Investigating the Stagnant Political Situation in Pittsburgh Essay

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Program Implementation: Investigating the Stagnant Political Situation in Pittsburgh

A Proposal for the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy

This proposal for a program implementation is targeted at the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. The goal of the program is to investigate underlying attitudes among adult female citizens towards the political stagnancy in Pittsburgh. It will seek to determine whether these citizens perceive the political situation as stagnant, if they feel that they are resistant to change, if they believe that Pittsburgh is outperforming comparably-positioned cities, and if they feel like they can make meaningful political changes on the city and county level. The goal of the project is to help the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy understand how to motivate greater female participation in the local political process in order to implement positive female-oriented policy changes.

Targeted Organization

The organization for whom this report has been prepared is the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. The goal of the Center is to affect public policy to improve the status and impact of women in Pennsylvania, particularly western Pennsylvania. The attention of this organization has been sought because of its interactions with female voters. While female voters in Pittsburgh appear responsive to national and statewide concerns, they have not responded to local-level issues with broad changes in the local leadership structures.

Gender Differences in Voters

One of the reasons that a woman's oriented organization has been targeted because men and women are believed to respond differently to political scenarios. "The gender gap -- the difference between how men and women vote -- represents on average a seven point gulf between the sexes during presidential elections" (Copeland, 2012). What is interesting is that the gender gap in voters does not seem due to women's willingness to transition political positions, but their willingness to adhere to their own personal standings. "The women's movement reinforced the growing sense that women's political interests could and should be different than those of their husbands and fathers" (Copeland, 2012). Therefore, women seem willing to vote in their own interests, at least on a state and federal level. However, women in the Pittsburgh are, like men, seem to discuss their frustration with the current political scenario, but to stop short of engaging in meaningful changes, instead re-electing the same officials who seem unwilling to move Pittsburgh forward.

Problem and Need

The primary reason for this study is that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is characterized by considerable dormancy in the political process. This political complacency has led Pittsburgh to miss out on some opportunities that a more aggressively forward-seeking government would have seized. Furthermore, the stagnancy dominants both city and county levels of local government. The result is that Pittsburgh continues to fall behind other cities of comparable size. One sees this lag in both Pittsburgh's educational and economic opportunities. Despite being well-suited for a positive economic environment, Pittsburgh has lost economic viability at an alarming rate, which makes one wonder if the Steel City is poised to compete with the Motor City for obsolescence.

Any observer can see that the city and county level governments are very unwilling to change. However, understanding that the city is stagnant is not the same as understanding why the city is stagnant. Helping encourage political action is impossible without an understanding of why the people of Pittsburgh have been so reluctant to vote in political change. Therefore, this proposal involves implementing a study would examine why the citizens of Pittsburgh exhibit the same type of complacency as their elected officials, and reject change, even when that change would be beneficial to the community. It will focus on female citizens because the female vote has proven so critical in recent elections.

Political Stagnancy

Political stagnancy seems to be a way of life for much of American government, and many people believe that a conservative ideological viewpoint indicates a need for such stagnancy. However, when one looks at campaign promises, though rarely fulfilled, one sees that candidates' promises for change speak to the fact that many Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the current state of American politics. Moreover, it would be erroneous to assume that these politicians are intentionally misleading voters; instead, many of them seem to support the idea of significant, systemic change, then, once they are in-place find that interior change is very difficult because of how governmental systems work. In many ways, it appears that thorough change would require either an overhaul of the entire political system or removing everyone that is currently in office and replacing them. In many ways, the problems of stagnancy seem to be magnified as one moves up from local government towards national government. At the federal level, it can be difficult for a political party to push through any meaningful change, even if that change has broad public support, because of established political systems. One need only look at the fact that abortion has been considered a critical political issue for 40 years to see that the political system is stagnant. Moreover, this stagnancy is not about policy positions; whether someone is pro-life or pro-choice, there has to be frustration at the fact that the issue has not been resolved and has been taking up political currency and attention for two generations.

In many locations, while state and federal governments may remain somewhat unresponsive to citizen's issues, local governments have been able to engage in major social change. Examples of cities with dynamic local governments that respond to the needs of their citizenry include New York, San Francisco, and even Houston. All three of these cities have experienced sustained economic growth, weathered the recession better than their counterparts, and maintained educational standards that are higher than would be expected if comparing their state's educational performance with the socioeconomic factors of their states.

Why is stagnancy so dangerous in a local government, when it does not seem to cripple a federal government? The reality is that many citizens are far more impacted by local government decisions than they are by federal or state government decisions. For example, both San Francisco and Detroit were relatively successful in the 1980s, but San Francisco has boomed while Detroit has literally become a ghost town. Much of these changes are due to the policies that state and county government took towards innovation in the areas. In fact, looking around the United States at the disparity between different locations, it becomes clear that some areas have seized hold of technological and economic changes and found themselves thriving, even though the rest of the country struggles. Moreover, these changes do not seem due to any inherent physical differences that are beyond the cities' control. For example, Silicon Valley could just as easily have developed in an area like Detroit; the industry is not dependent upon shipping or other geographic concerns, and San Francisco is not inherently better positioned for the industry than Detroit.

Pittsburgh's Three-Part Stagnancy

One of the harbingers of stagnancy actually appears to be a history of greatness. When a city has built its historic success on one or two industries that find themselves in decline, many of the local government leaders seem determined to hold on to these industries, rather than exploring new activities. Pittsburgh is one of those local areas. There is no question that Pittsburgh was once considered a necessary city for the entire United States; it was the center of the U.S. steel industry. However, steel no longer plays a pivotal part in America's economy. Obviously, this was going to impact Pittsburgh's economy, but it did not have to lead to an area-wide depression, which is what has occurred. Even more alarming is the idea that, even when community leaders suggested positive changes, city and county government officials failed to implement them, and the citizens did not seem upset by this complacency. Another indicator of stagnation is that Pittsburgh's political arena is rife with corruption, but its citizens seem unwilling to challenge that situation. This project seeks to determine the underlying causes for this ennui, by focusing on how female citizens respond to the stagnation in the political process.

Literature Review

One of the reasons that people in Pittsburgh may be complacent about its political situation is the fact that area leaders have been touting the idea that the city is experiencing some type of renaissance. However, this simply does not appear to be the case. For example, when the G-20 Summit was set to meet in Pittsburgh, many people saw that as a sign that not only Pittsburgh was finally able to overcome its history as a steel town and thrive in a post-steel economy, but that the world was willing to acknowledge its economic vibrancy. This led to the discussion that Pittsburgh was undergoing some type of Renaissance. However, author Aaron Renn wrote an interesting article challenging the idea that Pittsburgh was undergoing a Renaissance and the points he made are all points that should…

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