The new top man
By Douglas Heuck, Post-Gazette Benchmarks Editor
This Round Table Discussion looks at this regions economic and political prospects in the context of the creation of the new post of Allegheny County executive. Participating are:Bob Cranmer, Allegheny County commissioner; Tom Murphy, Pittsburgh mayor; Jim Roddey, Republican nominee for county executive; Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, Democratic nominee for county executive; and state Sen, Jack Wagner, D-Beechview.
Q: In your opening remarks, you voiced dissatisfaction with local marketing efforts. Why does government need a private consortium to do its marketing?
Murphy: When the Working Together Consortium, or whatever it is, was started, the county and the city felt that it was an effort to pull together organizations that historically did market the region. Penns Southwest, God bless them, I dont know what they did for 20 years. Time passed them by maybe 10 years ago. So, we believed that the efforts on the part of the private-sector organizations to come together was something we ought to be part of. Little did we know four years ago that it would take four years and still When I call on a company in San Diego, I dont have a sales tool to hand them. I mean, thats embarrassing. If I had known what I know now four years ago, I would have suggested the county and the city begin their own marketing program, skip the private organizations and withdraw our money and use it ourselves. But at that time, everybody and their brother and sister were involved in putting this whole effort together, and it was very hard not to want to be part of it.
Cranmer: It came about because the government wasnt doing anything. Now its just the opposite. Were getting everything done, and they are really just floundering around.
Roddey: It has less to do with whether its public or private. Its where the talent is. If youve got the talent in the county to do the marketing, then you can do it. If you dont, then you are going to have to go outside to have it done.
Murphy: I dont think we have the talent. I dont think the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) has the talent. Its a question of hiring it. The issue is, who would hire it?
Q: As the only one who is not in the government, do you (Roddey) share the same view that the governmental bodies have outstripped the private ones and that the private sector is a drag on things?
Roddey: Not completely. I think that the joint economic development department of the county and the city is a success. Thats the bright spot. I think the concept of the PRA is the right concept, but I havent seen the execution there. I have seen more execution in the joint economic development (of city and county).
Cranmer: We are reviewing the funding right now of several of those organizations.
Wagner: There is a big piece of state funding in the PRA and in the whole marketing effort that they are initiating. But the PRA and the whole marketing effort needs to be guided truly by the people sitting at this table. They need to be on the board. They need to be deciding where and how the money is being spent and have input with the private sector. I have attended meetings for the PRA, but they selectively invite me. I am not sure who is on the board. I am not sure who is making the decisions. I dont know what their marketing strategy is. Are they, with the $23 million they are going to spend in the next 5 years, hiring a relocation consultant -- one of the top companies in the country -- to give input into that strategy? I am not sure.
Roddey: It needs people who know marketing.
Cranmer: US Airways is a case in point. One of our largest employers and weve been dealing very aggressively with them over the past two years. All the meetings, negotiations, and trips. The PRA really hasnt had anything to do with it at all.
Regarding the airport, we need an airport authority. The other counties, in concept, understand, but they are not ready yet. We have to get our act together in Allegheny County where we can provide the leadership. When we first talked about the airport authority, I called the chairman of the board of Beaver and Washington counties and said, "How would you like to be part of an airport authority where we all three together run all the airports?"
They wanted to run our airports, but they wanted to keep their airports. I said, "No, it doesnt work that way." "Well, we dont know if we can do it, then." So, you can see, they are not really there yet.
Q: What relationship going forward should the city and county have on economic development matters, given that, with a single executive, it perhaps would be easier to mesh activities?
Roddey: There is no question that cooperation has begun and it needs to be enhanced. The more we work together, the more we are going to be able to accomplish. However, we need to be very careful that the city doesnt drive the agenda for the entire county. I am not saying that it does right now, but there is a feeling as I go out all across the county, that everything is being concentrated in the Golden Triangle.
Murphy: Everybody in the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh believes that, too.
