Rob de Vos at Remaking Cities Conference 2013

While attending the Remaking Cities conference with Pittsburgh Youth Media, reporter Ananya Cleetus got a chance to speak to urban development steward, Rob de Vos.

Rob de Vos is one of the major proponents of urban development in the Netherlands. As Consul General, he has had experience working in the United States as well as in Tanzania, South Africa and Spain. and other countries. His ideas for an urban development agenda focus mainly on the essentiality of education and its impact on the rising generations. He also recognizes the necessity of infrastructure and emergency response systems in order to ensure safety and security for cities in the Netherlands.

When asked about Pittsburgh, however, he admits that Pittsburgh is one of his favorite cities in the world, and one that he considers to be a model for cities everywhere. Having collaborated with Pittsburgh both for the original Remaking Cities and for an international arts and cultural program, he has been to Pittsburgh four times in his life. He mentions that Pittsburgh has a solid structure for education, with its renowned academic institutes and history of local philanthropy. His favorite thing about the city, though, is the “can-do” mentality he sees among the people. In both the encouragement for sports teams, and the motivation for technological advancements, Mr. de Vos sees a strong ethic and determination in Pittsburgh.

Compared to the Netherlands, Pittsburgh has a greater dependence on industry, he adds. While coal is prominent in the southern Netherlands, and Amsterdam is home to a reasonably-sized steel market, none of these compares to the industrial focus of the city of Pittsburgh. That being said, Pittsburgh has made an absolutely remarkable transition from the past to the present, one that Amsterdam hasn’t necessarily needed to make.

Asked if he would change anything about Pittsburgh, de Vos hesitates, reluctant to hurt my Pittsburgh ego. “The biggest advantage the Netherlands has over the United States is the education system,” he finally says, “The education system in the Netherlands is financed a lot better. The threshold is set lower, and it’s a lot easier for people to afford to go to school”. He adds, “As a father of two children who are now in college, I can say how possible and easy that is for a family in the Netherlands. It’s a lot more difficult for families in the US. I think that probably limits mobility as well.”

Published November 01, 2013