By Andrew Conte
On Steelers Sundays or when the Penguins go into the playoffs, everyone across the region considers themselves Pittsburghers. We are a fam-a-lee!
But the rest of the time, a place like California, Pa., can seem a long way from downtown Pittsburgh. At least that’s what residents at the Bridge Pittsburgh community outreach event in Washington County told us. One woman drew a picture with Pittsburgh at one corner of the page – and California at the other, at the end of what she said feels like a long, winding and uphill road. A man used red marker to draw a person with an axe sticking out of his head, saying the regional media seem to show up only when something bad happens.
Yet, when we started talking about the issues that are important to people in rural areas south of the city, residents talked about many of the same things we heard in other places. People want more transparency from local government, they want the best possible education and opportunities for their young people, and they worry about the spread of drugs.
To be sure, some other issues felt more pertinent in Washington County: Gas fracking, for instance, counts as both a feel-good story and a concern.
At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see where all of this ends up. For now, it seems like we might have more in common than any of us realizes.
Big thanks to our new friends at California University of Pennsylvania for arranging the event, especially Pam DelVerne and Jeff Helsel. Also much appreciation for the media partners who attended from the Mon Valley Independent and Pennsylvania Bridges.