KYW Regional Affairs Council


“Harrisburg’s FAILING Grade in Philadelphia”


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s home rule charter is supposed to guarantee that it can govern itself, but some major areas of city life are controlled by a complex conglomerate of different interests from the state and other parts of the region.

It’s a system that has led to some recent foul-ups and calls for reform.

Think of the most important areas of public life: housing, transportation, education, tourism, budgeting.  In Philadelphia, there is no direct, exclusive local control of any of these.

“I call it the balkanization of Philadelphia,” says Phil Goldsmith, a former deputy mayor  of Philadelphia and former school district CEO who has fought against state encroachment on the city’s self-governance.

(Phil Goldsmith. Photo provided)

Goldsmith (right) says the various authorities the state has imposed on the City of Philadelphia — SEPTA, the Housing Authority, the Convention Center Authority, the Parking Authority, and the School Reform Commission, to name a few — have the effect of undermining democracy.

“There’s no one individual that the voters can hold responsible for how an institution is succeeding or failing,” he notes.

It may not be such a big issue when institutions are succeeding, but in the case of failure — say, the recent scandal at the Philadelphia Housing Authority (see related story) or the costly removal of the schools superintendent (related story) — local officials rally to regain control.

A bill to give the mayor control of the Housing Authority is advancing in Harrisburg, and Pennsylvania state senator Mike Stack (D-Phila.) has recently introduced a bill to abolish the School Reform Commission (related story).

“It’s time to put the power of the School District of Philadelphia into the hands of the citizens whose taxes go to the public schools,” Stack tells KYW Newsradio.

The measures, though, are opposed — ironically — by Republicans in Harrisburg, who normally champion less government.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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