Monday, July 14, 2014
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Mayor Nutter's Philly "A Model for the Nation"? UPDATE

The neo-liberals at Brookings say we're in the forefront of "addressing environmental, political, economic and fiscal problems"

Mayor Nutter's Philly "A Model for the Nation"? UPDATE

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks during a meeting of the State Budget Crisis Task Force at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Philadelphia. The event is designed to bring attention to the eroding financial condition of state governments. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks during a meeting of the State Budget Crisis Task Force at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Philadelphia. The event is designed to bring attention to the eroding financial condition of state governments. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

UPDATE: A crowd of earnest Philadelphians, many of whom work for nonprofit agencies, filled Drexel's Academy of Natural Sciences auditorium for the Brookings presentation...

A little sad to say, Katz and Bradley didn't actually have much to say about Philadelphia as a model for the nation. (The promoters don't appear to have read the book in advance, a panelist-alternate told me.) Maybe in the second edition...

Their basic argument is that Congress (with so many Republicans?) has stopped helping cities, so metro areas (still mostly run by Democrats?) are pulling together and figuring out how to improve schools, roads, crime, etc. --

There was mention, but not any detail, emphasis or example, re the corporate leaders (see, for example, Comcast's David L. Cohen) who typically aid such regional efforts, while also defending their employers' interests by making sure the regulatory burden is manageable and the tax burden is widely spread (e.g. to workers and property owners)...

Katz also said his quick tour through Philly reminds him we do have a lot of impressive physical and institutional assets here that aren't efficiently working together for the benefit of the local economy. But we already knew that.

EARLIER: Philadelphia is "a  Model for the Nation," according to Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, authors of "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy," which they'll explain at Drexel's Academy of Natural Sciences on the Parkway this Thursday, July 11, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

The authors, scholars at the liberal-ish Brookings Institute, will join Mayor Michael Nutter, Moody's economist Mark Zandi, Don Hinkle-Brown (successor to Jeremy Nowak at the Reinvestment Fund, which targets city projects for subsidized and government-backed loans), and Next City editor Diana Lind to tell how Philadelphia is an example of the cities "addressing environmental, political, economic, and fiscal problems that our leaders in Washington have yet to solve."

How is Philadelphia a model? The Nutter administration has certainly tried (with much City Council resistance) to freeze or trim taxes, rationalize bureaucracies and development rules, sell public assets, and avoid giving away money it doesn't have through union contracts, past pension promises and public school subsidies. Center City and adjacent, college-area and middle-class neighborhoods are attracting a widening circle of residential redevelopment, murders are down, and the city's total population is inching back up after falling through the latter 1900s.

But office rents and the Center City workforce remain stuck at 1980s levels, far below New York, Boston or Washington; taxes on businesses and workers remain uncompetitively high; the region's commuter highways are paralyzed, as is public transport spending; many neighborhoods are slums that house poor people badly; and private-sector job growth -- which we need to sustain colleges and hospitals, those surviving mainstays of the once-diverse city economy -- still lags. 

So what are the Brookings people and their fellow panelists thinking? Hinkle-Brown's office referred me to Brookings' spokeswomen, who didn't call back. 

Can't be there to watch? "Look for tweets from @BrookingsMetro, @AcadNatSci, @NextCityOrg, @TRFund."

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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