The Citizens Bank Foundation donated $25,000 to the African American Museum in Philadelphia to underwrite the museum’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.
The grant will allow the museum to offer free admission and cultural activities to more than 3,000 museum visitors on Jan. 16.
As part of the museum’s Sharing the Heritage Day, visitors will enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities, including arts and crafts, historic reenactments, music, dance and other cultural performances. In addition, visitors can view a new exhibit entitled “Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls,” which officially opens on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The exhibit includes furniture from the house where Smalls and his mother were enslaved, letters and pictures from his home in Beaufort, S.C., and movie screenings.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of promoting justice and equality for all people can never be overlooked or underestimated,” said Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, Citizens Bank president and CEO for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
“The Citizens Bank Foundation is honored to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy by underwriting free admission for a special community day at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.”
To encourage visits by families, the bank will offer the Citizens Bank Scavenger Hunt for Heritage, a fun and educational activity that will help children explore and experience the museum. More than 50 Citizens Bank volunteers will guide children through their list of clues to find specific artifacts. Each child who brings a completed list to the Citizens Bank table in the museum will receive either a copy of “Martin’s Big Words,” a picture-book biography of the civil rights leader or a book on Robert Smalls entitled “American Heroes: Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief,” compliments of Citizens Bank. Scavenger hunt participants will also receive a special commemorative button, compliments of AAMP.
“This is our fifth year partnering with Citizens Bank and, as always, we’re grateful for the support,” said Romona Riscoe Benson, the museum’s president and CEO.
“The Citizens Bank Foundation’s generous support enables us to open our doors to the community for our festivities and exhibits surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This important event allows us to attract new community members to the museum and to showcase our continually updated facility.”
“The partnership between Citizens Bank and the African American Museum has significantly enhanced the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “The generosity of the Citizens Bank Foundation will allow thousands of people to walk through the doors of the museum and learn about a man who changed America for the better.”
Located at 701 Arch Street, AAMP will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 16.
Today marks the official opening of the Jon Paul Hammond Public Computer Center at Prevention Point offices.
Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS service organization, will host a ribbon cutting ceremony today at 11 a.m. at Prevention Point, located at 166 West Lehigh Avenue.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and members of the AIDS service community are expected to join in the celebration.
Philadelphia FIGHT is one of thirteen local agencies and educational institutions participating in the program led by the city of Philadelphia’s Division of Technology and the Urban Affairs Coalition.
The computer centers were made possible through $18.2 million in grant funding from the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (B-TOP).
The program is designed to provide broadband Internet access, computers and training to the most economically and socially vulnerable areas of the city. In total, 77 public computer centers will be created and 15,000 individuals will be trained in how to use computers thanks to the citywide initiative.
“This partnership will help more residents develop valuable digital literacy and workforce skills so they can remain competitive in today's 21st Century economy,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
“We thank Philadelphia FIGHT for partnering with the city to make valuable resources and services available to residents directly in the heart of communities across Philadelphia. Through this initiative, residents, particularly those in less advantaged neighborhoods, will have an opportunity to enhance their ability to work toward a better quality of life.”
Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Project has over 15 years of experience addressing the digital divide and serving citizens who do not have the resources in their own homes to access the Internet. For its part, FIGHT will expand the computer lab and staffing in its AIDS Library, Institute for Community Justice, and Youth Health Empowerment Project. FIGHT will also assist in creating or enhancing computer centers at 27 of the 77 locations, including shelters and drug recovery houses where FIGHT currently makes HIV counseling and testing available.
The new site contains five computers and is open to the public Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. Classes take place at various times and include lessons in basic computing skills, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, digital storytelling, and blogging as well as FIGHT’s signature workshops “Finding Health Information Online” and “Finding HIV/AIDS Information Online.”
For information about computer classes, call (215) 634-5272.
Nutter says city can’t afford resulting revenue loss
City Council let stand a mayoral veto of a proposed cut in the city’s parking tax, but the bill’s sponsor vowed to re-visit the issue next year.
Councilman Jim Kenney, who sponsored the bill that would have cut the tax from 20 percent to 17 percent, said he didn’t have enough votes to pass the measure over Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto, a move that would take 12 votes.
“Apparently the mayor has learned to lobby in the last couple of days,” Kenney said. “So, I will not be asking my colleagues to put up a vote, but I will tell now that the first day back in session, in January, this piece of legislation will be re-introduced.”
