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Philadelphia needs help hosting America’s 250th birthday party

Philadelphia needs help hosting America’s 250th birthday party

Philadelphia needs help hosting America’s 250th birthday party

Philadelphia is the most important city in the history of the birth of this country. Sure, Bostonians will protest because it was the Boston Massacre that sparked the American Revolution. But even the Massachusetts agitators who started the rebellion had to make a road trip to Philadelphia to declare independence and form our first national government.

Given that fact, shouldn’t that government do more to help Philadelphia prepare for the thousands who will want to be in the city where it all happened to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of the United States?

That doesn’t absolve state and local governments of their responsibilities, but when we’re talking about a milestone beyond the bicentennial, the federal government needs to get more involved. Unfortunately, their failure to recognize that reality is likely another result of the divisive politics that have shackled this country in so many ways that are not always evident.

So let’s break it down.

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Independence National Historical Park will be ground zero for Philadelphia’s sestercentennial events, but it’s doubtful it will be ready by 2026. That’s a problem the federal government should help address because the National Park Service has ultimate authority over the 388 national parks, including 54 acres. that make up Independence Park and the Liberty Bell Center.

Today it is difficult for the park service, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior, to pay for even routine park operations. Blame a conservative movement in Congress and the federal courts that has less to do with fiduciary responsibility than with the shutdown of federal agencies it considers part of the “deep state.”

As a result, when Congress finally passed an appropriations bill in March that included money for the National Park Service, not only were four months into fiscal year 2024, but the legislation also stripped the agency of $150 million from the funding it received for fiscal year 2023. That’s hard to fathom given the 10% increase in park visitors and 13% drop in park staff that has occurred since 2012.

A recent report from the National Park Conservation Association noted that although two-thirds of America’s national parks are dedicated to history and culture, budget cuts in recent years have forced the National Park Service to “prioritize the management of natural resources over cultural resources.” resources that tell the history of our country.”

Now that the White House faces more pressing issues than a celebration two years from now, Philadelphia will likely have to play with its cards in hand. But we must also denounce the so-called patriots who have cut funding to the same agency given its role in promoting American history as its 250th anniversary approaches.

Congress should make special appropriations to ensure that this celebration is as memorable as the bicentennial. For example, one-time funding could be used to help reopen the Declaration House, where Thomas Jefferson resided when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was rebuilt in 1975, but has since fallen into disrepair and closed in 2018.

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Other historic buildings in disrepair include the Dolley Todd House and the Bishop White House. With renovations and repairs, tourists could see both by 2026.

Our city of eternal optimists, and not just Phillies, Flyers and Eagles fans, has learned over the years to prepare for disappointment before it becomes inevitable. And additional federal funds may arrive in time to help prepare for the sestercentennial. An election this fall may have something to do with that.

In the meantime, state and local governments, civic and philanthropic leaders should up their game to make sure Philadelphia doesn’t let America down in 2026.

The Independence Philanthropic Trust raised $1.2 million last year to help fund tourism at Independence National Historical Park. But Kathryn Ott Lovell, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Visitor Center Corp., says ten times that amount of public support is needed annually. “We are agnostic about where the money comes from. That’s up to our elected officials to discuss,” she told Inquirer columnist Stephanie Farr.

Ott Lovell’s point of view is well understood. It’s time to bring local minds together to better prepare for an event that not only this city but the entire United States of America will long remember.