The Public Policy Challenge: And the Winner Is...

March 22, 2010

An initiative that would transform Philadelphia’s neglected, tax delinquent properties into the city’s greatest asset in the battle to stabilize and grow thriving neighborhoods was chosen as the winner of the inaugural Public Policy Challenge, presented by the Fels Institute of Government.

A distinguished panel of judges selected the Land Philadelphia team at the March 20 Challenge Finals as having crafted the best of the five proposals presented by interdisciplinary student teams from schools throughout the University of Pennsylvania. Each team had chosen its own issue area and developed a policy proposal and a political strategy for change in the Philadelphia area.

A panel of regional government, business, and community leaders - including Pennsylvania’s First Lady, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell – were judges for the Finals, which was held at the Center for Architecture in Philadelphia (see full list of judges below).

The winning Land Philadelphia team is comprised of students from five of Penn’s academic schools:

Daniel Gershwin (Penn Law)

Katie Milgrim (Penn Design)

Timothy Potens (School of Engineering and Applied Science)

Matthew Rader (Wharton)

Evan Barret Smith (Fels Institute of Government / Temple Law) 

In addition to a $2500 cash award to individual members, the winning team was given $2500 to contribute to an organization or cause that reflects their chosen issue.

Land Philadelphia’s winning proposal calls for a transformation of Philadelphia’s neglected, tax delinquent properties into the city’s greatest asset in the battle to stabilize and grow thriving neighborhoods. In a radical departure from the current sheriff’s sale process, Land Philadelphia's proposal calls for tax delinquency as an opportunity to move at properties into responsible, stable ownership in a way that aligns with the city’s homeownership and community planning policies. The new system would form a meaningful partnership between City Council, the Redevelopment Authority, and neighborhoods to break the cycle of disinvestment and decline that undermines stable neighborhoods citywide.  Read the team’s full proposal and view the accompanying presentation

The Public Policy Challenge is the only competition of its kind in the country, and is led by a team of students under the direction of staff at Fels. The selection of Land Philadelphia’s proposal concluded a five month program which involved 100 students from eight schools from throughout Penn. After a competitive application process, ten teams were chosen to work on issue areas of their own choosing. Workshops with nationally-recognized experts in public management complemented the proposal development process. A “Round Robin” competition judged by community leaders from throughout the region resulted in the choice of the five final teams which participated in the Finals.

The Public Policy Challenge was directed by the Fels Institute of Government, and made possible through the sponsorship and support of: Penn’s Office of the University Provost and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA); the PFM Group; and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Judges for the Finals of The Public Policy Challenge included:

Donna Cooper - Secretary, Governor’s Office of Policy & Planning

Jeffrey Cooper - Vice President, Penn’s Office of Government & Community Affairs

Dean Kaplan - Managing Director, Public Financial Management 

Paul R. Levy - President & CEO, Center City District

Jeremy Nowak -President & CEO, The Reinvestment Fund

Marjorie O. Rendell - Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

photo:  Laura Van Ness Morris

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