AS THE MAYOR'S race reaches peak intensity, with candidates whacking away at each other through nearly constant TV ads and calls for support, there's a tendency to zone out and skip the noise. But the truth is, it's time to "zone in" - and focus on the importance of zoning reform on Election Day.
On May 15, city voters will face eight ballot questions - a formidable challenge. But if you want to do something good for our future and great for the neighborhoods, remember ballot question 6, which deals with zoning reform.
Question 6 asks Philadelphia to decide whether to appoint an independent citizen-driven Zoning Reform Commission that would spend the next year rewriting the zoning code, a muddled, mystifying and massive 640-page document that was written in 1957.
Fifty years is great for wedding anniversaries and retirement luncheons, but when it comes to zoning rules, 50 years is ancient. And because Philadelphia lacks a modern code, we've all too often relied on a system that values insider connections at the expense of good policy and smart development.
Should Philadelphia adopt the zoning reform that ballot question 6 addresses?
The answer is YES.
We can do better, and question 6 provides a way to get there. Zoning reform can produce a modern code that is sensible, fair and smart. It will eliminate outdated regulations that damage our city and its neighborhoods while providing fair access to information. A modern code can offer real opportunity to promote positive growth while respecting and protecting every Philadelphia neighborhood. A new code will create rules that everyone can follow, and will require everyone to follow the rules. No more inside deals that leave neighbors out in the cold when it comes to the future of their communities.
Zoning reform deserves our support.
It creates a way for everyone - developers, neighborhood groups, city officials - to have confidence in good planning and future growth. It will create a commonsense approach to zoning, with clear and consistent rules that encourage citizen input and rely on the advice of zoning professionals to make decisions that put public interest ahead of special interests every time.
So vote on May 15. The mayor's race headlines the ballot, but remember that there's more at stake than voting for one office. Support neighborhood preservation and smart growth for Philadelphia's future.
Rose Gray, Vice President
for Community & Economic Development
Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM)
Alisa Orduna Sneed, Executive Director
The Partnership CDC in West Philadelphia