The Publics and the Catholics

Why a revolution in Catholic School education is important to the City

By Jeremy Nowak

Nowak

Nowak

Growing up in a Philadelphia row home neighborhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my understanding of schools was based on a simple division between publics and Catholics. From my experience at the time, the publics were largely Jewish and African American. The Catholics were largely Irish and Italian.

The parallel Catholic system in Philadelphia rivaled the public district. At its height, Catholic schools educated more than one third of the city’s school age children. Today that number is less than 10 percent.

Back then, Catholic schools provided a quiet subsidy to the city by educating children who otherwise would have been in the public system, while many Catholic school homeowners paid real estate taxes for a public amenity they chose not to use.

Over the past half-century, Catholic schools in Philadelphia have declined due to changing regional demographics, a dramatic drop in the number of women who become nuns (a traditional pillar of Catholic education), the need to increase tuition, and the increased integration of Catholics into non-Catholic institutions.

The sexual molestation scandals also damaged the Catholic brand (and its finances), although the view of Catholic schools was not affected as significantly as the overall view of the church itself.

The decline of Philadelphia Catholic schools is part of a national trend: In 1960, there were about 13,000 Catholic schools in the United States. The number today is around 7,500. As with other institutions created, in part, as a reaction to discrimination, the decline of anti-Catholic sentiment has also changed the role of the schools and parish system that supported them.

But the decline of Catholic schools in Philadelphia may be coming to an end, or at least slowing down. Interesting changes are afoot. A movement that was so important to building the 19th and early 20th Century city, could make a big contribution once again.

Archdiocesan schools, like the School District of Philadelphia, have traditionally functioned as a monopoly. While some schools linked to Catholic orders (e.g. Jesuits or Christian Brothers) had significant autonomy from the Archdiocese, in general it was a top down system with the hub on the Parkway and the spokes at the parishes.

Monopolies are based, in part, on regulatory advantages that make it difficult for alternatives to emerge or compete. While there are economies of scale in large systems, monopolies can stymie innovation. Moreover they often have trouble responding to external changes, even when a response is in their self-interest.

The Philadelphia School District has had difficulty responding to two waves of competition over the past several decades: affordable suburban housing alternatives and the charter school movement. Both have chipped away at enrollment and changed the political calculus between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Nonprofits Faith in the Future and Independence Mission have taken over 32 Catholic schools in Philadelphia. Experiments such as these are happening around the country, but none at this scale.

The Archdiocese had neither the financial capacity nor the incentives to respond to the decline of its Philadelphia schools. As a regional body it followed Catholic demography, resulting in new Catholic schools in the high growth suburbs and closed schools in the city and inner ring suburbs.

Financially and politically, it was hard for the Archdiocese to see another way out. There were new announcements every few years about Catholic school closings.

But this began to change in the wake of the Archdiocese Blue Ribbon Commission report in 2012. Catholic civic and business leaders, alumni and philanthropists, had enough. It was one thing to more rationally manage decline, but they wanted stronger management, more autonomy, and targeted efforts at growth.

Since that time, Philadelphia has been at the center of an enormous experiment to re-think Catholic school management. And while it is much too early to know if it will succeed, there are some encouraging signs. Continue reading

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New Blood: A Former Janitor Turned Policy Wonk Talks Solutions

A desperately needed new generation is stepping up to change Philly by changing City Council. In the second of an ongoing series, meet at-large candidate George Matysik

By Larry Platt

Talk to most candidates for public office, and you get hard-bitten political speak. You get tactics, you get horserace analysis, you get practiced talking points. Talk to 33-year-old Council at-large candidate George Matysik and you get the feeling you’ve walked out of the political realm and into an urban studies class. The ideas come, fast and furious.

George Matysik

George Matysik

A self-described “policy guy,” Matysik was, until recently, the unassuming director of public policy and government relations for Philabundance, the groundbreaking hunger relief organization. For some time, however, he’s been known in political circles as a savvy behind-the-scenes guy. A former campaign manager for then-Delaware County Congressman Joe Sestak, Matysik ran his friend Jared Solomon’s near-miss insurgent primary campaign for the state house last May against veteran legislator Mark Cohen, he (shamefully) of the record-breaking expense account and per diem reimbursements. (Matysik and Solomon grew up near each other in the Northeast. “We can smell the crab fries off each other,” Matysik jokes.)

