Philadelphians, Suburbanites Are Ripping You Off

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Shutterstock.com

Philadelphians, you are being ripped off. No, not by the government. Nor the parking authority. Nor even the overpriced coffee shop on the corner. You’re being ripped off by none other than me. And my friends. And my neighbors. And it’s time you did something about it.

That’s because the people I know are ripping you off pretty much every weekend (and many weeknights, too). Don’t believe me? Take a look at center city’s streets on a Saturday night. Or the squares on a Sunday afternoon. Go to an Eagles or Phillies game. Ride up and down Kelly Drive. There are lots of Philadelphia residents there, of course. But there are also lots of non-Philadelphians. There are families from New Jersey, tourists from Chicago, and empty-nesters from Lower Merion. We’re all going into town. It’s fun. It’s safe. It’s inviting. We’re using your restaurants and taking advantage of your entertainment. But we’re not paying our fair share. And that’s why you’re getting ripped off.

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Atlantic City Is Not a Happy Place

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Shutterstock

I live outside of Philadelphia, less than 75 minutes away from Atlantic City. But I haven’t visited Atlantic City in more than a decade. Why is this?

It takes less time to go there than New York or DC and other shore towns. There are beautiful hotels. There is no shortage of great entertainment. There are beaches and a boardwalk. It’s the ocean. It’s a resort. Yet … I just don’t go there. Over the years, whenever my wife and I want to take our kids to the shore we always ignore Atlantic City, opting instead for a day at Margate or to rent a house for a week in Ocean City. We are not alone. Most, if not all of my friends, neighbors, even clients are the same way. My mother, who used to go there at least monthly to gamble hasn’t been there in years. Why should she? There are plenty of other gambling alternatives right here in and around the city.

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The Easy Way to Cut Your College Tuition in Half

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A neighbor of mine is sending her son to a well-respected New England liberal arts college. A friend of one of my kids is starting her college career at a West Philadelphia Ivy League institution. Another friend is attending an excellent state school in Michigan. My kids, as I wrote in this month’s Philadelphia magazine, are each attending good schools in the mid-Atlantic area.

As parents, we are all forking over anywhere from $30 to  $60K per year, per kid in tuition, room and board.

Are we paying too much? Yes.

Is it the fault of our higher education system? Mismanagement? Gouging? Yes.

But let’s not entirely blame these colleges. As parents, we share some of this blame. We could be paying a lot less in tuition and getting the same result. But we don’t. Why?

We’re afraid of what others may think. Our egos sometimes get in the way.

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Why Am I Paying $110,000 a Year in College Tuition?

The author in one of his more desperate moments. Photograph by Adam Jones

The author in one of his more desperate moments. Photograph by Adam Jones

There are some jobs I would love to have. Professional baseball player. Writer for Saturday Night Live. U.S. Congressman. With the exception of baseball (I’m only five-foot-six, unfortunately), I think I’d be pretty good at those jobs. But you know what job I’d be really good at? Running a university or college.

I’ve navigated my 10-person company profitably through the economy’s ups and downs over the past 20 years. And now I have the “pleasure” of paying my kids’ college tuitions as all three of them enter their sophomore year. Yes, all three at once. Two go to state colleges (one in-state, the other out-of-state), and one goes to a private university. Total tab: $110,000 a year.

My kids love their schools. They’re happy. I’m happy that they’re happy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. And from what I’ve seen over the past year, as both a parent and a business owner, there is lots of room for improvement. A university president? Me? Here’s what I’d do if given the chance.
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Here’s Why Philly Businesses Will Gladly Pay Millions for the Pope and DNC

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Fact: If the Democratic National Committee decides to hold its 2016 convention in Philadelphia the cost could range anywhere from $50-$75 million dollars. While the federal government would pick up most of this cost, as much as $10 million could fall on our local government (at least, that’s what New York’s mayor predicts if the convention came to his town).

Fact: When the pope visits Philadelphia in 2015 as part of the World Meeting of Families the estimated cost could be another $13 million, (the city of Milan paid 10 million euros when it hosted the event in 2012).

