Saturday, September 28, 2013

Job Security

It looks like Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr. won't rest until he's followed in his father's footsteps, destroying the city one way or another.

In yet another example of why electing familiar names is a bad idea, Goode, entirely out of touch with what has financially benefitted the city since 1997, is trying to kill the ten year tax abatement as it applies to properties under $500,000.

On the surface, the simplicity of Goode's plan seems to be about fairness.

Unfortunately, simplicity isn't what we need. The tax abatement is responsible for Philadelphia's first population increase in sixty years, a small increase, one we should not be content with.

While Goode tries to paint the tax abatement as an attempt to bribe wealthy residents to move into the city, those buying $200,000 houses in demilitarized zones are not wealthy.

The ten year tax abatement does more than just build new homes, it builds new communities and improves others. Most large cities have programs that encourage new home buyers to move to the city by providing tax incentives or auctioning off vacant properties. The tax abatement is Philadelphia's.

Goode remembers 1990 well enough to know that it works.

At a time when many Americans rarely live in one house for more than five years, our program encourages homeowners to invest in their neighborhood long term. Putting new residents in a struggling neighborhood for ten years increases the value of nearby properties, calling other residents, new or old, to revitalize their own. It's not a permanent solution, but it's one that's working and still has work to do.

Of course, the reason Goode's attempts to derail this program make no sense is because we're thinking about the city, the safety of our neighborhoods, and the quality of life for our residents. Goode is thinking about politics. As the son of a former Philadelphia mayor, Goode was raised in City Hall, not Philadelphia.

As the tax abatements drop off, newly tenured residents either decide to stay in a neighborhood they've spent the past decade improving or pass the property on to other Philadelphians paying their full share of the property tax. These abatements aren't bribes, they're incentives. Those who enjoy the tax breaks are also enduring the efforts of improving the city.

The city couldn't do it, so they outsourced it to us.

Let's face it. Without the tax abatement these new residents wouldn't be here shopping, dining, opening businesses, paying taxes and driving the economy in other ways.

But Goode knows how to keep his job. It's easier to blame temporarily tax exempt residents  for our failing schools than explain the intricacies of a program that proves they're paying their share and then some.

If Goode manages to bomb the ten year tax abatement he'll keep his seat, but development will cease, neighborhoods like Point Breeze, Kensington, and Mantua will quickly revert to the impoverished ghettos that they were, and slumlords and land hoarders will find their way back into many of the neighborhoods that have managed to push them out.

But in that world known as 1980, Goode has job security, and that is his only concern.

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