I write a weekly column for The Philadelphia Citizen, a nonprofit media startup that pioneering solutions based journalism. The Citizen is creating an electronic public square that explores issues and identifies solutions.

The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides taught that anonymity represented a higher level of charitable virtue than gifts made with personal attribution. The old sage would not have made it as a major gifts fund-raiser in the 21st century.

Naming rights are the ultimate in attribution. There is not a hospital, university, symphony hall, or museum that does not sell the naming rights for buildings, schools, faculty positions, rooms, or research centers. It would be fund-raising malpractice if they didn’t.

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Mar 6

Questions for the School Board

Philadelphia Mayor Kenney has until March 20th to appoint a local school board to replace the School Reform Commission. A new era is about to begin.

The nomination process was thoughtfully organized: a 13-member nominating group, a number of informational meetings throughout the city, a review process with a timeline, and a public listing of the 27 final nominees.

The 13-member nominating board went through 500 applications, whittled them down to 80 persons to interview and then voted the final 27. It is now up to the Mayor. The Mayor wanted nominees to possess: organizational acumen, a commitment to education, a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community empowerment, ethical behavior and integrity.

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Aug 6

The Untapped Wealth of American Cities

Americans who travel abroad sometimes wonder why many of our airports are lacking in comparison to the best international airports. Or they want to know why other nations seem to do a better job with public transportation and the management of other public assets, from ports to parks. The answers we are tempted to give are that we do not invest as heavily in public infrastructure as many other nations and that a market-oriented American ethos with an entrepreneurial culture prefers private solutions (cars versus trains) to public ones. These answers are certainly part of the story.

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Jul 28

The Art of Misdirection

Donald Trump used misdirection in business and entertainment. He is doing the same in politics.

Misdirection is the central craft of magicians and hucksters. Get people distracted, turn their senses toward a sound, statement, or sight…while doing something else without detection. The military calls it tactical deception.

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Dec 23

Trump and The City: Infrastructure

Infrastructure was a persistent theme of Donald Trump’s campaign. He claimed, with some justification, that America’s roads, bridges, ports, waterways and airports were no longer first rate. And he promised to invest a trillion dollars into infrastructure—twice as much as Hillary Clinton proposed. But the difference in their plans was not so much the amount, but how resources were to be delivered, including the role of government versus the private sector.

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Dec 12

Trump and The City: Housing

My last two columns focused, respectively, on education and law enforcement under President-elect Donald Trump. This week, we’ll look at federal housing policy and identify major questions likely to surface over the next year.

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Dec 5

Trump and the City: Law Enforcement

Last week, we analyzed the new challenges facing cities when it comes to education policy in Donald Trump’s America. This week, we’ll dive into law enforcement.

Donald Trump owes little to cities politically. His winning electoral numbers were overwhelmingly rural, small town industrial belt, and exurban. Yet many of the cities and metropolitan regions that voted Democratic are increasingly the major generators of economic value and demographic growth. He cannot succeed unless those cities succeed.

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