Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Breaking news: Philadelphia cures cancer, brokers lasting peace deal in the Middle East

Breaking news: Philadelphia cures cancer, brokers lasting peace deal in the Middle East


I know, I know...just kidding with that headline. As you probably know, those things didn't happen this week. But why wouldn't Philadelphia be in a giddy state of euphoria and self-congratulation? The things that really did happen were pretty incredible -- an electronics manufacturer setting up shop in the American Street corridor and creating 650 good paying manufacturing jobs in that working class neighborhood, a new bio-tech startup near the Penn campus had a hugely successful IPO, and then the biggest surprise of all -- the firing of school superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her replacement with a "dream team" of administrators poised to finally turn the city's schools around and put students first.

Ha! Got you again! None of those things happened, either. What really happened was the addition of one high-paying job -- a baseball pitcher making $20 million a year (hey, think of the city wage taxes, at least for home games), and our football team beat New York's football team in a miraculous comeback. OK, OK, those sports wins did highlight some of the things that were already awesome about Philadelphia. In particular, Cliff Lee (and more importantly Kristin Lee's) decision to come here reminded us of what a great place Philadelphia is to live -- IF YOU HAVE A WELL-PAYING JOB!

I'm someone who believes that intangibles matter, and so I actually think it's of great importance that the city is brimming with self-confidence now, apparently the first time that's happened since 1776. It is a fun time to live here, especially if you love sports, and I happen to love sports. To paraphrase a song that I posted here on Attytood this week in a completely different context, there is no other place I'd rather be.


I worry how "the Philadelphia renaissance" can last without jobs -- and also I wonder if we're actually getting a little too self-congratulatory here. I was listening to the radio today and one piece of evidence of the Great Renaissance was that violent crime in Philadelphia just fell by 6 percent, which is good news, but a 6 percent drop from a level of murder and assaults that is way, way too high -- as the people in Kensington dealing with a seral killer right now could probably tell you. A recent Pew poll said most suburbanites like knowing that the city is here and many even like to visit from time to time. But a real renaissance means turning the schools around, and there's scant evidence of that happening in the near future.

The unemployment rate in the city of Philadelphia is 11.2 percent -- a point and half worse than the national average, and the national unemployment picture is the worst its been since the Great Depression. Optimism about Philadelphia is highest in the shadow of new (although often unsold) condos in Center City and in hipsters hangouts like Fishtown, but what about a Port Richmonds or a Southwest Philadelphia, the neighborhoods built around long-shuttered factories and empty church pews? One piece of real good news is that more college grads are sticking around than before, but they'll wander off eventually if we don't start creating more high-tech jobs insteasd of investing so much of our civic energy on casinos instead.

So, yes, it's been one of the greatest weeks ever to be a Philadephia sports fan. But it will be even greater when every Philadelphian has a job that pays enough that he or she can actually afford to see a game or two. That means we still have a lot of work to do.

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Will Bunch
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