PlanPhilly

Q&A with Nelson Diaz: Full version

PlanPhilly sat down with former Common Pleas Judge, Department of Housing and Urban Development General Counsel, Exelon Director and current Mayoral contender Nelson Diaz last week for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on a variety of planning topics, including affordable housing, attracting new businesses, and expanding SEPTA. The interview was lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Jared Brey: When you launched your campaign, you made it pretty clear that your priority as mayor would be fixing the school system.

Nelson Diaz: That’s correct.

JB: And I don’t know anybody who thinks that that would be the wrong priority. But the next mayor is going to have to deal with a hundred other issues as well, and I’m wondering, aside from fixing the education system, what you see as the biggest issues that the mayor should focus on in terms of the development of the city.

ND: Well there are three issues really. Schools, obviously, is a top priority, and I’ve got to do that because that affects everything else. It affects the economy and it affects the young millennials staying here or going to Lower Merion or going elsewhere. In my opinion, it also helps in terms of the tax situation. If we can keep those young folks and those young families here, that will help the tax issue.

Second issue that I think is a priority obviously is the workforce. You have to have a quality workforce for businesses to relocate to the city. We’ve got 28 percent poverty—26 if you look at the newspapers. I have a document that shows it’s 28 percent based on the recent census. So poverty has probably increased since the last time the census was taken. Then we had that recession, and that recession really hurt a good amount of people. And we had a greater divide.

And I truly believe that if we can give people the dignity of a job then that sort of begins getting folks into the middle class. So it’s a priority of dignity, kids seeing their parents working, have some kind of training so they can get into a proper workforce of jobs that exist so we don’t have to keep shipping people in from the outside or from overseas to take those jobs. And I think we could use some of the institutions we have, like the Community College [of Philadelphia] and some of the others that can be utilized in that fashion. ‘

And then the third issue is a macroeconomic issue, as you know because you’ve seen the Chamber of Commerce reports: we’re next to last in bringing small businesses into the city. You know who’s below us, right? Detroit. It’s ridiculous. When you have such a vibrant, beautiful, attractive city, we should be able to increase our GDP through the process of bringing in small business, which creates more jobs than large businesses do. So I have a priority to essentially try to institute help bringing in smaller businesses, particularly in the whole new avenue of the wave of Internet and technology and those areas.

I met with a guy yesterday on this technology issue and he has about 60 people who have come to him trying to see if they can develop an incubator [inaudible] process. And out of those 60, maybe 10 percent are good … But then the problem that he has is, we don’t have venture capital in this city. And venture capital is really what helps in terms of expansion or development of that. And if you look at Massachusetts, that’s what made them real capable. We have some of the best institutions in the world. I mean, you talk about the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School there, the business school. Talk about Temple, Fox School is one of the top ten. Drexel, a lot of engineering programs.

There are about, I say, 80 institutions around, people say there are a lot more than that. But let’s be conservative, and say there are only 60 institutions in the area. We lose all of those young people who are capable, who would be staying in Philadelphia but for the fact that the jobs aren’t here, and the fact that the schools aren’t working for them.

Great example: my son. He works at Qualcomm. He’s a high-tech guy, he’s a project manager of the Android. If we had that here, he would have been here. My daughter is in North Carolina. The only one that stayed was my oldest, who—you can guess, it’s eds or meds, right?—he’s in the pharmaceutical area.    

So that’s what we have. We have three pockets of development: University of Pennsylvania area, Temple, and the Navy Yard. And that’s it. Not counting Center City, those are really the only pockets that essentially have some function in terms of development opportunities, and it’s all eds and meds. We’ve got to figure out how to bring something else into this city that would allow us to grow the economy so that young people can stay here.

JB: So, in addition to keeping young people here, one of the things you said to AL DÍA when you were first announcing your campaign is that you would emphasize housing and community development as a way of pulling Philadelphians into the middle class. So in addition to trying to get people not to leave the city, how would you approach getting people—

ND: That’s not exactly what I meant when I said that—it was affordable housing. Affordable housing will allow a workforce to live in better conditions. What I did when I was at [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] was—it was only public housing—I created the mixed-use development opportunities. Developers made a lot of money in my opinion. And they basically had market-rate housing next to public housing, so you had a broader scope of investments.

