ThinkFest Recap: Mayor Nutter Says Jim Kenney Can Be “Even Better Mayor Than I’ve Been”

Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra and Mayor Michael Nutter at ThinkFest.

Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra and Mayor Michael Nutter at ThinkFest.

Did you miss ThinkFest live? Watch it here.

Mayor Michael Nutter said Friday that Jim Kenney can do an “even better” job than he did by expanding upon recent gains in the city, such as the uptick in the high school graduation rate and the decline in homicides.

“He can build on that foundation,” he said, “and be an even better mayor than I’ve been.”

During a wide-ranging discussion with Philly Mag deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra, the topic of the next mayor naturally came up a lot. Nutter said he believes Kenney will be a good leader because he “has that passion for the city.” He said he was able to see what Kenney can do “up close and personal” on City Council. He also praised St. Joseph’s Prep, where the two men went to high school and learned “fundamental core values.” Read more »

ThinkFest 2015 on Social Media

ThinkFest 2015 has just wrapped up. Ideas were shared, connections were made and, in the case of Buzz Bissinger, profanities were used liberally.

Of course, what makes ThinkFest truly great is not just the discussion on stage, but the chatter out there in the ether. Below, some of the social media highlights of a great day of intellectual exchange:

More of the best tweets and ’grams after the jump »

ThinkFest Recap: Millennial Creatives on Digital Storytelling

From left: Emma Fried-Cassorla, Conrad Benner and Cory J. Popp at ThinkFest.

From left: Emma Fried-Cassorla, Conrad Benner and Cory J. Popp at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Three “digital storytellers” appeared on the ThinkFest stage Friday afternoon to talk about the art the create, how it’s affected Philadelphia, how they make money, and their advantage over Old Media.

“To have a newspaper or TV station or magazine, you have to have these big organizations,” said Conrad Benner, creator of the Streets Dept. photo blog. “Agility and the ability to experiment are the biggest obstacles for traditional media.”

“We’re finding ways to get our stories out there, created by us, told by us,” added Cory J. Popp, an independent videographer.

“You can take a picture, have it on Instagram, and start a movement within minutes,” added Emma Fried-Cassorla, creator of the Philly Love Notes blog.

Some other highlights from the session: Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Tom Wolf Says a Budget Deal Is “Almost There”

Tom Wolf at ThinkFest on November 6th.

Tom Wolf at ThinkFest on November 6th.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Days after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to borrow $250 million to stay open as the state’s budget impasse drags on, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said on Friday that he and the GOP-controlled legislature are “close” to hammering out a deal.

“I think we’re almost there,” he said. “I think we’re very, very close.”

But he didn’t explain why he feels so optimistic. Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Dr. Jean Bennett on Curing Blindness

Dr. Jean Bennett at ThinkFest.

Dr. Jean Bennett at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Philadelphia is leading the way in developing gene therapies that could pull off medical miracles like reversing blindness, a Penn medical researcher said Friday at Thinkfest.

“This is really, really an exciting time,” said Dr. Jean Bennett of University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She’d helped lead a team that’s in the midst of FDA trials to bring a blindness therapy to market.

Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Comcast on Analyzing Viewing Data to Offer Commercials Just for You

Sam Schwartz at ThinkFest.

Sam Schwartz at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Approximately 600 households in Philadelphia tell the Neilson ratings folks what we’re watching on traditional cable TV. That sure seems less scientific than the digital video landscape which allows for targeted advertisements aimed at people based exactly on what content they’re consuming.

Now Comcast is aiming to take a more personalized approach to its own advertising process, according to Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer at Comcast who spoke at ThinkFest 2015. In fact, he said we’re nearing the day when two next-door neighbors watching the same TV show will get different ads during a commercial break.

“With the X1 operating system, we have an incredible power to collect data and make it measurable,” he said, noting several times during his talk that data collection is done in a “privacy-protected way.”

He also said: “The more information you know about your customer, the better products you can build for that customer. And you can monetize better.”

The company is also wrestling with changes in how people consume video content. Five years ago, 5 percent of all video consumed was online, said Schwartz. Now that number is 29 percent.

He also spoke on a number of other topics: Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: The Gentrification Train “Has Not Left Station” — Yet

From left: Inga Saffron, Jay McCalla, Beth McConnell and Calvin Gladney on "The Gentrification Wars: Can Philly Have Urbanism and Equality" at ThinkFest.

