- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
A Conversation with Bill Green, IV
Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to talk with Bill Green (and his very nice wife) for an hour at a coffee shop in Northern Liberties. We were supposed to meet at a bar but it was overrun with bikers.
I’m keeping the person-to-person format in the interest of fairness but it's still lots of paraphrasing. Yes, it’s a flawed method, but given the big bucks they pay me here, it’ll have to do for now. If there are any errors, you know who to blame. Italics are some of my commentary.
MC: …real life work… this blog thing...
BG: …started cabinet business, operated a flexiglass pole business, ran a technology firm that specialized in security. …extensive experience balancing budgets and implementing technology…. currently a lawyer...
MC: So your brand name definitely was an asset that helped you get elected (win the primary)?
BG: Well, I like to think I ran a substantive campaign but there is no question that in order to win in Philadelphia, you need to be on the ballot. Furthermore, it’s not enough just to be on the ballot. People need to know who you are. The press essentially doesn’t cover City Council races so running an effective race requires resources to buy enough media to get a message out. Fortunately, I had the resources. Yes, I’m sure my brand name didn’t hurt.
MC: How much did you spend on the primary?
BG: About $400K, the second highest of the candidates running, I believe.
MC: There are some issues that only come up around election time and campaign finance is one of those issues. Do you think that we could talk to the state and try to come up with public financing before the next municipal election? And would you support a public campaign finance initiative?
BG: I think we could talk to the state before the next municipal election. I support a public campaign finance initiative. I know that both Maine and Arizona have good systems. It’s unlikely I’d opt for public campaigns myself since I have access to resources but it is a way to provide resources to those who otherwise would not have access.
MC: Will it (campaign finance) be a priority for you?
BG: My priority is fixing the city. This city is completely broken. 25% of citizens live in poverty. 37% of children live in poverty. In twenty years, 36% of adults will be in poverty and 51% of children. The outlook is even worse looking further into the future unless something changes. We need to invest in our city intelligently and examine what we are getting for our money. Right now the City has no matching grant funds. A study by Penn suggested that the City has given up tens of millions of dollars over the past eight years because of that. We need to create a matching fund so that we can go after every available resource.
With Michael Nutter, we have a historic opportunity to change the demographic catastrophe that is impending.
I want to create a meritocracy rather than a government that works depending on who you know. A government that is transparent and accountable is the beginning of that process.
MC: Not long ago, as a result of vacancies on City Council, the City Democratic Committee picked three individuals to serve on Council. Is there any chance that we could pass legislation to have a special election in the case of a vacancy in case of indictments or resignations on City Council?
BG: I don’t think it’s a priority. The issue is one of money and efficiency. Why should the city spend $1 million dollars to have a low turnout election? It’s a question of how we use our resources intelligently. If people don’t like the Democratic Party ward system, they need to get involved in the process and become ward leaders to influence the outcome. Furthermore, given the fact that two of the three individuals selected by party leaders subsequently lost suggests that the democratic process works. If party selected leaders are not approved by citizens, they can be voted out.
MC: What’s your stance on the pending real estate full valuations?
BG: I support them. It’s necessary. Right now, poor and middle class folks are being penalized.
MC: Michael Nutter wants to cap increases at 10% per year. I recently brought a house in Fishtown and it’s probably worth three times as much as it was three years ago. Do you think it’s a good idea to cap increases at 10% and leave money on the table?
BG: I do. It’s not about you. It’s about the person who has lived in the neighborhood for fifty years. Having the city evaluate individual cases would be a nightmare and would be terribly complex and inefficient way to organize the system. You are just the lucky recipient of the cap but it is good policy too.
MC: Given the disastrous results of the City’s recent investments in technology, how is your plan to go paperless going to succeed?
BG: The problem with DHS cares was that the city didn’t go paperless. They created more layers of paperwork and data entry. The promise of online government will never be realized unless processes are eliminated. Instead of having individuals pulling files or doing data entry, they need to be directly imputing fields, assisting citizens …or I get the feeling … performing a specific task of some sort.
MC: What’s your take on changes that need to take place in the housing agencies?
BG: The City needs 60,000 more affordable homes… Right now, I’m working with the Affordable Housing Coalition and the BIA (Building Industry Association) to develop an inclusionary housing bill that makes sense. It’s similar to the one that is currently on the table but with a few revisions to address concerns that I have.
(Folks, this guy knows inclusionary housing and I could barely keep up with him so I’m just dropping a few random statements that sound true to me but you need an expert to confirm.)
For instance, right now, the limits as proposed by Darryl Clarke would allow an individual making $75K annually to purchase a property for $350K and in some developments that would be considered affordable.
Lowering the limits on who could qualify to purchase a property would have the effect of increasing the amount available to the Trust fund.
There is no reason that the Trust fund should be a separate entity from those that already exist. John Street has contracted out millions of dollars to outside entities. These organizations as nongovernmental entities cannot be subpoenaed and therefore the way the dollars are doled out leads to a lack of accountability. Furthermore, we should not be creating additional layers of government that we can’t afford.
Rather than invest in building $400K to $600K new houses and renting them for $600 bucks a month, we need to fix up older properties that are on the city’s books or can be acquired for $30K a piece. Essentially, we could stretch our dollars many more times than we do and better stabilize neighborhoods on the edge all while ultimately providing more affordable housing.
The Affordable Housing Coalition and I are considering the incentives for developers to make sure that they are properly aligned and comparable to what has been proposed in other cities.
I believe that the final proposal will look something like what the Affordable Housing coalition has put on the table. We hope to have something by January to propose on Council.
MC: What’s your stance on community policing?
BG: Who is against community policing?
MC: So can we condone marijuana possession?
BG: We need to examine and educate the criminal justice system. If we are housing someone who could not post a $200 or a $1000 bond until trial, and it will ultimately cost the City $10,000, we need to consider how big a risk they are. We also need to come up with better sentencing and parole systems. Maybe we could sentence individuals to get their GED rather than serving jail time. We also need to fix the … program so that judges can help reduce the incentives for recidivism but allowing folks that meet the proper benchmarks to have their record expunged. We know what happens to folks that have criminal records. They can’t get a job. We need carrots as well as sticks.
MC: I get very frustrated by our politicians inclination to support “bureaucracy in a box.” If you need Entrepreneurship, you create an enterprise center and supposedly the result is some new businesses. There is little attention to incentives. In contrast, Wilson Goode Jr. recently introduced Michael Nutter’s PREP legislation to encourage businesses to hire ex-offenders. While there is no guarantee this legislation will work, at least it provides what seems to me to be the proper alignment of incentives with desirable outcomes.
BG: Well, yes, and we need to do that throughout Philadelphia government (Service Reform). That is why I proposed that everything be measured and accounted for and why I support zero-based budgeting (Budget Reform). Collecting data and making it available to citizens and academics will allow us to invest our dollars in a wiser fashion.
We have to be careful though, theoretically, even in the case of the PREP program, an employer could tell his employee to go commit a crime and then split the $5K tax credit with him.
MC: What do you think of the Chamber of Commerce’s internship program?
BG: It’s a step in the right direction. It’s an opportunity for kids to see another world that offers them a future with hope.
Like the REACH scholarship which is legislation authored by State Representative Tony Payton, something that I strongly support, if we provide kids and parents with incentives, there is a better chance that individuals will make smarter choices. In this particular program, students who get a “B” average at any school (good or bad), can go to college for free. The program would be paid for out of cigarette taxes. We can only expect to avert Philadelphia’s impending demographic catastrophe when we offer a future filled with hope.
MC: Are bikers your core demographic of voters?
BG: Yes, bikers are my core demographic.