As a result of their locales collectively being awarded with a $40 million investment in public spaces from foundations such as The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation for an initiative known as Reimagining the Civic Commons, American mayors are in Philadelphia – where in 2014 $11 million was awarded by the Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation to the Fairmount Park Conservancy who launched projects like Discovery Center, an abandoned reservoir that was reactivated as a site for environmental education and adventure programs – meeting with the City’s chief executive, Mr. Jim Kenney, to learn how to best utilize public spaces to foster civic engagement, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability.
The top political officials from Detroit, Akron and Memphis, as well as members of America’s most cash-rich foundations, today and yesterday met with Mayor Kenney and the Fairmount Park Conservancy during the Mayor and Foundation Forum on the Civic Commons, where ideas and best practices on revitalizing civic assets were exchanged.
According to Mayor Kenney, who this morning spoke exclusively to Techbook Online about the two-day gathering which isn’t open to the news media, Mr. Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a City making headlines for its recording breaking level of gun violence, didn’t attend the private forum where the theme was making civic spaces equitable.
“Good ideas are not germane to one city … we have to share best practices with each other,” Mr. Kenney, who hasn’t visited Akron or Detroit but remains assured that Philadelphia has the best park system, told me while standing outside City Hall, where minutes earlier he, along with the members of Department of Parks and Recreations, had participated in a press conference to announce that Goya Foods, America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company, will serve as the presenting sponsor of the Philadelphia International Unity Cup.
During the brief interview, and while a KYW NewsRadio reporter stood nearby waiting to grab him, Mayor Kenney reiterated the outcome he’s hoping his soda tax – Philadelphia is the first big city to enact such a tax and market it as a way to pay for quality of life upgrades – will have on the City’s neighborhoods.
“One of our goals is to make sure these neighborhoods parks, recreational center and libraries are renovated in way that show equity to people and that show people that we respect them.”
The Mayor hopes to spend $350 million accomplishing his urban revitalization goal. As PhillyVoice.com noted, “there is much work to be done,” as many recreational centers and parks throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are dilapidated, destitute and lack the maintenance and attention to detail that Center City locations, and those adjacent to it, receive.
“Everyone in Philadelphia should have a park as good as Rittenhouse Square,” said the Mayor.
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Photos courtesy of the author.