Read A Prayer for the City by H.G. Bissinger Robert Clark Online


A Prayer for the City is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger's true epic of Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, an utterly unique, unorthodox, and idiosyncratic leader who will do anything to save his city: take unions head on, personally lobby President Clinton to save 10,000 defense jobs, or wrestle Smiley the Pig on Hot Dog Day--all the while bearing in mind theA Prayer for the City is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger's true epic of Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, an utterly unique, unorthodox, and idiosyncratic leader who will do anything to save his city: take unions head on, personally lobby President Clinton to save 10,000 defense jobs, or wrestle Smiley the Pig on Hot Dog Day--all the while bearing in mind the eternal fickleness of constituents whose favor may hinge on a missed garbage pick-up or an overzealous meter maid. It is also the story of citizens in crisis: a woman fighting ceaselessly to give her great-grandchildren a better life, a father of six who may lose his job at the Navy Shipyard, and a policy analyst whose experiences as a crime victim tempt her to abandon her job and ideals. Heart-wrenching and hilarious, alive with detail and insight, A Prayer for the City describes a city on its knees and the rare combination of political courage and optimism that may be the only hope for America's urban centers....

Title : A Prayer for the City
Author :
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ISBN : 9780679744948
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Prayer for the City Reviews

  • Emily
    2019-06-04 11:47

    This was certainly an odd choice for me to read while on vacation, i.e. not in Philadelphia, but such is the library hold queue. The author spent four years embedded in the first administration of Ed Rendell as Philadelphia mayor (1992-95) and wrote about all the highs (rescuing the budget) and lows (losing the Navy Yard). He had total access to Rendell and his chief of staff David Cohen, whom I liked better after reading this book because I've only heard of him as the the chief lobbyist of Comcast, an outright evil job.I most enjoyed the descriptions of my city and passionate arguments about how federal government policy screwed over urban areas leading to a vicious cycle of failure and flight. What I liked less was Bissinger's writing style, which I thought was florid, sometimes veering into metaphors that I found barely comprehensible. (After Rendell intervenes in cancelled beauty pageant, we learn that "The [contestants] sat in the front row, pretty and prim, the white sashes proclaiming their states running in neat diagonal lines from shoulder to sternum like cellphone wrapping on a piece of processed cheese" [96]. Uh, I know where my sternum is, what is up with these ladies?) The other thing I found a little disappointing about this book is that it only covers Rendell's first term as mayor and so, in 2016, reads as being unfinished or ending in the middle of the story. I think of Rendell's tenure, overlapping my high school and college years, as the time when the city changed from being a place my family hardly ever went to (despite living 15 miles away) to being a place I wanted to live in. One thing I remember about Rendell is that at the end of his last term in office, he had a reception for people to take pictures with him, an event which went hours overtime because so many people came, such was his popularity. But as for any of the specific achievements of his second term, I don't remember them and they're not covered here. Thus, I ended up seeing this book more as a vivid time capsule of Philadelphia in the early '90s and a character sketch of Rendell than as a comprehensive history of how the city was turned around. Still, for me, that made it worthwhile.

