|What does Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pa. have in common?
Well . . . let's first establish that it's not yours truly.
And it's safe to say it can't be Washington's slipped and sloping sports
teams set against Philly's playoff progressive phenoms. No . . .
It's $45 million.
Both pothole littered sob stories have this multi-million lottery ticket
figure linking them in ways akin to stuck Siamese twins. $45 million is the
sweet, finger licking, uncollected revenue pound cake the much-hated D.C.
Department of Motor Vehicles is anxious to recoup through late vehicle
inspection crackdowns and a cunningly creative scofflaw driver "amnesty
program." Now, stop for a breathless second to tell me that last sentence
didn't titillate your carnal fancy, and I'll reveal D.C. bow tie King and
Mayor Anthony Williams' garish, gleeful glow when he proposed the idea. As
if they don't already extort enough money from parking tickets . . .
$45 million is a lot of silver for the city with the Amazing Shrinking Tax
Base. The question lingers: what will they do with 45 milk bottles once
Meanwhile, three clocks away in Laker-hating Illadelphia there are salty,
sour-faced city officials - including Mayor John Street (D) - engaged in holy
political war over $45 million with Pennsylvania legislators led by State
House Majority Leader John Perzel (R-Phila.). Galvanized by angst over what
State Representative Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) called the "short-sighted"
vision of Street Administration officials, Republican lawmakers hungrily plan
a hostile take over of the city's loot packing Parking Authority in a daring
bid to claim 45 million green backs for a $1.5 billion debt-ridden and broken
Philly school district.
That's a tight idea. After years of decay, Philly schools need a
face-lifting fusion of cash.
To the chagrin of Street and Phil-town's City Council, Harrisburg expects
quick passage of the proposal while former Bush band-wagoneer Governor Tom
Ridge (R-PA) is licking chops to sign the bill. To The Grain's delight,
that's policy innovation at it's hardcore best regardless of what party pimps
So, inquiring minds with a stake in Chocolate City affairs want to know:
what's the deal with D.C. schools? Why not have those millions from
confiscated parking ticket money transferred into District school coffers?
At least most of us venturing into the meter-infested concrete jungle on any
given day would appreciate our stolen quarters and time limited dollars being
pumped into a cause more worthy than pay raises for DMV employees with nasty
dispositions. We have not determined why that hasn't been considered, yet.
What we do know is there are several factors contributing to the paralyzing
state of failing District schools. There is first racial polarization
issues: obstinate Black District residents too preoccupied with District loss
of Chocolate flavoring sparked by Black Flight, while many incoming White
"city settlers" could care less what happens with predominantly colored
District schools. The culture war brewing in the District can distract
public attention from city students in furious search of academic relief
minus the asbestos, deficits, poorly managed bureaucracies and disinterested
administrators. Simply put: it's not as deep as many make it - if many in
Chocolate Gotham would appreciate what they have and consolidate economic
effort into neighborhood revitalization, then there would be less time spent
hating the "White folks" that happen to move in and do what should have been
done with the property in the first place. All is not lost, however - you
can still do it.
Second: misallocation of public monies into the pockets of undeserving public
officials and bungled city departments that need leadership, dramatic shifts
in attitude and a total governing makeover. Let's not flap our arms in
fronted disgust - the fact that various District department heads made bank
with bonuses prompted by the Duke of Foxhall Road himself made no sense. The
list of "performance" premiums received reads like an uncovered roll call of
public officials on a Mafia crime family take: Public Health Director Ivan
Walks gets $19,800; the D.C. Police Chief walks away with $12,000; Planning
Office Director Andrew Altman got $11,489; Personnel Office Director Milou
Carolan takes $9,685; Office of Emergency Management Director Peter LaPorte
runs home with $9,439; Children, Youth and Families Deputy Mayor Carolyn
Graham gets blessed with $8,288; and E. Veronica Pace, Office of Aging
Director, lifts $8,198.
Despite the bonuses, District agencies remain in turmoil due to pervasive
Last (but surely the least compared to numerous other problems): The District
budget is for the most part reliant upon Federal appropriations. That means
the fate of District schools must wallow in the pit of heated partisan
wrangling that dominates every session of Congress. And we know how that
story goes - a city still taxed, but lacking proper representation.
Statehood fans can run with that - but I'm looking closely into where the
parking revenues go each time I angrily pull a ticket from the windshield.
In the meantime, perhaps House District Subcommittee chair Rep. Connie
Morella (R-MD) might consider taking a look at the Pennsylvania model.
C.D. Ellison is Contributing Writer to Metro Connection. He can be reached