U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle sees Philadelphia at a crossroads.
In an interview with City & State, Boyle notes that the city has made strides in reversing population loss and creating jobs in what represents good news for the city and its economy. But on the flip side, poverty and crime remain major issues – with crime being one that could define the legacy of the city’s next mayor, for better or for worse.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
What do you see as Philadelphia’s biggest opportunities?
Let me take a step back for a second and frame the conversation in a larger context. I see Philadelphia as a quintessential American city, with all of the positives and negatives that come with that. I think that in many ways, we’re stronger now than we were, certainly when I was growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s. We’re stronger in terms of employment and tax base, in terms of people moving into the city. Consider that by the 1980s, we had experienced four consecutive decades of population loss – that has ceased. So those are the positives.
On the other hand, we still have the highest poverty rate of any big city in the country. And on crime, while there is evidence it’s dropping – and it is still lower today than it was in the 1980s or 1990s – we know that crime has surged compared to where we were just 10 years ago. We’re really at a very interesting point in which, by one set of metrics, things are going really well, and then by another set of metrics, things aren’t.
How do you see your office interacting with the new administration? What types of things can a congressional office and the city do together for the benefit of Philadelphia?
I’ve been in Congress for nine years now. This is the way I look at my job relative to the city: Philadelphia only has two of its citizens serving in Congress – me and Dwight Evans. I don’t tend to weigh in on municipal issues. I try as best I can to avoid any of the factionalism that sometimes can happen in city politics. I want to make sure I’m in a position to fight for whatever we can get from Washington, D.C. to help Philadelphia.
I’m very fortunate in that I have a great partner in Dwight Evans; he and I both see our roles very similarly. Obviously, most of the time, I’m engaged in national issues as well as foreign affairs. But in terms of specifically being a member of Congress, born and raised and living and representing Philadelphia, my job is to fight for every last resource we can possibly get from the federal government directed to the city. Specific to Cherelle Parker, I have a great relationship with her. I endorsed her and I think highly of her. I think that in a very tough job, she will do well.
You touched on driving federal funding to Philadelphia. The president was in town recently to talk about federal funding – in your district – for a regional hydrogen hub. Could you walk me through the impact of these hubs and what they could mean for the region?
First, very specifically, right along the Delaware River in my district – 20,800 new jobs created as a result of this project, and these are good, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs. It’s a great success. I have been involved for the last couple of years now in attempting to win this project – nicknamed MACH 2 – to get it in our area, and then specifically for Philadelphia. It’s an incredible investment and it shows the link between the federal level and the local level.
Here’s a very direct, tangible example of that – the funding for this comes straight out of the climate investments that have been made over the last couple of years in legislation that we passed. It’s a wonderful opportunity even beyond just this one specific project. The money that was allocated as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill – that’s literally going to create jobs over the course of the next decade, well after the life of this administration, even if it’s a two-term administration. It’s exciting because back home that will mean, frankly, just a lot of jobs.