Saturday, April 25, 2009

Name A Bridge After Tom Murphy? Great Idea!! I Nominate The Perfect Bridge For This Honor

Chris Briem, at Null Space (via Return to Pittsburgh), points to a couple of articles in which someone who thinks highly of Tom Murphy (apparently, crossing the U.S. border creates enough distance to permit such thoughts) offers a glowing depiction of the former mayor who did his damnedest to put the "pit" in Pittsburgh.

Chris even exhumes a remarkable proposal to name the Hot Metal Bridge for Tom Murphy. That strikes me as a crackerjack idea, every bit as good as betting the mortgage on the Pirates to win this year's Series, or planning a big shopping trip to the downtown Lazarus (with a convenient stop at the nearby Lord & Taylor), or working on a spending plan for all of the tax revenue generated by the Fifth-Forbes project.

Those familiar with Murphy's terms as mayor will understand (with a wince) those references.

Murphy set the foundation for the worst sustained futility in the American history of major professional sports when he (a) tried to steer the Pirates to felon John Rigas (right, with federal marshal, more to the right), (b) shunning more than one first-rate bidder, and was consequently (c) forced to settle for the greedy, inept ownership group of Kevin McClatchy. Murphy compounded the failure by devoting hundreds of millions of dollars to North Side stadiums and parking lots, enriching the Rooneys and McClatchy's partnership while wasting scarce land. The result of that investment? A Pirates team with a lesser record, a smaller payroll and less attendance than was the case at Three Rivers Stadium. Plus a huge football field, used for roughly 20 games and a few concerts over the course of a year, on some of the most important land in a 100-mile radius.

Sixteen straight years of losing, illusory development, a nine-figure giveaway -- sound like a disaster? Not by the standards of Tom Murphy.

Murphy spent millions of public dollars to build a Lazarus department store, then bastardized a majestic historic building (an original Mellon Bank) to accommodate Lord & Taylor. Both stores failed spectacularly and closed quickly, leaving glaring symbols of failure at downtown Pittsburgh's heart.

Fifth-Forbes was a half-baked plan, hatched in secrecy and planned to batter its way past any dissent or analysis, to grab entire blocks of downtown Pittsburgh by eminent domain, raze the buildings piecemeal, and hand the entire area to a no-bid developer whose plans were pathetic. Longtime businesses were to be displaced, in many cases for similar businesses operated by acquaintances of the out-of-town developer. Residential development was not part of the plan, but a series of luxury stores was. The plan was derailed by a civic-minded alliance of downtown property owners, historical architecture advocates, and persons with average-or-above intelligence.

That is a mere summary of Tom Murphy's lasting impact on the City of Pittsburgh -- there is plenty more where that came from -- but even this brief list of highlights is enough to cause me to endorse the proposal to rename a bridge for Tom "Tantrum" Murphy. I not only second the motion but indeed request expedited consideration -- because, given the bridge that would be the most fitting symbol of Tom Murphy's legacy, this is an idea whose time not only has come . . . but probably can't wait much longer.

Davis Avenue Bridge, I dub thee the Tom Murphy Bridge.

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