PITTSBURGH (AP) – When economic leaders from the world’s most powerful nations come to Pittsburgh for the Group of 20 summit in September, David Speer would like to offer them psychic readings, yoga and “love healing.”

“They’re coming for economic discussions … But these are the things that they need more. These are the things that money can’t buy – love,” said Speer, 65, a holistic health practitioner. “Most people have not received enough love in their lives.”

Speer’s ideas are among hundreds offered at brainstorming sessions and through e-mail to local G-20 planners who are looking for ways to involve citizens as Pittsburgh prepares for the summit.

“This was the first time we’ve ever done anything like this,” said Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “We believe the more the residents become involved, the more successful we’ll be in welcoming the world.”

Speer also offered a complimentary class on hand reflexology “so that our guests would easily learn how to relax themselves and their family to be at their best.”

Speer, who has been involved with holistic health for 30 years, said the reaction to his ideas at a recent session was “exceedingly positive.”

But officials haven’t yet decided which ideas can be incorporated into the summit.

For one thing, local organizers will have to take their cues from the White House about what can be done, said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.

And it’s unlikely G-20 honchos will have the free time – or the ability – to roam leisurely about the city: they will be here, after all, to discuss the world’s economy. Safety is also a concern, as numerous protesters are expected.

Lisa Ceoffe, who works for the city as an urban forester, suggested a ceremony in which representatives of the 19 countries and the European Union that make up the G-20 would bring a vial of water from their countries and pour it into the fountain in Point State Park, where the city’s three iconic rivers – the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio – meet.

“When you visit our city, you get punched in the face with that view. That fountain’s something that everyone remembers,” she said. “It would be nice to somehow have everybody come together … sort of that were all in this together.”

Other ideas include using organic and local food, using recyclable materials, sprucing up vacant storefronts, offering entertainment such as magicians, and promoting the region’s businesses.

Someone suggested putting reporters – some 2,000 to 3,000 media members are expected – on tour boats and telling them about the city’s ongoing recovery from smoky steel town to an economy built on higher education, medicine and new technology while they are “captive.”

Some ideas are already being used. Flags from the visiting nations are on display at a media center and more will be up around the city as the summit approaches. Many people suggested Pittsburghers serve as volunteer ambassadors. To that end, Allegheny County tourism agency VisitPittsburgh will distribute yellow pins that read “Ask me. I’m a Pittsburgher!”

“The idea is for residents to wear them in late August and in September to encourage our guests to ask us for everything from restaurant recommendations to directions,” spokeswoman Doris Carson-Williams said.

“It was made very clear in these community brainstorming sessions that there are some very talented citizens who have very good ideas,” Doven said.

“The bottom line is, when we welcome the world, it’s going to be the city and the region welcoming the world. (Residents) need to be involved,” she said.


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