Partners for Progress
If a community is to flourish, its problems must be addressed through one comprehensive package which reflects all of that community's needs. With this in mind, on June 6, 1994, the City of Philadelphia launched an innovative neighborhood stabilization effort called Partners for Progress. Specifically, this is a coordinated program to improve the delivery of municipal services to communities, through an active partnership of government commitment and civic responsibility.
Over the course of six months, the success enjoyed by Partners has been extraordinary: 7,061 city blocks cleaned; 1,999 inlets cleared; 19,677 health and human service contacts made; 1,265 lots cleaned; 14,657 locations inspected by the health department; 2,999 abandoned vehicles removed; 597 homes cleaned and sealed, 147,997 packages of rodent bait used; etc. This represents only a small sample of the work accomplished under this initiative. Moreover, all of this has been done without disruption to normal departmental operations, or a reduction in other municipal services, and with a minimum of overtime.
Just as importantly, Partners is bringing hope to underserved areas and helping to erode feelings of neglect among their residents. It is giving these residents the power to chart the future course of their own communities. By stabilizing neighborhoods, it will also help to retain and create community based jobs.
Given the "physical" and "psychological" success of Partners, aspects of this program could prove equally beneficial to small towns and large cities.
The idea for Partners began in early 1994 when Philadelphia City Council President John Street introduced to Mayor Rendell the concept of "targeted neighborhood clean-ups." Knowing that the quality of urban life often depends on the quality of city services, the Mayor was enthusiastic about the idea and asked the city's Managing Director, Joseph Certaine, to draft an implementation plan which would build upon this idea.
Based on his analysis, it was decided that areas would be chosen for the program by census tract. Prioritization would be based on a number of items, including income level, population density and other demographic factors. The overwhelming majority of the prioritized areas are located in the most economically challenged areas of Philadelphia; however, Partners will eventually reach every city neighborhood.
It was determined that, in order to be effective, there would need to be a significant commitment of resources by the city but that necessary, on-going, departmental work could not be affected by this commitment.
Under the direction of the Managing Director's Office, city operating departments concentrate on the removal of physical blight in designated census tracts. Once an area has been chosen for the initiative, a thorough assessment of needed resources is undertaken. Then, police officers canvass the neighborhood, door to door, to explain to residents what the city is doing and to avoid any misunderstanding. Finally, an "urban strike force" comprised of personnel and equipment from the departments of Streets, Water, Licenses and Inspections, Police, Fire, Health, Human Services and the Mayor's Office of Community Services converge on the designated area; the entire effort is coordinated from the Managing Director's Office mobile "Command Post 1." It is really about the effective use of military methodology, pulling various units together, under one command, and deploying them by radio. Over a five-day period, abandoned cars are removed; properties cleaned and sealed; inlets cleared; vacant lots cleaned and fenced; streets washed; debris removed and other actions undertaken.
Within 10 days after the physical work is completed, a municipal outreach team enters the community. These city workers do health assessments and distribute literature about pre-natal care, fire prevention and other topics, and they explain to residents the city services available. This is extremely important since community members are often not aware of the services which are available to them. In conjunction with Thomas Jefferson University School of Nursing, they also administer immunizations to the elderly and to pre-school children. This immunization component was recently awarded an "InnoVision" grant from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
Although the statistics on Partners are impressive, the real accomplishments of the initiative can best be seen by examining individual incidents. For example, it was discovered during one Partners clean-up campaign that a vacant property had been vandalized; consequently, a continuous stream of water flowed into an adjacent house. A licenses and inspections supervisor notified Command Post 1; the Water Department was alerted and emergency shut-off of the water service was accomplished within two hours. The abandoned property was then cleaned and sealed, to the obvious delight of the neighbors. It is just this kind of coordinated response which has made Partners so successful.
Moreover, such coordination has also boosted employee morale. Many city workers are also residents of these targeted areas; thus, they take great pride in improving the physical surroundings of their own communities.
But for all the city's work, Partners was never conceived as simply a "government" program. Block Captains, area churches and neighborhood service organizations are participating as full partners by being charged with maintaining the clean-up efforts, with limited assistance from the city. Residents are being urged to "Join the Partnership; Watch the Progress! The response has been very positive. A program to allow businesses to "Adopt a Census Tract" is also being formulated.
Undeniably, the ultimate success of this effort depends on the support and participation of Philadelphia's citizens. Simply cleaning an area will not contribute to neighborhood stabilization -- the neighborhood must remain involved in the process. One of the distinctive features of Partners is that it is designed to convince citizens that they must play a distinctive role in their neighborhood's future.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (215) 686-2181
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.