Kenney’s somewhat dented crowning achievement

It’s a jolly time of the year and the holiday spirit infuses the Philadelphia Inquirer’s series evaluating Jim Kenney, Philadelphia’s 99th mayor.

Ever grumpy Mayor Jim Kenney, ready to leave us behind

Cherelle Parker thinks she’s Philadelphia’s first female mayor.

Some think Kenney, that oft-blubbering mass of emotion, beat her to it. 

The Friday Inquirer reported the “highlight” of Kenney’s reign, but didn’t do the best job of it, because the reporters share his world view. It was largely cheerful, until you dug into the details, which were not so la-de-dah.

“He was celebrating PHLpreK, the free pre-kindergarten program funded by his signature tax on sweetened beverages that he considers to be his crowning achievement,” the Inquirer reported. I thought hiring Danielle Outlaw as police commissioner would be a crowning achievement. 😉

[Regular readers know I opposed the “soda tax” as it was known, not because I hate pre-K, but because I did not feel an education tax should fall heavily on a single business — especially since that business had been driven out of public schools.] 

But the plan fell short of its own stated goals.

In 2017, officials expected to offer 6,500 pre-K seats by 2023. There are currently only 5,250 seats “due to challenges including lower-than-expected tax revenue. . . .”

What the Inquirer does not detail was the sharp drop in the purchase of heavily taxed items. Which was predicted by many observers. 

The more you tax something, the less desirable it becomes. That’s one reason Philadelphia is less desirable for new business and residents — we have one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. 

For the mathematically challenged, the 5,250 is 80% of 6,500 — meaning a 20% shortfall of pre-K seats, which ain’t nothing.

Another embarrassing admission: The pre-K is far from “universal,” which is how Kenney promoted it.

There are about 40,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Philly and an estimated half attend no pre-K, or  are in one that doesn’t meet state standards, the Inquirer said. Translation:  It is a babysitting service. 

Now we are down to 50% of all kids.

OK, you can say that is better than nothing, and it is, but 50% was a failing grade when I went to school. 

Crowning achievement? My foot.

The soda tax was also supposed to be an elixir that would rebuild parks, recreation centers, libraries, and more.

When he began his tenure, Kenney touted his signature Rebuild program as a once-in-a-generation chance to remake as many as 200 of the city’s recreation centers, parks, and libraries.

Only 17 have been completed. In eight years.

One more point, and not insignificant: In his eight years as mayor, Kenney increased the city budget by 51%, from $4.1 billion to $6.2 billion. Has your budget increased 51% in the last eight years? 

Do city residents feel 51% better? I doubt it. 

So, in a few days he will leave Room 215 in City Hall, take a breather, and in May he will marry Letitia Santrelli, and I do believe that is a scoop.

14 thoughts on “Kenney’s somewhat dented crowning achievement”

  1. Ever notice how none of Philadelphia’s taxes ever seems to be “enough”? We added 1% to the sales tax, and when that wasn’t enough, went to 2%. Then we increased the parking tax. It’s higher than New York City’s. And the soda tax. Raised the real estate transfer tax to the nation’s highest. And we have our own School District income tax.
    Guess what? It’s never enough.

    1. They’ve been pumping dough into that Public School System over 50 years and these kids are coming out not only STUPIDER, but now they’re so friggin’ violent they’re headed right to prison instead of college. And they keep paying these grifters/school superintendents six-figure salaries for this! It’s a Democrat shit-box.

    The saga continues.
    Philly has been in financial straights for years, along with most of the country. For Kenny to make a showing, he had to make cuts and raise taxes. e.g. soda tax. fail. Playground improvements. also fail. ( you can’t make improvements without money )
    FYI. Remember back to when we were all young. Every playground had a community building and services. At least one city worker was on staff. Each playground had a Flagpole which always had a Flag flying from it. Them days are gone. It is a Federal statute ( law ) that all government buildings have our Flag Flying. These new playgrounds don’t even have a Flagpole !
    If you realize that money is tight or even not available, then wait until you get the bill for all of these illegals.

  3. It’s definitely cringe (as the kids say) to tout someone’s ‘achievements’ when he’s leaving his post when murders are again over 400, the school system is a disgrace, SEPTA is borderline incompetent, the streets are lined with garbage, nobody is driving with car insurance, the DA doesn’t jail anyone, I could go on. The city has been on a 20 year downward slide into Shithole status and there is no end in sight. And Darrell ‘Do-nothing ‘ Clarke gets a send-off fit for royalty. Really???
    Hopefully Parker backs up her campaign bravado. Something has to change around here

  4. From what I’m reading in these comments, and from Stu’s blogs, my leaving Philadelphia in 1994 was pretty good timing. Still a diehard sports fan though, despite being gone for 30 years.

  5. There was a time 20 years ago people hated John Street, yet his 2 failed successors since have made him look like a prize. At least Street admitted – “Hey, it’s pay to play. That’s how it works.” While he couldn’t get us away from the high tax culture of Philly, he was fiscally more sound than the current sorry excuse of a Mayor and without Street, Rendell never gets the concessions he got from City Council in the 90s.

    BUT…. the fault is the voters’. This is what Philly voters deserve. The same populous that was stupid enough to believe the Street campaign’s 2003 nutty conspiracy theory that the White House was targeting them are the same populous who now prove Einstein’s theory of insanity in the voting booth. They had a great alternative in the Mayoral election this time. They made their choice. Don’t want to hear any complaints from them anymore.

  6. What I have never been able to figure out (ad maybe you can, Stu) is the per-pupil spending going back to 1950. The per-pupil figure would be interesting, given the huge decline in the number of students attending public school in the City, but the City NEVER has ‘enough’ money for the school budget.

  7. Kenney’s crowning achievement? I didn’t think there was anyone, ever, who could possibly be worse than John Street. Jim Kenney achieved that! He actually made John Street look good, which he was not, ever. Remember his sorry ass last summer crying about how he wanted his term to end? I don’t remember any of our citizens walking around chanting his name when Mike Nutter did his time (which was a great two terms, considering all of the corruption in this city government). So who coerced him to run anyway? Dougherty and Brady? Because they knew he was a sap? Likely. I say good riddance, thanks for nothing and Fuck Jim Kenney.

  8. It should be noted that for all the complaints about American tax rates, the U.S. ranks 32nd out of 38 nations in revenue as a percentage of GDP in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of market-based democracies devoted to “achiev[ing] the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living.” The U.S. is so much below the average ratio that if its ratio were simply average, it would bring in $26 trillion more over 10 years. I believe that this is due to the Bush and Trump tax cuts for the wealthy.

    1. Bush & Trumpo added the most to the deficit, mainly due to their trillion dollar tax cuts for corporations & the wealthy.

  9. On this mayor, he is best characterized as a refugee from a tragedy penned either by Shakespeare or Sophocles. We, sadly, were his citizen body of Thebes. Right on about a tax pushing people out of Philly and/or compelling a change in habit. One is that ridiculous beverage tax (200 types including Atkins high protein drink for its 1gr of sugar). As soon as it was enacted, we began to drive out of our neighborhood in NW Philly and do our major weekly food shopping across the river in Wynnewood, Narberth & Bala Cynwyd.

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