Les Grand Boulevard Smithfield, Sans Buses

Les Grand Boulevards

by Helen Gerhardt

Bill Rudolph seems very enthusiastic about Bill Peduto’s vision of a”grand boulevard” on Smithfield St, as laid out by Mark Belko in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this past Sunday. “It could be the icing on the cake.” Rudolph said, “A street like that in the middle of Downtown could take it to a whole new level.”

Bill Rudolph has at least two hats from under which he can observe matters of downtown development. Bill Rudolph serves the City of Pittsburgh on the board of directors of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Bill Rudolph also serves as a principal and a member of the investment committee of McKnight Realty Partners.

Two hats. Two roles. Two angles of vision. If Mr. Bill Rudolph could stand in the middle of that not-yet-quite-grand Boulevard of Smithfield and look down toward the intersection with Sixth Avenue, here is what he would see:

Mr. Rudolph could look left at one of the properties on this street that McKnight Realty owns, 610 Smithfield, home to tenant Fragasso Financial Advisors, Flaherty & O’Hara Attorneys at Law, and, at street level, both the Carnegie Library and Brooks Brothers.

Then Mr. Rudolph could look to the right at the former Gimbels building  where McKnight Realty not long ago housed their old tenant, Office Depot, the building that may soon house another clothier. Of course, the deal might be more tempting for possible incoming McKnight tenants if Mr. Rudolph can influence Pittsburgh decision-makers to clear the way for some more attractive peoplescapes. Those crowds of working people waiting for the bus on the sidewalk sometimes don’t look so grand,especially when they’re being rained or snowed on.

But then, Mr. Rudolph is one of those decision makers. As one of five URA board members, should we trust that he did not influence the URA vote in 2012 for what seems like a sweetheart deal for McKnight Realty, working hand in hand with our current Mayor Ravenstahl to secure the plum development of the former Saks Fifth Ave property, along with partner developer Milcraft Industries, including space for at least 600 car-dependent shoppers to park and pay big bucks?  How can observers not be concerned that Mr. Rudolph and his development company did not directly profit from his position on that board in a clear conflict of interest

CLARIFYING UPDATE:  Bill Rudolph did not cast a vote as URA board member on this decision. There’s a good reason why I framed our concern as a question about the disproportionate influence of his interests on the public development planning process and decisions that his position on the URA board allows him. But I see that without including information on Mr. Rudolph’s recusal from the vote there is a clear implication that he actually violate the legal parameters of conflict of interest and I apologize to all for my use of a phrase that allowed such a misunderstanding. I thank the commenter that pointed out that information, as well as for the further information that they provided that should surely be a matter for more public consideration.

In my radio conversation with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Essential Pittsburgh, as Community Organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit, when I raised the concerns about undue influence of developers in the public transit planning process, and the need for more substantive public input, Mr. Fitzgerald yet again asserted that riders should not expect door-to-door service.

But how can we not consider the likelihood that Mr. Rudolph is not using his URA position to currently advocate for the comfort and profit of another future McKnight Realty tenant, the Embassy Hotel,  about to move into the Oliver Building, just a little farther down Smithfield, where door-to-door valet curb service for the well-suited and high-heeled would evidently be inconvenienced by the current bus lane?

In our meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald yesterday, when PPT Coordinating Committee member Paul O’Hanlon, also a member of the Committee for Accessible Transportation and the Disability Rights Network, reminded Mr. Fitzgerald of the removal of the old highly-used bus stop at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street after pressure on Port Authority by wealthy developers, with numerous, widely expressed negative impacts on our community of persons with disabilities, Mr. Fitzgerald assured us that he had never heard of such concerns about that stop and that we should trust him that there would be no such influence by developers in current planning.

How can we trust Mr. Fitzgerald to listen and respond to drivers, who know the practical operation of the system the best, and the riders who are most affected by his decisions, when they have been ignored so many times in the past, when he flat out states to us, “there will be no buses on Smithfield?” He acknowledges that research shows that public transit is far more efficient for mass circulation, that cars cause far more gridlock, but states to us flatly, “No, we’re not taking cars out of downtown.” No plan yet, he states, but most certainly it seems that he has already made several unilateral decisions without either community process and without regard to hard data on comparable efficiencies and outcomes from across the world.