City Council has seldom been confused with high-mindedness. Thirty-five years ago, when our then-mayor was calling it “the worst legislative body in the free world,” two Council members came to blows on the chamber’s floor, wrestling like schoolchildren. One of those men went on to become mayor—John Street. It was then, as it is now, a place for bare-knuckled petty politics (see: the aborted Gas Works sale) and an insular, transactional culture. Statesmen have been in short supply—as have innovative ideas.

Now here comes this policy nerd, a candidate who has already released one in-depth policy white paper on education, and who promises to inundate us with many more. Talk to him and he seems more grad assistant than Philly pol. But maybe that’s been part of our problem.

“I’m not the most outgoing person in the world,” Matysik says when asked about this first turn of his as front man. “I’m a shy extrovert. I’m not the guy who is going to walk up to strangers and tell them all about myself. But when you look at this city, I just figured the stakes were too high. Campaigns usually have the same old stale talking points. Someone has to step up and talk about real ideas. I’ll let the experts tell me why I’m going to lose while I run the race I think the city needs.”

His story is certainly compelling. Matysik is a product of Castor Gardens in the lower Northeast, which has seen a 62 percent spike in poverty over the last decade—fueling his urgency. After high school, he got a full-time job as a janitor at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually parlaying that position into an opportunity: He’d wake at 5 a.m. to clean the school’s administrative offices and, upon clocking out at 3 p.m., he’d become a full-time urban studies student. Sestak, Philabundance and heading an aggressive three-year fundraising campaign for the Mifflin School in his East Falls neighborhood followed, before his decision to seek a Council seat.

“Mifflin is 85 percent economically disadvantaged, and we raised close to $100,000 for it,” he says.  Inspired by that success, Matysik wonders if the work he and others have done for a handful of neighborhood schools could be a city-wide model. (Fellow at-large candidate Tom Wyatt similarly cut his teeth as an activist and advocate for a neighborhood school.) He asks why we don’t have a School District Board of Directors to raise money for our schools. “The Free Library has a Foundation that raises money and advocates for it,” he says. “The same could be done for our schools.” Continue reading

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Citizen of the Week: Emaleigh Doley

For Emaleigh Doley, W. Rockland Street isn’t just home. It’s an urban betterment lab.

By Rosella LaFevre

Emaleigh and Aine Doley grew up on West Rockland Street, a one-block street in Germantown where they still live together in their childhood home, surrounded by 46 other houses that are owned, rented and subsidized. The block has seen better days: After 2009, it has been plagued by litter, broken sidewalks, abandoned houses and trash-strewn vacant lots.

Sisters Aine (left) and Emaleigh Doley (right)

Sisters Aine (left) and Emaleigh Doley (right)

The Doleys didn’t want to live like that. So they decided to do something about it.  With self-described “do-it-yourself spirit and low-cost high-impact approach,” the Doley sisters organized their neighbors, and have started to rebuild their small block into the haven they remembered from their youth.

Emaleigh is an independent communications consultant, and a producer with annual TEDxPhiladelphia conference. She has worked at DesignPhiladelphia and Next City, and serves on the boards of City Planning Commission’s Citizens Planning Institute and Design Advocacy Group. So she understands, perhaps more than most, who to call and how to get things done in the city. But to the Doleys, bettering a neigborhood doesn’t require special skills—just desire. “Anyone can be an active citizen or neighborhood advocate,” Emaleigh says.

Knowing where to start was the hardest part. At first, they stuck to small things: Meeting with neighbors to get ideas, picking up trash, doing small planters. Soon, they became more ambitious.

In June 2011, they garnered press from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which ran a story about their efforts on Rockland St. The story caught the attention of Mayor Nutter, who stopped by their block one morning to speak with them and see what could be done. Within two weeks, the two houses that sat vacant for 20 years were demolished. Mayor Nutter told the Inquirer, “When neighbors are trying to make something happen, we, the city, have to meet them halfway.”

The two houses and a vacant lot that sat adjacent have since become a fenced-in green space where community members gather. Emaleigh said they’re in the early stages of a Mural Arts collaboration to further beautify the space.

