As the major urban centers face cuts in education, gentrification of residential areas, and increased cuts in services another reality is taking place – the selling off of “the best of what urban America” has to offer to corporate interests. Philadelphia Schools Superintendent, Dr. William Hite recently announced a proposal to close or combine 37 public schools.
Few people realize that in the September issue of Fortune magazine, the City of Philadelphia ran a glowing 8-page “Special Advertising Section” entitled “Smart City“. According to the piece “economic activity is abuzz in historic Philadelphia, home to a fast growing, highly-skilled labor pool“. Really?
Yes, says Mayor Michael Nutter. “We offer an ideal environment for CEO’s and entrepreneurs“. He may be referring to the ones he met on his recent trip to China.
There was no mention of the fact that poverty rose significantly in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties over the last two years. Nor that the city’s median household income in 2011 ranked second-worst among the nation’s 25 largest cities. “These are very bleak and disconcerting statistics,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, the economic-consulting firm in West Chester.
You also won’t find any reference to the fact that Philadelphia closed out 2011 with the highest per-capita murder rate of United States cities.
But in the Special Advertising Section you’ll read the following:
- Drexel University finished building a new $70 million science center. That’s in addition to $135 million that Drexel is currently investing in it’s arts, design, and business facilities.
- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is expanding it’s research enterprise by adding as much as 1.5 million square feet besides its main campus over the next decade.
- The cultural landscape includes a new $150 million building for the National Museum of American Jewish History and a new $200 million Barnes Foundation campus for Impressionist Art.
- In Philadelphia’s 1,200 acre Navy Yard, a former U.S. Navy base where 9,000 people now work in a variety of enterprises, GlaxoSmithKline is building a new 205,000 square foot corporate headquarters.
- Construction of the 975 foot, 58-story, Comcast Center, Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper and just four years old, brought $1.2 billion in economic activity to the city.
- And you want entitlements? Utilities provide assistance too. Companies considering a Philadelphia location also get analytic support free of charge from PECO, the city’s electricity distributor.
- Urban Outfitters, acquired six former industrial spaces in the Navy Yard from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) for a commitment to retrofit them for new uses. After $140 million in upgrades, decorative light fixtures now hang from the salvaged steel girders beneath high ceilings, and exposed brickwork gives a retro touch to sunlit cafeterias, offices, and conference rooms.
There is no mention of the new $100 million plus “kiddie jail” euphemistically referred to as the “Youth Study Center or YSC“. The city defines the YSC as “a secure detention center that provides temporary care and custody for alleged and adjudicated delinquents, age 13 and over, who are awaiting court action.” Translation? This place will warehouse adolescent and problem youth, prior to shipping many of them off to the adult prisons (the prison industry is also a big and profitable business in the nations’ urban centers).
The gentrification of urban America is happening at an unprecedented level as long term plans start to yield fruit. Many African Americans will find themselves on the outside looking in at their former communities. The economic boom being reaped by corporations, universities, consulting firms, political leaders, and private investors is trench economic warfare. It does not include the voiceless, the long time residents or those who may be digitally disconnected.
At what price does “the best of urban America sell for“?
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