population figures indicate more people have left the county than are moving in. Talk to any young person about how difficult it is to find a decent-paying job around here. Talk to the people in the pseudo-government, money-wasting, nonprofit agencies whose job it is to attract young people to this area about the futility of their task. (They'll tell you the truth if their bosses aren't around.)
I don't care if we elect Jim Roddey, Dan Onorato, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton or the Pope: We're doomed. The only person who could make it worse faster is Dubya.
I take back one thing. The dinosaurs should be on every corner. It's the perfect metaphor: Optimism will soon be extinct.
Did I mention we're doomed?