The great preserver?

Ben Waxman has a column up turning on its head the now-received wisdom that the mayor should be judged by what he hasn't done. There's been a chorus for a while arguing that the mayor has missed opportunities -- for deeper ethics reform (Catherine Lucey), or for taking the recessionary opportunity to minimize government for the long term (Larry Platt).

But Ben's point is much of what the mayor hasn't done is to the great benefit of the city: he hasn't slashed jobs, and largely preserved services. In the context of what has been happening in other major cities, that's no small feat.

PS congrats, Ben for the byline!

I agree to a certain extent,

I agree to a certain extent, and it is true- the Mayor should get credit the preservation of city services, or, maybe for allowing people in the city to dictate that, and listening (because that is what really happened). But, I also think that much of the accomplishment was dictated by people in the city, regardless of what he actually wanted to do, and much of the hard decision making on that was like 2 years ago. What have you done for me lately, Mike! (I am half joking, half serious.)

I go back and forth quite a bit with my own internal evaluation of the Mayor. One the hand, he flat out has a tougher job than John Street did, because Street and Rendell already made some of the easier cuts, already shrunk the workforce quite a bit, etc. On the other hand, people expected very big things, and I think expected a little bit of a stronger leader on some issues that we haven't really seen. And there are certain policies that his office has put forward that simply don't seem smart.

All that said, if the economy does rebound in his second term, his life will become a lot easier, and I would suspect his ability to do bigger things will grow, as well.


I also think that anyone being compared to Ed Rendell will always look flat, and we should stop looking for another one of him. Rendell had many faults, and in many ways his time is Mayor is probably overlionized. But, he was a once in a generation politician, who came along at a singular moment in Philadelphia's history. There will not be another one of him for a long time. Politicians may try- and Mayor Nutter does- but, no one will ever match the mixture of the policy devouring, empathizing, hoagie eating, cannon balling Ed Rendell. (Who, of course, also had a taskmaster as City Council President....)

Dan, that is basically

Dan, that is basically exactly what I just said on Ben Waxman's super amazing Facebook page. : )

Rendell didn't do the Convention Center!

I am amazed that people still attribute the Convention Center to Ed Rendell when his only contribution was the ribbon-cutting (it opened only months after he was in office).

An objective analysis of what Ed Rendell inherited in terms of downtown development is also in order - Liberty Place, Center City District, I-95 improvements and the Convention Center were done under the previous administration.

People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.


A couple of thoughts

(with apologies to those already on Ben Waxman's super amazing Facebook page):

Agree with Dan that the importance of city services was not initially established by Nutter, but through the adamance of the city's residents who made it clear in the library fight, when he closed swimming pools, when he threatened to lay off fire and police - that city services were paramount. Nutter gets credit for listening to residents and having a smart and principled finance team under Rob DuBow.

It should be noted that City Hall may be free of corruption but the number of on-going federal investigations is appalling - sheriff, PHA, the School District had a civil rights lawsuit filed against it for heaven's sake and the FBI may or may not be investigating contracting there.

Like Dan says, the promise from Nutter was about clean governance, a reformed government, not the status quo. In the meantime, the Mayor has been pretty absent on big issues facing our city - he let slip creative opportunities to address business taxes, was behind the times on casinos, has been AWOL on the education front letting a willful and divisive school CEO run the District into a half BILLION dollar deficit, forewent wireless Philly - I know any Joe can complain about the things he didn't get, but the Mayor has lacked vision - not Ed Rendell's vision, or Street's vision, but a mayoral vision for what the city is and should be, especially when we are going through some of the worst of times.

No mayor has it easy, and I will say that I'm not sure I would switch places given the political landscape. I'll also add that I too am grateful we're not Camden or Detroit. (I made the mistake of calling a friend of mine from Detroit to complain about Philadelphia and he was regaling me with the joys of learning to can food and raising animals for food - EEK!).

Your point about the status quo is well put but just feels a little less than satisfying I guess.

