During the Constitutional Congress, Benjamin Franklin saw that half a sun was depicted on the back of George Washington’s chair. Franklin wrestled with this image through the course of the convention. Was it a rising sun or a setting sun? As the members of the convention signed the Constitution, Franklin announced, “I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.”
We often wonder not just where we stand in the present but where we are heading the future. Franklin worried that rather than the dawn of a great nation he could have been present at the start of darkness for life in the new world. As a Commissioner, I have found myself thinking more and more about not just where Mt. Lebanon is but where we are going. Especially as a “newcomer”—I have only lived here 14 years—it is easy to become lost in the stories of what Mt. Lebanon used to be. Some people tell stories of Mt. Lebanon’s past as if they were detailing their own childhoods, something that still fills them with pride. Others discuss the past as a warning, sharing their memories of the past as evidence that there has been some erosion of our community.
I accept that this is not the same town it was 50 years ago, or 30, or even 14—change is inevitable. What matters is which way are we going.
Like many of my friends and neighbors, I considered the school district as one of the greatest strengths that drew me to Mt. Lebanon. Mt. Lebanon School District has been among the elite for decades and recently was recognized as a top-10 school in Pennsylvania, the highest ranking in our region. Certainly there are other great schools in the area—most in communities much newer than ours. We can take pride in the fact that our schools have remained highly desirable as our community has matured. No student has ever learned from bricks and mortar; however, the new high school currently under construction should at a minimum provide additional resources for our teachers and students to continue to excel. Even as other districts grow and demographics change, we have kept our place as a leader in education.
Another popular measuring stick for our community is the housing market. Mt. Lebanon was luckier than most communities during the housing market collapse, not falling as far, and we also have recovered faster than most. House values have recovered to the level before the housing crash. In 2009 the average sale price of a home in Mt. Lebanon was $227,909. After a steep drop in 2010 our 2011 average sale price came back to $227,933. This year with numbers through mid-June our average sale price is $240,027. The recovery of our housing market is especially important to many of our senior residents, as it protects the asset they most rely on. There may be no better measure of our community than seeing the number of people who want to become part of it.
There are other indicators as to the financial health of our community—Earned Income Tax (EIT), for example. The EIT is an indication of the financial well-being of our residents as a whole (although like all statistics it does not necessarily apply to everyone). Our EIT went up 4.3 percent from the 2010 figure and up 7.6 percent from what we had budgeted for 2011. The number outpaced our projections, but more important, it outpaced inflation. Though we probably all agree we need this recovery to continue, it is good to see that Mt. Lebanon is leading the recovery.
Then there are the signs that are not based on statistics but may be even more convincing. Have you gotten an ice cream cone at Betsy’s? Have you tried the white pizza at A’Pizza Badamo? Tried Walnut Grill yet? Tried the newest Primanti’s? Are you excited for the opening of SpringHill Suites, Fresh Market and Yogli Mogli? We clearly are a community that is appealing to businesses—a place increasingly viewed as a place of opportunity which is only going to build upon itself. Our two primary commercial districts have enviably low vacancy rates.
Taken as a whole, these signs affirm my belief that Mt. Lebanon is the best community in the region. And they suggest something even more important: we are getting better!