On Monday, I reported that the City of Philadelphia--for the moment, at least--had informed the Institute for the Study of Civic Values that the city contract that supports PhillyBlocks would not be renewed for the coming year.We asked everyone on our lists who values what we do to use the Hallwatch.org service to fax letters to City Councill and the Mayor telling them how PhillyBlocks benefits you and why the City should continue to support it. You can access that service easily from the home page of phillyneighborhoods.org or phillyblocks.org. If you have intended to do this--do it now. City Hall needs to hear from you.People who participate in PhillyBlocks from all parts of the city have expressed astonishment and anger that this has happened to us. Many have said they simply can't believe it, given the service that we are providing to them and hundreds like them.I have also learned that we are not alone. Groups throughout the city are losing funding without notice. They don't have an email network to share the information. They're just getting terminated. As one Councilperson put it, "Join the line."So what's going on here? Funding is tight. City revenues are less than expected. This is what happens during a budget crunch. We've all been here before.But what criteria is the City using to keep some programs but not others? That was not clear to us or to anybody else facing this problem. But it is clear to me now and it's important that we all understand it.The Nutter administration has set forth a six point agenda for Philadelphia that shapes everything his administration is doing. The six points, in brief, are to make Philadelphia the safest large city in the country, to establish Philadelphia as the premier education city, to have Philadelphia grow as a green city, to make neighborhoods vibrant and liveable, and to demonstrate the highest standards for ethics and accountability. These are the goals. The entire agenda--which you can access from the home page of PhillyNeighborhoods.org --sets forth specific targets that the City hopes to meet in achieving these goals. Examples are reducing the homicide rate by 25% in 2008 reducing the dropout rate by 50% in five years. You can find the rest of the targets from the strategic plan.Are community groups and active citizens aware of how seriously the administration takes these goals? I don't think so. Even though the Great Expectations Now project sponsored forums throughout the Philadelphia asking for guidance from the community in shaping the agenda (you can access the reports on these meetings from PhillyNeighborhoods .org as well), there was no indication that these goals were already being used as a basis for making funding decisions.But they are. And any program that cannot explain how it contributes to meeting the City's six point agenda is a clear target for extinction, at least as far as the City of Philadelphia is concerned.Here are two examples. Last spring, when the City retrieved our after-school programs from Safe and Sound and had to determine which summer programs would survive, they set as a target those programs operating in the high crime Police Districts of the City. Everyone says that after-school programs reduce crime, so why not take that seriously?There was quite an outcry from groups working in safer neighborhoods, needless to say, and the City has dropped this as a standard for funding after-school programs starting in September. But you can bet that some sort of criteria related to the Mayor's agenda will be established for funding these programs in the future.Another example: The EPIC Stakeholder Groups. These are neighborhood coalitions supported by DHS to combat truancy by providing young people with positive support in the community. The budget which funds these programs in DHS is short $3 million. Something has to give. So the Stakeholder groups are at risk. How might they defend themselves? Well, if the City's goal is to reduce the high school drop out rate by 50% in 5 to 7 years, they could argue that by reducing truancy they are reducing the dropout rates as well. Drop out rates and truancy levels are already tracked by the School District and the Juvenile Court. The Stakeholder Groups need to start using both set of data to justify their existence.There are several areas where statistics are kept that can be used for measuring success. The crime rate, in and out of school. The number of L&I complaints--however resolved. The number of blocks with block captains that participate in neighborhood cleanups. These are just a few examples.But if the City is going to hold community groups accountable to making a difference in meeting these goals--which we at the Institute for the Study of Civic Values do support--community organizations need to know this. A lot of programs in this year's budget were conceived and presented to the City administration this spring, without any guidance from the operating departments about how to make the case. So now not only have they been cut, they have no idea why. We didn't either. But we figured it out and are putting together our own response to the City documenting what our contribution to meet their objectives has been--and what it can be in the future. Your faxes to City Council and the Mayor will help a great deal. Let the City know how we have helped you meet these new goals.And our "PhillyBlocks 2008-The Neighborhood Agenda" conference slated for the Convention Center on September 27th will focus on this as well.The workshops we've planned for the conference already reflect the City's priorities. The panels are focusing on crime, blight, education, neighborhood main streets, and homeowners at risk.Now that we know what we know about City funding, we are going to make sure that everyone attending this conference gains a full understanding of the City's agenda and how we can work together to achieve it.We're not waiting for the conference, either. That's a major discussion we will be generating here on PhillyBlocks throughout September leading up to the conference.If you haven't registered for PhillyBlocks: 2008, do it now. This is a great opportunity for all of us to come together to set forth what role citizens and community groups should be playing in this process. Sign up at phillyblocks2008.eventbrite.com/. It's $10--but what is it worth for groups that receive funds from the City to learn how to keep it. And what's it worth for all of us who work hard to improve our neighborhoods every to learn what the priorities of the City administration are--and what they should be?More to come.....Ed Schwartz

Ed Schwartz, Institute for the Study of Civic Values, 1218 Chestnut St.,Rm. 702, Philadelphia, Pa. 19107 215-238-1434 edcivic@libertynet.orgISCV web site: www.iscv.orgAlso check out PhillyNeighborhoods at www.phillyneighborhoods.orgOr PhillyBlocks at www.phillyblocks.org"Citizenship is the American ideal. There may be an army of actualitiesopposed to that ideal, but there is no ideal opposed to that ideal."--G.K. Chesterton
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