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How Metro is ‘Fixing Philly’

A look back at the first three months of Metro’s newest column.

With the start of August, before we launch into a new month of weekly “Fixing Philly” columns, Metro thought it might be a good time to look back at the work we’ve done with our newest weekly column dedicated to looking at common problems that all Philadelphians face, and the efforts that are being done to improve life in the City of Brotherly Love.

The column, written by the indefatigable Hayden Mitman (yours truly), launched in May with a look at how City Council was working to combat illegal towing, the scourge of so many in the city who need a place to put their car.

But, in the past three months, the column has uncovered a wide variety of ongoing efforts in the hopes of making Philadelphia a better place to live.

In June, “Fixing Philly’ looked at a unique, homegrown effort to combat gun violence in the city. Michael Vidro, director of Public Safety Technology for the Philadelphia Police Department Intelligence Bureau, has developed an aural gunshot location device, that cost a fraction of similar “gunshot detection devices.”

In 2016 alone, Video’s devices are credited with saving the lives of, at least, four gunshot victims by helping police get to the scene much faster.

“It’s my specialized box that I built,” Vidro, told the Metro. “We own the design. We have all the engineering documentation, and it is our intellectual property.”

Claims of racism in the city’s unions is an issue that, some say, has gone on for years. In July, “Fixing Philly” took a look at three new programs that hope to help address that concern, while also reaching out to some non-union, minority trade workers to share their thoughts on the effort.

“It’s like a glass wall, because you can only go so high and it’s really hard to get in,” Real estate developer and retired Philadelphia Police sergeant Jihad Ali said of the hurdles minorities face in getting union jobs.

Then, in a pair of columns, “Fixing Philly” detailed the city’s efforts to improve its greenspace and get Philadelphia’s urban youth to enjoy the outdoors. A June column asked about the status of the city’s Rebuild initiative that is expected to bring $500 million worth of improvements to Philadelphia’s parks and rec. centers over the next seven years.

In July, “Fixing Philly” looked at #naturephl and Camp Philly, a pair of programs that are intended to help get Philly’s kids active and interested in the outdoors. Thanks to modern digital entertainment, Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, told the Metro then that urban children can become set in play activities that keep them from being just as active and healthy as they could be.

“Kids today don’t know how to play. Play has become so structured,” she said then. “It’s not great, but it’s the truth.”In just three months, the column has looked at a variety of modern attempts to solve ongoing issues, like a digital response intended to curb panhandling, SEPTA’s updates to real-time train date and, most recently, a look at how Philadelphia is planning to care for heroin users seeking treatment as an month-long cleanup of, what might be the city’s largest heroin hideaway – El Campamento.

Now, as we enter our fourth month of the column, we want reader input on the issues that bother you most as a Philadelphian. What would you like to see covered in an upcoming column?

Or, do you know a person or program that is addressing an ongoing issue in the city that you’d like us to shine a light on?

Shoot an email to letters@metro.us or contact writer Hayden Mitman directly at Hayden.Mitman@gmail.com, and let us know.

Past "Fixing Philly" columns: 

-How to fix Philly: Fighting illegal towing - May 22

-How to Fix Philly: Getting to gunshots faster - June 5

-How to Fix Philly: Still striving to Rebuild - June 12

-How to Fix Philly: New text-to-donate program aims to curb panhandling - June 19

-How to Fix Philly: Growing the tech scene - June 26

-Fixing Philly: Bringing more minorities into trade unions - July 5

-Fixing Philly – Getting SEPTA updates live - July 10

-Fixing Philly: Let's go play outside - July 17

-Fixing Philly: An organized effort to prevent violence - July 24

-Fixing Philly -Caring for those leaving ‘El Campamento’ - July 31