Tom Murphy speaks on campus

Former Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy gave a lecture on the transformation of Pittsburgh through urban design Last Monday in the Adamson Wing of Baker Hall.

Murphy, a Democrat, served as mayor from 1994 until 2005, finishing out his term after he announced he would not seek re-election.

With the help of visuals, Murphy gave a tour of the newly developed areas of Pittsburgh starting with the South Side Works. He lamented the loss of history in exchange for progress but remained optimistic. “Instead of a steel mill, we have a Cheesecake Factory,” he said.

Murphy moved on to the innovative techniques used in providing residential housing. He used Washington Landing, an urban redevelopment on the island near Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, as an example of a newly established development.

“Washington Landing was a hazardous waste dump that was covered with a tennis court,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s lecture had a three-fold theme. The first part detailed how polluted Pittsburgh was 30 years
ago and how far it has come since then.

Murphy noted that fish have filled the rivers again and animals now inhabit the forests. “Life came back to Pittsburgh,” said Murphy, “because of the community will to make it happen.”

The second part of Murphy’s lecture focused on Pittsburgh’s tax problem. He stated 335,000 people pay taxes in the city of Pittsburgh, while another 275,000 people commute from surrounding areas to
work and pay no taxes to the city at all.

“[I’m surprised] at how much the city has shrunk and how it is still supporting a large number of people during the day, while it only has 400,000 living in the actual city,” said Matthew Rosier, a sophomore civil engineering major.

Murphy went on to further explain that the city exempted 40 percent of land and 50 percent of
businesses from paying taxes.

The businesses exempted include University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Mellon Bank, and PNC Bank.
Those businesses, Murphy explained, earn the largest income out of all the other businesses
in the area.

While Murphy offered humorous anecdotes and tales of a city polluted, he failed to mention a plan to bring Pittsburgh out of its financial woes.

“The Steelers are virtually all that unites us,” said Murphy. The former mayor ended his lecture by mentioning how he would like that to change.