Pittsburgh Snags G-20 Summit

By Boren, Jeremy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Pittsburgh Snags G-20 Summit

Boren, Jeremy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

There was no real decision to make about hosting the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Opportunities to spotlight the region's economic resilience despite the recession and attract businesses and residents to halt Pittsburgh's population decline were too tempting, city and county officials said.

"I think we're going to be highlighted in a way that we never have before because of our selection as the G-20 host city," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told a roomful of international journalists Sept. 9. "We're looking at this as an opportunity to reintroduce the world to Pittsburgh."

But commuters, residents and business owners worry the summit could stir a sour reintroduction.

Many fear that thousands of protesters will destroy property and disrupt commerce during the two-day summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday and Friday.

Some members of Pittsburgh City Council argued they should have been consulted before agreeing to host.

County Executive Dan Onorato said White House officials informed him about Pittsburgh's selection and assumed the city would want to host 1,200 international delegates from 19 countries and the European Unions.

"We were not saying 'no,' " Onorato said. "They didn't ask like that. I think they assumed that everybody on the short list would be excited about it -- and we were."

Onorato doesn't believe rumors that public officials in other cities, such as Chicago, rejected offers to host the summit before officials approached Pittsburgh.

"This whole story about anybody rejecting it, we don't believe it," he said.

Ravenstahl contends the decision wasn't forced, and that he gladly accepted the offer when it was extended in May.

Hillary may have helped

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign might have played a role in getting the summit.

Pennsylvania is normally an irrelevant April pit stop for candidates in the Democratic primary, but Clinton's campaign hyped the state's primary as a "must-win" in her ultimately unsuccessful race against President Barack Obama.

"They spent an enormous amount of time in Pennsylvania, and we believe that gave them an opportunity to get some familiarity with Pittsburgh, with the story, with what was happening here," said Bill Flanagan, executive director of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

A six-week lull in contests between the Mississippi and Pennsylvania primaries forced both candidates to stump repeatedly in Pittsburgh as they toured the state.

"If you look back at the rhetoric the president used, it was in this sort of (economic) transformation camp, it wasn't that Pennsylvania is another Ohio, it's not another economic basket case," he said.

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