|The historic Capitol Theater serves as a gathering place for|
CapLive events, film screenings and community meetings.
It's an important part of what makes York special.
Then, I read the coverage of the Building York Summit and the thread of “reader feedback” comments in response to the online version of the Daily Record’s story.
What a contrast in perspectives!
In both the article and online, the writers reflected a sense that the City of York was some sort of basket case that had miles to go to reach simple respectability. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And ironically, many of the warts that people cite as almost insurmountable obstacles are present in spades in Pittsburgh. Whether it’s crumbling infrastructure, dilapidated housing, crime, financial challenges or ornery public-employee unions, Pittsburgh’s got ‘em all! And guess what? Forbes is right anyway!
Because Pittsburgh also has the other things Pittsburgh has are marvelous performing arts, world-class medical centers, cool historic buildings, rivers and bike paths, classic neighborhoods, interesting shops, championship sports teams, committed foundations, and museums ranging from the sciences to the avant-garde arts. And the city is full of researchers, university students, artists, environmentalists, and entrepreneurs – and also of bureaucrats, desk clerks, convenience-store clerks, prison guards, bus drivers – all the people who actually make a city work day-in and day-out.
See, this imagined perfect – perhaps almost pristine – physical, social or fiscal environment people seem to want in York is not only unnecessary for success, it’s not even desirable.
If you want a sanitized environment, go live at the York Galleria.
If you want a real environment, move into Newton Square, the Avenues, Fireside, South York, or downtown. Put your company downtown, and shop at Central Market with your neighbors. Come to ball games at Sovereign Bank Stadium and concerts at the Strand. And yes, encounter the occasional panhandler, trip over the occasional broken curb, grit your teeth while you bounce through the ruts of South George Street, and mutter in occasional frustration over the latest city financial issue.
And while you’re doing it, remind yourself that notwithstanding any of those things, in the last four years, through the worst recession any of us have ever encountered, downtown York has added businesses, apartments, concerts, restaurants, ball games, and jobs. Remind yourself that perhaps the very last building in downtown that has gone untouched since Hurricane Agnes – at 22 South George – is being renovated right now. Remind yourself that Central Market has an energized Board of Directors and is adding cool, new stands for the first time in years. While you’re at it, remind yourself that our Central Market now has a student-run bakery, a grass-fed beef stand, and soon a microbrewery.
Still feeling sorry for yourself?
Remind yourself that York College is bringing fine arts students downtown. Remind yourself that our Mayor and City Council debate issues civilly and reach compromises for the good of our city, that our crime rate is going down, and that 250 people care enough about our town to respond so enthusiastically to the Building York summit that they created a waiting list!
You see, “My Tale of Two Cities” was not about Pittsburgh as a piece of geography. Rather, it was about Pittsburgh as an attitude. It was about why Carl was drawn back to it warts and all. It was about the paradox – that a place can be beset by all sorts of afflictions, and still be wonderful. Look at this recent opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The city is grabbing a higher percentage of college grads. All of which should prove to us that we need not – in fact should not – use any of our own so-called “warts” as an excuse. A city need not be perfect to be great.
And anyone who is still sitting around waiting for some imagined better day for York should recognize that our day is here right now.
Eric Menzer is president of the York Revolution professional baseball team and manages the Codo Development Group, a real estate development company working in downtown York. Eric is active in community affairs and civic leadership at both the local and state level. He chairs the York County Community Foundation and serves on the boards of Downtown Inc, Better York, YorkCounts and the Crispus Attucks Association. He just concluded several years as Chairman of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide policy-research and advocacy organization that promotes smart growth and urban revitalization, and he remains active on that board. Eric was previously the senior vice president of Wagman Construction in York. Prior to that, he served for eight years as York’s director of economic development and previously as the executive director of the York County Transportation Authority. He is a passionate baseball fan and lives in York with his wife and daughter.