We call upon the Delaware River Port Authority and Governor Ed Rendell to withhold all funding for the new "Philadelphia Union" pro soccer stadium being built on the Chester, PA waterfront until the two budget proposals Philadelphia needs to balance its city budget is disconnected from state budget negotiations.
This sounds complicated, so a brief explanation:
Why What did Chester do to Philly
State Senator Dominic Pileggi is the former mayor of Chester and the current Republican Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate. He describes himself as a "lifelong resident" of Chester. The Pennsylvania state budget was due on July 1, 2009, but remains unresolved due to various differences between Pileggi's budget (SB850) and Governor Ed Rendell's budget. It may be unresolved for months. For better or for worse, that is routine state politics in Pennsylvania.
What is not routine state politics is that Senator Pileggi refuses to consider the approvals necessary for the Philadelphia city budget as separate from the larger state budget battle. He is, in effect, holding Philadelphia's city budget hostage as an unrelated point of leverage in his negotiations with the Governor, who is a former mayor of Philadelphia. Philadelphia's budget needs state approval because it includes an increase in Philadelphia's sales taxes, but its an increase that only affects Philadelphia. No one from Pileggi's district or anywhere else in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia will be forced to pay one cent more in taxes if it is approved. It only affects transactions in Philadelphia. Whether you support the Senate budget or the Governor's budget or something in between, if you don't come to Philadelphia to buy things, Philadelphia's sales tax will not affect you.
After much debate, Philadelphia city government was able to come to a compromise by the same July 1 legal deadline that Pileggi and the rest of Pennsylvania state government has so far failed to reach. But Sen. Pileggi, perhaps out of spite and perhaps out of political gamesmanship, would ruin Philadelphia's hard fought budget solution and put Philadelphia's public safety at risk.
If the approval is delayed, the city faces "doomsday cuts".
As a result of state law that says the City must pass its budget once and one time only, if Philadelphia's budget is denied or delayed past August 15 by the State Senate, the required cuts will be devastating. The city will be forced to lay off 3,000 city workers, including 732 police officers and 200 fire fighters, and to close all its libraries and recreation centers as well as the entire park system. Those cuts, all at once, could be a public safety disaster for Philadelphia.
It is irresponsible and unfair to hold the safety of Philadelphia citizens hostage to unrelated state budget negotiations.
The connection to the soccer stadium
State government is investing $45 million in a plan to build the soccer stadium as an anchor for redevelopment of Chester's long-beleaguered and heavily polluted industrial waterfront. The stadium will pay no real estate taxes for 12 years. The project is receiving another $10 million in infrastructure investment from the Delaware River Port Authority in the form of road signs and sewer improvement.
The DRPA is a state established authority charged with funding port and transit infrastructure, such as bridges across the Delaware River. In fact, it collects a significant portion of its funding from tolls charged to people driving across the bridges it administrates. The DRPA recently raised the tolls by one-third on all its bridges.
The number of people crossing the Delaware to and from Philadelphia over its four bridges simply dwarf the amount of traffic across Chester's single Commodore Barry bridge.
In effect, people driving across Philly's bridges are in part subsidizing Chester's economic redevelopment with their bridge tolls. And there is significant controversy whether the money being invested in Chester will deliver what was promised in terms of lasting economic development. Some, in fact, argue that the money only benefits the soccer franchise and a few contractors friendly with the local political establishment (read: Senator Pileggi). Isiah Thompson's recent City Paper article, "Steamrolled!" discusses controversy around the stadium plan from a number of angles.
So, back to Pileggi and the state budget.
Senator Pileggi is holding Philadelphia's safety and well-being hostage in order to twist the political arm of Philadelphia's former mayor, now current Governor. Meanwhile, Chester, where Pileggi used to be mayor and still keeps his campaign offices, is receiving an unprecedented amount of funding from Philadelphia's bridge tolls. If Pileggi is going to hold Philly's municipal budget hostage to his state political agenda, perhaps he should get a taste of what it's like when a project in his home town is held up. We urge the DRPA and Governor Rendell to stop funding for Chester's soccer stadium as long as Philly's city budget is held hostage.
DON'T LET STATE POLITICS SPELL DISASTER FOR THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF PHILADELPHIA'S CITIZENS.
Copies of this petition will be sent to Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Dominic Pileggi, the board of the DRPA before August 14. If Philadelphia does not receive approval for its municipal budget by August 15 state law requires the implementation of what's been called the "doomsday budget".
Please distribute this petition as widely as you can. Part of the idea is just to better inform Philadelphians of the seriousness and the sheer pointlessness of the crisis Philadelphia faces.
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