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Originally published on WHYY’s It’s Our City blog:

Following the money

by Ben Bradlow, WHYY Online

There is a lot of money coming out of the federal government these days. Yesterday, Barack Obama signed a bill authorizing a historically large chunk of this money with the new federal stimulus package.

Let’s admit our self-interest here. We want to know what this bill means for the city of Philadelphia.  When – and where – are we going to see the money?

Shortly after President Barack Obama’s election, Mayor Michael Nutter led a committee of mayors from across the country to submit a list of shovel-ready projects in American cities that could receive federal stimulus funds.  Still, it has long been clear that state governments would be receiving most of the funds.  Alan Berube, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, said that this is due to distinct Washington, DC political realities.

“The mayors were up against a couple things. One is just interest group politics in Washington and that transportation has often been dominated by less urban interests, people like the road builders,” he said. “They also faced the obstacle that the purpose of this bill was to spend money quickly. The bias in the bill was to put money into existing programs, not creating new ones.” …

Read the rest here.

Originally posted on WHYY”s It’s Our City blog:

by Ben Bradlow, WHYY Online

When Italian immigrants arrived in Philadelphia, they made South Philadelphia their home. So it should come as no surprise that over the last ten years the streets of the storied area of the city have been populated by a new immigrant population: Mexicans.  They come primarily from the central Mexican province of Puebla.

At Max de la Cruz’s new dress shop, which he opened only three months ago,  de la Cruz sees an opportunity to make money by catering to growing family life in the community.

“A lot more children are being born here,” he said. “[My store] allows people to bring their customs here so they don’t forget their home, Mexico.”

This means selling the ornate dresses and suits commonly worn at important family functions like baptisms, quinceañeras, and weddings.

According to Peter Bloom, the leader of the primary community group for Mexicans in Philadelphia, JUNTOS / Casa de Los Soles, what started out as a migration of single men evolved to include whole families.  At the same time others who originally came as single have laid down roots here.

“When you talk to people they’re not here to settle, but the amount of time they’re going to be here is much longer. Now it’s ‘I’m going to stay here until my kids finish high school.’ And their kids are only five years old.  So that’s going to be another thirteen years.  I think that started happening about four years ago,” he said.

Even as the Mexican community has begun to transport its cultural life to South Philadelphia, a faltering economy poses a threat.  Shop owner De la Cruz said that his new business is still on shaky ground after experiencing low sales numbers during Christmas.  Domenic Vitiello, an urban studies professor at University of Pennsylvania warned that such hardship could be a sign of things to come.

“The dress stores, the music stores, the sporting goods stores – I suspect that those will have a harder time in economic times like these,” he said.

Maximino Sandoval, a community activist, said that he worries about cuts in work hours and days for many Mexican laborers.  Still, as more families become established, workers like Sandoval may be here for the long haul.

“There are people like me who have to stay here because of our children. It’s not even about living well or eating well,” said Sandoval, “it’s about our children, for their education and their school.  So we have to tolerate the conditions here.”

Find more here.

Originally published on WHYY’s It’s Our City blog:

President-elect Barack Obama is already under the spotlight as he tries to cope with the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. But walk by any curbside clothing stand in Philadelphia and you are likely to see one positive economic benefit from an Obama presidency that hasn’t even begun yet. The Obama image is dominating the street fashion world and some clothes sellers are hoping to take full advantage for as long as the trend lasts…

View the audio slideshow here.

Originally appeared on WHYY’s It’s Our City blog:

I attended my first of the Mayor Michael Nutter’s town hall meetings about his planned budget cuts last night. There’s been a lot of discussion about the evolving stagecraft of the town hall meetings. It was a welcome innovation to have the relevant department heads speak in addition to the mayor, and Nutter was relatively mobile throughout the gymnasium. City officials are distributing forms asking people to say what they view as the city services to be prioritized in the budget, and they’ve already started publishing the results. Still, this meeting seemed stuck between two different political goals: explaining the cuts and seeking input from the public…

Read the rest here.

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Also, Swarthmore – unprompted by me! – linked to my video piece about a casino development in Philadelphia. You can find that here.

I’ll be back to actually blogging at this site in the next day or two.

Originally published on WHYY’s Y-Decide blog:

Barack Obama held the second of two major press conferences in the last two days to announce members of his economic team, but a little further from the limelight, his health policy team is also coming into focus today…

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(Just in the interest of consolidating everything in one place, this and the next post are actually almost a week old, but new here.)

Originally published on WHYY’s Sixth Square blog:

Give yourself a couple of days to digest your Thanksgiving feast, and then stave off the work week after a four day holiday by treating yourself to El Guincho at the Barbary on Sunday evening. The Spanish artist is a cross between an unusually eclectic DJ and general party provocateur. It took a long time for his international debut album, Alegranza! (which means “happiness” in Spanish), to get released in the US, but it finally made it here this fall after burning up Europe all summer…

Read the rest here.

Originally posted on WHYY’s Y-Decide blog:

Barack Obama revealed his economic team earlier this afternoon, with some big names from the Robert Rubin side of Bill Clinton’s administration in tow. But some are noticing that there has been little talk about an appointee to the position on the other side of the classic Rubin (Treasury) / Robert Reich (Labor) battles of the Clinton days: Reich’s successor as labor secretary…

Read the rest here.

Originally posted on WHYY’s Sixth Square blog:

So-called “Adult Alternative” rock public radio station WXPN is losing one of its top DJs to what may be the grand-daddy station of the radio format, Minnesota’s 89.3 The Current. Jim McGuinn originally came to XPN two years ago when his Y-Rock station merged with WXPN…

Read the rest here.

Originally published on WHYY’s Y-Decide blog:

If we’re going to talk about changes to anticipate with the incoming Obama administration, during the campaign torture seemed like one issue that would be a clear break with George W. Bush. All the Democrats promised to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, and so did some Republicans (even if Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin made light of the issue during their Republican National Convention speeches). Now the picture could be getting a little more hazy…

Read the rest here.

Originally published on WHYY’s Sixth Square blog:

If you can brave the cold there’s plenty to do before the holiday season descends in full force immediately after Thanksgiving (I think Christmas technically starts the second you put down your fork after your Thanksgiving feast).

Read the rest here.

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