Notes from Sal Paolantonio’s landmark 1993 biography of Frank Rizzo

In recent years, it became commonplace to compare legendary and controversial former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo with Donald Trump. Perhaps that was why I finally read Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America, the influential biography published in 1993 by Sal Paolantonio. It is a familiar part of the foundation of the Philadelphia canon so it’s long been on my list.

Below I share my notes from the book.

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Here’s a snapshot census of reporters, editors and other news org full-timers in Philadelphia

Efforts abound nationally to pin down just how many full-time people are in the business of reporting, editing, visualizing and otherwise sharing news in a professional journalism setting. This is a local one.

We know that, to no one’s surprise, aside from spikes, the trend is very clearly downward. Fewer people will have full time roles with organizations dedicated to journalistic enterprise.

But I wanted to use my hometown of Philadelphia to get a sense of what that hiring mix looks like. So I sent a whole lot of emails out to friends, colleagues and peers. Below I share what I found.

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Horse tales

Riding outside West Fairmount Parks Belmont Stables, in early spring 2005
Riding outside West Fairmount Park’s Belmont Stables, in early spring 2005

It took me to leave rural northwest New Jersey, where I grew up, and to go to Philadelphia, where I went to college, to saddle up and actually develop a small knowledge base about Western-style horse riding.

I cleaned stalls and helped out Ike Johnstone at Belmont Stables, an historic West Fairmount Park building where Johnstone hosts the Bill Picket Riding Academy, through which he teachs anti-violence and communication to North Philadelphia kids. In exchange, Johnstone taught me some rudimentary riding skills.

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A conversation on building a maker community: Philacentrics

I’m thankful I was included in a salon-style dinner among a dozen Philadelphia city creative and philanthropic leaders at the historic Waterworks restaurant. The prompt for the conversation over dinner was the ‘maker economy.’

The discussion focused on Philadelphia but clearly the themes tie to a lot of cities around the world today: how do we build a broad future economy? The conversation was off-the-record, but there were a few topics interesting enough to be worth sharing without attribution.

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Gentrification is believing you are ‘Year Zero’: 100% Philadelphia at FringeArts

Neighborhoods and cities always change. Concerns about gentrification come when that change happens with such speed that those new to a place don’t even realize a community predates them.

After a special performance of 100% Philadelphia, something like an on-stage census map with real-life residents, at FringeArts, I was part of a panel discussing the issues the production brought up. The performance has been organized around the world. In each case, 100 residents of that city were selected to represent the dynamics of that place — race, location, income, politics, etc. Throughout the show, the residents are given prompted questions and move about stage to help give an in-person sense of thoughts on issues, both local and human-wide.

It brought thoughts to mind for me.

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Pen and Pencil Club board of governors

The Pen and Pencil Club, the country’s oldest surviving private press association, welcomed me onto its board of governors as one of its youngest members last February. This month, I am proud to say I was voted on to remain there.

Here is some background on the famous private club and my own goals for being part of its board again.

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Lifehacks for living in Philly (and probably other cities too)

[Thanks for the love r/Philadelphia and Zagat and Reddit again]

Update: I presented some of my favorite hacks at Ignite Philly. Watch the presentation below and find the slides here:

Any city worth its existence has enough culture that exists there that small quirks exist that can help you get by.

In my short nine years living in Philadelphia, a few lifehacks have become pretty common to me but are perhaps worth sharing.

Here are a bunch. I’d love to hear yours:

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