Editor's note: This is a letter we received from John Featherman, a Republican mayoral hopeful, regarding this interview with L&I Commissioner Fran Burns.
I was disappointed by the softball interview "It's Our Money" gave L&I Commissioner Fran Burns. I'm running for mayor as a Republican next year, and I have my own thoughts on L&I.
L&I is arguably the most corrupt organization in this city -- with a long and storied history of payoffs, extortion and other crimes -- from the top of the organization to the bottom. So that I confine my concerns about L&I to its current practices, I will refer only to articles your own papers -- the Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer -- have reported during the past 12 months, going back to Dec 20, 2009.
1. In this case, a building inspector did everything he could to destroy a garage owner who would not sell the garage to him.
2. In this case, L&I workers were accused of looting homes.
3. In this case, a clerk "sold out" his office by issuing licenses to unqualified people. This happened in 2007, but wasn't reported until a few months ago.
These are the cases we know about. There are surely plenty of others that go unreported and/or unknown.
I'm not going to complain without giving you a solution, though. Here's the quick solution. L&I needs to rotate its workers constantly, so that no individual employee oversees a particular area or client more than a year at a time. Additionally, L&I has to be subject to more "testors" the way that Realtors are tested for discrimination. Finally, L&I's purpose needs to be redefined. And this has to come from the mayor and City Council. Philadelphia has tons of vacant homes, and rather than making L&I pay to demolish these unsafe homes, the city should sell these homes at market prices to investors who will rehab them. That saves the city money, makes the city money, and fulfills a desirable public policy goal of making affordable housing for those who need it.