MLK is a basic example, which is out near Bainbridge. We did the same thing with [inaudible 5:37]. I’ve done it throughout the country. We did it in Chicago. We did it in Dallas. We’ve done that kind of development all over the country, which not only improves the quality of life for poor people, because they see other professionals in the community. What was happening was you saw mostly single women with children, and that tends to be the poorest of the poor, in these units. So you were repeating generations of poverty. But if you saw professionals in and around your area, “Oh, I could be a doctor, I could be a mentor, I could be a developer.” So that sort of highlights the prospects and the opportunities in the community. And it worked.

It worked in Baltimore. Baltimore got rid of all the high rises. Baltimore is doing better than us in terms of—I don’t know if you’ve been to the waterfront, but if you look at that waterfront you’ll see what they did there with the total development of the Four Seasons, the hotel area, the businesses activities … you’ve got that theater right across. It really fashioned the city in a way that people gather to go to that waterfront.

JB: Baltimore obviously still has a lot of issues with poverty like Philadelphia does. I’m wondering, in terms of affordable housing, what do you think the city’s needs are? And how should a mayor approach—

ND: Well let me tell you what’s happened. We’ve lost almost 7,000 units of public housing, because what they’ve done essentially is that they have this concept now at the public housing authority that through developments they’re allowed to get rid of units, which means they don’t get the reimbursement from the federal government. If we put 7,000 units back into place—you’ve got all these vacant lots all over the place—put these 7,000 units back into place, we could then get HUD to reimburse us again for the amount that it costs to maintain those units.

And that’s part of the problem that has occurred in terms of the large portion of homelessness that we have in our city. You remember North Philadelphia is sort of the worst part of homelessness; it’s all moving up to the Kensington area of the city. If you look at who’s living in the Kensington area of the city and you look at the waitlist in public housing, you’ve got seven years down the line when they will qualify for a possible unit. But if you go out and create these units in those communities and you make it public housing—in the old days, everybody knew what public housing was, but you don’t have to make it look like public housing! You can make it look like the community and then utilize those units for assistance.

The other problem is after the recession, a lot of people now are into rental housing instead of homeownership. So we’ve lost also a bulk of homeownership. Fishtown is an example. In Fishtown you’ve got people going in there and done a number of developments, and then it’s become rental instead of homeownership. Philadelphia used to be one of the top cities in the country in terms of homeownership.

JB: You see that as a problem, that there’s less homeownership now than there was in the past?

ND: Yeah. It’s a problem because people tend to invest in their homes because they see that as an opportunity for equity development, for loans and for educational opportunities. So that has been a drag on that community in terms of rental versus homeownership.

Jim Saksa: I’d agree with you on the theory of homeownership and development, but I’ve got to push back on that a little bit. Fishtown seems to be booming to a certain extent right now, and a lot of it is from the young renters. So, I wonder how you square those two opposing facts.

ND: No, no, it is a good point. But the problem is that they’re renting because they can’t buy. There’s not enough opportunity for them to buy. If they could buy and renovate, they’d rather do that because you build equity on it. Renting, you’re just giving away money that could be utilized other ways.

Developers are smart. Fishtown is close to everything. You’ve got great transportation. You’ve got the river on the other side. You’ve got an opportunity to gather with regard to some nice entertainment areas. So for young people it’s really perfect, but young people will pick up and move any time they want. If you’ve got homeownership there, they’ll stay there. An average homeowner stays five to seven years; [renters will] stay as long as it’s convenient to them. And they can pick up any day and leave and then it’s the next renter. So it doesn’t build a stable community if you have nothing but renters.

This is not New York. In New York it’s different. In New York because it costs so much money to buy a house you have more co-ops and rentals. But here, traditionally, we’ve been a neighborhood city. And the quality of housing that’s maintained if a homeowner has it is a lot higher than if you just have renters.

JB: A minute ago you mentioned using some of the city’s vacant lots to create new affordable housing. I’m wondering what you think of the creation of the Land Bank …

ND: I like that. It was Councilwoman [María D. Quiñones-Sánchez] who essentially introduced that bill into City Council. I like it because one of the problems that we had was, when you took a property under a tax sale or a lien process, if you reinvested in the property then you had that whole year waiting period where someone could come back and take the property back, and then you’d have to pay them for the amount of market value they had. And they had to pay you for whatever renovations had occurred. So we do all the dirty work for them.

The Land Bank, you can really take the property in, and then use the bank to be sort of a separate institution, and try to renovate properties a lot quicker and get people into housing. Also, you can group up a larger portion of property and hopefully be able to work out a deal with a developer. So there are some benefits to having this land bank. You have the drag still in the state legislature, the issue of making you wait a year before you really get clear title. And by land banking it you can get title a lot faster.

