Media Mobilizing Project Response to Philadelphia's Budget Crisis
Todd Wolfson | 02.20.2009
Last week, Mayor Nutter presented another round of budget cuts that represent a continued attack on the poor and working people of Philadelphia.
Last week, Mayor Nutter presented another round of budget cuts that represent a continued attack on the poor and working people of Philadelphia. Along with these proposed cuts, Nutter's office announced a series of town hall meetings -- meetings that are being sold to the public as places to be heard and for our input to be taken into account. Yet, the Mayor's meetings and the media coverage of this moment has not spelled out the very human effects the proposed budget cuts will have on our lives.
Instead, the Mayor's meetings and the media coverage of this moment follow the national media reporting on the economic crisis. Using the budgetary crisis as a rationale, tens of thousands of Philadelphians who struggle to make ends meet are being asked to sacrifice their basic needs. This is happening in the very same moment that the Mayor meets with Chamber of Commerce and plans a task force to ease the tax burden on Philadelphia's businesses. Looking at the situation in this light, it is hard not to recognize the Mayor's response to the shortfall as a vehicle for propping up the richest most powerful actors while increasing the exploitation of those who are the bottom of the economic structure. In specific some of what we know is already happening in our communities:
· Today, the School District announced that 30-35 neighborhood schools are under threat of being shut or taken over by privately-run companies, without accountability to students, parents or communities.
· Taxi drivers are expected to take the brunt of this economic downturn with rises in the fees they pay to pick up customers from the airport, without a rise in the fare that they receive as income.
· All workers are witnessing jobs disappearing with more job losses coming down the pike --- creating a climate of abuse of labor rights.
· Undocumented immigrants in this city are being robbed of their pay and their support networks are being stretched in response to this crisis.
· We are seeing no response to mass foreclosures in a city that once boasted one of the highest rates of home-ownership amongst families who made less that $20,000 a year.
For those who were able to attend the first of these town hall meetings on Thursday, it is clear that this process is not designed to take into account our voices or our needs in a substantive manner. It is at moments such as these that the need for our work is clear -- the work of making our own media and creating our own spaces to talk with each other and the city as a whole.
Our relationships and support for each other and our commitment to developing leaders of not just our own organizations and constituencies but of a broader movement for our city and region will be essential as we move forward and begin to understand this current crisis and what it will mean for our communities, our education, our families, our work and the future of Philadelphia.
That people throughout our region are hurting is clear. That the pain they feel will intensify under the Mayor's proposed budget cuts is also clear. What is not clear is that a bold and visionary response to this crisis (a crisis which is far more than a budget crisis, but rather a systemic global economic crisis) will be put forward. Such a response, backed by over the half of the population of our region who struggle every day to pay their bills and put food on the table, will not develop without our thoughtful and sustained engagement with this unfolding situation.
As one part of our efforts around this work, MMP is joining the efforts of the Essential Services are Essential Coalition which is confronting the issues of this current budget process.
MMP also recognizes an urgent need for an alternative process of discussion and education than what the city is offering in its budget "workshops." We are committed to understanding and addressing this moment in Philadelphia with spaces, media, and political action rooted in the experiences of those of us facing the brunt of this crisis. In the meantime, there are a number of us who will be going to the last town hall meeting about the cuts. We would like to see you there and work with you on building an alternative. The meeting date and locations is below, and takes place from 7pm to 9:30 pm. If you would like to speak, you must register. Registration begins at 6pm.
Monday, February 23 at Pinn Memorial Church, 2251 N. 54th Street
Media Mobilizing Project