Council passed the bill three weeks ago with a 12-5 vote, seeming to guarantee that it could withstand a veto.
But, Kenney told reporters after the meeting that four members of Council — he declined to say who — had changed their minds, temporarily sinking his proposal.
Council members Bill Green, Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, Brian O’Neill, Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Darrell Clarke were the original five members to oppose the bill. O’Neill and Brown reiterated their opposition again on Thursday.
“This industry does not bring tears to my eyes at all,” O’Neill said, noting that the tax cut was only for the parking industry and not across the board. “They absolutely gouge people who come into the city.”
The proposal came at time when city revenue is again falling, added Brown, and parking officials said in public testimony that they would not pass the savings on to their customers.
“The parking industry has not made any real commitment to lower parking rates for customers,” she said, adding that with revenue projections lower than expected, the city could not afford to lose any more money. “Given … the city’s revenue loss we simply cannot provide this reduction for the parking industry.”
Nutter, in explaining his decision, said the cut, which would not have gone into affect until 2014, would have cost the city $24 million over four years.
“This is the wrong time to adopt new tax breaks, particularly for a single industry,” he said, in a letter to Council, noting that sales and wage tax revenues had fallen $10 million below projections so far this year. If that trend continued, he said, the city could lose $60 million over the next two years.
In other news, Council is expected to vote on whether or not to join a suit that would ban natural gas drilling with hydraulic fracturing until a full environmental impact study is completed.
And, the council designated Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples Day and approved a resolution that set the first Saturday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
Thousands of local residents, elected officials and community organizers filled the gathered at the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust streets for the inauguration of the mayor and swearing-in of City Council members Monday.
Also sworn in were members of the judiciary, the register of wills and the sheriff. Six new members were among the Council contingent.
Outgoing Council President Anna C. Verna, the longest serving elected official in the city, took a moment to thank her colleagues for serving with her during her 60 years in public office.
“I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my years as, a Council staff member, and then councilwoman for the Second Councilmanic District, and finally, as Council president,” she said. Verna, who retires this year, suggested that those who were being newly sworn in to public service follow some of the principles which guided her decisions and actions during her years in office.
“Uphold the truth that has been placed upon you by the citizens of this great city. Treat your colleagues and constituents with dignity and respect, remember that compromise is an essential element in every legislative process and always remember that public service is a noble profession,” said Verna.
Verna’s seat will now be occupied by Darrell L Clarke, who was unanimously voted in as Council president during the proceedings. Clarke promised to work closely with Mayor Michael Nutter, who was sworn in for a second term.
Philadelphia’s poet laureate Sonia Sanchez opened proceedings with the recitation of a poem that she dedicated to Nutter.
“This city is not dead/ I am not dead/ we are simply falling nightingales,” she read.
Clarke was joined by his daughter Nicole as he took the podium and gave special thanks to both former Mayor John Street and Verna.
“I would not be standing here today were it not for John Street,” said Clarke of the former mayo, who was seated on the stage. “Paying attention to detail, understanding the importance of budget and its impact on services, the list goes on.”
He said that these things were important in his career, but the most important thing he learned from Street was the value of hard work.
It was Verna he credits for teaching him the art of listening to people and understanding the views of Council members.
“More importantly, I learned the true value of fairness,” said Clarke of Verna.
“If I could work as hard as John Street and be as fair as Anna Verna, I’ll have a solid foundation and the wisdom to lead this Council.”
Clarke recounted his days growing up in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city in a row-home community which he characterized as possessing quality public schools, thriving local businesses and strong families.
“Unfortunately, as with many Philadelphia neighborhoods, that is no longer the case,” he said. “The economic downturn has caused many local businesses to close and our neighborhood districts are not what they used to be.”
Clarke acknowledged that, although the city’s public schools have made some advances, more changes need to be made, with dropout rates remaining high.
He promised to work with the mayor and other city departments and agencies to create a more unified and cohesive local government that could better serve residents.
“To get where we must go, all parties involved, the City Council, the mayor, SRC and, most of all the parents ‑ every parent ‑ must work together,” said Clarke.
Creating a business-friendly environment was also high on the list of things he said the city must do to improve.
“It is extremely important that this Council and this mayor work together on the issues that unite us rather than those on which we disagree,” said Clarke, who wished Nutter well in his second term.
