Letters to the editor: June 6, 2012

Yo, Philly ex­ile: Keep your thoughts in Vir­gin­ia
Re­gard­ing Ly­dia Sel­wood’s let­ter last week, Shame on CLIP for go­ing too far:
Why do I have to read an opin­ion of someone who moved from Philly dec­ades ago and is “glad” that she no longer lives here?
I don’t care one red cent what Ly­dia Sel­wood thinks about Philly, or CLIP, or any­thing else. Do you know why? Be­cause she left and is “glad” about it.
Hey Ly­dia, maybe if you hadn’t left, this would be a bet­ter place. I’m tired of people who leave and then sit off in the dis­tance judging everything that goes on here with an al­most sat­is­fact­ory tone.
Why did you feel the need to tell every one of us how glad you were to be gone? Go worry about Har­ris­on­burg, Va. — we’ll all be fine here.
Rob Phil­ippi
Fox Chase

Give 9/11 ter­ror­ists the ul­ti­mate justice
The ter­ror­ists who are on tri­al for the murders of over 3,000 Amer­ic­ans in the 9/11 at­tacks should have been ex­ecuted in­stead of be­ing put on tri­al. Of course, this isn’t done in our coun­try, but they de­serve it. They spent years in pris­on at tax­pay­er ex­pense.
If the tri­al ends in a death pen­alty, let’s ex­ecute them fast. No linger­ing in a pris­on for years and con­tinu­ous ap­peals.
Dy­ing by in­jec­tion, hanging or shoot­ing is too easy. Let’s bring back the elec­tric chair and let them burn. A bet­ter way is to bring them to the highest build­ing in New York City and throw them off from the top. What a glor­i­ous way for them to die. Al­lah be with them as they fall to the ground.
Jerry Foglia Sr.
Fox Chase

