In my Daily News column of November 7th, I make the point that the vast majority of Philadelphians would say that the homicide rate is much higher under Mayor John Street than it was under Mayor Ed Rendell. The facts show quite the contrary: Here is a list of the number of homcides from Rizzo to Street. (The source is the Philadelphia Police Department)
In short, during the Rizzo Administration, annual homicides averaged 390; Green was 361; Goode, 376; Rendell, 396 and Street 363.
It should also be noted that during the Rizzo years when annual homicides were higher than any other mayor except for Rendell, the size of the police force was never under 8,000, higher than any other mayoralty administration.
TIME FOR NON-PARTISAN MAYORALTY ELECTIONS IN PHILADELPHIA
In my September 26th column in the Philadelphia Daily News I write how most of the nation's major cities have gone to non-partisan mayoralty elections, cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Cleveland, Phoenix, Houston etc.
For those who want the Cliff Notes version read the following article from the Gotham Gazette. Thanks to the Committee of 70 for pointing me in the right direction for this information, which is not to say that it subscribes to my views.
In my April 23 column in the Daily News I ask the question of what we would say if were asked what we were doing between the time of the April 16th massacre at Virginia Tech and the next rampage that will certainly occur again. Will we be bemoaning all the handgun violence in our country and state or will we be working actively to do something about it?
I recently became President of the Board of CeaseFire PA, a statewide organization whose mission is to reduce handgun violence. To be candid, as of now we are--pun fully intended--outgunned by the NRA and others who are skillful organizers and have plenty of ammunition (yes, pun intended once again).
But it need not be that way. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Pennsylvanians want more sensible handgun laws. If we can convert well-meaning people into active advocates, we can be successful in passing laws that can protect our citizens, incuding our police.
Let me be straightforward, we need your help.
To be successful, we need to build a grassroots organization. And yes we need money. To paraphrase a former Philadelphia congressman, money talks, goodwill walks.
Let me know if you are willing to help us build a grass roots organization that can encourage our legislators to take action. Governor Rendell is already on board. Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you are willing to be part of the solution.
And please make a contribution to:
CeaseFire Pennsylvania Education Fund, an IRS 501 C(3) charitable organization. These contributions are tax deductible to the donor to the extent allowed by law.
And/or to CeaseFire PA, an IRS C(4) organization, donations to which are not tax-deductible.
And/or CeaseFire PA PAC, a political action committee.
The mailing address is: CeaseFire PA 111 South Independence Mall East Suite 572 Philadelphia, PA 19106
. "The official registration and financial information of CeaseFire PA and the CeaseFire Pennsylvania Education Fund may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement."
Visit our websites at www.CeaseFirePa.org and www.HandgunSanity.org.
In my March 14th column in the Daily News, I raised the issue whether the "city's tax reduction strategy program been worth the less-than-modest tax savings for middle class wage earners or small business owers" And "has the tax reduction strategy, arguably resulting in shrinking city services, accomplished its stated objectives: more jobs and increased population? And if not yet, when?"
The city is in its 13th consecutive year of tax reductions, something no other major city can say. Since 2000, we have collected $1.2 billion less in tax revnues than we otherwise would have. How have individual tax payers made out? If you compared the wage tax paid in 2000 by a $50,000 wage earner compared to what she paid in 2006, the difference is $144--that's worth about two extra cups of Duncan Donuts coffee a week.
With less money to spend, the city has had to reduce staffing to core services. That's not necessarily a bad thing: every business can do with less, particularly if they have have work rules that allow flexibility. Unfortunately, Philadelphia does not.
There is also a point when staff reductions can be too much.
Here's a snapshot view of what's happened to some key city departments:
In 2000, the sanitation division--the department that picks up trash--had 1502 employees. In fiscal year 2007, it was 1214. Licenses and Inspections had 439 employees in 2000 and 345 in 2007. That's the department that inspects homes and other buildings for safety. In 2000 the Police Department had 7847 officers, in 2007 it was 7293.(That's the same department for which candidates are promising as much as 1000 more cops). In 2000, Fleet Management had 487 employees; in 2007 the number was 313. Fleet Management is the department that maintains the city's fleet like sanitation trucks, police cars, fire engines and ambulances.
Sometimes when your trash isn't picked up, it's not because the trashmen are " lazy" it is because the trash compactors were out of service and there wasn't enough staff to bring them back to service in a timely fashion.
While most of the public discussion has been on our tax structure, there has been little on the possible impact on quality of life services and its effect on making Philadelphia a liveable and attractive city. The Tax Reform Commission was not permitted, under its mandate, to consider the impact on services. But mayoralty candidates sure can.
