Bang the Gong and Grab the Hook
by Adam Lang
September 8, 2009
A part of the op-ed was printed in the Philadelphia Daily News on September 9, 2009
in response to Councilwoman Krajewski's op-ed proposing a tax amnesty.
The best part of Councilwoman Krajewski’s recent editorial was her reference to “Let’s Make a Deal” because City Hall is much like a game show.
Councilwoman Krajewski starts out her editorial letting us know that 90% of the phone calls her office gets involves help with city services like trash pickup and vacant lots. While she may think it is great letting people know how much constituent services work she performs, it is in all reality very embarrassing.
What her story shows is that she has known for years that people don’t expect to get city services by calling the appropriate department (or the 3-1-1 system we have in place) and that she hasn’t done anything to fix that problem. Did City Council increase their budget during a financial crisis because they need to pay more staffers to answer phones? This shows that, when it comes to permanently fixing the delivery of city services, Councilwoman Krajewski is the "Weakest Link".
Next, the Councilwoman goes into a story about a lady who owes $13,000 in back property taxes because she didn’t always pay her taxes every year since 1997. She then goes to blame the interest and penalties as the reason for the current hefty tax bill and proceeds to say “it wasn't until she was threatened with a sheriff's sale that she finally started to ask for help”. So, from her own mouth, we see that penalties and interest aren’t the problem, but the fact it took the city 12 years to address an issue of tax delinquency. If the City addresses tax delinquency before all the penalties add up, then the bill "Price is Right".
Now, she goes into the main point of her letter. She supports a tax amnesty plan to erase all penalties and interest that City Controller Alan Butkovitz is proposing. This is a follow up to his previous song “Why Pay for Pensions Today When You Can Pay for Them in the Future and with Interest?”. To make up for the fact City Hall has done a horrendous job of collecting taxes (and as Controller, Mr. Butkovitz should have been reporting on that every year… ) from people who have not paid for decades, they want to reward them by acting like nothing happened. Instead of talking about payment plans and methods for making it easier for people to pay back the tax bill (how about if you pay principal in full with a payment plan for penalties, future penalties are held and no threat of a sheriff sale), they want to acknowledge they are unable to collect money we are owed. I am sure we can all "Name That Tune" – less reason for other people to pay their taxes in the future.
Councilwoman Krajewski then proceeds to imply that if we don’t do a tax amnesty more city services will be cut. She seems to overlook the fact that if they did a better job of making sure taxes were collected, we may not have had to cut services at all. That’s the Truth with possible Consequences.
Until City Hall seriously deals with the problems of taxation, from rates to assessments to collections, our budget will always be in Jeopardy.