Searching for Philadelphia’s Rand Paul

While the rest of the country is tightening its belt, Philadelphia is raising taxes. Where is the outsider who wants to shake up the city?

Candidates on the ballot across the country are facing an angry electorate this year.  A large percentage of the voters seem to want one simple thing — anybody different than the person who is in office now.  In campaign 2010, things like experience and political clout mean little — just ask Arlen Specter. An outsider who promises to cut spending can shake things up — just ask Rand Paul. [SIGNUP]

Rand Paul is the son of Texas congressman and Republican presidential contender Ron Paul.  Aside from his father, Rand Paul has no political experience. He has been an ophthalmologist all of his adult life. Dr. Paul did something extraordinary.  He entered the Republican Primary for Senate in Kentucky against a well-funded, party-endorsed candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson. He then travelled the state and told people, “If you want someone who is going to bring Federal money to Kentucky, I am not your guy.”

Rand Paul will win the Kentucky Primary by a landslide. He is the poster boy of the 2010 elections. An outsider and political novice who wants to go to Washington to cut spending and cut the size of government.

So what does this have to do with Philadelphia?

While other cities, sensing the mood of the electorate and the realities of 2010, have trimmed spending and tried to make municipal government more efficient, Philadelphia has decided to raise taxes and keep government big and fat. Philadelphia is the rebel child in the current political climate. Residents here are already paying the highest taxes in the country, and more are coming.

To be fair, Mayor Michael Nutter has made some spending cuts. But after trimming a minimal amount of fat, the Mayor abruptly announced that any more cuts would be “Draconian” and would severely hurt city services. It was a dramatic and definitive assertion with not one bit of evidence to prove his case.

That evidence was not forthcoming at a Philadelphia City Council meeting last week when 10 members voted to dump a slew of new taxes and fees on the backs of the city’s already over-burdened population.

The Council approved new taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco and a $300 trash-collection fee for small businesses and multiunit dwellings. But the piece de resistance of the gluttons is a property tax hike of 9.9%.

“See it’s only 9.9 percent, not double digits, not 10 percent. Feel better? Oh yeah, and it is only a temporary hike that will go away in 2013, promise!”

When has a tax ever really been temporary?  Taxes are forever, just like the tolls on bridges and roads that are supposed to go away after the cost of construction is paid.  But they never go away; they just continue to go up. And so will this property tax.

The mayor and council seems to think we are gullible and they may be right.  If not gullible, we are certainly numb.  As the nation grows angry about over-spending, most Philadelphians seem nonplussed.

Philadelphia should be ground zero in the national movement to cut the size of government.  The most taxed citizens in America should be leading the charge against spending run amok.  And yet there are no protests at City Hall, no intense media coverage, no compelling personalities leading the charge,

Through a lack of organized response, the people of Philadelphia seem to be accepting whatever pain the City inflicts on us.  In other words, we get what we deserve.

Where is Philadelphia’s Rand Paul? Perhaps one will emerge before the next Mayoral and Council elections in 2011, before the Mayor’s “sweet tax” on sugary beverages is pushed through.

Just in case the Philadelphia electorate does wake up before 2011, here are the names of the council members who voted for the property tax increase and should now be known as “The Property Tax Ten:”  Blondell Reynolds Brown, Darrell L. Clarke, W. Wilson Goode Jr.,William K. Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., James Kenney, Donna Reed Miller, Maria D. Quinones- Sánchez, Marian B. Tasco and Anna C. Verna.

It is also important to remember those who voted against it, “The Magnificent Seven” – Jannie Blackwell, Frank DiCicco, Bill Green, Jack Kelly, Joan L. Krajewski, Brian J. O’Neill and Frank Rizzo.

Perhaps Philadelphia’s Rand Paul will come from the seven who voted against increased property taxes for the city.  Or perhaps the electorate will be awakened from its tax abuse-induced coma of submission by a political outsider.

Either way, the city needs its Rand Paul before the “temporary” property tax increase becomes permanent and before Melrose Diner customers have to pay more every time they order a Coke.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his video commentaries at