The Mayor's $2.6 billion wish list

The Mayor headed to Chicago this week with a $2.6 billion wish list for the Obama administration.

While other cities like Boston were much more humble in their ask – $183 million for B-Town – not so for our Mayor, who was among a handful of cities asking for billions in aid. It’s worth checking out all 8 pages because it lays out the administration’s economic priorities and a vision for the Philadelphia future they see.

On the other hand there are other troubling items. Among these:

  • Library system expansion: Construction of two new regional libraries in north and south sections of the city: $30 million

How does an administration that is justifying the closure of 11 library branches because they want to “right-size” the city now go hat-in-hand to the federal government asking for two more branches that are almost 6 times the cost of keeping those branches open?

Actually there’s more for libraries, almost $70 million more in fact:

  • Free Library: Renovation and expansion of Central Library and regional branches : $25 million
  • Exterior modernization of libraries: windows and roof replacements at all libraries: $9 million
  • Branch library improvements: Upgrade of facilities including structural and mechanical systems: $5 million

Underserved communities weren’t forgotten, because look here:

  • Bookmobiles: Purchase and deployment of bookmobiles in underserved communities in the city: $500,000

There are more fun things to find in the Main Street Economic Recovery goodie bag. For example, when the Mayor’s top staff say a casino will revive the Market East corridor? Actually it’ll be our tax dollars that do that:

  • Market Street Corrido-Market East: Acquisition, construction, infrastructure and related costs to revitalize Market East Corridor and Convention Center District, including adjacent Chinatown development: $100 million
  • Revitalization of West Market Street: Renovations, construction, and infrastructure repair on the West Market Street corridor: $50 million
  • Casino Entertainment corridor: Construction of a new combined 50,000 square foot facility to serve the citizens among the developing entertainment corridor. The location would include the relocation of the 6th and 9th police districts: $17 million

So if we’re asking for $167 million to turn around Market East on our own, what are we doing with a slots house there in the first place? And I’m pretty sure that Center City ought to be interested to hear that two police districts – which go river to river, Lombard to Poplar – will now be at Market East rather than in their respective neighborhoods.

Or what about this?

  • Renovation and new schools: to support renovation efforts, fund new school and replacement schools: $150 million

At first I was happy that the schools were included until I noticed that the City asked for $110 million for one new Youth Study Center alone and $80 million for ramps for the Philadelphia Museum of Art (nothing against the museum but I don’t see how they fit into the Main Street part of economic recovery).

Former Philadelphia Schools CEO Paul Vallas said that a decent capital effort of the hundreds of school buildings in the district, whose average age is 70 years, would cost around $10 billion. So $150 million isn't quite up to snuff.

I’ll leave the rest of the analysis to others here.

New Construction???

But I thought the system was too big?!

I wonder if Siobhan Reardon thought about it for five years

like she thought about closing down the library branches for five years:

From the Chestnut Hill Local:

"Faced with a set of dire realities, Reardon's bold move to shutter
branch libraries and risk her own personal approval rating, speaks
volumes about her character. Although admitting that the decision to
close the targeted libraries was an "extremely painful one," she added
that it needed to be done and was five years in the making."

Radio Conversation About Closings Coming Up Soon

Neighborhood Networks has a petition online stating our willingness to support a wage tax increase if there's no other revenue source to keep the library branches open. You can find it here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/NN_savethebranches/signatures.html

Apparently the folks at 1210 AM found the petition interesting, so they asked me to go on the air to talk about it. If you'd like to join the conversation, I'll be on at 9 PM, and the number to call from the City is (215) 839-1210.

Nice job Stan

I'd be surprised if WPHT isn't considering you to replace O'Reily in the 12-2:00 AM time-slot.

WPHT?

In general, WPHT's lineup is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Are you sure Stan would find a comfortable home there?

-Z

WPHT?

In general, WPHT's lineup is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Are you sure Stan would find a comfortable home there?

-Z

Not entirely serious

I mean Stan did do a really good job, but I wasn't being entirely serious about WPHT considering Stan as an O'Reily replacement (not that I don't really believe that Stan would put on a much more entertaining program).

Libraries: it is about vision not money

This is my response to the article in the Chestnut Hill Local about Siobhan Riordan, quoted above. You can read it at http://chestnuthilllocal.com/issues/2008.12.18/news3.html

Sabina Clarke’s puff piece on the new library director, Siobhan Riordan, avoids all the hard questions about her decision to close library branches.

But in it, Ms. Clark does at least finally admit what we critics of her decision have been saying for weeks, that she and Mayor Nutter have been misleading citizens by saying that the decision is about saving money in difficult times.

Advocates for the library have proposed alternatives to shutting branches that would save the same amount of money: reducing hours in all branches, finding corporate sponsors for them, and organizing volunteers to help the professional staff at the libraries.

But the Mayor and Ms Riordan won’t even help develop these alternatives. As she admits in your article, the library has wanted to shut these branches for five years. Her vision for the library is one with larger central and regional branches and fewer branches.

And that is why, while pleading poverty and closing branches, the library is planning expansions that will require significantly higher staffing than they have now. Make no mistake that pursuing this vision will require further branch closing in the future.

Ms. Riordan’s vision, however, doesn’t fit the reality of our city of neighborhoods in which branch libraries provide a place for kids to study after school; for seniors to keep their minds active; for job seekers to get information and internet access. Our libraries are community centers and avenues of upward mobility for our young people.

In a city with few public school libraries—something director Riordan admitted recently she did not know—and in which it can be dangerous for young people to travel two miles to a nearby library, our neighborhood libraries provide a vital service that cannot be replaced.

The vision of a new central library is a lovely one for the 21st century. But it would be both unjust and shameful to pursue it at the cost of neglecting the branch libraries that serve the citizens of this city who, in terms of access to information resources, are still living in the 20th century.

That’s what Sibon Riordan, and Ms. Clarke, don’t understand about our city. While Ms. Riordan’s courage in pursuing her vision is admirable, she is pursuing a vision that will lead to disaster to the heart and soul of our city, our neighborhoods.

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