A year later, the Doleys and their neighbors transformed another vacant lot into a community garden, with a colorful, inviting entrance, 13 raised planting beds, a melon and climbing vine patch, a compost bin, a floral garden and jungle gym for kids. The vacant lot remains city owned, but the neighbors took responsibility for transforming the eyesore. That year, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded the garden 2nd Place in the Community Garden Combination category of the annual City Gardens Contest. In the same City Gardens Contest, W. Rockland St. was awarded 3rd Place in the Greenest Block in Town. Approximately 30 houses have front yard gardens and large sidewalk planters, the increase in which Doley attributes to the block’s participation in the annual Grow This Block! now in its fourth year. Continue reading

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Ideas We Should Steal: Zero-Based Budgeting

Josh Shapiro has reimagined how suburban public dollars are spent —and reinvented government in the process. Yo, mayoral candidates: Anyone listening?

By Larry Platt

When he was elected in 2011, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro inherited a mess. He faced a $10 million budget hole and a structural deficit of $49 million—percentage-wise, more of a shortfall than Governor-elect Tom Wolf faces right now.

So what did he do? He started over. Literally.

Josh Shapiro

Josh Shapiro

As a young Capitol Hill staffer in the 1990s, the now 41-year-old Shapiro had once heard Bill Clinton talk about the novel notion of “zero-based budgeting.” He never forgot it, despite the fact that, to his knowledge, it’s not being practiced by any major government anywhere. Shapiro hired numbers whiz Uri Monson, the former head of the state board that oversees Philly’s fiscal matters, to be his chief financial officer. Soon after taking office, they unveiled their new  approach to all county department heads: Instead of submitting their usual request for a percentage raise in their budgets, each had to write a paragraph detailing their core mission. Then Shapiro and Monson worked backwards with them from there, essentially starting at zero and figuring out how much it would take to meet the mission.

There were skeptics. When one inherited staffer objected by saying, “This isn’t how we do it,” Shapiro abruptly ended the meeting. “People either became converts or no longer worked here,” he says.

“Philly is the ideal place for zero-based budgeting,” says Shapiro. But it would require taking on some politically sacred cows.

Within a year, the shortfall was transformed into a balanced budget with no new taxes, one that increased pension funding, grew the county’s reserves for the first time in four years, and eliminated all earmarks. Last year, the county finished with a $1.6 million surplus; overall spending was down 10 percent compared to 2011, but investment in human services, education and public safety were all up without any corresponding uptick in debt.

“I believe zero-based budgeting is the most important thing governments can do,” Shapiro says. “From Harrisburg to D.C., the debate is always about taxes and spending, when what we should be doing is starting our budgets at zero, defining our core mission, and then funding it.” Continue reading

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Schooling Millennials

Will opening a new charter school in—and for—Center City keep millennials from splitting for the suburbs?

by Roxanne Patel Shepelavy

Benjamin Persofsky’s is an age-old Philadelphia tale. He and his wife moved to Center City as a young couple, where they had a vibrant group of friends. Years passed, and those friends got married; they had kids; they began to agonize over city schools. Then, one by one, Persofsky’s friends left the city for the suburbs. For Persofsky, who still lives in Center City with his wife and now a new baby, the exodus signalled more than a loss of his own community. He saw it as a loss for the city as a whole: As his friends left Philadelphia, so did their real estate taxes, wage taxes and discretionary spending, all funds that the city needs to become more livable. Like so many before him, Persofsky wondered: How can we convince people to stay?

His answer: Build a school they’ll want their children to attend.

Benjamin Persofsky

Benjamin Persofsky

This fall, Persofsky formed the Partnership School for Science and Innovation (PSSI), which applied to open a new branch of the acclaimed MaST Community Charter School in Center City. PSSI’s application was among the 40 submitted to the School Reform Commission in November. But it has one thing the other charters don’t: A catchment area that would draw students primarily from Center City, an area with the wealthiest Philadelphians and the city’s most lauded public elementary schools.

“We’re trying to help the School District solve a problem that also can help the city of Philadelphia,” Persofsky says. “We have all this churn in the higher-end brackets, over this one issue. That has a huge impact on the city. We need to give people more options so they don’t have to move.”

Whether the SRC will affirm Persofsky’s reasoning—and the school’s proposal—is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, PSSI has drawn the ire of critics—already disinclined to favor charters—who see the proposal as elitist, providing more great seats to the haves, while much of the District languishes behind. “I feel like they’re just looking out for themselves and their children,” says Lauren Summers, a schools advocate (and public school mom) who runs Philly School News, a Facebook group with over 600 followers. “This doesn’t really help the students who need better schools, which is what charter schools are supposedly about.”

