Guest Commentator: David Thornburgh, President and CEO, Committee of Seventy @Committeeof70

How can government transparency benefit residents and businesses?

Any good Philly sports fan will recall the Sixers slogan a few years back as they climbed back into contention: we need to “trust the process.”

The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia’s long-standing advocate for better government, believes that slogan should describe the relationship between business and government in Philadelphia as well. How so? Small business owners, as well as corporate leaders, need to feel that they’ll get a fair shake from City Hall — that when they’re applying for an L&I permit, or filing their taxes, or when the Department of Health comes to call, that they’ll be treated with respect, efficiency, and transparency. That last piece — transparency — is particularly important. What you see has to be what you get. If you’re denied a permit, you have to know why based on the rules you were given when you applied. Or when that parcel of land in your neighborhood you had an eye on to redevelop gets awarded to another bidder, you need to know why. Or if your property assessment skyrockets all of a sudden, and your neighbor’s doesn’t, you need to know there’s a good reason. After all, it’s hard to trust a process that you can’t see, don’t have access to, and don’t understand.

What’s the best way that City Hall can deliver that kind of responsiveness and transparency? Put people first. See the process through their eyes and standing in their shoes. Understand that people live busy lives earning a living and raising their families, and do your best to make sure that the service they receive from city government should lighten their load, not add to their burden.

That’s why the Committee of Seventy is proud to stand with the Chamber to advocate for transparency in City Hall, and why we believe it’s such an important element in the Chamber’s PHL Neighborhood Growth Project. When people and business owners see the process, and understand the process, they’ll trust the process. It’s working for the Sixers — 10 wins to 51 wins in just three years — and it’ll work for the City as well.

Committee of Seventy is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group of 180+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives that enhance the economy, encourage civic engagement and support an efficient and impactful government in order to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life.

Upcoming Event

Transparency in Local Government: Putting People First at City Hall
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 | National Constitution Center

At this Roadmap for Growth ­issue forum, joi­n business, nonprofit, and civic leaders ­in a conversation that prioritizes government transparency as we usher ­in a new Mayoral and Council term.