Dom Pileggi Holds Philly Hostage

The state majority leader uses one hand to strangle city services -- while the other hand is in our pockets.

By Brendan Skwire
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 22 | Posted Aug. 20, 2009

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Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is blocking Philly's budget in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Dear Sen. Pileggi:

I can call you Dom, right? Even as state senate majority leader, you're still a public servant, answerable to me and everyone else in Pennsylvania, so I don't mind being a little informal with the help.

Thanks to your intransigence and obstruction holding up both the state and the city's budget in the Pennsylvania State Senatet, nonprofits are running out of money, the city's cutting jobs and delaying police training, and counties from east to west are owed money. All because you missed YOUR deadline: and now everyone has to suffer because you're in a pissing match with the governor?

And it's not like anyone's gonna break even once the impasse is over: a number of human services providers are forced to take out loans to bridge the gap and there will be interest to pay. I thought you Republicans and conservatives were good with money?

It's no different here in Philadelphia, Dom. On Thursday, Mayor Nutter submitted his "Plan C" budget to the City Council. Effective September 1, we're facing "doomsday" cuts --hundreds of cops laid off, fire engines idled, all rec centers closed, trash left to rot in the streets-- because of your inaction. We sent you our budget in May and you're only now getting around to it? Mayor Nutter already cut $20 million, two months worth of revenue, because of your delays.

So I'm sorry, Dom, if this is getting personal: I work for a nonprofit too, and we are making agency-wide cuts as well, because of YOU. Some people I know in other agencies are already facing delayed paychecks. Working people who don't have money for food, because of YOU. Working people who can't pay the mortgage, because of YOU. Are YOU going to pay my mortgage? Are YOU going to pay my child support? Are YOU gonna buy me groceries? Are YOU gonna pay my student loan?

It's not just workers who will suffer. Dom,thanks to you, important city services are being cut -- even before the doomsday cuts!

At the heart of the problem seems to be your obsession with transforming the state into a conservative medieval paradise, with budget cuts like the ones listed at right.

Since the governor, who unlike you has a soul, won't play ball and zero out funds for people with cancer and epilepsy, you're trying to accomplish the same in Philadelphia by blocking our efforts to raise our sales tax by a penny -- a freakin' PENNY. Way to go, duderino! Turn Philly, the region's economic engine, into the city you led: Chester. That'll show Ed you mean business!

I mean, who can deny the "Chester Miracle", which has made the city the gleaming jewel of Delaware County? As mayor, you presided over a city whose population dropped 12 percent -- while the rest of the county grew by 3 percent. Yes, you did SUCH a great job in Chester: it's not like the city doesn't look like someone dropped a bomb on it. (Click the photo for a larger view.)

chester2-city hall

And it's a little strange to me, Senator Pileggi, why the guy who can't stomach state funding for children's hospitals, the arts, epileptics, and math education has his hand out for $45 million in state funding for a soccer stadium in his district. Those funds are amply augmented by a portion of every toll paid when crossing the Delaware River bridges, the majority of which serve Philadelphia, a much larger destination than tiny li'l Chester.

With those ramps coming right off the Commodore Berry Bridge thruway into the stadium, no one's driving through the city itself to get to the game. How does that spur local economic development? Figure in that it’s a Keystone Opportunity Zone with huge local tax breaks -- and that a grocery store promised as part of the development won't happen after all --  and you have to really wonder what the people of Chester (as opposed to its politicians) will get out of the stadium at all.

What happened to that whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" thing you Republicans are always blubbering about? Why the hell are my tolls and taxes paying for YOUR stadium? Isn't the state GOP always saying Philly needs to take care of its own problems? Well we're trying to and YOU'RE standing in the way.

Oh sure, you like to pretend this is about "patronage and corruption", and who would know better than a politician from Delaware County, where the GOP machine makes Philadelphia look like a model of transparency and efficiency. So let's get off our high horse shall we?

"Sure, the GOP has brought projects into Chester," said David Landau, a reformer who ran for the county council a couple of years ago. "But how many of the residents have seen the benefits of those projects? We're talking about a place that STILL has no grocery store."

