On Tuesday May 16, 2023 — should Philly voters turn out as usual — about 300,000 Philadelphia people will vote in the primary for a new mayor and City Council. For those who do vote, emotions may guide their vote more than reason. Voters care about how a candidate makes them feel. Rarely do voters support a person if they do not like them at least a little bit. Today, however, let’s set aside personality and lift up some policy questions for the field.
In 2018, the Economist Intelligence Unit and ABB, a major global manufacturing company based in Switzerland, published the Automation Readiness Index to illustrate the things nations are doing (or not) to prepare for exponentially rapid technological change.
Automation and artificial intelligence are arriving at avalanche speed in some sectors and without concern for the impact on various manual and repetitive jobs. For example, our region has tens of thousands of cashiers. What will those people transition to when far fewer cashiers are hired? The purpose of the Automation Readiness Index was to assess top nations’ levels of resilience. The Index measured national strategies, policies and programs in 25 nations. The United States was middle of the pack, far behind Japan, Singapore, Germany and other more future-ready countries. The Index, explained here in three minutes, measured three key policy areas: Innovation Environment, Education Strategies and Labor Market Supports.
Residents in cities will bear the burden of political inaction on key future-ready strategies.
During my time as a director in the Office of Workforce Development, our team convened stakeholders and adapted the index to assess Philadelphia’s readiness for the age of automation and artificial intelligence. The department did this because in the United States, it is cities, more so than the federal government, that should be more motivated to do the ongoing planning and implementation. There will be continued disruptions to education institutions, economic opportunities and society overall. Automation and artificial intelligence will continue their relentless improvements and growth. It will be residents in cities who will bear the burden of political inaction on key future-ready strategies.
Given our public safety crisis, policy questions about gun violence are also here. Without less gun violence, it will be harder for Philadelphia to improve the overall quality of life. We need to attract residents, welcome suburbanites to arts and cultural events, and retain businesses of all sizes. We will also struggle to shine when we host major global events if we cannot be a safer city.
With all of this in mind, here are the Top 10 Future-Ready policy questions for the next mayor.
Gun violence crisis
- Solving problems begins with understanding the root cause and then addressing it. Some say gun violence is caused by poverty. Others say it is the illicit drug trade and related criminal activity. Still others point to the mental health crisis as an explanation for common disagreements turning deadly. What do you think is the root cause of our gun violence crisis? How will your views about the root cause affect your solutions?
- According to the third episode of The Citizen’s How To Really Run a City podcast, the average age of gun violence perpetrators and victims is 30 years old, and most are repeat offenders. What can a mayor do to encourage companies to hire and train justice-involved adults for a sufficient wage that might encourage a person out of “the game?”
- The mayor directly negotiates labor contracts. In your view, what are the two or three most important issues in the police labor contract that — if addressed — will abate the gun violence crisis?
- As per the Pew Charitable Trust Dashboard for Philadelphia’s Economic Recovery, micro and small businesses led our jobs recovery last year. Today, one-person businesses can access clients globally and choose to live here and contribute to stronger communities. What will you do to make it easier for people just starting a business to interact with the local government and be tax compliant? How is entrepreneurship a part of your job growth vision?
- How can the next mayor collaborate with the most technologically advanced leaders and companies to solve pressing problems together? Can you give an example from your track record of collaborating with private sector businesses to solve an urgent problem?
- How will you leverage Big Data insights, automation and/or A.I. to develop better strategy, policy, services, program performance, budgeting, and/or operations in city government?
- The pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s skills and learning. What top two to three issues in the teachers contracts need to be addressed so public school students can get back on the path asap to realizing their full potential?
- Our career and technological education programs are under-funded and also not preparing students for entry into apprenticeship programs, as measured by the low rates of school district graduates who pass nationally normed assessments to earn industry-recognized credentials. What will your team do to strengthen the citywide pipeline into high-demand careers that pay well and do not require a college degree?
Labor market supports
- Many speak of “workforce development” / “job training.” Yet, the current workforce development system is under-funded by the federal government and very low-performing. What will you do to ensure more adults can access the fastest-growing careers before they are unemployed, displaced by automation and A.I.?
- Burning Glass, the Schultz Foundation and Harvard Business School recently released the American Opportunity Index, a corporate scorecard of worker advancement. How will you hold top employers in Philadelphia — starting with the number two employer, the City of Philadelphia — accountable for providing ladders of opportunity before, during and after a person is hired?
Anne Gemmell Directs Policy and Advocacy for the 10K Independents Project, an organization of independent businesses collaborating together now to ask all candidates to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate now and when in office so Philadelphia can be a great place for more independent businesses to start and thrive. On April 5, the team at the 10K Independents Project hosts a webinar with three opportunities for Q&A to discuss the latest factors affecting the current mayor’s race, such as viability and values.
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