“As our economy begins to stabilize and we begin to generate creative ideas to strengthen our budget, we must deliver services without always resorting to putting our hands in taxpayers’ pockets,” he said.
Nutter also said he believes that the city has improved in the last four years, but feels much more needs to be done.
“As I stand before you at the beginning of my second term, it is not my intention to celebrate what has been done, but to talk briefly about the values needed to guide us in doing what must be done,” said Nutter, who spoke of his days as a youth growing up in West Philadelphia.
“We had respect for each other and our elders,” said Nutter, who listed public safety, education and employment as the key issues of his second term.
“There are too many Philadelphians who don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, whose children are in low-performing schools, who are struggling to find work and some who have even given up looking for a job.”
Nutter asked the audience to reject the notion of a dual city, divided into rich and poor, affluent and oppressed.
“I will spend every waking moment of every day of this new term working with Council, working with the state, the federal government, working with you and fighting for you, fighting for this city,” said Nutter. “We’re in this together. One city. One Philadelphia. No one left behind.”
Officials preparing for London’s 2012 Olympics expect millions to visit the British capital and attend the world’s premiere athletic competition, scheduled to run from Friday, July 27, through Sunday, August 12.
But when the Olympic torch is snuffed out at the conclusion of the games, what happens to the Olympics site and its facilities built for the competitions?
The job of transforming the London Olympics site and its facilities into long-term use has for the past three years been the responsibility of an American-born, urban designer who graduated from Temple University, and who worked for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration as deputy mayor.
Andrew Altman is the chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the entity tasked with plotting post-Olympics games development for the 500 acre site in East London that hosts most of the Olympics events and primary supporting services like the massive media center for the 20,000 journalists scheduled to work the games.
So how did an American obtain this pivotal post for the 2012 London Olympics, the third Olympics held in that city since 1908?
“The London Legacy Corporation asked [Altman] for recommendations to head up that very important Olympic venture. The more they talked to him and heard his ideas, the more they liked him for the position,” Oliver St. Clair Franklin said.
Philadelphia businessman Franklin, who frequently travels to London, knows Altman. Franklin serves as the Honorary British Consul for Philadelphia.
“Andy is a good Philly fellow and brings a unique vision to the planning process because he understands the commercial [aspect] as well as the elements of planning,” Franklin said.
Altman said professional associates urged him to apply for the CEO post he received in 2009, so he gave it a try.
“My name was mentioned because I worked before with the London School of Economics,” Altman said.
Altman graduated from Temple University with a degree in urban geography before obtaining a graduate degree in city planning. He’s held planning positions in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Oakland, working as Philadelphia’s First Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development when he was tapped for the LLDC post.
Altman has generated praise, according to numerous reports, for his key role in devising the vision for transitioning the Olympics site after the games into a new community that will eventually have nearly 8,000 new homes plus commercial and recreational facilities. The site is officially known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,
As one published account stated, Altman “helped re-envision” the previous master plan for the park’s post-Olympics development.
“This was always about a regeneration project, an urban redevelopment project,” Altman said last fall when he met with a group of Temple University students who were studying in London.
“This place was an absolute dump,” Altman said, referencing the main Olympics site built atop old, industrial wasteland once shunned for being highly toxic.
Building on that site required cleaning over a million tons of toxic soil, scrubbed in specially constructed washing machines.
The Olympics site in East London abuts some of the poorest neighborhoods in London, and the entirety of England, a striking contrast to other sections of the increasingly gentrified city.
“This is literally a massive stimulus program for London,” Altman said when talking with the Temple students. “Our task with Legacy is to make sure we pass the “white elephant” test … will these things benefit East London?”
Finding an owner for the main Olympic stadium, transforming other competition sites like the Aquatics Center into a public swimming facility and building an eco-friendly park along the long-polluted River Lea are elements of Altman’s work paralleling construction of new residential neighborhoods on the site.
Turning the Athlete’s Village into residential use is a component of that neighborhood transformation.
Altman said that half of the housing in the Athlete’s Village, located in London’s Stratford section, “is already designated for local residents and low-income.”
The envisioned new neighborhoods in the park will feature mixed income [housing] — unlike the current low-income and increasingly gentrified upper-income.
“There are few opportunities for the middle-class, forcing many families to move outside of London. We are looking to rebalance the area from lower to upper income,” Altman said.
