Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Councilman Bill Greenlee: "Sometimes I think, 'I Could Be Covering the World Series Instead of Being at City Hall Getting Yelled At.'"

Philadelphia at-large city councilman Bill Greenlee was born, raised and still lives in Fairmount.

Before entering politics, he studied journalism at Temple in the 1970's. He had dreams of being a sportswriter. While still in college, however, he began volunteering for David Cohen's campaign for city council. He wound up working for councilman Cohen for the next 26 years. After Cohen passed away in 2005, Greenlee won a special election to fill Cohen's position. He was re-elected in 2007 and 2011.

"Sometimes I think, 'I could be covering the World Series instead of being at City Hall getting yelled at,'" Greenlee said with a laugh.

He loves his job, he added, especially helping people who need help the most. He's worked on legislation to ensure people's homes are not stolen from them (which was surprisingly easy). He crafted a bill that said victims of domestic violence could not lose their jobs because of missed time due to the violence. And his most recent accomplishment was getting an earned sick pay bill through council (it now waits for the mayor's reaction).

"The actions of city council affect people on a more day-to-day basis than that of Congress or the Senate," Greenlee stated.

But there tends to be very little coverage of city council, he said. The newspapers pay attention to the mayor and political controversy (rather than the substance of bills). Television almost never covers council.

"There are times when I get frustrated," Greenlee admitted.

Much of this is determined by how we communicate these days. There are more ways for people to get information now, so there is greater competition for viewers. Less-intriguing news - like council actions, gets bypassed.

When Greenlee has stories he really wants covered, he'll hold a press conference or reach out to specific journalists who he knows would be interested. If stories pertain to specific audiences or specific neighborhoods, he taps into those niche outlets like the Northeast Times or WURD.

When he was a college journalism student, he was instructed to read everything because it's important for all journalists to have at least a little knowledge about everything.

"I'm disappointed by how little young people know about local government," he said about modern youth.

You should be interested and engaged, he said.

What did you think of the councilman and his ideas?


Erin Martin said...

I will admit that I don't pay attention to local politics and that it is a problem in my generation. I think if local news was more aggressively publicized, I might be more informed. My issue is that I don't actively seek information about what is going on in my township, or even around the world. Councilman Greenlee brought up some very relevant points about why it is so important for a local municipality to get support from the people. One major deficit is young voters for local legislature. My understanding of college students, and with my own experiences, is that in these years we are making decisions about how we live and what information we consume that will become long term habits. Just as in advertising, brand loyalty begins with buying the same products our parents used; we are forming lifestyle habits that could possibly continue to be indifferent to what goes on in the government.

Kandes said...

I enjoyed Councilman Bill Greenlee's visit. He came across as very genuine and caring. I also like that he was transparent about being a "politician."

I initially didn't get the connection between his visit and the nature of the class. However, as the class progressed, I began to see how journalism affects the subjects that it covers and how journalism can improve.

Furthermore, I think he was right about the youth not being very knowledgeable about local government affairs. Personally speaking, I am more apathetic than what I should be about politics. I think it is important for my generation to be more involved and knowledgeable about local, national, and international affairs, including myself.

Rahmeek Jones said...

Bill Greenlee caught me because I actually do not know much as local government as I should. However, I heard of him and seen him in my neighborhood which he talked about North Philadelphia Fairmount ave & the Francisville area. I enjoyed him coming into our class and talking with the class. His sickly leave Bill was passed which I read about in the Daily News paper. Also, what stuck out to me was Greenlee trying to create another Bill to help out the people in my neighborhood with the increase of home owners taxes increasing rapidly with the new development in the area as gentrification is happening. This will force those people out of their homes because they would not be able to their taxes for their homes and Greenlee is trying to develop a plan to help these people out. I will be following this story to actually figure out would it get passed? And the method in which it would take.

Marnice Davis said...

At first, I didn't know what to think about Councilman Greenlee. After just a few minutes of hearing him speak to our class, I knew that he was a down to earth politician who has a passion for the people of Philadelphia. I was also surprised to see how freely and open he was in describing that he is a POLITICIAN who sometimes makes compromising decisions. Councilman Greenlee was motivational in telling our class to become more aware of local concerns and to be well rounded in the world of journalism.

Anonymous said...

He was a great guest because of the stories and experience he talked about during class, applying the connection between politics and journalism background. Andddd....He was an even nicer guy for staying after and talking to each student who wanted to talk to him, listening and considering the issues and ideas that they brought to him.

Brittany B. said...

Councilman was very wise and inspirational. I have always been interested in politics and definitely want to do an internship in Philadelphia under a political leader. I definitely want to be a well rounded journalist and citizen. I will keep an eye out for Councilman Greenlee in the news!

Benjamin Curran said...

What struck me about Bill Greenlee is that I thought he seemed pretty honest. That's an accomplishment for a politician if you ask me. Seriously, though, I empathize with his conflict of passion for his work versus lack of media coverage or recognition.

John Lolley said...

I remember meeting Councilman Greenlee several years back when he spoke at the camp I was working at. He's still the person that he was serval years ago. He is really a good politician and is always trying to inspire the people around him. What I like about him is he don't sugarcoat nothing and tell it like it is.