One of the thoughtful responses I received on my column was from Mike Masch, who is Governor Rendell's Budget Secretary. And, he was also Mayor Rendell's Budget Director. Mike is a very knowledgeable individual. Here is his response:
"Read your column today with interest.I'll just say that the value of the tax cuts to the city was never meant to be measured primarily by the amount of additional money it put into the pocket of the "typical" Philadelphian. Our concern in 1993 was the message the cuts sent to those with the power to invest in the city, keep jobs here or move them. Before Rendell began the tax cut program in 1994, there was a sense on the part of the investing community that there was no limit to how much city tax rates could increase and no reason to assume that rates would remain where they were, since for 50 years City tax rates had only gone up, never down. Goode, you will recall, wanted to raise the Wage Tax in his second term closer to 6% not 5, and would have gotten Council to go along if not for Street blocking him.That said, I wanted to make sure you are aware that under the Governor's FY2007-08 budget proposal, City wage taxes could be decreased by an additional 7% (for residents) and 4.3% (for nonresidents) next year, with NO loss of City revenues, as the funding would all come from the State through a combination of gaming revenues and State sales tax revenues. To put those kinds of decreases in context, all the incremental Wage Tax cuts from 1994 to the present amount to an aggregate 15% cut in the resident Wage Tax and 10% in the nonresident Wage Tax. (In 2-3 years, as gaming revenues increase, these State-funded cuts will roughly double, again with no offsetting loss in City revenues."
In my January 31st column in the Daily News I tried to explain the frenzy over the recent Royal visit to Philadelphia. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Prince Charles and his wife Camilla at one of the events and actually shook their hands but only after they extended their hands to me. (Those were the instructions we were given, including to call him Your Royal Highness.) I must admit I was quite taken by the pomp and ceremony. But as the Royal couple walked down the receiving line, I simply could not stop thinking about their nightime conversation before Charles and Camilla had become the Royal couple and the Prince was still married to Princess Diana. Then again when I see President Clinton, I still have rumblings of Monica in the back of my mind. While I allude to parts of the night time telephone conversation between Charles and Camilla in my Daily News column, I couldn't repeat it all because of space and it is a family newspaper. So here is the conversation courtesy of Michael Smerconishwebsite.
The Camillaget Transcript 12/18/1989
Charles: "He was a bit anxious, actually." Camilla: "Was he?" Charles: "He thought he might've gone too far." Camilla: "Ah well." Charles: "Anyway, you know that's the sort of thing one has to beware of. And sort of feel one's way along with - if you know what I mean." Camilla: "Mmmm. You're awfully good feeling your way along." Charles: "Oh Stop! I want to feel my way along you, all over you, and up and down you, and in and out..." Camilla: "Oh, Charles!" Charles: "Particularly in and out!" Camilla: "Oh, that's just what I need at the moment." Charles: "Is it?"
Scanner Enthusiast: "December 18th." (the scanner ethusiast speaks over to record the date)
Camilla: "I know it would revive me. I can't bear a Sunday night without you." Charles: "Oh, God." Camilla: "It's like that programme 'Start the Week.' I can't start the week without you." Charles: "I fill up your tank!!" Camilla: "Yes, you do." Charles: "Then you can cope." Camilla: "Then I'm all right." Charles: "What about me? The trouble is I need you several times a week." Camilla: "Mmmm, so do I. I need you all the week. All the time." Charles: "Oh, God. I'll just live inside your trousers, or something. It would be much easier!" Camilla: (laughing) "What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? (Both laugh) Camilla: "Oh, You're you're going to come back as a pair of knickers!" Charles: "Or, God forbid, a Tampax! Just my luck!" (Laughs) Camilla: "You are a complete idiot! (Laughs) Oh, what a wonderful idea!" Charles: "My luck to be chucked down the lavatory and go on and on, forever swirling round on the top, never going down." Camilla: (Laughing) "Oh, Darling!" Charles: "Until the next one comes through." Camilla: "Oh, perhaps you could come back as a box." Charles: "What sort of box?" Camilla: "A box of Tampax, so you could just keep going." Charles: "That's true." Camilla: "Repeating yourself...(Laughing) Oh, darling I just want you now." Charles: "Do You?" Camilla: "Mmmmm." Charles: "So do I!" Camilla: "Desperately, desperately, desperately. Oh, I thought of you so much at Yaraby." Charles: "Did you?" Camilla: "Simply mean we couldn't be there together."