Altman, last month, announced his resignation as LLDC head, effective when the main games conclude in August.
“It has been a tremendous honor to lead this once-in-a-lifetime project that will transform the face of London and will be a spectacular example of city-building the world over,” Altman stated in a London media account.
That media account credited Altman for leadership “in laying the foundations for London’s Olympic legacy” leaving the capital with more advanced planning and execution “than any prior host city.”
City Council President Darrell Clarke’s head is full of ideas, and he just wants to get on with it already.
“I have a sense of urgency,” Clarke said, as he reflected on his first few months as president. “I’ve got to do stuff. I’ve got municipal marketing. I’ve got a development district. And, the other members too, we’ve got projects.”
Some of his ideas — like municipal marketing, selling advertising space on city property — have been controversial. But, Clarke, at a recent Tribune editorial board meeting, said it's time for city government to begin looking at fresh ways to generate revenue.
He’s going to keep throwing out ideas until he’s solved the problem.
Clarke has been portrayed as something of a sphinx – quiet, diligent, a man who worked best behind the scenes. That’s pretty much how he’s operated since being first elected to council in 1999. He held a leadership role, majority whip, but it was one that allowed him to remain in the shadows.
That’s impossible as council president. Yet, his tendency to shun the spotlight is evident in his leadership style.
“I guess I’m decentralizing the council president’s authority. I think it’s been very helpful, and I think it’s been good for the members,” he said.
Already the tenor of council has changed.
For the first time, a council president, who has traditionally exercised great authority in what legislation moves, when and who on council is involved, has delegated quite a bit of that authority.
“I think I’ve tried to be fair,” he said. “Every council person chairs a committee, which is unprecedented.”
As an example, he pointed to Councilman David Oh, a freshman and a Republican, two strikes against him under traditional council leadership, but Clarke has put in him charge of the Committee on Global Opportunities.
“He’s supposed to be chairing that committee,” Clarke said.
As president, he also expects every member to pull his or her weight.
“Don’t expect me to do the follow up,” he said. “You do the follow up and make sure the legislation gets enacted properly. They love it.”
Clarke recognizes that to get some of his ideas put in place he’ll have to collaborate even more – primarily with Mayor Michael Nutter.
“The reality is that the legislative branch of government cannot implement programs. That is, to a large degree, some of the frustration that a legislator suffers. Because at the end of the day, you can have nine million great ideas, but if the mayor chooses not to implement it that’s all it is, an idea,” he said.
The relationship between the two men – often acrimonious – is evolving.
“To be determined,” was how Clarke described it.
He stepped into the city’s top legislative job in January during a period that was deceptively quiet. Council, now knee-deep in budget hearings that are convoluted with concerns over a move to a property tax system based on full property values, and this week’s bombshell about the school district’s budget, is wrestling with issues that will shape the city’s long-term future.
Critics worried that the influence of his political mentor, former Mayor John F. Street, would be too evident.
Nutter campaigned vigorously behind the scenes against Clarke’s election to the presidency. The mayor backed former Majority Leader Marian Tasco.
Clarke doesn’t seem to hold a grudges.
He joked about Tasco’s recent participation in Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars, a charity dance contest Tasco won.
“It was a little bit rigged,” he said laughing.
As far as Nutter is concerned, Clarke admits that for progress to be made the two men will have to collaborate. The city made little progress under Mayor Bill Green, who was constantly at odds with council, he said. W. Wilson Goode had a better relationship with council but the city was broke at the time. Ed Rendell, during his tenure as mayor, managed to work well with Council President John Street.
“Street sat down and said ‘this is what I want’ and Ed said ‘this is what I want’ - they worked a deal and stuff happened,” said Clarke.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
In any event, Clarke now has a greater respect for former Council President Anna C. Verna, who steered council from 1999 to 2012.
“Every day I think about Anna Verna with a newfound respect,” he said, adding that he hoped he could be an example for his colleagues. “We’ve been given a significant opportunity and responsibility — and we need to treat it as such.”
While the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has no poet laureate (after a decade, the title was abolished in 2003), Philadelphia has staked out its position as a thriving artistic city with its second appointment in a year. Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced last week that Siduri Beckman has been named the City of Philadelphia’s first Youth Poet Laureate in a City Hall ceremony with the City’s inaugural Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. A position complementing the city’s poet laureate, the youth poet laureate was selected from among high school youth residing within the city of Philadelphia.
