President Trump Says He Was Elected To Represent Pittsburgh. Here's What That Might Look Like.

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

On Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement while leaving the door open to renegotiate the terms.

According to terms of the treaty, the withdrawal process could take nearly four years, and wouldn't be complete until Nov. 4, 2020. During his announcement, Trump said the deal "punished" the United States while creating unfair terms and declared that he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

This comment seemed to catch a few people by surprise, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. 


It also got us thinking. What would Trump's presidency look like if he made his decisions as he suggested he made his decision about the Paris Climate Agreement: based on what Pittsburghers would want?

For starters, it depends on how strictly you're defining Pittsburgh's city limits. The city of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took about 80 percent of the vote in the 2016 election. But many of the more rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh came out in strong support of Trump.

Josh Suskin, a 31-year-old human resources worker who lives in Pittsburgh, said he often noticed the contrast between Pittsburgh proper and the surrounding counties during the election cycle.

"For most people who live in Pittsburgh, which is becoming much more progressive with colleges and Google and Uber, their blanket opinion is going to be, 'What the hell is he doing?'" Suskin told A Plus. "But if you were to talk to a lot of those people who voted for Trump, I don't think they would see this as being a stupid decision... they would look at their economic plight and their manufacturing jobs and say, 'Why do we care about climate change right now?'"

To stay true to Trump's own phrasing, we decided to focus primarily on Pittsburgh's metropolitan center as we dug into statistics and recent headlines that highlight the city's views on key national issues — and, by extension, highlight the positions Trump would take if he were to literally represent the opinions of Pittsburghers.

1. For starters, he probably wouldn't withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

If there's any city that knows the risks of pollution and climate change, it's Pittsburgh. Not only has the city undergone a decades-long transformation by fixing its dirty rivers, polluted air and skyrocketing unemployment, it has accomplished those goals by turning away from steel and towards tech and science. 

"We've come a long ways since the worst (smog over Donora), but there's still work to be done," 63-year-old Pittsburgh artist Michalina Pendzich told A Plus, referencing a yellow blanket of smog that hung over the nearby borough of Donora for five days in 1948, killing 20.

Today, 72 percent of Allegheny County citizens — the county that encapsulates Pittsburgh — believe that global warming is ongoing, according to a Yale climate study.

Furthermore, the same Yale report found that 80 percent of Allegheny County citizens think carbon dioxide emissions should be regulated and 72 percent favor strict limits on coal-fired plant emissions, two primary goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

David Vatz, a 31-year-old local and chief financial officer at TopScore, said the decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement was "definitely a bad thing."

"Pittsburgh has defined itself since the fall of the steel industry by building non-polluting industries, such as healthcare, technology, etc.," Vatz told A Plus. "Pittsburgh is not an industrial town, and there isn't anyone that I know in Pittsburgh that wants to see it be one again."

Tony Oliva, a resident who said he "loved" Trump's Pittsburgh reference, also acknowledged Pittsburgh's transformation, but said he nonetheless thought that pulling out of the agreement would benefit the city.

"It will probably be directly better for places in west Virginia and Erie and Pittsburgh-adjacent places but the secondary benefit via 'a rising tide lifts all ships' will help Pittsburgh as it will revitalize the region," he told A Plus. "Had Pittsburgh still been the steel-producing juggernaut of times gone by then a more direct benefit would be felt."

2. Trump also likely wouldn't repeal Obamacare.

According to a March Muhlenberg College poll, more Pennsylvanians oppose the repeal of Obamacare than support it.

After the 2008 recession, while most of the country struggled to get churning again, Pittsburgh rode a booming health care industry to economic prosperity. As reported by The New York Times, as in nearby cities — Akron, Cleveland, Canton and Youngstown — Pittsburgh's droves of former factory workers have turned into droves of hospital workers. 

Of course, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, didn't cause the boom in the health care industry. It has been underway for a long time. But the repeal of the act would have devastating effects on health care workers in cities like Pittsburgh. They would lose funding, and in turn lose patients, and the costs of covering those patients would be thrown onto Pennsylvania taxpayers. 

"If the state were to try to keep all the people on Medicaid expansion still having access to care, that would be an additional $2.4 billion," Ted Dallas, Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services, told CBS.

That $2.4 billion is money Pennsylvania taxpayers would have to cough up. 

But it's not just about the taxes — it's about who is paying them. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers International have vehemently opposed a repeal of Obamacare, with United Steelworkers International president Leo W. Gerard writing, "Rather than reducing the costs of health care, this bill will simply shift costs to working Americans and their families while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations."

Of course, there are also those who remember the pollution during the days of the steel boom — and the health issues that followed. Today, many of them need care. 

Darren Shultz, a 36-year-old who lived in Pittsburgh for 27 years and comes from a family of Pittsburgh natives, said his family is still connected to what the city once was.

"My dad worked in the steel industry and got to hear from the old timers about the change from the 1940s when the skies in Pittsburgh were dark all hours of the day to cleaner air and better technology that he experienced in the present," Shultz said. "Cleaning up the world the way we cleaned up Pittsburgh would be a legacy we could all be proud to stand behind."

3. Trump would create programs dedicated to supporting refugees and immigrants.

As one of his first acts in office, Trump signed an executive order barring visitors from seven majority Muslim nations and has continued to rail against immigration into the United States.

But recently, Pittsburgh has taken the complete opposite tack. The city even has a program called Welcoming Pittsburgh that is a response to failed efforts by the federal government to reform the immigration system. Welcoming Pittsburgh was launched in 2014 by Mayor Peduto after a report found Pittsburgh had the lowest percentage of new immigration of any of America's top 40 metropolitan areas. 

"Join me in making Pittsburgh a model welcoming city," Peduto said at the time. "A city others will look to and see thriving diverse neighborhoods where, whether you are a second generation Italian-American, African-American, Bhutanese refugee, or Latino, you welcome your neighbor because you understand that their success is your success." 

During its launch, the Welcome Pittsburgh program used input from more than 3,000 Pittsburgh community members to map out a plan to increase the city's immigrant population.

4. Trump would seek to protect transgender students.

When the new White House decided to rescind Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools, there was a backlash from LGBT groups all across the country. One of the loudest and most definitive stands against Trump's decision actually came from the city of Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Public School Board voted unanimously to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their gender identity. When the U.S. Justice and Education department announced their reversal of the Obama-era policy, Pittsburgh Public School Board members were sure to express their displeasure.

"I don't think it will change anybody's view, and if anything, it will probably make us feel stronger about doing the right thing," Moira Kaleida told Pittsburgh's NPR Station.

The school board represents the entirety of the Pittsburgh Public Schools district.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / Andrew Black / J Stone.


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