Statement of Purpose
Building One Pennsylvania is an emerging statewide organization of community leaders from diverse sectors – including municipal, school, faith, business, labor and civic – who are joining together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, reinvigorate local economies, and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.
Building One Pennsylvania was launched in 2010 as a project of two organizations – Good Schools Pennsylvania and the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project, to address the inequities caused and intensified by regional divisions that lead to structurally diminishing tax bases and declining schools, neighborhoods and municipal services. The two organizations had worked collaboratively on school finance reform, winning a legislative victory in 2008 that increased state funding to diverse, fiscally challenged school districts. In July 2012, Building One Pennsylvania became its own non-partisan, non-profit organization. Building One Pennsylvania works in partnership with Building One America.
- Convened a summit in 2010 that brought together more than 600 leaders representing diverse constituencies from across the state to consider a more comprehensive, transformative approach to the interrelated problems of structurally diminishing tax bases, increasing property taxes, declining schools and municipal services, and deteriorating infrastructure.
- Conducted a “Listening Campaign” in 2011 to help develop, refine and prioritize Building One Pennsylvania’s agenda. The listening campaign culminated in August 2011 with a series of Issues Conventions held around the state to ratify Building One Pennsylvania’s issues agenda.
- Worked with our national partner, Building One America, to convene a forum at the White House in July 2011 that gave further visibility to the strengths, assets, challenges and policy implications for America’s increasingly diverse yet fiscally strained older communities. The forum launched organizing initiatives in several other states.
- Introduced Building One Pennsylvania’s issues agenda at a statewide public meeting in Lancaster in October 2011 at which nearly 800 people turned out to demand attention to the structural challenges confronting our older boroughs, towns and cities. In the process, we secured several important commitments, including a commitment from U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to work directly with Building One Pennsylvania and our regional and national partners to “end the tyranny of the zip code.”
- Engaged with our Congressional delegation on federal transportation reauthorization, including convening a meeting with members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and their staff. In attendance were top staff members for Representatives Meehan, Fitzpatrick, and Gerlach. Congressman Lou Barletta was in attendance himself. Also helping to organize the meeting were two former Congressmen, Democrat Joe Hoeffel of Pennsylvania, and Republican Jim Saxton of New Jersey, who chaired the meeting. Throughout the spring of 2012, we continued to meet with members of Congress and their staff about infrastructure and transportation investments and the importance of securing a bipartisan agreement and even compromise, with the result that in July a two-year transportation bill was passed.
- Hosted a White House Round Table meeting in August 2012 in Valley Forge with the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, David Agnew. The meeting, which was attended by 60 bi-partisan local leaders representing 35 towns, highlighted the challenges of diverse, middle class suburbs – particularly how EPA demands on our aging storm-water and sewer systems have put tremendous fiscal pressure on our communities that get passed on to homeowners and businesses in the form of increased property taxes and utility rates. Mr. Agnew pledged to broker meetings with senior staff from EPA, DOT, HUD and Department of Education.
- Worked with our national partner, Building One America, to convene a national summit in D.C. in 2013 to highlight the growing importance of diverse middle-class communities and their role in promoting inclusion and to demonstrate the intersection of sustainability, diversity, and economic vitality. The two-day leadership conference brought together 200 local elected and appointed leaders (from municipalities, school districts, townships, county and states legislatures), academics, policy experts, labor leaders and state and federal policy makers to highlight the fiscal and social challenges of America’s increasingly diverse middle-class suburbs and their growing importance to building support for policies to generate social equity and sustainability. A congressional reception was attended by 14 bi-partisan members of Congress, and former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette, who now heads the Republican Main Street Partnerships, served as a keynote speaker. Practitioners, policy-experts and key members of the Obama administration attended breakout and plenary sessions on schools, fair housing, sewer, water infrastructure, and transportation. There, efforts to lift up and highlight opportunities for better federal and state policies and funding approaches were reinforced by powerful examples of best practices and policy victories secured at the state and regional level.The summit ended with delegations from 12 metropolitan areas in 9 states setting goals to build and train strong networks of local leaders and convening regional summits in the spring/summer of 2014 to present issues for action around a unified and unifying policy agenda.
- Building One Pennsylvania continues to work with HUD to develop a housing mobility program that will serve as a model for addressing poverty concentration and opportunity. The program will reform federal housing programs that continue to over-steer low-income housing and residents into middle class suburban communities that are already diverse, increasingly fiscally challenged, and declining in opportunity. The program will instead open up housing opportunity in job-rich areas that also enjoy strong public schools.
- Building One Pennsylvania is working with local elected and civic leaders in Southwestern Pennsylvania to convene a forum May 16th that will involve local elected and civic leaders, policy experts, and federal and state policy makers in seeking bipartisan solutions to the unique but common challenges around transportation and water infrastructure, schools and housing facing so many of the region’s industrial towns and older working- and middle-class communities.