School vouch­ers now and forever
If the rauc­ous May 31 meet­ing of the School Re­form Com­mis­sion proved any­thing, it is this: nobody — not the stu­dents, par­ents, teach­ers or ad­min­is­trat­ors — nobody, is happy with the cur­rent pub­lic school sys­tem.
A $2.5 bil­lion (that’s bil­lion, with a “b”) fisc­al year 2013 budget was passed amid cat­calls and de­nun­ci­ations, and yet that astound­ing amount of money is not enough.
The dis­trict is bor­row­ing $218 mil­lion and count­ing on an­oth­er $94 mil­lion com­ing from the may­or’s con­tro­ver­sial prop­erty tax plan (which most cer­tainly is not a sure thing).
This is not a po­lem­ic against pub­lic schools. I and three of my four chil­dren are suc­cess­ful gradu­ates of Phil­adelphia’s pub­lic schools. My young­est is cur­rently a sixth-grader in the Phil­adelphia pub­lic school sys­tem. I have al­ways been an ad­voc­ate of ef­fect­ive pub­lic edu­ca­tion, but what we are see­ing in city pub­lic schools is no longer tol­er­able. That’s why I strongly sup­port school choice, and have al­ways sup­por­ted it.
Ac­cord­ing to the Com­mon­wealth Found­a­tion, more than half of Phil­adelphia’s 249 schools are fail­ing. Many pub­lic schools are not safe. Last year, more than 4,000 vi­ol­ent in­cid­ents were re­por­ted in­volving both stu­dents and staff. In Pennsylvania pub­lic schools last year, 10 rapes were re­por­ted. All of them oc­curred in Phil­adelphia. Ob­vi­ously this is out­rageous.
Ac­cord­ing to an edu­ca­tion ex­pert, Dr. Jay Green, school vouch­er pro­grams have a pos­it­ive im­pact on the pub­lic schools in the areas where they are offered. Vouch­ers are dir­ectly linked to im­prove­ments in read­ing and math scores, and high­er gradu­ation rates. Vouch­ers save tax­pay­ers money; let’s be hon­est: can any­thing be worse than the run­away spend­ing and poor per­form­ance of the cur­rent sys­tem?
Pro­tect­ing the status quo is in­defens­ible. I am no “Johnny-come-lately” to this is­sue. I have al­ways sup­por­ted school vouch­ers, and when elec­ted to the le­gis­lature this fall, I will join the fight to ex­pand school choice in Phil­adelphia. Frankly, there is no oth­er choice and the facts bear this out.
Al Tauben­ber­ger
Mr. Tauben­ber­ger, who lost to Mi­chael Nut­ter in the 2007 may­or’s race, is the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate in the 172nd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict and pres­id­ent of the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Whose side is the may­or on?
Has any­one really in­de­pend­ent of the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia re­viewed its budgeted num­bers? They are pro­jec­ted based on a lot of as­sump­tions al­legedly res­ult­ing in a five-year de­fi­cit of over $1 bil­lion.
Go­ing back to when Ar­lene Ack­er­man was in charge and re­view­ing her 2009 five-year plan, did it show a $629 mil­lion de­fi­cit for 2011? Did it show a de­fi­cit in 2012 and 2013 as large as they are pro­ject­ing now after two “tem­por­ary” real es­tate tax in­creases? Is the an­swer “No”?
Can we al­low one of the greatest edu­ca­tion­al and fin­an­cial de­cisions of this en­tire city to be made with­in a mat­ter of only a few months with as­sump­tions go­ing out an­oth­er five years?
May­or Nut­ter wants the dis­trict to con­tract out uni­on jobs to non-uni­on mem­bers and non-profits. Non-profits are or­gan­iz­a­tions that can pay large salar­ies to the CEOs, re­tain “profits” and not pay any taxes. Did you know that Lisa Nut­ter, the may­or’s wife, is the pres­id­ent of a non-profit do­ing busi­ness with the school dis­trict and earn­ing six di­gits? Non-uni­on mem­bers are “newbys” that are lower paid and will have to learn the job if they stay around long enough.
May­or Nut­ter wants your chil­dren to go to charter schools and oth­er schools not man­aged by the school dis­trict. Even though charter schools have been around for over a dec­ade, where does his daugh­ter go to school? Can any­one say Mas­ter­man High?
I guess the may­or wants us to do as he says, not as he does.
May­er Krain
Mod­ena Park

