Top positive review
Analysis of Mayor Ed Rendell's administration
on December 8, 2014
Ed Rendell allowed a writer, Buzz Bissinger, to shadow him during his first term as Mayor of Philadelphia. This book is the result of what Buzz saw during those four years. It provides an extremely candid insight into what Ed Rendell is like as a person while dramatically presenting the difficulties facing a large city Mayor.
"A Prayer for the City" also follows the lives of four Philadelphians during this same period. This makes for interesting contrasts that shows how the story of Philadelphia during this era affected people differently. Although, I wonder why, after several years of following a Mayor around, the book did not concentrate more on the Mayor.
The book shows Ed Rendell, the person, flaws and strengths. Ed Rendell is presented as a strongly driven man who works hard, knows his goals, and does his best to reach those goals. This is seen in contract negotiations where he know what he wanted entering, he knew contingencies, and he knew how to reach his goals, which included allowing others to gain credit and his opposition to come to agreement by being able to walk away from the negotiating table with the ability to claim victory, or else the agreements would never have been reached. Agree or disagree with the result, this ability to engage in complex and strategic thinking and reacting allows readers to conclude that Ed Rendell is a very skilled and driven leader.
Ed Rendell is seen as a hard worker, but as one who doesn't react well to overexertion. He is conflicted by the expectations that the Mayor must go to the hospital of any wounded police officer, knowing that a private family time can be seen as being inappropriately disturbed by a politician and the media. Yet, as Ed Rendell lost his father when he was 14, he related well to the children of slain and wounded officers. When the pressure and lack of rest got to be too much, Ed Rendell can scream, throw things, and even do bodily harm, such as digging his heel into another or grabbing a photographer enough to bruise her arm.
Ed Rendell also knows the key to victory is to build coalitions with necessary partners. In order to get legislation through City Council, he did his best to stroke the ego and give credit, even when it was not due to him, to City Council John Street. Of course, we wonder what John Street thinks when he reads some of the negative sentiments expressed by Rendell in the book that were kept from him at this time.
The successes of Rendell's first term are presented. A structural deficit that threatened to bankrupt the city was eliminated. Job losses reversed and small job gains began. The man Al Gore dubbed "American's Mayor" went on and has become our Governor. Readers will see that dealing with the complexities of being a Mayor should serve well as a prelude to being Governor. One point clear from this book is that Ed Rendell means to be a good leader, for as he said himself, "if I walk out of here voted out, I walk with my head held high because I've done the right thing.