Fact: $10 million plus $13 million means the city could be on the hook for up to $23 million in additional expenses for these two events. Maybe even more.

Fact: It’s likely that Philadelphia’s business community will step up and raise the money to pay this bill so that taxpayers are not out of pocket. “We’re the fifth largest city in America,” Comcast’s David Cohen recently said in a radio interview. “And I think our civic leadership has the capacity to be able to raise the money to host these two pretty special events in consecutive years in Philadelphia.”

Great!  The city needs $23 million, and the business community will likely step up.

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20 Easy Predictions for the Coming Year

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The Revel casino is closing down. Duh. Anyone could’ve seen that coming. And most of the people I know did. We saw the new casinos in Philly and Valley Forge. We heard about the high prices at Revel. Even my own mom, a hardened slot machine competitor who used to travel to AC a few times a month has preferred to gamble locally because it’s cheaper and she can lose her money closer to home.

You knew this too. You are old enough and smart enough to be able to predict the future. In fact, there are a lot of things that you know right now that will happen sometime in the next 12 months. Just take a moment and think about it…

Jose Garces will be fine. Sure, the closing of the Revel means he’s out four restaurants. But are you worried about him? Didn’t think so.

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3 Rules for Surviving (and Thriving) on Yelp

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My sister is a really good doctor. She runs two busy offices in South Philly. Her patients include CEOs of large companies and union workers from the neighborhood. She sees everything from colds to cancer and knows the best specialists in town. I wouldn’t let her cut my fingernails, of course. But that’s because she’s my sister and I still remember her as a bossy 15-year-old. But her patients I know love her.

Except for this one guy. He skewered her on Yelp. He complained about her office. He gave her a low rating. And what was worse, that she didn’t even know about it until somebody (that was a gloating me) told her about it. She barely knew about Yelp. But apparently, her office was listed there and a handful of people made comments — all great except for the one guy. And it really, really upset her. I get it — people don’t like to hear bad stuff.

Is your business on Yelp? You better check.

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9 Cities Mayor Nutter Should Be Visiting

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During the past few years years Mayor Nutter has taken over six international trips including visits to China, England, Israel, Italy, and now this past week … Paris.  Last week’s trip, according to this report, was “meant to attract new business to the city and promote Philadelphia as a cycling mecca and tourist destination.

Let’s turn the tables. Suppose the mayor of Paris visited Philadelphia to promote his city. Would that persuade you to go? Or would your decision to visit be because Paris is just Paris — a great, vibrant capital of art, food and commerce in Europe. Do you visit a city just because the mayor asks you to? Does a business move to a city for the same reason? When you think of a mayor, any mayor, do you think of him (or her) as a salesperson? A world traveler? An ambassador of the city? I don’t. It’s nice to have a mayor that we’re all proud of. And I’m proud of Mayor Nutter. He’s professional, honest and capable. He reflects our city well.

I don’t mind our mayor visiting other cities. But unfortunately, he’s visiting the wrong places. And he has the wrong agenda.

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Philly, You’re No Houston

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Why is Houston doing so well? In an interesting Wall Street Journal piece earlier this week, two urban planning experts say that Houston’s “pro-growth policies have produced an urban powerhouse — and a blueprint for metropolitan revival.” The writers say:

[T]he city’s low cost of living and high rate of job growth have made Houston and its surrounding metro region attractive to young families. According to Pitney Bowes, Houston will enjoy the highest growth in new households of any major city between 2014 and 2017. A recent U.S. Council of Mayors study predicted that the American urban order will become increasingly Texan, with Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth both growing larger than Chicago by 2050.

But really? Is Houston that good? Better than Philly? For the most part, no. But for one big part: yes.

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How To Effectively Use Profanity In The Workplace

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Mayor Nutter has come under some heat this past week over the more-than-liberal use of profanity during the recent Fourth of July concert on the Parkway.

I understand the concern. It’s a public, family oriented event. The crowds are brutal, the heat is oppressive and with the exception of The Roots, the music really isn’t that great. (What, you actually like Ed Sheeran?)

And on top of that you have to hear bad language?

What would our forefathers say about this? What would Jay-Z say about this?

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