ShareThis Page
Native academic: Pittsburgh Dems’ dominance & Amazon |
Featured Commentary

Native academic: Pittsburgh Dems’ dominance & Amazon

| Monday, February 5, 2018 9:00 p.m
Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (AP Photo)
Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (AP Photo)

After 1949, when Mao Zedong forced the “nationalist” government to retreat to Taiwan, all hopes of Chinese for returning “home” were dashed. The phenomenon of “overseas Chinese” reflected that reality. In the United States there is a similar phenomenon. I call us “overseas Pittsburghers.”

This is a new era, however, and manufacturing is not the lifeblood of the ‘Burgh. New forms of employment are changing the economy and other corporate entities have replaced Big Steel, Big Aluminum and the 19th-century giants — Carnegie, Frick and Mellon. In their place are two universities, Carnegie Mellon and Pitt, and UPMC, which employs 80,000 residents.

Pittsburgh has qualified for consideration for a new Amazon headquarters, proudly pointing to several Amazon executives who are overseas Pittsburghers and the attractiveness of Pittsburgh’s location, universities and skilled workforce.

There are problems, however.

Not all of the Pittsburgh area’s local governments are well run. Some are “distressed communities.”

In terms of politics, during the Great Depression, Democrats took control of Pittsburgh city government and have held power ever since, with government offices and employment enjoyed by Democratic Party loyalists. How or why political power has not changed over those many years spells trouble.

Aspinwall and Forest Hills were Republican forever, but they became tired and old. Both borough GOP committees couldn’t recruit anyone to run for elective office, and the Democrats took over by default. In Aspinwall, new Democrats are running a tight ship, but after a while, Democratic “regulars” will seek office and spending will increase.

Is that a region where Jeff Bezos would like to build his new headquarters?

As a left-winger, Bezos will like the domination of Democrats. But local officials have never shown leadership that could reform the public schools or foster entrepreneurship.

There is a need for rental housing, but that takes time. Where will the first 10,000 Amazon employees live? And where can they find a good public school for their children?

Twenty-two years ago, Republican leader Larry Dunn gained control of Allegheny County government. He ran on a pledge to privatize some services and the county’s general aviation airport. Dunn was instrumental in passage of legislation that permitted cities to sell five airports and keep the proceeds.

With legislation clearing the way, the tenants at the airport reversed their view of county management of the airport. They now wanted nothing to do with its sale. However, many corporations that had served county government were open to privatization.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. But the dogs in the governments of Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh are not innovative.

So, if Bezos is looking for a high-tax location dominated by Democrats for generations, with poor public schools, local taxes on employee income and housing inadequate to his needs, Pittsburgh is for him. But not for us overseas Pittsburghers who want to return home. It’s not time.

Richard Bishirjian, a Pittsburgh native, is president of the American Academy of Distance Learning. He was founding president and professor of government at Yorktown University from 2000 to 2016 and is the author of “The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.