JB: And you think one of the priorities for the redevelopment of vacant lots through the land bank should be affordable housing.

ND: I’d like to see affordable housing be a priority. And, you know, affordable housing is a loose definition, which is in terms of where it is. You’ve got working-class folks who should have it, you’ve got poor folks—affordable housing is a loose definition on trying to categorize housing based on the affordability of the people in those communities. And that’s an important concept that I think we’ve missed here because we haven’t done much affordable housing.

Public housing—the biggest developer in the city is PHA.  They’re the ones with a lot of the money, and so we’re not doing anything for—if you don’t get through the PHA process you don’t get it at all. And they’ve got a seven-year wait list, so when are young people ever going to have an opportunity to own a piece of the rock. And that was a lot easier in the past.

I think that’s what makes Philadelphia stronger. If you’re there, you preserve the community, you have equity in the place, and you can use that for your next house. It’s sort of an investment, like a moving-on-up situation.

JS: I want to go back to something in response to the first question. You were talking about the challenges of small businesses and getting small businesses to Philadelphia. You targeted the fact that we don’t have enough venture capital in the city. I think that’s true. We’re something like 10th or 11th when you look at ranking of annual amounts, and that’s not even really a good metric because we have half of what Boston has, which you mentioned [Ed. note: Turns out, Philadelphia venture capital investment ranks more like 17th in the nation and totals just a tenth of Boston’s]. What can you do as a mayor, though, to increase the amount of venture capital in the city?

ND: You have to get the business community in a position, particularly the large folks, to understand what the needs are in terms of growing the economy, because they benefit also. Part of it is, there’s been very little leadership in the business community itself, which is evident from this election. This election, [the business community has] basically said, I’m the best for business, but can he raise the money? I mean - if I’m the best for business, business should be throwing money at me, and doing it because I’m the best. But that’s the way that people look at the business community here, as too weak to make a decision.

We weren’t that way in the ‘80s. In the ‘80s, there were 26 large corporations here, there was the Greater Philadelphia First Corporation. They dictated some of the realms of what they had to do to make us stronger, and there was some benefit there. And then the recession came, and after that we had no real base of any corporations headquartered here outside of Comcast.

PNC, where are they? Pittsburgh. Aramark is here but that’s not big enough. So, you know, in the old days you had First Pennsylvania Bank, you had PNB, you had, Mellon, which was then Girard Bank. There were 26 large corporations in this area.

The second problem we have is that we have a reverse commute. 48 percent of the people who live in Philadelphia work outside the city. So when you see the Schuylkill it’s blocked both ways. Or Kelly Drive is blocked both ways. Why? Because people are reverse-commuting. Everybody should be coming to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the one place where you had to come to if you wanted to go any place else. It’s not happening that way, so there’s a reverse problem in terms of—part of it is our tax structure.  

We’ve got to work on the tax structure. We’ve got to work with the business community to understand how we can make this tax structure, because the more people that are here, the more that are involved, you’re going to get more taxes. So you’ve got to develop a tax structure that is good also for business. And that’s a problem that they’ve never been able to negotiate with any mayor. Outside of Rendell who did a little bit of reducing the wage tax for a little while but then everything went back. And now you have sort of a discriminating process with the AVI process of residential taxing. So you’re taxing residential a lot higher than you’re doing with commercial properties.

You’ve got to have a balance on that, and I believe that commercial properties are willing to pay more taxes if there was a one-system process to pay taxes. You’ve got this gross tax issue, you’ve got this privilege tax, you’ve got the occupancy tax—you go all the way down the line picking at you every item for some little element. But if we did it totally in one concept of taxing, they’ll do it.

Why do you think they built the Cira I and Cira II over there? Because it was a Keystone [Opportunity Zone] project, and you had a taxing benefit from the state. Those have been very successful, and the locations are pretty good too. You’re right next to 30th Street Station. You get in and out of there, and you get in and out of the subway. Great locations, plus you have good developments that have occurred both in Drexel and Penn. I think that we have to begin having that conversation with the business community.

I remember when Rizzo was mayor, and despite the fact that I didn’t like Rizzo, he had an advisory board made up of business people. I was on that advisory board despite the fact that he didn’t like me. And we talked about issue of development. We got that tunnel underneath during the Rizzo period. A lot of the developments that have occurred in and around Center City occurred as planning during that period. And here we are not having done a thing in projecting the future outside of raising the limits of building, in Liberty. It just doesn’t make sense.