After all, the Embassy hotel’s deep-pocketed, out-of-town guests don’t really need those buses to travel through the showcase of an urban cake that is envisioned as the future of downtown Pittsburgh, for the profit of those developers that can afford to cater to those who can afford be served by hotel labor making far below living wage, customers who will shop at the fancy boutiques that will be invited from afar to occupy our city, who will fill the seats of stadiums, who will eat at fancy restaurants on the cleared sidewalks. The men and women who work hard to produce the wealth and have been shunted elsewhere, well, let them eat cake, if not the “icing on the cake,” as Rudolph referred to the Les Grand Boulevard Smithfield of at least some people’s future vision.

Such priorities can be seen in gentrified urban streetscapes across the globe, as described by economist David Harvey.

How often are developmental projects subsidized by the state in the name of the common interest when the true beneficiaries are a few landholders, financiers, and developers?…Quality of urban life has become a commodity for those with money, as has the city itself in a world where consumerism, tourism, cultural and knowledge-based industries, as well as perpetual resort to the economy of the spectacle, have become major aspects of the urban political economy… a ‘new urbanism’ movement that touts the sale of community and boutique lifestyle as a developer product to fulfill urban dreams. (David Harvey, Rebel Cities)

One of the things I love about Pittsburgh, after the far chillier civility of Minneapolis, is the way that people talk to each other, joke together, share stories, out on the streets, in checkout lines at stores, out at the bus stops, talking with each other across all the very real divides of race and culture and class. But I’ve got to admit real surprise at my long conversation with Mr. Rosenstock, the owner of what can only be termed a boutique shop, the Canadian Fur Company right next door to the old Office depot.

He did not look too hard at my scuffed tennis shoes, he very kindly showed me around, invited me try on a fancy, fur lined coat I couldn’t dream of buying, and then he sat down with me to talk. He spoke out strongly in support of both Mr. Bill Peduto, who we both cheered on in his campaign for Mayor, but also for the public transit roaring right by his door.

“If you move the transit to the outside perimeter of downtown, you’ll hurt local businesses, create worse congestion, block up those outside streets, take away our foot traffic” he said, and too many times under the current administration, “big businesses come from out of town, they make their money and send it somewhere else.” Mr. Rosenstock doesn’t want an exclusive protected habitat for his customers – and he does indeed want to encourage more of the shoppers who can indeed pay the big bucks for his luxury goods.

Such business can indeed bring in much-needed tax revenues for our cash-strapped city, to help pay for the basics we all need – schools, sewers, street repair, bus shelters. Development can be a great thing, Mr. Rosenstock said, but he knows the downtown is the main connective hub for the countywide Port Authority system.  He couldn’t see good reasons for the city offering decision-making power, big perks, and incentives to tenants from outside our city that ultimately did not reinvest in the larger community and downtown business district. “But I’m very hopeful, I really think things are going to be changing for the better with Peduto. I’m going to write him a letter about this.”

I have no doubt that Mr. Rosenstock would have listened with just such respect to Patricia Bates, a resident of the Hill District. She makes it clear that her concerns are not just about her own comfort as a working person: “I spend hours every day commuting by the buses. I’m a personal care attendant in Dormont for an elderly woman who needs me – I get up at 4:30 am and go out a half hour early to make sure to catch an earlier bus than the schedule says, because if that first bus is late for me to make my transfer downtown, my client can’t take of herself. We’ve seen a lot of decisions made from above by developers like the Penguins here on the Hill that have had really bad results. We need to have more of a voice in what happens with our routes.”

And Ms. Bates is a very respectful listener herself. When it comes to the transportation planning decisions that affect us all so much, we need to have Mr. Rosenstock and Ms. Bates, small business people and personal care attendants and developers and hotel workers and drivers and transit planners and social service agencies and theater directors from the Cultural District, all talking together, sharing concerns, experience, and first-hand knowledge of how our communities and lives can better fit together as linked by public transit.

In his campaign, Bill Peduto promised to change the old patterns of Davey Lawrence top-down planning, to fully engage communities in the decisions that would affect them most. Ms. Bates and Mr. Rosenstock and me and so many other Pittsburghers who want to believe in a functional democracy, we will work to be ready to do our part. We will wait to see if campaign promises will roll forward into reality.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit invites all who are affected by or involved in public transit planning to participate in one or more of a series of public meetings to fully consider these issues. We will develop an outline of concerns, priorities and proposals to promote more inclusive and informed public engagement in public transit decisions. These outlines will be presented to media, transit planners and our elected officials in early 2014 as Mr. Peduto and Mr. Fitzgerald begin the work of bringing City and County together to begin planning new route configurations downtown.

