Remarks of Kathy Black, on behalf of the Coalition for Essential Services, 9/17/09
Good morning. I am here today speaking on behalf of Philadelphia NOW and Philadelphia CLUW, which represents hundreds of members of many different unions from across our region. We have been an organizational member of the Coalition for Essential Services since its inception, and we are proud to stand with the city workers’ unions and the many community and constituency groups who are concerned about the well-being of our City and its citizens.
We reject as false the Mayor’s claim that draconian service and staff cuts are the only way to restore fiscal stability to our ailing city. There is no way that the delay of the hoped for additional $16-$20 million in sales tax revenue requires the cutting of 3000 jobs, or the closing of any libraries or recreation centers, much less all of them. Deferred pension payments are not due until the middle of next year, giving us plenty of time to find other solutions.
No one here is denying that we are in a recession or that the City has lost revenue as a result. But eliminating some of the most necessary and cherished services the City provides to its citizens is not an acceptable answer to these problems.
Last Spring, we all applauded the Mayor’s initiative to involve citizens in the process of planning the City’s financial future. Hundreds of us attended the four forums that were held around the City, and we spent hours thinking through the problems and proposing solutions. Many of our members attended these forums and reported back to our group. Obviously, we can’t speak for every small group in each forum, but we think it’s fairly safe to say that no group of citizens suggested, or would find acceptable, the laying off of 1000 police officers, or the closing of our court system, or the elimination of the critical programs for our children that libraries and rec centers provide.
We do know that hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue enhancement and cost cutting ideas were proposed through these forums - ideas that had been carefully researched by many of our Coalition’s member groups. What happened to those ideas? Why weren’t they implemented? Why did we go through that process if our ideas were to be ignored? We do hate to sound cynical, but in retrospect, it appears those forums were just window dressing. Cutting services and jobs appears to have been the real aim of the Mayor all along.
And so we call on the Mayor and City Council to go back to the drawing board. Look at the creative suggestions that have already been proposed and find others, including raising taxes if necessary, to fill the budget gaps. But please, do not tell the citizens of our beloved City that the only way out is to jeopardize the public safety, decimate the services that provide culture, education and recreation for our people, or eliminate the jobs that provide living wages and family benefits for thousands of City workers who are our friends, relatives and neighbors. Because we do not believe it and we will not accept it.