I think that because we are so close to New York, and such a better quality of living here, people would rather live here than Long Island. It takes them over an hour to get to New York City from Long Island. Takes about an hour from here if we had an affordable process of getting them to New York.

You could have an express on SEPTA from here to Trenton, and it will take a lot less time for people to get down there.

JB: You mentioned the Keystone Opportunity Zones being a good way to spur development, but you also said maybe a simpler tax structure would help it too. There’s also things like the property tax abatement that any new construction can get. I’m wondering, in terms of a specific strategy for encouraging development through the tax structure, do you think that certain programs that incentivize certain things are—

ND: That’s a heck of a question, because yes, the incentive was there in terms of the abatement process. But the problem is, when the abatement occurred they sold, and left. I think there should be a penalty if people walk away from the benefit of an abatement. That way we can keep them here. You know, we’re giving you something, and all of a sudden, you’re selling it and you’re walking away from it, so maybe—

It’s similar to what the federal government used to do when they had what they called subsidized housing. Which wasn’t poor housing; it wasn’t public housing. What they did was they would essentially penalize you a percentage of the amount that you got a benefit of if you decide to walk away from that house. So similarly we could do something like that. Whether the City Council will pass something like that is another question. And you have to be able to work with City Council to look at that issue. Abatement is good for attraction, but then, don’t leave us.

JS: Speaking of leaving and SEPTA to Trenton, I want to ask you a question about transportation. The mayor is limited in what he can directly do on most major transportation issues in the city, like SEPTA—it’s a five-county board, and we only get to pick two of how many are on there. And PennDOT actually controls a lot of the major roads—Broad, Chestnut Street, Delaware, Roosevelt Boulevard. Some of our most important roads, we have to ask the state if we can do things to them. What I want to know is, what do you see the mayor’s role in developing and implementing major transportation projects? You talked about a high-speed line. There are people that want to see parts of I-95 capped. There are other people who want to see the Broad Street Line extended to the Navy Yard. How would you, as mayor, help shepherd those?

ND: By the way, they are some good proposals. The Navy Yard line is an excellent proposal. They’re not building enough housing in the Navy Yard, most of it is all commercial. If you had a little bit more housing there there’s a real opportunity, because you have the military used to live on, and it’s a really desirable—

JS: I did just see the plans for, they said they want to put in 1,500 units soon.

ND: That’s great. That’s fantastic. That was one of the areas that I think they missed a lot because if you could get the extension of that, you could even put a little stop next to one of the stadiums because it’s a long walk over to the Wells Fargo Center.

But irrespective of that, you could use a train that would take you to that because there’s more land there than there is in pretty much all of South Philadelphia. You can imagine what kind of community you could—there’s also a lot of waterfront property, which is extremely attractive for housing.  We’ve got to be able to use that in a better fashion than just commercial.

Part of it is because [the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation] essentially is a commercial development organization, and that’s what they’ve been focusing on. They’ve done some wonderful work there which I think should be used—that intelligence should be used in neighborhood development also.  In all of the neighborhood economic development areas, it’s a great, great tool of intelligence to be able to use.

Getting to the transportation issue, you’re right. We’re strapped with—even though we’re a city of the first class and we’re supposed to have self-government, there’s a lot of stuff that is totally—we’re  handcuffed. Everything that the state runs, we get handcuffed because the surrounding counties have a certain amount of influence over it. Or the state government, depending on the balance of power, has a lot of influence on it. The Parking Authority is an authority. SEPTA is an authority. You can go on and on and on. The only thing we control is probably the airport, which is a municipal property.

I think that if we had a governor that could essentially help us work together as a unit, to sit down with all of those different areas of interest—Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and us—to sit down and try to develop a plan of action for the region, for the Southeast Pennsylvania region, I think we could be more effective. Because, you know, he gets to appoint the chair, we get to appoint a couple, and he gets to be able to support, through his relationship with the national government, what we can get in terms of resources for public transportation.

So I agree with you. We have limited—but you’ve got to be able to work with the governor to make sure that we talk to each other as a region, because it is a regional authority. And when you’re talking about expansion you’ve got to be somewhat creative in terms of what you do with your transportation systems which is to make it more accessible to a lot of tourist sites for a lot of other people. Because unless you get down to Center City, you can’t get to the museums, you can’t get to the Parkway, you can’t get to Independence Hall, although it’s a lot easier there because you’ve got the Market Street subway.

But you’ve got to bring more of the community downtown. I talked to somebody yesterday who had never left Center City, 13 years here. I’ve talked to people in North Philadelphia who’ve never come to Center City from North Philadelphia. I mean, the city is everybody’s, and there should be a benefit with regard to that.