Sanchez, currently serving a two-year term, provided input to the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, whose members are Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia; Al Filreis, faculty director of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania; Beth Feldman Brandt, poet and executive director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; and Greg Corbin, founder and executive director, Philly Youth Poetry Movement. After a rigorous selection process, two finalists were selected, Jaya Montague and Siduri Beckman, both of whom read their original poetry as part of the event.
“It is an honor to announce that the Poet Laureate Committee has selected a young person to promote poetry and the arts to the youth of Philadelphia,” said Nutter. “The city is proud to acknowledge the power and importance of poetry as an art form. Programs like the Philly Youth Poetry Movement have shown the impact that poetry can have on the positive development of young people, and it’s significant that we are officially recognizing this impact.”
Gary Steuer, chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee and chief cultural officer of the OACCE said, “We were pleased to see the caliber of talent displayed by the applicants for the position and look forward to working with the Youth Poet Laureate as she begins to fulfill the duties associated with the position. We look forward to seeing her grow as a poet and develop her talents while inspiring her fellow youth to greater artistic pursuits and success in life.”
Following the announcement of the Youth Poet Laureate, Beckman and Sanchez recited poetry together for the first time. “Poetry makes us remember the best of ourselves and others,” said Sanchez. “How it keeps us constantly confronting the most important question of this twenty-first century: what does it mean to be human?”
“Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work” by Edwidge Danticat has been chosen as the 2012 One Book, One Philadelphia selection.
The book is a collection of essays and a memoir that urges immigrant writers to record the oppression they witness.
“Philadelphians will be drawn to these thoughtful and thought provoking essays, many of which are inspired by … Danticat’s experiences growing up in Haiti,” said Siobahn Reardon, director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, at the announcement Wednesday at the Central Library.
One Book, One Philadelphia celebrates is 10th anniversary this year and was in the spotlight earlier this week when it was announced that the first author honored by the program, Lorene Cary, had been appointed to the School Reform Commission.
The program started with the hopes that it would encourage literacy by fostering a citywide discussion of just one book. Thousands read the selection annual selection, which is available at every library in the city. In addition, readers are encouraged to come together at more than 100 events centered on a theme generated by the book.
This year that theme is Haiti and events will include panel discussions, film screenings and musical performances.
“This book is a call to arms for all of us for many different reasons,” said Marie Fields, chair of One Book, One Philadelphia. “Through our shared reading and programming experience we shall celebrate and embrace the rich diversity and common humanity of everyone who lives in our community.”
Mayor Michael Nutter, also on hand for the unveiling of the title, lauded the program, which also included a teen and children’s book selection.
The teen selection was “A Taste of Salt” by Frances Temple and children’s title was “Running the Road to ABC” by Denize Lauture.
“It’s important to Philadelphia because it brings together people from all walks of life, all parts of the city, all races, all colors, all genders and preferences,” he said. “It just brings people together in one place around one particular theme … and it really promotes life-long learning and literacy among a whole host of folks.”
Danticat said via a videocast that she was “very excited to be selected. What a great honor.”
For more information visit the library’s website at www.freelibrary.org
As he dives into a new legislative session with plans to press forward with gun control legislation and expanded voting among other things, Sen. Anthony Williams also has his eye on another option — running for mayor.
“I think I have some ideas I would like to try in the form of chief executive,” he told the Tribune this week. “That’s why I ran for governor.”
Williams, who ran for governor in 2010, outlined his legislative agenda for the upcoming session in an editorial board meeting with the Tribune.
In a spirited conversation, the senator discussed a range of legislative topics from gun control to education and voting rights. He also took a moment to mull over a future outside the state legislature.
“I’m actively investigating the possibility,” replied Williams when asked if he was considering a run for mayor, something long rumored.
His decision would hinge on several factors, Williams said, including finances, and gauging popular and party support for his candidacy
He didn’t expect to make a decision this year, he said. Mayor Michael Nutter’s term runs to 2016 — a campaign would likely start in 2014, as candidates vie for a nomination in the primary in early 2015.
Turning back to his plans for the coming senate session, Williams said his top priority would be job creation.
However, several of his other proposals are likely to garner more attention in the press.
The Philadelphia delegation is working on a package of gun proposals. Williams has come up with a bill that would create a statewide database to track guns. Despite the fact that it is what Williams describes as a moderate approach to gun control, it is something that could generate debate. Gun control measures of any kind have long been a non-starter in the state legislature.
