Archive: May, 2012
Today, Council blew its May 31 deadline to pass a budget.
“We’re not ready,” said Council President Darrell Clarke. “It’s more important to get a budget that reflects the needs of the citizens of the city of Philadelphia, of the School District of Philadelphia, as opposed to a deadline that was established in probably 1954.”
Council must pass a budget by May 31, according to the City Charter. Council also missed this deadline last year. But the drop-dead deadline is June 30. If a budget isn’t passed by then, parts of city government would need to be shut down.
As if Mayor Nutter's plan to fix Philadelphia's property-tax system weren't complicated enough, state Rep. Michael O'Brien now says it would violate a Pennsylvania law. He dropped this bomb at a state hearing today on Nutter's Actual Value Initiative, or AVI.
City finance director Rob Dubow says the provision in question doesn't apply to Philadelphia.
At the hearing, state Rep. Rosita Youngblood also complained that Nutter doesn't talk to state lawmakers enough about AVI and other issues.
Do you have strong feelings about public school funding and Mayor Nutter’s property-tax overhaul? Do you yearn to express your views?
Of course you do. Who doesn’t?
This week, there are several budget hearings and events where community members can have their say about these issues. Or, if they prefer, where they can sit back and listen to citizens and elected officials debate them. Here’s this week in AVI and schools:
AS IF THE CITY’S attempt to update its property-tax system wasn’t enough of a mess — the Actual Value Initiative to have property-tax bills bear some relation to the actual value of property has been marred by confusion and delayed by uncertainty — we now have the specter of Harrisburg trying to "help."
We say "help" because recent proposals by state Sen. Larry Farnese and state Rep. Brendan Boyle, while well-intentioned, are the kind of help you might get from a squeegee man: You didn’t ask for it, and it usually leaves the windshield muddier than ever.
Farnese and Boyle are upset about Mayor Nutter’s proposal to collect $94 million more in property taxes through AVI for the cash-strapped school district. The administration refuses to call this a "tax increase" because, it says, the city will just capture an increase in property value that it hasn’t collected for years.
JONATHAN Katzenbach has a love-hate relationship with his neighborhood basketball court. Katzenbach, who lives across from the court at Marian Anderson Recreation Center in the Graduate Hospital area, says he loves having the court so close. He’s shot some hoops there in the past.
But when the sun goes down, it’s a different story. The gate to the court has been broken for months — half of the gate’s door is missing — and there are large gaps in the surrounding fence. So people enter and play at all hours.
Katzenbach says he’s been awakened numerous times at 3 or 4 a.m. from the sounds of people on the courts. Kids and adults both use the courts past midnight, he says, and it’s much more frequent in warm weather. When it happens, he calls the cops.
Yesterday, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez introduced a resolution calling on the School Reform Commission to reach a settlement with the blue-collar union SEIU Local 32BJ District — or else Council will delay its decision on school funding.
The resolution, which 10 other Council members have signalled they support, also demands more funding from Harrisburg.
Council is currently mulling Mayor Nutter's plan to give an additional $94 million to the school district while overhauling the city's property-tax system.
For years, critics have said that Philadelphia's court system does a lousy job of getting convicts to pay restitution for victims of crimes. In the story below, read about how five victims have discovered just how true that can be — even when city workers were the perpetrators.
And listen to the story on WHYY here.
Nine city workers who were supposed to be cleaning up neighborhoods instead ransacked homes in Northeast Philadelphia between 2006 and 2008, stealing cash, guns, family heirlooms, furniture and TVs while on the job. Last year they pleaded guilty to the crime.
Is Harrisburg going to kill Mayor Nutter’s property-tax plan?
Today, Council is yet again debating Nutter’s plan to reform the broken property-tax system and raise an additional $94 million for the school district in the process. But Nutter needs Harrisburg to pass several bills before he can push through his proposal. A crucial one would let the city adjust its millage rate, which is used to calculate property-tax bills.
At a hearing this morning, Council members Bill Greenlee and Mark Squilla asked the administration what the back-up plan is if Harrisburg balks.
LAST YEAR, Rachel Shapiro had a dispute with a contractor and took her case to Common Pleas Court. She lost.
She appealed the decision to Superior Court, and then … nothing happened. The case hasn’t moved forward, and it’s been 15 months.
What’s causing the holdup? Common Pleas Judge James Murray Lynn.
When someone appeals a judge’s decision, the judge must provide a written explanation, called an opinion, for the appeal to proceed. The opinion is due 60 days after an appeal is filed.
Lynn, after ruling against Shapiro, has kept this appeal on hold for more than a year. Not that Shapiro should take it personally: According to court records, Lynn has two other unwritten opinions holding up appeals that have been sitting on his desk for 12 months and 15 months, respectively.
Even the opinions he has written recently have taken him a while to get to: The two he wrote this year were both due in early 2011. And the two he wrote in 2011 took him nine months and 18 months, respectively
Other judges don’t take this long. We randomly checked the records of 16 of 32 Common Pleas judges who hear civil cases. Most took about two to three months on average to file opinions. A few took four to five months.
This week, the People's Board takes on the question of vacant land in the city, and what could or should be done about it. And on this week's It's Our Money podcast, People's Board member Kiki Bolender (speaking for herself!) talks to us about some of the proposals being considered by the city.