Pensions and Healthcare

These are the two things that must be addressed for us not to become Camden or Detroit. Failing to address them is failure. We have not addressed them other than further pushing the problem on to our children. The bill will come due when we can least afford it--see below.

There is a court order keeping libraries open still in effect. In the last ten years poverty of adults has increased 5%, children over 10%. I don't want to be critical but Ben's piece is so divorced from reality it is ridiculous.

The City acts like the increase in population registered in the census is the result of some good thing we have going on. It is better counting of people in poverty and people in poverty without choices staying where they are.

The demographic trends mentioned above will continue, more of the City will be under stress (see, and in 40 years we will be over 50% in poverty. We will collapse of our own weight before then. Many elected officials are afraid to be bold because of fear of criticism for being wrong--fear of not being re-elected. We don't have time for fear or care taking. We must act.

You should be more specific, Bill

because if you think cutting worker pensions and health care is a way to relieve poverty and build a middle class in this City, you're on the wrong track. Finding ways to make the rich and big corporations give up some of the phenomenal and unseemly wealth that they've accumulated in the past 30 years, that's the right way. That's hard for City Council to do, I know, but you do have the bully pulpit. And you should use it for what's right.

National Issues, Local Issues

Stan: City Councilpersons do not have a bully pulpit regarding the wealth of national corporations. This is the problem with much of the rhetoric we hear. Nobody covers things we actually do control. We can save $40M per year in healthcare by aggregating the buy and forming our own TPA--this requires working with the Unions--something not done in the last three years. Pensions--this is a huge issue that must be addressed with everyone sacrificing, including citizens--there is no easy answer and no evil people who are in our jurisdiction that we can go tax (because they will just leave when we do). Using a "bully pulpit" for what is "right" is a nice concept. It does not solve the pension problem which is a far bigger problem than anyone is acknowledging. Right now I am using my bully pulpit to inform you that ranting about national corporate greed will not solve our pension problem BUT I am also using it (as I was in my previous post) to inform citizens that we are essentially bankrupt and we can't just keep talking about it--we must act. If we don't then benefits will consume our discretionary budget and we will see Camden type layoffs in 20 or 30 years. We can take the medicine now or stand by and watch a slow and agonizing death of the Philadelphia we love. OR we can just talk about it.


There are evil people and you can find them at Wall Street.

Like most pension funds, ours is in terrible shape in large part due to massive fraud perpetrated by Wall Street. By Wall St., I mean the investment bankers, underwriters and rating agencies that together created trillions of dollars of toxic, worthless assets, and knowingly sold them to pension funds around the country. I don't know how much of that was peddled to our fund helping bring its asset value down from $5 billion to $4 billion. But someone should take a look. In a lot of other places, people in high office did take a look, sued and recovered much of their losses. This would not be that emotionally satisfying because many of the people responsible for taking the whole country down should be in jail. But it might be financially satisfying and make the job of fixing what they ruined a lot easier. Have you looked into this Bill? I'm sure no one else in Philly has. Someone ought to at least take a look at making the banksters pay before we take another whack out of the flesh of Philly's firefighters, police, trash-haulers, librarians and social workers.

I'll bet we were in some of these

if we held the securities during the applicable time. I'll get back to you. We do join suits as I said. Our portion of every suit and every evil doer paying up will not solve the pension problem of our own making.

I'd appreciate any detail you have because . . .

googling doesn't find any Philadelphia participation, nor does the Pension Board website. People have the right to know.

Philly's Union Leaders will tell you why were underfunded

Our pension system is broke because the City put in only the state required minimum mandatory contribution. The Controller and Mayor just made things worse by allowing us to put in less than we need to in order to catch up to our obligations and touted this as a victory. Our pension fund does join suits but our fund is underfunded because we as a City decided to satisfy our short term wants for the last thirty years. The bill has now come due. The price of neglect must be paid and the payment will not come easily. The City simply did not live up to its obligations.

Wall Street and lack of government regulation caused a collapse from a bubble that never should have occurred. We will sue if we can recover, rest assured. However, the City government made its own mess by contributing too little over the last 26 years. Blaming Wall Street's evil excesses, while making us feel good, won't pay this bill. It is our responsibility.

There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal recently about how 401(k)'s have not worked because people did not put in enough money. That is essentially what the City did. I believe pensions with realistic assumptions about returns and proper contributions are a good strategy. That is not the way we have run our pension system.

Let's Not Yield To Unjustified Fears

It's really hard for me to see how Philadelphia will have a 50% poverty rate in 40 years when Detroit today--a national symbol of economic decline with an economic base far smaller than Philadelphia's--has a poverty rate of "only" 32.5%.

The fact is that poverty rates are only one of many economic indicators. When my grandparents moved to Philadelphia in the late 1800's as two of what would become nearly 30 million immigrants in the United States between the Civil War and World War I, they almost certaintly raised the city's poverty rate. When they moved to the 3100 block of Germantown Avenue from South Philadelphia a couple of years after my father was born in 1914, they didn't use any of those newfangled automobiles or trucks: their meager possessions traveled with them by horse and and buggy to a house near railroad tracks and factories that would be used as a headquarters for their struggling wallpaper business.

My grandparents came to Philadelphia because they saw opportunities in it that could lift them and their children (two born in Ukraine along the Russian/Polish Pale, five born in Philadelphia)into the middle class. The particular opportunities that attracted them no longer exist: the wallpaper business is a small remnant of its former self; the economically dominant Stetson Hat factory near their house was killed by changing fashion tastes that made hats a somewhat rare clothing option instead of a necessity; the train line that ran regularly near their house carrying both freight and passengers now only carries a small amount of freight; the baseball stadium that delighted my father and his brothers has long since been demolished; the shopping mecca that Germantown Avenue was is no more; the little pocket park near their house has long been vandalized and ignored; the nearby elementary school inspirationally named after a prominent Philadelphia Jewish leader no longer inspires; a nearby pharmacy brags in its windows about how old it is and how it takes Medicaid; and many more examples of decline could be cited. Perhaps the most interesting part of the area today--at least for historians--is the Quaker cemetery a couple of blocks from my father's since demolished house, where a good number of prominent Philadelphia Quakers are buried.

Nevertheless, despite the well-known "creative destruction" of capitalism, many of grandfather's grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren have made it into the middle class and beyond. It was a tremendous net positive for the City of Philadelphia over the long haul to have my grandparents arrive here, even though they initially raised the poverty rate.

The story of my grandparents is typical of the nearly 30 million immigrants of their era, and it is likely to be typical of of many of the immigrants of today, immigrants from foreign countries and migrants from other parts of the United States, seeking opportunities that they believe must somehow exist in Philadelphia.

Lest we forget, Philadelphia is one of the leading centers of college education in the United States; Community College of Philadelphia (specifically designed for Philadelphia residents) is by far Philadelphia's most widely populated educational institution; our convention center is now one of the nation's largest; our relatively small airport is planning significant-sized expansion; our tourism business is booming, with a record number of hotel rooms rented last year; the South Philadelphia neighborhoods that the immigrants fled are now becoming repopulated with young professionals from all over the East Coast and many parts of our country and the world; the educational levels of Philadelphians is at all time-high; for the first time ever, a majority of Philadelphia's black citizens own their own homes; housing prices in Philadelphia have declined far less from their peak than houses in many other parts of our country; there is a much better case that Philadelphia's future is that of an energetic, growing city with a great potential than a dying, destitute city with a rate of poverty far in excess of Detroit's today.

The first requirement of leadership is see things the way they really are and tell the truth about it. Philadelphia urgently needs leadership that understands that change of all kinds is inevitable: Philadelphia will never again be an overwhelmingly white city composed of people who take mass transit to work in factory jobs after completing 9th grade. But the increasingly diverse, increasingly well educated, increasingly cutting edge population of today is something we can be proud of, and is something that offers a real chance of opportunities for both the chronically low-income people without current hope and the striving low-income people who have come from all over because of their dreams and aspirations.

The change we dream and aspire to require action by leaders

The Philadelphia of your grandparents: growing, job creating, etc. is gone. Our successes are so marginal they will not stop the demographic and statistical trends without action. Feel good rhetoric can be part of the action if you want it to be but it alone will not fix our schools or create jobs, will not pay our pension bills or pay for public safety.

What do I mean by marginal success. We proudly declare test scores are improving (is this the "increasingly well educated" you mean) but it will be well past 2100 when our students are at grade level. Our population is staying roughly the same but we have 47,000 fewer jobs. The tourism you tout is great but service sector jobs have horrible wages and still we are not creating net new jobs, we are losing them without losing population. The "new" jobs we create in this City pay a lot less than the old jobs. Today, only 23% of jobs require little workforce skills--that number will get smaller and the pace of that change is accelerating.

The pace of change is much faster than it was even 10 years ago. Capital, people, companies move very quickly. We can't afford to be stagnant as a city government or a school district, satisfied with change at the margins and not expect the demographic trend I mentioned in my first post above to consume us--poverty among adults in Philadelphia increased over 5% in the last decade. The pace of this trend will quicken over the next 40 years UNLESS we act now to educate our citizens to succeed in a knowledge based economy. We need a back to the future strategy to bring back urban manufacturing while we change our schools (I wrote a 60 page paper with 30 specific recommendations which I won't go into here). This is what Maria and I have been working on. Everyone wants to study, to talk, we need to act and not be afraid to be wrong. We will make mistakes and we can correct them.

Diversity is strength--what is our diverse and multi-pronged strategy for education, fixing pensions, crime, serving citizens better at reduced cost, etc. I have specific plans for all these things and have released papers about each of them over the last three years. I'll have them all up on a new website shortly.

A Bad Month For Pessimism As Philly Fed Index Hits 7 Year High

February, 2011 is a bad month for pessimism about Philadelphia's future because as noted on February 18, 2011:

Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region expanded in February at the fastest pace in seven years, underscoring factories' contribution to the economic expansion.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's general economic index rose to 35.9, the highest level since January 2004 and exceeding the median forecast of 21 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Readings greater than zero signal economic expansion in the area covering Eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware....

I get the concern about the pension funds. This concern is hardly new; it has been debated and litigated for decades. Endless variations of current contributions and benefits are possible. Because the pension funds are heavily invested in market instruments, the pension funds will continue to be in poor shape in down markets and in better shape in high markets. The safest bet as to the future of markets is in the advice of Bernard Baruch a century ago: they will fluctuate. With the Dow now hovering around 12,400, it appears at the very least that the worst is far behind us.

But concern for pension funds should not obscure that there are many positive indicators of our city's economic health that have not existed before. When people are willing to pay such high prices to move in Center City from suburban and out of region locations that they are often displacing commercial development there, that is a sign of desirability of the city that has many positive aspects, even if it immediately means less jobs. The industrialization of the city in the mid-1800's and thereafter was one of the many causes of increases in migration to the suburbs; today's suburban migration to center city is in part a result of the decline of industrialization.

When my father served in City Council, he helped get Philadelphia out of the business of doom and gloom. He convinced people that a nuclear attack on the City of Philadelphia was rather unlikely,and fallout shelters wouldn't do much good if one came, so we could save many millions of dollars over the long haul by getting rid of the fallout shelter program. He saw gay and lesbian couples expanding the borders of upwardly mobile Center City, so he helped City Council to see them as asset whose civil rights should be protected rather than a sign of moral decay whose presence should be bemoaned and discouraged. He felt after a good deal of research that the worst case scenarios of ever-higher landfill costs were unlikely to occur, so he he kept Philadelphia out of the trash to steam business and out of the bankruptcy and other financial problems that waste to energy facilities have caused in Harrisburg and a good number of American cities.

