On January 22, 2020, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia kicked off Transparency in Local Government: Putting People First at City Hall with a highlight reel from our Inclusive Growth Hearing.

About the Hearing

On November 25, 2019, over 100 business and civic leaders convened at City Hall to present the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project’s Inclusive Growth Agenda to Philadelphia City Council’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee. The highlight reel featured various different business and civic leaders who made the case for creating good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages as a way of reducing poverty in Philadelphia.

The video set the stage for the conversation as we brought in experts to discuss the importance of a government that operates openly and honestly at the local, state, and federal levels.

PHL Neighborhood Growth Project

Putting People First at City Hall is a key policy pillar of the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project’s Inclusive Growth agenda. Learn more: PhillyNeighborhoodGrowthProject.com

1. Build a process that works and people trust.

As a contractor with federal and municipal clients, Marc Coleman, President, The Tactile Group, knows firsthand how important customer service is to building a process that works. Although the City of Philadelphia’s process has improved over the years, contractors still experience a greater ease of doing business with federal government. Coleman suggested creating a better process of feedback so that contractors understand how to improve bids they submit for local government projects.

2. Create an honest environment.

From her own experience implementing a zero-tolerance policy gift ban at the state level when she was General Counsel of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Denise J. Smyler, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, expressed that positive relationships between government and business are essential. Instituting the ban increased the quality of doing business by clarifying who was lobbying who.

3. Eliminate “trapdoors and secret passageways” that only high-level decision-makers are aware of.

By design, many government processes are not transparent and firmly discretionary. As Alison Perelman, Executive Director, Philadelphia 3.0, puts it, the discretion is what is so aggravating to folks because it leads to unanswered questions.

4. Increase access to data.

Rebecca Rhynhart, Controller, City of Philadelphia, knows that releasing data to the public is not enough and that true government transparency means releasing data in a way you can understand and quickly. Making data understandable is a big part of the Controller Office’s mission and drive.

5. Clarify the legislative process.

As David Thornburgh, President & CEO, Committee of Seventy, pointed out along with the other panelists, many government officials see transparency as a threat but it doesn’t have to be. Improving the flow of legislation can lead to a public who’s engaged and citizens who have a voice in how our laws are passed.

Moderator Larry Platt, Co-Founder and Editor, The Philadelphia Citizen, closed the program with a final question to our panel of experts: If you could enact one thing for the City of Philadelphia to increase transparency, what would it be?

  • “Create the best value for entrepreneurs to help them get their foot in the door.” — Marc Coleman, The Tactile Group
  • “The City’s commissioners have the opportunity to open satellite offices in neighborhoods where people can vote up to 50 days early. Being able to bring that level of connection would be transformative. And it’s doable.” — Alison Perelman, Philadelphia 3.0
  • “A simple, clean, and accessible performance dashboard.” — David Thornburgh, Committee of Seventy
  • “Change the mindset. If you change the mindset, everything else will follow.” — Rebecca Rhynhart, City of Philadelphia
  • “Work towards criminal justice reform by supporting the incoming Police Commissioner.” — Denise J. Smyler, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

A special thanks to our panelists, moderator, sponsors, and National Constitution Center for hosting.

The Roadmap for Growth Action Team

The Roadmap for Growth Action Team is a multi-disciplined group of Chamber members and partners that leverages resources and relationships to develop and assist in the implementation of the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project (NGP) policy agenda that promotes economic growth and prosperity, in every neighborhood across Philadelphia.

Connect with Anna Bohl-Fabian at abohlfabian@chamberphl.com to learn more about Roadmap.