The NYT casts a critical eye on "America's coolest mayor," Braddock's John Fetterman, in this piece from its upcoming Sunday magazine:
In Aspen, when Fetterman was asked how many “modern pioneers” had moved to Braddock, he framed his answer as an equivalence: it was like 4,000 people moving to Pittsburgh, he said, which sounded like a lot. The actual number is currently 23, in 10 households. Modern pioneering turns out to be harder than just fixing a wrecked house, which turns out to be hard enough. Gutting and renovating a structure that wasn’t built well the first time can easily compete with having a regular job. In Braddock, a successful modern pioneer typically requires family money, savings or another outside means of support, and even then it’s often a stretch.
And, for “urban pioneers” and longtime residents, it can be challenging to live in a place that is getting so much attention. They resent their town being cast as a wasteland. They resent hearing that it “broke on purpose.” They resent that some of the good things done by groups not affiliated with the mayor, like a new, state-of-the-art senior housing complex, or the 36 new homes and rental units built by the Mon Valley Initiative, which house 89 people and have brought an influx of working families to Braddock (most headed by women employed in a range of jobs in the area), rarely find their way into the prevailing narrative. And they resent that one man’s vision is represented as their collective vision, even while acknowledging that some of his actions, like planting fruit trees in abandoned lots, using Levi’s money to finance a children’s librarian and helping to get a new playground donated to the town make Braddock a more appealing, and most likely safer, place.