As a Philadelphian during the holidays, perhaps you’ll be tested. Perhaps you’ll get some flak from relatives you’ve journeyed outside the city to visit or those coming to visit you.
They always bring up the stereotypes. They’ll ask if you’ve eaten a good cheesesteak lately. They’ll mention the crime and filth. Yes, the murder rate is trending upward this year, but the same thing is happening in other major cities and the rate is still well below homicide levels in the mid-aughts. We’re also working on a Zero Waste goal by 2035.
The Eagles play on Christmas, so maybe you’ll even get a snowballs-at-santa reference this year.
We all know Philadelphia is vastly more than cheesesteaks and snowballs and grit. Sometimes it’s good to have a yearly reminder. So let’s revisit 11 things you can be proud about as a Philadelphian in 2017.
The SRC dissolved itself
The School Reform Commission, the state-controlled body that ran Philly schools, has been a source of frustration for Philadelphians since its formation in 2001. Among the lowlights: the 2014 shredding of teachers’ contracts. But after years of discussing the SRC’s demise, the board members decided in November to vote it out of existence. Philadelphia is currently looking to form its own board of education.
Philly restaurants swept the Oscars of the food industry
Michael Solomonov, the chef and co-owner of Zahav, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher and other favorites, won the 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. Stephen Starr took home the award for Outstanding Restaurateur. Locals and visitors from around globe have been talking about Philly’s food scene for years. These awards were further vindication we’re among the best.
Middle neighborhoods, discussed early in Philadelphia, became a national issue
Middle neighborhoods are the sections of the city that aren’t doing well enough to receive loads of private development or poorly enough to get public aid. They’re just doing OK, and as such, are at risk of decline. Authors Paul Brophy and Ira Goldstein introduced the idea at Temple University in February. Congressman Dwight Evans made them a priority, and by May, the topic had reached the desk of President Donald Trump. In Philly, prompted by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, City Council held a hearing on middle neighborhoods, hoping to eventually reach longterm plans for assisting them.
Philly sports are relevant again
Let’s just forget about all these recent blown leads from the Sixers and Carson Wentz’s knee (prayers!). Philadelphia sports actually matter. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have made the Sixers one of the most exciting teams in the NBA, with Embiid particularly garnering attention as a future superstar because of his personality. The Eagles could still make the Super Bowl. Maybe. At worst, they’re a playoff team with a good future. So long as that knee holds up after surgery and rehab.
Philly hosted the best NFL Draft of all time
That headline may sound like a superlative but you’d find few fans, media members or NFL employees who’d disagree. In late April, about 250,000 people attended the draft and its festivities, and officials said visitors directly spent $56 million. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. It was more about the scene. For the first time, the NFL Draft was al fresco. Philly turned what’s often a staid affair into a block party.
We can sit on Rittenhouse Park’s wall and smoke weed
Remember in January when city officials, the Parks Department and Friends of Rittenhouse decided to ban sitting on the wall because of pot?
That decision was overturned quickly, thanks in large part to Mayor Jim Kenney. He even hinted that smoking weed was OK, as long as it wasn’t too obvious:
Our public spaces are getting an overhaul
Philly’s parks, way behind the rest of America’s big cities when it comes to the budget, are getting the first share of about $500 million in improvements. The first 61 sites for Rebuild were designated earlier this month. The program provides renovations to parks, recreation centers, playgrounds and libraries.
The I-95 cap is actually happening
For decades, city officials and residents alike have pined for a cap on I-95, something to bring Center City closer to the Delaware River. This spring, the city, private funders and PennDOT pledged more than $200 million to get the project done. We’re going to have a real waterfront.
More people voted than expected
You can’t say Philly had a high turnout for this year’s primary or general election. You can say we did much better. Turnout for the spring primary —when Democrats Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart handily won their respective district attorney and city controller races — came in at 17 percent. That was nearly double the 2013 turnout and 5 percent above 2009 turnout. In the fall, despite Krasner and Rhynhart nearly assured of victory, turnout was 20 percent, also well above recent years for these races.
Bigbelly trash cans got foot pedals
The city improved many of the trash cans nobody likes to open with their bare hands. So far about 275 foot pedal Bigbellies have been installed, all in Center City.
The situation is still far from perfect.
Our mayor continues to dress like Buddy the Elf
This tradition better last for as long as Jim Kenney’s in office and then be mandated for his successor.