Is Pittsburgh the answer?


Pennsylvania region

Maddie Hanna, “Pa. Supreme Court strikes down school mask mandate imposed by Wolf administration,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 10, 2021,


Greg Sargent, “The damage done by Joe Manchin is likely to get much worse,” Washington Post, December 10, 2021,


I guess my thinking on the proposed merger of Wilkinsburg into Pittsburgh[1] is that 1) there is absolutely no doubt that Wilkinsburg needs help, but 2) I’m just really not at all sure that Pittsburgh is the entity to provide that help.

There’s a street I think of as I think about this: On Pittsburgh’s side of the boundary, it’s Oakwood Street. It’s not a wealthy street in a wealthy neighborhood by any means. There’s some blight. But as you drive down this street, and you cross into Wilkinsburg, it becomes Wood Street and there is significantly more blight.

This isn’t a question of Wilkinsburg dragging down Pittsburgh; Wilkinsburg is much too small relative to Pittsburgh to do that. But Pittsburgh is moving much too slowly to address its own issues and, frankly, there are pieces of Pittsburgh that look every bit as bad as Wood Street in Wilkinsburg.

What white Pittsburgh must understand is that black Pittsburgh had to riot before a sense of urgency about ghetto problems was generated in the white community.[2]

The sense of urgency, to the extent it ever existed following the Hill District riots in reaction to the Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination in 1968, has long since been lost,[3] as exemplified by Bill Peduto, the outgoing mayor of Pittsburgh. I don’t know what the answer is for racial justice, blight, and poverty in either municipality. But I think I’d find the case for a merger much more compelling if I saw such an answer.

Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg leaders split on potential annexation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 10, 2021,

Donald Trump

Andrew Feinberg, “Explosive PowerPoint presentation detailing plan to overturn election for Trump discovered by Jan 6 committee,” Independent, December 10, 2021,

Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney, “Trump campaign lawyer authored two memos claiming Pence could halt Biden’s victory,” Politico, December 10, 2021,


The odd thing isn’t just that steel was celebrated in Pittsburgh the way it was, here illustrated with steel mill smokestacks belching out pollution, but that it still is celebrated this way.

This continues to be so, despite capitalism’s betrayal of the Pittsburgh region, with the closing of the mills that culminated in the years of 1979 through 1987.[4] It supports a culture of toxic masculinity[5] that forms a significant part of my childhood trauma,[6] a couple of years of which occurred right here in Pittsburgh’s suburb of Mount Lebanon, and that I relive every time I drive by Lincoln Elementary School on Beverly Road at Ralston Place, and that a Donald Trump victory in 2024[7] could once again unleash on Pittsburgh streets.

I am beginning an investigation of Erie, a city whose population base is smaller than I’m comfortable with for Uber/Lyft driving, in part because Erie seems to take much better care of its roads, which would reduce the threat to my own vehicle; in part because I actually might be able to afford the down payment on a house there; in part because Erie County falls within Colin Woodard’s Yankeedom sociocultural region,[8] the region I think most tolerable; in part because of Presque Isle State Park; in part because it’s hopefully away from the kookiness of Pittsburgh, a kookiness with a hard and dangerous right-wing Trumpian edge where even non-supporters of Trump espouse the conspiracy theories they likely find on Facebook.[9] My great fear is that Erie won’t have the population to support me especially in the winter months—the slowest of the year—and so I plan to take daylong trips up to Erie to see just how bad it is. It’ll be a reality check.

The tweet was retweeted by Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s outgoing mayor.

New Caledonia

Empire is empire. I had hoped the story from New Caledonia[10] might be different.

And I guess it is. Instead of Russia forcibly seeking to annex Ukraine or China threatening force to reintegrate Taiwan, France is holding a referendum on independence timed, that is, rigged, to support the status quo.[11] Not quite the argument I’d want to be making when I’m pretending to be a “democracy.”[12]

Ashley Westerman, “New Caledonia might be about to break from France. Here’s why the world is watching,” National Public Radio, December 11, 2021,

  1. [1]Joe Arena, “Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh consider merger,” WPXI, July 7, 2021,; Christine D’Antonio, “Hearing to be held on proposed annexation of Wilkinsburg by Pittsburgh,” WPXI, December 4, 2021,; Jon Delano, “Wilkinsburg Moves Closer To A Vote On Merging With The City Of Pittsburgh,” KDKA-TV, June 28, 2021,; Ryan Deto. “Controller Lamb wants potential Wilkinsburg-Pittsburgh merger to spur more talks about municipal consolidation,” Pittsburgh City Paper, July 8, 2021,; Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg leaders split on potential annexation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 10, 2021,; Megan Guza, “Pittsburgh council members hear comments on possible Wilkinsburg annexation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 5, 2021,; Sheldon Ingram, “A lot needs to happen for Wilkinsburg to merge with Pittsburgh,” WTAE, June 29, 2021,; Pittsburgh History Pie, “Wilkinsburg was part of Pittsburgh in 1874, until it wasn't,” Twitter, November 10, 2021,; Paul Van Osdol, “Wilkinsburg mayor backs merger with Pittsburgh,” WTAE, June 18, 2021,; Charlie Wolfson, “An effort to merge Wilkinsburg with Pittsburgh is brewing,” Public Source, June 25, 2021,; Charlie Wolfson, “If Wilkinsburg is annexed into Pittsburgh, what would happen to its residents’ taxes?” Public Source, November 16, 2021,; Charlie Wolfson, “Pittsburgh City Council hears public comment on divisive Wilkinsburg annexation issue,” Public Source, December 4, 2021,; WPXI, “Group pushing again for Wilkinsburg to join with City of Pittsburgh,” October 4, 2021,; WTAE, “Wilkinsburg pumps brakes on merger with city of Pittsburgh,” July 12, 2021,
  2. [2]Ralph W. Conant, quoted in Ed Simon, An Alternative History of Pittsburgh (Cleveland: Belt, 2021), 107.
  3. [3]Ed Simon, An Alternative History of Pittsburgh (Cleveland: Belt, 2021).
  4. [4]Ed Simon, An Alternative History of Pittsburgh (Cleveland: Belt, 2021); Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020,
  5. [5]Jason Togyer, “Will the sons of steelworkers see Trump’s COVID-19 behavior as strong, or reckless?” Columbia Journalism Review, October 6, 2020,
  6. [6]This would be the part I recognize in C. J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (Berkeley: University of California, 2007), even though Pascoe’s study occurred decades later in an entirely different high school from the one I attended. I endured relentless taunts and bullying throughout my childhood, not only in high school, as well as abuse from my father; all this is compounded by my ongoing experience with the job market.
  7. [7]Jackie Calmes, “Trump latest warning sign: Stacking election posts with Big Lie supporters,” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2021,; Barton Gellman, “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun,” Atlantic, December 6, 2021,; Tina Nguyen, “To Be or Not to Be: Trump’s Big 2024 Question,” Puck News, September 13, 2021,
  8. [8]Colin Woodard, American Nations (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  9. [9]Jason Togyer, “How Facebook has undermined communal conversation in McKeesport,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 18, 2021,
  10. [10]Ashley Westerman, “New Caledonia might be about to break from France. Here’s why the world is watching,” National Public Radio, December 11, 2021,
  11. [11]Ashley Westerman, “New Caledonia might be about to break from France. Here’s why the world is watching,” National Public Radio, December 11, 2021,
  12. [12]Michael Crowley and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “Biden Rallies Global Democracies as U.S. Hits a ‘Rough Patch,’” New York Times, December 9, 2021,; U.S. Department of State, “The Summit for Democracy: Participant List,” n.d.,

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