"Yeah, I read that almost all of the money is for the stadium," I said. "Nothing for the residential component or anything."

"The supermarket's all done," Landau said flatly. "It's dead."

But hey, soccer, Dom! Freakin' SOCCER!!

Now, none of this is to say that Philadelphia bears no responsibility for its own problems. And as my colleague Sean Dorn has argued at Young Philly Politics, City Council could be doing its part to end this standoff by dropping DROP, the "early retirement" program that lets city employees collect paychecks and retirement checks at the same time.. He cites Sen. Larry Farnese's recent comments that "City Council needs to take a hard look at whether continuing DROP for elected officials sends the right message in Harrisburg... eliminating DROP would demonstrate a commitment to government reform, and would go a long way toward fostering the public’s trust.

"If average Philadelphians gripe profusely about DROP and Council perks at the drop of the hat when you even mention the very real possibility of core city service being cut and police layoffs, how easy is it for Senators from suburban counties or deep in the "T" to grab onto the same thing," Dorn writes. "The reality is that Council's entire $17 million budget and eliminating DROP for everyone (not just electeds) not already enrolled tomorrow would be a small portion of the huge budget hole Philly faces without the sales tax approval. But its a small portion that packs a huge symbolic wallop."

So City Council, I’m looking at you too: you're not exactly paragons of virtue either. And if dropping DROP is the pound of flesh Mr. Pileggi wants, I would prefer it came out of your hides than out of mine.

But back to you Dominic. It's a little pathetic to hear you bitching about Philadelphia wanting "a bailout," when the price of your stadium is supplemented by our money.

So here's what I say: fuck you, and fuck your stadium. You want to make my city a worse place to live, a hopeless dying place like you helped make Chester? Not on my watch, pal. And so I will repeat what I said a few weeks back:

In no way, shape or form should the state of Pennsylvania or the Delaware River Port Authority or anyone other than the residents of Chester who benefit from the stadium project pay for it. I call on the governor to freeze funding for the stadium until your dispute is settled. I call on the DRPA to freeze those funds as well.

You're threatening OUR livelihoods, sir. You are threatening the safety of our families and our neighbors. And no one should stand for it.

No sales tax, no stadium.

Sean Dorn of Young Philly Politics contributed research to this piece. Brendan Skwire blogs daily at Brendan Calling.

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Comments 1 - 22 of 22
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1. Ray said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 08:37AM

“Awesome piece, Brendan! That list of cuts sure is an eye opener.”

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2. Amy said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 08:45AM

“I knew Dom Pileggi was a dirtbag. Thanks for giving me the facts to back it up. There must be some sensible, decent Republicans out there who can reign him in! No budget, no stadium!”

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3. Scott said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 09:11AM


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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:08AM

"KickStart Chester will create thousands of new jobs bringing new life in an area vacant for decades".


Ask Fredrick A. Clark, President and CEO of Clark Resources why he was able to promise those thousands of jobs to the local community when Comcast Spectacor already had plans to bring in their own contracts. Thats an interesting consulting job.

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5. George Petersen Jr said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:22AM

“Many, many years of rampant overspending by democratic mayors and city councils, now comes home to roost ... You can curse all you want, you're an idiot ... Why should the rest of PA pay for your total financial recklessness ??? ... Cut every service necessary until your city can pay for whatever is left over - by yourself ... That's the loud message from Harrisburg ... We are sick and tired of paying our hard earned money for Philadelphia ... For you to just spend and squander it all ...”

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6. brendancalling said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:34AM


Why should the rest of PA pay for your total financial recklessness ???
we are not asking the state to pay. we are asking to PAY OUR OWN WAY.
You know who wants the state to pay? DOMINIC PILEGGI: $45 MILLION for a SOCCER STADIUM. get your facts straight.

Cut every service necessary until your city can pay for whatever is left over - by yourself
So you support the idea of freezing funds for Pileggi's stadium then? Because if you think Philly should pay for its services itself, then it stands to reason every other county/city should too, right?
Glad to see you're on board george!

