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A Prayer for the City by Buzz Bissinger

A Prayer for the City

by Buzz Bissinger

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I am being entirely sincere when I say that this is currently my favorite book. Inspirational at times. Heartbreaking at others. You don't have to love Philadelphia to love this book, but you just might be in love by the end. ( )
  znoyce | Dec 27, 2013 |
" . . . 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.
2 vote lilithcat | Jul 10, 2010 |
It documents Ed Rendell's first term as the mayor of Philadelphia, who by sheer force of will and charisma turns the city around. The book is appropriate for any student who is in the Upper School.-Ernie
  UltimateSummerRead | Jun 2, 2008 |
I had to read this book for a Political Science class, and I enjoyed it so much I kept it on my bookshelf afterwards. When I read the book, I had only moved to Philadelphia a year or so prior, and it made me have so much love and respect for the long, harsh journey that the city had faced in such a short time. It also amazed me to see how well the city is running now. While this book might glorify Rendell's term in office and all the work that he did, it still tells a valuable story. ( )
  asphyxiad0ll | Oct 9, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679744940, Paperback)

We've had our share of "season with the team" books about basketball, baseball, and football, so why not a book about an event of political importance: an insider's account of an entire term of a big city mayor? And it might as well be about one of America's best, most interesting mayors, Philadelphia's Ed Rendell. Buzz Bissinger follows Rendell, his chief of staff, and four other Philadelphians through four years of his sincere, flamboyant struggle against Philadelphia's crushing poverty--four years of dealing with the staff, the press, the constituents, and the feds. It doesn't end with the eradication of the city's many social ills, but it does end with a second term, and with hope.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:51 -0400)

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