Roddey: We have to involve the councils of governments. They and the people in the suburbs need to feel that they are part of whats going on. So the county has to keep a firm hand with the city in this. We have got to spread it around. Just as we cant be parochial about companies . If we can get a big company to come to Westmoreland or Washington counties, thats a win for all of us. I understand that doesnt help our tax base, but indirectly it will help us. And, we have got to stop competing with each other.
<B>Wagner: </B>There are about 45 urban cores in the country. They are not really increasing in numbers. Pittsburgh is doing a good job maintaining its core. But really, the job development is going on in edge cities. They are popping up around us, in Cranberry. The airport is a magnificent opportunity. That is where the job development is. Certainly Monroeville has been an edge city. Thats where the focus needs to be, with a minor degree of public investment, to get large amounts of private investment. And we cant be parochial about it. There needs to be an emphasis on new job development where companies want to be.
Murphy: Let me just disagree with Jack for a moment, because, ironically, I am having conversations with three companies right now out by the airport. One who moved out there three years ago that is looking to move back to the city because they are having great difficulties recruiting employees. I believe we are beginning to succeed in this region and I think has a lot to do with cooperation. We need to think about how to build on that momentum, and the biggest drag on that is going to be our inability to supply a qualified workforce. I can give you any number of examples. PNC and Mellon were two that gave a lot of thought about whether to build these operations centers they are building here because they are concerned about their ability to get qualified employees.
Roddey: A big part of that is transportation.
Wagner: A huge part of it.
Murphy: If you are out by the airport, you are limited to really one area of the regions population to get workers. When I stand up and say we have more jobs in Pittsburgh now than people looking for those jobs, nobody believes it, but its true.
Q: Dr. Wecht, what are your thoughts on this relationship moving forward with the new county regime and the city government?
Wecht: I have lived in this community my entire life, and I have been a city dweller. But I have been, governmentally, both within the parameters of my own party as well as in the positions of governmental activity, a functionary of the county. And I have enjoyed a good working relationship with people in the 129 other municipalities. It is a matter of perception and attitude more than reality. I dont think that there is a dichotomy between approaching the economic growth and development objectives we all essentially agree on.
I do believe that it is extremely important for us to reach out to these other counties and to persuade them that we are not looking to incorporate them into becoming a part of Allegheny County or subjugate them. I think that can be done, frankly, largely on a personal basis. If you know and work with these people, then I think you have an open door to begin with and you can pursue it. Quite similarly, within our own county, you can disabuse people in these 129 municipalities of the idea that Pittsburgh wants to control you. Metropolitanism is the great bugaboo. But we are not talking about their local autonomy with their local police force, rules and codes of conduct. Thats what they are really concerned with. And so as far as where places are to be found for either expanding operations or new businesses and industries, it will not make a difference in my mind whether it is within the confines geographically of Pittsburgh or whether it is going to be somewhere else. Different organizations have different needs. Some need access to the water. Some want to have proximity to the airport. Some want to be in the more rustic, tranquil environment of the distant North Hills area. So you tailor it and you pattern it.
Pittsburgh, obviously by virtue of its size and as home to our major cultural and academic institutions, is the principal area in the county. There is no question. But it does not have to be looked upon as a competitor. Similarly, neither do the other six counties or 13 counties, if you look at it on a broader basis.
I dont wish to turn this into a debate, but I have some very strong disagreements with some ideas that Bob Cranmer set forth in his introductory comments about this total divorce of government and politics. I will comment, however, on one thing, because I think for me to remain silent might be misconstrued. Speaking for the Democratic party, if I may, the idea of telling 2,600 committee women and committee men that they cannot have a job in Allegheny County, to me, is totally unacceptable. And I would feel the same way about Republican committee members. That somebody who is interested and active in government, therefore cannot have a job in government? I think you have to have ethical concerns and so on and if there are problems, that becomes then another matter.
Cranmer: Cyril, you didnt answer his question. Though you went on for 10 minutes, I didnt get an answer. Are you going to continue the joint economic organization between the county and the city as it now exists?
Wecht: Bob, with all due respect, I think Mr. Craig or Mr. Heuck will decide whether or not Ive answered their question. Or the readers of their newspapers will decide whether Ive answered their question.
Cranmer: You can just say yes or no.