What Philadelphia obviously needs to do is find ways to develop both the benefits of industrialization and de-industrialization. Superfund sites have to be cleaned up so that Philadelphia has more usable land for the factories of the future. Empty factories that have no real economic value today because they are unsuitable for either today's modern factories or residential use should be demolished. The current efforts to encourage green business development should be continued and expanded.

There was a lot of reason for pessimism in the 1970's when manufacturing's decline was accelerating, the mayor was urging people not to come to Philadelphia on the 4th of July out of fear of protestors, and racial polarization was at its all-time high. There is a lot less reason for pessimism today. We should face the problems that Philadelphia has without trying to sell Philadelphians on doomsday scenarios that are highly unlikely to occur.

Pessimism is for Wusses

My point is that none of the statistics you sight, even above, are enough to stop the demographic and statistical trends from continuing on their current course. During the period your father served we lost 240,000 jobs. Not his fault but I miss the point of the above post.

You are off course with the good news. I am glad of it also but it is so marginal that it will not change our course or reverse it AND barely even slow it down. We have to take decisive action on multiple fronts and not be afraid to be wrong. Keeping our head in the sand only to pop it up and listen to the good news will not save us.


I believe we can turn things around and in three years I have proposed a multitude of solutions. If I seem frustrated it is because fellow elected officials like you all seem to be listening to the same tune

It's the tune everyone wants to hear but just repeating it won't make it so. We must act quickly and do bold things.

You Sound Like Ron Paul and Rand Paul

You sound like Ron Paul and Rand Paul, convinced that you almost uniquely know how bad things are and that everyone else is delusionary. As John F. Kennedy showed in standing up to both Nikita Kruschev and the military advocates of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile crisis, sometimes real courage consists of resisting the counsels of those who insist that everything is terrible and that any action whatsoever is better than the status quo.

Even eliminating city pension benefits, which almost no one is proposing, will not solve the city's longterm problems; tinkering around the edges with this or that pension benefit has little or nothing to do with the city's future. Nor does laying off thousands of city workers, or any of the other happy hour nostroms out there. The city's $4 billion budget is not the key driver of personal decisions for the vast majority of people and the vast majority of businesses. Cutting it to $3.5 billion or raising it to $4.5 billion is not going to revolutionize this city; both the state and the federal government spend more on the problems of the City of Philadelphia than the city does each year, if one counts the money paid out in education and various benefit programs.

Real courage is being willing to tackle problems head on, and standing up to stereotypes and methods of behavior that needlessly divide Philadelphians from each other. We have to get things right; we should be "afraid to be wrong" when the lives and futures of many thousands of people are at stake.

No, you sound like the Pauls

You are putting up conservative paper tigers and knocking them down. Only you have proposed and then shot down bad ideas. Your posts are just becoming silly arguments with yourself (while you may like playing with yourself I find it painful to watch).

You have failed to address my point, the demographic trends speak for themselves. Doing the same thing won't stop them. You are the one listening to the generals. We need to do many things different and do them now BUT YOU KEEP SINGING

I have said I favor pensions that have appropriate contributions and assumptions about rate of return BUT YOU KEEP SINGING

You be afraid, YOU KEEP SINGING

I choose to try to change the debate and enact solutions to our problems while YOU KEEP SINGING

It is a catchy tune . . .

By the way, Kennedy stood up to conventional wisdom and the status quo, a blockade was action, if Kennedy had been wrong it would have been a disaster. It was also bold and decisive ACTION. It's what we need in Philadelphia but YOU KEEP SINGING

I don't think either of you sound like Ron Paul

and I tend to agree somewhat with both of you. I agree with Bill that the City faces massive problems. Notwithstanding whatever growth we're experiencing, it's not enough to provide jobs -- much less well-paying jobs -- to anywhere close to all that need them. On top of that we still have tremendous problems housing, clothing, feeding and educating hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians. Those problems aren't going away by themselves soon either.

