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Fels Institute at Penn Kicks Off 75th Anniversary by Examining Transportation and Fiscal Crisis

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January 31, 2012, Volume 58, No. 20

fels logoIn celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania will present the first event in its Practically Speaking series, on Thursday, February 2 at the National Constitution Center, Transportation in a Time of Political Gridlock.

With United States infrastructure at a crossroads and government in gridlock, transportation funding has been called one of the hot issues to watch in 2012. Held in conjunction with the National Constitution Center, the program will present a panel of the nation’s top transportation experts who will discuss mass transit and the future growth of cities and recent federal budget and policy decisions that effect how people and goods move throughout the country.

Speakers will include Jack Basso, COO of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Joshua L. Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation; James Simpson, commissioner of the New Jersey Transportation Department; and Martin Wachs, senior principal researcher at RAND. David B. Thornburgh, executive director of Fels Institute, will moderate the conversation.

“Seventy-five years ago Fels was started with the intent to improve the quality of government by developing and disseminating best practices in public management and by training civic leaders in those practices,” Mr. Thornburgh said. “Today that same philosophy guides Fels, and, as we look to the future, we know that it is more relevant than ever to have leaders that understand the importance of improving the quality of government and the practical concept of developing and implementing policies that serve the best interests of citizens and communities.”

The Practically Speaking series of conversations is supported by David Seltzer and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust. Registration information is available at www.constitutioncenter.org

As part of its anniversary celebration, Fels will host a roster of events throughout the year including three other discussions as part of the Practically Speaking series, offering perspectives from speakers on chiefs of staff, the US budget situation and campaign managers. Other events will include a Regional Public Policy Challenge; a National Public Policy Challenge; Fels Goes Presidential Bus Tour, which will make stops at presidential campaign field offices as well as the Democratic and Republican National conventions; and a Fels 75th Anniversary Celebration Gala & Award Presentation. Additional information about all anniversary events is at www.fels.upenn.edu/75

Established in 1937 with a gift from Samuel S. Fels, the Institute strived to create “a center of practical knowledge” with a focus on local and state government. In the midst of the Great Depression and an era of public corruption and mismanagement, Samuel Fels, Joseph Willits, dean of the Wharton School, and Dr. Stephen Sweeney, the Institutes’ founding director (Almanac July 15, 1986) , recognized the need for well-trained practical leaders. Mr. Fels, a manufacturer and philanthropist, established the Wharton School’s Institute of Local and State Government—the first program in the country created to train public administrators. After the death of Mr. Fels in 1950, it became the Fels Institute of Local and State Government. It subsequently shortened its name to the Fels Institute of Government. It is housed in the former Fels mansion at 3814 Walnut Street, to which an extensive wing was added in 1957 (Almanac May 1, 1962).

Almanac - January 31, 2012, Volume 58, No. 20