Q: You (Wecht) have some reservations about an airport authority. Bob suggested making the airport one of the first regional institutions. The answer from the other counties was "as long as we can keep our airports we will share yours with you."
We have an initiative right now where we are trying to get a $600 million facility US Airways to retain thousands of jobs. One of the things that has been floated is that maybe Allegheny County cant bear the whole bill. If the mechanism to let the airport really take off was to create some new structure, whether it is an authority or not, governed by more than one county, the airport would no longer be the property of only Allegheny County, but also Beaver and Washington counties. Does this have any resonance with you, even though politically it is very difficult?
Wecht: My answer to that is simply this: This is the first time I have ever heard, whether someone is expressly stating it or implying it, that because of some reticence on the part of Beaver and Washington, whatever inadequacies, procrastination or dilatory efforts there have been in fully exploiting this wonderful facility is attributable to the inability or the refusal of the counties to join in some collaborative effort with us. I must tell you that I have not heard that before. And while I certainly accept Bob Cranmers statement that he did speak with them, I am not prepared to accept it as the final word.
Others can enter into these discussions , too. Cooperation and involvement by these other counties in whatever fashion -- financial input for the construction of the new US Airways hangar or any other efforts in matters related to the functions of the airport -- I do not believe that they are all dependent upon the establishment of an airport authority. And that without that, you can not reach out to these other counties. I do not accept that premise. So, my answer is that I will work very arduously and assiduously with those other counties, and I believe I have a good chance of being successful.
I dont want to make any statements that sound megalomaniacal or make guarantees for the future. But I know a lot of these people personally, and Ive worked with them. Much of human discourse has to do with personal relationships. There is a lot that can be accomplished, and I think I am going to have some open doors.
Q: Are we much too timid about metropolitanism? Disassociate the political necessity of getting elected with the theory. If we werent scared to death of the word metropolitanism or multi-county operations, wouldnt we like to do it?
Murphy: There are two things that have happened in recent years that address what you are talking about. The is the creation of the Regional Asset District (RAD). I would be curious, with the two candidates, how strongly they feel about the RAD because I believe that has been the single most important thing we have done. What it did is it gave institutions that were dying on the vine the ability to flourish. Look at the zoo, Phipps Conservatory, the aviary, a lot of the arts institutions -- they are flourishing. It gave us the ability to move forward with the stadiums and the convention center. Forget for a moment that half the money is going to reduce taxes, which no one seems to pay much attention to. That is an example where this community went beyond its normal way of thinking and created an institution that has done, in any measure, a tangible thing.
The second is what Bob has alluded to. For the first time, the city and the county are doing joint economic development. We talk virtually every day. We probably meet two or three times a week. When I say "we," Mike (Dawida) is included in this. We wouldnt have seen these ballparks and this convention center. We had a meeting earlier this morning about the Penguins, and we believe we can get that resolved. So you have two very clear and classic institutional changes that are making a difference. I think is a challenge for us. Are we prepared to do that? I would like to put these two guys on the spot about the RAD.
Wagner: Well, its not going to happen. We are not going to lose the RAD.
Roddey: I have never even indicated that I would do anything other than support the RAD. The RAD is very important. You look at the zoo today. It is operated 10 times better than it was under the city. You look at Phipps. There is no comparison between a city operation and a private operation. $65 million of the RAD, I think, last year, went to the municipalities to do exactly what you said -- to reduce their tax load and support their programs. We shouldnt forget that about $28 million is collected from outside this county.
Wecht: I am 100 percent in favor of the RAD. There is just no question. That is not even to me a debatable subject. With regard to Toms second reference, months ago, I did what has been done and, I believe properly, by government. I met with Roger Marino. I met with Mario Lemeiux and his attorneys. I met with the SMG people because I felt that was the thing to do. I had no power but I was interested, wanted to learn and, frankly, look very seriously into the idea after the primary of stepping forward, with Judge Markovitzs approval -- a former Duquesne law student of mine -- to offer myself. But it has been moving, and I am not looking to politicize. I think that it is going in the right direction. I am all in favor of keeping the Penguins here. What is happening is what should happen. The parties are getting together, and Marino and Lemeiux are hugging and kissing. And thats necessary and desirable. And a strong friend and supporter who I think is a brilliant bankruptcy attorney also is playing a major role here as a party of record and offering something new.
