2018 was a banner year for 5th Square political action committee in which our all-volunteer organization achieved tremendous growth in our volunteer power, advocacy capacity, and impact on the public conversation about issues surrounding our mission of a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia.
In the past year, 5th Square's membership cemented the organization's status as a go-to source for local and national media on all topics related to urbanist politics in Philadelphia, from pedestrian safety and bicycle infrastructure, to public transit, to zoning reform. 5th Square members were featured in print, radio, and television coverage, locally and nationally, and the organization's initiatives and members were mentioned in over 30 news articles in 2018. Over a dozen editorials were published by 5th Square members in 2018 by The Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY.
The 5th Square blog has become a home for members to hone their opinion writing on advocacy topics for a safer Lincoln Drive, "Good Cause" legislation, and support for the creation of civilian traffic officers, and we will continue developing this resource in 2019 alongside our new Resources page, which we're populating with maps and other visualizations urbanist advocates can use to support changes in their communities.
The biggest story of 2018 for 5th Square was the growth of the organization's volunteer base. We now have a Slack channel with over 170 participants, and we made the transition to becoming a membership organization, allowing urbanists from all over Philadelphia to invest in our organization and to help guide our policy agenda and political endorsements. We also organized a committee system to organize our work on issue advocacy and elections, allowing our growing team of grassroots activists to build out different parts of the organization, and participate with us in areas where they have the most interest and expertise.
We also took some early steps toward building a neighborhood federation organizing model with the formation of a West Philly Action Committee that mounted a campaign for a safe crossing to The Woodlands Cemetery that has commanded lots of public attention, and that we hope will bear fruit in 2019.
Working alongside our allies at the Bicycle Coalition, we advocated for speed cameras on Roosevelt Blvd and drove turnout to engagement meetings around improving the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets. We successfully fought several pieces of retrograde legislation in City Council through petitions and coordinated campaigns contacting local legislators about harmful bills to increase mandatory parking minimums, or grab more power to thwart safe bicycle infrastructure.
On the electoral side, we successfully endorsed, campaigned for, and drove voter turnout for State Rep-elect Malcolm Kenyatta in the 181st District, and helped drive interest in a slate of over 100 urbanist committeepeople, three-quarters of whom were successfully elected to low-level party seats this May.
Even though 5th Square has only been around a little less than four years, we are already seeing visible change as a result of our advocacy. Philadelphia's recently-announced strategic transportation plan, CONNECT, can trace its roots to an event we co-hosted in 2016. SEPTA's blueprint for a redesign of their bus network can be partly attributed to members' behind-the-scenes efforts to bring transit consultant Jarrett Walker to Philadelphia. Our 2015 questionnaire for then-candidate Jim Kenney got the Mayor on the record in favor of citywide street sweeping -- a campaign promise that is now slowly coming to fruition (we're hoping!)
In 2019, we look forward to helping Philadelphians apply for "neighborhood slow zones", promoting housing affordability through continued zoning reform, pressing for more protected bicycle lanes and pedestrian safety changes through Vision Zero, engaging SEPTA to become more user-friendly, reporting on bus performance by City Council district and organizing riders for service improvements, and fostering stronger partnerships with elected officials and the city administration. We will also continue our ongoing campaigns for citywide street sweeping, ending SEPTA's transfer penalty, and leading advocacy for institutional transit passes, family-friendly fare reform, and smart implementation of SEPTA's the bus network redesign. And thanks to the leadership of 5th Square chair, Dena Ferrara Driscoll, who earned a fellowship in the 2018 Emerging City Champions program providing seed funding for a physical "action tank," we will soon have a physical home for organizing around all of these initiatives.
Crucially, in the next year, we will be organizing to support urbanist leaders in the 2019 City Council races by endorsing and funding candidates who will work to transform our city: promoting safe streets for walking and biking, improving public transportation, and changing the conversation on planning and housing. For far too long, status quo politicians have ignored these critical needs and 5th Square's Organizing and Elections Committee will be leading our political efforts to elect new leaders who will be full partners working to achieve the changes we want to see in city government.
The 2019 elections are an opportunity for a seismic shift in urbanist politics in Philadelphia, and we need you to get involved to help us make the most of it. Become a member. Get involved with our 2019 organizing and issue advocacy work, or make a donation to support 5th Square.