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Why I'm supporting Fattah -- Philosophy Matters

Anyone who's read anything I've written on this blog the last several weeks knows I'm supporting Fattah for Mayor. There's now a big push on, however, to rally around Mike Nutter as the only candidate that can stop Knox. If the other candidates had qualities that were roughly similar, I'd be happy to join the bandwagon. But to me Fattah is miles ahead of the others. So I thought it would be useful, at this point in time, to recap why I think so.

Nutter's actual BPT repeal record

I’m putting up this blog just to clarify the record regarding Mike Nutter’s record on the BPT. From time to time posters have suggested that Nutter didn’t really push repeal of the tax. So without getting back into the pros and cons of whether repeal is a good idea, I just wanted to get the facts out.

Nutter introduced 3 bills to repeal the BPT, (although he was quoted in a Daily News article in June 2006 as claiming 4. Either he was just bragging, the DN misquoted him, or I missed a bill.)

If this were Philadelphia Mississippi, we would declare a state of moral emergency.

If this were Philadelphia Mississippi, we would be declaring a state of moral emergency.

Fattah is the only Candidate with a Program for Women

There’s an interesting discussion going on right now onsite about identity politics and its importance. Interestingly, in that discussion there’s no mention that there’s only candidate who has put together a comprehensive program to advance the rights and needs of women, and that’s Fattah. And it’s pretty well thought out, without promising more than a mayor can reasonably deliver.

Here’s the essence of Fattah’s program for women:

A detailed Domestic Violence agenda, including more shelter space for women with children when there’s a risk of domestic violence, domestic violence counselors at Family Court, and use of technology to have protection of abuse hearings conducted from hospitals;

A commitment to support women for elected office and for appointment to senior policy-making positions in his Administration.

A Grand Bargain

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts is the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and one of the most liberal members of Congress. He has been pushing the idea of a “Grand Bargain” between labor and business that would have labor agree to more liberalized trade deals in exchange for business agreeing to instant card check elections which would make it much easier for unions to organize U.S. workers.

I doubt I support Frank’s Grand Bargain but it’s been getting me thinking about whether a similar one might be possible in Philadelphia. My interest in this idea leapfrogged today when I read the Daily News series of articles detailing the close connection between jobs and crime. We all know about this, of course, but a couple of things stood out in this report: the fact that, according to Ed Schwartz, more than 40% of the City’s budget deals with crime and its consequences, and that the Chamber of Commerce has some small apprentice programs for at risk youth. Now if funding was greatly expanded for those programs and the City could make a significant cut in expenditures for law enforcement, voila: a formula for cutting taxes!

What ethics means to me

What ethics means to me.

Writers on this site have been properly concerned with the ethics proposals of candidates for Council and Mayor. They want to know how these candidates are going to shut down the pay-to-play culture of our government, and regulate elections so that the power of money is replaced by the power of voters.

But there are other measures of a candidate’s ethics that we may not be paying enough attention to. For instance, how ethical is it for a candidate to propose tens of millions of dollars of spending, while simultaneously proposing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts.

I’m not raising this to rehash all the arguments pro and con relating to the merits of business privilege tax cutting. But I do think that the stand that candidates take on that idea says more about them than their policy views. It also states how seriously they take their obligation to be straight with the electorate.

Progressives should support REAL Tax Reform

Progressives in Philadelphia should embrace real tax reform as a major demand in the 2007 election. Morally, it is the right thing to do. Practically, such a demand enables us to move out of the “just say no” box that we’ve been maneuvered into.

Let’s face it: the City’s tax system is broken. But it is not broken for the reasons that the supply-siders have argued. It is in shambles because it is massively regressive.

Fair taxation has always been a central element in the progressive vision of a just society. It is reprehensible that right wing supply-siders, and the ridiculously named organization Philadelphia Forward, have gotten away with labeling themselves as the champions of tax reform in Philadelphia. My dictionary defines “reform” as: “correction of evils, abuses, or errors.” Philadelphia Forward’s idea of tax reform is to compound the present system’s “evils, abuses [and] errors” by making the tax system both less fair and less capable of funding the government. In contrast, this is what Neighborhood Networks’ platform calls for relating to tax reform:

Council Forum Tonight

Just a reminder. Neighborhood Networks' Council At-Large Forum is tonight. At least 8 candidates will be there. We will engage them formally and informally and a broad cross-range of issues should get discussed.

The event will be at the Italian Bistro, 211 S. Broad St., south of Walnut.

There's been a lot focus on the Mayor's race. The Council elections are just as important. Hopefully many of us will be at the event tonight to show that progressives understand that fact, and intend to hold all the candidates accountable.

Daring to Win

One day the Democrats will dare to win. That day hasn't arrived in Pennsylvania.

Yes, there are races that are being hotly contested. But the willingness and heart to go to the center of Republican rule isn't there. Case in point, the free ride being given to the Republican Speaker of the state House, John Perzel.