All editorial views expressed at the Pittsburgh Comet are my own, and do not reflect the positions of Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

36 thoughts on “Les Grand Boulevard Smithfield, Sans Buses

  1. Bram Reichbaum

    I'm adding an edited-down version of an e-mail I sent to Helen while reviewing an early draft of this post…

    It looks like the “bus-donut” Downtown vision is firmly on hold until we get clear data on what any such potential configuration would mean specifically in terms of riders' pedestrian excursions.

    Also remember:

    “Right now, buses coming from the North Side don't make it past Liberty Avenue, and most East Busway rides get no farther west than the corner of Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue.” (link)

    So it's not exactly like we have a “point-to-point” system now, although we have a lot of busses and a lot of bus stops. Besides which there is a legitimate sustainability question in even attempting “point-to-point”; in European cities with vastly better public transit (I know, shoot me) riders seemed contented with much fewer bus stops further between than we sometimes see here (although the pedestrian infrastructure is quite a bit better).

    I'll also underline in case it is necessary that I think we do need deep-pocketed suburbanites and tourists coming in to Downtown to spend money. Heedlessly gentrifying Frankstown Rd. or Centre Ave. would be very concerning to me, but the Central Business District aka Downtown is supposed to be the place where we partake in a little high-end whirlwind retail, and I'm happier with the opportunity of a dense mix of local and independent stores doing it than few chains.

    Now, about the interplay of the interests of a developer -slash- URA board member like Bill Rudolph on the whole visioning process… what can I say? That's a great note. I've expressed similar concerns wrt Todd Reidbord on the Planning Commission for years. I guess we have to judge those situations based on the transparency and the quality of their input.

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Helen. Heard you on EP, or as I like to call it, Eat-Your-Vegetables Radio. Anyway, regarding the alleged undue influence exerted by business interests on city planning, here's a good example, straight from one of the horses' mouths, as reported recently in the PG:

    The days of retail receded in the '90s through the early 2000s. It was a bleak period for the neighborhood, one in which Market Square was a marketplace for crime rather than commerce.

    It wasn't until 2007 that Downtown showed signs of life with the arrival of the Capital Grille in Piatt Place (the former Lazarus building), followed by McCormick & Schmick's.

    “We'd have the police force sweep Fifth Avenue and Wood Street to show the properties,” said Mr. Pollock, the real estate executive who helped land the deals.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/dining/downtown-is-becoming-the-hot-spot-for-independently-owned-restaurants-707903/#ixzz2iD1KASy3

    By sweeping, I don't think Mr. Pollock means picking up cigarette butts. So at least one business interest freely admits that have, or at least had, so much control over local government that they could direct city officials to send the police out to remove certain citizens from the streets. Talk about your Most Liveable City!

    BTW, I remember Market Square being a little down at the heels 10 or so years ago, but I don't remember it ever being close to a no-go zone, as the reporter characterizes it.

  3. Caesar

    Anybody who rides an inbound 61 or 71 bus, particular around rush hour, has probably felt a little frustrated once the bus approaches Grant Street from Sixth Avenue and slows to a crawl. It can sometimes take ten minutes to make the two block journey to Wood Street. I would love to have a system of dedicated lanes and signal prioritization that would allow busses to circumnavigate the Golden Triangle with greater expediency.

    Assuming that the loop would utilize Liberty, Grant, the Blvd of the Allies, and Stanwix, it should be noted that no point within the Triangle would be more than two blocks from the bus route. While I have no sympathy for upscale business owners who wish to push riders away from their doors, I hope that mass transit proponents will embrace this plan and work to optimize it, rather than merely functioning as obstructionists.

  4. Anonymous


    You obviously are very biased in your judgement in this article. A few points I'd like to point out.

    1. Bill Rudolph did not vote on the URA decision to sell to the Mcknight/ Millcraft partnership.

    2. There were no other responses to the RFP that the URA sent out for the Saks site.

    3. Every single landlord on Smithfield street agrees that the bus situation as it is right now is very dangerous, inefficient and ugly. The plan that is proposed would take out the 40 foot long buses from clogging the roadways and put them on the perimeter (libery & blvd of the allies &grant) and put smaller “rapid transit buses” in the core of the “triangle”.

  5. Vannevar

    Anon 2:32, everybody in the know seems quite comfortable quoting “the plan that is proposed”, and yet nobody that I know has seen this plan, and several elected officials have assured that there is no plan.

