Archive: July, 2009
City Council, now on summer break, may find itself back in Council chambers in a matter of weeks, thanks to the city-state budget crisis.
The city's financial monitor, the Philadelphia Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, approved the city's five-year budget plan the other week, but said it would consider the plan disapproved on Aug. 15 if in fact the state does before then not vote on two items key to balancing the city budget: increasing the city sales tax by a penny and deferring two years of pension payments.
If that happens, PICA gave the city 15 days to submit a new five-year budget plan - and that means Council members must formally meet to take action.
Here's the possible schedule put together by Council President Anna Verna:
You're never too old to be a police officer in Philadelphia - not any more.
City officials this morning scrapped an age cap of 40 for police recruits that was set in 2002 by then-Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. The idea is to make it easier to attract police recruits, including MPOs who are certified by Pennsylvania and may have some degree of policing experience.
The action to eliminate the age cap, which took place at a meeting of the city's Administrative Board, was coupled with another vote that will allow the city to hire police officers at a salary level above that of police recruit, which is currently $40,036 a year.
Of course, given the fact that the city may face the prospect of having to lay off 1,000 police officers, as reported in today's Inquirer, the Administrative Board's actions may have no short-term impact.
Four weeks after being fired by Mayor Nutter, Michael Bell, who led Philadelphia's minority business office, has decided to speak out publicly.
In an interview published in today's Philadelphia Tribune, Bell says he was a scapegoat whose firing stemmed from personality clashes with his boss, Commerce Department deputy Kevin Dow, more than anything else. He said he had a hard time getting the mayor's attention, including when it came time to presenting the mayor with a strategic plan for the department he led, the newly formed Office of Economic Opportunity, which replaced the Minority Business Enterprise Council.
"I'm a mayoral appointee and I can't call and get 10 minutes with the mayor? Then why was I in the position?" Bell told the Tribune.
Nutter's spokesman, Doug Oliver, had another explanation for Bell's firing. "There wasn't as much progress made in his portfolio as we would have liked," Oliver told The Inquirer at the time. "Given the importance of increasing minority-business participation and ensuring that economic opportunity is available to all, now was the appropriate time to make the change."
Mayor Nutter hopes his former opponents will join him tommorow in a 2 p.m. City Hall rally where he will call on state legislators to pass the legislation the city needs to avoid widespread layoffs and deep service cuts.
The administration is asking library supporters, patrons of city pools and residents who need and use other city services to attend the rally, including some of the same groups who vigorously protested Nutter’s earlier budget-trimming plans.
“The mayor has asked his deputy mayors to reach out to stakeholders, to people who’ve demonstrated a connection to city government, including some of those who’ve stood against us at certain times,” said Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver.
Nutter also plans to explain in some detail what cuts the city would be forced to make if state lawmakers do not approve the pension restructuring and penny-per-dollar increase in the sales tax that the city is seeking.
As noted in today's Inquirer, the Nutter administration is taking steps with City Controller Alan Butkovitz to collect past due taxes from city workers. The press release describing the effort is below.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA ANNOUNCES FURTHER MEASURES TO CRACK DOWN ON EMPLOYEE TAX DELINQUENCY
Philadelphia, July 29 – The City of Philadelphia announced today two additional tough measures to collect taxes owed by City employees. These measures are the next stage of a process which has already generated $1 million in back taxes paid since late May.
“Our position on delinquent taxes is clear: if you owe, you must pay,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “My Administration has pursued aggressively all back taxes in Philadelphia and it is especially important that city employees are fully paid up.”
Take a look below at City Controller Alan Butkovitz's audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The audit, which was obtained by the Inquirer (and which was later mysteriously distributed to half the media outlets in town once the Inquirer began making inquiries about the document) faults the Parking Authority in a host of areas. But the report also vindicates the agency in other respects, such as executive salaries.
Gov. Rendell asked for the audit following Inquirer and Daily News reports in 2007 that documented rapid payroll growth and high costs at the agency.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
Parking Authority Audit
A draft of a pending Philadelphia Parking Authority audit contends that the agency is top heavy with managers and “ineffective in controlling costs,” and concludes that it could generate more money for the city’s general fund and the School District of Philadelphia through reforms.
The long-awaited 37-page report offers only a limited examination of the state run agency. It is not a performance audit, nor is it the “desk audit” Gov. Rendell called for in 2007 following news accounts that documented overspending and rapid payroll growth at the Parking Authority.
How and why the audit’s scope was scaled down is a matter of dispute between Rendell’s office and City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who supervised the audit, which was executed by a local consulting and accounting firm for $122,000.
Limited as it is, the review nonetheless faults the agency for a number of shortcomings, including its lack of long-term fiscal planning and its failure to “consistently prepare business plans” as it adopts new responsibilities.
City Council members have taken a fairly thorough drubbing in the press this year, what with reports on their salaries, their city-issued cars, their pension perks, their summer work ethic, and the tax-delinquent tendencies of some their staffers.
All this has some on Council feeling quite tetchy of late. Why, some are asking, are they coming in for so much criticism? Particularly when it comes to their use of city resources?
Part of the answer is contained in a report on the city's five-year plan issued last week by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.
The report includes a telling chart that graphs spending by a host of city departments and entities from 2008 through their 2010 budgeted totals. (scroll to page 33)
Rep. Chaka Fattah has just sent over a press release announcing $4 million in new Department of Homeland Security funding for street surveillance cameras in Philadelphia. See below for details.
Rep. Fattah Announces $4 Million Grant
For Philadelphia Crime Surveillance Cameras
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), a longtime advocate of police surveillance cameras for crime-fighting, announced today that the City of Philadelphia will receive an immediate grant of $4 million for cameras, with more aid expected later this year.
“I am pleased to announce that this money is on the way. Surveillance cameras have been shown to turn high crime areas into safer streets,” Fattah said. “This is critical infrastructure for our Philadelphia Police Department and I made a commitment to fight for this program.
“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee I will continue to advocate for funding that will expand the use of this crime-fighting tool in Philadelphia.”
Funds for the surveillance camera initiative will be coming from the Department of Homeland Security, which announced today it is releasing the money.
In addition, Fattah said an additional $1 million that is “in the pipeline” for Philadelphia camera in the agency’s FY2010 budget, which is under consideration in the House of Representatives.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
This morning's closed-door budget meeting between Mayor Nutter, council leadership and Philadelphia's Harrisburg delegation ended with a public declaration that all parties are on the same side. The state represenatives and senators who stayed through the end of the session said that they full supported Nutter's legislative agenda.
The mayor also used the opportunity to describe in general terms what it would mean to the city if Harrisburg does not grant Philadelphia the pension restructuring and penny-per-dollar increase in the sales tax it is asking for. The headline? Up to 3,000 city jobs "affected," Nutter said, including "massive layoffs."
More to come soon.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.