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7. SB said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:39AM


Let's keep in mind that dozens of other municipalities all across the state are suffering (Westmoreland County, for one: - not only Philadelphia - because Senate Republicans are willing to hold everything hostage in order to increase their chances for another term.

Not to mention that Philadelphia is an economic engine for Pennsylvanians who also live in Pileggi's OWN DISTRICT - they expect a safe city to work in and attend Philly sports events. Pull the plug on police and your lilywhite fears of being shot while in the city may very well come true.

Get your head out of your ass.”

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8. Colleen Wilkinson said... on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:16PM

“I live in Bucks County and am FURIOUS with the current situatiuon. My 4 yr old son has no start date for his Pre-K Counts program, which he was in last year. Not only do I not want a gap in his education - he is starting to read now - I was planning on his time in school for me to go to college. It also turns out that the ACT 101/GOALS program, of which I was a part, is closing down due to lack of state funds. ACT101/GOALS is a 30 yr old program that offers tutoring, counseling, advising and other support services to eligible students.

I'm pulling myself up by my bootstraps and one or more of these public servants is f-ing with my life, your's and everyone else's and that should not be tolerated. If it's not raising taxes they're so against then, instead of such drastic and harmful cuts, let's make up the difference from their salaries and benefits packages. And while we're at it, I want those public servants with kids to share their private nannies.”

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9. brendancalling said... on Aug 22, 2009 at 08:34AM

“@collen: tha's what people like george peterson, above, don't get: this delay affects EVERY SINGLE COUNTY in the state. Everyone.

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10. Colleen Wilkinson said... on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:50PM

“Thank you brendancalling. Know what's very peculiar?: Except for what is going on in Philly right now, there is VERY LITTLE media attention of how this budget hold-up is affecting our five-county area. At least that's what I see from Google-news-searching this topic every day. I search for "PA budget", "pre-k counts", "child care crisis" (yes, these are the topics that especially relate to my life, right now). There is only one article about the pending day-care crisis in the Bucks County Courier Times that was published after I called and asked a reporter if there was any buzz about it here in Bucks. No buzz. But when I spoke to my son's teacher from last year, she told me that it is as dire here as it is in the rest of the state. I wish I had the time to call up every child care facility in Bucks and find out the truth. Are we being shielded here? kept in the dark? or is this really not an issue here? This is truly baffling, esp. when I get 50 hits from every other part of PA.”

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11. brendancalling said... on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:11AM

“@colleen: well, that's because the Inky and the Daily News have priorities that are more important than budget cuts. Like Michael Vick, Bonnie Sweeten (who?) on the Inky, and murdered models identified by their breast implants (saturday's DN). Tits and football trumps children's hospitals and firemen.

seriosuly, I wish I had scanned/saved a copy of every inky and daily news front page from last week, cus it seems they gave short shrift to the budget stalemate and its effects.”

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12. Colleen Wilkinson said... on Aug 25, 2009 at 05:19AM

“No kidding it's not a priority! Philly's been saved from doomsday and all it got was a 3-second mention on the news this morning - NOR did it get a reap, review or repeat like the Vick story. Goddamn!

Hmmmm, now maybe something for the rest of the state?”

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13. j said... on Aug 25, 2009 at 03:11PM

“and thanks to Pileggi, M. Night Shyamalan moved his film production to Canada. what kind of Republican drives away potential revenue and jobs like that? Pennsylvania and Philly lost out big...”

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14. brendancalling said... on Aug 26, 2009 at 08:34AM

“@colleen: saved? not quite yet. the legislation now goes back to the House, and MAYBE they'll sign it. but the Senate added a bunch of amendments, and that might hold things up.
we ain't out of the woods yet.
@J: i saw that about Shymalan. Call Pileggi and complain: his numbers up above.”

