Propel Pittsburgh: if you build it, will they come?

You may still vaguely remember the Propel Pittsburgh Commission, Mayor Ravenstahl’s plan to get together a bunch of smart young people to find ways to keep other young people in Pittsburgh. So far, it’s been a little less than stellar; we’ve been around for a year, and we’ve yet to even make a single formal recommendation, let alone start trying to do something. At our meeting this week, we were told in no uncertain terms that His Honor The Mayor is aware of this, and he is not pleased. Longtime readers know that I’m more of a Peduto-head, but nevertheless, Mayor Luke deserves credit for at least keeping an eye on his creation and trying to make it produce something useful. He’s even gone a bit further and given us a new staff person who has orders to whip us back into shape.

The fundamental problem, though, is one that seems to plague many public boards and commissions: people just plain don’t show up. We know there have been several resignations, although the complete list isn’t available. Beyond those, there’s another five to ten people who haven’t been seen since the first meeting. There was pretty steep competition to get onto this commission in the first place, and we see a bunch of empty chairs that are itching to be filled. The reason for this non-attendance is unclear, but as far as we can guess, it’s about schedule. We meet Downtown in the early evening, because the city officials who support us want to go home just as much as we do. Problem is, most young people don’t have total control over our work schedules, and if Propel is at the wrong time, then one more Commissioner is SOL.

Of course, such young tech-savvy personages as MetBlog readers might ask: can’t you people just do business over email, have conference calls, and otherwise use technology to quit spewing so much carbon? We could… except for this eensy thing called the Open Records Law. Turns out that as long as we’re a formal Commission, we have to comply with Open Records. That means all meetings scheduled in advance, open to the public, minutes kept, etc. Hard to shoehorn a listserv into that framework. As the years march on, more and more of the world’s governance is going to use electronic mechanisms, and this sort of thing is going to be a royal pain in the butt. Probably a good thing for some enterprising young state legislator to be considering…

In the meantime, despite all these slings and arrows, we actually have gotten some work done, particularly about immigration. More on that in a future post.

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