The City Policy Committee

The City Policy Committee

During one of his visits home, while in Flint, Bacon met a young man named Walter Phillips -- a Philadelphia native and Harvard Law student, who was interested in civic reform. Phillips joined Bacon in Flint for a summer, and when Bacon returned to Philadelphia, Phillips helped Bacon get a job as the Director of an independent advocacy organization called the Philadelphia Housing Association. Phillips also invited Bacon to join his newly formed City Policy Committee, a group of young reformers focusing on the city’s future.

Since the late 19th century, Philadelphia had been governed by what muckraker journalist Lincoln Steffens called the “corrupt and contented” Republican machine. Phillips was involved in an earlier charter reform effort that failed, and he saw his new City Policy Committee as a longer-term solution to engendering civic and political reform. Bacon led the group to focus on planning, attracting the 1941 national planning conference to Philadelphia.

Following the conference, the group received support from Mayor Robert E. Lamberton to develop a new planning commission with professional staff. However, before the group had a chance to move the issue forward, Lamberton died in office and was replaced by City Council President Bernard Samuel, who was opposed to the planning reform effort.

Bacon and Phillips’ group had a bill brought before City Council, and engaged the support of a diverse group of stakeholders from across the city, to testify in favor of it. Importantly, their testimony also included influential Philadelphia businessman Edward Hopkinson, Jr. The bill passed in 1942, and the modern Philadelphia City Planning Commission was born. Transportation planner Robert Mitchell became its first Executive Director and Hopkinson became its first Chairman.

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