One of my favorite comments is, “I’m cynical enough to know what I’m up against but optimistic enough to pick the fight anyway.”
Folks, getting results in the public policy arena these days seems almost impossible, especially in Harrisburg. But a statewide coalition of groups led by the chamber of commerce in Pittsburgh got a big victory this week. House Bill 512 passed!
HB 512 doubled funding for the Neighborhood Partnership Program. Since the program was established almost 50 years ago, funding has been stuck at just $18 million. That paltry amount demonstrates how good we are at NPP’s, since we’ve had three in operation for the better part of 15 years, starting with Southside Vision 2012, which began in 2002.
In addition to SV20 (the most recent iteration of our south Bethlehem effort), Upside Allentown and Slate Belt Rising (a ground-breaking, rural, multi-municipal NPP in northern Northampton County), are our other current projects (we also ran the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership for 12 years). Over the years, we’ve improved more than 100 residential facades, installed 170 sidewalks, planted hundreds of trees, started dozens of businesses, streetscaped streets, run a Main Street program and an Elm Street program, created three pocket parks, helped create Bethlehem’s Southside Greenway and its skate plaza, installed dozens of streetlights and a splash park, organized more than twenty street festivals, created community gardens, promoted regional cooperation, including signage, and many, many other initiatives.
More and more communities are discovering the power of this program, making access to it more competitive. I’ve been worrying that renewals of our current projects might be so challenging that we might actually get rejected in the next round. While passage of 512 by no means guarantees ongoing good fortune, it certainly gives us more reason to be optimistic.
Senator Mario Scavello, chair of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, signed on as a co-sponsor and Senator Pat Browne, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, were both key to the big win. Both deserve our thanks.
Cause for celebration!