I write from Philadelphia, one of the most stupidly governed major cities in the nation. If you doubt that, take a look at the Inquirer story about our delinquent-property-tax-collection system.
For years our various mayors and City Council members have seemed at a loss to find ways to pay for infrastructure upkeep, social services for the poor, a failing public schools system and so on.
And yet the Inquirer has to remind those in charge that they have yet to seriously go after $472 million in unpaid real estate taxes:
It is a delinquency epidemic that reaches from Chestnut Hill to Point Breeze, infecting every neighborhood. In all, there are nearly 111,000 delinquent properties, or about 19 percent of all parcels in Philadelphia… The past-due properties include such pricey parcels as the proposed Foxwoods casino site, an Old City art gallery, a South Philadelphia hotel, and choice real estate a block off Rittenhouse Square… But it is in low-income neighborhoods where the delinquency crisis has peaked and where the city’s response has been the least effective… In communities such as North Philadelphia, Fairhill, and Tioga/Nicetown, the city has done little as tens of thousands of tax-delinquent properties – many of them abandoned lots and vacant shells – have rotted away, blighting neighborhoods and making redevelopment all that much harder.
The same corrupt gang that connived to allow construction of the SugarHouse casino on the riverfront — in order to generate revenues, they said — did next to nothing to collect tons of delinquent tax dollars or seize abandoned parcels that could have been converted into revenue-generating housing.
Curiously, the king of deadbeats has casino connections:
According to city records, the largest delinquent, owing $6.1 million in principal, penalties, and interest on five unpaid years including 2011, is Roman Philadelphia Property L.L.C. at 1499 S. Columbus Blvd., site of the potential Foxwoods casino.
The punchline — Instead of chasing down wealthy deadbeats, the Nutter administration continues to impose higher property taxes on poor and middle-class residents who keep up with their bills.
Footnote: Civilized people understand that special provisions should be made to keep low-income residents in their homes, regardless of whether they can keep up with property taxes. However, the city hasn’t even made a serious effort to persuade poor homeowners to enroll in hardship programs!
Did I mention that the people who govern Philly are stupid or corrupt, and often both?