The Morning File / Here's how by 2043 we can upgrade like in the past 30 years
October 7, 2013 4:00 AM
By Gary Rotstein Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If you are an astute and faithful newspaper reader -- and the 14 or so of you still out there know who you are -- you noticed Sunday that this very publication is doing a bit of a retrospective comparing the Pittsburgh of today to the one we knew in 1983 ("30 Years of Change: A New Direction for Pittsburgh").
Former Post-Gazette editor John G. Craig Jr., who was a thinking man's thinker, knew 30 years ago that Pittsburgh was in the middle of a desperate reinvention of itself, one for which no one at the time had any idea what the outcome would be.
As we now know, and which you will be able to read about in a succession of Sunday special sections like yesterday's throughout the month, the resulting Pittsburgh of 2013 is a vast improvement over the one we knew three decades ago in almost all respects. But that doesn't mean everything is perfect.
So here, in no particular order, are the things that need to take place over the next 30 years so that when the PG takes stock of the region again in 2043, no one will be able to find a single fault:
• Build a retractable dome over the city for use during the month of February.
• Convert one of the vacant Pittsburgh International Airport concourses into a retirement community with a restaurant row of Minutello's, Gullifty's, the Downtown Tambellini's and every other recently departed longtime dining institution so the old folks have a place they can eat the food they find so comforting and familiar while walking off the heavy calories indoors in inclement weather.
• Require whoever's mayor to show his face in public in Market Square at noon every day and spend a half hour answering whatever questions about his policies or conduct that are on the minds of his constituents.
• If no one over the next five years is able to get the August Wilson Center for African American Culture on its feet in a financially sustainable way, convert it to the world's nicest jitney stand to drive people around the Golden Triangle if they have difficulty walking once the Port Authority shifts bus stops away from the heart of Downtown.
• Redo the West End Circle again and this time ensure that a motorist has an actual idea of which lane he's supposed to be in to get to where he wants to go.
• Create a suburban version of the "Pittsburgh Promise" scholarship program that provides corporation donations to reward small school districts and their students that voluntarily merge in order to provide greater services, resources and efficiencies.
• Tell each of the local sports teams that we love them very much, thank you, but they've now had plenty of help from taxpayers, and the next time they want to change or add anything they'd better finance it on their own, or else we will all show up at the owners' homes screaming their names in "Johnny Cueto" sing-song fashion until they back down.
• Ban all advertising by UPMC and Highmark until they have signed a permanent agreement of their ability to work together for the good of the public's health.
• Create a "Fred Rogers-David McCullough-Jimmy Stewart" contract that all babies born in Western Pennsylvania must have a parent or guardian sign for them pledging that if they ever become national celebrities, they will always represent the region with a humble, earnest, upstanding demeanor instead of turning into divas who embarrass us.
• Use an infusion of transportation, infrastructure, retail and housing improvements to make Uptown the next great Lawrenceville/East Liberty-style story of urban rebirth, creating an attractive-with-a-touch-of-grit strip for living and visiting anywhere between Oakland and Downtown.
• Put a different version of the giant duck on the water every summer -- a whale, a sea dragon, a carp, whatever -- and mark Labor Day weekend by having it race down the Ohio River against competitors from Cincinnati, St. Louis and other river cities.
• Hold a giant Newcomers Festival in Point State Park once a year to shower people who have moved into the city with Terrible Towels, Primanti's sandwiches, "Flashdance" DVDs, Smiley cookies, Pittsburgh road maps and suggestion cards letting them offer ideas on how to improve the city, with a reward of free Downtown parking for a year for whoever offers the best one.