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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It was six years ago that the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy created what it called "the Benchmark City," an amalgamation of four "regional hub cities" of varying populations and geographic locations. The purpose was to gauge how Pittsburgh competed.

But an updated version of that effort isn't very encouraging.

Indeed, the think tank's study shows Pittsburgh, still in state receivership, "closed the gap somewhat" in some areas. But Pittsburgh has "lost ground" on police spending and spending in general, the institute finds. Here are some other sobering conclusions:

• Pittsburgh spent 50 percent more on a per capita basis than the composite "Benchmark City," composed of Salt Lake City, Columbus, Charlotte and Omaha, Neb.

• The erstwhile Steel City collected 56 percent more per capita in taxes.

• It has higher staffing levels (per 1,000 residents) for overall city employment and for its fire, police and related authorities.

• Pittsburgh "is far out of line" with its benchmark composite on the value of assets held by authorities, on workers' compensation, pension funding and net bond debt. Public school spending and taxing also are higher.

Pretty facades are one thing. Sturdy foundations are another. Pittsburgh has a monumental amount of work to do. Are there any real reformers out there?

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