  • Nina
    2019-05-22 14:12

    If you loved the West Wing TV series, there are good chances that you’ll like this book. The author somehow finagled permission to be a fly on the wall during the Ed Rendell’s first term as Philadelphia’s Mayor (1992 – 1995), embedding himself in the Chief of Staff’s office, sitting in the shadows during executive meetings, even listening outside the door during tense confidential negotiations over navy yard reuse proposals. Readers are granted shockingly unfettered access to the internal workings of city government at the highest level – we are spectators at the Administration’s finest hours and most cringe-worthy stumbles. I’m still amazed at what Bissinger was allowed to witness. What makes the narrative even more interesting is that the 1990s was a pivotal turning point for American cities, in a way that some guessed at in the moment but really became apparent only a decade or so later. White flight, the crack epidemic, race riots, Cabrini Green-like public housing projects, and de-industrialization had culminated in horrific conditions that left cities broke, crime-ridden, and plagued with poverty-related issues. Everything peaked in the 1990s: Administrations that realized that they were the last, best chance to “save a dying and obsolete city” took radical measures, capitalized on the economic boom of the 1990s, and entered the 21st century with enough economic momentum and attractive assets to lure in urbanophile Millennials. (See: Philadelphia, thanks to Rendell). The alternative was complete collapse of the city, following by the total implosion of the economy in nearby suburbs (see: Detroit. Gary. Flint). So not only does A Prayer for The City deliver a fascinating insider view, but what we’re watching is a desperate Administration try everything it can think of to pull a City back from the brink. “We’re shameless,” the Chief of Staff told the author. “We’ll play every card.”The book offers thoughtful, poignant portraits of two men - Mayor Ed Rendell and his Chief of Staff, David Cohen – and in so doing, it offers insights into what it takes in terms of temperament and time allocation to excel at those jobs. We vote for Mayors, but do we actually know what they do, what they can do, to “create change”? Bissinger makes a compelling case that one of the Mayor’s key contributions was his relentless cheerleading: Rendell’s optimism “changed the entire feel of the city, to the point where the perpetual focus wasn’t on the litany of problems, but on what maybe,just maybe, could be done. As if by constantly talking about all that might be coming and planning for it as if it were already here, it somehow was already here. In a way, he wasn’t America’s Mayor but America’s first publicly elected cult leader, winning hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands on the basis of blind faith.” Even if he did have to do it by wrestling with six-foot pig mascots to promote a local hot dog business, or undertake any number of ridiculous shticks to market the city as an entertainment destination for suburbanites with money to burn. (Of course, I also ate up the fact that both my employer and my boss were mentioned by name in the section about the 5-year financial plan that brought city government back from near-bankruptcy. “A manifesto for dramatic and radical and unprecedented change in an American city” – yeah, I think I’ll tell my Mom that that’s what I do for a living.) My only reservation is that the narrative flow can feel like learning to drive a manual transmission – the adrenaline rush of union stand-downs and navy yard sale negotiations screech to a halt for a profile of a Philadelphia resident. I understand that the author included these profiles to give the reader a visceral image of the people whose lives hang in the balance, people like a soon-to-be laid-off welder, an African-American grandma raising her great grandkids in a crack neighborhood, a yuppie couple who are driven from their Center City townhouse after one too many violent crimes, etc. It’s all good content, it’s just awkwardly shoe-horned into the Rendall Administration story in a way that’s distracting at best and deflating at worst. All in all, I can’t believe this isn’t standard reading among urbanists.

  • Laura Leaney
    2019-06-13 12:52

    What Bissinger has written is both paean and elegy to the once grand, once thriving American city. The focus is Philadelphia, but the story represents the plight of all the large urban centers across the country - cities whose "revitalized" downtowns are deceptive, "a brocade curtain hiding a crumbling stage set."It's hard to believe that Ed Rendell, newly elected mayor of Philadelphia, would allow Bissinger to follow him around for four years, giving him access to meetings, policy debates, and personal melt-downs. I am astonished. And I'm inclined to agree with the author's view that Mayor Rendell is "a man unafraid to be human."Ultimately though, Rendell, and his passion to save Philadelphia, is not what fascinated me the most. What the book did is lift the manhole cover on the political machinations, both good and terrible, that keep government snaking along. Do we need government do help us maintain a civilized society? I think we do, but what a sewer! I admire the noble efforts of politicians who enter this befouled environment in order to make a difference, a better life, for their constituents. What they're up against is beyond description, although Bissinger does justice to the attempt. Poverty, racism, drugs, crime, fear, despair, poor public schools, abandoned factories, little health care, and a culture of public dependence. That's the short list.Although I found this book seriously depressing, I also came away feeling something of the spirit of confidence and hope that all is not ruined. I admit that I'm deeply cynical about politicians and the legislative process - government policies are so often grossly damaging - but this book makes clear that there are people willing to make painful sacrifices for the greater good.This book is about the possibilities.

