Currently viewing the tag: "pittsburgh"

Pittsburgh, a city of about 305,000, is a safe and relatively crime-free city, right?

Ferguson, Missouri, is lawless and crime-ridden and needs an aggressive police force to keep its citizens in line, right?

But let’s look at some boring numbers.

The St. Louis County city’s population of 21,000 – roughly 65 percent black and 35 percent white — has 54 cops.

All but 3 are white, which has caused black leaders and the media to assume that the disproportionate number of black people stopped by police is a result of racism.images

Maybe.

It could be that Ferguson’s cops had so little real crime to worry about they, like many of their brethren in all-white and super-safe suburbs across the land, concentrated on petty traffic stops and harassing teenagers.

Without a real breakdown on actual “crimes” and such statistics as the ages of the races (old white folks are less likely to be stopped by police, while young black males on foot or in cars will be targeted, etc.) and the profiles of the convicted criminals, the numbers thrown around by the media and idiots like The Rev. Al Sharpton mean nothing.

Statistics can lie and confuse but they can also illuminate.

For example, Pittsburgh’s population is about 25 percent black. Its crime stats – particularly the 41 homicides in 2012 – were like most big cities heavily skewed by the black-male-on-black-male drug-gang wars on its streets. Otherwise, Pittsburgh is an incredible safe town, at least as far being a murder victim is concerned.

But as we watch Ferguson’s nightly riots and lootings (mostly performed by out-of-town trouble-makers), let’s not feel so smug, Pittsburghers.

Below, courtesy of city-data.com, are the crime stats for Ferguson and the city of Pittsburgh.

In 2012, the last year city-data.com offers, Pittsburgh’s murder rate per 100,000 people was higher than Ferguson’s. So was its rape rate and robbery rate. Pittsburgh’s assault rape was twice as high.

Ferguson’s bad guys did more burglaries, stole more cars and committed more thefts per 100,000 people, but Pittsburgh blew Ferguson away on arsons – 249 to 0, though the virtual absence of arsons  in Ferguson from 2000 to 2012 is highly suspicious.

Over all, according to city-data’s numbers anyway, Ferguson commits more crimes per capita than Pittsburgh.

The average crime rate for the United States is meaningless, since it includes virtually crimeless places like Vermont and there is no such place as Average Town, USA.

But in 2012 the U.S. average was 301.1, while Pittsburgh’s was 358.3 and Ferguson’s was 381.1. Chicago, where there were 500 murders in 2012 (most of them black males killed not by white cops but by other black males), the crime rate per 100,000 people was 562 in 2011 (the latest year city-data offered) when the national rate was 214.

So, to sum up the shocking news, Ferguson’s crime rate is only slightly higher than Pittsburgh’s but Chicago’s crime spree makes both cities look like daycare centers.

Here are the crime charts for 2011 and 2012.

Crime rates in Pittsburgh by Year
Type 2011 2012
Murders 44 41
per 100,000 14.3 13.1
Rapes 67 47
per 100,000 21.7 15.1
Robberies 1,126 1,134
per 100,000 364.9 363.3
Assaults 1,239 1,125
per 100,000 401.5 360.4
Burglaries 2,686 2,537
per 100,000 870.4 812.8
Thefts 6,897 7,610
per 100,000 2234.9 2438.2
Auto thefts 480 544
per 100,000 155.5 174.3
Arson 195 248
per 100,000 63.2 79.5
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 301.1) 368.2 358.3

 

Crime rates in Ferguson by Year
Type 2011 2012
Murders 5 2
per 100,000 23.5 9.4
Rapes 6 3
per 100,000 28.2 14.1
Robberies 45 38
per 100,000 211.5 178.9
Assaults 47 37
per 100,000 220.9 174.2
Burglaries 263 247
per 100,000 1235.9 1163.0
Thefts 649 699
per 100,000 3049.8 3291.3
Auto thefts 85 95
per 100,000 399.4 447.3
Arson 0 0
per 100,000 0.0 0.0
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 297.5) 433.0 381.1

 

