Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Richard Mellon Scaife dies: funded conservative groups ... and historic preservation in Pittsburgh

Richard Mellon Scaife, scion of the Mellon Family, and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, died on Friday ("Tribune-Review publisher Richard Scaife dies," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

While he is best known for his funding of "hard right" conservative groups which have changed the nation's political discourse for the worse, I have always been amazed by the fact that Mr. Scaife was equally committed to urban revitalization and culture in Pittsburgh, providing funds to such worthy causes as the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, including funding for major rehabilitation projects such as Station Square, a 52-acre complex that had been a railroad station, headquarters and repair and maintenance facilities for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad.

Scaife's financial support enabled the PHLF to act as a developer and take on wrenching, difficult projects, and helped the organization build the capacity and program to become one of the strongest historic preservation action organizations in the US (e.g., "City, PHLF announce partnership, development," Pittsburgh Business Times).

Many years ago pro-sprawl groups put forward a proposal to create an anti-"New Urbanism" group hoping to get funding from Scaife, and I pointed out to people with the Congress for New Urbanism that he was approachable from the standpoint of urban revitalization and that it was likely that he could be convinced to not fund such a group.

I don't know if the CNU pursued this, but the pro-sprawl group ended up not being created.

And it is an example, albeit rare, that it is possible to create common ground with people on urbanism and center city revitalization issues where it might not normally seem possible, because of ostensible differences in political ideology.

-- Richard Scaife tribute, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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At 8:06 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I already knew about Scaife's work with historic preservation groups; I read about it in Philip Langdon's 'A Better Place To Live'

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Most people don't. I have Langdon's book but hate to admit I haven't read it. But if you get involved in HP and look at how various groups operate, you learn about PHLF being one of the premier groups, at least as it relates to urban revitalization and HP and Station Square, and therefore, Richard Mellon Scaife.

I do think it's great that anti-urban pro-sprawl groups weren't successful getting money from him, and that deserves being communicated also.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

1) Highway trust fund money, one the primary ways money gets back into states, sets itself up as a urban/rural+suburban split. perhaps not on purpose but in practice. That quickly transcends into a D/R split as well.

2) You may or may not be familar with the strong "party" theory of political competition, but what Scaife represents best is an example of that theory, where 95% of the money being spent on poltiics in on getting people elected. A cynic might say keeping operatives employed.

3) Despite attempts to turn the stong party theory into culture war, there is plenty of commonality among R with urban issues. Well, once you remove blacks from the equation. Take a look at the board of the Potomac Enviromental Council some time. As I've alluded to, I suspect that CSG dosn't file as a c3 because they don't want to admit how much R money they are taking.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I vaguely remember the strong party stuff from Am. Politics three decades ago. I will look it up.

wrt that, I was thinking of running for Bowser's W4 seat, figuring that with a special election I would have a chance, but in the "normal course of human events" I wouldn't.

... but appropo of your point, I started meeting with some campaign types, and yes there are people who are into politics and the process of campaigning and getting elected, and then a (much) smaller proportion of people interested in policy (and way smaller interested in policy and governance).

My meetings with those people reminded me of all the reasons that I hate politics, even if I don't mind door knocking and can even deal with asking people for donations.

... anyway, including the facct that Suzanne isn't into the idea, it seems less likely that I will run, unless I want to do it to make a/the point about how to refigure a councilmember campaign on a ward-focused agenda.

In any case, I will write a position paper on what a ward agenda would/could look like.

(That stuff was of no interest to the potential campaign managers I met...)

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt your point about Rs and commonality. First, Rs are into development and often can be convinced to focus on "good" development.

2. I got into an "argument" with my inlaws a couple nights ago (not really an argument). One is an exMorman and so they are both anti-religion/anti-Morman.

I said, frankly, on my issues, Mitt Romney as governor was one of the best, did some really great things and important innovations on coordinating state investment in smart growth, incentivizing better local political decision making etc. and that it was a shame that he tacked so "right".

Similarly, in Utah, former Gov. Leavitt pushed forward an enlightened agenda too. (Although partly I wonder if it's tough for SLCers to avoid thinking about smart growth because they can't avoid the mountains-thinking about the environment + air quality issues that result).

Anyway, it is sad that in MD, when Ehrlich became gov., he junked most of Glendening's stuff, because Glendening was a D and so SG must have been bad, and similarly, in MA, Patrick dumped most of Romney's policies on SG, which were pathbreaking too, although Glendening was about the first Gov. to really focus on it (although reorganizing my books and stuff, I came across a report I found from the 1970s on "the costs of sprawl"), because they were done by an R.