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15. cn2004 said... on Aug 26, 2009 at 12:54PM

“yes brendan, it's all dominic pileggi's fault. philadelphia has had one party governing for fifty years, and what do we have to show for it? a city that's broke, unsustainable labor contracts, high crime, a joke of a school system, corrupt politicians. perhaps if philadelphia did a better job of running itself it wouldn't have to go running hat in hand to harrisburg all the time. you want to see the long term effects of liberalism? you're looking at it right now. philadelphia is a perfect example”

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16. brendancalling said... on Aug 26, 2009 at 05:48PM

cn2004's comments are the kind of misinformed kneejerk ignorance I've come to expect from PA conservatives. So i'll say it a second time, a little less patiently than I did for George Peterson above.

Philly needs to get permission from H'burg to raise its sales tax by a penny on the dollar to close the deficit. No one is going "hat in hand to Harrisburg." If anyone's getting a handout, it's Dominic Pileggi (who incidentally lives in "a city that's broke" with "one party governing for fifty years", aka the GOP. Dominic is getting $45 million of everyone's money for a soccer stadium. Furthermore, it's not about Philly: if you had read what i wrote, you would know that it's the ENTIRE STATE that is impacted, every single county, every single nonprofit. And that IS dominic pileggi's fault, because it's HIS PARTY THAT HE LEADS that is holding up the budget for EVERYONE.

Next time you comment,it would do you good to actually READ what is written before shooting from the hip.”

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17. ModernDaySlavery said... on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:26PM

“@George & cn2004:

I live in Philly. I pay taxes in Philly. For Philly. I don't want my tax dollars going to a stadium in CHESTER.

Really, how hard is that to understand?

You want something in your cute little municipalit, YOU pay for it. Stop wanting people in Philly pay for YOUR ish.


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18. TM said... on Aug 27, 2009 at 10:20AM

“Let's also not forget that other Pennsylvania counties dump their problems on Philadelphia. Upon release from prisons in Delaware and Montgomery counties, ex-cons are given a one-way Septa ticket to Philly, where they immediately join the homeless population.”

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19. brendancalling said... on Aug 27, 2009 at 01:30PM

“@TM: to say nothing of the residents of montco and delco who come here to work.
Philly is southeastern PA's economic engine. without Philly, an enormous chunk of state revenue goes -poof-.”

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20. Deep said... on Aug 31, 2009 at 01:32PM

“Stadiums are the worse thing for a state to invest in. Virtually every single economic study done on new stadiums have shown the only ones who benefitare the owners. Stadiums don't attract new companies, they don't attract talent, and they don't provide jobs with a living wage. Stadiums have no net benefits for the city or the state. When Three Rivers Stadium was demolished in 2000, the Pirates and Steelers still owed Pennsylvania money for construction costs. You would think that Harrisburg would know better.

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21. Deep said... on Aug 31, 2009 at 01:48PM


I highly recommend reading "City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation", written by Gerald E Frug and David J Barron. Both are professors at Harvard Law. Frug and Barron illustrate how throughout the country cities are held back by outdated policies that limits how they can develop. What cities can and cannot do in terms of taxes, land use, school management, and other functions are dictated from the state capital. If Philadelphia is to be the next great American city, then we need to change policies that were written at a time when most Americans got milk by milking a cow.

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22. sickofit said... on Sep 1, 2009 at 01:29PM

“You all need to ask what got us here in the first place. I work in politics in Delaware County. Everytime I call on Philadelphia officials or politcal heavy weights to help us get rid of nut jobs like Pileggi, I get no response, I get laughs, I get that's not my problem, well .... now it is your problem. We've been trying to get rid of this idiot for years in Chester City, but the problem is is that Pileggi's district extends all the way over to the other side of Chester County. They all vote republican in Chester County. We do our part in Chester City(Delaware County),Pileggi never wins in Chester City, but Chester Couty is holding us hostage. So here you go, Chester County holds Delaware County and the City of Chester hostage, and now because of your arrogance Philly, Pileggi is holding you hostage. Thanks for the help Philly, thanks a whole heck of alot, ......thanks for nothing.”


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