In 1979, Chicago’s streets weren’t adequately plowed after a snowstorm, causing Mayor Michael Bilandic to lose his next election. After snowstorms in Philadelphia, Pa., where the streets were deplorable, 80 percent of voters told their Mayor "job well done," and rewarded him with another term.
That type of passive neglect has been pervasive in Philadelphia for decades, cementing the city’s reputation as one with no promise of a renaissance. The numbers bear that out.
Almost 300,000 residents have fled over the last 25 years. And by a large margin, more families with children are leaving the city than coming in. Those who can’t flee get further crushed by an incompetent government.
Philadelphia is America’s birthplace. It shouldn’t be this way.
Sure, Philly has its nice areas. But much more prevalent is graffiti, homelessness, trash, unkempt houses, dearth of green space, malfunctioning parking meters, trash, poverty, incompetence, and — trash. It’s downright embarrassing.
The city should have boldly emerged from the shadow of its big brother to the north and the nation’s capital to the south to become its own unique destination, not an also-ran pit-stop on the way to better places. Philadelphia should be a world-class city. But it’s not.
Can people jettison their inferiority complex born of perpetual malaise, replacing it with bona fide pride? Not until the toxic disease that destroys the essence of its people is eradicated: impotent leadership.
Let’s look at Boston (another older, northeastern city) to see why it’s thriving, while the City of Brotherly Love remains stagnant. You know things are bad when you’re getting whipped by a city in the most liberal state in the country.
Above all else, Philadelphia kills itself by being America’s highest taxed city, including huge levies on sales (two percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania), business income and receipts, liquor, and city wages, to name just a few. And the new soda tax has already cost hundreds of jobs, with thousands more to follow, because people are now shopping outside the city not just for soda, but for all their food needs, decimating the city’s mom-and-pop grocery stores.
Higher taxes result in fewer residents, businesses, and jobs, and, therefore, produce less revenue. In turn, that leads to diminished city services, including an underfunded fire department — the primary reason why a firefighter tragically died.
Philadelphia owns high rates of poverty, homelessness, violence and murder; its education system is abysmal; its city pension system is catastrophically underfunded. Opening a business is fraught with bureaucracy, and, some say, extortion — both legal and otherwise.
The city doesn’t have the luxury of being Washington, D.C. or New York, so the margin of error for leaders is extremely small. And for empty nesters and white-collar types who enjoy living in Center City, they are one mugging away from moving back to the suburbs.
Compare that to Beantown. Sure, it has its taxes, but its educational product is significantly better, and its crime rate significantly lower. Boston recorded just 38 murders in 2015, compared with hundreds in the City of Brotherly Non-Love. Granted, it’s a smaller city, but comparatively, the rates are lightyears apart.
Boston has made huge strides in preserving green space and cleaning up pollution. Its public transportation is top notch, and its infrastructure is being improved at an aggressive pace. And the entire downtown area is remarkably clean.
Quality of life is critical to maintaining a productive workforce, so Boston made its waterfronts safe meccas for entertainment and outdoor activities. Contrast that to Fairmount Park that, while beautiful, is dicey in many parts. And for decades, it’s been all empty promises from Philadelphia’s leaders about developing the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. Yet, they remain colossal wastes of prime space.
So how is it that so many other cities turn smaller waterways into fantastic tourist magnets, such as in Cincinnati, Ohio and San Antonio, Texas? Yet, Philadelphia, with two major river systems, hasn’t done squat with either?
Another huge blunder was ignoring the successful model of neighborhood ballparks, where fans stream into local pubs and shops before and after games, creating a lucrative spinoff effect. Instead, Philly’s leaders chose to build in the middle of nowhere, so the majority of fans never spend a dime outside the ballpark.
Philadelphia’s potential outranks most cites. But potential doesn’t get the job done. Rolling up sleeves does. Contrary to the fairy-tale fluff spewed at press conferences, the city is not on a path to prosperity. And because of its failed leadership, and a population that no longer demands greatness, more folks will leave, and Philadelphia will continue its sad decline.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning."
Hey Philadelphia City Hall — anyone listening?
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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