    It would be wonderful and perhaps even transparent if “the plan” were disclosed to the public. You know, the taxpayers, the voters, the citizens, transit users, system operators. The People.

    #GovernmentOfByForThePeople, N'at

    If you've got a copy of ThePlan, you ought to publish it. It would be a public service.

  6. Anonymous

    Wasn't there a massive drug bust at one of those bus stops you are so egar to save?
    See http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2013/04/12/nearly-3-dozen-arrested-after-undercover-drug-bust/
    Personally I don't feel comfortable walking down Smithfield street during the day. The mix of people hanging around with no apparent purpose is appalling. Wouldn't you rather have a street in the center of town that you could be proud of, much like Grant street?

    This attitude towards development that is furthered in the blogosphere borders on ludacris. It is time to stop stymieing development and start encouraging those who care about the city (like those who you bash in your blog post). The former leads down the route of Detroit, whereas the latter will lead Pittsburgh to being recognized as the great city that it was, is, and always should be.

    Next time you blog please do so responsibly. Fact check, reach out to those you criticize, and most importantly thing about what is best for the city as a whole and not just what is best for you and your scuffed tennis shoes.

  7. Anonymous

    Its clearly a plan that potential Mayor/ mayor-to-be Peduto has in his head right now. Be patient and when the man is actually elected mayor I am sure you will see “the plan.”

  8. Anonymous

    Actually, Helen's post is one of the best I have seen on this site. Curious how you Bram pick and choose when you believe people are too connected or unfairly influencing things. I'm looking for a pattern. Also, kind of funny how the entire bus loop thing and Smithfield street idea are all things created and birthed under Ravenstahl.

  9. Anonymous


    Instead of bashing good people in your post… maybe you could lead by example and actually meeting with business owners and landlords downtown— instead of making wars.

    Take your communism and hate and go back to Missouri… this is Pittsburgh where we pride ourselves on being nice to everyone— EVEN the people who drive a car to work or run a bank!!

  10. Anonymous

    There is no plan – but yet the County Executive and Bill Peduto are conclusive about no buses on Smithfield. What happened to the inclusive process that would eventually determine outcome of the plan? Seems kind of premature to determine something like that now without a plan or a process

  11. Anonymous

    As someone who works downtown I can honestly say I often fear for my life when buses make turns or zip by. Does the author spend time downtown?

  12. Bram Reichbaum

    Responding to you, Anon 8:20 (and in part to Anon 2:32) –

    Clearly, Helen allowed a significant omission into the post that Mr. Rudolph properly recused himself from the Smithfield St. McKnight / Millcraft deal, leaving an implication that he actually voted to advance his interest. That much definitely merits a reproach.

    But let's be clear, we all realize how easy it'd be for a board member like Mr. Rudolph to tap a Mr. Lavelle or a Mr. Ferlo on the shoulder (or even a Mr. Peduto) and suggest, “Hey, if you vote for my thing I'll be that much more likely to vote for yours.” And if there was only one lone response to an RFP and that one by a closely connected entity, that's only a reason to arch an eyebrow at the crafting of the RFP. So it's not as though we've firewalled a Rudolph from influencing the proceedings.

    Aside from that, I suspect I'm with you against undue “stymieing,” but it makes my skin crawl to be with someone decrying a “mix of people” and wonder what would be the cost / benefit ratio if law enforcement was as intent on stamping out drug trafficking in affluent circles.

  13. Anonymous

    “Every single landlord on Smithfield street agrees that the bus situation as it is right now is very dangerous, inefficient and ugly. “

    Every single one? Really? Who knew there was a vote? When was the balloting?

    “The plan that is proposed would take out the 40 foot long buses….and put them on the perimeter (libery & blvd of the allies &grant) and put smaller “rapid transit buses” in the core of the “triangle”

    And all along we've been hearing that there isn't an actual plan, just some kind of misunderstanding. Seems like this misunderstanding is quite fleshed out, at least in your opinion. Of course, in your opinion the shopkeepers of Smithfield already had a vote and you know how it turned out.

    The major concern is with plans made in secret, with a lack of transparency and a general disrespect for the needs and concerns of the people who actually use the public transit system. Maybe routing the buses around downtown could turn out to be the best thing since sliced jumbo. But if nobody brings the people actually affected by such a change, then the chances of any plan being a great thing hover somewhere between slim and none.

