What has gotten lost in all ‘The Billboard’ talk is the real reason why President Obama selected Chester as a Strong Cities - Strong Communities city (aka SC2, which the Washington folks like to call ‘S C Squared’)
No one really knows why Chester was selected without sitting down with their selection team but John Linder probably gave the best answer at the debate when he said that Chester ranked high on the index of qualifications required to be selected.
He went on to cite a number of negative characteristics of Chester to imply that those were the things we ranked high in, but I think that’s half the answer.
Sure, the SC2 program is designed to assign 6 struggling cities a few Washington people to help address particular areas of concern that all struggling cities deal with. Believe me, we can use the help.
While all the big shots are sorting out what SC2 will deliver to Chester, I want to step back and make a few assumptions why they chose Chester.
Here are my top reasons:
- They wanted to select a small distressed city. Chester qualifies.
- They wanted a city close to Washington, D.C. Chester is far closer than the other 5 cities.
- They wanted a city that has a great chance of seeing significant improvement in the very short term in one or more of the areas they are offering assistance. Chester has so much momentum for growth right now that to latch on and give a little push could realize results immediately.
- They need to work with cities that already have a plan in place and people who are successful executing the plans. Chester has a very aggressive plan for the near term future which is a tribute to taking advantage of the Act 47 program, KOZs, a brilliant back office staff of urban planners and financial wizards, and a cooperative city government environment.
- They enjoy the benefits of working with a distressed city that already has tremendous assets. Chester has an under utilized riverfront, an over abundance of transportation access (I-95, Amtrak-Septa-Conrail, Philadelphia International Airport), Widener University, Crozer Hospital, Harrah’s, PPL Park, etc. You'd be hard pressed to find any city our size with so much.
I could probably go on, but most important of all, I’m sure President Obama does not want this program to fail. The best way to assure success is to put the SC2 in the best position to win.
Chester is on a rising path to success. With just a little help, the rise can occur faster.
A feather in President Obama’s hat will translate into a major shift of good fortune for Chester.
So, yes, the fact that President Obama has selected Chester is a big deal. He did so based on the results of years of planning by our local government that proves that Chester is on the road to greatness.
The administration who provided that plan just happens to be the administration in control right now.
It’s just that simple.