Crime rates in Chicago by Year
Type 2010 2011 2012
Murders 432 431 500
per 100,000 15.2 15.9 18.5
Rapes 1,372 1,459 N/A
per 100,000 48.4 53.9 N/A
Robberies 13,757 12,408 13,476
per 100,000 485.5 458.8 497.6
Assaults 14,213 13,975 12,272
per 100,000 501.6 516.8 453.1
Burglaries 26,203 26,420 22,748
per 100,000 924.7 976.9 839.9
Thefts 74,764 72,373 72,717
per 100,000 2638.5 2676.1 2684.9
Auto thefts 19,446 19,078 17,001
per 100,000 686.3 705.4 627.7
Arson 519 503 N/A
per 100,000 18.3 18.6 N/A
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 301.1) 554.3 562.0 N/A

Ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald is the author of Dogging Steinbeck, which exposes the truth about “Travels With Charley” and celebrates Flyover America and its people. Blogs, photos, a 1960 Steinbeck/”Charley” trip timeline and more are at TruthAboutCharley.com.

In 2003 I visited recently departed ex-Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff at her apartment in Squirrel Hill and wrote this column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Sophie is still something special

Aug. 3, 2003

She’s 85 now, so she’s lost a step or two.

She no longer drives at night. And it’s been a while since she’s been invited to the White House, a place she first visited during FDR’s final term and last saw during Bill Clinton’s time.

But as I found out Wednesday when I visited her at her Squirrel Hill apartment, Sophie Masloff is still up to speed on city politics and still a very recognizable institution about town.

In case you’ve forgotten, Sophie Masloff — the funny old lady in those TV spots for Gateway Clipper Fleet and Appliance Warehouse — was once mayor of Pittsburgh.

She ruled during what now seems like Pittsburgh’s good-old days, 1988 to 1994, when the city wasn’t openly bankrupt and begging for state funding.

“Mayor Sophie,” as everyone naturally called her, was a major civic hoot, an editorial cartoonist’s dream, a TV sitcom mayor come to life. But today, with her native city $60 million in the red, her relatively responsible, competent and uneventful reign looks better every day.

It’s been eight grim years since Sophie the Accidental Mayor turned the keys of City Hall over to Mayor Murphy and his wrecking crew of amateur economic developers.

The former county courts clerk and stalwart party worker bee would be the last to toot her own horn or criticize the Democrats now in charge of her sickly city — for the record, anyway. And she reminds that as mayor she had plenty of help from administrative sharpies like Joe Mistick (now a regular Sunday Trib columnist) and Jim Turner.

But Sophie is not shy about praising what her administration did and didn’t do well. In her first week in office, she said, she had street signs put up throughout the city. She ordered four new street sweepers and put them on a regular cleaning schedule. She cut the city wage tax by half a percentage point.

Asked what her major accomplishments were, she listed the Crawford-Roberts housing plan on the Lower Hill. Also, she said, her administration privatized four city-owned assets that were costing the city money — the zoo, the aviary, Phipps Conservatory and the Schenley Park golf course.

It’s easy to criticize what’s going on now, Sophie said, declining to do so. But, she noted, “I left office with a balanced budget and a triple-A bond rating. I don’t know what happened. It all fell apart.”

Sophie is worried about Pittsburgh’s chronic ailments — its continuing population decline, shriveling tax base and need for more new jobs. She knows the city has too many fire houses and is being robbed by the firefighters’ union, whose greed and political power she admits she could not tame.

Still, she’s optimistic about the city’s future. She’s not against using gambling proceeds to bail it out. And, ever the good big-city Democrat, she thinks higher taxes could save the day. If the state lets the city raise its $10 occupational tax to $52, she said, “We’ll be able to pull it off.”

Several times on Wednesday, as she showed me photos of herself with everyone from the Pope and Pavarotti to Bill Clinton, a man she “loved dearly,” Sophie fretted that it seemed egotistical to be talking about her life, which she insists is nothing special.

She’s wrong, of course. She’s had a truly amazing career in Democrat politics. It was launched at 17 when she saw Eleanor Roosevelt dedicate the Bedford Dwellings housing project and ended with her becoming mayor at age 70.

The scariest thing is, if Sophie Friedman Masloff ran again, she’d probably get elected. Half the people she meets on the street still think she’s their mayor. In some ways, she will always be.

####

Sophie sent me this nice note — the nicest one I ever received from a Democrat mayor.

