Michael Tamayo (Fels '16) at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission

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Fels second-year Michael Tamayo knows cities. A native of Vallejo, California, he’s been fascinated with solving complex policy challenges at the municipal level since high school.

“My hometown filed for bankruptcy when I was a teenager,” he said. “The impact that had on neighborhoods and on the people living in them was what really motivated me to learn more about public policy in cities.”

It makes sense that, for his Public Leadership and Service Fellowship last summer, Tamayo worked with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

“My favorite project involved evaluating the city's performance at achieving the goals outlined in its comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035. As an intern with the Policy and Analysis division of the Planning Commission, I kept tabs on things like vacancy rates, travel times, and pedestrian safety,” he said.

“I also looked for trends in the data to see which parts of Philadelphia were in greatest need of the city's attention. Being able to locate where these trends were happening helped staffers identify specific proposals to address these areas in need.”

A reliance on data and a penchant for numbers-crunching is second-nature to Tamayo. But he stresses that familiarity with a city’s people is even more important.

“If you’re interested in city planning, you need to be willing to learn more about a city's neighborhoods,” Tamayo said. “Knowing where they are, what residents think of them, and what kinds of challenges they are facing is very helpful in orienting yourself in a planning-related position. That includes becoming familiar with the development process at the local level -- which means knowing the zoning ordinance, the historic preservation ordinance, and so on.”

And as to what Fels course was the most helpful in preparing for his role? 

“Performance Management was definitely the most helpful course in preparing me for this internship,” Tamayo said. 

Thanks to the Fels Student Association (FSA) for conducting the interview for this article. 

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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