  • Noah
    2019-06-14 14:51

    I don't know if a better book has been written about local politics. This book may be one of the best ones I've read about politics, period. It's a dizzying portrayal of a big city mayor trying to navigate the shark-infested waters of public employee unions, the media, state and federal government, job loss, white flight, and more. It's both engrossing and deeply depressing. Not perfect (Bissinger lays it on a bit thick sometimes), but overall I loved it.

  • Mark
    2019-06-13 19:11

    There's a good book to be found in the text of this book; the political chess-playing on its own would make a three-, maybe four-star book. But as it's presented, Bissinger's too fundamentally dishonest and crowd-pleasing in his presentation for this to merit serious consideration as meaningful nonfiction. He seems to lack all respect for his presumed audience, between his narrative gimmicks and the sheer transparency of his emotional manipulation; it comes across as an insecurity in the strength of the story he's chosen, which is unfortunate, as it was strong enough without his intrusive modifications. Some of this is small stuff, like his providing gratuitous details to no purpose (half a page listing Philadelphia's firsts, half a page of the names of ships built at the navy yard, etc.), which feels mostly like an attempt at padding out a term paper; he might argue that such expansive lists were included to impress sheer scale upon the reader, but simple numbers would be sufficient to impress that same scale. His choice, too, to take intermittent excursions from the overtly political bulk of the text to drop in on the lives of four citizens feels like another misjudgement of his audience, like either desperate attempts to keep his audience from getting bored or periodical reminders that this book's story of politics is a fundamentally human one, as if that could ever be forgotten. His personal biases also come across without much effort made toward concealment (and the efforts that are made are so lackluster as to have the effecting of highlighting), and without even bothering forth arguments in their favor, let alone successful ones.Most concerning is the artificiality of the narrative he massages into such a construction so as to be able to say to any kind of reader (broadly, we might break these potential subsets into pro-government and anti-government groups), "Ha, I proved you wrong. This isn't going where you thought it was, and I'm not supporting your case," but also, "You should be commended for believing that, but that doesn't make you right." This frustrating double-rebuttal is not dubious for the emotion it provokes; frustration is a perfectly valid emotion to elicit, and likely would have been the one elicited by a straighter retelling of the facts (indeed, even without Bissinger's reckless and undecorous ramping-up, the undoctored version of events would likely play as black comedy with an honestly-earned, multifaceted tragicomic tone), but the manner of extraction here removes any power from the fact of the situation and gives it all to Bissinger himself; under the guise of offering a balanced portrayal, Bissinger actually merely ensures that his book will end up as utterly unchallenging to readers of any and all points of view. He seems to have more of a congratulatory interest in lionizing himself and his readers for whatever beliefs they may or may not have in America's system of government, and in blaming its players broadly, than in truly analyzing that same system. As a result, this book fails my standard litmus test for effective nonfiction, which is, roughly, to raise as many more questions as it answers; Bissinger is uninterested in such questions and answers, assumes his readership is as well, and so disregards them altogether.

  • Tom
    2019-05-25 13:51

    I grew up in Philly, spent 16 years of schooling there, and now live in South Jersey and still work in Philly. I learned more about the city during the 1.5 weeks I was reading this book than I did in all that other time combined. The depth of the reporting, the range of stories covered, the ability to sort through reams of information-- it's all really impressive. But it's not just a Philly book-- it's a book about the slow decay of the American city and the ways people have tried to combat that death, with all the inherent political mess that comes with that territory. Although the 92-96 timeframe may seem dated, it's actually more fascinating now to see it because the book opens with Mayor Rendell saying his economic plan will shape the city for the next 25 years. 21 years after that proclamation, it's possible to really see where some of the changes in this city are rooted. Every now and then Bissinger gets a little carried away with ludicrous metaphors and imposes his voice on the story in distracting ways (and it was weird how he seemed to immediately and instinctively side with Rendell's camp during the incidents when he sexually harassed and/or actually assaulted women), but overall the prose is strong and clear and crisp and everything else you'd expect from a writer of this pedigree.