  14. Anonymous

    “Wasn't there a massive drug bust at one of those bus stops you are so egar to save?”

    Oh for heaven's sake. There are dozens of drug arrests in Allegheny county every years.

    Here's one that happened at the Days Inn in Monroeville:

    I know, lets put chain link fencing around the Days Inn's parking lot so nobody can use it. After all look at the drug problem.

    Wait, wasn't JP Morgan just busted big time a few days ago. For God's sake, pass a law to keep the limosines out of lower Manhattan!!

    Or maybe a better suggestion would be to confine the discussion to actual policy concerns and not silliness and fear mongering.

  15. Vannevar Bush

    The Smithfield Boulevard proposal is a “wedgie” that splits the ascending/desirable bike constituency (that I'm a member of) from the deprecated/unwanted (poor, black-brown) transit user constituency by promising a bike lane on a single street in exchange for removing all transit service within the core zone.

    The “complete streets” approach calls for an integrated redesign that provides all stakeholders with equity representation in “the public streets”.

  16. Anonymous

    Quite so VB. I was struck by Fitz's Essential Pgh. repeated invocation of bikers and walkers and young people as supporters of this plan. I am all of those three but I still have sympathy for the old and disabled, not to mention the poor, and believe that their needs should be accommodated. And the first step toward accommodation is acknowledgement. Unfortunately, the leader of the county appears to have a blind spot in that respect.

  17. Pot, Kettle, Black

    “… this is Pittsburgh where we pride ourselves on being nice to everyone”

    Anony, you forgot to add, “except for people we disagree with” and perhaps, “are totally lacking in self-awareness”.

  18. Jerry

    What would a complete streets approach look like on Smithfield Street, for example? It seems too narrow to accommodate all stakeholders.

    Or am *I* being too narrow? Would we have, for example, Smithfield dedicated to buses and bicycles, with Wood for pedestrians and cars, or something like that?

  19. Helen Gerhardt

    @Anonymous October 24, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    I left my initial reply last night, then deleted it because of all my fat-thumbed typos; I was trying to use my phone which also refused to let me scroll up and down in the window to copyedit.

    You and Van raise important potential concerns of wedges between various interests groups that I hope our actions are addressing – I and other PPT members and allies are going from store to store, theater to gallery to restaurant to corner newshop, every single door in downtown, speaking with owners and managers and staff to hear their concerns, and inviting them to the public Saturday meetings for the next four Saturdays, not so we can make war, but so that we can cross the divides and work together for a more truly fair and mutually beneficial public transit plan.

    The whole conclusion of this post is that good people from very different life experiences, such good people as small boutique owner Mr. Rosenstock and transit user Ms. Bates from the Hill District need to work together for our larger interdependent concerns and a more truly equitable democratic process. I'd invite you to come and meet a whole range of your neighbors from many walks of life in Pittsburgh that are concerned for each other and the larger systems that are facing such challenges from many directions.

    As for me leaving Pittsburgh – forget it. I love this city am deeply grateful for this job that has allowed me to learn so much about all these diverse neighborhoods, and to work with so many wonderful people – I want to work with those fellow Pittsburghers for this city to be more livable for everyone.

  20. Helen Gerhardt

    Yes, from March until about three weeks ago, I used only bike and bus to get around, and since downtown is the main connective hub for the entire system, I often witnessed the congestion problems that would only be exacerbated if fewer people rode the bus and took their cars into the heart of an already overloaded road system. One bus can take 70 cars off the roads at peak hours. Most surely we can reconfigure routes and bus stops, and most surely major developers should take part in that planning process, along with the small business owners, and riders and drivers and all the other diverse stakeholders who have not been allowed *proportionate* input and influence in planning that most directly affects their lives, their work, their business, our larger regional economy and community.

  21. Bram Reichbaum

    Jerry, I think by default we need to accommodate pedestrians everywhere, but I like the way your comment is thinking. In a jumble like Downtown, no street is truly “complete” without cooperation with its chums.

    As another example, if we are putting any bike infra Downtown, oughtn't it connect to a bike lane headed somewhere Oaklandward? With those crazy kids we want to keep here so bad.

  22. Helen Gerhardt

    We most surely want to help optimize public transit planning, responsibly, thoughtfully, with respect for the needs of the larger system that we're part of. That's why we are inviting people to participate in the series of public meetings that will bring together transit planners with users and operators of the system, as well as small business owners that need the buses to bring customers and workers to their doors. I hope you'll join us, share your own experiences and information, and help create documents to present to transit planners and our elected officials that will truly be constructive for all concerned.

