February: Comings & Goings

Thousands take to streets in protest
IssueAn estimated 50,000 people joined the Women’s March on Philadelphia on Jan. 21 as part of an international day of protest.

Roughly 2.6 million people worldwide took part. Many of the rallies, including Philadelphia’s, were an outgrowth of the Women’s March on Washington, an event that drew nearly half a million protesters marching under a policy platform that includes equal pay for women and access to reproductive health care, among many other progressive policies and programs. 

Marchers in Philadelphia started around 10 a.m. at Logan Square and filled streets and sidewalks to the point of disrupting traffic. Signs included, “We Deserve Better,” “We Need a Leader, Not A Tweeter” and “We are the LOVE Revolution.” 

More marchers organized for a Jan. 26 rally when news spread that President Trump would attend a Republican Party retreat at Philadelphia’s Loews Hotel. Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, the Center for Popular Democracy, Philly Socialists and other groups organized through social media for their respective demonstrations in Center City.

On Jan. 9, about 300 people representing 13 local sponsoring groups joined a National Day Against Denial rally. The march went from Democratic Sen. Bob Casey’s office in Center City to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s office a few blocks away as organizers delivered personal letters demanding climate action. Speakers included Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition Vice President Ramona Rousseau Reid and 350 Philadelphia’s Mitch Chanin.

PennFuture and Conservation Voters of PA to Partner
In an effort to increase the impact of their respective environmental advocacy organizations, PennFuture and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania (CVPA) announced an official partnership in January.

CVPA will remain a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, but its staff will assist in a new civic engagement program at PennFuture. PennFuture staff and board members will take on roles in CVPA’s advocacy and accountability programs, including the Pennsylvania Environmental Scorecard, which tracks the voting records of state lawmakers on environment-related bills.

“We’ve reached this moment not because of one election cycle—big polluters and their political allies have been making strategic gains for years,” said PennFuture CEO Larry Schweiger in an email announcing the collaboration. “If we’re going to stop them, we must respond with smart, long-term strategic thinking that’s going to result in real change… The time for action is now, and business as usual won’t cut
it anymore.”

Land Bank Releases Annual Plan
The Philadelphia Land Bank, a city clearinghouse for managing vacant properties, submitted its 2017 Draft Strategic Plan to City Council for consideration. The report analyzes market conditions, resident needs and identifies opportunities where publicly owned land might support housing, green space and other reuses. 

“We heard from the public about the need for affordable, accessible housing, and we listened,” said Tania Nikolic, interim executive director of the Land Bank. “After receiving public input, we doubled our goal of properties targeted for the lowest-income families.”

The plan includes a target for the acquisition of 1,650 privately owned tax delinquent parcels over the next five years. These parcels will in turn be conveyed to new owners for affordable and market-rate housing, business expansions, community gardens and side yards.

Drexel, SEPTA and Water Department Honored at Commonwealth Awards
Drexel University received the inaugural Joanne Denworth Founders Award on Jan. 24 from nonprofit 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania for “visionary institutional leadership in community revitalization initiatives that exemplify sound land-use principles.” 

During the ceremony at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, SEPTA was presented with the Excellence in Community Transportation Award for infrastructure renewal and capacity-enhancement projects, as well as business strategies that emphasize sustainability and safety efforts. Philadelphia Water was given the Excellence in Public Infrastructure Award for its Green City, Clean Waters program.

Major Construction Begins at Rail Park
In mid-January, construction workers began removing earth for a new concrete base for the Rail Park, which will cost $10.3 million and is expected to be completed in early 2018. The Rail Park will connect Fairmount Park with Center City, running from Brewerytown to the area at 9th Street above Spring Garden Street. Plans call for green space, lighting, walking paths and swinging benches. The park’s three sections—the Viaduct, the Cut and the Tunnel—are divided into underground and overhead walking areas.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said the park will likely encourage new development, and Center City District is continuing to raise money to close a $700,000 gap to complete the funding. 

Pay-What-You-Wish Eateries Receive Accolades
Jan. 14 through 16, EAT (Everyone at the Table) Café in West Philadelphia—which allows diners to pay as much or as little as they like for menu items that rotate daily—hosted the annual summit for One World Everybody Eats (OWEE), an international nonprofit focused on a pay-what-you-can business model to help alleviate hunger. 

OWEE founder Denise Cerreta is the recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award for her efforts in hunger relief.

 “One World Everybody Eats began in my small coffee shop in Salt Lake City in 2003. Food insecurity embodied my business daily,” said Cerreta. “One day, a woman who was clearly struggling to making ends meet approached my register to pay for her sandwich and I suddenly felt inspired to tell her to pay whatever she could.”

Camphill Village Kimberton Hills in Chester County expanded it’s own version of this business model early January and now hosts Pay as You Wish Saturdays. Thursdays at the market had already been centered around this model.