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