Nutter launches anti-poverty plan
MAYOR NUTTER'S administration released a long-awaited plan yesterday to combat poverty in Philadelphia, which has suffered the highest poverty rate of any of the nation's 10 biggest cities for at least 20 years.
The plan, "Shared Prosperity Philadelphia," comes from the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, which Nutter created in January. CEO, as it's called, replaced the Mayor's Office of Community Services as the city's overseer of the $7 million federal community-action block grant.
"Shared Prosperity" establishes five broad policy goals:
* "Target job creation and workforce development efforts for adults with the greatest barriers to jobs.
* "Expand access to public benefits and essential services.
* "Ensure that children enter school prepared and expand year-round learning opportunities.
* "Increase housing security and affordability
* "Strengthen economic security and asset building."
The action plan includes benchmark "signs of success" for each broader category, such as "25,000 more jobs, including 1,700 in the hospitality industry, by the end of 2015" and "at least 50 Philadelphians employed each year through the new First Source policy."
"This plan will maximize every anti-poverty dollar that comes into the city," Nutter said at a press event yesterday. "Success will mean nothing less than changed lives."
Nutter appointed Eva Gladstein, who helped overhaul the Zoning Code, to lead the CEO. She and the staff have met with about 200 anti-poverty experts and advocates, many of whom had been calling for a comprehensive city plan for years, while they created "Shared Prosperity" over the past few months.
Twenty-eight percent of residents live below the federal poverty line, the largest percentage among the nation's 10 largest cities and higher than any top-20 city except Detroit. Black and Latino residents are more than twice as likely to be in poverty as their white counterparts, according to the plan, and a staggering 39 percent of Philly's children are poor.
The plan notes the paradox of recent development, in which Center City and nearby areas are booming for the first time in a generation while poor neighborhoods remain mired in neglect.
"In some ways, today's Philadelphia is bustling with energy and promise. Between 2000 and 2010, our population grew for the first time in six decades," the report says. "Yet the city faces a silent crisis that could prevent it from realizing its full potential: persistent poverty."
Mariana Chilton, a Drexel University professor and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, said she supported many of the plan's policy recommendations but wished it included more stringent accountability measures like consequences for failing to carry out the plan.
"It's a good first start," Chilton said. "It's one thing to announce a plan. I hope it's not a lot of talk."
Gladstein said CEO will write an annual report on the city's progress meeting the goals in "Shared Prosperity."
Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said he, too, supports parts of the plan - especially its Financial Empowerment Centers - but believes it will come down to follow-through.
"You have to be serious [about poverty] all the time," Goode said. "This is not about launching a few initiatives that sound like they make sense, but it's about recognizing that real people face poverty and they need real help."
Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration has taken "concrete actions" against poverty, such as the RISE program for ex-offenders and encouraging students to attend college.
"A lot of what we've done are steps that deal with different parts of the reality of poverty," he said. "This entity now is just a monitor or governor of the machinery to get everybody working together."
At yesterday's event, protesters from the city's biggest union, District Council 33, interrupted the mayor several times. When Nutter said the city's poverty rate is 28 percent, one yelled, "Thanks to you!"
D.C. 33, along with two other city unions, have been working without contracts since 2009, deadlocked with the administration over issues including pension costs and furloughs.
On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN