- 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?
EMS Response Times, Dying on the Streets, Tax Cuts and the Controller
Poor, poor Stan Shapiro. He is currently on a vacation, out of the country, when stories with headlines like this come out:
And from the Inquirer, we get this:
Philadelphia's city controller - contending Mayor-elect Michael Nutter should be assessing city services before talking tax cuts - yesterday reported dangerously slow response times on emergency-medical calls.
"Most of the departments we look at, we see gaping holes in service," Alan Butkovitz said at a news conference in which he released a performance audit by his office of the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services Division. "We're in the midst of this tax-cutting craze."
Nutter has pledged to enact tax reforms, including scaling back the business-privilege tax.
In response to the audit, Nutter's spokeswoman, Melanie Johnson, said "the mayor-elect wants to review the controller's report and will have a more detailed comment after he has seen it. In reference to the controller's recommendation to freeze business taxes, the mayor-elect is committed to improving the business climate while at the same time improving on the delivery of city services."
The controller said the assumption behind the "tax-cutting craze" is that city services are up to snuff. But the performance by EMS ambulances is one example of a service that falls woefully short, he said.
Stan, where are you!?!!?
As far as the EMS specifically, this is unfortunately not anything particularly new. Mike Newall, of the CityPaper wrote a cover story about our EMS problems two years ago, the Daily News did its own series, and Newall followed up last month, and reminded us of some people who likely died specifically because of slow EMS response times:
Danny Rumph, a 21-year-old stand-out guard at Western Kentucky University, suffered cardiac arrest on a Mount Airy basketball court and died after waiting 31 minutes for an ambulance. Ricky Badway, 22, suffered cardiac arrest at his girlfriend's house in Roxborough and died after waiting 22 minutes for an ambulance. Rotan Lee, a prominent education reformer, suffered cardiac arrest at his West Philadelphia home and died after waiting 19 minutes for an ambulance. And a 5-month-old baby girl suffered cardiac arrest in Wissinoming and died waiting for an ambulance that never even arrived.
"And these are just the cases the press knows about," says one paramedic. "This happens all the time. It's a silent epidemic."
We know about these, because they are the extraordinary cases- a local Division 1 basketball player, a prominent Philadelphian like Rotan Lee (Read Seth Williams' remembrance of him here), and a 5-month old baby. But, I think we all understand that for every case that is reported, many, many more go unreported.
So, Butkovitz undertook an audit of the EMS system, and came up with a long list of things needed to be done to fix the system. First, and foremost though, is hiring more paramedics, which will cost money, and appears to be the jumping off point for the first Philadelphia Politician in recent years to utter the phrase "tax-cutting craze" in recent memory.
Anyway, this is a big deal in this whole tax cut debate for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is that the last Controller, Jonathan Saidel, was basically the point man in so much of the debate. And second, Butkovitz is now, by far the highest ranking city official who appears to be getting off the BPT train. Maybe he will fall back in line, maybe not.
I think we need to take a few reasonable steps before cutting taxes:
1) A whole sale evaluation of city services, city departments, etc., to figure out exactly what our budgetary needs are- from EMS, to libraries, etc. This is often proposed by our very own Gaetano. Within that, there will be different levels of urgency- so, we will have to prioritize.
2) Unlike with the Street administration, our more Open-Govt oriented new Mayor should give us some detailed figures from the BPT cuts. What is the breakdown for BPT breaks? There are something like 75,000 payers of the BPT in Philadelphia. What percentage of this tax break goes to the top one percent (750) of businesses and top 5 percent of businesses? What percentage goes to the other 70 thousand or so payers? If the idea is small business job creation, and it only gives the typical small business a hundred bucks a year, then... you know where I am going with this.
At least then, with a little more information under our belt, we can at worst look at the situation, and agree to disagree on where our next steps should lie. At best, maybe we will even agree...