As I’ve chronicled on this blog, I am new to Philadelphia and perpetually amused by the city’s inferiority complex and generally pessimistic mood. Until yesterday, I felt these positions were unwarranted. Then I got the news via the Philadelphia Inquirer that Philadelphia has lost 68,000 people in the past seven years; that makes the city’s population loss second only New Orleans.
I still don’t understand it. Sure, the crime rate’s bad and the high-school graduation rate is abominable. Sure, the people aren’t as rich or beautiful as they are in New York or as ambitious as they are in D.C. But the city is beautiful — for those who like old architecture, you can’t beat Center City’s low-scale stock. It’s easy and manageable for people who like to walk, bike, or drive. For people fed up with gentrification it’s nice and gritty. We have good museums, a burgeoning art scene in North Philly, cheap housing, great restaurants, Fairmount park, Rittenhouse Square, the river, etc. What’s not to love about all that? I don’t know, but I’m starting to sound like a real local because the city’s getting me down.
It’s Friday and all my regular bloggers are helping fact-check the upcoming issue and I’ve got to get back to work, but I’m curious to know if people out there can chime in with one (please limit yourself to one) thing that Philadelphia should do to keep more people in the city.
I’ll start off the discussion with one utopian idea that could be used in any city struggling with population problems: eliminate the income tax for those carrying student loans or for anyone under the age of 25. The program would require residency for six years — not an insignificant period of time — which would be monitored via tax returns. This would mean that if you went to college in Philly you could ride income-tax-free for a bit, but then you would have to stay two years past graduation or be penalized with back taxes. I bet people would stick around after those two years — the program would encourage not only the po’ creative class to live in the city but law school grads, MBAs, doctors, etc. And it would also help some Philly businesses compete with the salaries offered by NYC or DC companies — while they can’t offer as much money, they could offer tax breaks.
What do you think? Please post your ideas in the comment box!