The corridors of the City-County building were buzzing today as news leaked of a deal between Google and the City of Pittsburgh that will turn the Steel City into the first metropolis to be fully administered and funded by the internet search giant. The landmark agreement had its origins in talks about expanding Google’s Bakery Square complex to accomodate future production of its self-driving automobiles, which they hope to eventually test on the City’s streets.
Though the Peduto administration was very much on the side of technology company, the fact remained that there were still a great number of hoops to jump through and due process to be followed to ensure the interests of the City were being properly looked after. At some point a council member joked that it would be easier for Google to just take over the City instead of trying to negotiate with it, and, after the polite laughter had subsided, the idea began to receive serious consideration.
Soon detailed discussions were underway about the merits of having Google take over the entire Pittsburgh operation. Since the City is a public entity and not privately owned it is not as straightforward as handing over a check. But after a quick brainstorming session Google executives put together a compelling proposal that was immediately sanctioned by the relevant government authorities, citing the precedent of allowing private monopolies to run regulated utilities as long as it was for the common good.
The plan calls for Google to take over and fund all City operations in exchange for de facto ongoing control over matters like zoning and the ability to pilot its forward-looking initiatives, such as the self-driving cars, in a realistic environment. It will still have to be approved by plebiscite, but, since it would involve substantial improvement of local infrastructure on Google’s dime, as well as the abolition of all forms of local taxation, this is expected to be little more than a formality.
The deal received the ultimate blessing this morning when Google executive Sharon Lacey made a call to CEO Larry Page, who said ‘go for it’.
“To be honest I’m not 100% sure if he realized he was buying Pittsburgh, PA, and not Pittsburg, CA, as he was in the middle of a tense negotiation with the Chinese, but it doesn’t really matter. Mid-level takeovers like this don’t normally require his personal involvement. It was more about being able to let the people know he cares.”
As part of the deal Lacey will relocate to Pittsburgh to act as local overseer. She takes pains to assure everyone that life in Pittsburgh will continue as normal. Elections will still be held for local offices, though the results will now be non-binding recommendations to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View CA. However she expects that the wishes of the people will be respected.
“Life will continue much as before, except that anyone found using ‘Bing’ will find themselves subject to arrest.”
All around, the sound of laptops being closed is heard, until everyone realizes she is joking.
“Of course you can still use Bing if you really want to. Or Yahoo. The only crime will be that of denying yourself the benefits of our superior PageRank algorithm.”
Mayor Peduto will be invited to stay on of course and may continue to use his title, though technically he will now be a Google employee. As a mark of respect and goodwill, he will be given the rank of a senior project manager within the organization.
“What does this City have – about 300K residents? Normally a project of that size at Google would be handled by a junior engineer, or passed off to a summer intern.”
The idea of Google buying and running a city to test its various projects had been kicked about for years, but had never progressed beyond very limited field tests by the Google Fiber team. Pittsburgh is seen as much more attractive than suburban LA municipalities as they are too modern and not ‘real world’ enough.
“And it doesn’t get more real than ‘Da Burgh’. Did I say that right?”
Lacey was surprised by the number of potholes on the way in, saying she was concerned her rental car would be damaged, and so she plans to have them all fixed before she has to fly back to California to brief the company next week. On hearing this someone remarked that it seems like there’s nothing Google cannot fix, except for the weather. Lacey smiles, and briefly brings up the title slide of a Google X presentation about a project called Google Climate.
“Do you really think Sergey will be satisfied with just predicting it?”