Philly's Politicians Finally Playing Nice?

By Aaron Kase
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 29, 2010

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With all the accusations and grandstanding over the budget, taxes, ethics rules and other issues ongoing between City Council and Mayor Nutter, it was starting to look like the two branches of government would never see eye to eye on anything. In the last week, however, it appears that Nutter’s office and Council have actually been working together, startling enough in its own right. What’s more, it’s toward productive ways to reduce waste and inefficiency in city government.

We know. We’re as shocked as you are.

The first move was to cut the pay for the Board of Tax Revisions (BRT) down to nominal levels of $150 a day, more consistent with the board’s part-time status than the previous $70,000 a year members received. The BRT chair and secretary will still receive salaries between $45,000 and $50,000. Council approved the pay cuts last Thursday, and the mayor swiftly signed it into law.

All this occurred two days after the BRT sat through a budget hearing at which nobody thought to bring up the looming pay cuts, or the even more foreboding May 18 vote to abolish the board altogether. The move would create separate bodies to assess properties and hear appeals and more importantly, clear the way to getting rid of these “public servants” who got us in this mess to begin with. The Pa. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the BRT to stop the election so we’ve got our ballots all revved up and ready to go.

In other news, Nutter proposed legislation to do away with the venerable Clerk of Quarter Sessions. After Clerk Vivian Miller’s resignation in March, this was only a matter of time.  Signs point to Council being amenable as long as the current employees are protected when the office gets folded into the court system.

Both the BRT and the Clerk of Quarter Sessions became notorious for incompetence thanks to Inquirer investigations last year.

The BRT did a poor job assessing your house value costing the city millions in taxes, while the Quarter Sessions lost track of more than a billion dollars owed the city in forfeited bail money. In a way, they’re easy targets, but that doesn’t make Council and the mayor’s motions to abolish both bodies any less admirable.

Without any competing political parties to speak of, is this the closest we get to a bi-partisan agreement in Philadelphia?

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