Monday, February 8, 2016

Council hears from the public, but the public hasn't heard enough from Council

Yesterday, we wrote that public testimony in Council about the school district deficit could really matter. We proceeded to miss the hearing. That’s a bad job by us (especially because it means we can’t take too many shots at the council members who apparently arrived late, left early, or didn’t show up at all). Fortunately, we have Catherine Lucey and Jan Ransom’s highlights, and we have dutifully read through the twitter-script on Philly.com.

Council hears from the public, but the public hasn't heard enough from Council

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Dei´Vion Wescott, 11, joins Ann Guise, director of the Bright Lights Initiative, an educational- advocacy group, as she testifies during City Council hearing.
Dei'Vion Wescott, 11, joins Ann Guise, director of the Bright Lights Initiative, an educational- advocacy group, as she testifies during City Council hearing.

Yesterday, we wrote that public testimony in Council about the school district deficit could really matter. We proceeded to miss the hearing. That’s a bad job by us (especially because it means we can’t take too many shots at the council members who apparently arrived late, left early, or didn’t show up at all). Fortunately, we have Catherine Lucey and Jan Ransom’s highlights, and we have dutifully read through the twitter-script on Philly.com.

The obvious striking thing about the record is that most of the speakers want Council to send more money to the schools, whatever it takes. This, of course, is proof of nothing – advocates can tip those scales with aggressive organizing. Maybe it suggests some passion behind the position, but public hearings aren’t a referendum. The more important question is whether the arguments and perspectives offered were persuasive.

We’re going to duck that question for the moment (sorry), because we continue to think there’s a piece of the discussion missing: What city taxpayers will have to trade to give the schools their $75-110 million. Council and the mayor remain largely mum on this question. If they stay silent until after they cough up the money for the schools, it will be a disservice.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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