Mayoral Platform Preview: Some of This Old City's Policy Positions We'd Like Our Candidates to Commit To
This year we as Pennsylvanians will find ourselves at polling stations come November, ready to cast a ballot for the gubernatorial race. Regardless of your political persuasion, the choice between Tom Corbett the incumbent and Tom Wolf the challenger is actually quite stark. The two differ on lots of major policy positions. Tom Corbett's relationship with Philadelphia has been acrimonious due to our yet unresolved school crisis. Tom Wolf's rhetoric on Philly as a candidate has had a different tone. But don't take our word for it, here he is in his own words writing for us earlier this year.
Next year we'll be faced with another major political choice for the future of our city, the mayoral election. After 8 years and some major accomplishments like Zoning Code reform, a host of new parks, Land Bank reform, and the creation of new offices like MOTU, Mayor Nutter should feel good about the trajectory in which we are headed. Major decisions still linger however, and vision and commitment from a strong mayor is needed to continue Philadelphia's ascendance.
We're planning accordingly here and have begun to assemble a policy platform for mayoral candidates that reflects progressive urban policy on a host of measures affecting the public space. This platform will help shape the discourse in the mayoral primary and target policy we'd like commitment from a new mayor to achieve. Some of these positions are more tactical, while others are strategic. Most focus on quality of life, while others address long-standing imbalances in poorly conceived legacy policies. We have a multi-pronged approach organized by topic. The draft platform already consists of nearly 50 positions. Rather than delve too deep we'd like to create some dialogue with you around our plan and hear your thoughts. Below you'll find the major sections of our platform organized by topic and the number one priority issue for that topic. There are more issues imbedded underneath our number one priority but we'd like to hear from you first. Feel free to use the Disqus commenting system or use the "email us" button in the footer to reach out. Without further ado, This Old City's 2015 Mayoral Platform Preview:
Policy Proposal: "Free" SEPTA pass and bike share membership for all full-time local college students and staff.
Policy Detail: Negotiate discount bulk fare purchases with universities, and reasonable "transportation fee" priced into base tuition or student activity fee.
Why: Automatically drive up transit ridership among a key group of future Philadelphians less likely to own a car.
Public Space Quality
Policy Proposal: Lower approval thresholds for new pedestrian plazas, parklets, bike corrals and bike share stations.
Policy Detail: Block party rules: 75% of near neighbor signatures needed rather than the current 100%.
Why: Pedestrian Plazas like the Gray's Ferry Triangle took nearly 9 years to implement due to the 100% approval requirement. Lowering this threshold will allow more plazas that improve our quality of life by providing for more social spaces and economic opportunity for businesses flanking these amenities.
Policy Proposal: Non-elective citywide street sweeping services by 2017.
Policy Detail: All major streets in Philadelphia to have bi-weekly street cleaning by 2017. Commercial corridors and arterials have highest priority.
Why: Trash and litter continue to be a problem city-wide. Campaigns like "unlitter us" don't get at the root of the issue: basic sanitation is the responsibility of municipal government. Philadelphia must join our neighbor cities of DC, New York and Boston in providing regular sanitation of our streets.
Policy Proposal: Hide the meters.
Policy Detail: Work with the PUC as a Class 1 city to create gas and electric meter placement regulations that hide meters out of public view, preferably off the façade of any building facing the sidewalk public right of way.
Why: These meters were previously hidden in historic districts since they are eyesores to the streetscape. Other cities shield them from view understanding that needless clutter of the public space makes a city uglier and degrades our quality of life.
Policy Proposal: Legalize car-free housing. Eliminate parking minimums for all residential and mixed use zoning code designations.
Policy Detail: Parking minimums for certain types of zoning should be eliminated.
Why: Parking minimums increase the cost of housing by mandating space for car storage rather than living. This often means developers must reduce the number of units or reduce the supply of multi-bedroom units to increase profitability on smaller units to offset costs that required parking creates. With public transit and cycling on a growth trajectory, prioritizing so much space for the storage of cars no longer makes sense in a dense urban city.
Policy Proposal: Formally expand the mandate of Mural Arts to include public lighting projects.
Policy Detail: Expand the traditional background of Mural Arts, born of the anti-graffiti campaign, to enhance the public space and public safety through re-lighting our city.