But I agree with Mark to the extent he's suggesting that it's important that we neither overreact nor react wrongly. We can make the situation worse. Just look at Congress and Wisconsin. Not to mention the President with his foolhardy proposals to cut CDBG and LIHEAP funding, and Pell Grants. Austerity just breeds more misery. I hope that's not the direction to which you want to point us, Bill. When we hear phrases like "shared sacrifice" that's code for let's stick it to working people and the poor.

So I'm looking forward Bill to reading those detailed proposals that you're going to put on that website, hoping that they wouldn't have us suffer our way to prosperity. And meanwhile, Mark, what I'd do if I were a leader in the State House and counting on a lot of growth in Philly, is mobilizing everyone to fight the state aid cuts that are on the way. Because our projected growth is speculative. But what the cuts are going to do to us is not. They're going to devastate everyone living in our city, especially those who already are struggling.

Absolutely, We Must Fight Cuts in State/Federal Services

When Democratic Minority Leader Frank Dermody appointed me to be the lead Democrat on the Human Services Committee and the lead Democrat on the Health Care Subcommittee of the Health Committee, he said he wanted me to be a leader against service cuts. I have so far joined with many other legislators and opposed the termination of the Adult Basic program, and I strongly opposed the attempt to ban the federal government's individual healthcare mandate.

Early soundings in the Senate are that the termination of the healthcare mandate will be resisted strongly by some of the Senate Republicans, in part because of the strong opposition from Pennsylvania's Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliates. Adult basic as now constituted will likely go out of existence at the end of February; hopefully we can get it back at some early time.

We are saved

you are minority chair of Human Services

A Point of Clarification

Bill, I am one of your constituents.

You are not one of my constituents. Your sarcasm is hardly helpful.

I am relieved

I was not sure you noticed.

"I was crying because there was no one with enough power to come and save us" Geoffrey Canada

I Don't Believe Demographic Trends Speak For Themselves

I don't believe demographic trends speak for themselves. Indeed, in 2005 I eulogized my father at his funeral and at the City Council memorial service as a man who respected people regardless of demographic distinctions.

People are part of demographic groups, but they are independent actors. People differ. Places differ. We have to make sure that Philadelphia is not a poor place keeping people down. It is true that the white population of Philadelphia is going down as a percentage of the total population, but that is true in many other places besides Philadelphia, including the Philadelphia suburbs. In the 40 year period in which Bill Green predicts a 50% poverty rate for Philadelphia, our country is projected to develop a nonwhite majority. It is not that white people uniquely dislike Philadelphia: it is also that there just are fewer white people as a percentage of the whole population than there used to be.

I am not convinced that having more people commuting to jobs in the suburbs is necessarily a bad thing; the question of where a center of economic activity is varies from year to year, decade to decade. I often ride Amtrak to Harrisburg and back, and I meet people commuting to Philadelphia and Philadelphians commuting elsewhere. I know the standard archetype is that people commute from the suburbs to the city, but there is little inherent reason why it cannot work the other way around as well.

A population consisting of more immigrants than previously has many positive characteristics: immigrants generally are energetic and hardworking. A population consisting of people who generation after generation are on public assistance bespeaks a lack of hopefulness about the future, but, as one whose office deals with many problems of economic distress, I know that many people from economically troubled families recover and that much of the poverty in Philadelphia consists of new people hoping that Philadelphia will be more receptive to their needs for advancement than wherever it was they come from.

Rising opportunities paradoxically bring in more impoverished people because they hope not to be improverished in the future.Indeed the old line Republican attack on Philadelphia Democrats was that we were bringing black people into Philadelphia by banning discrimination against them. The difference between Detroit's combination of ever-shrinking population and 32.5% poverty rate and Philadelphia's modestly increasing population and a a 25% poverty rate is that few rational people move to Detroit in search of economic opportunity nowadays; the motivated low-income people are far more likely to be moving out of Detroit. It is hard to measure the depth of a person's alienation from the world of work, but it is likely that Philadelphia has far more opportunity-seeking low income people than Detroit does simply because we have so many more opportunities. Sixty years ago when auto industry jobs were plentiful that was not true. Lumping both groups together as being in poverty misses key individual distinctions, and even the category of people in poverty whose parents were in poverty is divided along lines of education, health, ambition, discipline, etc.