So, yeah, what do I think? I think this should be done. This is a role government should play, as a catalyst. However Tom did it and others, it is moving in the right direction and it looks like it is going to work. And I am delighted with that.
Q: You (Roddey) didnt have a chance to answer the question about the airport as not only an authority but a multi-county authority. Is that an idea whose time has come?
Roddey: Oh, I think it would enhance the authority, no question.
Q: Would it be politically impossible?
Roddey: No. With time, it could be done. I think my record of working with people is pretty good, and it could be the centerpiece of regional cooperation. It could be the first real thing we could point to that would say, yes, we are cooperating as a region. And it is our most important economic asset. Six years have gone by since that airport was built, and I dont mean to get into campaign rhetoric, but after six years, we dont have a lot to show for it in terms of development. I understand that ground is broken now on a new hotel. But it is as if we didnt know that we would need a new hotel when the thing was built. Why we didnt build a hotel at the same time we built the airport is beyond me. Why havent we been able to get the old airport torn down?
Cranmer: Come on, Jim. You know why we havent been able to. Dont say, six years. You know very well that we have been fighting diligently with the FAA. We finally got approval. I take offense because we have been the guys who got this happening. It is coming down as we speak.
Wagner: I really think our problem quite often is that we get caught up in the details, as we are here. Authority or not authority. Tearing down a building, how long it takes.
Q: Were not going to let you get away with that. You are looking at $600 million. That is a lot of detail. You are asking these guys to pay for it. Where is the $600 million coming from in Washington and Beaver counties? How are you going to get the money from them?
Wagner: If we get caught up in those details right now, at a very important time, the project may never happen and US Airways may go south. So I am not going to permit us to get caught up in those details right now.
Cranmer: If we dont put in an authority, they will go south.
Wagner: The most important thing that has happened in this region in the last 20 years is the airport. We have to put the resources out there, particularly roads, coming from all directions, to enhance its potential.
Cranmer: Let me throw out the hard and cold fact, because I got this message last week from US Airways -- the second largest employer: They are scared to death right now. With the outcome of the election, with the statements of Dr. Wecht, that he is against an authority. They want an authority. Every major metropolitan area where there is an authority is working well. What they see is the prospect of the return of the empire, the old ways come back with all those machinations.
Wagner: I know Dr. Wecht fairly well, and I know Jim Roddey fairly well. And I think that Dr. Wecht, if he sees that is what needs to be done, he is going to do it to retain those jobs.
Wecht: I want to make clear is that the deciding vote for the new airport came from Cyril Wecht, OK? That is a matter of history, OK? So, lets just have that on the record. Make it very, very clear as to what took place in the old days. While Tom Foerster does not need me to be his champion and I am not interested in assuming that role, either, I think that some of the comments have been rather unfair to a lot of the things that were accomplished. There were a lot of things that I wasnt happy with that others have a right to criticize. But talking about the old business and so on -- and Mr. Roddey can speak for himself -- yes, I was commissioner for four years. And I was away for awhile. Yes, Mr. Roddey was not in government. Mr. Roddey assumed many roles voluntarily, which he did not have to assume. He was not ashamed or embarrassed to be involved in those past administrations, either. So I just dont want to allow the comments to go that everything prior to 3 1/2 years ago was just an incredible mess, and in the last 3 1/2 years we have had an era of enlightenment, the Renaissance.
Murphy: Having been in the Legislature for a number of years, the difference between the legislative and the executive position is seen when Jack says he doesnt want to worry about the details and how you pay for it.
Wagner: I didnt say how you pay for it. Im tired of us saying were going to eliminate municipalities in this region. Then go out there and get a vote from Clairton. Lets stop arguing about issues that make no sense.
