The Fix Was Always In?

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Pittsburgh has many bridges. Depending on which statistics you cite, we have more bridges than Venice. This makes the plan to build a pair of $435 million, 1.5 mile tunnels under the Allegheny River, for our model railroad-sized subway (The “T”) seem even stupider than your average underwater tunnel. There’s obviously some kind of kickbacks or rebates or baksheesh involved, the North Shore (the developer euphimism for the North Side, my ancestral homeland) Connector project, but what?

The purpose of this white elephant has been a mystery to me, since it was first announced in 2002. It would appear to be just another corporate welfare handout, to the owners of sports teams who play in publicly funded stadiums or the riverfront condominium developers, but it still seems like a lot of trouble, even for such valuable “corporate persons” as the Pirates or Del Monte. Not the nearby hospitals.

Then the answer was made very clear, December 20, 2006, when it was announced that PITG Gaming would be granted Pittsburgh’s lone casino license, to be built on the North Side and likely serviced by the North Shore Connector. Direct public transit access will make poor and/or elderly people’s money much more accessible to the casino owners, and the money that would have otherwise been spent on parking or jitneys (whose powerful lobby is behind the public transit service cuts/fare hikes, methinks) can be more responsibly deposited into a slot machine.

The 2002 plan to build the underwater tunnel certainly creates the impression that all the politicking and other unspeakable acts that inevitably transpire during a battle for a city’s sole slots license, were performance art. It turns out that it’s just another publicly funded, automated slaughter house conveyor belt, as if the digital lights and sounds and credit cards couldn’t do the job fast enough.

These may be Mussolini’s “on time” trains, or maybe Trotsky’s? This isn’t meant to be a moral tirade against gambling, just contempt for State gambling. It doesn’t matter where you live, odds are you can find some Texas hold-em or a craps game or a block pool. If you have to gamble, do it with friends.

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