 

In 2003 I visited ex-Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff at her apartment in Squirrel Hill and wrote this column for the Trib.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie is still something special<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Aug. 3, 2003</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She's 85 now, so she's lost a step or two.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She no longer drives at night. And it's been a while since she's been invited to the White House, a place she first visited during FDR's final term and last saw during Bill Clinton's time.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>But as I found out Wednesday when I visited her at her Squirrel Hill apartment, Sophie Masloff is still up to speed on city politics and still a very recognizable institution about town.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>In case you've forgotten, Sophie Masloff -- the funny old lady in those TV spots for Gateway Clipper Fleet and Appliance Warehouse -- was once mayor of Pittsburgh.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She ruled during what now seems like Pittsburgh's good-old days, 1988 to 1994, when the city wasn't openly bankrupt and begging for state funding.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>"Mayor Sophie," as everyone naturally called her, was a major civic hoot, an editorial cartoonist's dream, a TV sitcom mayor come to life. But today, with her native city $60 million in the red, her relatively responsible, competent and uneventful reign looks better every day.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>It's been eight grim years since Sophie the Accidental Mayor turned the keys of City Hall over to Mayor Murphy and his wrecking crew of amateur economic developers.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The former county courts clerk and stalwart party worker bee would be the last to toot her own horn or criticize the Democrats now in charge of her sickly city -- for the record, anyway. And she reminds that as mayor she had plenty of help from administrative sharpies like Joe Mistick (now a regular Sunday Trib columnist) and Jim Turner.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>But Sophie is not shy about praising what her administration did and didn't do well. In her first week in office, she said, she had street signs put up throughout the city. She ordered four new street sweepers and put them on a regular cleaning schedule. She cut the city wage tax by half a percentage point.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Asked what her major accomplishments were, she listed the Crawford-Roberts housing plan on the Lower Hill. Also, she said, her administration privatized four city-owned assets that were costing the city money -- the zoo, the aviary, Phipps Conservatory and the Schenley Park golf course.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>It's easy to criticize what's going on now, Sophie said, declining to do so. But, she noted, "I left office with a balanced budget and a triple-A bond rating. I don't know what happened. It all fell apart."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie is worried about Pittsburgh's chronic ailments -- its continuing population decline, shriveling tax base and need for more new jobs. She knows the city has too many fire houses and is being robbed by the firefighters' union, whose greed and political power she admits she could not tame.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Still, she's optimistic about the city's future. She's not against using gambling proceeds to bail it out. And, ever the good big-city Democrat, she thinks higher taxes could save the day. If the state lets the city raise its $10 occupational tax to $52, she said, "We'll be able to pull it off."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Several times on Wednesday, as she showed me photos of herself with everyone from the Pope and Pavarotti to Bill Clinton, a man she "loved dearly," Sophie fretted that it seemed egotistical to be talking about her life, which she insists is nothing special.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She's wrong, of course. She's had a truly amazing career in Democrat politics. It was launched at 17 when she saw Eleanor Roosevelt dedicate the Bedford Dwellings housing project and ended with her becoming mayor at age 70.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The scariest thing is, if Sophie Friedman Masloff ran again, she'd probably get elected. Half the people she meets on the street still think she's their mayor. In some ways, she will always be.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>####</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie sent me this nice note -- the nicest one I ever received from a Democrat mayor.

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IMG_2789I am not sure when it happened and which flailing body part gave me the bruise, but it currently sits very brown-yellow-purple on my upper arm, looking for all the world like a piece of stage makeup because it’s a bit too perfectly oval.

Last Monday night I mostly stayed out of the Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine mosh pit at a sparely attended Mr. Smalls show. Biafra — looking a little grayer than he did back in 2010 when I saw him last — did as he always does, which was sing newer songs which provoked polite, if sincere appreciation, and then the occasional Dead Kennedys number which brought about a more enthusiastic, cheerfully violent response.

In between songs, Biafra slipped in plenty of topical, geographically relevant rants. Former PA Sen. Rick Santorum got a reference. So did Gov. Tom Corbett. Fracking repeatedly came up. So did the Tea Party in general.

Biafra’s rants are, as always, bracing and amusing in their formulaic way. He calls the Tea Party racist, fascist whatevers, and my face takes on a bemused expression and I imagine — in the spirit of the old Conan O’Brien worst chant ever skits — yelling back instead of “yay!” something like “Yes, many Tea Party members are theocratic creeps, but some people like Rand Paul and Justin Amash have some Tea Party affiliation and they have fought for many good causes, most prominentl opposition to drones and the NSA! Furthermore…” [Booooooooo!]

