Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dear Mayor Jim Kenney

Dear Mayor Kenney,

With a new Mayor of Philadelphia comes issues new and old that need to be addressed. Over the years I have lived in a number of major cities up and down the eastern seaboard and to be quite frank Philadelphia is the most dysfunctional city I have lived in.

City agencies who use archaic data management make it impossible to retrieve any data from the past, large scale malfeasance, limited accountability, and a City Council that is easily distracted by shiny objects. To say nothing of a school system that is grossly underfunded, unsafe to learn or teach in, and at the mercy bickering elected officials in Harrisburg. Who act more like children than the children they are supposed to be watching over.

To add to this are ongoing bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure issues. While you have committed to adding 15 miles of new bicycle lanes every year. I don’t see how this will happen with City Council’s stranglehold on bicycle infrastructure. Thanks to the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition’s deal with the Philadelphia City Council, giving City Council final authority over the installation of new bicycle lanes. Most likely any future bicycle lanes will resemble an ineffective patchwork system benefiting no one.

Then there is the general lack of maintenance of existing bike lanes. You don’t have to travel far within Philadelphia to see bike lanes where the lane markings have faded to the point that you can’t tell if there is a bike lane. Yes, it costs money to do this. But if you can’t maintain the existing infrastructure, how are you going to add more?

Another thing that needs to change is the Mayor’s Bicycle Commission or as it should be called, the Mayor’s Bicycle Racing Commission. Yes, the annual Philadelphia International Cycling Classic is an important draw for Philadelphia tourism. However the International Cycling Classic and the commission do not represent most cyclists. The current commission is made up of people with active involvement in bicycle racing, including a patronage position for Mayor Nutter’s wife. It should be retooled to include actual citizens of Philadelphia, with a minority of its members from racing and advocacy organizations.

Having lived in and visited New York City for many years I have never seen a sidewalk shut down without an alternative being provided. Or scaffolding with a roof making the sidewalk safe for pedestrians. Yet in Philadelphia shutting down half to an entire block of sidewalk for months on end by a construction company is standard operating procedure. Forcing pedestrians to walk in traffic or cross in mid-street, with no safe alternative.

You have committed to doing something about this. But, like bicycle lanes, I believe you face an uphill battle. Given the fact that L&I is so slipshod in how they operate that they got caught falsifying inspections in 2015.

I know both you and Mayor Nutter have some process in the works to hold Open Streets in Philadelphia. I was very pleased to read that you went to New York City’s Summer Streets this past year. So you could experience the potential of what can happen in Philadelphia. Don’t let the naysayers in the business community try to minimize the scope and size of the events. For many years Philadelphia had Open Streets events on an annual basis. It’s time to bring that tradition back.