Lacking every resource except conviction, citizens across this city of neighborhoods are banding together to ask important questions about the future of Philadelphia. A the forefront of this struggle is Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront (NABR).
NABR was formed on April 29, 2006, after worried Fishtown residents had their first look at a proposal for a casino in their neighborhood. They also got their first taste of unanswered questions, stonewalling, and blatantly bad ideas.
Everywhere they turned they were told that casinos are coming and nothing they could do would stop them. For Fishtown residents Jeremy Beaudry, Meredith Walker, Jethro Heiko, Ken Mensack and others, that just wasn’t a good enough response. Together they formed NABR and invited their friends to help them organize to fight casinos. NABR opposes all casinos in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania when they are the result of legislation passed without public involvement. They hosted a rally on June 1st, the day before the cutoff for public comments on the five casino proposals for Philadelphia, along with the Multi-Community Alliance, a group made up of various neighborhood associations.
Still small, they dare to raise a mighty voice and ask the still pertinent question- why weren’t Philadelphians included in these momentous decisions?
Act 71, the PA gaming law, was passed as an addition to an existing bill late at night over the July 4th weekend in 2004. It mandated that a state appointed Gaming Control Board be constituted to oversee the licensing of 14 casinos throughout the state. It mandated that two of those casinos be built in Philadelphia, and through fast-tracked approvals that by-passed normal zoning channels, five casino operators presented proposals for the two licenses. The public comment for these proposals was incredibly short, approximately two months. The comment period has closed and yet applicants are able to amend their proposals subsequent to that. In fact, the Trump team has done just that.
Local representatives say their hands are tied. State Senator Fumo, Mayor Street, and Councilman DiCicco have stated their belief that by creating another nonprofit entity (Central Delaware Development Corporation) to oversee development along the river, resident concerns will be quelled. They couldn’t be more mistaken. It has only made residents ask hard questions about the benefits derived over the 36 year history of the similar Penn’s Landing Development Corporation, a black hole where taxpayer money goes, but whose operations are shrouded in mystery.
Philadelphians have had enough of these ‘end-run’ political moves and now demand to be heard. Finding that their representatives decline to represent them, Philadelphians are choosing to represent themselves. They seek a different future for Philadelphia, one that has their communities and neighbors in mind.