Philly feels a chill

You know what they say about payback.

The city of Philadelphia is about to feel the sting of a smackdown that’s been building for a long time.

The era of Ed is nearly over. The eras of Vince, John and Dwight are dead.

And the rest of Pennsylvania can’t wait to resume treating the state’s largest city in the disdainful way it traditionally was treated – until the aberration of a big-mouthed, big-hearted governor from Philadelphia.

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 The era of Ed actually stretches back to the mid-1990s. Once Ed Rendell the mayor became a national figure, and  formed a pragmatists’ partnership with then-Gov. Tom Ridge, big money for big-ticket projects started flowing from Harrisburg to Pennsylvania – concert halls, ballparks, Constitution Centers.

 Even in the three-year gap between Rendell’s stints as mayor and governor, the city’s trio of legislative power brokers, top House Republican John Perzel, House Democratic rainmaker Dwight Evans, and the Senate’s prince of darkness, Vince Fumo, kept the spigots open.  They managed this despite the natural tendency of most Pennsylvania lawmakers to treat Philadelphia as if it were a leprous penal colony.

 When Rendell became governor, with education as a top priority, the Philadelphia public schools became the biggest beneficiary. Philadelphians often prefer to stay stuck in a stale narrative of grievance, rather than to embrace a modestly hopeful sign of progress.

So, few of them seem to know this fact: In Rendell’s time in Harrisburg, the Philly schools’ per-pupil resources rose steadily, to the point where that number is at the state median. Not surprisingly, school achievement has made a similar climb.

 Well, good-bye to all that. Lame duck Ed is reduced to bruising candor about his frustrations. Fumo is in prison, Perzel faces that prospect. Evans was just neutered by his fellow Dems, mostly upstaters tired of Philly “hogging” state resources.

 The new governor is a novice with budget problems and an itch to ape Chris Christie. So prepare for a long spate of Philly bashing and starving

Philadelphins who pay attention sort of know all this. But I don’t sense that many really get how dire the situation is. The era of Ed lasted so long, it’s hard to grasp a new normal.

The city will be pushed to rely on its own wallet, its own wits, its own spirit in a way not seen in a long while.   And we’re not ready. And we will endure several rude shocks to the system before we even get how hard the coming work will be.

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