Monday, October 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Where's the outrage, Philadelphia?

Where's the outrage, Philadelphia?

 

One thing that's very frustrating for a journalist in Philadelphia is the general lack of civic outrage. Some 14 years ago, I wrote an article that led to criminal charges against the campaign manager for a would-be (until the story came out) mayoral frontrunner; the aide never even went to trial because Ed Rendell and Bob Brady testified for her as character witnesses. Remember the hoopla a few years back about state lawmakers and their midnight pay raise? In Pittsburgh, they were carrying torches and pitchforks; in Philly, it was like, "eh."

Yesterday, thanks to the general manpower crunch here at the Daily News, I was drafted back into service for a day covering City Hall -- specifically, Mayor Nutter waiting until right after an election to inform Philadelphians about his scheme to bail out Arlene Ackerman with taxes on sugared soda (thank God I drink diet!), real estate, and higher parking meter rates (which were just raised already, if I'm not mistaken).

I tried to channel Howard Beale as best as I could:

"There are no tax increases in the budget that I propose today . . . "

- Mayor Nutter, budget address, March 8

READ HIS LIPS.

When Mayor Nutter unveiled a budget plan with no tax hikes in early March - knowing that the school district was at least $400 million in the hole and possibly much more - it was the last day for would-be mayoral challengers to file petitions, and just 70 days before a lackluster Democratic primary.

Now, just 15 days after that primary, with Nutter's re-election seemingly all but assured, the mayor has pulled what you could call "a George H.W. Bush" with a last-minute flurry of proposed tax or fee increases, albeit not for the city budget but to funnel up to $110 million to bail out the cash-strapped schools.

But critics say Nutter's U-turn - reviving a once-rejected proposed levy on sugary drinks, a new property-tax surcharge, and higher parking-meter fees - is not so alarming for the policy as for what they call the last-minute, undemocratic process.

I figured Nutter's betrayal on taxes would burn through Philadelphia talk radio today; I also thought I'd get more reader emails and phone calls than usual about the piece. But when I was running an errand this morning, I flipped on WPHT's Dom G. where...it was all Anthony's Weiner, all the time. Likewise, I got no reader phone calls and one just email, from a reader who emails me on a lot of other stories. Flip-flopping on taxes cost George H. W. Bush his presidency, but in Philadelphia we don't care.

As Ross Perot used to say, that's just sad.

About this blog

Will Bunch
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected