Free Library struggles to meet demand
The Free Library of Philadelphia has survived many challenges in its 121-year history. Our new report on the institution compares it to 14 other big-city libraries and examines its latest challenges at a time of shrinking funds and rising demand. Our report was released the day before the Nutter administration proposed (PDF) new cuts to library operations but more money for branch capital improvements. We held a panel discussion about the report this week and attendees posted comments on Twitter at #PewPanel. (You'll need a Twitter account to read it.)
Some of our findings:
- Philadelphians use their libraries less than their counterparts in most of the other urban communities studied.
- On a per capita basis, the Free Library is below average in circulation and visits, even though it ranks relatively high in terms of branches per capita.
- Between 2008 and 2010, when municipal budgets were hit hard by the recession, the Free Library experienced larger cutbacks than many of its counterparts.
- In our survey of Philadelphia residents, 51 percent said they visited a library at least once in the past 12 months.
For more findings, click here to see our interactive chart:
Poll Part 2: More call taxes a problem
Continuing our release of January 2012 poll results, we found a big jump in the percentage of Philadelphia adults who consider local taxes to be a problem—70 percent, up from 55 percent in 2010. Even so, Philadelphia adults were still slightly more likely than not—49 percent to 42 percent—to opt for higher taxes if it means getting better city services. We also found that city residents, by 56 percent to 34 percent, favor Council President Darrell Clarke's idea of allowing advertising on city-owned property, including City Hall. Clarke responded to our poll by promoting his idea again. Read all the poll results here.
Rich, poor and the gap between
The Census Bureau is out with a study looking at income
inequality as measured by a statistical measurement known as the
Gini index. According to the study (PDF), the sharpest differences between rich and poor households within a single community are found in the South and in some large urban jurisdictions. For instance, the
borough of Manhattan in New York City has the third highest inequality score of
any county in the country. Among the nation’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia
is in the middle of the pack. It has less income inequality than New York,
Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago but more than Phoenix, San Antonio,
San Diego and San Jose.
Philly drops in exporter rankings
The Brookings Institution's ranking of top exporting regions, Export Nation, puts the Philadelphia region at 10th place among 100 metropolitan regions in the number of regional jobs supported by exports. The Philly region was 9th in the previous 2008 ranking. One commentator noted that Philadelphia was the only one of the nation's five most populous cities not to be a top-five exporter. In his February speech to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Michael Nutter promised to get "personally" involved in growing the city's exports. His office says he is planning some foreign trade missions himself.
Where are the charters?
As the Philadelphia School District undergoes more changes and plans to close buildings, Temple University's Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project has mapped (PDF) the locations of school buildings, including the charters that now serve about 19 percent of the city's schoolchildren. MPIP found that many charters have set up their facilities outside of residential areas, along major commercial corridors and in Center City. MPIP says such locations give charters closer proximity to working parents, lower costs in renting or modifying commercial structures, and fewer hurdles with residential neighbors. MPIP concludes: "If the shift of enrollments toward charter schools continues or even intensifies, we can expect to see significant changes in the spatial distribution of schools." For context, see our October report on school closings.
Philly middle of pack on corruption
File this in the "Philadelphia is not as bad as Philadelphians think" department. A new study (PDF)
by the University of Illinois has ranked this region 8th out of 15 in
the number of federal corruption convictions of public officials in the past three decades. The report, initiated by former Chicago alderman Dick Simpson, found
that the regions covering Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City had the most convictions.
Philadelphia Poll 2012: In our January 2012 poll: Mayor Michael Nutter's approval ratings are up; residents are more concerned about taxes and crime; they are more accepting of immigrants than is the nation as a whole; and they support advertising on city property as way to raise city revenues.
Philadelphia's Workforce Development Challenge: Our study, released in January, found that half as many employers have signed up to use the tax-funded workforce system in Philadelphia as statewide. And the system, now being restructured, had lower job placement rates for laid-off workers.
Philadelphia 2012 Update: The State of the City: We've begun working on our bi-annual update to our popular State of the City report. The 2011 edition is here. To receive an alert when the 2012 edition comes out, sign up here.
Growth in computer usage at the Free Library of Philadelphia from 2005 to 2011. Read more in our report The Library in The City.
|Upcoming Public Events
Now thru April 9: Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides annual lecture series on Philadelphia history. Details here.
March 16: Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations monthly meeting. Details here.
March 19: Police Advisory Committee monthly meeting. Details here.
March 20: Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) monthly meeting. Details here.
March 20: City Planning Commission monthly meeting. Details here.
March 21: Philadelphia Office of Economic Opportunity seminar "Building Businesses and Putting People to Work." Details here.
March 21: Urban Land Institute and Penn forum on "Strong Communities and Cities, Sustainable Nations." Details here.
March 28: Philadelphia Office of Economic Opportunity seminar "Doing Business with the City." Details here.
March 29: Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting. Details here.
March 29: Philadelphia Board of Ethics monthly meeting. Details here.
April 1: Next American City hosts discussion "Belonging: A Conversation About Cities in Flux." Details here.
April 10: Philadelphia Gas Commission monthly meeting. Details here.
|Our Most-Read Reports
Philadelphia's Workforce Development Challenge: Serving Employers, Helping Workers, and Fixing the System. Read.
Philadelphia: State of the City 2011 and 2010.
City Councils in Philadelphia and Other Major Cities: Who Holds Office, How Long They Serve, and How Much it All Costs. Read.