Buried in the bowels of every article describing a problem in some city is a line like this:
It wasn't always like this -- not that long ago, Philadelphia was regarded as one of the cleanest big cities in America.
Up to the 1970s, the Streets Department employed more than 5,000 people, underpinned by millions in federal grants designed to beef up municipal workforces. That money helped the Sanitation Division pay for over 500 "block people" -- men with brooms who literally swept every block in the city by hand.
But in the 1980s, the Reagan administration gutted federal employment grants, just as middle class flight was decimating city revenues. Within a 10-year span, street-cleaning crews were cut in half.
This is in the context of apparently major flooding in Philly after the rain we've been having.