Purcell: D.C. vs Pittsburgh
Washington, D.C., routinely ranks high in surveys on America’s most livable cities, but as somebody who’s been a resident of both areas, I can tell you that Pittsburgh’s a far better place to live.
Some in D.C. look down on us for living in “flyover country” — they think Washingtonians are smart and sophisticated while we are ill-informed — but I’ve found the opposite to be true.
Having lived in the D.C. region for nearly eight years, I’m telling you that Pittsburgh — where I was born and raised and have my home — is the better place to live.
First, Washington isn’t a real city. A giant metro parking lot of a region, it’s propped up by tax dollars and lobbying budgets, which fund its chief industry: blather and B.S.
In Pittsburgh, a real city where real people work real jobs, Pittsburghers’ brawn and sweat mined the coal that fueled our nation and forged the steel that built our country and won wars — a heritage that inspires a proud work ethic still.
Washington is filled with people with advanced college degrees. That’s fine. But common sense is in short supply. It takes but an inch of snow to panic drivers and shut the government down. Washington is America’s only city where fully grown adults still enjoy snow days.
Pittsburghers, much more resilient, are hearty and inventive. They shovel their own driveways when snow falls. They function in winter the way Washingtonians function only when it’s 80 degrees and sunny.
The truth is that D.C.’s white-collar folks are totally dependent on the blue-collar people who maintain their water supply, electricity, smartphone signal, etc. — the people who keep the world running like a well-oiled machine.
Unlike D.C., buckets of money aren’t pouring into Pittsburgh — one reason its housing is way more affordable. What would be a modest Pittsburgh starter home sells for $500,000 or more in D.C. Who can afford that?
Sure, Pittsburgh’s property taxes are awfully high, whereas those in Washington are reasonable. But that’s a good thing: I prefer my tax dollars be wasted at the local level rather than the federal level.
As for air and water quality, Washington excels in both. Some nights, the air is so clear, you can see D.C. gunfire from as far away as Alexandria, Virginia. But the air is clear because nobody makes anything there.
In Pittsburgh, a little pollution is the price we pay for actually making real products — such as steel for the chairs upon which rest so many paper-pushing Washingtonians’ posteriors.
Yes, Pittsburgh’s roads are bad. Some of our potholes are so large that after every thunderstorm, we need to staff them with lifeguards. But transportation’s better in Pittsburgh.
Ever tried getting around in Washington? You can’t pick up milk without making a Mario Andretti foray onto a six-lane speedway or getting lost in a maze of one-way roads that always go the opposite way you want to go.
People are what sets Pittsburgh apart most, however. Friendly, compassionate and concerned for their neighbors, Pittsburghers really do want to solve our country’s many problems and prefer real results over rhetoric and promises.
D.C. has its charms. But take it from someone who’s lived in both places: Pittsburgh — and many other wonderful cities throughout America’s heartland — are filled with smart, sophisticated, wonderful people. And the livability surveys really ought to give us more credit for that.
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc.