Billy Penn’s interview with Ed Rendell has been sitting in my Safari since it was published two weeks ago. It’s worth reading:
There’s only so much you can expand Center City. Here’s an amazing statistic: When I took over as mayor in 1992, there were 58,000 people living in Center City. There are now almost 200,000, and the median income of those folks is like $90,000. That type of spending power gives downtown an incredible vitality.
Well, when you have that downtown, it also helps the neighborhoods. Because the people holding the jobs in Center City — in the restaurants, the hotels, the shops, the stores — are people who live in the neighborhoods.
I’ve respected Rendell for a while, but it wasn’t until I read A Prayer for the City last summer that I really came to understand and love what he did for Philadelphia. He’s a great example of the cheerleader politician, and the closest thing Pennsylvania’s had to a realist in office in many years.
The Billy Penn piece is great reading for understanding Rendell’s perspective on the changing city, especially for suburbanites who might lack perspective on the scale of change that has occurred and remains underway.