  23. Helen Gerhardt

    In our meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald, he spoke of “drafts” and certainly one of the Anonymous answers here suggests that a plan may be developing, although I do trust that it is not fully formed. One of the many transit planners I've spoken with these last few weeks said that too many times the plans are pretty much already formed when “public input meetings” take place, that too many times he has had to conduct such meetings that are more like “grief counseling” that chances for substantive input leading to real revision.

  24. infinitebuffalo

    bike infrastructure should go _other_ places. we've already got kids on bikes in Oakland–let's show 'em how to get to the rest of town.

    (captcha word: pershew. a little too close to pshaw. editorial comment, blogspot?)

  25. Anonymous

    Of course we all know how RFP's work. They can and often are prepared in a way that tailors the project for a particular developer/company. The key is influencing how the RFP is written, then responding to it is easy. Happens all the time in construction contracting world.

  26. Anonymous

    The plan is out there. It exists. It was created by the Ravenstahl administration along with the Smithfield vision. All things that have been under way for a couple of years. Just like the hotels popping up around Mellon Park and the reconstruction of the park. The next phase in that development is Smithfield and re-routing buses. Fitz and Peduto know full well what the plan is.

  27. Anonymous

    Except – not more liveable for people who you disagree with their definition of liveable. This is the classic flaw in modern liberal thinking. I'm serious and just here me out for a second. Some people might find it more liveable to have no cars on the street at all. Just bikes. Some people might find it more liveable to get those pesky buses off the road or to have certain streets that have zero buses. That might make it less liveable for the frail and elderly, but more liveable for others. Some people might see a neighborhood as more liveable only if we build more low income housing there. Others see it as more liveable if we tear that stuff down and build more hipster housing. I'm completely serious. It very well might be “more liveable” to not have homeless on the street, huddled masses at bus stops and other social ills. It would in fact be more liveable for the people that don't have those issues. So, building a community that puts an emphasis on the poor and frail might give those groups added amenities, but it is not necessarily more liveable for everyone else. Now look, to be clear, I am not taking a position on whether or not we should do something or not do something based upon the fact that the poor and frail do exist and aren't simply going to vanish. I just want to point out that just because we don't like the choices of a certain group of people (typically upper middle class white people) doesn't mean that their preferences for liveability aren't just as valid as the preferences of others. The fatal flaw that modern liberals often make is to completely write-off the preferences and life choices of those they disagree with. that is fine and also valid, just don't keep using the phrase “make it more liveable for everyone” unless you consider the preferences of all to be valid.

  28. Bram Reichbaum

    I think we may be hung up on the term “livability” because we're all still especially proud of one particular accolade… but to play along, does your prerogative to pursue livability decrease when my presence is what makes things unlivable for you? Is the world you describe one in which livability is a zero-sum game? Is there a distinction between someone's perceived prospective livability and actual prospective livability? I think some on the left (the further left, the more of them) do need to tone down their reactive and firm rejection of the perspective and input of the more affluent, and keep their minds open that we can achieve good results in part by fulfilling capitalist urges… but we should also acknowledge that money makes the world go 'round, and the poor generally lose an awful lot of the big and little policy discussions because of it, usually to their detriment… and occasionally the rich are just dumbly mistaken or very short-sighted in ways workers and ordinary people are well-equipped to see. So it probably pays to democratize public input, visioning and planning more so than occurs “naturally”.

  29. Anonymous

    Good questions Bram. If your presence decreasing the number of people coming to my business or the value or my home, then yes it decreases my livability. That doesn't mean have the absolute right to kick you out. I'm just answering the question to prove a point. by the same token if my presence now means that you have to leave, obviously it has become less liveable for you. If my presence means that we need to clear out bus stops and move them to a less convenient location, even though you have caught the bus there decades, is problematic. At the same time, if my presence in the neighborhood means that a bunch of people like me will keep moving in threatens your political stranglehold on the community, then maybe you will say it is less liveable for you? If all the sudden new and different voters are making it less easy for the local political establishment to control things, they might say it is “less liveable.” the irony is that as much as we are successful in making things “more liveable” the more people will want to live there. the more demand the more the cost of “living” goes up. Where we get into trouble, IMHO, is when we start selecting preferred groups of people, i.e., this group or that group has some divine right to win anointed by the government.


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