President Barack Obama's choice of Pittsburgh as the city where America will host the leaders of 18 nations and the European Union, to review progress in fighting the world economic recession, is a tremendous honor and a great opportunity.
Cities that host such meetings can sometimes be described for years afterward as the city that hosted the G-20 or other summit.
How he chose Pittsburgh we may never know, but cited in the announcement was our city's record of pulling itself up from serious economic loss, in putting itself on a new forward-looking path with biomedical and other technology, and for its early commitment and performance in attention to environmental issues. It is interesting that hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics was the mark of Turin, Italy's recovery from the economic loss caused by a shift in the auto industry.
What is very good in this development is not only whatever notice and revenue the G-20 summit brings to Pittsburgh, but also that the leaders of the world's most prosperous countries will come here, see what we do and perhaps identify the city as a fine prospect for future investment.
But the ball is now very much in our hands. This is definitely not one of those things where we can drink some beer, yell loudly, wave our Terrible Towels and expect success. Although the federal government will put up most of the money for the affair and provide some organization, it is absolutely essential that Pittsburgh prove to be a very strong local partner, with ideas and resources, ready to work effectively with the federal government in making the summit a success.
At a press conference Friday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl indicated that he and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato were in the process of selecting a task force to oversee arrangements.
As it is imperative that Pittsburgh's end of the affair be handled efficiently between now and September, the task force needs to be made up of senior officials with resources behind them. No political cronies, please. Each of those heads of Pittsburgh organizations should also provide for the run-up to the summit a senior aide with authority to serve as part of the working group of the task force.
The mayor also anticipated the need for subcommittees to deal with the crucial pieces of the summit. These would include security, lodging, off-site meeting venues, communications, media facilitation, demonstrator relations, translation and transportation. Pittsburgh has resources, including a number of fine universities, museums and foundations. The city needs to see to fixing the holes in the streets and painting the lines. There is no reason for our visitors to see what we are moving away from.
The triple goal of all the effort that we can put into the summit will be that at the end of the day, we can be proud of ourselves, the foreign visitors will have seen Pittsburgh as a place worthy of long-term attention, and our president and the rest of America will be very pleased that we were chosen to be a showcase of America for the world's leaders.
It can be done, but we are going to have to be very serious about the effort, starting now.