New center aims to help region's leaders address challenging public policy issues
Last week, more than 100 invited governmental, business, labor and non-profit leaders came together at the Penn's Landing Hyatt for a day of information and discussion sessions on the theme "Building a Stronger Regional Economy: How Public Pension Funding Challenges and Energy Development Opportunities Will Affect Our Future."
The Jan. 18 symposium was the first to be hosted by Temple's new Center on Regional Politics (CORP). Elected officials presiding or participating as panelists included Reps. Bob Brady and Patrick Meehan, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, State Sen. Dominic Pileggi and Montgomery County Chair Josh Shapiro. Attendees heard presentations by Kil Huh and David Draine, public finance and pension experts from the Pew Center on the States, and from Philip Verleger, a leading expert on energy markets and senior visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics.
Also on hand was Patrick Kerkstra, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine, whose case history on how the Schuylkill and Delaware River refineries were saved was published at the symposium. Kerkstra led a lively discussion among a panel of political, business and labor leaders involved in the effort.
In opening remarks, Temple University President Neil Theobald said the symposium illustrates the important role universities play in investigating daunting problems, documenting impressive achievements and exploring exciting opportunities.
"Temple is committed to expanding economic opportunities and improving the quality of life not just of the students we educate, but of the broader community that is our home," he said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett followed President Theobald and congratulated Temple on launching CORP. The university established the center last spring to provide elected officials and other public and private sector leaders with a forum to seek consensus on policies to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s five-county region — Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia.
CORP is modeled after a similar effort at the University of Pittsburgh, and staff of the two centers plan to work closely together to explore problems facing Pennsylvania residents. Several other colleges and universities around the country house centers that focus on the politics of public policy.
"What distinguishes ours — and Pitt’s — is the prevalence of elected officials and business, labor and civic leaders from different political parties who participate on the center's Board of Fellows and as heads of committees," said Joseph P. McLaughlin, CORP director.
McLaughlin also directs Temple’s Institute for Public Affairs, which supports policy-related research produced by Temple faculty and students. He is assistant dean for external affairs of Temple's College of Liberal Arts and teaches American politics in the political science department.
"The goal of CORP is to provide a neutral ground where elected officials, private sector leaders, and faculty from Temple and other universities can come together for quieter discussions aimed at developing research, exchanging views and identifying options to advance the region’s broad interests," he said.
CORP is jointly funded by Temple University and the William Penn Foundation.