Other problems we can talk about with regard to communication issues, with regard to the opportunity to have real Internet access for the poor. If you don’t have any access, you can’t communicate with the world. The Internet has become the only way people learn anything. So if you had a good education process and you had some free or close-to-free access to the Internet somewhere in those communities, you can read and you can learn.

So I truly believe we have to develop a lot of those nexuses, which give us economic viability in terms of the community. Outside of Comcast we don’t have anybody we can go to at this point, but we’re going to try to bring other businesses to the city. And that’s what you have to do. You have to go out for wherever you can find them, and I think I have connections.

I was on a Fortune 500 board. I’m on an organization called the Latino Corporate Directors Board, which has 40 directors of major Fortune 500 companies. I’ve traveled the world in terms of economic issues, whether it’s Spain, whether it’s France or other activities, so I would go wherever I could. I spent six months in Japan when Japan was really strong, when I changed my money and two months later it was worth three times what I changed it for—it was good old times in Japan. No more! That was deflation, right?

But, so I really feel that there are opportunities that we just haven’t gone to invest in. Even the suburban community here is more affordable than suburban communities in most other major cities—Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey—and they’re beautiful. And somehow we’ve got to show that attraction.

Now we’ve got a couple opportunities to do that. We’ve got the pope coming here. It should be a heck of a marketing opportunity for the city. I won’t be mayor then. But when the DNC comes here I’ll be mayor, and we’ll be able to really market the city in a way in which, man, we want those folks to keep coming back here. And then you’ve got the world looking at us, because they don’t know who the candidate is going to be. Hopefully it will be a tight, interesting race and not a foregone coronation—

Diaz for Mayor Communications Director Barry Caro: I disagree with you on that one.

ND: [Laughs] so that people can stay watching it, you know, news people want to be able to watch a debate. So that is a different kind of opportunity that we have as a city. Obviously, we have our own candidates we’d like to see, but the closer it is, the better it is in terms of the entertainment value of giving people what the city looks like, what’s happening, whether Rocky goes up the steps.

You know, every time I get a—I was in France, and I see a guy walking down the street in a Phillies shirt, and I say, “Oh you’re from Philly?”

“No no no, I’m just wearing the shirt.”

I said, “Well I’m from Philly.”

He says, “I need a cheesesteak!”

We’re known for cheesesteaks, and maybe Rocky, and that’s it. We have a lot more to offer in terms of the city and the marketing opportunities should be there.

Barry Caro: You guys have a last question?

ND: You got the real one that’s gonna kill me? But I enjoy this, as you can tell, because I’ve been doing economic development in this city forever.

JB: I want to ask a little bit about some of the stuff that’s happened in the last several years. Nutter has tried to reform the development process, reform the zoning code and all these different things, put in place some Planning Commission initiatives like Philadelphia2035. I’m wondering what you think of that type of activity and what you would do to change things up at the Planning Commission, if anything.

ND: Let me tell you, changing a lot of the process in that area is something that I think is worthwhile because you have the prerogative of the Councilperson in that area, and that has just been—as you remember the Walmart development downtown—that’s always been an issue. Everybody should have equal access in terms of the zoning process, so I think what he’s trying to do is right.

I think that problem that Michael [Nutter] had was that he didn’t have the horses that he needed to run the city appropriately. He became the chairman of and involved in the Community College. He was the chairman of the Redevelopment Authority. He didn’t have the David L. Cohen type chief of staff. He didn’t have a Commerce Director—he was here a year and then he went to England to run the Olympics. He didn’t have a managing director—essentially her husband died on the way here and after that she was really a basket case pretty much. And as a result, she left after a few years and all she worked on was the 311 system.

So he hasn’t had those real capable young go-get-’em people who essentially have the capacity to reform and keep a system in terms of economic development and economic opportunity. And then he had great relationships with the business community but they let him down, because he told them, “Look, I’m going to take your people to come in here and help me with the process.” Like Rendell had. You know he brought in these lone executives. During his administration, I don’t think he took anybody. So that was the real problem that he had.

He also didn’t have a lot of support from the African-American community, as you know because you’ve been to many events. So he really was weakened a lot in terms of his ability to do whatever his agenda was going to be. And his agenda was going to be schools, as I remember. That hasn’t happened. So we’ve had a lot of problems.

