Allegheny County Commissioner
In the past with development, the city was trudging along, trying to be as successful as it could be. The county really didnt do anything. It had its Planning Department. And the municipalities were all out there at varying degrees of effectiveness, every one competing against each other.
And then you had the private sector from the standpoint of the Allegheny Conference and Penns Southwest and the Chamber and the World Trade Center and a whole host of others, all trying to do basically the same thing.
We had a meeting at the county where we had to begin to coalesce these different groups, both public and private, into one coordinated effort.
We have been extremely successful from the public sector in merging the operations of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the county Economic Development Department under Mulu Birru. It has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. We now have that one-stop shop.
What hasnt worked and what isnt working, surprisingly, is the private sector. Take out the RIDC (Regional Industrial Development Corp.) because that is a quasi private-public organization. And we do work well with them.
I dont really know what the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance does. I mean, they have this marketing campaign that Ive heard a lot about, but I really havent seen much. They are lagging far behind the progress we have made in putting that deal-making mechanism together.
You have to have a good product, but you have to have a marketing department to sell that product. Now we have a great product. We can compete with Charlotte or Indianapolis. But we are not on anyones radar screen. Thats the problem -- we are still not marketed correctly or effectively.
The new county executive can help do that. He can be the ambassador to the country and the world. He should focus a majority of his time on just that.
Now, the last thing in the world we need is another Tom Foerster-Harry Kramer arrangement where the executive tries to run the government.
We have made tremendous strides in the last two years in professionalizing county government, where we dont hire somebodys cousin to work out at the airport. We hire people based on resumes. We have hiring structures in place.
We dont need to take a step back. The government should be placed under a professional county manger, and that county manager should be given the flexibility to run the government and to institute professional policies.
There should be a rule in the new government that not one county employee can be an elected official from any municipality or a member of the Republican committee or the Democratic committee.
Let the manager run the government and have the county exec as the ambassador who pushes this development mechanism forward and pulls in the public and the private sector to make it work.
We are at a real decision point here. Either we are going to continue forward in a very positive manner or we are going to fall back into the 1970s, and re-establish patronage and all the things that have kept this county down.