Convention Center

I'm with Jim Wansacz: cancel the Convention Center

While the workers who will get jobs at the new convention center stand to benefit, even more workers would benefit if North Broad ever came back from the dead. You can absolutely guarantee that nothing will happen with North Broad if that Convention Center blocks everything.

Otherwise, the Convention Center is only good for the bankers getting fees off the financing.

Here's what Rep. Jim Wansacz has to say about it in the Inqy this morning:

A Pennsylvania lawmaker plans to introduce legislation as early as Monday to strip Philadelphia of up to $64 million annually in economic development funds for failing to have its two casinos up and running.

...

"The two casinos and Mayor Nutter have to reach agreements and have permits in place and have these casinos built and up and operational," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Wansacz, a Northeastern Pa. Democrat and member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. "If no progress is made, then the rest of the state could use that $64 million to create jobs and stimulate the economy."

Jim! I'm with you! Block it! Stop it! We'd be better off with an empty patch of grass there than we would with a Convention Center!

Convention Center politics: Xenophobia = Higher Taxes

So since the Phillies got rained out, and I’m bitter that they didn’t call the game before Tampa tied, or at least at the bottom of the 5th, I’m bringing up last week’s story about City Council’s decision to raise the hotel tax. The tax will raise $6.3 million a year, of which $2.3 million will go towards funding the massive deficit incurred by the Convention Center expansion (already costing us nearly $800 million).

Nevertheless, it seems like a good time to remind hotelees that the reason for higher taxes is partly because of this past summer’s decision by the Convention Center board to pass on a virtually interest-free loan on tens of millions of dollars because it came from Chinese investors who were part of a federal program to promote jobs (10 new jobs must be created for every $500,000 invested) and provide legal green cards for investors. Ray pointed it out in a YPP post here.

Here’s the nuanced explanation from Convention Center board chair “Buck” Riley:

"We considered it. We looked at it. But it was kind of a bridge too far . . . too complex for us to consider," Buck Riley, chairman of the 15-member Convention Center Authority, said last week. "Right now, it is a dead issue."

Right. Too complex. You’re broke. 2.5% interest. $73.5 million. Job creation. A 20-year old program vetted and used by the feds to promote investment and employment. But don't let that stop the CC Board from freaking out about potentially being tied to legal immigration and deciding that raising taxes for chump change makes more sense instead.

Save a piece of Philadelphia history, act now!

I hope everyone can take a moment today to help save a pair of historically significant buildings that are under the threat of needless demolition.

Early in the morning on the Saturday before Christmas, the state's Department of General Services (DGS), sent a team of workers to demolish the Philadelphia Life Insurance Co. Building and Annex at 111-115 North Broad Street to make way for the expansion of the Philadelphia Convention Center. This was done despite the fact that in 2004, the head of the Convention Center Authority had signed an agreement with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to spare these two National Historic Registered buildings.

The Labor Dispute at the Convention Center

The city woke up to some good news in the Inquirer—Governor Rendell is evidently going to try to broke a compromise on the Convention Center labor dispute. So Council is not likely to adopt Frank DiCicco’s proposal to open the expansion of the Convention Center to non-union contractors

This is a tough issue for those of us who are both pro-labor and pro-minority. There is no question that many of the building trades have fewer minority and women members than they should, given the demographics of the city and region. And there is no question that racism is a main reason for these low numbers.

And yet, while I don’t doubt the good intentions of Frank DiCicco and the other supporters of this proposal, opening work at the Convention Center to non-union contractors is not a good solution, for many reasons.

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