  • Deborah Sullivan
    2019-05-18 12:54

    If you love cities read this. To understand how the American city has been methodically undermined by public policy throughout the 20th century and to see an exceptional pair of men fight the good fight through their own flaws, read this. Very well-written book about the first term of Mayor Rendell in Philadelphia. I live in the city and love the city and this broke my heart, but left me hopeful that there are still people in public service who want cities to survive and maybe, someday, thrive again.

  • John
    2019-06-09 12:13

    As an inside look at how politics gets done in a big city, this is pretty much unparallelled, and all of its observations about how cities have been abandoned and screwed over are pretty much right on the money. So why didn't I like this? I think Bissinger's writing is pretty unimpressive - the whole thing has these weird macho New Journalism airs about it, which I recognize as an attempt to spice things up but feels a little overcompensating. Nevertheless, it's 100% necessary reading for understanding why Philly is how it is.

  • Stephen
    2019-06-05 13:49

    Buzz Bissinger is too passionately intense. I had to read this in graduate school and I have an autographed copy, dated 9.8.98 within a week or so of starting the official program. I went to school at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. He wrote for the Inquirer, the morning paper. It is about the amazing turn-around orchestrated by Ed Rendell. Philadelphia has gone to hell in the proceeding 15 years - neoliberalism is to blame. I am sure. And a few Republican administrations in between.

  • Dan Bostrom
    2019-05-26 17:11

    I read this at the same time I was watching the first two seasons of "The Wire" from HBO. Both of them tell stories about post-industrial cities struggling to find a life-line into the 21st century. A friend of mine assured me the other day that the City will be reborn in the 21st century but I'm not quite so sure. As I live in Milwaukee and see all the problems a City like this faces, it becomes quite daunting.I think Ed Rendell can be categorized as one of those hero-humans who does the best he can in a bad situation. That's all anyone can ask. Right?

  • tanya
    2019-05-17 15:54

    details of the operations of a unique city and it's unique mayor. details the life and times of ed rendell (then mayor, now governor) and makes you idolize the man- if your a hard working liberal that is. even if you don't like rendell, you'll learn a lot about him and a lot about what has happened to make philadelphia the way it is today.

  • Whit
    2019-05-22 16:01

    One of my all-time favorites

  • Sandi
    2019-05-25 11:55

    The author was given complete access to Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell during his first term and the book shows the inner workings, both the good and the bad, of running a big city.

  • Cathi
    2019-06-07 19:57

    My son (who lived in Philadelphia for two years while attending graduate school at Temple) gave me this book because he wanted me to understand more about what had happened to the city in the nineties, after it hit rock bottom. Mayor Ed Rendell and his chief of staff, David Cohen, did some pretty remarkable stuff to turn things around in a city that was a mess--crime, debit, you name it. I liked reading about these very different men and their ways of attacking problems and serving their city. I also liked the side stories about individuals in the city, and those were quite gripping at times. However, some of the detail and style of the book wore me out. I loved it at first, but it was just too much after awhile. Perhaps it was just the mood I am in right now. Also, the salty language was more than enough for me. I know this is just how many people talk, but no thanks!

  • Patrick
    2019-06-11 13:14

    I liked the intimacy of the account. A bit like watching 'The Wire' if not as well executed. At times I felt like the treatment of the city's racial dynamics was fairly one sided but never dishonest or disingenuous. He gave an honest account of the Rendell years in Philly from the perspective of the Rendell administration, and he did spend time on the history of cities in the 20th century and how race played a huge role in outcomes (federal housing policy/redlining/etc). That was a high point. If the author referred to north philly as a desert one more time I would have had to deduct a star...

