convictions are most useful in sending a message to City Hall players to do a better job not getting caught next time. The convictions will have little impact on ending the pay-to-play culture that has been a part of city life since long before John Street’s time. This is clearly a problem for city progressives, but also in many ways a red herring.
As distracting and unethical as municipal corruption is, the cost of no-bid contracts, Eagles tickets, decks and even $10,000 cash gifts are not the cause of Philadelphia’s budgetary woes. The real problems in our city have been caused by a shrinking tax base which has just as much to do with an increase in poverty over the past 30 years as it does with population loss.
These are problems that no one knows exactly how to solve. However, avoiding solving these problems because of their complexity is irresponsible, especially for thoughtful, circumspect people like the readers of this and other local blogs who have spent so much time supporting Seth Williams for DA because of his thoughtful and logical approach to a complex issue.
So, I suggest that we, progressive Philadelphians, take the corruption convictions in stride and maintain leadership on the more important issues facing Philadelphia. We must focus our energy progressive candidates, like Seth, and also on progressive legislation and policy ideas that truly move the city forward.
An example of this kind of forward thinking is the minimum wage bill that Council and the Mayor are expected to pass this week sponsored by Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. The bill would raise the minimum wage by 150% for workers employed by the City or City-funded entities.
This is great legislation that can truly improve Philadelphia's future as rising wages mean rising tax revenue which benefits all of us. Further, low-wage workers spend more of their money in their own neighborhoods then higher wage earners which means that an increase in local wages has a huge impact on neighborhoods all throughout Philadelphia.
The bill has the support to pass this week, but we must be vigilant and help guarantee its passage. The Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable here in Pennsylvania and all across the country have been notoriously aggressive in quashing minimum wage increases and are likely to undermine this effort in any way they can.
The most likely strategy they will pursue is to say that increasing the minimum wage in Philadelphia will make our city less competitive with other counties in our region. While many reputable economists have generally disproved the truth of this statement, a simple way to avoid the business community’s trap is to simultaneously support the state bill to raise the minimum wage sponsored by Philadelphia’s own, State Senator Tina Tartaglione and State Representative Mark Cohen. Since New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio have already raised their minimum wage, the state competitiveness argument will fall flat.
Raising the wages of the majority of Philadelphia households who currently pull in an average of $30,000 a year will not only increase our city‘s tax base, but it will also restore a faith in government for low-income people who have been disenfranchised since long before Corey Kemp came to City Hall. Our anger and sense of disillusionment with corruption must not be given more priority because of our privilege than the much more fundamental sense of failure that our city, state and federal government exudes every day to those with out any privilege at all.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
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