The shootings at Newtown, Conn., have changed that dynamic somewhat.
“There are extremes on both sides, and members in between — and the ones who are in between are indifferent, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ — but now some of these folks are willing to talk about it,” he said. “The epidemic of these guns has been with some of us for a while.”
It’s difficult to tell where the proposal might go.
“Where it will go? I’m not exactly sure,” he said, adding that Pennsylvania officials might delay until another state took action. “The timing is right. The votes are there. I don’t think you have the right governor.”
Williams also expects to introduce another bill — one that would create an early voting period — which he also expects the governor to oppose.
“With this particular gentleman, there are things that are problematic,” Williams said.
Under Williams plan, voters would be able to cast their ballots, in person, up to two weeks before an election. Pennsylvania is one of only 15 states that doesn’t have early voting.
Voting became a controversial issue this year as the state enacted a voter ID law that angered many. Williams, along with other members of the Philadelphia delegation, is party to a lawsuit seeking to have the law overthrown.
The senator also has a plan he hopes will energize Philadelphia voters during judicial elections. Under the proposal, names for judge candidates would be rotated on ballots across the city, rather than the current practice of candidates randomly drawing their ballot position from numbers in a coffee can. Williams hopes the move will wake up apathetic voters by forcing them to pay attention to the names on the ballot thus forcing judicial candidates to campaign more actively.
“The quality of the bench has devolved,” he said, the change “would guarantee that people are looking for your name — as opposed to just looking for your position.”
In general terms, Williams said, Pennsylvania is at a political crossroads.
“Pennsylvania is at the intersection of how it wants to operate,” he said. “Is it a D state, an R state, or always operate independently. I think it’s always going to be more independent.”
Philadelphia will receive a $10 million federal grant to upgrade aging traffic signals, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Mayor Michael Nutter announced Thursday.
“We’re replacing about 100, forty-year-old traffic controllers with the latest fiber-optic technology,” Nutter said, noting that the entire project will cost about $20 million.
The remainder of the funding will come from the city, state and SEPTA.
New signals will include technology that prioritizes movement by buses and trolleys, extending a green light when a bus or trolley is detected. Other improvements include upgrades to handicap curb cuts, pedestrian countdown signals and other improvements for pedestrians and people with disabilities.
Among the city’s top targets, traffic lights on Woodland Avenue in the Southwest and at Bustleton and Castor Avenues in the Northeast.
“The money for these upgrades will improve the commutes for 92,000 drivers, transit riders and pedestrians,” said Nutter. “Reinvesting in and maintaining our infrastructure is key to improving Philadelphia. The Administration understands that cities and municipalities cannot wait for Congress to get the job done.”
Philadelphia was one of 40 cities receiving a federal TIGER grant to fund traffic flow improvements, LaHood said, adding that communities across the country requested a total of $14 billion from about $500,000 in available funds.
Those figures pointed to the need for Congress to act on a transportation bill, LaHood said, during a routine announcement that quickly turned political.
“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” LaHood said. “That’s why we’ve taken action to get these grants out the door quickly, and that is why we will continue to ask Congress to make the targeted investments we need to create jobs, repair our nation’s transportation systems, better serve the traveling public and our nation’s businesses, factories and farms, and make sure our economy continues to grow.”
President Barack Obama has been pressing Congress to pass a transportation bill — part of his jobs bill — for several months. After the Senate blocked Obama’s larger $447 billion jobs bill in October, the White House announced that it would try and get several components of the bill passed individually.
The president touts transportation projects as a practical bipartisan way to put people to work. Administration estimates suggest that his bill would put more than 1 million unemployed construction workers back on the job.
In several speeches Obama has said the nation’s aging transportation network costs U.S. businesses and families about $130 billion a year. Failing to upgrade the network could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs by the end of the decade.
But, the legislation has been uniformly opposed by Republicans and a few Democrats who object to any new spending and to the president’s plan for a new tax on the wealthy to help pay for it.
LaHood took the opportunity Thursday to remind voters of that fact saying that Congress’s intransigence was unprecedented.
“Here we are in the waning days of a Congress that has done nothing to put friends and neighbors to work,” he said. “And, has done nothing to pass a transportation bill. Republicans have stymied the opportunity to put friends and neighbors to work.”