Why: We've surpassed 2700 murals across the city. Though they provide art often in places that need a reminder of its beauty, we're reaching saturation of this model. Lighting projects for our infrastructure like dark bridge underpasses, our public buildings and streets could be done artistically by an agency that has proven its efficacy and commitment to bettering Philadelphia one project at a time.
Policy Proposal: Fund contractual maintenance of street trees.
Policy Detail: Increase city maintenance budgets for this work or bid out maintenance to 3rd party through transparent bidding process, much like what DC has.
Why: Increasing tree canopy is the cheapest way a city can green itself by cleaning the air, mitigating stormwater runoff, reducing summer heat through shade and providing food and shelter to wildlife. Trees also increase property values and improve pyschological well-being. Expecting citizens alone to maintain their own trees when it is in the public interest no longer makes sense. Further burdening the public pension system with city arborists doesn't make sense.
Policy Proposal: Establish protected bike lanes as the city’s best practice/gold standard for bicycle infrastructure. Replan the bike infrastructure accordingly for bike arterials.
Policy Detail: Require public comment justification of why the highest level of protection for cyclists is not pursued on a project if a protected lane is waived during a transportation project.
Why: Study after study proves that real gains in bicycle ridership will not be made with sharrows and painted lines on the roadway. Protected bike lanes however will increase ridership and are key to the safety and future of cycling in Philadelphia.
Marketing / City Branding
Policy Proposal: One city, one brand.
Policy Detail: Expand powers of the Art Commission to create a unified brand standard for all city agencies for logos, typefaces, fonts, color schemes and website formats. Revisit the design of the Philadelphia flag and consider a redesign much like what was done in Maryland in the early 1900s to create a bold, stunning new flag that captures Philadelphia in banner form.
Why: Philadelphia Government agencies and services have adopted a piecemeal approach to branding that has resulted in a cluttered, often outdated branding image for agencies across the city. Images like the city seal and fontfaces used on correspondence professionalize our government and make a clear sign to the world that Philadelphia government has a unified, coherent image rather than the hodgepodge alphabet soup the city's agencies currently convey with mixed branding. Flags are powerful symbols that can be combined with this and extend the reach of Philadelphia beyond its borders.
Land Use Prioritization
Policy Proposal: Increase demolition and missing door and windows inspectors.
Policy Detail: Increase L+I operational efficiency by increasing demolition inspectors and missing door and windows inspectors.
Why: Philadelphia has and will continue to have not only a major problem with land vacancy, but building collapses and the economic effects of blighted properties unless L+I's successful door and window citation division can ensure people are adequately maintaining their buildings. Demolitions of buildings are also being held up by a lack of resources.
Policy Proposal: No new billboards and remove the non-compliant ones we have now.
Policy Detail: Prohibit new billboards outside of special advertising zones, and require removal of all non-compliant billboards operating without a license.
Why: Numerous studies have proven that billboards blight our city. They lower property values, clutter the public space and distract drivers. A coherent strategy on them is needed.
Policy Proposal: Remap the city by 2017.
Policy Detail: Commit sufficient resources to have Philadelphia remapped under the new zoning code by 2017.
Why: Until the zoning code that was adopted at a citywide level has been integrated into the zoning maps of each neighborhood of the city, many new projects and proposals for development will need to be routed through the Zoning Board of Adjustment for review, dramatically increasing the costs and timeframes for investment in new projects that ultimately help reduce the city's poverty rate.
Policy Proposal: Codify Mayor Nutter's open data executive order in law with an open data ordinance.
Policy Detail: This open data ordinance would require city agencies to publically release as much internal data as possible.
Why: Open data is crucial to allow for innovation in the public sector. It allows citizens to analyze where inefficiencies in government exist. Open data exposes public data to higher scrutiny and allows many to build from these data sets to create new solutions.
Policy Proposal: Create a Department of Transporation, Land Use & Urban Planning.
Policy Detail: Place the Planning Commission, Streets Department, Parks & Rec, Water Department & and the Land Bank under a new Department-level Director.
Why: Currently an alphabet soup of city agencies is in the business of planning the City of Philadelphia. Often their goals run counter to or do not closely align with each other. Unifying these agencies more fully unifies priorities among them and will streamline infrastructure, transit and parks projects by aligning them to common goals under common leadership.