Merit Award -- Communications
Flight or Fight: Metropolitan Philadelphia and its Future
Karen L. Black, Esq., Director, Metropolitan Philadelphia Policy Center
Metropolitan Philadelphia Policy Center
1700 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Statement of Purpose: Our intent was to provide a readable, engaging, state of the region report to educate regional leadership on the complex and interrelated challenges Metropolitan Philadelphia faces in areas of land use, economic competitiveness and access to opportunity. We accomplished this goal by using comprehensive data from the nine-county region to tell a story that details the key strengths and challenges facing our communities - minimal population growth, low job growth, suburban sprawl, blighted urban neighborhoods, traffic congestion, high tax burdens, and more. We relied on information obtained through interviews, meetings, polls, and focus groups with area residents to define the significant problems and determine the best language and images to describe them. Then, in consultation with the political and business leadership, we provide a strategic action plan to meet these challenges.
Community Context: The book has successfully fostered a regional understanding for the first time in our history of the interrelatedness of the economic and population losses in the city to suburban sprawl. It has been extraordinarily successful in creating and sustaining a vibrant conversation around issues of growth and equity in the region. Issues involving neighborhood revitalization, municipal planning reform and tax competitiveness have moved onto the key agendas of political and business leaders who expressly attribute this progress to Flight or Fight.
Role of Participants: For Flight or Fight, an 11-person team spent 10 months compiling and analyzing available data in consultation with leading academics and top business and civic leaders. Over 200 key leaders were involved in the peer review process prior to printing.
Special F actors: The book is the collaborative product of the region' s planners, leaders and visionaries. A diverse group of academics, planners, and business, non-profit and political leaders reached consensus on priorities, suggested action, and style of presentation.
Significance: The book' s impact exceeded all expectations. Our message that spreading without growing threatens city and suburb alike resonated throughout the region. Due to demand, we authorized a second printing. 15,000 copies have been distributed- 8,000 in response to personal requests. The report has been widely praised in the media -- a recent Sunday Inquirer editorial praised it as "depressing but invaluable." It has been referenced and praised by members of City Council, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and all three candidates for Governor. Staff from the Policy Center and its partners presented and briefed some 2,000 regional leaders on the book and its core issues, with additional briefings scheduled into the fall. Dozens of leaders wrote to express their appreciation for the book, including Rebecca W. Rimel, president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, who believes this book will serve as a wake up call to the region:
"This book, which is a 'must-read' for all who care about Philadelphia and its surrounding communities, provides a comprehensive yet easily readable analysis of the many assets inherent in our region, as well as the challenges that now confront us. I am delighted that Flight (or) Fight is receiving such wonderful press, and I credit you and your colleagues for delivering the difficult message about the future outlook for metropolitan Philadelphia to our fellow citizens, policy makers and business leaders."
Flight or Fight has also been widely adopted as a teaching tool in graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania' s Department of City and Regional Planning, the Wharton School, and local universities and institutions.