  • Joan
    2019-06-03 12:57

    " . . . he understood exactly what a city was about -- sounds and sights and smells, all the different senses, held together by the spontaneity of choreography, each day, each hour, each minute different from the previous one."Oh, the city, the city! I am an urban person. I lived in the suburbs for years and it was hell. You couldn't walk anywhere because there were no sidewalks. There was too much "new". There was too much alike. Your neighbors were just like you. When I drove into the city, the moment I saw the skyline, the outline of the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Center reaching for the clouds, my heart would lift and I would begin to feel alive again. If I have any regret about moving back, it's that I waited too long to do so.Ed Rendell loves Philadelphia. The two-term mayor took a dying city and tried desperately to resuscitate it. And Bissinger was there. In an extraordinary act of transparency, the Rendell administration gave the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist nearly unfettered access to the mayor and his staff. He was present at meetings public and private, he read documents and correspondence, he interviewed everyone. Mingled with the story of City Hall are the stories of four city residents: a shipyard worker, a grandmother raising her children's children and their children, a policy wonk and a "true believer" prosecutor. They, too, all love the city, and each is subjected to its traumas. Prosecutor McGovern and policy analyst Morrison had options. They could leave for the suburbs, not worry about crime in their neighborhoods or bad schools for their kids. Unemployed welders and inner city moms don't have the same options, and sometimes your love of place makes you want to stay. After all, "there may be lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real."When he was sworn in, Rendell had a fight on his hands. The city was losing population, jobs, and industry. Nobody cared. Not the feds. Not the state. He had to make them care. There is the story of the Navy Shipyard, one of the biggest employers in the city for, literally, centuries. For years, it was threatened with being shut down, and, finally, the shutdown came. But a German shipbuilder had a vision, a vision to take the shipyard and turn it into a place that served the burgeoning cruise ship industry. Rendell fought to make that happen. He worked on financing and tax incentives. He went to the State House and he went to the White House. He called in favors and friends. Even when the Governor killed the deal, insulting and humiliating the potential buyer until he said "to hell with you", Rendell kept trying. This is one roller-coaster of a chapter!This is no whitewash of Rendell. Bissinger doesn't shirk from describing the mayor's temper tantrums, his inappropriate behavior towards women reporters, his failures to connect with the African-American community, his egotism. But the picture we have of Rendell as his first term draws to a close is that of a lover who takes his beloved to shows and buys her pretty things, but knows that that, like flowers on an expressway berm, is merely window dressing. It is her heart and soul that matter most, and he will do anything to save her.This page-turner of a book will uplift you, and it will break your heart.Suggested further reading:The Death and Life of Great American CitiesBoss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

  • Kirsti
    2019-06-01 13:46

    Buzz Bissinger doesn't do things halfway. When he wrote Friday Night Lights, he transplanted his entire family to a small town in Texas for a few years. When he wrote A Prayer for the City, he spent over four years shadowing the mayor of Philadelphia and the mayor's top aides. Bissinger fleshes out Prayer with chapters on other Philadelphians. He includes a displaced dock worker, a prosecutor, a disillusioned member of the Rendell administration, and a woman who had raised her children and her grandchildren and was trying to stay alive long enough to finish raising her great-grandchildren.I thought the author's treatment of Rendell was admirable but ultimately too sympathetic. The mayor's abusive, erratic, overtly sexual behavior sounded disgusting to me but was consistently downplayed by those around him as stress related, misunderstood, etc. Bissinger also seems dismissive of reporters' efforts, which I find strange because he won a Pulitzer reporting for the Inquirer. I don't think it matters whether the newspaper's staffers were pushing hard for a Pulitzer--the voter fraud they uncovered was appalling and has no place in a democracy.Here are some of my favorite quotations from the book:"If I was a woman, I'd be pregnant all the time." --Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, describing his negotiating style"I am not an atom! I cannot split in two!" --Rendell, during a temper tantrum about being overscheduled"We are losing our middle class, our working class, to other places. We have to increase our tax base, or we are finished. The city will become Detroit without the automobiles. I will suggest to you gentlemen that with the automobiles, Detroit is not a very pleasant place. Without the automobiles, it would be terrifying." --Rendell"I'm Jewish, so I don't have the slightest chance of national office." --Rendell, warning of his willingness to make unpopular decisions"Don't you know Jews don't know how to work instruments like that. . . . It's impossible. It's not in our background." --Rendell, after seeing top aide David Cohen contemplating a walkie-talkie"I think the last straw for us was scrubbing the coagulated blood of our neighbor off our steps one Sunday morning after she had been shot the night before. . . ." --Libertarian/ex-Rendell aide Linda Morrison, describing why she took a $20,000 loss on her home and fled to the suburbs"In a way, you appreciate the beauty of life more. . . . In a terrible way, you are part of a select group of people who have a full understanding of man's inhumanity to man and the depth of that cruelty." --Assistant district attorney Mike McGovern"I shot him. So what?" --Convicted murderer Dwayne Bennett"If they had a choice between Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad, fifty percent would say, 'Can't we get somebody else?'" --Rendell, describing voters"I know a region cannot survive without its core city. If the city goes down, the region goes down." --Cohen, explaining how a city's political implosion decreases property values in its suburbs by about 25 percent; he believed that Washington, D.C., would be the first major American city to implode

