City Club of Cleveland: Rebuild Philadelphia Initiative
On Wednesday, September 5th, we went to the City Club for a program about rebuilding community infrastructure. Interestingly, just before lunch we had talked with Mr. David Wilson of "LAND Studio" about the potential for art to be a transformative power in our neighborhoods.
This viewpoint was seconded when by Mr. Dan Moulthrop, CEO of the City Club, who, during his opening address, he spoke about how the City Club has partnered with "LAND Studio" to create three outdoor murals in various neighborhoods emphasizing the importance of freedom of speech.
The focus of the forum of the day was the "Rebuild Philadelphia" initiative launched in 2016 which is a "program to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Philadelphia's neighborhoods. The money will be used to improve neighborhood parks, libraries, recreation centers, and playgrounds with the goals of promoting equity and encouraging economic growth across the city. Most of Rebuild's community investment will go to distressed or struggling neighborhoods where concentrated poverty, elevated crime rates, and heightened health risks are impacting the lives of local residents. Where possible, Rebuild will also look to invest in neighborhoods that may be growing and present opportunities to spur additional economic growth. These are neighborhoods where Rebuild projects can attract even more investment to serve and stabilize the community."
Delivering the presentation was Mr. Shawn D. McCaney who is the Executive Director of the "William Penn Foundation" whose mission is "to help improve education for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creative communities that enhance civic life and advance philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region."
During his speech, Mr. McCaney reviewed the leadership, origins, structure, and ambitions of this program which is funded through a combination of public and private monies. He emphasized that its goals are:
***PHYSICAL IMPROVEMENTS to parks, recreation centers, and libraries to create spaces for more and better programming
***WORKFORCE DIVERSITY & INCLUSION by creating a career pathway for Philadelphians from high unemployment, low-income, neighborhoods and supporting emerging businesses
***COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT by giving a voice to a broader range of perspectives in the planning process and by building the capacity of neighborhood groups
Along these lines, in the course of the Q and A, we asked him to talk about how "Rebuild Philadelphia" is expected to impact the city's immigrant community.
In response, Mr. McCaney spoke about how Philadelphia's foreign born population has doubled since the 1990's and how part of the renaissance that has taken place in certain areas can be partially credited to the hard work and ingenuity of these people. Along these lines, he believes that the successful model created by the "Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Coalition" (see https://seamacc.org/) can be put to good use in terms of advancing opportunities. To be sure, Mr. McCaney reminded us that Philadelphia is a sanctuary city and he is committed to ensuring that the foreign-born have a voice in the proceedings.