Persofsky is not an educator. He’s a Philly native who says he grew up poor in the Northeast, where he (unhappily) attended Northeast High School, before eventually becoming a banker. Now, he is a senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman, a privately-owned bank; his wife, Danielle Sandsmark, is a neurologist at Penn. Besides Persofsky, PSSI’s board is made up of other doctors and Penn professors, accountants, bankers and a couple of education administrators, about half of whom have small children. They chose MaST as their partner based on the state’s performance scores, on which the tech-focused Northeast school ranked highest among K-12 schools in the city. (MaST has also applied to open another branch in the Northeast.)

Persofsky loves data, and he has culled studies on the city’s population and behaviors to bolster his thesis about the need for a new school in Center City. According to a 2014 Pew study, the population of millennials in Philadelphia grew by about 100,000 from 2006 to 2012, the highest jump of any city in the country. The biggest concentration of Philly’s young people is in Center City, where the new Comcast Innovation Center is expected to bring 2,000 new jobs. Persofsky notes that the city has one chance to convince those families to move to Philly, rather than the suburbs. But it will be a tough sell: Even among millennials who already live here, half those surveyed said they expect to leave the city in 5 to 10 years, nearly 30 percent because of “schools and child-upbringing concerns.” In an ideal world, those young people will change their minds. If they do, the city faces a different crisis. Persofsky notes that in 2011, 453 babies were born to families in PSSI’s catchment area. Those kids would start kindergarten in 2016. But Persofsky says Greenfield, McCall, and even the slightly more far-flung Meredith, would have room for only about 200 of those students, combined. Continue reading

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New Blood: From The Trailer Park to the Boardroom…to City Council?

A desperately needed new generation is stepping up to change Philly by changing City Council. In the first of an ongoing series, meet at-large candidate Tom Wyatt.

By Larry Platt

After announcing his at-large Council candidacy last Saturday, Tom Wyatt, a lawyer at Dilworth Paxson, admitted he was embarking on a daunting task. “It is scary,” he said. “But not as scary as working minimum wage and not being able to feed your family.”

tom_headshot

Tom Wyatt

He knows whereof he speaks. Wyatt’s story is a compelling one and he tells it thoughtfully and dramatically. His CV doesn’t begin with some outsized accomplishment. Instead, it begins with a desultory high school career—“I was sleepwalking and nearly flunked out,” he says—and it includes a stint flipping Whoppers at Burger King and living in a trailer park outside Bloomsburg, PA. Then came two years teaching the poorest children in the nation in the Mississippi Delta and counseling inmates at a halfway house, coaxing them toward reentry into society. “It wasn’t lost on me that some of those who had made bad decisions could have been me,” he says.

Wyatt went to college and, ultimately, law school because of public programs. “I’m a beneficiary,” he says. “Of public schools, the free lunch program, Pell Grants. And a whole lot of luck, not to mention the generosity of others.”

He spent a decade in the executive suite at Voorhees, NJ-based American Water Works, a large public utility, before joining Dilworth last fall—largely because of the law firm’s storied history of civic engagement. (Dilworth CEO Ajay Raju is chairman and chief benefactor of The Citizen). “American Water is a fabulous company, “ he says. “But I wanted to be part of a culture steeped in the history of corporate citizenship here. Dilworth is the heart and soul of Philadelphia.”

For the last two years, Wyatt has led the community group that has helped invigorate his neighborhood school, East Passyunk’s Andrew Jackson Elementary. They’ve built a green garden roof and renovated a playground—baby steps towards a goal of raising test scores and high school admissions. “We have miles to go before we sleep,” says Wyatt. Meanwhile, his activism on behalf of one school woke him up to the possibility of doing more, citywide.

“Everybody sits back and thinks there’s no way to put your hand on the lever and make a difference in a city this large,” he says. “I’m ashamed to say I felt that way. Then my daughter was born and I said, ‘Holy smokes, every parent feels this way about their kid.’ So there are hundreds of thousands of us in this soup together. My wife and I just dug in.”

If elected, Wyatt will voluntarily limit himself to two terms. “I’m not a career politician. I want to pave the way for future leaders,” he says.