And then he got the recession, which is a tough thing in any city and we didn’t recover as quickly as some of the other cities in terms of benefit, as I told you in the small business area, which is the opportunity to increase the job market. So although unemployment rate has gone down, in our city the unemployment rate hasn’t gone down as well as some of the other major cities in America that have had real economic engines.

There are opportunities that people are now looking at which is the hub zone for energy—

JS: I wanted to ask you that, and since you brought it up …

ND: [Laughing] I can see that.

JS: You’re on the board of Exelon.

ND: I was. I was. I retired. I’m retired, so there was a process of when the [Board of Directors] election occurs now in April I won’t be on the ballot, so I’m retired from the board. And that’s how I used some of the gifts I got to be able to create the Latino Chair at Temple.

JS: So you were on the board of Exelon, and you brought up the idea of building a hub. There are concerns about environmental [impacts] – this city becoming dirty, becoming Houston on the Schuylkill or the Delaware. And safety: In a little bit over a year, there have been two CSX derailments involving oil cars. I’m just wondering, where do you stand on—

ND: Well, remember, we had the refineries. The refineries left the area. That is catastrophic in terms of job opportunities and economically. Delta came in, and they’re using it for the re-feuling process, and they’re using some of the PECO property rail to go with it. That hasn’t disturbed anything and that comes down the river on that side. I don’t think there’s an issue—I don’t think we’re going to make the refineries any better than it is today in terms of the environment, so it gives us an opportunity to use an asset that we already have. So that’s a benefit in terms of an energy hub opportunity that we have.

I don’t think you’re going to make it a heck of a lot larger, because then you’re right, you have all the issues of pollution and some of the cleanliness problems that—you talk about Houston, just look at when you come over the George Washington Bridge [into Northern New Jersey]. That doesn’t look very right. I remember coming down into the airport every time when I saw the junk cars piled up to the top, and that was the first feeling that anyone got when they came in from out of town and saw Philadelphia, a bunch of cars laying there.

But that’s an opportunity. The other opportunity, obviously, is creating jobs in the 21st century economy, which is a totally different kind of than we have in the past. There’s nothing like that on the East Coast. Comcast is starting to do that with their development of that new building, which is to bring a bunch of technological and technology professionals into this area. That is an opportunity to expand because the more you get of that—the more mass you get, the more sharing occurs and the more knowledge development occurs. That’s a really great opportunity, and that’s an area where your generation and the generation that follows you essentially has the capacity to enter into. We’ve got to open those doors and make that feasible for them and figure out what is the deterrent that doesn’t allow that to happen here.

Silicon Valley doesn’t have to be just on the West Coast. You know, you can move these people anywhere you want. They’re in the West Coast because it’s nice living there, but you can move those kinds of folks—you’ve got to figure out what those incentives are to move and to create those opportunities. So we’ve got that as an opportunity.

You’ve got to build more of the tourism and you’ve got to make people want to stay here and live here, which helps us with the real estate base. Because if they stay here you get the real estate base up, and you get the people with the good schools, and they won’t move. Because you know, in Lower Merion you’re going to get a tax benefit from your tax returns and you don’t have to pay $40,000 to send somebody to school.

Here, if you stay here, you pay the wage tax, you pay the real estate tax, and you pay $40,000 to send your kid to private school in that millennial generation when they have kids, because they can afford to choose and go. The poor can’t afford to choose and go. They’re stuck. And so we have to create a benefit that creates this generation of good school systems so that there is the workers, there is the entry level, and there is the developers who essentially are going to make the city even better in terms of the economy, keep some of that money.

I think we can do it. And it’s not pie in the sky. The economy is growing, you’ve got 80 universities. You’ve got to force the universities and the business community to start working together to see what there is to bring about. And we’ve got to figure out how we bring—the hardest part is the capital, so that people can have growth opportunities and get venture capitalists in this area. We don’t have them. I don’t know why we don’t have them.

Barry: Thank you guys so much.

ND: This is really an important area of economic opportunity in the city. And so the business community should be thinking about these things, you know?

About the author

Jim Saksa, Interim Managing Editor

Jim Saksa is PlanPhilly's multi-modal transportation reporter and interim managing editor. As a reporter, he's focused on how Philly gets bikes, walks, drives, rolls, and rides around the region. 

Jim lives in Point Breeze and has also written for Slate, Philadelphia City Paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Technical.ly Philly. He tweets @Saksappeal and you can reach him at jsaksa@whyy.org.



blog comments powered by Disqus

Article Information

    Photo Credit: Nelson Diaz (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Recent Comments on PlanPhilly

Powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Which weekly emails would you like to receive?