The Next Great City Coalition is calling for Philadelphia’s next mayor to support policies that would create healthy and sustainable neighborhoods.
The coalition consists of more than 100 civic associations, labor unions, businesses, public health organizations, environmental nonprofits, faith-based organizations and social service groups.
Its 2015 policy agenda for Philadelphia was presented this week at a Center City news conference.
“After months of discussions, research and a series of participatory town hall style meetings, the coalition has united around six high impact recommendations that will enhance environmental quality, strengthen neighborhoods and increase our economic competitiveness,” said Katie Bartolotta, Philadelphia outreach coordinator for PennFuture, which is a lead organization for the coalition. “The six key recommendations for 2015 are cost effective, within the authority of the mayor and can be accomplished in one term of office.”
The recommendations include repairing substandard housing conditions that are making Philadelphia residents sick; creating clean, litter free streets, parks and rivers; protecting vulnerable residents and infrastructure in extreme weather; strengthening small businesses; connecting neighborhoods to the city’s trail and bicycle network and providing free drinking water and nutritious food to students.
The coalition will host a mayoral candidates’ forum on March 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St, Room 108 A-B. The forum will present an opportunity to start a dialogue prior to this year’s Philadelphia mayoral primary. The event is being held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show.
To register for the forum visit www.pennfuture.org.
Kiki Bolender, chair of the Design Advocacy Group highlighted the importance of repairing Philadelphia’s aging housing stock.
“We want to see repair and preservation of existing row homes become a strong part of the housing policy of the next administration,” Bolender said.
She said 38 percent of Philadelphia’s owner-occupied homes are owned by people with an annual income of $35,000 or less.
“Many of these houses are deteriorating and many of these owners have to make choices between buying food and fixing the roof. That leaking roof and the resulting mold and dampness are making the occupants sick,” Bolender said, noting those conditions can adversely impact people with conditions like asthma.
Jamie Gauthier, executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia honed in on how the next administration could strengthen the city’s small businesses.
“The Next Great City Coalition urges the next mayor to place improving small business climate as a key priority in the next administration,” Gauthier said.
She said some of their recommendations include reducing the number of approvals needed to open and operate a business, offering standardized city business tax forms that could be completed without the need for an accountant, paying city vendors promptly and partnering with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to offer gap financing to businesses with city contracts.
“We feel that enactment of these policies will go a long way towards advancement and growth of existing businesses, the creation of new businesses and realization of strong, healthy neighborhoods in a sustainable economy in Philadelphia,” Gauthier said.
Maurice Sampson II of the Recycle Now Philadelphia addressed the toll that litter and trash is taking on the city.
“Litter and dumping is a blight that affects every neighborhood in the city. It affects our environment and our quality of life,” Sampson said.
He outlined steps the next administration could take to reduce the city’s litter including distributing Department of Licensing and Inspections’ flyer-free decals that tell merchants not to leave flyers at homes or businesses; require proof of legal tire disposal by businesses and haulers; requiring landlords to have adequate trash storage; requiring merchants to charge for single-use plastic and paper bags and creating a city-wide street cleaning program.
Amy Laura Cahn of the Public Interest Law Center spoke about the impact of extreme storms on city residents and its infrastructure. She said an extreme emergency response plan for residents should be created and a flood task force should be established.
John Weidman of The Food Trust said the next mayor should ensure that all Philadelphia students have access to free drinking water, nutritious meals in schools and school-based gardens.
Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia said connections to and between the city’s trails and bike lanes need to be improved.
“Safer streets, sidewalks and intersections that allow people to walk, bicycle safely while on the city streets or to the region’s trail network are critical for encouraging more Philadelphians to lead healthy, active lives on a daily basis,” Stuart said.