Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A motto for PIttsburgh?

On June 23, Councilman Bill Peduto (8th Dist.) tossed this query out to his Twitter and Facebook followers:

"Philadelphia's motto is "Life, Liberty and You" - Pittsburgh doesn't have one - if we did, what do you think it should be?"

My first, goofy response was, "Yinz going Dahntahn for some gumbands?"

I tweeted that to Mr. Peduto, just for fun.

Then I thought about how in recent years Pittsburgh has repeatedly been named a "most livable city." Indeed, the phrase "a most livable city" is attached to the city's name on Mayor Ravenstahl's press releases, which I suppose makes it at least an unofficial motto.

Knowing that, and remembering how Pittsburgh has also led the nation in other negative measures of life for black people (infant mortality, academic failure, percentage of single-parent households), I had another slogan pop into my brain:

Pittsburgh: America's most livable plantation.

I didn't tweet that to Mr. Peduto, because I didn't want to be snarky. I didn't even like the fact that the phrase had popped into my head. And I like Bill Peduto, and respect his desire to promote the city. In that context, "America's most livable plantation" is counterproductive.

But I do think that the phrase, at the very least, has the potential to generate useful conversation in some other context, especially if it is made into a question: "Is Pittsburgh America's most livable plantation?"

The question then becomes, "In what context might that question be useful?" My first thought is, in some gathering of academics and policy makers. But that may be off.

What do you think?
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