- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Transit Action Today / Reflections on the State and the City
SEPTA is, again, in crisis. The projected deficit for the next fiscal year is well over $100 million dollars. To close that deficit, SEPTA will have to institute both fare increases and service reductions of about 25%. This would be an economic and social disaster for the city and the region. Little is being done in Harrisburg to address the crisis.
The Pennsylvania Transit Coalition, on whose steering committee I have sat since its founding, is conducting a leafleting campaign today at 4:00 pm at both Market East and Suburban Stations. We will be targeting suburbanites getting on their trains and will give them leaflets that ask them to call their state Senators and Representatives.
I hope a lot of you can take an hour or so and attend this event. If you plan to do so, contact email@example.com and we will tell you exactly where in the stations you will find us.
This is also a good moment to reflect for a second on the relationship between the city and the state. One of the things I have noticed on the campaign trail—more in the Council races than in the Mayoral race—is that candidates keep saying that the solution to our problems in the city is to turn to the state for funding. That is the answer some Council candidates give for crime (to give us more police); education, the health center crisis, as well as for transit.
In one respect, I have no trouble with these arguments. The state does treat all localities, not just Philadelphia, abominably. Pennsylvania pays for a lower percentage of transit, education, health care, the courts and prisons than does many states. This is a moral outrage. Council members should be aggressive in lobbying for more state funding. And, one reason we need to reform our government is so that we can make a stronger case in Harrisburg that new money from the state won’t be wasted.
I should also point out that I have spent a fair amount of time lobbying Harrisburg as a leader of the transit coalition and coalition to raise to raise the minimum wage as well as as an activist for school funding and hand gun control.
But we also have to be realistic about what we are likely to get from the state. I think we have a chance to get new transit funding, because we can make a deal with rural areas and trade support for transit in return for support for fixing up our roads and bridges. (And we should do this because Pennsylvania does have a crisis in decrepit roads and bridges.)
But in most areas, we are going to find it difficult to get more funding for the city in Harrisburg. So, if we politicians intend to be honest, we have to start proposing creative local and regional solutions to many of our difficulties and not just say that our problems will be solved by aggressive lobbying efforts in Harrisburg. They won’t be.
I’m reminded of this point not just because of my continuing efforts to secure transit funding but because last night, at a candidate forum in NE Philadelphia, I proposed a creative, local solution to funding our health centers. (I sketched the idea earlier on this blog. I will post it on my campaign website, www.stier2007.com, this week.) And I was immediately criticized by another progressive candidate who said that the solution to the health center crisis was more state funding. The same candidate had earlier proposed more state funding as a solution to other problems. I’m not going to mention any names because more than one progressive has made similar arguments and I’d like to see progressive candidates try not to attack one another personally during the campaign.
But I do have say that I thought that this candidate was mostly pandering to the crowd. And by encouraging people to think the solutions to our difficulties in Philadelphia mostly lie in Harrisburg, he was taking responsibility off our local officials. For the fact is that in almost every area of public policy—transit, parks, criminal justice, health care, education and more—there are creative local and regional solutions to our problems that other cities are pursuing and we are not. Politics really is broken in Philadelphia and so is much of our incredibly wasteful and ineffective government. I have spent the last four months talking to people who work in many of our city agencies. And, I have to tell you that things are far, far worse than I had imagined in almost every one. The continuing complaint I hear is that political interference undermines these agencies and blocks innovative public policy. We really need our Mayor and Council to fix our politics and government, and not just turn to the state to bail us out, even if we do have a strong moral claim to more funding.
Or, to put the political point another way, pandering in politics is not going to solve our problems, even if it is pandering to progressives and even if the pandering has an element of truth to it. In this election, we should be focusing on how to improve our city government and adopt creative, innovative local and regional public policies.