It's not that Perzel doesn't have an outstanding opponent. He does, Tim Kearney, a Democrat who is, has been, and always will be a down the line progressive on every issue Democrats ought to be taking on but too often aren't.

Kearney pulls no punches in fighting the big corporate giveaways that far too many Democrats along with virtually the whole Republican Party are addicted to. That may be a big part of why he gets virtually no support from the Party establishment. But it's more than that. Perzel, although an outspoken conservative, plays ball on a few selected issues with Ed Rendell. After relentless grass-roots lobbying, Perzel allowed a minimum wage increase to get to the floor of the House. He also allowed a vote on an income tax increase in Rendell's first year to permit increased public school funding. And he was key to the deal cutting that resulted in adoption of the Governor's number one priority, establishment of limited gaming throughout the Commonwealth.

Building Democracy Ward by Ward, Division by Division

So the deed has now been done, our new Councilpeople have been annointed. Some of us from Philly for Change, Neighborhood Networks and others came together at Lucy's Hat Shop and said we won't tolerate this. But as we knew the City Committee would, they did their all in the family thing anyhow.

So what do we do now? We're just 8 months away from the primary election in which the machine will flex its muscles to get its choices ratified.

This is what Neighborhood Networks is doing. We're creating shadow ward organizations throughout the city to take on the machine on behalf of progressive candidates. We choose not to accept permanent rule by this thing that presumes to speak for all Democrats. We ourselves can build and be the organization that the Democratic City Committee ought to be.

Annual Neighborhood Networks Conference Set for September 30

The momentum for progressive change in Philly is growing. And the powers that be in the political structure are well aware of how the wind is blowing. They will respond, voluntarily or otherwise, if we keep that wind whipping. One great way to do that is to help build Neighborhood Networks. Formed 15 months ago, NN is the embodiment of the political system we seek to birth, inclusive, neighborhood-based, and issue oriented. Now it's time for NN's second citywide conference themed "Doing Politics from the Ground Up." It will be held on Saturday, September 30 at Temple University Law School, and it will acquaint us both with a wide variety of pressing issues that are current in the public domain, and the skills we need to have our voices heard in the debate around those issues. And it will also focus on Job 1 until November 7, getting rid of the blight on our state that is Rick Santorum, as well as reelecting Governor Rendell.

This Year's Tax Tale in Philly, and What It Means for the Left

Well, it's time to debrief. This year's tax wars are basically over. So how did progressives do?

Overall, I'd say the record is mixed. On the one hand, Business Privilege tax cuts were held to a minimum, to $5 million a year for three years. And all of these cuts will be on the gross receipts side, where the tax is clearly the most regressive. But the phase-in of the late Councilman Cohen's working family tax cut has been delayed three years to 2013, which means it won't be fully phased in until 2018. Some people view that as virtual repeal. (Technically the delay won’t pass Council until Thursday, June 8. Having been voted out of Council’s Committee of the Whole last Thursday, a final vote still has to be held this coming Thursday in Council. So the delay – or, if you prefer, repeal -- won’t be official until then. But the Committee of the Whole vote makes final passage next Thursday all but inevitable. We had a better chance of stopping Alito than we do of defeating this legislation.)

Do Democrats Really Control City Council

Wage tax relief for working families, or tax cuts for business. That's the choice being made by city council and the mayor in the next few days. They have hardly heard from any of us about the matter. We need to speak out as Republican ideology and policy threatens to overtake a City Council of 12 Democrats and three Republicans.

There has been a debate raging in Philadelphia City Council the past few years over local taxes. The question has been whether to adopt an across the board tax cut for business, large and small alike, regardless of the consequences to the city budget, tax fairness for working people, or city services.

What sparked the debate was a proposal, made three years ago by Councilman Nutter, that would have actually abolished the main business tax, costing the city well over $100 million annually when the repeal went into effect. Although the proposal was barely defeated, Councilman Nutter has introduced scaled down versions of his tax cut three more times since. All these measures have been successfully vetoed by the mayor. But, the mayor over the years has offered his own smaller business tax cuts. And just last week, another of the mayor's proposed cuts passed. It will cost the City $25 million over five years.

Learning from our mistakes

The progressive community made its mark on primary day. Regardless of whether our candidates won or lost, they clearly did better because committed grass-roots progressives worked hard for them at every level of their campaigns.

Sooner or later, of course, we're going to want a lot more real victories than moral ones. So we need to learn from some of our mistakes.

Our biggest mistake, in my view, was our failure to communicate among ourselves. When Dicker and Graboyes both entered the race in the 175th, that should have set off immediate alarm bells, and some kind of consultation structure among us should have been immediately triggered. In the absence of that, various groups went off in different directions, and we began to assemble in our usual leftist circular firing squad. Some of our name-calling then became public when it was written about in Philadelphia Weekly. That produced still more squabbling.

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