Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Look @ City-Data.com Pittsburgh Forum.

Listen. I know that I am often extraordinarily tough on suburban/exurbanites on this blog. I realize that it would probably be better for my mental health if I stopped thinking in such contentious terms about a demographic that makes up a large proportion of our nation. And I want to make it absolutely clear that I don't believe that all of them are evil. In fact I don't really believe in evil, per se- so I guess this last admission is a bit weightless. Still the truth is that I have met and known a number of people in those communities that are well-meaning and rational. Indeed I am even related to some of them. Conversely there is no shortage of "bad apples" in the cities. One only needs to turn on the network evening news to reinforce that point.Now that my disclaimer is out-of-the-way, I'm going to draw a bead on ex/suburbanites once again. I'm going to do this because a lot of them simply piss me off.

Here's what I've been doing a lot of lately- I've been visiting the message board forums of the City-Data Web Site. This is an incredible resource for people all over the nation to learn about cities that they are considering traveling to or relocating in. The concept is democratic, sound and compelling. If you want to know something about a certain place, what better way to find out about it than to ask someone who lives there? I think it's a truly great site. I love that there is a public forum that anybody can contribute to, and air his/her opinions about home-town, USA. Of course there is another side to this accessibility- one doesn't need to be thoughtful, open-minded, fair and/or balanced to add his/her two cents. As long as you stay in the general area of civility, then your posts remain. This can be simultaneously liberating and infuriating.

I think it's important to engage people that have radically different perspectives from our own. If we only ever discuss issues with folks that are like us, we aren't likely to ever broaden or refine our thinking. The opportunity to discuss items with a wide variety of people has kept me frequenting message boards for years. I've learned some useful things and stimulated some extraordinarily heated interchanges. I am sometimes difficult and occasionally adversarial (just as I am in person). But so far I have never been asked to leave, and I am hardly ever censored. Considering how invested I have been in some of these debates, I am proud of my record. At the same time, I am also shocked at what posters are willing to put into public print.

You might think that a site named City-Data.com would have a large proportion of urban dwellers offering their insights. Yet there seems to be a vast majority of ex/suburbanites weighing in with their opinions. This is unfortunate because few of them actually have any depth of experience with the elements of the cities that they are commenting on. It's an odd phenomenon that those who have sought to avoid the problems of the city seem to consider themselves the most qualified to pronounce judgments about them. I have read an avalanche of unfounded assumptions, a plethora of distortion, and an excess of disinformation during the few weeks I have been logging on to City-Data. I am sometimes so overwhelmed by the limited viewpoints that I despair for the future of the entire nation. But on the other hand, I now have a much better handle on general politics.


Here are a few quotes about Pittsburgh that are freely available on the forum (enjoy):

On race: "Stating that people are moving because of race is something that the evidence doesn't support."

"Certainly, not ALL blacks are criminals, nor do all of us white folks believe they are. It might be good to try and not be so sensitive to racial issues. "

"Pittsburgh's suburbs might not be diverse, but they are not full of racist. There are plenty of diverse neighborhoods in Pittsburgh for people who want diversity. And for people who could care less one way or another, there are plenty of less diverse neighborhoods that will welcome anyone regardless of their race."

On local schools: "We are the #1 state for teacher strikes, so if you'd like to raise a little hell at work and extort tax money from your local community, PA is your place! Unfortunately, if you pay property taxes or have school-age children in public schools, PA isn't so great... "

"Yeah, if you feel like stealing from the poor in order to make too much money, then Pittsburgh is for you. The Union is strong here, so you have no worries. The extra money will help you pay for all high property taxes the strikes have caused."

On local leisure: "There is nothing to do in this city. Unless you want to go to South Side and get drunk with the annoying college crowd, there is nothing to do. And if you decide to go to South Side and go to a decent bar like Fat Heads or Piper's there is no way to get home because there are NO cabs in the city."

On City Planning: "I just wish there was more of a police presence in downtown. Free or MUCH cheaper parking is another biggie. I really hate having to pay 8 bucks to "window shop." "

"Pittsburgh needs to make the city safer by having more of a police presence and then bonds or funds to help tear down and rebuild some of the really gritty, dirty areas. A few things have been done, but it is scattered throughout the city that there is no real "good" side of town. Shadeyside has a street - one street that makes it nice."

" Too much "preservation" and not enough knock downs and rebuilds in the dying (Pittsburgh) cities."

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with you, negative comments concerning Pittsburgh are usually tagged and taken off. If a member repeats a negative comment, they are then removed and banished from the forum. It is NOT a place to gain a balanced or unbiased view of the area.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Not in my experience. In fact, I think a large proportion of what I've seen on that forum bashes the city. I guess it all comes down to how the comments are phrased.

11:26 PM  
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