Charles: "Desperate. If you could be here - I long to ask Nancy sometimes." Camilla: "Why don't you?" Charles: "I daren't." Camilla: "Because I think she's in love with you?" Charles: "Mmm." Camilla: "She'd do anything you asked." Charles: "She'd tell all sorts of people." Camilla: "No, she wouldn't, because she'd be much too frightened of what you might say to her. I think you've got - I'm afraid it's a terrible thing to say - but I think , you know, those sort of people do feel very strongly about you. You've got such a hold over her." Charles: "Really?" Camilla: "And you're..... I think, as usual, you're underestimating yourself." Charles: "But she might be terribly jealous or something." Camilla: "Oh! (Laughs) Now that's a point! I wonder, she might be, I suppose." Charles: "You never know, do you?" Camilla: "No, the little green eyed monster might be lurking inside her. No, but I mean the thing is, you're so good when people are so flattered to be taken into your confidence, but I don't know they'd betray you. You know, real friends..." Charles: "Really?" Camilla: "I don't..." (Pause)
Camilla: "Gone to sleep?" Charles: "No, I'm here." Camilla: "Darling, listen: I talked to David tonight again. It might not be any good." Charles: "Oh, no!!" Camilla: "I'll tell you why: He's got these children of one of those Crawley girls and their nanny staying. He's going-- I'm going to ring him again tomorrow. He's going to try and hold them off till Friday. But as an alternative, perhaps I might ring up Charlie..." Charles: "Yes." Camilla: "...And see if we could do it there. I know he is back on Thursday..." Charles: "It's quite a lot further away." Camilla: "Oh, is it?" Charles: "Well, I'm just trying to think: coming from Newmarket...?" Camilla: "Coming from Newmarket to me at that time of night, you could probably do it in two and three quarters, It takes me three." Charles: "What to go to, Um, Bowood?" ( Bowood: the family home of Charles Earl of Shelburne, who'd been rumoured to have had an affair with Camilla) Camilla: "Northmore." (Northmore: A horse stud farm near Newmarket in Suffolk, at the time owned by Emilie and Hugh Van Cutsem) Charles: "To go to Bowood?" Camilla: "To go to Bowood would be the same as the same as me really, wouldn't it?" Charles: "I mean to say, you would suggest going to Bowood, uh?" Camilla: "No, not at all." Charles: "Which Charlie, then?" Camilla: "What Charlie do you think I was talking about?" Charles: "I didn't know, because I thought you meant....." Camilla: "I've got lots...." Charles: "Somebody else." Camilla: "I've got lots of friends called Charlie." Charles: "The other one, Patty's." ( Patty and Charlie Parker -Tomkinson, the good friends of Charles) Camilla: "Oh! Oh!, There! Oh that is further away. They're not...."
Charles: "They've gone....." Camilla: "I don't know. It's just, you know, just a thought I had, If it fell through, the other place." Charles: "Oh, Right. What do you do? Go on the M25 then down the M4 is it?" Camilla: "Yes, you go, um, and sort of Royston or M11, at that time of night." Charles: "Yes, well, that'll be just after shooting anyway." Camilla: "So it would be, um, you'd miss the worst of the traffic. Because I'll er.... You see the problem is I've got to be in London tomorrow night." Charles: "Yes." Camilla: "And Tuesday night, A's coming home." Charles: "No!" (groans) Camilla: "Would you believe it? Because, I don't know what he's doing. He's shooting down here or something. but, darling, you wouldn't be able to ring me anyway, would you?" Charles: "I might just, I mean, tomorrow night I could have done." Camilla: "Oh Darling, I can't bear it. How could you have done tomorrow night?" Charles: "Because I'll be (Yawns) working on the next speech." Camilla: "Oh no, what's the next one?" Charles: "A Business in The Community one, rebuilding communities." Camilla: "Oh no, when's that for?" Charles: "A rather important one for Wednesday." Camilla: "Well, at least I'll be behind you." Charles: "I know." Camilla: "Can I have a copy of the one you've just done?" Charles: "Yes." Camilla: "Can I? um, I would like it." Charles: "OK, I'll try and organize it."
Camilla: "Darling..." Charles: "But I, oh God, when am I going to speak to you?!" Camilla: "I can't bear it... Umm......." Charles: "Wednesday night?" Camilla: "Oh, certainly Wednesday night. I'll be alone, um, Wednesday, you know, the evening. Or Tuesday. while you're rushing around doing things I'll be, you know, alone until 'it' reappears. "And early Wednesday morning, I mean, he'll be leaving at half past eight, quarter past eight. He won't be here Thursday, pray God. Um, that ambulance strike, it's a terrible thing to say this: I suppose it won't have come to an end by Thursday...?" (The "it" Camilla is referring to is her own husband, Andrew Parker Bowles.)
