Recently, the newspapers have been up in arms over public policy being set without a public hearing. Those rotten Republicans deny the people a full discussion about changes in Obamacare. The Republicans say hearings took place for a year before the most recent bill was introduced in the Senate.
But, I’m not here to talk about the Republicans in Washington. I’m talking about the canceled hearing in City Hall regarding the sugary-beverage tax. I’m talking about the orchestrated obstruction of public debate involving pro-tax activists, special interest groups and some members of the mayor’s office.
Apparently, there are those at this very newspaper who approve of the effort to block public discourse on this issue. The same paper that laments Donald Trump and the antics of the D.C. Republicans believes it is appropriate to offer the same excuse: “We’ve had hearings!” Here’s the problem: This newspaper and those pro-tax advocates are asking Harrisburg for additional pre-K funding. So, guess what? Harrisburg is going to ask questions.
I am still not sure how bringing the most conservative Republicans to Philadelphia is a bad idea, because I know full well that it’s been done before. It is exactly what then-Mayor Ed Rendell did with then-Governor Tom Ridge to court Harrisburg support to develop a new Avenue of the Arts with state money.
But, more important than that: “Discussion over”? Really? This sounds like a parent talking to a child. When you tell me to shut up, you’re telling the single mom making a healthy decision by using an ACCESS card to buy almond milk: “Discussion over.” You are telling an ex-offender who was laid off from their first job with benefits at a supermarket: “Discussion over.” Will you say “Discussion over” to the senior citizens who could lose the only supermarket in their neighborhood as the area returns to a food desert?
Despite claims to the contrary, the committee invited several individuals to appear in support of the beverage tax. They chose not to participate and only submitted written testimony. Why would they do this? Because they were involved in the protest.
The community that I grew up in, live in and represent doesn’t understand how those who have apparently adopted this “progressive policy” for the good of our community come around only when they want to pay for protesters or use our children as props.
In a true democracy, all voices – agree or disagree, rich or poor, progressive or conservative – are heard. It is ironic and disturbing that a free press would be calling for the suppression of free speech. That is a problem for all of us and I hope that fact will sink in for those who wrote the short-sighted editorial.
Anthony Hardy Williams is a Pennsylvania state senator, representing Philadelphia and Delaware counties.