Philly is rising, from the depths of hell

by pkerkstra on July 19, 2011

Have you heard? Philly is rising. It’s not clear from what or where, exactly. From the ashes, maybe. Perhaps the depth of hell. Or it could just be from the ranks of second (third?) tier cities. How do I know Philly is rising? Because Mayor Nutter says so. Constantly. The PhillyRising hashtag has become the mayor’s online equivalent of a thumbs up. And it’s not just him. His whole administration has embraced the slogan.

The phrase was coined by deputy managing director John Farrell, who needed a name for a new city community development program (which actually is a really good program).

As a program name, it’s just fine. The initiative targets blighted neighborhoods, rough, often crime-ridden communities that need all the rising they can get. But is this really how we want to think about Philadelphia as a whole? A town on the rebound? Points for honesty, I guess. But good god, where’s the pride?

I’m reminded of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s “building beyond expectations.” Or SEPTA’s classic: “We’re getting there.” I have some suggestions in the same vein. How about: “Better than Baltimore.” Or: “Philly: Our homicide rate is no longer in the top 10!”

Actually, the City of Philadelphia already has an official slogan (not that anyone uses it): “Life, Liberty and You.” It’s self-evidently bland and inane, the mushy product of a 65-member committee (no, seriously, the committee had 65 members).

Nutter was test-driving a totally different slogan earlier this year: “Philly. It’s just better.” I kind of liked that one. It didn’t smack of the permanent civic inferiority complex that PhillyRising conjures up in my mind.

But Nutter and company aren’t really looking to brand the city here. What they’re actually trying to do is brand the administration. “PhillyRising” is their shorthand for Nutter’s accomplishments, which they feel have been given short shrift by the media and really the public at large. So Nutter and company have taken to slapping the #PhillyRising hashtag to any bit of good news they want to promote. In that context, it works pretty well. Short. Snappy. And pretty much meaningless, like most slogans.

So rise away, team Nutter. But just remember that nothing, nothing, beats the City of Brotherly Love.

(This originally appeared on PhillyPost)

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