Murphy: You and I agree on that, but the real issue that we face is that we have probably a 20-to 30-year deficit on infrastructure to be a competitive city. If you go to other cities, you see significantly more investment in infrastructure. Our subway system is a joke. When somebody says to me, "Do you have a subway system?" Im embarrassed to say we do, right? Its five blocks long. Its a great system. It runs well. But the fact of the matter is that we, as a region, have never been able to figure out how to build a real system to the major employment centers. Its ridiculous. The ability of this region to come together around a consensus and how you pay for it is a big challenge that we face. We have watched time and again, shooting ourselves in the feet, because we cant define an agenda that moves us forward in a big picture way.
Q: In that regard, youre saying that the regional delegation is moving in 25 different directions. How is the new executive going to fit into the new delegation?
Wecht: Its extremely important. Look to Philadelphia. There are no more internecine battles in any community. But boy when it comes to doing something for Philadelphia, they line up. Even the Dems and Republicans. They do it.
Harkening back to the days when Ed Zemprelli and Gene Scanlon were powers in the Senate and Leroy Irvis and Jim Mandarino were powers in the House, they were able to accomplish things. And that has not taken place since then. The legislative body has to be molded together into a strong force.
Southwestern Pennsylvania can have as much impact if not more than southeastern Pennsylvania. I want to make sure we have our place at the table and our fair share of the stew. We have to think of ourselves as southwestern Pennsylvania, not just Pittsburgh or even just Allegheny County.
Roddey: I would not disagree with any of that. But theres a fairly important element called the administration and the leadership -- the governors office and the present majority. I have a very, very good relationship with them. I agree with Cyril. We have got to work with our delegation much better than we have. And weve got to do it as a region. Im not going to be an executive who goes to somebody elses delegation. I want those county commissioners in the other counties to bring their delegations together. You need to work through them or else theyre not going to feel theyre a real part of the region.
Wagner: Its people-to-people relationships. And that has to be nurtured. That takes time, and confidence levels have to be built. As you go to higher levels of government, you really dont need the lower levels of government to survive politically. But the lower levels of government rely more on the assistance from higher levels. Therefore theres a great need for the city and the county to communicate with the higher levels on an ongoing basis.
Roddey: Not just when you have a crisis.
Wagner: It needs to continually be nurtured. It is seldom, if ever, that we all sit down and talk. This is enjoyable right here.
Q: Why is that?
Wagner: I dont think its initiated enough by people at any of those levels. Were all to blame: the city, county, state and feds. People should say, "Ill invite my colleagues, you get yours, you get council, you get commissioners, maybe some key people in the municipalities, and lets get together for dinner and talk about the issues."
The Institute of Politics (at the University of Pittsburgh) is trying to do that. Participation is not good. But when we get together, we seem to appreciate and understand each others problems more so and begin to create some commonality.
Q: One of the things we see continually, when theres an issue thats going to go to Harrisburg for some action is that the legislative delegation says "They never talk to us until they come up and they want something." Is it your impression that youre out there in Harrisburg and nobody does talk to you?
Wagner: Generally, yes. but its also my responsibility to stay in touch with the countys issues and the citys issues. And I try to do that. Tom and I call each other.
Q: Did you feel isolated when you were a legislator?
Murphy: When I was a legislator, the mayors -- it was Caliguiri and Sophie -- communicated with us once or twice a year in a semi-formal, ritualistic kind of way. And Ive probably done the same thing. For us, in the city, we get nothing from the state in terms of revenue for our operating budget. Other than some money for roads.
Roddey: When you needed them big time, though, it would have been helpful to have that relationship.
Murphy: On the stadium stuff, we made a big effort. We had meetings once a month, maybe every other week -- briefings for the Legislature. At the end of the day, I would say it made no difference. People were where they were.
Wagner: I think it made a difference.
Murphy: Some of the biggest critics, John Maher and people like that, still complained that we didnt give them enough information. And half the time, they never came to the meetings.
Wagner: I think it made a difference because, number one, you educate. And as you educate, there are a number of people there that you have the potential to influence. As you educate the delegation, the delegation can begin to work within itself and feed each other information, and politically twist arms.