Or: “I am uncertain of the science behind fracking, but human society demands trade-offs, one of which is energy that pollutes! I believe that knee-jerk opposition to fracking is making the perfect the enemy of the good! Certainly further research…” [Boooooooooooo!]

Nuance of this kind is completely antithetical to the Jello Biafra spirit. The appeal of the Dead Kennedys lay in the killer buzzsaw/surf rock guitar riffs from East Bay Ray, the solid basslines, the weird warble of Biaffra’s voice, and the very existence of songs with titles as direct as “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Subtlety, even later Clash era variety, was not their forte.

Arguably, an exception is the best Dead Kennedys song, and one of the finest punk songs of all time,  is “Holiday in Cambodia.” “Holiday in Cambodia” is a blistering, (comparatively) subtle condemnation of both Pol Pot’s slaughter and fashion radical, whining lefty college students.

It’s also the only time on Monday that I didn’t fear the mosh pit.

I’ve been at country shows too long. I now have even less pit stamina than I did at age 17, when I first stared in fear at the squished together youths going nuts for the tubby old profane Irishman Jake Burns and the rest of Stiff Little Fingers (yes, I love me some old punks). I enjoyed that show. I kept my elbows up and kept my eyes out for people bouncing out of the pit and flailing into me — and then when I heard the opening guitar for “Suspect Device” I found myself joining the joyful masochism of the pit without much thought.

Since that day, at all punk shows, this same feeling never fails to happen, provided I love the music enough. It is difficult to dance to bad music (one reason I’ve never been to a club in my life), and it is much harder to mosh to music you dislike, or even are indifferent towards. The fearless, foolish mosh urge cannot be faked or summoned at will.  Moshing is a fucking stupid activity, and it is wonderful one. And it simply is or is not. I had a hint of the desire to move with everyone else for “Chemical Warfare”, a solid tune off the Dead Kennedys’ first album. I bumped a little on the edges of the pit. I tried my hand at the non-douchey, non-punching people in the face version of hardcore dancing, but that was all.

And then, after more over the top rants from Jello, more pleasant, but unknown solo stuff, there came the familiar notes of “Holiday in Cambodia.” It was all over. I jumped in. All worries over broken glasses, gimp legs kicked, or teeth knocked out vanished in an instant. All was happy screaming along with drunk, disgusting strangers. All was the highest form of joy that music exists to bring us all. We smashed together, my friend A. — tiny and blind, and a better mosher than I am — and I tried not to sexually assault Jello Biafra when he crowd surfed on our hands. (A drunk girl asked if I believed her when she said she had groped the man in an unfortunate place. I did. I think we all did. But unlike my youthful grabbing of the leg of Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello, I did not intend to do so. It was more an earnest effort to prevent him breaking his face.)

I used to be bothered that punks and certain leftists thought I was a ring-wing scumbag — that I was never, ever going to be one of those black hoodie and Municipal Waste T-clad people at the Mr. Roberto Project, or Gilman Street. I had so many happy experiences with these strangers, and if they knew me, I would never be one of them. The music wasn’t enough to bridge the gap between us, but it felt like it should be. I knew some left anarchist kids in Pittsburgh who tolerated my occasional presence, but I was not in solidarity with them. Nor did I want to be, even then, I suppose. I have been a libertarian since I was 13. (Since I realized George W. Bush was full of shit when he said he knew everyone executed under his watch was guilty. But that hate didn’t translate into leftism, unfortunately for my teenage social life.)

I can put my fist in the air in shameless emotion, arms around sweating strangers, in a painfully earnest Defiance, Ohio pit, and then the next day go back to my internship at Reason to rake in those David Koch dollars. And as I grew older, I could laugh about that dichotomy more.  It might be more satisfying to be “part of” the scene, than to feel like I alone had that secret joke, but the more “liberty movement” (for all its flaws) I found, the less that alienation from the motivation for this music I love mattered to me. (Plus, after hearing horror stories about the East Bay anarchist scene from T., I once again think I am good. I am not a punk.)

Music is more important than politics, and I wish my politics could be translated into kick-ass song, but at the end of the day, the baggage that goes with these ideas belongs to me for two hours at a show, and then I drop it. It’s not about growing out of it. Or that those shows don’t matter. It’s just…compartmentalizing. Metal fans don’t get to go home and be wizards or orcs. I don’t get to go home and be a punk. It’s a costume — an exaggeration that feels meaningful, and comes from real anger but maybe also is pretend the way “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” or “Fuck Tha Police” is a portrait of a feeling, not a photograph.