E.g., these past few days I've been trying to find old Mass. Urban River Visions materials, but the Dept. of Env. has junked the program and stuff isn't online... That program was initiated during the Romney era.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

oh, I never did get a review copy of that book by the ex. mayor of St. Petersburg, even though the publisher claimed they sent it to me. I finally ordered a copy and it should be at the house by the time we get back.

not sure when I'll have time to read it/write a sample R agenda.

Basically, I figure a R urban agenda would be about small government and enabling self help.

DK how they would deal with transit + tax credits, given the schism in the party on "corporate welfare" which isn't very judicious about differentiating between multiplicative investment vs. largesse.

... on that note wrt Walgreen's I figure that somehow, if they move their corporate domicile overseas for tax reasons, that somehow the US should be able to bar them from participating in Medicaid/Medicare, which apparently generates about 1/4 of the company's revenues...

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

In the current setup, I don't see you as an effective politican. Really the same problem as DA; the day to day demands of keeping your constituents happy are pretty painful and not fun.

(in the expanded council system you have talked about you would be extremely effective)

I can be wrong about this -- see what zuckerberg is doing and it frankly amazing -- on a pretty narrow platform.

You could use a larger platform than a blog. Recruiting lieutenants is hard work. In a larger statewide system there might be a place in-house for someone to think this way, but outside OPP or being appointed in some oversight of NPS/ NCPC I don't see that here.

Spousal support is a perquisite.

That being said, the good thing about DC is shoe leather is cheap and it works. I don't know how much Fenty's first campaign cost but it was very inexpensive.

And you are reasonable enough that people would vote for you even if they disagree with you -- the point is you are looking for a candidate who will at least listen to your complaints, which you do. Well, most of the time.

Crazy thought -- run as at large Republican!

People are mad as hell and will vote for an outsider. Even in DC.

The strong part stuff is best associated with the recent leaking of Democracy Alliance briefing book -- gives you an idea of the permanent employment that the permanent campaign will give operatives.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

in exploring whether to run, I talked to a couple current/ex-Councilmembers in Montgomery and PG Counties, progressives. (Didn't want to talk to DC Councilmembers, for obvious reasons.)

One told me, in line with what you say about the current set up, that "it's very hard to move the Council" that the other members are all preoccupied and not really driven by big ideas, and suggested I would be more effective outside of the system. (But yes a bigger more robust platform than a blog is required for that to work. Or a different kind of council set up, like you mention.)

2. wrt the retail politics of a ward councilmember, u r right that constituent complaints/concerns could be a millstone, not dealing with and rectifying the needs-complaints, but having to listen to the blow by blow story. (I get frustrated in meetings with advocates and officials-stakeholders about how advocates often do not clearly state their message and case. It wastes a lot of time.)

BUT, I think constituent complaints-concerns are a great resource for identifying structural problems.

What is very frustrating about CM Bowser's office as a constituent, is that they are "responsive" in that they respond to complaints. But in terms of "resolving" issues, I find them wanting.

Little follow up with the tough questions (e.g., I pointed out two years ago that a primarily dirt alley a couple blocks from my house has terrible runoff problems when it rains).

And persistent issues like amplified music at Takoma Recreation Center or the fact that the loudspeakers at the Coolidge High School football stadium spew noise across the neighborhood for many many blocks beyond the facility never get resolved, even though people have pointed out the problems, solutions, and DC regulations (when relevant) all along--these problems have persisted for the 6 years I have lived in W4. That leaves me pretty unimpressed, since constituent service is what MB points to as her strength, as the primary basis of action by her deserving of being elevated to mayor.

Finally, the CM Office shows no interest in harvesting the complaints as indicators for the need for structural changes of various sorts.

It's a real waste of a potentially rich source of information and data.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Republican... don't think I could do it ideologically. (Which proves I am not a good politician.)

I am from Michigan, which into the early 1980s had an honorable Republican moderate tradition (Romney, Milliken, Williams, etc.), and I considered myself an R in high school and early college (because my parents were and because unbeknownst to me at the time, Oakland County was the hotbed of Republicanism in Southeastern Michigan--a different strain from the Dutch Reformed Republicans on the western side of the state).

But that kind of Republicanism isn't present here. E.g., I had a long conversation once with Pat Mara, and with another person who ran at large, both of whom were aware of me, my activities, writings, etc., and the other person even said that someone had asked her who she would consult on various issues and matters, and she said I was one of the people who came to mind, but e.g. on property rights vs. building regulation over historic preservation etc., they wouldn't come down towards my "side" and in the end I just couldn't vote for them, even though I thought about it. Too many other things, and the association with the national movement, make it too hard.

I'd try for Working Families, but frankly, I am too establishment to get that kind of nomination. Same with the Greens.


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