PA State budget compromise is going to put a new strain on the arts

Here is Mr. Pf’s recent letter:

Do you take blog request? ‘rantz request? Today I’m worked up about
our balanced budget and thought I should write mpomy, the
Blogerantzer, to ask what he thinks about the PA strategy of
balancing the city budget with new taxes on the arts.

Personally, I think it’s nice the Arts are being recognized as a
source of revenue. And naturally I respect that we won’t be burdening
the common man who requires affordable entertainment from the Phillies
(am I spelling that right? spellcheck says no) and the Eagles and
Hollywood. But if we tax the performing arts, won’t we make it harder
for the arts to generate the tax revenue they’re supposed to generate?
Well, I suppose it’s only the cultural elite who actually pay full
price for the tickets anyhow — and if you’re a member of the elite you
might as well be asking to be slapped with a sin tax. But I just can’t
help thinking that the other group who ought to care about the attax
on the arts — the kids of the Philadelphia School District, since they
are a non-elite beneficiary of the educational programming by a lot of
local arts institutions. Hmm, maybe there’s logic that says they
deserve a sin tax, too, for being low-income city residents getting
mixed up with the activities of the elite?

Anyhow, I’m just trying to be a gadfly to get you to blog about this,
if you’ve got it in you.

Pf, as usual, has hit on something here.  There are two things happening around these parts lately.  The one I’ve been flipping out about has to do with how the City of Philadelphia is going to pay its bills.  That has been worked out, sorta.

The other thing, that I haven’t been sounding off so much about, is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has failed (up until this weekend) to come up with a deal for the state budget.  That situation is also reaching some kind of resolution, but, as with the city, all is not well.  Mr. Pf notes that a large portion of the burden required to balance the state budget will be placed on the arts.  That’s not good.  the stifling affect will ripple trough our community and we will reap a bitter harvest in the not-too-distant future.  Follow this link to the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance to see what you can do.  Harrisburg needs to hear from all of us.

For a better explanation, I recommend this blog post from Ben Waxman of ‘It’s Our Money’.  If you are not outraged yet, you will be after reading about what’s NOT being taxed.

But there may be some cause for optimism.  Pf points out that the local sports teams are enjoying an exemption under this recent state budget deal.  The Inky is reporting that the one group I love to single out for hate and vitriol (my apologies to Mrs. Pf) is actually ready to step up and help with the bail out – Good for you, Eagles fans!

The sky has cleared, for now…


We’re heading to the Phillies game tonight, and I think it won’t rain.  There had been some worry earlier.  There had also been some worry that about 3,000 city employees would be laid off tomorrow and that half the city’s services, including the Court system, would begin to shut down.  The tug-of-war between this city and the rest of our Commonwealth culminated today in the passage of a Senate resolution that will allow us to raise sales tax (woopty-freakin-do) and defer/restructure pension obligations for city workers (uh-oh).

So we’ll be able to get the ballgame in tonight and the city will wake up tomorrow and feel great about (hopefully the fifth Phillies victory in a row and) the fact that we’ve avoided the doomsday scenario of Plan ‘C’, but the allowances that have come from Harrisburg today do not solve the problem.  Too many city residents fail to grasp this reality.

We have done nothing more than put off paying a big bill.  Invariably, that bill will be even bigger next time, and I fear we will, once again, kick the can down the road.  This is a recipe for disaster.  We came close to feeling some of those effects this week, but the fact that Plan “C” was not implemented  means we can continue to go to Phillies games, watch reality and vampire TV and pretend that nothing is wrong.

The Committee of Seventy is trying to help us get our heads out of the mud, but people don’t want to hear this message.  A lot of residents don’t understand the issues.  The newspapers will only touch on these matters in the most tangential fashion because they are on the auction block.  This fall it will be Eagles football 24/7 in this town and no one will bother to spend a moment thinking about what this town could have looked like.  Even today, on the brink of disaster, the Daily News lead with a story about the impossibly cute Monforto family, instead of the impending doom of our town.

In the coming weeks we will see if people in this city care about where they live.  We will see if politicians can step away from their own greedy tendencies, we will see if city unions can find a way to normalize their demands for retirement that would put them on footing with the rest of humanity, and we will see if the residents can stop paying attention to Michael Vick for just long enough to show some small measure of concern for their fellow citizens.  If not, we are all doomed.

Even if the city is, somehow, saved at the last minute (unlikely), we gotta make some changes


The state legislation that would save our bacon (temporarily) is stalled in the Senate.  On Friday, 3,000 pink slips will go out and we’ll in the express lane to Shitsville.  At this point, it does not look like there will be an eleventh hour compromise.

This catastrophe did not happen overnight.  A recent article on whyy radio highlighted a study by our local political watchdog group, The Committe of Seventy.  The study outlines a lot of issues that hold back city government and contribute to situations like the current mess.  One of the issues is one-party rule.  Even though it’s my party, I still see how the lack of options contributes to the intractable corruption.

I just hope that, should we somehow dodge this bullet, a bullet, by the way, that most people don’t seem to care much about, then we, as a city, must look these recommendations and others and get our heads out of the mud, before we stop breathing altogether.

Another jogger raped in Fairmount Park – it’s hard to see how Plan C will improve this situation

Not that it’s supposed to, but with the second rape in as many weeks in our beautiful and sprawling city park, I wonder how bad it will be when (if?) Plan C goes into effect next month.  Remember, Plan C provides that the Fairmount Park Commission ceases operations.

Whether or not the doomsday budget scenario goes into effect will be decided by a series of votes over the next few days.  This is exciting, but not in a good way.

Philadelphia – you won’t recognize us shortly


Above is Rodin’s Gates of Hell, currently on display at the Rodin Museum here in Philadelphia.  Soon we’re going to find out what’s on the other side.  As a result of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s failure to pass a state budget which would authorize the city to (1) raise sales tax and (2) restructure pension funds, city government is now being dismantled.

Here’s the mayor speaking at today’s press conference:

This is not a game.  This is not an exercise.  This is not about leverage, and no one is crying wolf, pointing fingers, or blaming anybody.  We have no money.

The cuts will eliminate the jobs of approximately 3000 city employees, but this may not be all bad.  there is so much fat that needs to be trimmed from the city’s bloated bureaucracy, that extreem measures will result in a leaner and more efficient government.  And while my heart goes out to those that will lose their jobs, that’s not the major problem with the so-called “Plan C” that is now going into effect.

Of greater concern is the brutal evisceration of city services.  There will be no more libraries.  there will be no more Recreation Department.  1000 police officers – gone.  Fairmount Park Commission – gone.  The Court system, the district attorney and the public defender – all partially shut down.  Office of Arts and Culture – gone.

If Harrisburg comes to our rescue in the next few days with approval for the sales tax increase and pension restructuring, this may not have to happen with such violence.  But, right now, the picture is extremely bleak.