I didn’t do an actual search for how many “most […] ever” headlines there were in 2022, but I think we can all agree it was somewhere in the region of 752,312. We had [most] important elections, pressing issues, extreme weather, contentious politics…and, oddly for Philadelphia, winning teams.
In our era of extremes, it was another whopper.
These are some of the things Philadelphians cared about the most in 2022, based on the most-read stories in The Citizen — and what they mean for the year to come.
We voted. And we’ll do it again.
We had a long election year, with no less than democracy on the ballot. Once again, Philadelphia and its neighboring counties swayed the state; once again local turnout was not where it should be. Why does that matter?
Because we are about to elect a new mayor and a new slate of City Councilmembers and they should be people who represent all of us. The good news: The candidates so far are the most diverse and among the most qualified we’ve had. The bad news: We really only have until May 16 to pick our next mayor. That’s when our closed primary happens, and Democrats — who outnumber Republicans by 8 to 1 — will select their candidate, i.e. the next mayor.
In 2023: The Citizen’s Ultimate Job Interview is our novel approach to covering the mayor’s race by creating a publicly-sourced job description and conducting public interviews with each of the candidates. So, you know, we can pick the person who is best qualified for the hard job of being Philadelphia’s mayor.
We’ve surveyed residents in every zip code in the city to create a job description. Starting on January 17, we’re inviting all the candidates to a public forum with top-notch interviewers — including citizens of Philadelphia — to vet them.
We cared about housing, and how to keep people in their neighborhoods.
Citizen co-founder Larry Platt’s article about the University City Townhomes fiasco was the best explainer of a convoluted situation that gripped the city for much of the year — especially in West Philadelphia and at Penn, where protesters interrupted President Liz Magill’s inaugural address to students. The story is an example of how politics for the few is not the same as politics for all — and of a failure of practical problem-solving.
On the other hand, the groundbreaking work of the Kensington Corridor Trust, to make community-minded decisions about planning and development in the North Philadelphia neighborhood is the kind of innovation we need to keep gentrification at bay, while also making much-needed improvements to neighborhoods where people live and work.
In 2023: Affordable housing continues to be an issue in Philly, as housing and rental prices rise more quickly than family-sustaining jobs. Consider candidates for mayor and City Council who have a plan for growing jobs in the city near where people live, so they can afford to live in their neighborhoods.
We worried about gun violence and public safety in our city.
Right before Christmas, Philly hit the familiar, tragic milestone again: More than 500 people killed in 2022. That was about 7 percent down from the year before, but it was still a complete failure of leadership and problem-solving — especially since we know what works to reduce violence.
We also know, from reading former City Commissioner Rebecca Rhynhart’s audit of the police department budget, what doesn’t work. Namely: our police bureaucracy. Most of what Rhynhart uncovered had nothing to do with the stuff of headlines; she found a department riddled with inefficiencies, outdated systems and a striking lack of accountability.
In 2023: A group of civic leaders have stepped into the leadership breach, pledging millions to bring to Philadelphia Focussed Deterrence, which reduced violence in two police districts in 2014 (before Mayor Kenney stopped funding the program) and has worked in Chester and other cities around the country.
And, back to that mayor’s race: Candidates on the trail are at their most conciliatory and vulnerable. Now is the time to demand they promise to bring in police leadership that will fix what’s broken in the department. One solution to many problems: A better, well-rounded system for treating people with mental health episodes in the city without using police time that could be better spent walking a beat or solving murders.
We demanded better of our civic and government leaders.
News quietly broke back in September about the storied Union League’s plan to give Florida Governor Ron DeSantis its highest honor. The internal tumult of that decision — an affront to decency and to many of the Black members — made us look hard at the old guard bastion of power in Philly and ask: Is that who we are?
Meanwhile, controversy was brewing all summer over the City’s plans to raze The Meadows in South Philly’s FDR Park to make way for turf ball fields, an effort supported by some coaches. Some neighbors and birders, on the other hand, bemoaned the loss of a wild, beautiful haven from Covid.
In 2023: It doesn’t matter where you stand on an issue, just take a stand — or as we at The Citizen say, Do Something. Demand attention and service from our leaders and decision-makers. Take note of who is doing right by Philly, and who is in it for themselves. And vote — with your actual vote, your wallet, you feet and your voice.
We, apparently, love pepper pot soup.
The traditional West African and Caribbean concoction became a signature dish in Philly, where Black women made and sold it by the bowlful from colonial times to the early 20th century. Our 2020 Foodizen podcast about the history of the soup, by Tonya Hopkins, aka The Food Griot, lays out the history — and came with a recipe that thousands of people checked out again this year. Yum.
In 2023: Check out these Black-owned businesses doing good, including several food purveyors.
We supported veterans in need — and other vulnerable people.
The Citizen’s Do Something guide to supporting veterans was one of our most popular this year, just one testament to the goodness of Philadelphians.
People also looked for ways to help refugees, feed the hungry, give at Thanksgiving, care for pets and support our LGBTQ+ neighbors.
Philadelphians, you are awesome.
In 2023: You will still be awesome. Here are some ways to do more good.