Namely, members of the Southside Slopes Neighborhood Association, who take charge of their steps. In the top photo, a group of residents paint the railings along the Eleanor Street steps. In the photo at left, the Cologne Street steps have been closed since October, said Adam Jette, a resident who volunteers for Step Trek.
The city has 716 sets of hillside steps to maintain, and anyone who regularly uses them knows that the city doesn’t have enough people or money to make step maintenance a priority.
Bob Regan, the “father” of the annual Step Trek event in the Slopes, said that since many sets of steps are officially streets on city maps the city should regard them as streets. “Their maintenance should be considered street maintenance,” he said.
In a perfect world, Walkabout agrees. Even in our current situation, it would be sweet to see the city take infrastructure action that favors people who ambulate.
But the city really does have to make the kinds of decisions that struggling families do: pay the mortgage or go without heat, eat ramen and cat food to pay the water bill. When people carp about how the city doesn't do this and doesn't do that, I wonder whether they're the same people whose hackles shoot north at the idea of paying more taxes.
I wonder whether some of them actually live in the city.
Slopes residents say Public Works has responded pretty well to their 311 calls when steps are in disrepair, but it's good to know there are people out there who are doing it for themselves.
In time for this year's Step Trek on Oct. 5, maybe the city could get those steps repaired so people can walk them.
Our city’s abundance of hillside steps — we top all cities in number — are more charming than streets and more historic since the original ones predated paved roads. Most important, they're a necessity for many people.
Honor the walker.
Photos by Adam Jette
Logan Byers, the 10-year-old boy from Sheraden whom I featured in my blog several weeks ago, has a new commercial for would-be litterbugs: Don’t trash my turf! It is part of a campaign of the Pennsylvania Resources Council.
Logan has been working with the city by adopting a 'redd-up' zone on his street. He is the conscience behind Logan's Litter League, a loose collection of neighbors and family who are making an effort to clean up his street regularly.
If a little boy has the gumption and initiative to undertake an anti-litter campaign, can’t the rest of us just hang onto our litter until we find the nearest trash can? Seriously.
The transition of Detroit's income taxes. Source: The Daily Beast
On my visits to various neighborhoods, some strike me as too far gone to save. It’s painful to think and to share this message, but back-to-nature seems to be a smart option for many parts of outlying neighborhoods given that the population growth we are seeing citywide is still too modest. Will enough people move to Pittsburgh in time to save vacant houses that are falling apart right now? And that question presumes that newcomers would choose to move into (and save) them.
While riding around Wilkinsburg recently, where entire blocks of houses are empty -- or one or two households shy of being empty -- it struck me and my tour guide that local costs will continue to drastically outgrow local populations, and as they do, so will blight.
Why not draw circles around areas that have almost no occupants and inform the remaining people that they live in a zone that will be released to nature? They can stay, but they will get minimal service and no improvements, and when they move or die, that area will no longer be the responsibility of the municipality to maintain except as a habitat for wildlife.
The hue and cry would be piteous. People are tied to their places. But, as Megan McArdle points out in an article in The Daily Beast, “when a business runs into this sort of problem, we know what to do: liquidate and sell off the non-performing assets.”
Her article “Saving Detroit: When a Big City Stops Being Big,” is well worth reading.
Like Pittsburgh, Detroit has lost 60 percent of its population since its peak years. Our good news is that we are growing... a little. How do we plan for the continued growth we anticipate? How should we plan?
Here are some excerpts from her report:
“The problem is that the old infrastructure is still there, and still needs to be maintained. Detroit might have the makings of a nice 50 square mile city within its population. But it has to maintain 139 square miles of water and sewer, electric, police and fire coverage, transportation, and so forth. It also needs to maintain legacy pension costs that were incurred when the city was more prosperous. For the last five or six years, Detroit has made up the mismatch between taxes and spending by borrowing money and deferring its pension contributions. But this only means bigger bills in the future, when Detroit may be even less able to pay.
Radical action is needed. But what sort of radical action is feasible? You can imagine a sensible plan that would essentially condemn all the houses in the outer rings of Detroit, arranging land swaps to bigger and nicer houses closer in, in order to compress the city into a manageable size. But you can’t actually imagine it being implemented. The politicians whose districts would go away would freak out. So would many of the home and business owners. The downsized public service departments would also be none too pleased.”
Can anyone within the sound of my voice imagine enough Pittsburgh and Allegheny County politicians manning up to even have a discussion about bringing the functioning assets of the city in closer to the core and abandoning the rest? It's hard enough to get people in an auditorium to cluster near the speaker. But it may be important to the financial survival of cities like Pittsburgh.
Some weeks back, my friend Kat said, “Let’s do the Koman walk.” I had done it with my mother way back when it was new and so horribly organized that I swore I would never do it again.
But 21 years is a long time. Remember? The Pirates had a winning season. Cell phones were the size of bricks. Things change. Plus I enjoy Kat; she’s fun.
So I said yes and paid my $25 to register and got my T-shirt and number in the mail a few days before the race, which was yesterday. Kat drove us to Oakland, where we found a parking space almost as far from the starting line on Flagstaff Hill as the length of the walk itself. We had expected that. The P-G reported today that 25,000 people participated.
That’s all? I would have expected to learn that every possible stroller in the metropolitan area was on that course, along with stroller pushers who do not consider this walk a chance to exercise.
Kat has made this a yearly routine; she even did the one the day before with her mother in Washington, D.C. I admire her comitment. As we walked, trying to pass people who were walking five and 10 abreast , I read the backs of T-shirts, the names of people being celebrated and memorialized, friends and family of walkers who had had the big C.
As we walked, I thought of all my friends who have had breast cancer and survived — all of them. I thought of my grandmother, who survived it and died of a heart attack. I wish I had worn a T-shirt that named he and all my friends whom I celebrate, both as friends and as survivors.
As we walked, I thought about how I don’t do pink. Except in my garden, I recoil at so much pink. Is it the color of breast cancer awareness because girls are still pink and boys are still blue? Even though men can get breast cancer? Really?
I glanced at the seemingly endless ribbon of people behind us and at the seemingly endless ribbon of people in front and I thought about all the other kinds of cancer.
I wish there were 25,000 people turning out to celebrate the survivors and memorialize the victims of and raise money for the "cure" of at least some of those. Science has been good for breast and prostate cancer.
For a lot of other types, it's been a little, well, pokey on the course.
Quickly, I returned to a better mindset because after all, it was Mother’s Day. Without mothers and their healthy breasts, where would we be?
A friend introduced me to The Italian Garden Project two summers ago, when a group of us took a tour of gardens in Morningside. Mary Menniti of Sewickley founded the Project and has turned it into a network not just of natives of Italy who garden in the old-school ways but first-generation Italians who have continued the traditions and people like me who want to emulate them and celebrate their prodigious efficiency.
Now I can find out all about growing figs, and you can too.
“Everything you ever wanted to know about growing fig trees” classes will start in June. There will be four, each month through September. The two-hour classes are $40 and 15 people can be in each one.