TO LENORA Felder:
Your fears for life in Philadelphia are born of a short memory.
My memories of Philadelphia only go back to 1984, when I moved here from the west end of the main line (where it crosses the Mississippi River: La Crosse, Wis.).
I remember when there was no Kimmel Center, no One Liberty Place, no new stadiums and no National Constitution Center in Center City - but there was a crack epidemic and all the attendant horrors, including record homicide rates.
Philadelphia recovered to build all of those edifices and more. Philadelphia now faces an economic tsunami. Thankfully, we have a mayor with the vision and courage to tell us that this won't be easy, and who has begun the difficult job of bringing meaningful ethics reform to city government.
Yes, Philadelphia has many problems, and a lot of them are self-inflicted: too many high-school dropouts, too few college graduates and too many convicted felons. Other problems are longer-term and more deeply ingrained, such as the highest poverty rate of the 10 largest cities in the U.S.
But I have qualified faith in Philadelphia, its people and its leaders. Some things are getting better. The day after your letter was published, the People Paper noted that though we just recorded our 300th homicide for 2008, the homicide rate was "considerably lower than in previous years."
And that's not the only positive change. I bicycle a lot. Drivers are significantly more courteous to pedestrians and cyclists than in the past. We have more tourists now, and I think that Philadelphia is making a more positive impression on them. My nephew from Cleveland stayed with us this summer for his first big city living experience and worked in an unpaid internship in city government. He loved it.
That isn't to say that there isn't a lot of room for improvement. We need people like you to help Philly change.