Em Media

Being a Good Neighbor Means Doing the Hard Things

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Posted by Jim Emmerling

Jun 12, 2017 1:01:48 PM

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This is a photo of the Fred Rogers overlooking downtown Pittsburgh across the river.

"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, 'It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes." Fred Rogers

When you ask a Pittsburgher to name a few of the people their city is known for, the list usually goes something like this: Andy Warhol, Franco Harris, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Roberto Clemente...and Fred Rogers.

On Mister Rogers’ television show—which, if you have not figured it out yet, is just as much for adults as it is for children—he spoke often of helping our neighbors and insisted that each one of us has a specific purpose, and that is to help those around us.

In my last piece about EM-Media's expansion, I mentioned that our growth into Pittsburgh was a chance for me to go home. While the concept of returning home is sweet, the reality of being a part of this North Side community in Pittsburgh is beginning to set in. The area is growing and evolving, but there is still a lot of work to do. And I want EM to be a part of the solution.

Why Our Agency is Expanding to Pittsburgh Now

EM-Media was always going to expand, but the “when” and the “to where” were spontaneous. Suddenly, it just felt like the right time.

When I do things spontaneously, I typically realize later that there’s an influential force involved, higher than anything we as humans can fully understand. I believe it is God telling me to do something because it’s needed.

I believe the North Shore has the chance to soon become as vibrant as, if not more vibrant than, Lawrenceville. Our new digs here was appealing to me because it’s a historic building and it seemed to be in a great, well-developing area.

I was not aware, however, of the extent of the challenges that still exist here. These problems were never emphasized to me during the buying process for my property. I know that North Siders are proud of where they live, but coming back to this city, I’ve seen that many people here are numb to these issues. And that scares me.

I’m left thinking, “How long has this been going on that it has left people numb?”

Opening my Eyes to the Problems: Litter and Homelessness

I've seen a lot in the last few months of preparing our office on the North Side to be open for business. More than I could ever have imagined.

The litter on the streets near my building leaves me saddened and disgusted. I realize that ignorance is blatant, and that the litter hardly comes from the people who own the properties, but we as citizens have to get past that and focus on doing something about this mess, because any mess in our community is our personal mess as well.

What message does a prospective homebuyer or potential business developer receive if this is what they see as they enter Deutschtown?

This is a photo of garbage bags and stray litter on the side of a Pittsburgh street.

The number of homeless people living under the bridge as I drive up to East Ohio Street in Pittsburgh is disturbing. Some are suffering from mental issues, and many more are suffering from addiction. Regardless of the reason for their homelessness, these people need our help.

What can we do as part of our civic Duty?

Are we hypocritical to brag about how pretty Pittsburgh is if this is what we see as we drive into town? We’ve got to stop turning a blind eye to the ugliness just below the surface. 

This is a photo of a homeless person camping under a Pittsburgh bridge.

It’s one thing to highlight the positives this city has to offer, but we must be consciously aware of the issues here and do what we can to fix them, even if that means making ourselves uncomfortable.

As an “ad man,” I understand the importance of branding, or defining what a brand is about and what it stands for. I can’t help but ask myself, how can we as Pittsburghers be so proud of that “brand” when this is part of its fabric?

I have every intention of improving the conditions of my new community. It is everyone’s shared responsibility to help accomplish that. Mayor Peduto and North Side Councilwoman Harris, if you’re reading this, I would love for either of you to reach out to me and for us to have a conversation about this. I’ve made a commitment to come back to Pittsburgh. I have made a significant investment in this city already, and with it, a vested interest in what is happening here.

The North Side is Part of My Responsibility

The developments on the North Side are encouraging, but the area still has a long way to go. The historic signs are unkept, and no one would know that the ground they walk on holds any significance. I would love to see the neighborhood landscaping and beautification efforts improved. I’m not pawning this off on someone. If this is something I should be doing, I’ll do it—I’d just like to know the best course of action to take and find out who to talk to about making these improvements.

This is the sign at the entrance of Deutschtown, a Pittsburgh neighborhood on the city's North Shore.

Law enforcement does their part to make this area safe and secure–something to be proud of–but they cannot make necessary changes alone. They need our help as citizens, and they need the support of their city officials, as well as the the capability to staff their forces properly. It’s simple: when there is a police presence, crime is down, but when that presence is lacking, crime goes up.

Before changes can be made at the governmental level, they must develop and grow in the hearts and guts of the people that live in these neighborhoods and walk these streets. We as citizens must put our foot down and say, "No, not in my town, not on my block!"

Maybe that's why I'm here. Maybe that's why I felt called to open an EM-Media office on the North Side, to help combat these issues and promote the good that is all around us.

We don’t have to be Superman or Superwoman to change the world—we just have to do everything we can to change our own little part of it.

This is a photo of litter in Pittsburgh's Deutschtown neighborhood on the North Side.

Whether it’s picking up the trash on your block, offering to help your neighbors with their landscaping, buying a few five or ten dollar fast food gift cards and carrying them in your vehicle to hand out, giving out bottles of water or Gatorade, taking leftovers or extra bread to hungry folks on the street, volunteering a few hours a week at soup kitchens, regularly purging your closet of old pieces and giving them to city missions—you have the tools and the power to make a big difference just by doing the so-called “small” things.

But, we must be willing to try doing the big things, too.

Since my time in the city began, I’ve reached out to a number of committees, including historic and economic development agencies, to do my part to implement these changes. I’ve been working with some great people at the North Side Chamber of Commerce and have seen the beginnings of some wonderful relationships with them. I hope that these connections will allow us all to come together in search of a solution to these alarming problems.

We don’t have all the answers–this I know for sure. As with many things, the scope of these problems can seem so big that often, no one knows how to take the first step to address what’s going on. But I want to try to find the best way to help.

Our EM-Media team is a team of storytellers, and we hope to continue to tell stories that make our neighbors proud. The story will continue as I experience more. The warm summer months bring people out into the area and with them, unfortunately, come litter and decay. It’s a shame that it’s 2017 and this is what we’re talking about. But again, maybe this is my and my business’s calling, to figure out a way to help.

 This is the view from PNC Park on Pittsburgh's North Shore where the Pirates play baseball.

This is the North Shore image that I most adore, as do countless other Pittsburgh citizens. Let’s work together to have the whole city reflect the allure of this view.