By Frank Linnehan
A recent op-ed by Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics offered sound financial reasons why Philadelphia is unlikely to follow Detroit in filing for bankruptcy. Among the reasons cited were higher earnings per capita, a more diversified core of businesses in the health and education sectors, and a healthy respect for repaying public debt. To this list, let me add one more reason: Community leaders who practice the kind of values that are the antithesis of moral or financial bankruptcy.
Stories about San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner cause many of us to cringe. We wonder how such people ever became public leaders.
Fortunately, in Philadelphia, we don't need to ask these types of questions. Yes, the city has had its share of political scandals, but from the current mayoral administration to leadership in the nonprofit and for-profit world, we are fortunate to have ethical leaders with strong values. Whether you agree with Mayor Nutter politically is not the question here; it would be difficult to argue that he doesn't espouse the kind of values we respect in our political leadership.
The same thing can be said about the executive leadership of our educational institutions. All three presidents of the largest universities in the city share a common goal: to improve the neighborhoods in which their institutions reside. Presidents John Fry, Amy Gutmann, and Neil Theobald of, respectively, Drexel, Penn, and Temple, are all committed to being more than good neighbors. They are proactively improving the economic welfare of their communities.
The efforts of Penn and Temple are evidenced by the changes in their West and North Philadelphia neighborhoods, while Drexel's work in Powelton Village and Mantua, and its planned Innovation Neighborhood adjacent to 30th Street Station, will be transformative. This same commitment to the community is true of our local faith-based institutions, such as Villanova, La Salle, and St. Joseph's.
An important part of leadership is going beyond getting people to understand why they are asked to do something. Leadership is most effective when the values of leaders and followers are in alignment. The leadership values that focus on others, and not on self-interests, are then translated into "doing the right thing." For example, Lisa Nutter doesn't just talk about improving education. She also serves as the president of the Philadelphia Academies Inc., a nonprofit that works with more than 3,500 high school students to help prepare them for their educational and professional careers.
In the private sector, there are many local leaders whose values we see manifested by their employees. Under president and chief executive officer Dan Hilferty, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation has provided more than $4.5 million in grants to the Philadelphia community, and its volunteers spent more than 9,700 hours on 200 projects. Under the leadership of Bill McNabb, the Vanguard community volunteers have taught more than 35,000 children through Junior Achievement. These are just two examples of the kind of leadership we have in our region's private sector.
Because of committed leaders like these, and their community-building efforts, this city won't be following in Detroit's footsteps anytime soon.