Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Brief Look at Matt Ruben

Matt Ruben, Democratic candidate for an at large Philadelphia city council seat, has a long history of involvement with civic and community organizations in the city. He came here as a college student in 1992 and stayed, something we as a region would like to encourage others to do.

His reason for running may best be summed up in this quote:

”It’s substance, and it’s leadership style. People and businesses come to places because of perceptions. If Philadelphia were perceived as a better-managed city, that might do more to bring business and jobs.” (12/31/06)

As a graduate student at Penn he was on the university vending task force, something that brought him into contact with then pretzel vendor T. Milton Street. He advocated for affordable, quality health benefits, and against employee outsourcing, supported the graduate student unionization movement, and earned the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. Within the community, he was been involved with Pennsylvania Direct Action Group, which planned peaceful protests during the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia. In addition, this information is found on his campaign website:
In 1994 he co-founded the Youth Health Empowerment Project (Y-HEP), a teen peer outreach program promoting AIDS prevention and adolescent health. Matt helped secure city startup funds, and then raised nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to grow the program over the next five years. Currently in its 13th year, Y-HEP provides street outreach, a teen drop-in center, a medical clinic, skills-building discussion groups, and a trauma therapy program.

From 2002 to 2006, Matt served as President of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA). Northern Liberties is from Front Street to 7th and from Spring Garden to Girard. In recent years the area has seen increased development which has meant increased demand on aging water pipes. He took his position seriously. In 2005 after a water main break flooded the area he is quoted in the Inquirer (7/24/05) as saying, “There needs to be a systematic analysis of the infrastructure that lies beneath our feet.” He included sewer, gas and power lines in the list of items he wanted surveyed. Under Ruben’s leadership the town watch was increased and a neighborhood email list was started to alert people to crimes in the area. He also worked to prevent a strip club from opening in the area, citing incidents of violence near a clubs owned by those wanting to open the club in Northern Liberties. His concerns included the impact valet parking (since there was not adequate parking on site) would have, with cars being shuttled to multiple off-site lots, for the hundreds of customers and employees. NLNA is also trying to set up a community center that could also house the association.

According to his campaign site, “In 2006 Matt received the 181 Points of Light Award from State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas and was appointed to the Community Advisory Board of the Wireless Philadelphia initiative (”

Most recently Ruben has been noted for his work against locating casinos in his area. Again his concern is the impact on the area. NLNA is one of the organizations asking casinos to form a special-services district near the casinos to keep the areas clean and landscaped. To work with other affected areas, NLNA joined an umbrella organization, the North Delaware Avenue Unity Coalition.

As a personal note, I met Matt briefly at one of the mayoral forums. He is very personable and, while his efforts and accomplishments in the city are extensive, he is soft-spoken and pleasant. I hope that Matt continues to play a role in the city’s future; it would be easier to do if he were in elected office but those in civic and community organizations also have a voice.


Bahadur, Gaiutra and Adam Fifield,” Flood is unleashed after main breaks,” Philadelpia Inquirer 7/24/05

Eichel, Larry, “Crimes Challenge, ctiys chagrin,” Philadelphia Inquirer 12/31/06

Geringer, Dan, “Go-go away – gentleman’s disagreement,” Philadelphia Daily News 4/04/06

Ginsberg, Thomas, “Stay Calm Protesters Urge Police,” Philadelphia Inquirer 7/19/00

Lucey, Catherine, “Northern Liberties: We need more cops,” Philadelphia Daily News 8/31/05

Marder, Dianna, “Milton Street Steps into Penn Vending Fray,” Philadelphia Inquirer 6/06/97

Moore, Tina, “Gaming hopefuls upping the ante,” Philadelphia Inquirer 5/28/06

Ruben, Matt, “Keeping scores: editorial,” Philadelphia Daily News 5/03/06

Shields, Jeff, “Planners hopeful on city’s role in slots,” Philadelphia Inquirer 10/26/06

Slobodzian, Joseph “Northern Liberties, then, now, and forever,” Philadelphia Inquirer 10/24/06

Slobodzian, Joseph, “Worries surface after water-main break,” Philadelphia Inquirer 10/10/05

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