Katie Gourley, MUP 2019
Organization: City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Internship Program, Philadelphia, PA
Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship
“Last Friday, our team held an event with the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia. The goal of the meeting was to provide the network membership with updates about the Rebuild initiative, to discuss the role philanthropy can play in the program, and to hear stories of why some funders have already invested in Rebuild.
Rebuild is poised to receive $500 million in support through the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, but that tax is currently being sued at the state supreme court level. In the meantime, the project is able to get a few initial projects started on a short-term $8 million allocation available in the capital budget. However, even when tax litigation is resolved and bonds for Rebuild projects are issued, additional fundraising will still be needed.
Our team presented to about 50 representatives of philanthropic organizations to crystalize some of the most important features of this project. I was grateful to leave the meeting feeling re-inspired about the work and its meaning. We discussed the dire urgency of the physical improvements needed at many of Philadelphia’s parks, recreation center and library facilities and the important and multifaceted role these spaces serve.
Our executive director pointed to a recent story about Hunting Park, which is forced to close anytime it rains. In the article Donte Mills shares a memory of a day in his childhood where the center served as a safe space to avoid a situation he feared was turning dangerous. He writes: “As I think of how bizarre it is for a community recreation center to have a roof with a hole in it for so many years, for all recreational activity to come to a halt based on the forecast, I can’t help but think: “What if it rained that day?” What if I had no available safe place because the Rec had to turn us away? What path would I be on right now?” These kinds of threats are found all over Philadelphia’s parks and recreation centers and I am hopeful that in the years to come Rebuild can help correct that.
In our discussion we also highlighted a handful of precedent initiatives from around the world that have similarly worked to improve cities and account for historical inequities through civic infrastructure investments, such as New York City’s Community Parks Initiative and Victoria’s Community Sports Infrastructure Fund. There are some key ways that Rebuild is different, however. The key difference is in the initiative’s structural commitment to economic inclusion and community engagement. This means that projects will be delivered through joint partnerships with existing community organizations who already have roots in the sites. As Rebuild is ultimately our taxpayers’ dollars at work, one of the main focuses is on making sure that local and diverse businesses get the contract opportunities created by the projects. Rebuild has strict and ambitious diversity and inclusion goals for workforce and small business supports which are designed to address historical imbalances and ensure that project teams and construction sites actually reflect what Philadelphia’s communities look like.”