Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Miss The Battle for City Hall - WEDNESDAY, 10/19/11

Philadelphians for Ethical Leadership is proud to host the last bipartisan moderated debates of the 2011 election year!

Join us for a spirited evening of debates that will help you cast an INFORMED vote in the upcoming Muncicpal Elections!!

Food will be provided, Drink Specials to include $2 beers are available. 


Philadelphia Sheriff "finds" the missing $56M

Anyone else interested in who got the interest from these 13 accounts? Let's hope the feds hold someone criminally accountable for this gross dereliction of duty. For details, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reality Check: Ramsey and Nutter must admit there is a crime problem. Should they ask for support?

Reality Check: The embattled city of Flint, MI's officials are demanding National Guard support for a spike in violent crime in their city. So far, Flint has had 21 homicides this year. Philly has TWO weekends where there was over 21 shootings and 8 homicides this summer alone, and has had over 259 murders this year and we haven't heard a peep out of our council members or state reps on outside law enforcement support or intervention. WHY?

Anyway you cut it, the new assessment plan devised by Mayor Nutter is illegal, unethical, and immoral.

Do we need to lose more of our good, taxpaying citizens to the suburbs before someone voices opposition to our Mayor's city-killing idea, or will we end up like Washington, DC, a shell of a city that people work and use for the occasional night out while our suburbs reap the benefits of our property taxes?

For more, click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is it ethical for an unopposed candidate to hold a fundraiser?

As many of you know, we held a moderated 4-way democratic debate for 1st District City Council last April, where Democratic candidate Mark Squilla faced off with his competitors to become the unopposed candidate for City Council in the First District.  Since then, I have seen Mr. Squilla at multiple events and functions in Port Richmond, to include our clean-up of Stokely Playground last weekend,  However, today I received the below email from the Squilla campaign promoting a fundraiser for the "upcoming election". 

 "Dear Friends,

Please join me for a fundraiser in support of my campaign.   The details are
listed below.   With only four weeks until the general election, every day
becomes more exciting as I prepare to take office in January.  I recently won
the endorsements of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and  AFSCME District
Council 47.    I continue to campaign hard, meet as many people as possible and
spread my positive message throughout the district.  I hope you can stop by on 
October 30th.   The Eagles play at 8pm that night so the event will be a good
warmup to the game.   I hope to see everybody then.

Sunday, October 30, 2011
2:00-6:00 PM

Shooting Stars Club
1931 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA

Platinum Host- $1000
Sponsor- $100
Friend- $35

Personal checks payable to
“Squilla for Council”
P.O. Box 37332 Philadelphia, PA 19148

No corporate checks. Contributions are not tax deductable according to
Pennsylvania Law.

RSVP to or 267-290-8836"

This raises an interesting couple of ethics questions. 
  1. As there is no Republican or Independent candidates running in the 1st District, Mr. Squilla is running unopposed.  Why would he need a fundraiser then?
  2. How would the donations gleaned from this fundraiser be spent, since there is no need for continued campaigning?
As a resident of the first district, this event's timing has raised my curiosity. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Numbers UP, Arrows DOWN?!

In my discussions with local reporters on the rise in crime and fear gripping Philadelphia's neighborhoods; I often refer to the crime statistics page on the Philadelphia Police website.  While the web experience of the PPD, a pleasant byproduct of a civilian communications director and a civilian Chief Administrative Officer, is nice - it does have an interesting discrepancy that leaves many city residents distrustful in the way statistics are recorded and disseminated within the Philadelphia Police Department.
As you can see, the homicide rate is consistently rising over the last two years, yet there is a conspicuous down arrow next to it describing an 18% decline.  The old adage in crime analysis is that you can't make a body disappear, and as you can see below, the FBI Uniformed Crime Report shows that many other categories of crime are up as well. 
So my natural question to the Nutter and Ramsey administrations is: "How stupid do you think the public is?"  We see the flash mobs.  We see the murders.  We feel the fear that crime is seeping into all neighborhoods, whether you live in North Philly or Center City, Kensington or Port Richmond. 

If you've read the recent 2011 Progress Report and 5-year plan published by Commissioner Ramsey on crime prevention, it does little to realistically tackle our massive crime problem and execute proven solutions used to curb crime when this epidemic last presented itself, during the American "crack explosion" twenty years ago.  The report makes heavy mention to street arrests and the redeployment of uniformed officers to "needy" districts and Patrol Service Areas (PSAs) with higher reported crime.   There is no mention of working with other struggling law enforcement agencies like the Sheriff's Office or Prisons Department, despite proven results in cities like Los Angeles and New York in where the Sheriff and Corrections Departments have the best regional gang intelligence units helping the police with valuable investigative resources.  What about increasing task force participation with agencies like the US Marshals (Philly has the largest fugitive problem in the Northeast US), ICE/HSI/HIDTA (to combat illegal smuggling, drugs, and human trafficking), and the ATFE (to combat the trafficking of illegal guns as opposed to attacking the rights of legal gun owners)?  

The point of this blog is to raise questions in what appears to be a disingenuous effort to find real solutions to public safety in Philadelphia.  Many citizens have come to accept the appearance of safety and security as opposed to real safety and security.  Case in point - TSA.  The American TSA hires low-paid, unarmed individuals to put travellers through a slow and costly screening process, as opposed to the Israeli counterpart who uses armed personnel, better standoff distances, and working technologies (such as the American-made handheld liquid composition scanners) to insure that their airports and airline is safe, despite their inherent threats.  Locally, leaders like Nutter and Ramsey want to serve two masters.  They want things to appear safe and they want the stats to go down, but they don't want to take the ugly, necessary steps to make that happen.  Furthermore, this is not the first time Ramsey has put the appearance of public safety in front of actual public safety; as in D.C. he would deploy investigative and special operations staff back into patrol so that people can see more uniformed police in the streets - going as far as having all patrol cars operate their #1 flashing lights when in service (even though that is like a beacon for criminals to hide while the radio car passes) - even though the majority of arrests made by patrol officers carries a much lighter charge than that made through a full-field criminal investigation. 

Citizens of Philadelphia should hold Mayor Nutter to his original campaign promises of four years ago - and demand real public safety.  The road to restoring control of the city from the criminals to the taxpaying citizens is not a pretty, politically correct one.  As was seen through the Bratton/Giuliani years in New York, when crime was dropped drastically through the "broken windows" method of policing; public safety doesn't come without significant scrutiny from special interest groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits...but what price can be placed upon a citizenry and tourists that feel safe enough to venture out and invest in the city? 

Either way, we need to send the message to Mayor Nutter that conflicting messages on the police website and a 3-1-1 system that marginally works while hemorrhaging money from an already stressed city budget are not what we need to feel safe...we need some good, old-fashioned police work to be done from a Mayor and a Commissioner that do more than make speeches and release resources - they put their money where their mouth is.

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!