  • Barbara Poppe
    2019-05-18 12:08

    Very enjoyable and informative read. If you love cities, urban policy, and history, this one is for you.

  • Jeffrey Cohan
    2019-06-03 17:50

    Give a great nonfiction writer like Buzz Bissinger unfettered access to a colorful and complicated politician like Ed Rendell and you’re going to get an amazing book.I don’t hand out five stars too often but “A Prayer for the City” probably deserves six.This inside look at Rendell’s first term as mayor of Philadelphia is much, much more than a biography of a politician, although it’s a darn good biography. More than anything else, “A Prayer” is a heart-wrenching lamentation about our country’s betrayal of its big cities, and about the ramifications of that. Bissinger doesn’t shy away from addressing federal policy, in all its wonky and nefarious aspects. But what makes “A Prayer for the City” sing, or make that wail, are its vivid descriptions of how policy affects people on a personal level. Brilliantly, Bissinger devotes much of the book to Philadelphia residents like Fifi Mazzccua, an aging African-American woman who is single-handedly raising a houseful of grandchildren and great-grandchildren while her son rots in prison; or like Mike McGovern, a city prosecutor who confronts the most atrocious acts of violence in the urban cesspool.“A Prayer” also dives into the travails of political leadership in our society, where even the rare, well-intentioned elected official must constantly deal with people who put their self-interest ahead of the common good.If you care about cities – or even if you just care about our country – this book is an important one to read.

  • Greg Otto
    2019-06-11 12:05

    This book could be placed alongside the television series "The Wire" as the sobering tale of why American cities are doomed. Bissinger does more than wade through the politics and bureaucracy of urban areas, he shows the end game - what those politics mean for the citizens who call cities home. Often, its either, too little, too late or both. While the book chronicles a mayoral term in the early 90s, you could very easily apply the characters and settings to any present-day major metropolitan area in the U.S. While I haven't been around long enough to witness the decline of the American city (I'm only 26), I could never (and still can't) wrap my mind around why the federal government seems so hell-bent on slowly killing urban areas. That's probably the saddest revelation this book uncovered - no matter how qualified the politicians running cities may be, without the help of the federal government (along with the private sector changing its mindframe), it's never going to be enough. As a native of the city talked about in this book (Philadelphia), it gave me a newfound respect for Rendell, David Cohen, and even John Street (who for all intensive purposes was an awful Mayor). I hope before Rendell's day is done, he can use his political skill to help the federal government right the ship in the very same manner he once did while running one of the greatest cities in the U.S.

