City Council’s Scare Tactics

We pay higher taxes; they get to stay bloated

I got a robocall from a nun on Tuesday. I have gotten them before because my son attends Norwood-Fontbonne Academy in Chestnut Hill, run by the good Sisters of St. Joseph. The call usually signals an emergency: the school closing because of the snow, or letting out early because of the heat. But with school recessed for the summer, what emergency could there possibly be? The worst one yet.

The same politicians that padded their pockets with city DROP money were coming after the kids.

The call started as it always does: “This is Sister Mary Helen Beirne, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy Head of Schools.” As someone who spent 12 years in Catholic schools, I have a Pavlovian reaction of standing up at attention when I hear those words. “This is a very important call pertaining to all NFA and Philadelphia School District families.” And that is how the sister’s Holy War with the city of Philadelphia started. She was rallying the troops to storm City Hall with phone calls.

“The Philadelphia School District is considering the end of school bus service for all Philadelphia students. This would severely impact all of our Philadelphia families that ride the daily buses that come to Norwood-Fontbonne Academy.”
It was the first I heard of the newest proposed insanity from the city. In a bloated City government of patronage jobs, unnecessary departments, enough “Deputy Mayors” to start a posse, no-bid contracts, cozy union work rules and DROP, our leaders somehow miss all of that when looking for places to save money. The greed that comes with power drives our city leaders to protect the status quo of patronage and perks like a pirate protects his treasure. Libraries, fire departments and school buses, the very things we pay the city to provide, are deemed expendable. It would be like McDonald’s cutting hamburgers from its menu because the operational costs were getting to high.

And this insanity is enough to force a strong woman of faith to become a political lobbyist. The message from Sister Mary Helen continues, “Your voice to speak for the school buses is essential. Please contact your City Council member as soon as possible to gain their support for the bus funding.” The robocall was followed up by two mass emails from the sister with contact information for City Council members and another plea for help.

City Council got the message, and a vote Thursday assured that the Philadelphia School District would get additional funding. The District will now have to decide if that money will be used to continue yellow bus service. If for any reason the District ends the service, all school district and city employees who get city cars as a perk should be required to pick up children in the morning and take them to school.

The City Council action does not end Philadelphia’s financial troubles or the insanity. In fact, the insanity was fed when Council decided that in order to fund the school district, and more importantly their status quo, it would raise property taxes by nearly four percent. The tax hike was seen as the only alternative to the Mayor’s controversial “soda tax.”

The call from Sister Mary Helen and the vote by council made me realize that the perceived insanity may actually be something manipulative and diabolical, a fear tactic to justify an increase in basic taxes.

The threat to close libraries was followed with a one percent increase in the city sales tax. The threat to stop school bus service is now followed by a four percent increase in the property tax. Fear causes the most taxed citizens in America to accept more taxes; fear gives our politicians cover. They present insanity as the only alternative, and our emotions cause us to turn a blind eye to the obvious alternatives.

Somehow that fear needs to be turned on our city politicians and bureaucrats so that they are forced to shoulder the burden instead of shifting it to us. We need to turn the tables and make drastic threats to them so that they accept cuts instead of always asking us to pay for their bloat.

Our opportunity comes in November when the over-threatened and over-taxed citizens of Philadelphia have a unique opportunity to clean out City Hall. Perhaps the good sister will continue her Holy War and lead us. Of all the robocalls I have received over the years from presidents, politicians and celebrities, hers was the most powerful. It was a higher calling.