When talking about the deeds accomplished by those little scamps in City Council, it’s hard to decipher the good from the bad. In normal society their actions might cause some to be concerned, but this is Philadelphia and residents here tend to just roll with the punches – the punches that members of the City Council dole out every year.
There are often varying degrees of insanity among the decisions that they make that can range from just plain nuts to being certifiable. It hasn’t been any different in 2012, but perhaps you should be the judge.
At the end of 2011, it was announced that six members of the council would retire. Residents were excited because that meant normal people might get voted in. Wait-it wasn’t six members-it was actually four. In January of 2012, two retired for one day and came back to their same position collecting their regular salary of $120,00 per year plus over $400,000 through the D.R.O.P. program. Mayor Nutter tried to get rid of it, taxpayers hate it, but City Council members love it so much they all voted against the mayor’s efforts.
The program was introduced by then-mayor Ed Rendell as a way of helping police officers and fire fighters with their retirement plans. City council burrowed its way through the bill and found a loop hole which they took full advantage of even when it cost the city $22 million every year.
In November, City Council decided to seize over 24 properties in the Point Breeze section through eminent domain and hand them over to the Redevelopment Authority who can’t manage what they’ve already have which costs taxpayers millions of dollars. The properties will then be sold to developers who will then turn them into affordable housing, or so they claim. Only 40% will actually be used for low-middle income housing and the rest (60%) will be sold at regular housing prices for homes in the area that range between $500,000 to $2 million.
The buildings won’t be available to the public because then the city won’t be able to make money off the properties by gouging developers. The problem is many of these properties are already owned by developers, just not the type of developers that the city wants. Seizing any of the properties wasn’t necessary. In Point Breeze the city owns over 300 vacant properties, but only 11 are on the list. This isn’t about providing affordable housing to residents. It’s about the fact that this section is considered to be up-and-coming; that members of the council want to get their piece of the pie first.
The biggest issue with City Council has been their refusal to pass Mayor Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative (AVI) bill. The bill would make sure that properties are fairly taxed instead of how council prefers it to remain – to be assessed through political favors – their political favors.
The money that the AVI bill would raise could be spent in much needed areas such as helping the school district to remain open and providing much needed services for city residents. The bill, presented to council members in 2009, still wasn’t passed and doesn’t look like it will any time soon. If City Council gets its way, the bill will die a slow, painful and quiet death in chambers.
In June, they did manage to give themselves a budget an increase of $500,000 and out of 17 council members, 11 took a pay raise of $3,000. They also want to make changes in the Home Rule Charter that would give the Darth Vader’s of Philadelphia the ultimate in power by deciding how the city spends its money. Oh, and the unemployment rate in Philly stands at a solid 10%, but no one in council seems to care about that.