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City of Philadelphia

Letter from Mayor Jim Kenney

Letter from Mayor Jim Kenney
Dear Friends,

Your ZIP code at birth should not be your destiny. But some Philadelphia families face challenges in achieving economic security due to the neighborhood in which they live.

In substantial parts of our city, more than 40 percent of our residents live below the federal poverty level. Citywide, the poverty rate is 26 percent, the highest among U.S. cities its size or larger. And we have the highest rate of deep poverty – people with incomes below half of the poverty level – of any of the nation’s 10 most populous cities, limiting the chances for parents to help their children move up the economic ladder.

Addressing the problems related to poverty is essential to the five pillars that are central to our administration’s vision of a better Philadelphia. Those pillars are to improve education outcomes and opportunities, provide economic opportunities, enhance public safety, ensure an effective and efficient government, and make sure we have a diverse workforce.

We see education and economic opportunity as fundamental elements in the effort to reduce poverty. And having fewer people struggling to survive will improve public safety and allow government to invest its resources in new and productive ways.

Three years ago, Philadelphia launched Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, the city’s comprehensive anti-poverty program, with a defined strategy: coordinate the diffuse efforts of scores of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, academic organizations, and private and corporate entities to use a more effective approach to buffering the effects of poverty for Philadelphia’s residents. Shared Prosperity is in place and supported by a backbone organization, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO).

Over the past three years, CEO has laid the foundation for a long-term effort that seeks to produce long-term effects. But improving the lives of those who live in poverty will not happen quickly, nor can it be done by City government alone.

We need to continue to build support, build momentum, build engagement, build partners, and to get everybody working in the same direction—the business community, civic organizations, nonprofit providers, the faith groups, the people in the community, our organizations.

Our administration is determined to work together with CEO, its stakeholders and all Philadelphians in creating a path to prosperity for all of our city’s residents. For the one in four people in this city living in poverty, an effective public transportation system gets them to a job interview and started toward a better life. For a young family, affordable pre-K can start a child on the road to college. For an immigrant entrepreneur, dealing with a multi-lingual City Commerce representative can make the difference between a business that succeeds or never gets off the ground.

These services, when provided efficiently and effectively, can make a big difference. But in order to create a living-wage economy, our financial institutions will have to invest in our small, neighborhood businesses, our corporate executives will have to hire our returning citizens, and we will have to grow blue collar jobs at the Port as well as white collar jobs in our hospitals and tech firms.

There’s no silver bullet. So we should move aggressively to identify, test, evaluate and share with others a variety of approaches and to institute and spread effective initiatives, working toward a day when the ZIP code where you were born won’t matter so much. Everyone in Philadelphia who works hard should have a fair shot at success, no matter where they come from or who they are.

Mayor Jim Kenney