I am writing in response to a recent article you posted (Beltzhoover residents will be surveyed to create strategies for neighborhood, South Pittsburgh Reporter March 24, 2015) regarding an upcoming survey of Beltzhoover by the Hilltop Alliance.
They received a grant to canvas the neighborhood about the needs and circumstances. I have a few questions as I have doubts about the value of the survey. My son lives in the heart of Beltzhoover on Chalfont Street and my daughter and I live nearby.
Beltzhoover is not “Hilltop” or Mt. Washington. Will the Hilltop people use locals to do the door-to-door survey? Or use locals to prepare the mailers? Locals need the work.
Is the survey to collect economic or social data? If so, that data is already available from Census (they are presently doing a community survey by the way), county welfare, education, land tax value or labor market data set used by the government and available from innumerable studies and public sources.
It is not like the Hilltop Alliance will be able to do a statistically valid study in any event. The data they collect will be skewed as the sample size will be too small, some houses will not reply, some will be hostile, some will give incorrect information.
The data collected by the government has the incentive of benefits and penalties, so it tends to be far more correct than some amateur attempt at a community survey. It is not like the Hilltop Alliance will be doing some form of regression analysis to test some theory of economic development to publish in a peer reviewed journal.
Many of the problems do not need a new study as they are self-evident. Trash and decay come to mind. The “gardens” the Hilltop Alliance and others have tried to do have gone into disrepair, a good start but it needs more impetus and participation. Keeping the neighborhoods up is not a one-time photo opportunity, or a chance at a grant to pay for the salary of a desk jockey.
It needs to be a long-term, routine maintenance carried out with discipline and continual funding by people doing real work outside, on the streets. Businesses and new residents will come when they see we care enough about our neighborhoods to make them attractive to the eye and pleasant to live in.
My view is that any funds provided for redundant, endless surveys carried out over many years be used instead to pay young people each summer to clean up lots and sidewalks. The YMCA or rec centers would be great HQs. These surveys tell us what we already know.
It does not take a lot of imagination to come up with ideas. Repaint the mural on 18th Street. Make a few new ones perhaps. Plant some of the dogwoods the city gives away every year on empty lots. Mow weeds and grass on empty lots. Cultivate rhododendrons for the parks – they grow well on their won and add color to the urban forest. Contact owners of derelict properties to ask if we can cover broke windows, or clean up the yards. Find a way to recycle all the old tires. Install trash cans on strategic corners, and have someone collect the bags every week – pay them, say $10, for each time they do. The city can provide the insurance (they are self-insured) and supervision for crews of local teens.
A non-profit layer of administration is a waste of money, as they take a cut of the total funds. The 10-20 percent overhead they take in could be used to hire more kids to do the work. The city can provide the insurance and supervision for crews of local teens.
It is time for deeds not surveys.