Boyle amend­ment would stop a back-door tax hike
Guest Opin­ion
By Brendan F. Boyle
After two con­sec­ut­ive prop­erty tax in­creases in the last two years, res­id­ents of the North­east and across the city are still grap­pling with the ef­fects of a lar­ger tax bill, even as their in­comes have re­mained nearly flat. With this in mind, one would hope that the pri­or­ity of the Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion would be to pro­mote sta­bil­ity for those who pay their fair share of prop­erty taxes year after year.
However, we are in­stead wit­ness­ing an at­tempt to solve the short-term fisc­al prob­lems of city gov­ern­ment on the backs of homeown­ers yet again, this time in the form of the Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive, or AVI. This city­wide re­as­sess­ment would meet a stated rev­en­ue goal of $94 mil­lion for the city by re­as­sess­ing prop­er­ties at their full mar­ket value. The Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion and city of­fi­cials have ar­gued that AVI is ne­ces­sary to ac­count for changes in prop­erty val­ues throughout the city over the last sev­er­al years.
What is left un­said, however, is that the re­as­sess­ment will res­ult in high­er tax bills for some and lower tax bills for oth­ers, mean­ing that ad­di­tion­al rev­en­ue to reach the $94 mil­lion goal will come dis­pro­por­tion­ately from the pock­ets of only a frac­tion of our res­id­ents.
Ad­di­tion­ally, the two pre­vi­ous tax in­creases that were ori­gin­ally billed as tem­por­ary would be­come per­man­ent, break­ing a prom­ise made by the city when these in­creases were ori­gin­ally ad­op­ted.
This is an un­ac­cept­able plan for the people of Phil­adelphia, con­sid­er­ing that the city is cur­rently owed over $450 mil­lion in de­lin­quent prop­erty taxes. In­stead of us­ing policy re­form to try and cap­ture rev­en­ue, wouldn’t it make more sense to first go after those who owe the city money un­der the ex­ist­ing tax struc­ture?
Be­fore at­tempt­ing to plug rev­en­ue short­falls with even more hard-earned tax­pay­er dol­lars, our city of­fi­cials need to first demon­strate that they have ex­hausted their re­sources in pur­su­ing money that is already owed.
Giv­en the re­l­at­ively low rate of prop­erty tax col­lec­tion in Phil­adelphia com­pared to oth­er ma­jor cit­ies, the bur­den of proof should be on the city to ex­plain why work­ing fam­il­ies in the North­east and else­where should be forced to pay what could amount to sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars in ad­di­tion­al taxes every year when so much rev­en­ue the city is en­titled to re­mains un­col­lec­ted.
Throughout my dis­trict, I have heard from many homeown­ers who are hav­ing dif­fi­culty pay­ing their ex­ist­ing prop­erty taxes and are in­eligible for in­come-based rate freezes or pay­ment plans. These are long­time res­id­ents of our neigh­bor­hoods who have paid their fair share and been re­spons­ible homeown­ers for years, and for many of them, the city’s plan could mean the dif­fer­ence between keep­ing their heads above wa­ter and be­ing priced out of their houses.
To ad­dress these con­cerns, I have in­tro­duced an amend­ment that would block the city from us­ing the AVI as a “back door” tax in­crease. My le­gis­la­tion would en­sure any re­vi­sion to the city’s ex­ist­ing prop­erty tax sys­tem would re­main rev­en­ue neut­ral, guar­an­tee­ing that any in­crease in as­sessed prop­erty val­ues through AVI is off­set by either lower tax rates or oth­er meas­ures so that the amount of rev­en­ue go­ing to the city re­mains un­changed. My le­gis­la­tion would ef­fect­ively kill the planned $94 mil­lion prop­erty tax in­crease.
It is es­sen­tial that any in­crease in as­sessed prop­erty val­ues is coun­ter­bal­anced by re­lief for tax­pay­ers else­where. Al­low­ing this re­as­sess­ment to move for­ward without elim­in­at­ing the in­cent­ive to use AVI to ob­tain more rev­en­ue for the city will only in­vite this same be­ha­vi­or again and again. For the sake of keep­ing the cost of long-term home own­er­ship in our com­munit­ies with­in reas­on, we can­not al­low this to hap­pen.
Our short-term fisc­al prob­lems as a city can­not be solved by con­tinu­ously draw­ing from the well of prop­erty tax rev­en­ue.
Every ad­di­tion­al dol­lar that goes to­ward high­er prop­erty taxes is a dol­lar that can­not be spent to fuel our loc­al eco­nomy, cre­at­ing jobs, help­ing our busi­nesses grow and in­vest­ing in the fu­ture prosper­ity of our neigh­bor­hoods.
While there is no doubt that we face long-term fisc­al chal­lenges as a city, it is im­port­ant that city of­fi­cials learn to op­er­ate with­in a fisc­al frame­work that lim­its the tax bur­den placed on work­ing fam­il­ies. The long term liv­ab­il­ity and af­ford­ab­il­ity of the North­east and Phil­adelphia de­pends on it.
Brendan F. Boyle, a Demo­crat, rep­res­ents the 170th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict.

Speak your mind  …
Let­ters should be 300 words or less. Short let­ters have a bet­ter chance of get­ting pub­lished. All let­ters are sub­ject to edit­ing and MUST in­clude the writer’s full name along with day­time and even­ing phone num­bers for veri­fic­a­tion pur­poses. An­onym­ous let­ters will NOT be pub­lished. Mail to: Let­ters to the Ed­it­or, North­east Times, 2512 Met­ro­pol­it­an Drive, Tre­vose, PA 19053. Fax: 215-355-4857. E-mail: pronews@bsmphilly.com

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