There are signs when one should move. There may be some break-ins down the block or a couple of cars vandalized. There also may be poor scores in the public education system that may lead one to believe that social services and crime prevention will rise, wealthier families will flee for better schools and safety, and thus higher taxes will be needed to compensate for the shrinking tax base and eroding quality of life. Signs that one should move are most often emotional and subjective, but not when a city just crumbles to its collective knees that is less than a few miles away. When this happens, you might be in for a tough real estate market.
Chester's State of Emergency should be a shock for everyone living in the Philadelphia area. It should shock Harrisburg and Washington, DC. This is not a natural disaster zone or one that was decimated by the recent recession. This is not an area new to violence, drugs, poor schools, and declining tax revenue. This is a city that has been on life support since the industrial revolution left 30 years ago. What should be so shocking is that it is a city out of control. It is a city so out of control that they needed to declare a State of Emergency that the Mayor hopes to hold for the next 30 days. The violence has risen to such a crescendo that unheard of measures of limiting people’s movement, increasing overtime for police, and shutting down the democratic process are now in place.
With the recent William Cleary article about the state of Afghanistan on the site, the actions in Chester, PA are even more disturbing. This is a battle with no spin at all because the people of the Philadelphia and Delaware County areas expect anti-social behavior to exist within the city limits. We read the happenings of Chester as if they were as far away or as connected to us as Kabul. But when a State of Emergency is declared and no course of action is laid out to solve the crisis other than the declaration, the people of the area must be concerned. With the affluent areas surrounding the city on the river, the hemmed in violence and social ills may be gaining such mass that the poison of Chester’s streets will begin to take its toll and result in the next great exodus.
So you can not ignore a State of Emergency like you could when the schools were taken over, taken back, given away to charters, and then given back. You can not ignore the political quagmire of making an entire city of 7 miles an Empowerment Zone and the only businesses that have moved in creating jobs are a casino and soccer team, who paid for their field with state funds. The state and county want nothing to do with the social ills of the city. So much so that it has allowed a State of Emergency to be declared with no natural disasters or war. It is an utter embarrassment to the Philadelphia region and Pennsylvania legislature including Ed Rendell. If there is no one left to blame, then there is really no stopping this violence and fear from reaching the rest of the area.
But probably there will be no more homes up for sale than there was on Friday in Delaware County. People will read the articles and headlines and shake their heads, as if Chester was thousands of miles away. Mayor Nutter will head down to the Gulf shore. Ed Rendell will hideout in Philadelphia for the 4th of July celebrations. And life or the lack there of, will continue in Chester. The ills of Chester are our problem, and if we do not see a State of Emergency as a wakeup call, well we could at least use it as an opportunity to explore a new home, this time way up in Chester County.