Institute of Politics

Elected Officials Retreat

The 23rd annual University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics Elected Officials Retreat is scheduled for September 19 – 20, 2019 at the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland.

The critically important theme that will be analyzed and discussed this year is “Forging our Future Together: Addressing Urban and Rural Needs to Build a Stronger Region.” The fact that, over the course of the past quarter-century, the Greater Pittsburgh region was able to transform its economy is a source of understandable pride. We regularly receive national and international attention both as an inspiring example of 21st century economic rebirth and for the resulting high quality of life that can be found here. Distinctions such as the most livable city, best city for first time homeowners, and world’s coolest place to visit are just a few of the many accolades received in recent years.

However, as is true of so many other regions that have created new forms of prosperity, significant segments of both our urban and our rural populations have not shared in the benefits of this new economy. Instead, economic disparities continue to widen and have brought with them a range of troubling consequences that are somewhat predictable products of chronic poverty and social and civic disengagement. Put in the simplest of terms, there are those in this region, as well as in other places, who may feel that any realistic hope that they might continue to share in the “American dream” has been snatched away from them and their children. Others might fairly feel that members of their communities never had a real chance to enjoy the full benefits of what it means to be American.

This country has long been viewed as a land of opportunity, and for much of its history, this region not only provided widespread opportunities for those who lived here but served as one of the key engines of hope for the entire country. The absence of hope, then, not only is inconsistent with our history and our values but can have both a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities and a destructive effect on the social fabric of the region.

This year’s retreat has been designed to examine the challenges being faced by those who have been left behind, whether they are from a city or the country. Most important, is our own shared hope that constructive steps for dealing with at least some of these challenges can be identified. A great deal of attention recently has been paid to what is seen as this country’s growing urban/rural divide. However, in a very real sense, poverty’s effects – economic, social and psychological can be debilitating wherever a person lives. Rather than simply watching the widening of this divide, then, we ought to see if there are ways, in the traditions of the region, to build bridges.

One key dimension of the upcoming retreat will be the insights that can be provided by three national speakers whose cutting-edge work will highlight key demographic and socioeconomic trends and provide insights into the economic and social wellbeing of the communities of our region. The members of distinguished trio are listed below.

  • Dr. James H. Johnson, Jr., is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. He will provide an overview of Pennsylvania’s current economic and demographic outlook and also will provide an analysis of potentially disruptive economic trends facing our state, as well as potential opportunities for our region.
  • Dr. Jay Shambaugh is Director of The Hamilton Project, which is dedicated to producing evidence-based policy proposals and analyses to promote broad-based economic growth; a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution; and Professor of Economics and International Affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He also is co-creator of the Vitality Index and former Chief Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He will discuss place-based strategies for shared economic growth, including the ways in which geography and race impact community prosperity.
  • Dr. John Friedman is an Associate Professor of Economics at Brown University and a Founding Co-Director of Opportunity Insights, which is located at Harvard and is dedicated to improving economic opportunity for all Americans. The work of the organization is “to analyze new data and create a platform for local stakeholders to make more informed decisions,” and he will discuss economic and social mobility within communities and regions through the use of their “Opportunity Atlas” modeling.

Key to all three presentations is the use of new data tools to better assess the vitality of our region’s communities, as well as the social and economic mobility of our region’s residents. The retreat will position elected officials and other civic leaders to learn more about the communities and people they represent and to better understand the likely effectiveness of both particular investments and collaborative strategies to improve the communities of our region.

More local perspectives on the theme of the retreat, including the presentations of these national figures will offered by an array of regional of outstanding regional panelists drawn from both urban and rural locations. To learn more about our panelists and other speakers please click here

Please register online or by calling the Institute directly at 412-624-1837. While there is no cost for attendees, advance registration is required, and only invitees are eligible to attend. Any logistical questions can be directed to Briana Mihok at 412-624-7792 or bnd2@pitt.edu.

Retreat Materials

To view presentations and videos from the retreat click here. The 2019 bringing book can be downloaded here

Coleman Award Winners

Please note that the titles and organizations listed reflect the position held by the awardee when he/she received the award.

  • Frederick W. Thieman, Henry Buhl, Jr. Chair for Civic Leadership, The Buhl Foundation