  • John Alexander
    2019-06-02 16:10

    An intimate portrait of philadelphia from 1989-1993, the first term of the Rendell administration. Bissinger covers the experience of Philadelphians from center city to north philly, the navy yard to Chestnut Hill, tracking with Rendell's first-term challenges as examples of the common plight of post-industrial American cities. One upshot is that 20 years later it seems like Rendell's first term represented the nadir of those crises. The industrial jobs never came back, but the tourist industry has grown significantly -- something newer residents may not believe, given the awful state of much of the Riverfront along the Delaware (just read this book as a comparison if you don't believe me). Bissinger doesn't say much about the universities or the hospitals as centers of job creation (for both skilled and unskilled labor) and drawers of talent, which makes me wonder how much equity those institutions represented back then compared to today. Then there is the rise of Comcast, the much smaller but growing footprint of the casinos...So the urban drain has slowed, but still the poor are always with us. Between the 2000 and 2010 census the median household income for Philadelphians dropped by 15% -- a story picked up in part (the fishtown/Kensington part) by Charles Murray in his 2012 book Coming Apart.

  • Cara
    2019-05-24 19:55

    I was eager to read this because I moved to Philadelphia during Ed Rendell's first term and now work for the City. Although I'm glad I read it, I was disappointed.One issue I had with the book is Bissinger's writing style. He's a good writer, with ability to convey both narrative and characterization, but he suffers from a need to artificially dress up his prose. The metaphors were so frequent (e.g., two in two sentences) that they became intrusive and the resultant artificiality clogged up his prose.I would have liked a more detailed explanation of the various events that Bissinger described. For all the leadup to the 1992 battle with the unions, I had no sense of how the City accomplished reforms with the FOP, which settled its contract before DC 33 did, the latter which is the main focus of the first quarter of the book. Contracting out was a concession obtained during the negotiations, but there is very little discussion of how this played out, other than to state the amount of savings obtained and to describe a libertarian Mayoral employee's disillusionment with things not going further.There are other events that are described for which there is no follow-up, which is frustrating. But I have to give credit for the ending, which is bleaker than I expected it to be. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it is a powerful one.

  • Kellyann
    2019-05-29 18:01

    I've heard the rave reviews for this book but honestly didn't expect to love it so much. Firstly, I'm not a big fan of books about politics or the workings of government. I tend to read for pleasure and escape. Secondly, my knowledge of this author is almost solely due to the tv show, which i loathe, based on his other book. So imagine my surprise when i sat down with it and looked up to realize i'd read about 1/4 in my first sitting. Obviously, a big draw is the fact that multiple of the neighborhoods/storylines/examples he highlights relate to my personal experience of the city, in one case painting a horrible picture of life 20 years ago on the very block we rented on for our first 5 years in the city. But more than that is the way this man paints a picture, a very stark and human look at the innner workings of the city's power players. After reading this, I feel like i personally know some of these people I've never met or, in some cases, even heard of before this book. It also made me question my committment to the city and whether i would have felt the same had I been here 20 years ago. It helps that i don't have kids or want them, but to my eyes, much of the disincentive to live in the city described has been reversed. Obviously, this is just a fantastic, thought-provoking book.

  • Ammie
    2019-05-16 15:50

    I decided to read this because I don't know much about city-level politics, even less than I know about other types of politics. The author, Buzz Bissinger, spent four years--1992-1995, an entire term in office--following around Ed Rendell and David Cohen, the mayor and chief of staff of Philadelphia. It's a book about Rendell, about his massive and at times almost unbearably painful struggle to rescue his city before it capsized, but it's also a book about Philadelphia and the larger subject of cities and urban culture.I have to say, sometimes nonfiction can be a bitch to read, not because it's boring or dry, but because when bad things happen they are true. Despite the fact that Rendell made massive moves forward during his first term as mayor, the message of this book seems to be this: Cities are awesome, and also, they are dying. The middle class is fleeing, the tax base is dropping, the economic gaps are spreading, and most people don't seem to care. For every step forward, more jobs are lost and more people die, and it begins to feel less like a natural life cycle than like decay. And somehow, even though I love being in non-city places, this breaks my heart.

