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Guest Commentary: “We Can Do Better”

A Mayoral primary challenger lays out his vision for Philly. Check back for pieces by the other candidates

A Mayoral primary challenger lays out his vision for Philly. Check back for pieces by the other candidates

Mayor Kenney wants to increase spending by more than $1 billion in his first term or about 25 percent. What happened to all that money?

Our neighborhoods are dirty.  Our streets are full of potholes.  Our communities are unsafe. Our public schools are not preparing too many of our students for college or careers.  Philadelphia remains the nation’s poorest big city. And, city real estate tax assessments are a fraud, driving some out of their neighborhoods while others pay next to nothing.

On top of it all, the mayor wants to put a “safe-injection” site in a neighborhood already struggling with the crime, violence, and dysfunction accompanying the opioid crisis. The mayor may deny it, but plans exist to place additional sites in neighborhoods across the city.

The Kenney Administration did indeed lose track of over $30 million all while refusing explain his spending by posting the city budget online.

We can repave our streets and clean our neighborhoods. We can fully staff our libraries and recreation centers so our communities can thrive.  

Campaigning for mayor in 2015, Kenney promised fiscal responsibility by implementing zero-based budgeting, but in office, he has imposed a regressive soda tax, squandered city money by mismanaging worker overtime, and wasted millions of dollars by scrapping plans for a new police administration building in West Philadelphia.  

Kenney promised to end stop and frisk but did not; promised citywide street sweeping but did not; promised to reduce poverty but did not; and promised to reduce crime but did not. He promised to reduce taxes but raised taxes every year he has been in office.

Kenney promised a transparent, ethical government, but appointed a top political backer to run the city’s zoning board who has since been indicted.

We can do better than this.

As mayor, I will listen to you and I will work with you to address these problems. 

Do Something

We will budget better. Our current budgeting procedures were established in 1951 and are in desperate need of revision to account for 21st-century budgeting practices. I will work with City Council to establish an independent budget office similar to that recommended by Councilmember Derek Green. I support line-item budgeting to provide city council and tax payers detailed, online programmatic information about the $5 billion general fund budget. And the city must publish a year-end budget report which details the extent the spending aligned with the budget commitments.

Better budgeting means better government. Given our positive fund balance and tax revenues which are exceeding projections, we can end the regressive Soda Tax and establish universal Pre-K because ALL of our children need help, not just a handpicked, connected few.

We can end the regressive Soda Tax and establish universal Pre-K because ALL of our children need help, not just a handpicked, connected few.

We can repave our streets and clean our neighborhoods. We can fully staff our libraries and recreation centers so our communities can thrive.  

We must give our schools more resources by demanding a state funding formula that takes poverty into account, provides adequate public-charter reimbursement, and includes increased local funding. Additionally, it is long past time for the state to assume its legal responsibility to fund city court costs and we should leverage the Democratic majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to relieve the city of more than $100 million in expenditures that could be used to fund public education.

We will declare a state of emergency to best marshal and coordinate all city agencies as we simultaneously convene grassroots anti-violence activists to help stem the bloodshed. And we will vigorously oppose locating a “safe-injection” site in any city neighborhood.

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All of this is predicated on a fair system of taxation to fund our needs without chasing families and firms out of the city. We need to more aggressively reduce the city Wage Tax and job-killing business taxes so Philadelphia can grow more like competitor cities to drive down our shameful poverty rate. We need to get our regressive and illegal city assessments right so real estate taxation can be fair and reasonable. And we need to make sure that the city refunds money to taxpayers who have paid too much.

I have spent a career in public service listening to people and building coalitions to get things done. I want to listen to Philadelphia and work with Philadelphians to make the change we need.

We can move Philly forward—together.

Anthony Williams has been a State Senator in Philadelphia and parts of Delaware County since 1998. This is his second run for mayor.

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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