Victory For BUDGETWATCH! Public Debate Puts More Cops On the Street

Philadelphia Forward's BUDGETWATCH pulls back the curtain of the city's budget process to take a look inside the city budget machinery. Now, thanks to BUDGETWATCH, our information about the budget has made real change.

On July 10th, Philadelphia Forward posted a BUDGETWATCH opinion that detailed how behind closed doors, the Mayor made substantial adjustments to the city’s plans to raise and spend money. To satisfy the city’s state-appointed fiscal watchdog agency -- which refused to allow the city to assume that the state would provide funding for city police to patrol I-95 and I-76 -- the Mayor declared that he would reduce the number of police by 63 officers when the state took over patrolling those highways.

But, as we pointed out, in a city gripped by violence, it is not at all clear that everyone would agree with the Mayor's decision to reduce the number of police on the streets. In fact, many elected officials in the city and the state assumed that if the state police began to patrol I-95 and I-76, the city would then be able to expand the number of police on the streets, not just maintain the same number.

After Philadelphia Forward published its BUDGETWATCH opinion, a number of Philadelphia's media representatives raised the issue with the Mayor -- once confronted publicly, the Mayor quickly reconsidered his position. The Daily News reported:

In the spring, City Council and Mayor Street agreed to fund the hiring of 100 more police officers this year, raising the number of uniformed officers to 6,524. But in June the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), the city's budget watchdog, urged budget tightening because it said the city's five-year plan had too many uncertainties.

In response, the Street administration said in a June 23 letter that it would eliminate spending by Jan. 1, 2007, for 63 police positions that were used to patrol the four major state highways, on the assumption that the state police would start patrolling those arteries next year. On the basis of that change and others, PICA approved the city's five-year plan.

But Street said that despite the letter from his finance director to PICA, he has no intention of cutting the uniformed police force. (Full Article)

So we pull back the curtain to expose the workings of the city's budget and a little light and heat from Philadelphia Forward help create the public debate that is too often lacking in Philadelphia's budget process. As a result, the public will get the extra police officers that they have called for.