I speak for trends that can't speak for themselves

While your humming to yourself check out the below

Median household income is down 7% over the last 10 years. We lost 47,00 jobs over the last ten years. The nonsense that you "feel" and tout above do not change that. I am proposing we do things about it, not defend where we are. I am not satisfied.

It is not that there is not good news, it is that the news is not good enough. The current trend a sustainable city does not make.

It is simply not sustainable but YOU KEEP SINGING

The Figures Show Different Things In Different Neighborhoods

The figures show different things in different neighborhoods. In the more affluent neighborhoods, incomes are going up. In neighborhoods where racial minorities are increasing, incomes are going down as the new residents earn less than the old residents. But the fact that they are buying houses in record numbers suggests they are earning more money than they earned before. In neighborhoods where people are simply aging, incomes are going down as people stop working on live on Social Security benefits.

Losing 47,000 jobs in ten years is not good. But it is not losing nearly 300,000 jobs in ten years during the 1970's, before my father served as Councilman at Large. One has to be able to recognize the existence of progress even if that level of progress is not ideal. Then one has to figure out cause and effect. Why is Philadelphia declining less than Baltimore or Detroit or Camden, but more than New York? What policies are different, and why are they important? We have to look at Philadelphia as one of many cities in the United States, and not just assume that whatever is here is the worst anything can be.

The debate is not about Philly being "the worst anything can be"

It's about acknowledging that things are and remain pretty bad and that something needs to be done. Now I have the feeling that I'm not going to agree with too many of Bill's suggestions for fixing the problems we face, but we surely can't be pollyanish about a City in which 25% of the population is poor. Indeed, it's probably more than 25% given the recession. In terms of whether or not to treat that level of desperation as an emergency, it doesn't matter how we rank against NY, Baltimore or Detroit. It's an emergency. And although you're fighting state budget cuts, it's not clear that the Democrats have a strategy that can block them, and whatever rosy projections for the City might otherwise make sense, they all have to be re-examined given what's going on in Harrisburg and Washington. We're about to have severe austerity budgets that are going to create, of all things, lots more austerity.

What to do? I'm inclined to think that we have to do what working people are doing right now in Madison. And that it would be good for all of our public officials to shout that from the rooftops. And while we're talking about Madison, Mark, I wonder, what's the quorum requirement for the House and Senate in Pennsylvania?

102 in the House, 26 votes in the Senate

The Republicans do not need a single Democratic vote to pass legislation or establish a quorum if they are all, or almost all, united.

But they are not indifferent to public pressure. They want to have at least an image of moderation, and pursuing extreme policies is not a way to do that.

What is an extreme policy? I think it is a policy that does gratuitous, unnecessary harm to people that is not required by economic necessity. Many Republicans have long warned us that the sky is falling whenever we try to develop programs that help large numbers of people, and after a while Democrats do not accept those perspectives uncritically.

Too much of legislative debate can be summarized as follows: "We have a big problem. We have to do something. This is something. Therefore we have to do this." Many of us have developed a good measure of sales resistance to those who think the lives of our constituents can be treated as mere collateral damage by those eager to tell as that the sky is falling. It is not about being Pollyanish. It is about resisting pseudo-solutions that do measurable damage for highly theoretical and usually non-existent gains.

Daylin Leach, the articulate and courageous Senator from Montgomery County, has noted that all too often crises are announced and the need for sacrifice is proclaimed and the position that is advocated in the name of sacrifice is precisely the position that the advocate has been for all along. The goal of many advocates for sacrifices in the discussion of what sacrifices should be made is to shield one's core constituency from sacrifice and demand that other constituencies make all the sacrifice instead.

