Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

Second Opinion: Dick Watson

{Alan Butkovitz}
Alan Butkovitz

It's not enough that Philadelphia City Controller, Alan Butkovitz, has to worry about the Dow Jones carrying the city's money away faster than it can be brought in, he also has to face years of inefficiencies in every major department that offer daily challenges even in the best of times. Add to this a city pension fund whose list of payees continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate while the funding which has been as high as 72% is now at close to 50%. Over the past four years, the deficit has doubled each year from $450 million to its present $2 billion.

Income from real estate has always been one of the major sources of income for the city but with new construction dramatically down along with sales of existing structures also having taken a nosedive, the challenges to keep the city's head above water grow daily. Add to this the fact of inefficient business practices, taking as long as three weeks to deposit checks for example, and one begins to see that there are many opportunities for improvement even with the bad economy. The loss of interest income from the late deposits alone runs into the millions each year.

Among major cities Philadelphia doesn't have a great graduation rate from either high school or college but what we do have is a vast workforce ready and able to work. Our port was once one of the busiest on the east coast and the infrastructure is there along with the muscle to make it work. With other ports in the country facing shortages of workers and facilities, this could be one of the prime initiatives to raise city income in the face of the declining real estate market and the work must be done to once again become a major player.

All of the money problems don't simply affect the various agencies in the city at the payroll level, the problems are much more pernicious than that: the very ability to do their jobs is at stake. Take, for instance, the rescue agencies reached through 911. There is insufficient equipment - both quantity and quality - as well as inefficient procedures which result in an ambulance taking as long as 40 minutes to arrive with help for a heart attack victim or even worse, not having the crew or equipment necessary at all which might result in sending a fire truck instead, which has neither the trained crew nor the ability to transport a patient. Mr. Butkovitz is dealing with these problems on a daily basis, studying solutions other cities have come up with and making headway in many areas but there is clearly much to be done.

Originally published: Friday, March 06, 2009; most-recently modified: Friday, May 31, 2019

The controller has certainly been making some headway, and the fact that there is much more to be done, is a clear reason why he should be re-elected as controller. Check out his website for more of his accomplishments
Posted by: darealting   |   Mar 6, 2009 5:13 PM