I have lived in Philadelphia since 1964, a transplant from Baltimore, where I attended Garrison Junior High, Forest Park High (each public schools), and graduated from Goucher College. Like most of you who read The Huffington Post, I care very much about the survival of our cities. And right now my focus is on Philadelphia.
Although I try to follow politics closely, I am not a political junkie. My life's work has been concentrated in the fields of social work and family therapy. So if looking at events and the future through a psychological prism is not your cup of tea, there is much else to enjoy on The Huffington Post.
For I am about to make an argument, based on psychology, that Ed Rendell must somehow, someway be convinced to run for a third term as Philadelphia's mayor. (If not, we must find another with his unusual combination of qualities.) Here's why: Philadelphia, like most major cities, is a turf city, and Ed knows how to bring rival turfs together. Plus Ed is color blind, and he is seen as such. And Ed makes us smile, despite our many challenges; and this brings us both perspective and hope. (Yes, he can be a "hot-head," but he is our fun to watch "hot head," who usually only loses it when his efforts are completely misunderstood.)
In Philadelphia, as in most cities, turf mentality is deeply rooted. Though our differing neighborhoods and cultures are part of our charm, a turf approach has dangers. Common sense dictates that in times of economic and social challenges, various political turfs must come together, doing what they can to put the common good before individual power. This is not instinctively the Philly way. Nor, of course, is it the political way.
Yet Ed, as no other mayor since, has successfully brought rivals to the table. The results have been our highly successful Avenue of the Arts. (Philadelphia now has approximately 120 theatre organizations, which does not include all we offer in others arts, including museums, dance, and music.) And although surely much work must still be done, we have more thriving downtown neighborhoods than ever before. (You do not have to be wealthy to have a good, quality life in downtown Philadelphia.) We also have the survival of Hahnemann (Tenet) Hospital, further successes at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, including Drexel Medical School. (Yes, these successes are also due to the talents of John Street, who led City Council when Ed was mayor; but Rendell and Street worked well together. Successes also were due to the genius of David L Cohen, Rendell's Chief of Staff, but Ed picked him.) The list goes on and on, and if you do not know all of them, read Ed's latest book, A Nation of Wusses, and he will tell you. For Ed, as many know, is not modest.
A discussion of racism is always hard and complex. Although Philadelphia is multicultural, the majority of us are African American and white; and the mutual distrust that exists is very sad and disruptive, and potentially lethal. There are exemplary leaders who surely are not prejudiced, and yet, for complicated reasons, are perceived that way. However, Ed does not have an ounce of racism in him, and most people just instinctively know it. This quality, like the former ones, is essential for any future mayor of a multicultural city.
Ed Rendell can be described psychologically as an "outer world" person. He adores public contact, and can endlessly appear at functions and talk to everyone, thriving on this type of communication. "Inner world" people, on the other hand, need far more private time to be alone, to process, and to share with a limited circle of intimates. The latter group have a far harder time functioning and succeeding in a political arena.
Someone once asked me why I believed Ed was so successful and appreciated as our mayor. What I said then echoes the above: With the support and vital contributions of his extraordinary wife, Midge (Marjorie O. Rendell is a federal appellate Judge) , Ed, in a sense, married Philadelphia. He gave us the very best of him, and we loved him back.
Although Ed now is busy (and claims to be happy, and fulfilled), he would be far more relevant as our third-term mayor. We in Philadelphia need him once again to come home to his and our Philadelphia, to bring us together, to lead us. During these complex and challenging times, other cities also need a mayor who offers this quality of "hand in glove" fit.
This post was adapted from a letter to the editor published on Philly.com.