From left: Inga Saffron, Jay McCalla, Beth McConnell and Calvin Gladney on “The Gentrification Wars: Can Philly Have Urbanism and Equality” at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Inga Saffron has written about the city’s changing skyline for 16 years. Today, she says, “you cannot write about the changing city of Philadelphia, without writing about gentrification.”

Saffron Friday moderated a ThinkFest panel centered on a question that is being asked with greater and greater urgency as Philadelphia’s redevelopment accelerates: “Can Philly have urbanism and equity?”

Joining Saffron were Jay McCalla, a former city official and Citified columnist; Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; and Calvin Gladney, managing partner at Mosaic Urban Partners.

They disagreed on plenty, but there seemed to be consensus that it was still possible for Philadelphia to have urbanist amenities and equitable neighborhoods.

Near the end of the discussion, McConnell said: “the train has not left the station yet in Philadelphia.” She cited the gentrification battleground of Point Breeze, and said there was still enough vacant property and tax delinquent parcels in the neighborhood to build a solid supply of affordable housing. The city has a chance, she said, to “create mixed income neighborhoods of opportunity — and I really hope the next mayor makes that a priority.”

Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Buzz Bissinger Calls Chip Kelly a “Fraud”

Buzz Bissinger at ThinkFest.

Buzz Bissinger at ThinkFest.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is a “fraud,” Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger said during a Friday morning appearance at ThinkFest.

“I hate that fucker. I shouldn’t say fucker. I think he’s a fraud. Don’t laugh — look at the record,” Bissinger told the crowd, suggesting that Kelly’s winning record during his college years was deceptive, built on the backs of players with academic problems who nevertheless never won national championship.

“He’s arrogant. He’s always throwing people under the bus,” Bissinger said of Kelly. And he suggested that Kelly will soon — despite his disavowals — return to the college game.

Other highlights from his wide-ranging, often profane chat with Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath: Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Jerry Sweeney Says Changing Philly’s Tax Code Will Boost Job Growth

Jerry Sweeney at ThinkFest.

Jerry Sweeney at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Jerry Sweeney wants big-time changes to Philadelphia’s tax code — and says it will spark much-needed job growth and help the city break its cycle of poverty. If we do nothing, he said, the city is on a path to lose 35,000-40,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

The president of Brandywine Realty Trust, Sweeney is also a leader of the Philadelphia Job Growth Coalition — and he outlined the organization’s plan during a session at ThinkFest 2015.

“With all the great things Philadelphia has going for it, why can we not grow jobs? Why can’t we get more companies to locate downtown?” he said. “We need to match the economic enthusiasm with our cultural, retail and restaurant renaissance.”

He offered these grim stats about Philadelphia: Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: Farah Jimenez on How Bleeding Hearts Hurt Those They Mean to Help

Farah Jimenez at ThinkFest.

Farah Jimenez at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Within the very liberal city of Philadelphia, there’s the still more-liberal world of the non-profit sector; within that sector, there’s the tiny subgroup of do-gooders who who dedicate their professional lives to fighting poverty and homelessness.

This is the world Farah Jimenez has worked in for much of her life. She’s not like the others.

“Not once have I ever been accused of having a bleeding heart,” Jimenez said Friday morning at ThinkFest, in a speech that amounted to a broad critique of how society generally — and the non-profit world in particular — approach poverty and homelessness.

Jimenez is a School Reform Commissioner, and the former president of People’s Emergency Center (a non-profit social service agency for homeless families). She’s also a prominent conservative who thinks bleeding hearts and compassion have gotten in the way of effective decision-making.

“Since the pronouncement of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, we’ve spent an estimated $22 trillion on anti-poverty initiatives,” said Jimenez. “Did it make a difference? Every year, just in this five-county region, the social — or nonprofit — sector, comprised of 15,000 agencies, generates more than $35 billion in revenue and employs nearly 250,000 people. Those are big numbers, big investments, but is it making a difference?”

Jimenez didn’t answer her own question. Her goal at ThinkFest, she said, was more limited: “to challenge the orthodoxy that at times keeps us from examining our collective work and insisting on an answer to: Is it making a difference?”

Other highlights: Read more »

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