Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What will it take for our leaders to get a (much needed) wake-up call?

If you've been following the news, there is considerable conversation on whether or not Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's controversial property tax assessment plan is legal.  Many of the pundits on Inside Story debated the minutiae of the plan and it's legality; but not the ethical or moral implications of the plan. 

To sum it up, a cash-strapped city has turned to a Mayor who devised a plan to increase revenue by sending assessment-teams to homes that have recent improvements (most likely based on permit applications) to increase their property tax rates.  Mind you, this is not based on sales or neighborhood comps, but individual assessments.  What it means for you and me is higher property taxes for the few of us left in the city who care enough about their property to keep it up, despite what your neighbors may or may not be paying.  To my readers in my native New York or Los Angeles, this may not seem that offensive - but please put it in context.  Within the last two years, the tale of fiscal corruption has been unwoven in the public eye - from our elected leaders participating in the controversial DROP retirement benefit in the same year that we announced seriously underfunded pension liabilities, our elected clerk of quarter sessions announced that she failed to collect roughly $1.5 Billion in bail revenue throughout her career, our elected Sheriff is under federal investigation for "misplacing" $53 Million in auction receipts (in addition to placing a politically-inspired moratorium on foreclosure sales), and our former Schools Superintendent had drummed up a $627 Million deficit in her short tenure here.  To answer these recent challenges, Mayor Nutter has already announced the second consecutive property tax increase to "pay for our children's future".

Mayor Nutter and his nepotism-laden City Council, being charged with keeping the city running despite a sea of red ink, are reaching for the low-hanging fruit...taxpayers.  The problem: it is conservatively estimated that over a third of Philadelphia residents are delinquent in state and city taxes and fees, a majority of which include property taxes (even under a rate that is relatively low in comparison to surrounding areas).  While our local academics argue the legality of Mayor Nutter's new plan, the job announcements for Assessment Clerks are posted on the city's website; painting an extremely grim picture for America's 5th largest city.

What the myopic Mayor and City Council fail to realize is that Philadelphians are already "Taxed to the Max" with increasing property tax rates, sales tax, business use tax, and the infamous Wage Tax.  While Philadelphia's property tax rate is lower than our neighbors in the suburbs, New York and New Jersey; it is balanced out by a myriad of other taxes and fees that have demonstrated a flight of businesses and jobs from the city (as was recently seen by Cigna's vacating their Center City headquarters).  To say that our elected leaders are out of touch is a gross understatement, because any working Philadelphian is forced to weigh the cost vs. benefit of residing in the City of Brotherly Love.  For the purposes of offering a wake-up call to our Mayor, please allow me to list some of them below:

                                   Philadelphia                                                     Suburbs

Property Tax:            $700-2500                                                       $3000-8000

                                   Rising Crime                                                      Low Crime
                                   Struggling, violent schools                                  Smaller, successful school districts
                                   Crumbling infrastructure                                     Quiet neighborhoods
                                   Flash mobs                                                        Lawns
                                   Wage tax + State tax                                         Wage tax applied to state tax (refunded in DE)
                                   Corrupt, machine government                            Smaller, more accountable government

So the golden question is, why would anyone stay in Philadelphia when there is no cost and convenience benefit to living here as opposed to commuting?  Why would families expose their children to an inferior education, not to mention the barbarism and racial violence of the Philadelphia School system when their taxes will be raised to the same rates as the functional, suburban schools?  Why would someone risk their lives with the senseless violence spreading through our streets when peaceful suburbs will be the SAME PRICE

If you think we have experienced flight and blight in the past - see what happens when you triple a home owner's property tax. 

However - the simple solution hasn't even been suggested, mostly because the city has no idea how to reform a corrupt and mismanaged Sheriff's Office:

Instead of hiring Assessment Clerks to take more and more money from the few good citizens who actually pay their taxes - double the Sheriff's force and put them in the street to perform civil law enforcement duties, to include property seizures for delinquent taxes and bail revenue. 

Two things are certain in life: Death and Taxes.  So why does our Mayor and Council forward the idea that some pay and others do not have to.  As a taxpayer, let me be clear - I will not allow any assessment clerks into my home until I can be assured that everyone is paying their fair share.  Otherwise, we're just assuring that good citizens will leave the city, Mayor Nutter's pool of incoming revenue will become more shallow, and the poor will have no opportunities to improve their circumstances. 

Wake up, Mayor Nutter.  Your plan can literally destroy the city within 20 years. When looking at it from a global, historical perspective, how else do you think this can turn out?

If you don't believe me...just look at the District of Columbia; which has never recovered from the flight of business and the middle class from the city to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.  In 1974, when the home rule act took effect - it took only 10-15 years to turn DC into the murder capital of the nation. 

As a homeowner, I do not want to see that play out here!

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of evidence of crimes committed, justice obstructed and civil rights denied by the City Officials. I have a ton of papers, transcripts, etc that show they committed crimes against me to support their politically connected developers and cover up what they did. To knowingly create an environmental hazard which is a public health issues is a felony. I have been displaced from my home and very ill for years and always denied my rights of protection while the project with political clout and the city agencies that did wrong got favors and off the hook. Mayor Nutter has been going to Brownfield conferences and hanging out with EPA's Lisa Jackson. He knows of the harm down to me and he ignores it and even encourages retaliation against me to discredit me and cause more harm. This is a hornet's nest of the worst of Philadelphia cronyism and they made me the sacrifice causing extreme physical harm and trauma and property to loss. These are crimes. The D.A. is covering up these crimes for personal friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_CmV8iC_Ak.... If Mayor Nutter is going to present himself as the Green Mayor , he needs to stop deliberately committing Environmental crimes that put people in the hospital. I need a Inverse Taking and civil rights attorney and this needs to be in the press. Criminal charges can be made.