Emergency, yes, it is, my point exactly

To Stan's immediately above point and Marc Stier's far above post, one thing worked in Libraries in the long term, worked for pools and rec centers, is now being applied by high school students, and, it is the only way real change happens:

Stan: You are the being the reasonable person here. How long will reason exist in Philadelphia unless we get bold and act.

Overall, the City is in decline

That is the point. What part of we are losing jobs, our tax base is shrinking, and we are getting poorer as a city doing the same thing don't you understand?

We need to reverse this trend, that takes action.

Yes, we need action, but the right kind

of action. And that can't mean accepting more austerity. If we have to do a Madison in Harrisburg, then that's what we have to do. We can't just throw up our hands and say, oh, well, they have the votes to cut our throat, and then just meekly stick out our necks. Because that's what Corbett is going to tell us to do.

What can we say

I am glad to say we can do something different. Who cares what Corbett thinks, feeling powerless? Not me.

Can't wait to read your plan, Bill

If it includes seceding from PA, sign me up.

The impact of progressive organizing is missing from Ben's piece

It's a really nice article by Ben on Nutter's key accomplishment--preserving the city's services in time of economic crisis.

And I think it is partly true. But as Dan and Helen point out, it would have told a fuller and more truthful story if Ben had pointed out that Philadelphia progressives and organized labor organized and fought to push back against threatened (the libraries) and potential (everything else) cut backs.

Remember the library campaign? And remember the great organizing the Coalition for Essential Services (and Neighborhood Networks) did at the civic engagement events run by Penn?

I don't know what Michael Nutter would have done without this pressure to avoid service cuts--pressure that was coming down pretty heavily from the Inky and the business community and the foundations, Pew in particular. I don't know whether organizing efforts stopped him from making the services cutbacks that in his heart of hearts he wanted to make. I don't know whether organizing efforts gave the Mayor the cover he needed to avoid cutbacks he really didn't want to make. (On libraries, he clearly did want to cut 11 branches.) But either way, progressive organizing by citizen activists and the labor movement made a difference and made Michael Nutter a better mayor.

The interesting question is what could Michael Nutter accomplish if he embraced progressive political forces and used us to further a more ambitious agenda, on tax reform, or new transit intitatives (for which federal funding was / is available) or on getting more support from the state.

What if the Mayor tried to build support for a quicker end to the BRT or faster and more thoroughgoing shakeups at the PHA. Or a leader of the schools who actually listens to parents? The promise and energy of the last days of the Nutter campaign and the first days of his administration could have given the Mayor the strength to stand up to City Council and other established forces. Instead, the Mayor partly let that energy dissipate and partly killed it with the library fight. And he was standing pretty much alone and had to retreat when the BRT and PHA and other battles took place.

Imagine, too, what would have happened if the Mayor worked with organizers throughout the city to galvanize us in the last election and we turned out at rates that helped us elect Sestak and at least give Corbett a scare.

Ben points to part of the Mayor's first term legacy. But it's the missed opportunities that keep me from giving him or Michael Nutter three cheers

During the primary...

All the mayoral candidates were asked what they thought was the biggest priority for the next mayor. Everyone gave some variation on the schools and/or poverty, except Nutter. He said the most important thing was completing the expansion of the Convention Center.

He's sort of disconnected from the ground-level needs of the city. I don't think it's that he doesn't care, the larger issues just doesn't seem to interest him enough to form a plan of attack.

Well that explains

why Nutter wasn't interested in saving two historic building whose incorporation into the Convention Center would have added a small amount to the price. He was not in office at the time but he could have spoken up adn didn't.

See below,

posted in wrong space

Nutter taking credit for keeping the libraries open?


Nutter didn't just preserve police and firefighter jobs. He also reminded the crowd at Divers' house that all libraries and recreation centers remain open.

Now that's chutzpah!

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