Last Monday’s big local news was the announcement of The 5th Square, a new PAC aimed at bringing Philadelphia’s urban space politics into the 21st Century — dragging it kicking and screaming, if necessary. In a year where the exciting transportation news was virtually guaranteed to come out of 1234 Market Street, and the landscape of the municipal election cycle was bleak, the conventional wisdom may have been turned on its head.
5th Square’s public faces are Friends of the Blog Geoff Kees Thompson (blogmaster of this old city) and David Curtis (Fels Institute student and mastermind of the #SEPTAWILM campaign to increase rail service to Wilmington).
Their launch comes as a mayoral campaign field widely decried for its mediocrity is failing to capture the imaginations of city primary voters, and a comparatively interesting field of challengers is quietly lining up for City Council.
Running a successful municipal election campaign is not cheap, but it’s not prohibitively expensive either, and the resources of an urbanist PAC can make all the difference between victory and defeat. That sort of clout can grab and hold the attention of even our notoriously capricious City Councillors. StreetsPAC, the prototype urbanist PAC in New York, carried 13 of its 18 endorsed candidates to victory on a budget of $50,000 in its first municipal election. And New York is, as we all know, a more expensive environment for everything than Philadelphia, and that includes politics.
So will this convert all of the Bill Greenlees and Jannie Blackwells of our government away from their anti-urban Modernist instincts, and show them the light of better bike and transit access? We can hope, but realistically, no. But that’s all right. It will still get the attention of a lot of officeholders and candidates who are running on other issues, such as education, improving the landscape for small businesses, or de-escalating the war on drugs. They may not see the linkages between their issues and ours. But they shouldn’t see any of those issues as incompatible, or even as major competition for political or fiscal resources. And that can lead to progressive action from the 4th floor of City Hall. Right now, City Council is a place where good ideas go to die. That doesn’t have to be the way things are.
5th Square can build a coalition in City Hall to improve the streets of Philadelphia. And that is a worthwhile goal, and I am proud to be the #3 donor listed (chronologically) on 5th Square’s donation page.
Today, someone is matching donations to 5th Square up to $500. So today would be a very good day to get out your proverbial checkbook. 5th Square is already well on their way to reaching their January fundraising goal of $5,000 from small donors. Let’s get them over the top well ahead of schedule!