Wecht: It would be my intention definitely to have a minimum -- aside from on critical matters -- of quarterly meetings, probably a luncheon or dinner buffet with the legislative body, Democrats and Republicans. And I would have separate meetings with the Democrats, of course. It has to be done. When I was chairman of the party, I would have a little luncheon. Sit around and talk. Its wonderful. It really works. Were kind of a small community. Were not Chicago or New York. We have opportunities that those places just dont have. The need to work together can flow from improved and enhanced personal relationships. Jack Wagner said that what were doing here is so nice. Why dont we do it more often? Thats right.
Roddey: The key is communication. You have to have a relationship before you have a problem. Im not sure I would agree with everything that Cyril said about meeting just with Democrats or myself just with Republicans. The executive probably doesnt want to do that. The executive probably wants to meet with all the delegation all the time. And not let it become partisan, because you need all of those votes.
Q: People say this is going to be the third-most powerful position in the state, behind the governor and, perhaps erroneously, the mayor of Philadelphia. For the past several years, the mayor has been the chief representative of this area. How is that going to work in terms of the mayor and county executive? And how will it work, on a personal basis, working together to represent the area?
Murphy: That remains to be seen.
Roddey: Im not hung up on whether I rank one, two or three. This is not about power. This is about being frustrated after living here for over 20 years and putting a lot into the community. And feeling that this is a great opportunity for our community, with a single executive, to really do the kinds of things that we should do. Take advantage of the resources we have. To really become competitive with the rest of the country, for the first time. I look forward to working with the mayor. The mayor and I are friends. Weve worked together before. He appointed me to the Alcosan board. And were still friends, despite that.
Murphy: I have viewed this as a potentially much more powerful position. But where there are other county executives, Mayors seem to get more publicity. From my point of view, this county executive is the more powerful person. The city is part of the county. Contrary to what Jack said, its all in the details of how we work together.
I would say this regardless of whether these two guys were here. When Jim was Chairman of the Port Authority, it was probably one of the best levels of communication we had with the Legislature, as we tried to do some changes. When Cyril was the executive of the Democratic party, he had regular luncheons with the legislators, and I found them very helpful.
One of the dilemmas we face in how you communicate with legislators is the issue of people talking to you guys. And how difficult it is to do business in the public sector, when youre trying to do something that will take risk. Or if its dealing with a private company -- Heinz for example -- who wants to keep private what theyre doing. Youre writing news every day, and youre looking at the world as a snapshot. Most of the deals were working on, whether its building ballparks, dealing with the Penguins, or dealing with Heinz locating their corporate headquarters here, is really a video shot.
What we have found -- often to our chagrin -- is that when we go meet with a group of legislators, or in my case, city council, they talk. And so at some point, you say "Screw it." You keep putting your neck out on the line. Out of 10 deals youre having a discussion on, only ones going to hit. And so if youre reporting all 10, and youre failing on nine, you look pretty silly. And thats really difficult.
Once you bring other politicians in, its public. You have to have some level of privacy and trust.
Wagner: First thing is, you never say publicly "Legislators dont read their bills."
Wecht: The power will emanate from the way in which you function and not because you have this particular position. Whatever faults I may have had -- last year I was egotistical, this year I have no faults at all -- nobodys ever accused me of pettiness.
As Ive had a news conference on a case that involved the district attorneys office, Ive involved the district attorney. If I have a case with the homicide detectives of the city, they sit with me. If theres anything on the city and county level, it would be my pleasure to involve and invite Tom Murphy. I dont have a problem in getting in front of the television cameras or newspaper reporters. And maybe because of that, I dont worry about it. I know Ill get my fair share of ink and video time. Ive had relationships with Tom Murphy going back to when he was a North Side activist. Like two intelligent people, weve worked together. Weve had differences of opinions, but weve always been good friends. I dont perceive this as any kind of a problem.
Wagner: One of the great challenges for the executive is the ability to communicate with county commissioners, especially the chairpersons. And to be actively involved in the organizations that exist. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Planing Commission -- now the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission -- has taken on more of an economic development arm. It, in my opinion, has never done the job it should do in terms of transportation. There really isnt a plan for transportation in this region. Its holding us back immensely. Transportation needs to move to the forefront of economic development issues because theyre tied directly together.
