Note: This letter was
sent to Philadelphia's City Council on
December 12th of 2005. It was also sent
to other state and local people of stature.
Members of City Council, City of Philadelphia,
have just celebrated my 40th birthday.
I was born in this city 40 years
ago. Philadelphia has made tremendous
changes for good and for bad in those
years. I am still wondering about certain
council paradigms and values. Over
a period of several years, questions and
observations have been raised in my head.
This letter presents the
observations that I have made to all of
you for debate and possible reconciliation/action.
realities remain in place in Philadelphia:
Philadelphia is a provincial city (which
affects elections, schools, resources,
levels of trust, corruption).
Philadelphia is racially segregated (which
affects elections, schools, levels of
Because of our segregation, many Philadelphians
have a problem being tolerant of each
The relationship between Philadelphia's
city and suburbs is one of disconnect
Philadelphia is "corrupt and comfortable"
- Lincoln Steffans.
The tax burden on Philadelphia business
and its residents are excessive.
Philadelphia needs living wage jobs.
Philadelphia needs to change its political
and economic culture in order to attract
and maintain residents.
There is a sense of lawlessness in Philadelphia.
How can people be expected to obey the
law when lawmakers do not?
Political and residential redlining needs
to end in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia has become a cultural player
on a national level.
Philadelphia does a very poor job of maintaining
Philadelphia needs a better-connected,
improved, networked, high-speed transit
system serving all neighborhoods.
A state or city funded WPA-like program
may improve employment and much needed
infrastructure improvements to Philadelphia.
Infrastructural and environmental improvements
could help to reduce DHS caseloads and,
ultimately improve child welfare and case
Poor graduation rates=Poor citizens/employees/parents=Inmate
potential for Philadelphians in state
Regarding drug sales and use by citizens,
Commissioner Sylvester Johnson is correct
in stating, "We are not going to incarcerate
our way out of this problem."
There are far too many guns on the streets
and in the homes of Philadelphians creating
a strong vibe of insecurity and instability
throughout the city.
From an economic standpoint, Philadelphia
appears to have "sold its soul" to corporate
retailers (CVS, Wal-mart, Eckerd, Rite-Aid,
McDonalds, Churches, Starbucks, etc.)
Has council done anything to encourage
small business growth in Philadelphia
(without a corporate logo) and has it
made setting up businesses in Philadelphia
any easier? What happens when these
corporate corner stores fail or saturate
or, in at least one case, continue their
unforgivable abuses (Wal-mart)?
Philadelphia is happy with the status
Philadelphia is the historical center
of this country.
Philadelphia's politics and services are
only as strong as the people who work
in those jobs.
The neighborhoods and people of Kensington,
Logan, Point Breeze and Strawberry Mansion
have largely been forgotten both politically
Supermarkets and access to HEALTHY FOOD
are minimal in our poor neighborhoods.
Blighted housing is still a major problem
in Philadelphia, the birthplace of liberty
and of the country.
People who drive cars in Philadelphia
still routinely and "maddeningly" disregard
bike lanes, traffic signals, road-rules
and "STOP" signs.
Philadelphia is still dirty, and our citizenry
still deposit trash down sewers (water
inlets) further polluting our environments.
Plastic (and glass) bottles are routinely
discarded on Philadelphia streets suggesting
that the entire citizenry is not committed
to recycling as evidenced in recent recycling
statistics of major U.S. cities. Is the
Streets Department doing enough to install,
educate our citizens and mandate recycling
in all our neighborhoods? I believe
that poverty does not beget or encourage
recycling. People who are concerned
about gunshots in their neighborhood,
or where their next meal is coming from,
or if PGW will shut their heat off in
December are not thinking about recycling
their plastics each week let alone keeping
their neighborhood safe and clean.
Please outlaw guns for the good of all
Please bring universal healthcare to Philadelphia's
Philadelphia is now dependent on the automobile
for economic survival due in large part
to suburbanization (tickets, parking,
parking garage construction and
Though change has happened, Philadelphia's
two major waterfronts remain underdeveloped
As part of the neglect of Philadelphia,
many city neighborhoods are overgrown
with WEEDS. For proof,
as an example, take a ride on the elevated
(blue line) between Bridge and Girard
from April to August and look to your
left and your right. A look to
your left and right makes us wonder whether
NTI touched these neighborhoods at all!
Philadelphians have little reason to go
to Penn's Landing.
Though touted as the largest urban park
system in the world, the Fairmount Park
system is still not user friendly.
Why does our Streets Department not repair
city streets that are riddled with
potholes (Summerdale and Bridge, St. Vincent
and Bingham, Oxford Avenue near the Navy
Depot, Tabor and Princeton, Woodland Avenue
in Southwest Philadelphia) and appear
to turn the other way when streets are
unclean and broken? How many more
of our streets remain blighted and neglected
in this way? Reform and competency
needs to be in the Streets Department
Why are businesses such as gas stations,
Laundromats, supermarkets, restaurants
auto-oriented employers not mandated to
recycle their plastic?
My fiancée and I would love to be able
to frequent Belmont Plateau or the Japanese
House in Fairmount Park without using
a car for fear of losing my way, accident
or parking/auto fines. A subway
spur as a part of a greater high-speed
network is needed. Were SEPTA or
transit advocacy a part of the Neighborhood
Transformation Initiative (NTI) decision
Is the NTI still operating and on what
level or stage?
I believe, until these questions are answered
and statements addressed, we cannot call
ourselves "world class" or even free and
loving brothers and sisters as the name
Philadelphia would suggest.
a historical perspective:
In 1776, the ideas of freedom, independence
and liberty were born here in Philadelphia,
yet these ideas were largely directed
to benefit white males.
question is why has Philadelphia, apparently,
been removed from the national, political
and economic discussion around freedom,
politics and liberty?
What affect did the removal of the nation's
capital from Philadelphia in 1800 have
on the city's population and culture?
I often wonder how much more different
Philadelphia would have become had the
nation's capital (and state capital) stayed
As a way of highlighting Philadelphia's
industrial past, perhaps a tour could
begin has not been highlighted as a part
of our culture, commerce, history or economy.
Corruption within government teaches citizens
in the same way a parent teaches a child.
Lincoln Steffans spoke about this
regarding Philadelphia in the early
stating, "Philadelphia is corrupt and
comfortable". We are only repeating our
are not learning from it.
Though the Declaration of Independence
documented the creation of a sovereign
nation from England by colonists in 1776,
I wonder, in 2005, how many people in
Philadelphia, still do not feel free?
Is there a copy of the U.S. Constitution
in the Constitution Center?
have enjoyed presenting my observations
and ideas to all of you. Many of
you continue to champion the progressive
march to reform (strong ethics laws, smoking
ban in all public places, anti-gun laws
in Philadelphia. etc.) I
wish us all luck in striving to make Philadelphia
the BEST it can be. I have heard
for decades that Philadelphia has tremendous
potential. However, can we and
do we have the will to reach that potential?