A Prayer for the City

Reading this book is one of the most exciting and enjoyable things you can do. The book makes one feel like you are in the room sitting with the characters and following their every move step by step. Some of the exiting sections of the book include the public service and types of leadership used.. The book provides a gripping picture of Rendell as a mayor and also the condition of Philadelphia in 1990s in a way that captures the readers mind, and leaves one with a very bleak picture of the municipal. Finally is the fact that the author of the book leaves so many open questions that give the reader an open mind. Leaving open questions is exiting and leaves the readers in enjoyment mood.

After reading the book, there are some key themes that the author tries to portray. Some these main ideas relate while others illustrate what was reviewed in class. Some of the central themes brought out in the book include the main problems and crisis that was facing urban areas (Bissinger, 1999). This theme is developed by explaining the state in which the city was when Rendell took over. These problems are crimes, poverty, unemployment, drugs and population loss. These were the core cause of once a great American city to deteriorate. The theme relates to what was reviewed in class in terms of the similar problems that cities face. The other theme is based on how the city government works. The theme is built by the author when he gives an outstanding description of Rendell’s first term as a mayor in Philadelphia. The subject illustrates a review in class of how the city governments work. Finally there is the theme of challenges facing the large city mayor. This theme is shown in the explanations and the illustrations Bissinger gives to show how Rendell met opposition in his attempt to manage the big town. The issue also relates to the many difficulties that mayors of large cities encounter in their efforts to control the cities.

There are some several lessons that I was able to learn from reading the book in terms of large city management. It is difficult to manage a large city especially if you have no people around you to offer support for your plans. This in illustrated by the author when he gives an outstanding narrative of the many challenges that Rendell faced in trying to manage the city of Philadelphia. These limitations are the political oppositions that he faces in an effort to control and solve the problem of the city (Peterson, 1994). Despite the difficulties portrayed by the author on large metropolis management, there is also the concept of how large cities can be managed when one commits and is decisive in his work. Alternatively is playing the primary roles as expected. Although one cannot manage a large city alone, just like the mayor in the book, at least one can make the city better than it was just like Rendell did as discussed in the book.

There were some parts that were surprising in the story. The most surprising thing is the list of the many tragic deaths Bissinger mentions in the book. In addition is how these deaths occurred. He explains that some of the deaths took place even before Rendell became a mayor of the city. To make the deaths even more terrifying is those people who were killed. These include the murder of Sean Daily, who was a son to a Philadelphia, police officer. He was tortured till death at the age of 17 . He was killed for no reason by a gang of upset teenagers around May 1989.Another incidence of a tragic death that shocked me is that of a pre-med student by name Robert Janke. He had just arrived in the city and was robbed by three minors who were roaming around looking for trouble and ended up shooting his head .Finally, is the attack of a neighbor in the city. He was attacked in a broad daylight while waiting for a train at the stage one morning.

Despite Rendell behaving inappropriately by grabbing Army Rosenberg’s neck as brought out in page 295 of the book, I still think he was a good mayor. Rendell’s grabbing Rosenberg neck is illustrated in the letter the Philadelphia inquirers, a city editor wrote to Rendell that is quoted as “thank you for apologizing to Army Rosenberg today after having grabbed her neck yesterday afternoon in reaction to questions she was asking you in the city hall” (Bissinger, 1999).. To me, the mayor was provoked by this, because he had too many things scheduled. Apart from this part the other parts of the book are very optimistic about Rendell and this makes me think he was a good administrator. Some of the other things that support my views of Rendell being a good mayor are the facts that, the two- term mayor took a dead city and tried all he could to resurrect it. Towards the end of the book, Bissinger tells us that Rendell has indeed improved Philadelphia though he does not provide many details on this. In addition the author mentions severally that Rendell was sometimes viewed as a center city’s mayor, who was always busy in making the historic part of Philadelphia attractive for well-heeled occupants and tourists (Bissinger, 1999). An illustration is with the avenue of arts that was formed in 1993, to boost the growth of Philadelphia’s amusing art district. Finally is the way Rendell is portrayed mostly in a positive way by the author in doing his best to resurrect the Philadelphia. All these reasons make me conclude that he was indeed a good mayor.

Towards the end of the book, Cohen steps down and leaves Rendell. According to my views, Rendell will fare fairly well in his second term without Cohen but not as much as he would have managed with the help of Cohen. To support my views, throughout the whole book the author portrays Rendell as the principal stakeholder in bringing the dying city of Philadelphia back to life. The author tries to illustrate the many roles the mayor played in bringing the city to normal conditions. On the other side David Cohen is referred to be the mayor’s brilliant chief of staff who helps him fight the political battles in the city. This show’s that Cohen also played a role in helping Rendell to save the dying city though his roles are not revealed in details as compared to those of the mayor. Having this in mind then it is clear that Rendell will do fairly well in his second term even with absence of Cohen. Although with him, he would have fared much better as compared when he is alone. Maybe his job would be complete. The reason is that Cohen would help him in fighting the political battles in the city. It is obvious that two are better than one, but having seen the roles that Rendell played in the city, then it goes without saying that he still can make it though, not a fully completed work.

From the book, one gains lots of knowledge and awareness about the real life situation. The book tries to describe the problems that are faced by Philadelphia a large city in America. The problems do not only occur in that city but rather are found in many other large cities. By reading the book, one knows much about the large cities that we have. The book also tries to clarify how the city government works and also the challenges faced by those who manage the cities. This makes the readers to be conversant with the real life situation based on city governance and the difficulties that leaders of the cities face. From the text, one becomes fully equipped to cope up with the situations. These are the main reasons why I would recommend other people to read this book.


Bissinger, H. G. (1999). A prayer for the city. New York: Vintage Books.

Judd, D. R., & Simpson, D. W. (2011). The city, revisited: Urban theory from Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Peterson, G. E. (1994). Big-city politics, governance, and fiscal constraints. Washington, DC: Urban Inst. Press.

Bissinger, H. G. (1997). A prayer for the city. New York: Random House.

McCutcheon, L., & Havranek, C. (2011). Frommer’s Philadelphia & the Amish country.


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