I try to explain to my mother the joy of the mosh, but she never quite gets it. I remember distinctly a girl who was my year at Chatham trying to tell me once that she was too old for pits. She was actually two years younger than I was, but that wasn’t even the point. My annoyance stemmed from the fact that this was water from the wide river of grow the fuck up, wear business casual and heels. Certainly the mosh is not everyone’s cup of tea — and again, I don’t believe it can be forced — but the teenage perfection of it, which still feels holy, and mad, and necessary, and not political, is not something to grow out of.

Richard Scaife — the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who died July 4 — was a complicated and interesting man, politically, personally and philanthropically.

If he had been a Democrat and liberal-funder of nutty leftwing causes like Teresa Heinz, instead of a Republican funder of libertarian conservative think tanks, media and politicians, President Obama would have ordered America’s flags to fly at half mast.

If you want two versions of Richard Scaife’s amazing life — and a textbook lesson in the rank subjectivity of newspapers — compare and contrast the obits written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Trib:

The PG obit:  Obituary: Richard M. Scaife / Ideologue, philanthropist, newspaper publisher

The Trib obit:  Richard Scaife, conservative champion, newsman & philanthropist, dies 

Decide for yourself who Richard Scaife really was. Good luck.

I worked at both papers — the PG in the 1990s and the Trib in the 2000s. When I decided to defect from the PG to the Trib, the first person I met for an interview was Richard Scaife. I worked my way down the chain of command and, after two years of interviews and dogged persistence on my part, I left the PG one Monday morning, crossed the Allegheny River and began work at the Trib 20 minutes later.

The Trib‘s obit is biased in Scaife’s favor, clearly. It leaves out all of the real-and-imagined dirt, nastiness and controversy, political and personal, all of which is debatable and too complicated for this blog item. It’ll be in someone else’s book someday, not mine. Or in a movie.

But the Trib‘s obit, while spun with loving positivity, gives Scaife his full due as a generous and important man. It also contains lots of mini-eulogies from political big shots like Romney and Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

For the next week Scaife will be beat up in the mainstream media for his conservative-libertarian politics.

Many creepy liberal pundits and partisans will dance on his grave because he so generously funded the post-Goldwater conservative movement and spent a couple million bucks in the 1990s attempting to bring down the Clintons, who, hilariously, became chummy with him once they were out of power.

Politics, politics, politics. The debate over whether Scaife was the Devil or an angel will, as usual, depend on what your politics are  and it will never die.

Bu what people of every partisan stripe should give Scaife great credit for was making Pittsburgh a competitive two-newspaper town.

Starting in 1993 as the Pittsburgh edition of Scaife’s Greensburg Tribune-Review, his heavily subsidized paper, the Pittsburgh Trib, improved the journalism of the area in countless ways.

Growing slowly, adding talent and steadily improving the quality of its journalism, the Trib applied a strict conservative-libertarian ideology to local, state and national news and politics.

The Trib became a valuable counterweight to the Post-Gazette, which was a union-loving, public-sector loving, liberal Democrat establishment paper that was too cozy for too long with the political and corporate power-brokers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

The journalism of both papers — news and opinion — was biased to reflect their publishers’ views. But the Trib editorial page (very very much Scaife’s political voice and generally a source of embarrassment/shame for the liberals running the paper’s news side) was not a mindless Republican cheerleader or a right-wing echo chamber.

During the 2000s, when I worked there, The Trib‘s editorials and op-eds were highly critical of any Republican who was insufficiently conservative.

It never got the national credit it deserved, but the Trib, entirely because of Richard Scaife’s positions, editorialized against going to war in Iraq in 2003, wisely/bravely came out in favor of marijuana decriminalization five years ago, and was steadfastly pro-choice.

In 30-plus years of newspaper journalism at the L.A. Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Trib, I worked for and with a lot of good, smart people and a few miserable assholes.

Mr. Scaife, as I called him when he dropped by the office, was always as nice to me as my favorite uncle. He gave me raises, put me on the paper’s masthead as an associate editor and sent me notes of praise for my op-ed columns and feature stories.

Best of all, unlike my previous editors/publishers, he didn’t hold my radical libertarian politics against me. He appreciated them.

Bloomfield, Pittsburgh

Bloomfield, Pittsburgh

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