Which gets us to Wyatt’s elevator pitch. “Look at my skill set,” he says. “Experience getting things done on the ground in the neighborhood, in the classroom, and as an executive. There’s a clear opportunity here for Council and the Mayor to better collaborate. We need problem solvers.”

Like so many of us, he was disheartened to see the tragic dance that was the aborted selling of PGW: “I don’t even know who was right and who was wrong,” he says. “I was disappointed as a citizen that we couldn’t even have public hearings about what to do with this cherished public asset.” Continue reading

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What Do We Mean By Public and Private Today?

In today’s rancorous schools debate, old distinctions no longer apply

By Jeremy Nowak

Nowak

Nowak

Anytime the hot-button issue of our schools is debated, sides are taken and lines are drawn in the sand. It’s the public school advocates versus those who favor privately-run charters, and the finger pointing begins. But that narrative misses a crucial point about our schools today.

In Philadelphia right now, one out of three children attends a public charter school—a school that is publicly funded and regulated but managed by a civic entity (the overwhelming majority of charter schools are nonprofits).

But the math is even more complex than the 1 out of 3 figure. The School District also has contract schools where major institutions like the University of Pennsylvania or The Franklin Institute run schools, and it has special select schools that you test into or apply to from anywhere in the city.

If you put the number of charters, special selects, and contract schools together, then the number of children that go to schools that are very different than the conventional District-run schools gets closer to about 55 percent. That means the District now embodies contending notions of what it means to be a public school, based on management autonomy or admissions selectivity.

Franklin Square Park is a triumph of public-civic-private partnership, owned by the city and leased to a nonprofit that raises funds for it. A smart education sector will think in the same way: How do we expand public use through similar arrangements?

The revolution in technology-aided education, where innovation is being applied and private capital is flowing, will further disrupt the conventional notion of a public school and a public district; not because of cyber schools but because of new instructional models and technologies. Those changes will create new opportunities for institutional collaboration and affiliation.

From flipped classrooms where online instruction at home is coupled with problem solving in class, to mobile devices that allow teachers to work with students progressing at different speeds, to the use of  electronic games as a learning tool with the kinds of incentives that work for young people, the world of teaching is becoming both more global and more personal at the same time. Continue reading

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Citizen of the Week: Liz Arnold

The West Philly anti-fracking activist won’t stop speaking her truth to power

By Larry Platt

Last May, during a deadly dull gubernatorial primary debate, one of the few moments of high drama and actual substance came when 30-year-old activist Liz Arnold commandeered the stage at Drexel University. While candidate Allyson Schwartz was formulating a talking points-inspired response to a question from moderator Larry Kane, Arnold calmly walked onstage and positioned herself between the candidates and Kane. “You have all failed the leadership test,” she scolded. “We want to know why they’re not answering Pennsylvanian’s questions about fracking. This is a list of 1,700 families who have been harmed by fracking. Why won’t you good candidates answer these important questions?”

No Fracking - Blue Liz

Liz Arnold speaks out against fracking

Strangely, security didn’t immediately storm the stage. “I only had a couple of lines prepared, so I had to wing it,” Arnold recalls. Larry Kane stuttered, “Excuse me, excuse me” while Arnold went on: “We can’t fund our schools on a boom or bust industry…We’re poisoning our state and ruining our chance for a strong economic future.” Now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned fracking in New York State, we caught up with Arnold to discuss the future of fracking in this state and to see if she’s planning any other unscripted surprises.

Q: During the gubernatorial campaign, fracking was usually talked about only in the context of taxing drillers. Is that what led you to take over that stage?

A: The gubernatorial candidates were saying absolutely nothing of substance during the Drexel debate in May and hadn’t in the six months prior either. I know because I attended every public forum and debate that was held in Philadelphia during that time. Politicians do a lot of talking, but they aren’t hearing the people of PA, so I took the stage. Eight years of this fracking disaster and no one wants to talk about it. We’re not going to allow our representatives to continue to ignore us while spouting gas industry talking points. They are pushing the gas industry by selling a tax on drillers as salvation for our schools. But drilling shale is a boom or bust industry. Wolf hasn’t been sworn in yet and the industry is already under incredible economic stress due to low oil prices. Our schools need stable funding every year, not just the years that we are willing to sacrifice our health and families in rural PA for temporary profit. Continue reading

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Ideas We Should Steal: Go Small!

