University of Pittsburgh
April 12, 2007

Generous Gift From Pitt Debating Union Alumna Establishes "Future of Pittsburgh" Debate Series

Expert advocates and Pitt student debaters will tackle the question "Should Pittsburgh Merge Its City and County Governments?" in the inaugural April 18 debate
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Debating Union (WPDU) now has even more to talk about for years to come. With a generous gift from WPDU alumna Marcella Finegold (CAS '37), Pitt's Debating Union has established the "Future of Pittsburgh" debate series. The inaugural debate, titled "Should Pittsburgh Merge Its City and County Governments?" will be held at 6 p.m. April 18, Room G-23, Parran Hall Auditorium, Graduate School of Public Health, 130 DeSoto St., Oakland. The debate can be viewed live at

With more than 900 local governments in the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, Pittsburgh ranks as one of the most fragmented metro areas in the nation. While some view this as a testament to institutional independence, others feel that these governmental entities should be consolidated for cohesion of services. To debate the issue of merging city and country governments are noted experts and WPDU student debaters.

Biographical information of the participants follows:

Progovernmental consolidation advocate Joan Riehm, the former metro area deputy mayor of Louisville, Ky., is the chair of the board of directors at the Alliance for Regional Stewardship. She has been an active participant in community affairs as a civic volunteer and a reporter and editor for The Courier-Journal.

Representing the con side of the issue is Frank Gamrat, a senior research associate at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. His areas of expertise include economic development, taxation, deregulation, merger analysis, and education. Gamrat's writing has been published in the "Journal of Sports," "Economics," "Government Union Review," and "State Tax Notes."

Commenting on the debate question is former Pittsburgh city councilman Sala Udin, who is president and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership. While on city council, Udin served as chair of the Finance and Budget Committee and led referenda to amend the City Charter to include the Citizens Police Review Board and a jobs program, Pittsburgh Works. In addition, Udin oversaw the largest new housing construction in the city-Crawford Square, Bedford Hills, Oak Hill, and Manchester Hope VI communities. He also led the fundraising for the design and construction of Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh's Hill District.

Also providing commentary is David Y. Miller (GSPIA '88), interim dean and an associate professor in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. A specialist in comparative regional governance, urban public finance, research methods, law and politics of local government, and administrative theory, Miller is on the board of directors at the Three Rivers Labor Management Committee, Conflict Resolution Center International, and Local Government Academy.

Debate moderator Gordon Mitchell is a Pitt associate professor of communication, senior researcher at the Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, and the WPDU director of debate. Mitchell's research concentrates on public argument and rhetoric of science. His book "Strategic Deception" (Michigan State University Press, 2000) won the National Communication Association's Winans-Wichelns Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address.

Participating WPDU student debaters are Colin Esgro, a communication and political science major in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Melissa Mistretta, who is majoring in history, Latin American studies, and political science, also in Arts and Sciences.

The WPDU is a Pitt student organization involved in such debating activities as two-person intercollegiate policy debate, international parliamentary debate, and forms of public debate. One of the oldest organizations of its kind in the nation, WPDU is housed in the School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Communication.

The "Future of Pittsburgh" debate series will be held annually from 2007 to 2010. In 2011, a book featuring transcripts and an analysis of the first cycle of debates will be published. A new four-year round of topics will comprise the 2011-2015 debate series.

For more information, contact Mitchell at 412-624-8531 or