Bill Green

Philly Property Taxes

Dave Davies wrote this excellent piece on a tax estimator I prepared.

My comment to it as follows: Transparency & PA Constitution — Bill Green 2012-05-21 22:57
In addition to Dave's much better summary than my own I would add the following. The public should have enough knowledge about what the administration proposes to form an opinion. They really had no data without the spreadsheet. I don't predict what people will think about the data. It may well be that knowing the best and worst case people want AVI. I would argue putting bounds on it may be helpful although I am not making a judgement about whether or not it will be. Openness and transparency and adequate time for active citizen engagement should be our touchstone for anything this important. It was missing.

Also, we are the only major city in the country to not have the ability to tax residential properties at a different rate from commercial and industrial properties due to the uniformity clause of the PA constitution. The use and occupancy tax is the work around. It does not make us less competitive. The business taxes we have, especially the 6.5% net income tax DESTROY JOBS.

Finally, if the numbers I have are wrong, I will change my conclusion. I make decisions on data and evidence. If the data is different, my conclusion will be. I am being asked to act, I am assessing the data I have, I wish I had more data.

To see the release and estimator go to

Digging Deeper: The role of property tax in urban redevelopment

Today's installment in Patrick Kerkstra's Plan Philly/Inquirer series on property tax delinquency digs deeper into the relationship between property tax delinquency and blight, and how a strategically-designed collection system could support redevelopment.

It's well worth reading and discussing, as it encapsulates the hard policy decisions that need to be considered in order to even begin changing the status quo. These should be central as the Ross and Taylor bills are amended and improved in Harrisburg, and our city government considers how to weigh in to that process as well as act locally on near-term legislative and administrative reforms.

* What pace of tax or lien foreclosures can the market absorb before property values become depressed and supply outpaces demand?
* How can we make sure the new owners are more responsible than the old ones?
* Does the City want to own all this land in advance of development interest, and take on responsibility for maintenance and liability?
* What will it take politically to move from five entrenched public or quasi-public agencies which own land, to a new system with centralized inventory and processes?
* How can we improve protections for low-income occupants, so we can keep people in their homes and avoid new costs from increased displacement and homelessness?

All that uncollected property tax: Looking for a vision of reform behind the dollar signs

$472 million in uncollected property tax looks to be this year's $1.5 billion - the estimated unpaid court fees and forfeited bail that is now being collected by aggressive private firms following the newspapers' revelations of long mismanagement at the disbanded Clerk of Quarter Sessions. Time will tell if the property tax numbers in a report by (in partnership with the Inquirer) draw the same sustained public attention, and spur creaky systems to change.

But a similar, fundamental, error already looms. In a city with a persistent 25% poverty rate, and glaring hunger numbers (1 in 2 people in Philadelphia's First Congressional District, as reported last week), much of that debt is simply uncollectible. It's not hiding under beds and in nightstands. A significant amount of tax and water debt can and will never be collected. We are stuck, rock and hard place, Scylla and Charybdis: leaving all that debt in place burdens title, increasing abandonment and blight, and complicates efforts to get people to pay their current and future tax debt.

It's easy to sell papers and get column inches with the accusation that government inaction and unfairness is costing those of us who followed the rules and paid taxes and bills on time, particularly against the backdrop of budget crises that are starting to look apocalyptic for states and cities. And it's not untrue. But it's mostly beside the point.

Look at the options presented, essentially two. One: quick and mass foreclosure. Two: unload the problem by selling off the debt itself to private third parties, who should have market incentives to foreclose and no meddling City Council members to interfere. Both are misguided for reasons amply suggested by the study's own data.

Call and come out in support of the earned sick time bill!

The earned sick time bill is moving towards a final vote in City Council this Thursday, June 16. Please join us on the 4th floor of City Hall at 9:30 am. Help us greet City Council members as they enter Session. Then we'll pack Council chambers to show the importance of this bill. Bring any signs or posters to represent why you support earned sick days. You can enter City Hall at the north-east corner. Remember to bring a picture ID.

Where is Bill Green on the legislation?

Bill Green on Tax Reform and More at PFC Meetup Tonight

Councilman Bill Green explains his and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez's plan to shift business taxes to Gross Receipts (with big exemptions) at Philly For Change Meetup tonight at 7 at Tritone, 1508 South Street. Come out, bring your attention and good questions!

Also tonight, ACTION United's Julia Ramsey discusses strengthening (yes!) Social Security, and Penn Action's Hannah Miller weighs in on issues related to Marcellus Shale. And, of course, there will be big campaign updates, including Joe Sestak for US Senate, Dan Onorato for Governor, Bryan Lentz for US House, and a pitch for this week's canvass in Northeast Philly for Congressman Patrick Murphy.

Interesting report on Councilman Green on WHYY radio

There was a very interesting piece today on WHYY radio about Councilman Bill Green, with his first year behind him, the issues he's championed and his perspective on the way in which council, and city government, goes about doing the people's business.

