What Philadelphians really care about

Someone (it was Sigmund Freud) once asked, what do women want?

The answer is not shoes — and an even harder question is what do city residents want, or at least what do they like and dislike.

Philadelphia surveyed 20,000 residents last year — I was one of them — and the results were disheartening to anyone who cares about this city.

Two-thirds of city residents rated city services as fair or poor — grades that would not get you into grad school. Unbelievably, the report’s executive summary says a grade of “fair” — 45% of the total — is “satisfactory.” If fair = satisfactory, no wonder civic improvement is hard to come by. That is complacency.

The scores were slightly lower than the previous survey, yet Jim Kenney — whose job is city services — got re-elected in a landslide, proving that if you are a Philadelphia Democrat there are no consequences for failure, at least no consequences from Republicans. 

Before I delve into the survey, let me share two question pages. The survey, as is customary, did not ask for names, in order to produce more honest comments. But it did want some demographics, so it asked these questions about sexual identity:

Yes, one set of questions was not enough — we need two. This is where Kenney’s head is, buried in how we can divide people, cloaked in the pretext of inclusion. (In case you can’t read the questionnaires, Top: female, male, non-binary/third gender, intersex, prefer to self describe, prefer not to say. Bottom: heterosexual/straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual/queer, asexual, different identity.)

Almost half of respondents said they felt safe in their neighborhoods, with the more positive replies coming from people with higher educational attainment living in better neighborhoods. D’uh! A noteworthy black mark of 31% felt their neighborhood had not improved since they moved in, while 27% felt it had improved. The remainder were neutral.

Almost half (48%) of Philadelphians said police service was excellent or good, while 75% felt the same about fire services. Only 25% said traffic enforcement was excellent or good. I have reported on poor enforcement for years.

Only 25% said local schools were satisfactory, but here’s a little catch, one that also applies to police services.

Philadelphia has about 1.5 million residents and 202,538 students in public schools, less than 15% of the population. Sure, we all should care about education, but if we don’t have a kid in school, chances are we don’t. It’s just the way it is.

Ditto the rising homicide rate. Unless you live in a neighborhood — North Philly, West Philly, Southwest Philly — where people are getting gunned down every night, chances are you don’t care that much. If we did care, it would be No. 1 on our list of concerns, but it isn’t. Streets are. Why? We all experience streets.

I am not saying this kind of thinking is good — it is not. The city as a whole — like the nation as a whole — should be something we all care about, but my personal experience is that we don’t.

And that’s why more Philadelphians care about busted up streets than they do about homicide.

5 thoughts on “What Philadelphians really care about”

  1. If the people who run the city ran a business the same way, they’d all be fired. But the voters have to live with their choices, which begs the question: Why do the voters keep reelecting the same people who do such a lousy job?

    One question on the schools: how many school children are in the Philadelphia system today compared to 1950, when the city had twice the population? Now, how much is being spent per child today compared to 1950? I suspect the city spends more and gets less than in 1950. If so, everyone should be fired.

    How are the peepers, Stu?

  2. I think you summed it up with the last paragraph. It’s an obstacle course out there, but doesn’t have to be.

    Our Mayor’s thinking via his liberal education is what has left cities across the fruited plain in shambles. Doesn’t have to be. It’s silly and destructive.

    All I can do is vote, and I do.
    Results, one less Republican council person. And how would that help? Not a damn bit!

    Glad your back!!

  3. Stu,
    It’s always amazes me that municipal politicians don’t ‘get’ that their priorities need to be basic, critical infrastructure and services. Road that aren’t full of potholes, good drinking water, street lights, enough police to do the job, fire protection, etc. The stuff that no other level of government is going to provide. It may not be politically ‘sexy’ stuff, but it matters. Liberal mayors seem to want to skip over this stuff in favor of their pet social projects. Conservative types often want skip over it and get right to cutting taxes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could set minimum ‘benchmarks’ for the stuff city government really needs to attend to that must be met before monument building, social engineering or tax cuts were allowed?

    1. Along those lines, on the state level ever wonder where all the money is going that has been raised by Governor Wolf’s gas tax, now (I believe) the highest in the nation? Our roads are deplorable; it would be a great pleasure to strap Governor Wolf to the hood of my car and drive up and down Route 422 to shake his liver to pieces. That road is an obstacle course. Again, politicians saying one thing and then screwing the taxpayers.

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