Monday, August 17, 2009

Local G20 Preparations Make Forecasting Cloudy

The three most apparent prongs of local government's strategy with respect to managing the G20 summit are (1) close every downtown institution for the entirety of the event, (2) deny permits to those who seek to engage in protest during the event and (3) establish a harsh security perimeter several to a half-dozen blocks from the Convention Center.

The first point generates doubt the event could generate a substantial, if any, net benefit for the city or region. It will be expensive, and disruptive, for businesses that must relocate or suspend operations, employees who lose shifts and income, parents whose daycare will be unavailable, and the like -- even before the first window is broken.

The second and third points increase the difficulty of forecasting the course or consequence of politican-police-protester interactions associated with the event -- and decrease the likelihood local officials know or will be prepared to manage what is to occur. Their deny-it-and-they-won't-come approach to dissent seems likely to provoke angry conflict in Pittsburgh's streets . . . and to ensure local officials will be relatively low on the chain-of-command-and-influence list as the event unfolds.

I now expect the call-the-shots ranking to be
(1) Secret Service (and, exerting influence solely in extraordinary circumstances, the United States Department of Defense),
(2) Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania,
(3)(tie) Vic Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union, and
(3)(tie) the new United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania (or, if Mary Beth Buchanan has not yet been replaced, a special designate of the United States Department of Justice),
(5) an amorphous mass consisting of (a) the Mayor of Pittsburgh, (b) the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, (c) the Allegheny County Executive, (d) protest leaders, including state Sen. Jim Ferlo, (e) protesters' lawyers, (f) the FBI and FEMA, (g) the Pennsylvania State Police, (h) the Pennsylvania National Guard, (i) the Governor, (j) county emergency services officials, and (k) whichever adults the mayor relies upon when the fur flies.

Unless local officials reached a shared understanding with Walczak and protester lawyers before the event begins, I expect Judge Ambrose and Walczak to be dictating terms along a timetable initiated by Walczak. Some local officials seem destined to learn quickly that dealing with Judge Ambrose is nothing like having a security detail deal with an agitated boyfriend at McFadden's. In any event, the outcome range currently seems vast.


Anonymous said...

But it's only for two days. Looking at the bigger picture, so what if a bunch of businesses around the DLLCC are shut down? Won't that be counterbalanced by the full hotels and busy restaurants?

Infinonymous said...

Many restaurants will be closed. Others will lack their usual clientele. Most of the events participants will be cocooned at the Convention Center, taking their meals there.

Only two days? What about the preparation, and the cleanup?

What is the bigger picture? Is the event going to attract business to Pittsburgh, or improve local government? Is it going to cause anyone to vacation in Pittsburgh? Is it going to persuade a single young, education person to refrain from leaving for greener pastures?

Most important, however, I hope you already wish you could retract that "so what if a bunch of businesses around the DLLCC are shut down" statement.