For better and worse, during his 12-year administration Murphy was a big-picture guy. He was frequently criticized, of course, because the pictures were sometimes so big that they crowded everyone else out of the room. But Murphy wasn't alone in that. For the past half-century, from Renaissance to Renaissance, Pittsburgh has believed it was just one big idea away from reclaiming its former greatness.
The funny thing is that, despite a lot of big ideas, Pittsburgh went on shrinking. In fact, as the city got smaller, the dreams became larger -- to the point where they've started to get a little silly. Consider, for example, incoming mayor Bob O'Connor's much-derided plan last year to build a streetcar line between Oakland and Downtown -- a project that was somehow not going to cost taxpayers a dime. Or consider the Port Authority's $400 million "T" extension beneath the Allegheny River.
Most of all, ponder how our elected officials are bedazzled by the promise of slot machines, whose arrival is supposed to bring us everything from tax relief to a new hockey arena -- all without cost or hint of corruption. There is already serious talk of building a casino next door to the Hill District. You might expect an outcry building a casino just down the street from impoverished neighborhoods, whose residents are especially susceptible to gambling's lure. But civic leaders are talking about how building a casino next door to the poor will help them. It will, you see, finance a new mixed-use development that will heal the damage done to the Hill by the Civic Arena. And nothing brings people together like gambling. Just ask Atlantic City.
Before any more harm gets done, maybe what we need now are leaders who have the courage to think small. To sweat the details. Leaders who have a grasp that exceeds their reach, for once, instead of the other way around.
In that spirit, we present the following suggestions for how Pittsburgh could be improved. None of these ideas aspire to remake the city: They're just attempts to make it more liveable. Which ought to have been the idea all along.
Suggestion #1: Pittsburgh Needs a Car Share
Suggestion #2: Bring Back Our Hostel
Suggestion #3: Help out bus riders in cold weather
Suggestion #4: Make Pittsburgh police more accountable
Suggestion #5: Roller Derby Could Turn Pittsburgh Around
Suggestion #6: Convert the parking lot at Fourth and Grant into a speakers' corner