  • Kristin
    2019-06-03 12:12

    I thoroughly enjoyed this close examination of 1990s Philadelphia politics. I have a new respect for the progress made during my teenage years to resurrect Philly from the status of dying east coast city. I also felt a strong sense of nostalgia reading about the demise of the naval yard and thinking about how my own grandfather raised a family of 7 children while spending his career there. Buzz Bissinger has an eye for using close observation to craft a story of Rendell's monumental campaign. I was most impressed with Bissinger's ability to see the potential in following Rendell in the first place. Those 4 years could have very easily turned unmemorable, especially given the culture of racial and political hoops through which any city politician had to jump to achieve any progress. I suppose that was my criticism of the book. Aside from descriptions of Rendell's unpredictable temper, I was left wanting a fuller understanding of his opposition and some evidence that the issues he grappled with were more complex than standing up to the unions and managing the perception of racial inequality.

  • Justine Philyaw
    2019-06-12 15:48

    In the interest of full disclosure, I must first say that I am a life-long resident of Philadelphia, and I love this city. I also need to say that when I was finally old enough to vote, Ed Rendell is one of the first candidates I helped to elect. And now, if Ed decided to try another public office, I'd vote for him every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Those opinions were only reinforced by Bissinger. I knew that David Cohen was basically the brains behind the Rendell machine, and I found the representation of their relationship in this book very insightful. Also, Bissinger did his homework. His statistics are compelling and thorough. I was pleasantly surprised by the perspective that both Rendell and Bissinger took of John Street. If you are a native or a transplant, if there is a reason you live in the City of Brotherly Love, check this book out. If you want to get a candid glimpse into the machinations of modern politicians, check this book out.

  • Victoria Chow
    2019-06-15 12:10

    Bissinger's career as a journalist makes him the perfect writer of non-fiction; he does what every journalist should aspire to do--make anything interesting. In his portrayal of Ed Rendell, the mayor of Philadelphia during the 1990s, Bissinger makes the politics, hardships and triumphs of Philadelphia come alive. The story behind the story is even more fascinating, that he was allowed complete access to the mayor and his staff for the five years he compiled information for this book. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights won me over forever--it's a book that I will never, ever forget, and the book that inspired my absolute favorite television show. As FNL was a beautiful portrait of small town America, Bissinger again gives an honest and heart wrenching portrait of urban America, and the demise of its cities.

  • Alexys
    2019-06-05 18:04

    A fascinating look at politics and the city of Philadelphia during the first term of Ed Rendell. I was a child growing up in philly when Rendell was mayor, and I remember thinking of him as a good guy. He was the guy trying to help, trying to make a difference. This book was an incredible read, giving me a new view of events I did and didn't remember, a look inside the building that affected not only my family's lives, but those of an entire city's population. I saw truth that persists today in my hometown written about with a frankness typical of a philadelphian. it simultaneously scared me and gave me hope. Although a lot of the issues persist today in one form or other, it gives me hope that Rendell was able to make such a difference once. Now I have a better understanding of what it's going to take for someone else to do the same.

  • Prateek
    2019-06-12 17:57

    An intense look into the inner workings of a city in crisis. The time is the early '90s and the place is Philadelphia -- an aging industrial city crumbling toward irrelevance as the end of the cold wars renders its military shipping port obsolete and the emergence of new technology and NAFTA threatens it's manufacturing stronghold. Bizzinger tells this story from the perspective of multiple city residents -- a prosecutor, community activist, a church leader and a city bureaucrat. But at the center of this tale is the city's Mayor Ed Rendell (now governor of Pennsylvania). Big-hearted, petty, brave, rude, cajoling, principled, gritty, crude and whip-smart -- Rendell emerges as a truly fascinating figure.

  • DanLogue
    2019-06-05 17:08

    Before reading this review it should be noted that I have very little respect for Bissinger after his vitriolic rants about the progression of new media and because of his journalistic elitism. Buzz uses the Common Ground template to describe former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell's first term and creates a fascinating look at some of the major events of the administration. Frustratingly, Bissinger doesn't come close to achieving Lukas' level of detail and analysis and leaves the reader wanting much more (granted, holding people to the standard Lukas set is ridiculous). However, it is a fantastic look at Philadelphia and a must-read for anyone in the region. I think this would make an excellent senior summer reading choice...