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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: January, 2010

POSTED: Friday, January 22, 2010, 10:27 AM

The mayor made a big, controversial decision this week: He didn't appeal the FOP contract award. The award contains some things the mayor doesn't think the city can afford -- namely, raises for cops -- but, at the same time, it makes changes to pension and health benefit structures that the mayor wants, and that should help the city's fiscal position in the long term. The mayor did the math and decided that fighting the pain wasn't worth risking the gain. The Daily News says today that he's right:

The point is, it's not wages that have created the most havoc on the city budget; it's the spiraling costs of health care and pensions, made even worse by the city's inability to impose any controls over those costs.

For example, between 2001 and 2008, city spending on health care rose 123 percent; pension costs rose 100 percent. That's in seven years.

Doron Taussig @ 10:27 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, January 22, 2010, 9:57 AM

Last night, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers voted to approve a three-year contract with the School District of Philadelphia. The agreement, the details of which were shielded from the public until after the vote, includes pay increases and keeps most benefits intact. Here are some more specifics, via our friends at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook:

The agreement calls for a 3 percent raise in March and another in September, 2012, and largely preserves the union’s relatively generous health benefits. Although there was a loud contingent of "No"s in a voice vote, teachers leaving the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, for the most part said that they were satisfied with the financial and benefit package, considering the current economic climate.

The big changes in the contract are non-economic; they include more teacher support and training for teachers in rough schools.

Ben Waxman @ 9:57 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, January 22, 2010, 9:13 AM

After Philly teachers ratified a new three-year contract last night, details finally began to emerge about what’s in it: two 3 percent raises and no increases in employee contributions to health benefits.

Clout has a good overview of the five bidders competing for the city’s contract to lobby state lawmakers.

Yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court decision striking down campaign finance laws could erase Pennsylvania’s limits on corporate and union spending in political campaigns.

Anthony Campisi @ 9:13 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010, 9:42 AM

Tonight, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will vote on a new three-year contract with the School District of Philadelphia. The agreement will impact more than 17,000 employees, close to 200,000 students, and have major implications for city taxpayers, who foot the bill for public education through property taxes.

Despite the importance of the contract, very little information is available about it -- both the union and the School District have refused to provide specifics. Given how critical this document is to taxpayers, we got to wondering if it's fair that the details are being kept secret. Why shouldn't the public know what's being decided behind closed doors?

The School District did not respond immediately to a request for comment. According to a spokeswoman for the union, teachers need to vote on the agreement before the public learns the terms.

Ben Waxman @ 9:42 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010, 9:30 AM
Ray Murphy

Over at Young Philly Politics, Ray Murphy has a post about how Philadelphia can best attract businesses. The biggest factor in his mind? Location, location, location. The city's close proximity to New York, Washington, and Baltimore makes it an ideal base for many companies. He also says that, consequently, workforce development and aggressive marketing are critical.

These ideas are not controversial. However, Ray makes one point that will probably generate a lot of debate. He believes that local taxes are far less important than many assume.

While taxes and incentives do come up in conversations about economic development in the region, they are clearly not the only economic development tools at our ready. There are other important ways—ways equal in importance to cutting taxes or incentivization strategies—to help the city create high-quality, sustainable jobs.

Ben Waxman @ 9:30 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010, 9:09 AM

In what local officials are calling a blow to school initiatives, a Department of Education audit is calling on the Philadelphia School District to repay about $17.7 million that it says was misspent in 2005 and 2006. It also asks for further documentation about how an additional $121 million in federal school aid was spent.

Now that New Jersey has a new governor, you’d expect the accusations traded by Chris Christie and Jon Corzine to stop. Think again. Christie, who just took office this week, has accused Corzine of leaving him a $1.1 billion deficit for the second half of the fiscal year. Corzine, for his part, says that he left Christie with a budget surplus.

State House Democrats held a hearing in Pittsburgh yesterday about a bill that would close business tax loopholes and bring in millions in state taxes. Gov. Rendell has tried to get a measure like this through the Legislature for seven years, but with no success.

Anthony Campisi @ 9:09 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010, 4:00 AM
Mayor Michael Nutter.

Mayor Nutter reached the midway point of his first term two weeks ago. He started with goodwill, but has come under fire for his management style and rocky relationship with City Council.

Mayors get criticized; that's part of the job. However, the nay-sayers miss something important: Nutter faced one big decision in his first two years and he made the right call.

The worst economic recession since the Great Depression forced the mayor to fill a $1 billion deficit in his second city budget. The mayor had a fundamental choice: Cut services or raise revenue. Nutter decided on the latter.

Ben Waxman @ 4:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 4:59 PM

User "netbunnyga" managed to get in touch with the Water Department to report a longstanding leak on the street. The explanation he (or she) says was given? Too big of a problem.

For over two years, i have called the water department about a leak in the 4400 block of RIDGE AVENUE on the right going west. This is down the street from Gustine/ASHE tennis courts. A man from the water company told me that they knew about it but it was a major [project] to fix and that the water company did not want to do the project. This water is running from the hillside. DOES ANYONE CARE ABOUT THE WASTE?

We'll put in a couple of phone calls to follow up on this. Anyone else seen instances like it?

Juliana Reyes @ 4:59 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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