Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Why Philadelphia should leave PA and join NJ

Mergers and hostile takeovers benefit businesses; it's time to let ailing Camden and hungry Philadelphia do the same, argues Richardson Dilworth of Drexel U.

Why Philadelphia should leave PA and join NJ

"The city, state and federal officials who represent Philadelphia should approach elected officials in New Jersey with a plan to redraw the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border so that Philadelphia becomes part of New Jersey," writes Drexel University professor Richardson Dilworth (namesake grandson of the reforming 1950s Philadelphia mayor) in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy here (scroll to Publications).

After 318 years - why should Philadelphia switch?

For power, and money: As in-state neighbors "Philadelphia and Camden can be consolidated into a single city," easing Camden's dependence on its decrepit tax base and fat state subsidies (as my colleague Matt Katz shows here).

And don't stop at today's city lines, says Dilworth. Consolidation should also add "some of their New Jersey suburbs... starting, say, with Pennsauken, then Collingswood, then Merchantville, then Woodlyne, and so on - until there were enough higher-income communities added to compensate for the tax burden of Camden, yet not so much that their residents would have the clout to stop the consolidation," especially if their votes were pooled, in a single election, with pro-merger Camden voters.

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What about the children? Suburban schools would be reorganized as locally-controlled charter schools, Dilworth says.

And the politicians? New Jersey's typically dominant Democrats would gain all those Philadelphia Democratic voters. Pennsylvania Republicans would be glad to get rid of them. And Philadelphia would win more clout as nearly one-fifth of New Jersey than it suffers in its current stepchild status as less than one-eighth of Pennsylvania.

Sounds "outlandish", as Dilworth admits. Yet mergers, even hostile takeovers, are "standard practice for private firms, which routinely play states and municipalities against one another in order to extract the greatest benefits of locating" one place versus another.

"In suggesting Philadelphia move to New Jersey, I am merely sugesting that cities act more like private firms," to cut expenses, eliminate waste, and boost returns to owners and services to customers - the citizen-residents.

Don't we need Congress to change State lines? As recently as 2001, Dilworth notes, the House of Representatives voted to move the Utah-Nevada border to allow prosperous West Wendover, Nevada, to absorb ailing Wendover, Utah. In the previous century the federal government adjusted the border between Chester County, Pa., and New Castle County, Del., among other boundaries.

The key to actually moving Philadelphia into New Jersey, Dilworth concludes,  "is structuring the proposal so that it beneifts a majority of the relevant stakeholders and decision-makers at local, state and national levels." So it could benefit residents, too.

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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