- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
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- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
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One Brick At A Time
Every day that I drive to work in Jersey, I see symbols of everything that this city once was, everything this city is, and everything that this city can be. I drive past the converted carriage houses and Victorian houses in Germantown. Then I swing over to East Falls, where I pass by the houses of our Governor and Senator, Grace Kelly’s childhood home, and the beautiful house where Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner got married. Then I swing down Allegheny Avenue and Richmond Street, through North Philly, Port Richmond, and Kensington, which is like driving through a rainbow with very distinct lines.
On this stretch, there is one thing in common. No, it’s not the crippled row homes, the sleazy local bars, the trashy fast food restaurants, the crappy pager stores, or the check cashing places. They are there too. No, what I see is almost a cruel joke. I see old abandoned factories with beautiful trim, broken windows, and crumbling bricks. At one time, these buildings were magnanimous structures bustling with life. Men and women from our great city would come here and make the things that fueled our economy, and their kids had it better than they did. They may not have owned a house, but their kids did. They may not have been able to read, but there kids did. They may not have had a place to call home, but there kids did, and it was here.
And it makes me think to those days in the past. All these people, from all walks of life decided that they wanted to come here to live. Whether it was the Quakers avoiding persecution, the Irish avoiding Potato Famine, the Polish seeking a place that they could call home, the Italians seeking better jobs, the former share croppers seeking a piece of the industrial revolution, or the Latin Americans seeking political stability and a higher standard of living. And we must not forget those who had no choice at all. They all could have gone anywhere in the world, but they wound up here.
We promised them all a better life. But one day the well went dry, the last smokestack was sealed, and the last whistle was blown. The fire went out, and they were stuck here, freezing through one more unbearable winter. Some found heat and gave it to those around them. Some froze to death, and some left for warmer pastures. Many more stayed here and bared it out, generation after generation, one frost at a time.
I think that we, as a city, are still making the same false promises. We tell people to work hard and they will get ahead. We tell them that their children will have a better life than they did. Yet, we let our schools crumble, as we did our factories some time ago. We give tax breaks to those who don’t need them and thus rob our neighborhoods of the bricks and the mortar that they need to rebuild their communities.
While I may be pessimistic at our chances sometimes, I know that one day this city will be everything that it can be. Yeah, we may be the “gritty” 6th Borough, filled with Hipsters. We may be New York, Boston, and DC’s ugly stepsister. But they aren’t the birthplace of Democracy. They don’t have the biggest park system in the world, the craziest sports fans, or, let us not forget, Wawa. Hey, at least we are original. At least we have character.
So when I drive past our history, I know that we will thrive again as we once did. We made it this far, and we will build our city back up again, one brick at a time.