Bill Steigerwald

The city you chose to host the G-20, Mr. President, is in fact bankrupt and in state receivership because of decades of chronic mismanagement, stupidity and generous pension deals that previous generations of political hacks promised their employees but couldn't pay for.

For at least the last 30 years, Pittsburgh's power brokers have wasted billions of federal and state tax money on a series of destructive urban renewal schemes, redevelopment boondoggles and wasteful mass-transit projects.

Almost everything new and shiny that you and Michelle will see in downtown Pittsburgh or on its riverbanks was built with government money or millions in taxpayer subsidies - whether it was PNC Financial Service's almost completed downtown skyscraper or the new homes of the Pirates, Steelers and (soon) the Penguins.

That kind of government intervention may not bother you and your crew of czars. But if you and Michelle get a chance to stroll around downtown this week, look for the big hole in the street in front of Fifth Avenue Place. You can hardly miss it.

That hole - part of a construction site that has ripped up parts of downtown for several years -- symbolizes everything that's wrong with Pittsburgh.

It is the downtown end of the infamous North Shore Connector, a 1.2-mile transit tunnel that was built under the Allegheny River to where the pro baseball and football palaces are. We un-affectionately call it our "Tunnel to Nowhere."

Our wise Democrat and Republican politicians, 1960's-era planners and mass-transit apologists thought the tunnel would be a swell way to waste at least $600 million in "free" federal and state money to carry fewer than 10,000 humans a day back and forth across (under) the river.

There is much more evidence of City Hall's clumsy handiwork around downtown, Mr. President, but it's time to end this note with a simple request. Next time you're looking to "honor" a city with a G-20 summit, pick Chicago.


Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..