Roddey: Every time we use the word communication, we always envision speaking or writing or presenting. By definition, 50 percent of communication is listening. And we really have to start listening to the people in the region. Theyre not going to cooperate if they feel this is an Allegheny County agenda. They will only cooperate if they feel this is a regional agenda, and that they have a real place at the table.
Cranmer: Were at a momentous time in the county. A lot of progress has been made. Ground has been broken for cooperation between the city and county. Its important as we move forward that we remember why we started this process, why we needed a county executive and a professional management.
We have to focus on economic development. Thats why we started. We have to remember how the county government is to be organized. How its to be run. That we dont throw back to the way things used to be. We need to make sure that the county executive becomes the leader that that position is designed to be and that the cooperation with the city continues.
Roddey: Its not often that a community has an opportunity to shape its government. Home rule gives us that opportunity. Its rare.
This is really about leadership. Its about seizing the opportunity that we have with home rule. Were at a crossroads in this community. We have some good things happening. Weve made some progress. But are we going to continue it? Are we going to have a plan? Are we going to understand how to market this area? Are we going to bring everybody on board? Are we going to build consensus?
This election is about change. You talk to people in the county, and not a lot of them feel good about the direction of the county. But I think we have this opportunity. We need to make sure that everyone shares that vision, that everyone understands the plan. And we need to execute.
Wecht: The perception is out there were losing our young people because we dont have the jobs. We need more people to be trained and trained well. I would like to expand, develop and improve the community colleges, which is a marvelous vehicle for us. As well as reaching into the colleges and universities that do exist.
Is it true that were losing our young people? I think we are, although I dont have statistical evidence. I want to continue something Ive been doing. Ive been on every college campus many times in the past six months. Ive been in elementary schools and high schools. I want to expand that.
Why cant we have the Pittsburgh Symphony, for example, do something for young adults? We could take our cultural institutions and get financing from the big money people in the community to support this for the young people.
Murphy: I think weve been through a 30-year struggle in this region, with the steel industry going down. Only in the last several years have I seen reason for more optimism, that we are beginning to turn the corner. You can see it with the construction and the new startups. And this election, particularly, is critical because it comes at a moment when there is some momentum that s beginning. Like a bear waking up, people are beginning to move.
A lot depends on the quality of the campaign -- whether you want to continue to say how terrible things are in Allegheny County and thats why you need to elect me leader -- we can reinforce peoples worst perceptions of this region.
The other challenge we have after the election is figuring out what the common agenda is and building a relationship of trust to do that. I do believe that the county executive and the Mayor are the two most important people who, first and foremost, need to have that common agenda.
Certainly I would look to one of the two of you -- because I think youll do it far better than Ive been able -- to bring in the legislative and congressional delegation to broaden the number of people who want to invest in that agenda.
It is clear that weve been timid. Weve not been bold enough. When weve been bold and willing to take some risk -- as Tom Foerster did with the leadership of the airport and as we did with the Regional Asset District and Plan B -- that we can be successful.
Thats the challenge that we have.
Whichever one of you wins will start with a clean slate to be able to do that. If we can come to a common interest, Ill be the supporting actor in that. That is the opportunity we have, to really be bold.
What Ive seen is that everyone is so concerned about offending anybody that we dont ever do anything bold. That has held us back politically. We all tiptoe around each other so you end up with no one willing to offend anybody. I dont know if you have offend people as much as I do, but
Wagner: We have a magnificent opportunity going into a new millennium. And one of these two gentlemen is going to lead that government.
This new form of government in its formative years is similar to a child being born. And the stimuli that that child has in its first three or four years is critical. It needs positive stimuli to move in the right direction. This government needs to get off on the right foot, especially as it relates to economic development.
We have to make sure that we capitalize on some of the opportunities we have. We have to move more from campus to company in this region, with CMU and Pitt. The McGowan Center at UPMC is a magnificent opportunity for us to be the leader in artificial organ development in the world in this region. We have to capitalize on our opportunities.