Large one-size-fits-all high schools are failing.  In New York City, an experiment in small schools seems to be working.

by Roxanne Patel Shepelavy

First the good news: High school graduation rates in Philadelphia seem to be on the rise, with 64 percent of students graduating within four years.

Now the bad news: Just 64 percent of students graduate high school in Philadelphia within four years, and barely more than that in six years. Less than 20 percent make it to their second year in college. Only 39 percent of students in neighborhood high schools are proficient in reading. Community college remediation rates have skyrocketed, while those same students who graduate with a four-year degree within six years has plummeted, to 15 percent. And employers complain that high school graduates are unprepared for actual jobs after they leave school.

Thomas Edison High School

Thomas Edison High School

For thousands of students in Philadelphia, high school simply does not work—particularly when they attend the city’s mammoth neighborhood schools like South Philly High (1000 students), or Bartram (1000), or Thomas Edison (1,300). How can they? The large neighborhood high school is a holdover from a different generation—a different century—when the American public school system was first developed, and it seemed an equitable, cost-effective way to prepare all teenagers for the workforce. But this is not the same world. Now, those schools are warehouses of default, the ones that anyone can attend, but that few do by choice. In Philadelphia, this includes immigrants with nascent English skills, students with poor grades, those whose behavior got them expelled from other schools, or those who are not lucky enough to win—or even enter—the charter school lottery.

For thousands of students in Philadelphia, high school simply does not work—particularly when they attend the city’s mammoth neighborhood schools.

“Where you go to high school  in Philadelphia really changes the trajectory of your life,” says Kristen Forbriger, Communications Director of the Philadelphia Schools Partnership, who organized this year’s High School Fair. “At the large comprehensive schools, there’s a mentality that you’ve already failed when you walk in the door because you didn’t get into a school of your choice.”

But there may be another way. Starting in 2002, New York City closed 31 large high schools with graduation rates around 40 percent, and instead opened 200 new small high schools open to all students in the district, around 80 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged. MDRC, an education and social policy research group, found that students at the small schools were about 10 percent more likely to graduate high school in four years, 7 percent more likely to achieve a college ready score on the city’s English standardized test, and 8 percent more likely to enroll in college. For the most disadvantaged students, the difference was even more stark: The graduation rate for African American boys was 12.2 percent higher than their peers at large high schools; for special education students, the rate was 13.4 percent higher; even English language learners were more likely to succeed in a small school setting.

“This is still just the beginning,” says  John Hutchins of MDRC. “But this wasn’t just at one school, but across the board. We haven’t seen anything else that demonstrates such an impact on kids’ education on such a large scale.” Continue reading

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The Lost Art

Politics are in disrepute. But recent events reveal what we need most: Leaders with old-fashioned political skill

By Jeremy Nowak

jeremyThe recent PGW debacle was our most recent glimpse into ineffective politics. Mayor Nutter structured the deal for the sale of the Gas Works.  It would not only have allowed us to get rid of a recurring liability to city government but would have contributed to a long-term solution to the pension fund problem.  It was what policy types like to call a grand bargain, a big deal that solves lots of problems and also demands lots of compromises.

But the Mayor could not count a single vote on city council, which itself played a shameful and non-democratic role. This, in a one party town where Mayors and City Council members are joined at the hip on mountains of public service requests and hence always need to be working together in one way or another.

The result was a failure of politics, not ideas. Mayor Nutter is best when he is painting a vision of urban sustainability, developing policy, and marketing the city; he struggles managing legislative relationships. In some sense, who can blame him? Except: This is the job description of Mayor. If you cannot do it, you are never going to be as effective as we need you to be.

As the new candidates for Mayor strut across the public stage, we should evaluate them on their effectiveness, not just their policy vision. It is easy to forget that an election is a job interview by citizens. Political voting blocks, limited choices, and rhetorical styles obscure this central fact. And yet in a nation that is more pragmatic than ideological, it is important to approach electoral choices in this way.

So here are some job interview questions. Have they run anything larger than a political district office? Have they had to balance different constituencies to arrive at solutions?  Will they know how to build a management team to run government?  What does it mean to have only legislated but never been an executive? What are examples of situations where they have enabled new solutions to existing problems? Continue reading

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