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La Salle Prof Says Philadelphians Can Help Solve Budget Woes

September 19, 2008

Shannon Curley, WHYY/ It's Our Time


It's been a bad week. On Wall Street, Lehman Brothers collapsed, AIG got a government bailout, and Merrill Lynch was bought out. In state government, Governor Ed Rendell declared a statewide hiring freeze to preemptively address possible budget shortfalls. In Philadelphia, things aren't looking any better.


Last Thursday, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the city is facing a $450 million gap between the spending plan and economic reality over the next five years. Then two days ago, Nutter's Finance Director Rob Dubow announced that because of the stock market turmoil this week, Philly's budget shortfall could be even worse.


It's Our City talked to Paul Brazina, who sits on the board of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia which published a report in January called "Philadelphia's Quiet Crisis: The Rising Cost of Employee Benefits", to find out how we got here and how to turn it around.


"The real challenge is being able to react quickly," says Brazina. In order to recover as soon as possible, Brazina says the city needs to have a very creative team in place so, among other things, essential public safety and social services are not reduced.


Brazina says that he has confidence in Nutter, but he feels that there are things that the average Philadelphian can do to get involved and help out our city. For instance, he says, if you hear about a new rec center being built in your neighborhood, but the one you have now was only built a few years ago, is it necessary for the city to be spending that money?


The mayor has laid out ambitious plans for reforming the city across the board, and to be hit with this kind of fiscal crisis could sidetrack his administration from its goals. If the public gets on board to help root out unnecessary spending, Nutter can keep the momentum he started in his first year in office.


Anyone who's lived in Philadelphia for a few years has seen that some departments work better than others. We want to know where you think there's unnecessary spending. What departments do you think are doing well, and which ones do you think should be targeted for major cuts?