Introducing, the Dollar Bank Center for Pittsburgh Political Culture


Having gotten to this point, it was fairly unavoidable:

“Thus, the conservator is left with an impossible task; that is, to conserve an entity that has no strategic plan and insufficient cash to operate — and has run out of time,” she wrote. (P-G, Mark Belko)

The organization truly did not seem to have any viable strategic plan. It certainly did not have a sufficient communications plan, and sometimes that reflects on overall strategy.

Now we have 1) a sizable, shiny, odd looking building at a nice location Downtown 2) that we had named after local playwright August Wilson and 3) said would be a center for African-American culture.

Actually, we don’t have any of those things. Dollar Bank has those things. A local bank, mind you. When it opened, Pittsburgh didn’t have an “h”.

MORE: On the ailing center’s mission as that of a real and metaphorical bridge, from the piping hot Duquesne Whistle. See also Null Space.

11 thoughts on “Introducing, the Dollar Bank Center for Pittsburgh Political Culture

  1. Anonymous

    Doesn't this lament exist in some tension with your post a few days back asking that the social justice crowd be given a greater voice in planning decisions?

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    No. I don't speak of simply of the establishment or political legacy leaders, but the whole living movement. This squares with my post several moons ago, under the subcategory of “co-option”.

    We do not indict for fault every breathing human who had some role in this equally, but universal forces act on political institutions in structural ways.

  3. BrianTH

    Here's to hoping the AWC can be reborn, probably in a new location–although I still wonder if it could become a downsized tenant in part of its former building.

  4. Anonymous

    What bothers me most is the total lack of accountability and owning up by the board of the AWC. The lack of transparency and accountability serves to feed the “I told you so crowd”. A full accounting of who got paid what and where thet are now is necessary. Having watched many cultural organizations struggle the difference here is the lack of accountability. That said, the focus should be on the New Granada and the August Wilson Childhood Home. BUT the capacity to build and SUSTAIN these projects must drive them. The building was built to the demands of the Cultural Trust why dont they buy it and then rent back a portion for exhibits and events that are within the capcity of the community? Whoever buys it will have a state of the art theater.

  5. Anonymous

    The building was built on the demands of The Cultural Trust – who pulled the plug on not constructing the attached parking garage that was supposed to sustain funding for the AWC? Just like Theater Square. This was a sham and a scam from the beginning set up to fail so the Cultural Trust gets it for pennys on the dollars.

  6. BrianTH

    I think there is an accounting being conducted as part of the receivership process. That said, every indication I have seen is that the main problem has always been that the program doesn't have the financial means to service the debt arising from constructing the building.

    So, the people involved in that decision (which happened over a roughly ten-year period from 1996 to 2006) are the ones who are most responsible for this outcome. In addition to AWC officials themselves, that list should also include involved officials at the city, county, and state levels from the relevant periods.

  7. BrianTH

    Just an additional note–it appears the accounting I recalled is actually being conducted by the state Attorney General, but with the cooperation of the receiver.

  8. BrianTH

    Hopefully in a court-supervised bidding process, the Cultural Trust (if it in fact is a bidder) has significant competition.

  9. Anonymous

    No matter how much money the Center gets, the Center needs to be able to use it effectively and legally. Professional administration and management is a must, or it's hard for anyone – even the most well-meaning and culturally attuned potential benefactors – to address the shortfall. Oprah's name was thrown out there…she definitely has staff people who scrutinize operations and deem things worthy or not of her charity, I am sure other potential benefactors are the same.

  10. Bram Reichbaum

    People are awaiting the results of the state AG's probe Brian, but it's not clear that “frittering” is illegal, nor that if that's all they uncover will it provide any heretofore absent accountability.

    In response to the OP at Anon 11:17, the lack of accountability, owning up, transparency from within is certainly one reason for aggravation. Instead though I'm personally given to dwell on how come nobody else (government, foundation, corporate sponsors) were exercising more public due diligence at earlier points. I know it is convenient to give to a cause and trust that all will be taken care of, but this was an all-new endeavor and body and warning signs were somewhat present. I guess everyone was just that motivated in this instance to exchange ready capital for a premium package of credit and karma. And keep doing it for a while.

    Next time the public gets involved in something like this, I suppose it should require wide business plan circulation, annual reports with specific accounting, and semi-regular fiscal auditing. Open data and a motivated interest in it.


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