A coalition of 69 civic groups yesterday issued a 10-point action plan designed to help Philadelphia's next mayor and City Council make neighborhoods cleaner and healthier.
The potential appeal of the Next Great City initiative - immediately endorsed by three of the five major Democratic mayoral candidates - is that its recommendations are specific and, for the most part, low-cost or revenue-neutral.
The ideas include making transit stations and shelters safer and more welcoming by expanding a program in which advertisers maintain them, replanting 23,000 trees cut down by the city since 2001, and letting residents put all their recyclables into a single container.
"There's nothing here that makes you say, 'Whew, no one's ever thought of that before,' " said Karen L. Black, the consultant who put together the group's report. But in a sense, she said, that's the point: These are meant to be commonsense, tried-and-true proposals that can have a tangible impact on the quality of life without breaking the municipal bank.
The principle behind Next Great City is that "environmental issues, broadly defined, mean a great deal for the growth and economic health of the city," said Feather O. Houstoun, president of the William Penn Foundation, which funded the effort.
Coalition members include neighborhood, environmental and labor organizations, among them the local AFL-CIO, the Clean Air Council, the NAACP, the American Lung Association, and Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, which took on the lead role.
The plan also speaks of repairing the sewer system, making riverfronts accessible to the public, revising the zoning code, putting antipollution filters on older city trucks and buses, upgrading parks, improving energy efficiency of public buildings, and turning more vacant lots into green space.
"It all comes down to economics," said J. Blaine Bonham Jr., executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which backed the plan. "To persuade decision-makers to funnel dollars into policies that will change societal habits, we have to show the dollar-value of these actions."
Two mayoral candidates, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and former Councilman Michael A. Nutter, attended the announcement of the plan at the Atwater Kent Museum in Center City. A third, State Rep. Dwight Evans, sent a representative.
All three backed the recommendations, saying they had worked to achieve some of them throughout their public careers.
The other two major candidates, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and businessman Tom Knox, will have a chance to express their views at Next Great City's mayoral forum Feb. 15.