Talking to Philadelphians about their city is like talking to a woman about the guy she’s been married to for 30 years. She has his quirks and habits down cold. If you ask nicely, she’ll recite them all for you, in rueful, sarcastic detail. But don’t you go criticizing him, or she’ll knock your block off as soon as she looks at you. She’ll never pretend he looks like Pierce Brosnan or George Clooney, but then again, she never cared that much about that kind of thing. Anyway, for a guy his age, who’s been through what he’s been through, she thinks he looks… not so bad.
For the last few weeks, we on the Editorial Board have been listening to Philadelphians talk about Philadelphia as part of a project called Great Expectations: Citizen Voices on Philadelphia’s Future, cosponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. City residents and suburbanites are gathering in church basements, schools and community centers from Point Breeze to Frankford to compare notes on what they love about the city and what they don’t; what works and what doesn’t; how to strengthen what works, how to fix what doesn’t.
Some themes are consistent: Most people find this city affordable and manageable. They savor its authentic neighborhood feel, its depth and variety of culture, history and things to do. They worry that its gap between haves and have-nots is widening, with no political will to address the trend. As a result, they’re split down the middle over tax cuts and tax abatements. They’re worried sick about the public schools, and aren’t much impressed with reforms done so far. They have a love-hate relationship with SEPTA. They want someone to take better care of Fairmount Park. They see clearly that the flip side of neighborhood spirit is insularity and segregation. Finally, they’re sick to death of how their City Hall behaves, both in failing to deliver value for the tax dollar, and in falling prey to corruption.
INQUIRER: Citizens Say The Darndest Things!
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Speak Your Mind, It’s How Consensus Is Built, And With A Consensus Everything Is Possible