Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Absent Friends - Sophie Masloff

Sophie Masloff, Mayor of Pittsburgh from 1988-94, died earlier this month at the age of 94.

With her beehive hairdo, extreme Pittsburgh accent, penchant for malapropisms, and perhaps shrewdly calculated "Jewish Grandmother" image, it was easy to make fun of Sophie, but it is now easy to look back from the vantage point of a twenty year old rear view mirror, and see that Pittsburgh got pretty lucky when Sophie, then President of City Council, ascended to the mayor's office upon the death of Mayor Richard Caliguiri back in 1988.  

In his column in the Post-Gazette today, Brian O'Neill states the case that Mayor Masloff's decision to cut the city wage tax at a time when unemployment in the City was in the stratosphere, and young people were leaving the City in droves, a decision that was advised against by many, including her own close advisors, at the time, has contributed mightily to reshaping the City of Pittsburgh into what it is today, one with a tech-oriented economy that is now bringing younger people INTO the City.  I suggest that you look up O'Neill's column from today, and one from last week as well, that states far better than I can the impact and the legacy of Sophie Masloff.

And being a baseball and a Pirates fan, it has to be noted that Mayor Masloff was among the first, and certainly the first political honcho, who stated back in the early 1990's that the City needed to provide a new baseball only ballpark for the Pirates in order for them to remain in Pittsburgh.  She even envisioned it on the North Shore.  People made fun of the notion and criticized Sophie for such an outlandish thought, but that thought eventually became PNC Park.  Pittsburghers have a penchant for going overboard in their desire for statues and monuments, but I don't think it would be asking too much of the Pirates to dedicate some sort of plaque or marker to Sophie Masloff somewhere in PNC Park to honor that crazy vision of hers way back when.

RIP Sophie Masloff.

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