I’m just now back from spending two weeks in Japan, almost exclusively in Tokyo. While the two cities are obviously very different culturally, I noticed some similarities between the two and was intrigued by how Tokyo’s residents benefit from things that Pittsburghers see as problems.
First question: How big do you think Tokyo is? Huge, right? 12 million people?
Wrong. Tokyo is (was) actually pretty small. It was a single town in the middle of the Tokyo Prefecture, which covers what we would call the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. There are actually 23 wards (think boroughs) in Tokyo, each that collects its own taxes and has its own local government. If you live in Shibuya you pay different taxes than if you live in Roppongi, but for those of us who don’t live there, we’d never know (or care) about such details. We see a huge city with consistent signage, the Tokyo Metro Police helping tourists, Tokyo Fire Department trucks being washed/polished, and the wonderful collection of decorated sewer and storm drain covers of the public services.
So how big is Pittsburgh? Is it a little town or is it a region? I live two towns away from Pittsburgh, yet my mailing address is still “Pittsburgh, PA”. A friend of mine in California told me he was from Pittsburgh, it turns out he’s from Murraysville.
Now, how many police departments do we have in “Pittsburgh”? How many fire departments? How many road maintenance organizations?
Could the Borough of Forest Hills, Swissvale, and WIlkinsburg continue to retain what identity they have while sharing a police force with Pittsburgh and one another? Would “Pittsburgh” benefit from having unified police and fire departments that shared frequencies, training, and equipment?
I’m not talking about consolidating cities, I’m talking about sharing resources that are common across adjoining towns and communities. Pittsburgh already has several “zones” for its police department, would adding another zone (or few) be cheaper than operating multiple, tiny police departments with duplicated services?