Following on from my post concerning the challenges facing Dave Bing, former NBA star and now the mayor of Detroit, today I turn my attention to the recently re-elected mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl. Mayor Ravenstahl was the focus of a recent article in the New York Times, published just before his re-election: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/us/02pittsburgh.html. The article reflects on the challenges facing one of the nation’s youngest mayors (he was just 26 when he first took office, following the death of his predecessor Bob O’ Conner, in 2006). In common with other post-industrial ‘shrinking cities’, the main problems faced by Pittsburgh today are the high vacancy rates and the reduced tax base brought about by a population that has halved since the mid 20th century. The New York Times article focuses primarily on the fiscal challenge, as well as a crippling pension deficit that ranks among the worst in the country (for more detail on the pension crisis, see: http://www.postgazette.com/pg/09180/980640-100.stm). According to the article, Mayor Ravenstahl has earned his second term in office, having taken tough action to reduce the fiscal deficit, such as reducing the size of the city’s workforce and improving the efficiency of its snow-removal operations. He is also credited with securing more financial assistance from the state (no easy task, as anyone who followed the fortunes of Baltimore’s fictional Mayor Carcetti in The Wire will testify) and with helping Pittsburgh’s economy to transition from its traditional reliance on the steel industry to a modern, service-based economy built around health, education and ‘green’ businesses. Despite his promising start, the article envisions bigger challenges ahead for Mayor Ravenstahl than just ‘keeping up the good work’. First, he needs to set about reforming the pension system. Second, he needs to build a better relationship with the City Council and the Legislature than has hitherto been the case, else he will not be able to progress the next phase of his fiscal overhaul that involves the introduction of new taxes and fees on universities and hospitals. Mayor Ravenstahl remains one of a select few mayors of large American cities who is currently the ‘right’ side of 30, but by the sound of things, he might have more than just a few gray hairs to show for his efforts to fortify The Steel City by the time the next election comes around in 2013.

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