Wednesday, March 11, 2009

City of Brotherly Love: A Microcosm of D.C.

A commentary on the ongoing shenanigans of DRPA, the Delaware River Port Authority. Wearing us down like water over stone... What’s happening in Philadelphia is nothing new except for its obesity.

I’m focused on this item for two reasons.

  1. It hits close to home because

    a.) my family is in NJ and I went to school in Philly, so I travel these bridges all the time when I’m home visiting.

    b.) up until 3 years ago, I used to make the trip across the Ben Franklin Bridge on a regular basis and it tweaked me that I had to pay so much.

  2. It’s an interesting case study that is totally understandable, but is a direct reflection, a small mirror- of what’s happening in Washington on a massive scale. Only, instead of the Philadelphia area being burdened with this nonsense, when Washington does this stuff, the entire nation is being saddled with this crookery (for indeed it is nothing else) at a far greater scale.

So, in this instance, we see massive Philadelphia commuters dealing with bridge toll hikes planned and still in debt... repairs not paid off, massive debt, but all kinds of pet projects funded in a tax-circumvention way with more on the way.

If you live in NJ and cross the bridge to work in Philly, you do this for circa 240 business days/yr At $4 ea. way that’s $960 per yr. At the new proposed rate, $5, that’s going to add up to $1200 a year. That’s an extra $240 per year difference you’re paying in tolls for pet projects you didn’t agree to while the DRPA is still 1.5 billion in debt.

Where is the money going?

35 cents of every dollar collected is paying salaries and benefits for DRPA employees. 41 cents of each dollar you pay for bridge tolls is paying interest on debt. That’s INTEREST ALONE. So even if you don’t care because you live in NJ and stay there except for the occasional visit to the relatives or show in Center City, keep this in mind.

It’s little wonder that they need more loans and hikes for fixing the bridges when 76% of that money collected just is spent keeping that system going.

So each time you do that round-trip, on the new $5 toll, keep in mind that $1.75 of your toll pays the salaries for the people at those booths and $2.05 of every time you cross goes toward paying the interest on debt that was accumulated because the bridge tolls went to pay for projects that had nothing to do with that bridge. So you spend $3.80 to keep that collection system going. Only $1.20 of that toll goes toward the projects themselves, and apparently the projects aren’t the bridge maintenance. (more of that in a bit) No wonder they had to hike it a buck. Sheesh, it was close to being no longer profitable at 20cents/dollar wiggle room.

Some of these projects are:

New building for the Barnes Foundation as part of its dismantling and forced move from Lower Merion and destruction of this collection from its original form.

Funding for the yearly Army-Navy game

“Infrastructure improvements” in Camden

$11 million of several “transit-related projects that are vital to the region.”

(- PA Governor Ed Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia Feb18, 2009)

Reopening of PATCO's Franklin Square train station

3.5 million toward completion of the “Presidents House” historical project

Funding of a museum in center city, near Independence Hall

More public op/ed from one of my old profs who taught me so much:
Mike Mallowe: DRPA Up to Its Old Tricks Again

For those people who cross every day, that’s $492 per year you’re paying just of interest alone on all the politicians’ pet projects that have nothing to do with the bridge or its maintenance, were never voted on, and were funded with your dollars.

Thank you Philadelphia. I love you.

And yes, they are going to have to borrow a jaw-dropping 1.1 billion more for maintenance and their capital repair program this year.

Double thanks, Philadelphia. Really feelin’ the love as they dig that hole deeper.

As it turns out, The Delaware River Port Authority is 1.5 billion in the hole with more projects planned... thanks, guys! You mean (gasp) that the tax dollars have been misused? No.... really...?

Surprised? No.

Why should we be? It’s exactly what they do in DC. This is the exact same sort of nonsense that we see on Capital Hill, exactly what’s happened to our Social Security program, it’s unfunded and indebted, money being spent for other things while the original program as it was sold, is underwater with no way to work!

Disappointed? Of course.

So, are you going to do anything about it? Probably not.

Well I say Why not?

Because you feel helpless and like you’re spitting into the wind perhaps?

Of course. That’s the way it works. Wearing you down.... down... till you’re worn down to apathy. Like the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon. Stone gives way to water.

If you allow nibbles at the cheese, you deserve to have a bare cupboard.



Next year, try a new strategy at the voting booth: All incumbents OUT. ALL OF THEM. All of ‘em.

Every damn one.

Write letters. Blogs. EMails. Phone calls.

Make them miserable and shine the daylight on those cockroaches who would line their pockets with re-election perks from the dollars out of your pockets every time you cross that bridge to go to work.

Run for office yourself. Run for a single term. Make a difference however you can. Get educated, get involved, be the change you want to see. If it’s too much effort, you too will have the bare cupboard you deserved and voted for.

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