One of my favorite ads about Philadelphia needs an update to reflect the last year.
In the 1970s, a billboard welcoming visitors traveling into the city via I-76 declared that “Philadelphia isn’t as bad as Philadelphians say it is.”
But as 2016 comes to a close, I’d like tooffer a more apt tagline: “Philadelphia isn’t as great as Philadelphians say it is.”
That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty to celebrate –and celebrate it we must. Philadelphia fully emerged from its cruel nickname as the “sixth borough,” and beat out other East Coast cities as a top travel destination; it became a home and hub for millennials with its vibrant nightlife and affordable rent; and gave birth to things that are just so Philly, like Dumpster pools and a pot pop-up party.
But this year also brought political upsets, transit failures, public health hazards and perennially disappointed sports fans. In short, it seriously sucked.
In February, we learned that more than 10 percent of Philly’s kids tested positive for elevated blood lead levels – more than three times the recorded number in Flint, Michigan. We did the math for you: that’s 2,700 of the city’s youth exposed to the toxin.
In Flint, aging service lines leached lead into the city’s water supply. But here, poison was already in our homes, chipping off the walls and spreading dust particles – mostly in North and Northwest Philly. Also unlike Flint, the problem here never spiked; it’s chronic.
In October, State Sen. Vincent Hughes said it was “worse than the situation in Flint,” and the high exposure rates were “simply unacceptable.”
And again this month, Mayor Jim Kenney vowed renewed action on the fight against lead poisoning by putting pressure on landlords and Licenses and Inspections officials, and changing the city code.
That’s a former senator, the former state attorney general, the former head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, two former Philly judges, a former state senator and a state representative – all of whom abused their power of position while receiving a pay stub from the city or state. There are many more we’d like to add to that list, but their crimes haven’t been proven. Yet.
In short, Philly’s politicians have not enjoyed a year of positive PR. Stories of crooked pols and bad cops here aren’t anything new, but neither is the public’s complacency.
The Democratic National Convention
Sure, the DNC was a fantastic opportunity to bring Democrats and celebrities from all over the country to our humble city. Under Mayor Kenney and DNC chair-slash-former Mayor Ed Rendell’s oversight, Center City sparkled a little brighter, albeit briefly.
The real misfortune in the DNC isn’t that we spent our time and effort on a candidate who didn’t win—at least not according to the Electoral College. It’s that we let democracy fail, here in the birthplace of democracy.
It wasn’t until Clinton’s path to victory was clear and anticipated that Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s emails revealed bias against Bernie Sanders. Many emails leaked suggested the committee overseeing the convention was trying to undermine hiscampaign.
And at the Wells Fargo Center, we spoke with delegates who claimed they were threatened, censored and silenced by fellow party members for views that didn’t align with Clinton’s.
The party’s actions in Philly set a dangerous precedent: ignore those who don’t agree with us. And we can now seethis play out on the national scale, as a jagged chasm between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, grows deeper.
Philly fit in with a trend spreading across the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 1,000 hate crimes across the nation in the month since Election Day.
Let’s break this one down by the numbers:
–6: Number of days SEPTA’s union workers were on strike
–300 percent: How much worse the city’s air quality was during the strike, compared to the week before buses and trains stopped running
–$423,388: How much SEPTA dished out to two law firms this year, just for negotiating with Transit Workers Union Local 234
–576,000: Number of commuters who rely on the public transportation service daily
–$700,000: Just about how much the Philadelphia Parking Authority lost during the six-day moratorium for basically being the good guys by easing restrictions on meters and lowering parking rates in garages
–Still unknown: How much fares will spike next year to pay for this mess
So did our sports teams
Fortypercent is a failing grade in school, so it’s only appropriate that Philly’s sports teams get a big, fat”F” on their 2016 report cards, too.
That’s right, folks: Our four major teams combined to win only 40 percent of their games this year.
The Flyers were the only team to make it to a playoff game – barely. The Eagles blew their 3-0start by going 2-9 subsequently after. The Sixers can’t figure out how to get everyone on the court. The Phillies bid farewell toRyan Howard, the last remaining player from the 2008 World Series team. Temple football lost another coach. Our biggest triumph was Villanova basketball, which isn’t even technically in the city.
Per our sports editor Evan Macy: “By Philadelphia’s own lovable loser standards, it was a horrible year.”
There were more homicides
After a period of considerable decline, Philly’s homicide rate is on the uptick again. A rash of fatal shootingsin Septemberhelped push the numbers above2015 during the same time. As of Dec. 22, there have been 271 homicide victims, compared to 269 in the previous year.
And more overdoses, too
In 2015, there were more than twice as many deaths by drug overdose than there were from homicide in Philly, the Department of Public Health reported. And in 2016, that number went up again.
This year, we heard about a bad batchof heroin that killed nine people in one weekend; saw a spate of nearly 50 overdoses in one day; and watching in shock a viral video of a mom strung out with her child in the back seat.
This fight isn’t without its heroes, though. Earlier this month, Philly police launched a three-day raid against drug dealers that resulted in the arrest of 170 and confiscation of $225,000 worth of drugs.
And the Streets Department gave itself an A-minus.