Sunday, February 20, 2011
It's My Nature To Be A Skeptic.
I'm intrigued by John Fetterman. You might know who he is, He's the mayor of the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Braddock is distressed town located near Pittsburgh that like many rust belt towns, has seen better days and is dying a slow death and needing a revival.
John Fetterman thinks he has a way of improving Braddock's fortunes and is doing whatever he can to do so. He's part Robert Moses, Part Father Flannagan and Part Donald Trump. He's an impressive physical specimen, Standing 6 foot 8, He looks like the Hulked-Out version of Anton LaVey, The founder of the Church of Satan.
He uses his appearance to attract attention to the plight of his town, Trying to generate investment in a town where property can be bought really cheap, Arts Festivals are hyped, and beauty can be found if you know where to look.
He brings his gospel to the mass media with appearances on The Colbert Report, articles in the New York Times and an pretty moving Levis commercial which states "There's Work To Be Done", a mantra he's trying to adopt for the town of Braddock.
Fetterman is big on bringing green technology to the town. He's set up community gardens in vacant lots around town, He set up several youth centers in town using some of his family's foundation money.
So I'm rooting for the guy, Actually I'm rooting for what he stands for and hope he succeeds, But being a skeptic I don't allow myself to buy into what he is hook, line and sinker. There must be something about what he's doing that's not kosher, something that might might work as intended. I need something that tells both sides of the story.
Thankfully, The New York Times did a profile on John Fetterman that had some critics of his work. The problem is his critics are poor examples to counter his approach to solving the problems with the town of Braddock.
First up is the town's city council. They felt that he would take a back door approach in getting things done. He used his family's foundation to build youth centers. The council thought it would be nice if John would say he had some money and asked the council how to spend it. Well, Let's just say that both sides of the political aisle would like to tell the city council to stick it. Unless, Fetterman wants to do something harmful, It shouldn't matter what does with his money.
The second person profiled critical of Fetterman is a woman who moved to Braddock in 2008 after reading about Fetterman and his plans for the town of Braddock. She paid 125,000 dollars for a "colossal" bank building. she didn't know what she was going to do with it but she said it didn't matter. She figured the vibe of Braddock would move her. But the building sprang a leak that overwhelmed her. However, It seems trivial in light of the fact she dropped six figures buying a building she had no idea what she was going to do with and she did it on her own and was overwhelmed with the responsibility. Poor planning and impulse thinking isn't Fetterman's fault. She still got a sweet deal and she will be able to sell it on a profit if she waits a little time.
And there is this couple from Alaska who moved to Braddock after scouting it out beforehand. They thought they had a good deal when they bought a $5,000 dollar fixer upper. It had been declared uninhabitable so they had to spend nearly 60 grand before they fixed up a place to be livable. The house they live in is one of the more crime ridden streets of the town. Still, I don't feel bad for them. They understood through the friends they knew that it takes a lot of money and effort to fix up their cheap place and in my opinion got off easy with it being less than 60 grand. Even in a bad town, That's a great deal in this century.
Then there was this self described "straight-edge vegan punk rocker" and occasional model. He's 25 years old. And he pooled resources with six other people to create an inexpensive "live-work" space where they can play music, write and build bikes. It cost them only 6 thousand dollars. Sure it was run down but it was a perfect place to pursue your muse without worrying about high rent or messing up the place. Then this person states his goal is to build himself a life that meets his needs most effectively and somehow that involves him qualifying for food stamps. Not exactly building up on the opportunity giving back in return for cheap housing.
There was one person whose criticism of John Fetterman resonated with me. A man in his early 30s who had grown up in the town and saw it go from being a dying town into a dead town. He struggles to get enough employment to get by and he isn't benefiting from the improvements of the town. The Farmers Market in town was to expensive and the jobs created weren't in his skill level. He thinks John Fetternman is doing a good job particularly wit the kids but feels resigned in his own fate.
I'm hoping that Braddock'a success story is enduring and becomes a blueprint for other struggling Rust Belt cities large and small that have struggled after the captains of industry abandoned them after draining the towns of all its resources. It will do more to build up our strength than our current method of trying to appease the elitists (with tax cuts and bail outs) who have done nothing to build back America's strength.