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Guest Commentary: “Urgent crises are being neglected”

A Mayoral primary challenger lays out his vision, in the last of three pieces from the campaigns

A Mayoral primary challenger lays out his vision, in the last of three pieces from the campaigns

I’m Alan Butkovitz and I’m running for Mayor of Philadelphia in 2019 because there are urgent crises which are being neglected and ignored by Mayor Kenney.

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The homicide crisis is the most serious. The homicide rate in Philadelphia is up to 351 in a year, the highest it has been since 2011. This, while Camden, Baltimore and cities across the nation are marking a steep decline. Mayor Kenney announced a sham anti-violence program in January, saying that his Cabinet had worked on it for six months. The problem is there was no anti-violence in it. Philadelphia has been down this road many times. Benny Swan’s city-wide peace treaty between gangs in the late 1960s, the Crisis Intervention Network that evolved from it, and pilot projects using focused deterrence proved that jobs, oversight by caring adults, psychological and social work interventions have a pronounced benefit in reducing violence. At the same time, we have come to understand that pro-active police patrolling and laser-like focus on drug sales and weapons saves lives. It should be among the police department’s highest priorities to identify and target “gun houses”, where I understand one can rent a gun on an hourly basis, and close them down along with the many curbside gun dealers that ply their trade every day. We do not need to wait for Harrisburg. This is simple law enforcement.

Mayor Kenney announced a sham anti-violence program in January, saying that his Cabinet had worked on it for six months. The problem is there was no anti-violence in it.

The shame of Philadelphia is that it is has the highest poverty rate of the nation’s 10 big cities. In Philadelphia, the poverty rate is 26 percent. My plan is that the City of Philadelphia, in conjunction with the State, promote an economic strategy predicated on large- scale port expansion and entry of our people into transportation and distribution jobs. Los Angeles and New York both currently experience lengthy delays in unloading cargo from ships, and there is a crying-need for increased capacity in Philadelphia. Moreover, other cities are expediently modernizing their ports, while Philadelphia lags behind. Studies in 2007 indicated that Philadelphia could create as many as 25k new longshore jobs, and 125k support jobs through a robust Port expansion. The remarkable thing about the longshore jobs is that they pay between $50k-$100k a year and do not require a high school diploma. They require that the worker pass a urine-drug test and that the employee show up for work. There is no problem in Philadelphia that would not be significantly reduced by that kind of addition to our economy. Philadelphia should also take a leading role in helping our people get the necessary training and tuition for commercial drivers’ licenses, to take advantage of the burgeoning vacancies in the long-haul trucking industry.

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Philadelphia needs to stop the current doomsday, perpetual–motion, tax assessment and gentrification machine. We have now, what we have never had in Philadelphia history, annual tax increases, in many cases by amounts as large as 50 percent to 200 percent in a single year. In addition to the inherent unfairness of this and to the fact that it discourages government efficiency, this is shaping a city not meant for Philadelphians. Policymakers frequently note the $7,000 per year taxes in Montgomery County and parts of New Jersey. That is something we should not be trying to replicate, and in fact Philadelphians can not afford that. I propose that Philadelphia make use of the State Constitutional Amendment enacted in 1984 that gives the City power to grant tax relief, on a uniform basis, to long term homeowners whose evaluations have spiked due to nearby construction (this would also undo the injustice of luxury homebuilders getting a 10-year abatement while their next-door neighbors pay higher taxes because of them). In addition, Philadelphia should follow the rule imposed on every other county in Pennsylvania that when assessed values go up, the tax rate must go down.

Philadelphia is a great city. It must be managed effectively with the focus on those things, which are literally life or death for its people, and metaphorically life or death for its prospects as a great city.

Photo via Alan Butkovitz

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

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