The link to the transcipt of the story is here:

Elections Matter

As Philly struggles with looming financial doom, our three newest Councilmembers are showing that elections matter:

Today, Council members Bill Green, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and Curtis Jones, all freshmen, released 15 legitimate, thoughtful, progressive-oriented ways to save the city money in light of these hard economic times. (Mayor Nutter has said that "everything is on the table" when it comes to needed cuts.)

The best thing about the 15 ideas is that they are sure to make entrenched bureaucrats sitting on fluffy patronage jobs a bit uncomfortable. For example, the council members suggest increasing car sharing (alleged savings $2.72 million annually), cutting all but necessary travel (alleged savings $100,000 annually), banning swag and custom printing (alleged savings $100,000 annually), and hiring more auditors (alleged savings nearly $3 million annually).

It's actually appalling that many of the suggestions aren't already in use. One, for example, is switching to the electronic transfer of funds (alleged savings $2 million annually) from the state to the city. The city still accepts paper checks, which get lost, thereby losing interest! You've got to be kidding.

Another suggestion is the electronic sending of all reports and memos. Bill Green attached a letter that was mailed to his office -- which costs, of course, 42 cents -- from someone inside City Hall (alleged savings $25,000 annually).

The mail and the direct deposit stuff are really only-in-Philadelphia type moments. Of course, when your government complains about how hard it is to publish voting returns...

Anyway, it is cool to see the three new Council members continue their buddy-buddy ways with real solutions. I am not saying that our more tenured politicians cannot come up with good ideas, because I am sure they can. But there is little question that three sets of fresh eyes is doing us a lot of good.

The City Paper has more, including their whole list of ways to save.

Things I Am Not Sick Of

... Or rather, people I am not sick of, specifically three of them (Link:)

After learning that battered women in Philadelphia are largely responsible for serving their attackers with court stay-away orders, aghast City Council members yesterday called upon the Committee on Public Safety to explore alternatives to a process they deemed dangerous for abuse victims.

"The current system . . . is absolutely preposterous and untenable," Councilman Bill Green said in a statement. "Not only are we causing the abuse victim additional mental anguish, but we are placing the victim in additional danger of physical harm."

Green, along with Council members Maria Quinones Sanchez, Curtis Jones Jr. and Blondell Reynolds Brown, introduced a resolution authorizing the safety committee to hold hearings on the service of protection-from-abuse orders, or PFAs.

Yesterday's resolution was prompted by a Daily News series on domestic violence that ran in late December.

The series followed one victim's exhausting and frightening quest to serve her alleged attacker with a temporary PFA issued by Family Court.

Quinones Sanchez, Green, and Jones, Jr. To paraphrase my hero, Ronald Reagan, there they go again.

Basically, we have a stupid, asinine law that women who get protective orders against their abusers must... actually serve those orders themselves. If women felt like they were in danger, they could call 911 and get police to accompany them, which about half do.

I am sure calling 911 is a barrier for some women in the first place. And, even if the police do a good job of accompanying them whenever they are asked, it is ridiculous that we are putting abused women in the position where they have to unnecessarily confront their alleged abuser.

We have some good Councilpeople who have served for a while (Kenney, Tasco, Goode, etc.), but sometimes bringing in new people is simply helpful because they can look at stupid things that have gone for a long time, and simply say "WTF?"

My BFF, Donna Miller, is chair of the Public Safety Committee, and yet to set hearings. Hopefully this happens soon.

Nice job, Daily News. This is just another example of how important local print media can be.


Update: Please see the comments below from Seth Levi, from Councilman Green's office, who clarifies (and corrects me, on) what exactly happens when woman get protective orders.

What is UP with this guy?

Check out this article in the DN.

Green is trying to roll-back an agreement Mayor Street made with casino developers to allow them a property tax abatement in exchange for an investment in infrastructure--water pipes and stuff. Green says:

I can't see a public policy rationale for providing casinos a tax abatement.

I leave it to someone else to get into the meat of this matter (and it is an intriguing one: it was my memory that Street himself had originally not wanted abatements for casinos either, and somewhere along the way he changed his mind, but Green's point is solid).

But what is UP with Bill Green? Remember last week when he proposed eliminating DROP for elected officials. And the Inky reported this:

[Councilwoman and Majority Leader] Tasco said she liked Green and tried to "help" him Thursday with a resolution that dulled the sting from Green's DROP bill. She called for hearings to examine the larger impact of DROP before considering his action. Some saw that as putting Green in his place.

When you're new, there are a lot of nuances that you're not familiar with, and sometimes it's a wise move to get the lay of the land, get a feel for your colleagues, and get some history of the Council," Tasco said. "So what happened yesterday certainly was not an effort to spank him, but to help him understand that he should get the lay of the land first.

That's a nice way of saying she doesn't really like him.

The Inky already wrote an article in the 1/28/08 Inky article about zany Councilman Green, and how his colleagues are not cazy about him, so I am not so much writing about that.

It's more like I am wondering why this image--this notion of what Green would be like--didn't seem to get communicated during the campaign. I had no idea he would be like quite like this as a Councilman (and it doesn't hurt that he comes to every Liberty City meeting even though the election is over--Councilman Kenney never did that ;). He seems pretty cool so far.

Was I just out of it? Did anyone expect..all this...from him?

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