Charles: "It will have done?" Camilla: "Well, I mean I hope for everybody's sake it will have done, but I hope for our sakes it's still going on." Charles: "Why?" Camilla: "Well, because if it stops he'll come down here on Thursday night." Charles: "Oh no." Camilla: "Yes, but I don't think it will stop, do you?" Charles: "No, neither do I. just our luck." Camilla: "It just would be our luck, I know." Charles: "Then it's bound to!" Camilla: "No, it won't. You mustn't think like that. You must think positively." Charles: "I'm not very good at that." Camilla: "Well, I'm going to. Because if I don't, I'd despair. (Pause) Hmmm - gone to sleep?"
Charles: "No. How maddening." Camilla: "I know. Anyway, I mean he's doing his best to change it--David... But I just thought, you know, I might ask Charlie." Charles: "Did he say anything?" Camilla: "No, I haven't talked to him." Charles: "You haven't?" Camilla: "Well, I talked to him briefly, but you know, I just thought I - I just don't know whether he's got any children at home, that's the worry." Charles: "Right." Camilla: "Oh, Darling. I think I'll..." Charles: "Pray. Just Pray." Camilla: "It would be so wonderful to have just one night to set us on our way, wouldn't it?" Charles: "Wouldn't it? To wish you a Happy Christmas." Camilla: (Indistinct) "Happy. Oh, don't let's think about Christmas! I can't bear it. (Pause) Going to go to sleep ? I think you'd better, don't you, darling?"
Charles: (Sleepy) "Yes, Darling?" Camilla: "I think you've exhausted yourself by all that hard work. You must go to sleep now, Darling." Charles: (Sleepy) "Yes, Darling?" Camilla: "Will you ring me when you wake up?" Charles: "Yes I will." Camilla: "Before I have these rampaging children around. It's Tom's birthday, tomorrow. (Pause) You all right?" Charles: "Mmm. I'm all right." Camilla: "Can I talk to you, I hope, before those rampaging children...?" Charles: "What time do they come in?"
Camilla: "Well, usually Tom never wakes up at all, but as it's his birthday, tomorrow, he might just stagger out of bed. It won't be before half past eight. (Pause) Night-night, my darling." Charles: "Darling....." Camilla: "I do love you." Charles: (Sleepily) "Before..." Camilla: "Before half past eight." Charles: "Try and ring?" Camilla: "Yeah, if you can. Love you darling." Charles: "Night, Darling."
Camilla: "I love you." Charles: "I love you too. I don't want to say goodbye." Camilla: "Well done, for doing that. You're a clever old thing. An awfully good brain lurking there, isn't there? Oh, darling, I think you ought to give the brain a rest now. Night-Night." Charles: "Night darling, God bless." Camilla: "I do love you, and I'm so proud of you." Charles: "Oh, I'm so proud of you." Camilla: "Don't be silly. I've never achieved anything." Charles: "Yes, you have." Camilla: "No, I haven't." Charles: "You're greatest achievement is to love me."
Camilla: "Oh, darling easier than falling off a chair." Charles: "You suffer all these indignities and tortures and calumnies!" Camilla: "Oh, darling don't be so silly I'd suffer anything for you. That's love. It's the strength of love. Night-night." Charles: "Night darling. Sounds if you're dragging an enormous piece of string behind you, with hundreds of tin pots and cans attached to it. Night-night, before the battery goes. (Blows kiss) Night." Camilla: "Love you."
Charles: "Don't want to say goodbye." Camilla: "Neither do I, but you must get some sleep, Bye." Charles: "Bye, darling." Camilla: "Love you." Charles: "Bye." Camilla: "Hopefully talk to you in the morning." Charles: "Please!" Camilla: "Bye, I do love you." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Night." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Love you, forever." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "G'bye. Bye, my darling." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Night-night." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Bye-bye." Charles: "Going." Camilla: "Gone." Charles: "Going." Camilla: "Gone." Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Bye, Press the button." Charles: "Going to press the tit." Camilla: "All right darling; God--I wish you were pressing mine." Charles: "God, I wish I was! Harder and harder!" Camilla: "Oh, darling!" Charles: "Night." Camilla: "Night." Charles: "Love you." Camilla: (Yawning) "Love you. Press the tit." Charles: "Adore you. Night." Camilla: "Night." Charles: "Night." Camilla: ( Blowing a kiss sound) Charles: "Night." Camilla: "G'night my darling, Love you." Charles finally hangs up the phone.
First the Iraqis made a spectacle of the hanging of Saddam and have now butchered the hanging of his step-brother whose head was accidentally severed during the process. It's clear the Iraqis need some practice in perfecting the hanging methodolgy. They have spent too much time on blowing up people that they have become rusty in the more rudimentary hanging process.