Pittsburgh Voters Nix Stadium TaxALAN ROBINSON , Associated Press
Nov. 4, 1997 11:22 PM ET
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates found out Tuesday night that voters can play hardball, too.
Voters in 11 southwestern Pennsylvania counties overwhelmingly rejected a proposed half-penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase to finance two new stadiums, a renovated Pittsburgh convention center and other projects.
With votes counted from 79 percent of Allegheny County's 1,309 precincts, the referendum trailed by a 3-2 margin, 173-466 to 127,954 _ the closest vote in any of the 11 counties.
Returns elsewhere were even more lopsided and ranged from 3-1 to 4-1.
``Maybe people just said, `We don't want to make this investment, we don't want to raise taxes in western Pennsylvania,' '' said Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, a strong supporter of a measure called the Regional Renaissance Initiative. ``Maybe we didn't tell the message right, maybe we waited too long to get our message out.''
Only in Pittsburgh, which would benefit from approximately $700 million in new construction projects, was the vote close _ 53 percent against to 47 percent.
Because most of the sales tax money would come from Allegheny County, a pro-tax vote would have been enough to finance the Pittsburgh projects, regardless of the cumulative vote from the other 10 counties.
Normally, Pittsburghers unite to fervently support the Steelers and, at least when they're winning, the Pirates. But the message the teams were getting didn't require deep analysis: Their fans' loyalties don't always extend to the pocketbook.
Steelers president Dan Rooney acknowledged the pro-tax campaign was beset by problems from the start and that supporters may not have effectively argued their case.
``It's the most disorganized thing I've been connected with,'' Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. ``If we ran our football team this way, we'd never get a first down.''