10 December 2009


Last night’s cityLIVE event, 10 people. 3 minutes, was a roaring success.  10 brilliant people with 10 brilliant ideas.

Our moderator, Chris Potter, conducted a survey to determine the “winner” by providing 5 pennies to each audience member, and a styrofoam cup for each panelist, bedecked with their photo. Late last night, Chris and his wife counted pennies. He remarked that as an alt-weekly journalist, a lot of his workdays end this way.

Top honors go to Jon Rubin of the renowned East Liberty Waffle Shop.  Chris will make a donation in his name to Pittsburgh Promise. The amount is TBD but he promises it will be less than the $10 million donated by UPMC, but more than the 41 cents dropped into Jon’s cup.

Jon amazingly crammed three big ideas into three little minutes.


We should kick all of PGH’s universities off their campuses and out of their buildings, and relocate each and every university department—classrooms, teachers, students and all— throughout the entire city into storefronts, apartments, boats, abandoned car dealerships, even tree houses.

For over a century PGH’s universities, like universities in all major areas, have operated in relative isolation from the rest of the city, with students rarely straying very far from the campuses. Decentralizing the universities will turn the whole city into a campus, spreading the wealth and resources that colleges attract and flattening the social hierarchy between the schools and the city.

Also, by removing faculty and students from the Ivory Tower, we’ll develop a richer educational experience. Imagine: a writing department on a coal barge, a philosophy department at the casino, a physics program in row houses, a business school at city hall, and university lectures in backyards and street corners.

Additionally, the transportation issues created for the universities in terms of students getting to classes in different parts of the city, will become the Mother of Invention. I guarantee, if this is implemented, within 10 years we would have the most advanced and progressive light rail system in the world..


A lot of time has been spent trying to reinvigorate downtown PGH as destination spot for new residents and businesses. As someone who recently moved here from California, I think the solution goes way beyond new condos, graffiti removal, and streetscaping. It calls for radical measures.

I say we install super-gigantic sky fans around the perimeter of downtown PGH- blowing out. The effect of this would be to create a perpetual sunny zone over the downtown area.

This urban miracle would attract tourist and sunbathers, and more importantly reverse suburban flight -since not only would downtown seem more attractive, but the weather in the surrounding suburbs would actually become worse.

Now, a byproduct of this could be a weather war -where cities, states and even countrys fight to push bad weather onto each other. The upside of that is that every war creates a new industry and we would have gotten in on the ground floor.


Pittsburgh used to be known internationally because of its greatest export—steel. We have struggled since the collapse of the steel industry to reclaim our identity on the international stage. Ironically, what we are most recognized for now is being the home of a football team named the Steelers.

In order to regain our spot on the worldwide stage, we need to export our greatest resource again. To do this, I propose that next year— the Pittsburgh Steelers become an international traveling soccer team. Think of them as the Harlem Globetrotters of soccer, but instead of choreographed slapstick, the Steelers would delight the crowd with their naive rule-breaking hits and illegal use of hands.

Seriously, the last World Cup had a cumulative viewership of 30 billion people, just think how many Primantii brothers sandwiches we could sell. If we really want to call ourselves the city of champions I suggest we take the big leap and go with the short shorts.

If you missed out, shame on you.  But we’ll do it again next year.


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