Incorporating the The Germantown Chronicle & The Northwest Independent

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The post-election commentary and editorial on the editorial pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, April 26, tell an important Philadelphia story. One can hope it begins paving the way for more intense explanations of how this city has so badly lost its potential and quality of life over the last 25 years.

Well respected center city activist and promoter Paul Levy presents important statistics and asks critical questions why this city has come up short in so many ways in comparison to other large urban areas, despite selective growth.

On the preceding page, the Inquirer editorial tells the tale very succinctly in their post-election editorial “Corruption Matters.” While I could not agree with them more, it has been decades since it mattered all that much to the majority of citizens and certainly not at all to elected officials of any stripe.

The editorial, second in as many weeks, tells the tale of the horror show that we have weathered with Chaka Fattah as the Congressman considered to have “the safest seat in the house” for 22 years, 22 years where, as Appropriations Chair, he sidestepped his own communities and watched them circle the drain of economic and social failure. All the while he helped the elite and powerful ratchet up the quality of their endeavors with federal funds in unlimited quantities; often to the tune of $1 million a week.

Mr Levy wonders about how all the selective investment in this city has not kept pace with the attractiveness of a Boston’s widespread development. One might just do a reality check with other recent statistics that validate that we continue to be the largest city in the nation when it comes to entrenched poverty — poverty and dangerous lack of quality of life that is growing, not subsiding. On top of that poverty, we are in the running with Chicago for the largest unfunded pensions in the nation. 

The background and history of its high level leadership tells the story. Most powerful State Rep Chaka Fattah just lost his first election after 22 years of pandering to the social elites and channeling federal funding as Appropriations Chair away from those areas most in need of jump starts and rebranding. Instead, he was sending the vast majority of funds to institutions already rich with private funding. Essentially, he help create and subsidize adjacent but vastly different neighborhoods that work against that kind of uniform qualify of life and laddered opportunity; one very much was the case in a city that not all that long ago had more homeowners than any other, along with blue and white collar job opportunity among the best in the nation.

Elite white suburbanites and those in what are effect “safe neighborhoods” commute in and out of the well-funded university and “betterment communities.” Folks who can’t afford to escape live with brutality and murder on a daily basis and are sentenced to it as a way of life. Drug dealers and other gangsters run many communities, with fear trumping crime reporting and paybacks if one dares to call the police. Police often giving neighbors all manner of excuses why they cannot do anything about it. Could it get any worse when a candidate for office in the election just a few days ago was speaking in daylight to a potential voter/campaign worker, only to have a gang member run up and shoot him in the back of the head in a so called “decent neighborhood” — supposedly made that way by two well-known politicians, Dwight Evans and Marian Tasco. One of these two is about to be machined into office to replace Fattah as the lesser of two evils, and the other resigned after using influence to craft special deals and stop investigations. 

To its credit, the Inquirer essentially tells us that Evans’ history as Appropriation Chair for state funds is not much better than Fattah’s. Neither has the record of Rep. Bob Brady’s Democratic City Committee which, in a cavalier manner, endorses any of these types over reformers election after election.

The picture Mr. Levy presents is far from reflective of this city as a whole, and in my view outlines the selected favored neighborhoods and avoids the facts that we are in effect that “Clockwork Orange” dichotomy that no one wants to talk about. The system is subsidized with a massively corrupt political organization that starves incentive at the bottom, funds poverty profiteering, and merchandises misery for those who fund the politicians. It pays those at the top massive patronage salaries that are among the highest in the nation.

We are not near a balanced Boston, which funds 80 percent or more of its city budget from its real estate taxes and attracts a balanced populous. Instead, Philadelphia funds an overtaxing, much too expensive, patronage mill where we have to use oppressive wage taxes to pay nearly half of our city expenses. At the same time, those taxes drive away all manner of new balanced development and replacement industry.

The political corruption at the top extends to those on the boards that are mandated to be our fiscal watchdogs (Read PICA), most particularly those who draft the city budget, supposedly review and audit it, and finally those whom the state empowers to review and approve it before any state funds flow to this city. Our so called election monitors, Committee of Seventy and WHYY, also display connections to the political machine designed to keep turnout and information down.

As long as the informed voters, who live comfortably from this unbalanced and insider run system, continue to vote for corruption rather than correction, we will have this two-tiered city where the haves commute in daily and take the best for themselves and the have nots continue to be starved from opportunity for change drying up with every election.

Jim Foster

The Independent Voice