Monday, March 09, 2009

Philly Confronts Reality

In Philadelphia, tax increases are preferable to spending cuts.

Mayor Mike Nutter, elected by the largest margin in City of Philadelphia history, has had a rough first year on the job as a result of recession-induced budget deficit.

His proposed library branch closures were met by a huge public outcry. This environment has contributed to the long overdue reevaluation of the tax hikes v. spending cuts debate.

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New Orleans should go this route as well. We should stop rolling back the millage and start improving services. Obviously, something for after May of 2010 when hopefully a grownup will start restoring some basic financial accountability and public credibility to City Hall.

5 comments:

mominem said...

There are a great many people who believe we should get our financial house in order before increasing taxes. The revelations of the last few weeks indicate there is a lot of money being used poorly.

E said...

This is certainly true.

Jeffrey said...

And we can also try to stop the yahoos pushing to increase the homestead exemption in LA to $150k. I'm all-for raising the millage, but I think it would have to be accompanied by something along the lines of what Brian Denzer is proposing in order for there to be the requisite level of trust.

Also, I love that Philly is doing this; I really think that New Orleans needs to lead a coalition called the 'League of Beleaguered but Authentic Cities' that unites NO with Oakland, Philly, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, etc. in order to address the common structural problems these great American metropolises face. The strategies and best practices for dealing with these common issues should be shared amongst our cohort.

Lastly, the comments on that article were a little 'kumbaya'--people tearing up, etc. What's the back story on all of this? On Nutter?

E said...

Mayor Nutter was the wonky ethics champion on City Council during the ethically-challenged administration of John Street that reigned from 1999-2007. Nutter is a really dorky black guy and he kind of squeals when he talks. When he threw out the first pitch at opening day last year, he tucked his jersey into his blue jeans.

He isn't fake wonky either, he's a bona-fide nerd. Penn Grad. And he was truly effective as a Councilman. Not just a dragon slayer, he was a deal maker too. Passed a smoking ban that allowed for some dive bar exemptions which gave everybody what they wanted.

He was able to win the Democratic primary for Mayor (which is as good as the election) by beating back both the black establishment (Chaka Fatah who I actually really like) and the white establishment (Bob Brady - my old congressman, big union guy). He won by flogging these issues: crime, ethics, efficiency, transparency, sustainability, citizen participation, etc. He put together an extremely diverse coalition made more powerful by the enthusiasm of young people and bloggers. Though he was down in the polls for months because Brady, Fattah, and millionaire businessman Rizzocrat (our nickname for racist democrats after former Mayor Rizzo) Tom Knox had so much money. Obama even endorsed Fattah at some point. Anyway, Nutter got a lot of white crossover vote toward the end because he got real hawkish on fighting crime by embracing stop and frisk policy in neighborhoods prone to gun violence. He was able to do this without alienating lefties because of the credibility he'd built up with his good deeds, though he's probably more centrist than supporters admit. Anyways, he got through the primary with a surprisingly comfortable victory given the heavy-hitters in the race and how far down he'd been. In the general election he ended up winning by the largest margin in city history and the whole town was just swooning over him. The most optimistic time in generations. He organized a day of service type event around his swearing in ceremony that saw tens of thousands participate. Very impressive stuff.

His first year was difficult because the down economy brought about a huge budget deficit. People got real mad at him because it seemed like he wasn't involving the citizenry in some of the tough decisions he was having to make in terms of spending cuts. He moved to close neighborhood library branches and people organized against it.

Now he seems to be embracing higher taxes, and this seems to be the right call. (Although you could raise revenue simply by reassessing home values in some of the neighborhoods that have gentrified since 2000.

The kumbaya at YPP is owed as much to Nutter's still huge popularity with the net crowd as it is to his reasonable easing off the spending cuts agenda.

E said...

And I like, no LOVE your League of Beleaguered but Authentic Cities idea.

Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Oakland, 4 of 5 NYC Boroughs, Cleveland, D.C., Detroit, New Orleans and who else?

I've always kind of maintained this loose alliance in my head. And it greatly influences my rooting interest in sports.