Category: Wolfe Op-Ed Articles

City Council Asks Voters to Vote Blind on Bond Issue Republicans Recommend a “NO” Vote By Matt Wolfe

City Council Asks Voters to Vote Blind on Bond Issue Republicans Recommend a “NO” Vote By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by The Independent Voice. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

The Philadelphia Republican City Committee has voted unanimously to recommend to the voters that they vote NO on the question on the General Election ballot asking approval of a bond issue.  We make this recommendation because of the shameful failure of City Council to give the citizens of Philadelphia any transparency or assurance that the funds will be used properly and for projects that advance the city’s mission. Read More

Time to Teach Philly ‘How to Fish’ By Matt Wolfe

Time to Teach Philly ‘How to Fish’ By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by PATownHall.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

Once again it’s budget time and Philadelphia is asking the State Legislature for a fish. It’s about time that the legislature teaches them how to fish.

This year the problem is the schools. The problem is real. The current School District budget would be catastrophic for the city and, most importantly, the children.

The problems, however real, are not new or unpredictable. An aside. I was recently helping to move the Republican City Committee offices and found an article from a series that the Philadelphia Inquirer did entitled “The Shame of our Schools.” It was dated 1981.

Remember how we got into this mess. Philadelphia’s problems with its schools are due to its being one of the poorest cities in America. That didn’t happen by accident. Choices were made that drove businesses, jobs and taxpayers out of the city. Our poverty is directly related to high tax rates, irrational tax structure, corruption, mismanagement and misplaced spending priorities. There was no natural catastrophe. There was no plague. Politicians made decisions, sometimes out of a failure to understand the consequences of their actions but more often to pander to special interest groups as a reward for past or anticipated electoral support. It’s really just that simple.

Getting out of this is also simple. Reverse the bad choices. Lower tax rates, reform the tax structure, eliminate corruption and mismanagement and spend only on core municipal functions: public safety, public education, sanitation and maintenance of the infrastructure. Simple does not mean easy. It will be painful, but it couldn’t be as bad as the misery that poverty has brought us.

It is reported that some of the ideas to “help” Philadelphia are things like allowing the City to place a $2-per-pack tax on cigarette sales and extending Philadelphia’s “temporary” 1% sales tax, which is supposed to expire at the end 2014.
These are not solutions to the problem.

Let’s look at the cigarette tax. They are thinking about giving Philadelphia’s City Counsel additional taxing authority. Think about that. Giving Philadelphia’s City Council additional taxing authority??!!! How’s that worked out in the past? Both the cigarette tax and the sales tax will drive sales out of Philadelphia and not all of it goes to Pennsylvania suburbs. Every dollar that goes to Jersey, Delaware or the Internet means that Pennsylvania loses more tax revenue than Philadelphia loses. Who exactly does this help? How about this. If the legislature thinks that the policy is such a good idea, such as the cigarette tax, why don’t they let every municipality in the state do the same thing? I didn’t think so. But if it is bad policy to allow the tax statewide, how is it good for Pennsylvania to allow Philadelphia an exception.

If the legislature wants to help Philadelphia, allowing it to shoot itself in the foot by raising taxes is not the way. Any funding for the schools should be contingent on positive change.

The School District should be required to hire, fire, promote and assign teachers based on what is in the best interests of the children, not seniority.

The School District closed 23 schools and deserves credit for that. It was traumatic. The problem is, they probably should have closed another 25-30, but did not want to expend the political capital. There are still too many under-capacity schools. The School District should be required to close schools and re-draw catchment areas so each school operates at approximately 85% of capacity.

The School District has been trying to restrict charter schools from expanding. This is despite the fact that the amount of money it turns over to the charter schools for each child enrolled is less than what it costs to educate children in the School District operated schools. The School District should only be able to restrict the creation and expansion of charter schools based only on how well they are teaching our children, not funding. If more parents choose charter schools, the School District can close even more schools and concentrate the money on educating fewer children.

Philadelphia needs and wants help. That being said, allowing it to increase taxes on itself to drive more business and taxpayers out do much more harm than good.

J. Matthew Wolfe is a former Deputy Attorney General and the Chairman of the University City Republican Committee in West Philadelphia.

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The Question of ‘Resign to Run’ by Matt Wolfe

The Question of ‘Resign to Run’ by Matt Wolfe

This article was published by PATownHall.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

There is an important question on the ballot on May 20. City Council wants to change the City Charter to eliminate the requirement that Council members and other city elected officials resign if they want to run for another political office.

This policy has been in effect since the City Charter was enacted by the voters in 1951, and it has served the city well. You should vote no on Question No. 2, which will be in the middle on the voting machines, below the candidates.

The resign-to-run requirement is good public policy. When a vote comes up on City Council, in whose interest should members vote? In the interest of the voters who elected them, or in the interest of the voters who will vote in the election for the position that they would rather have? Or, worse, in the interest of the special interests that would finance the campaign for the position they would rather have?

This question is emblematic of what is wrong with our city. We have been governed for more than a half-century by a professional political class that cares not at all about you, but only about getting reelected and amassing political power. Instead of doing the job they were elected to do, Council members want to continue to collect their six-figure salaries while campaigning full time for the job they would rather have.

In a recent Philadelphia Magazine article focusing on potential candidates for mayor, two Council members, Blondell Reynolds Brown and Maria Quiñones Sanchez, cited the problem of having to resign their Council jobs as a hindrance to running for mayor. Isn’t that the case with someone who is employed in the private sector? Why should our money be used by them to further their political careers? Yes, it’s time-consuming to run for office, but they should not get paid by the taxpayers for a job they are not performing.

Another factor to consider is that Philadelphia is the only municipality in the state with campaign contribution limits. Eliminating resign-to-run would allow improper manipulation of the system. With no contribution limits, a Council member could run for a different office, even if not a serious contender. The money could be spent primarily in his or her present district to increase name recognition and favorable ratings.

Incumbents all over the country, at every level of government, have too much power. Only a handful of races are deemed competitive. This is not good for our democracy. If those governing us do not have to seriously campaign for their positions, they don’t have to moderate their views to appeal to a broader range of voters. As a result, they become less concerned about what is in the voters’ best interests. That is certainly what is happening in Philadelphia right now. And our Council members want us to give them even more power? This change is as wrong as it was to allow city elected officials to cash in on the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

Philadelphia doesn’t need more Council members running for other offices. What Philadelphia needs is public officials who commit to doing their jobs. Council members can prove their suitability for another position by doing what is right for the city. They can demonstrate integrity by serving out the terms voters entrusted to them. Don’t forget, resign-to-run did not hinder Ed Rendell’s ability to be elected governor.

What is most shameful and least surprising about this charter question is that Council voted to put this on the ballot unanimously. They are united in not caring about you.

Michael Nutter resigned from Council to run for mayor. He also vetoed this ballot question, but Council members voted – again, unanimously – to override his veto. Fortunately, they don’t have the final say. Voters do, and they rejected a similar proposal in 2007. This year’s voters should follow that example, and the mayor’s, by telling Council no on this latest power grab.

Matt Wolfe is a Republican candidate in the May 20 special election for an at-large City Council seat.




Letters: Economics, Philadelphia Daily News style

This was published in the Philadelphia Daily News. Click here to read it on the publisher’s website.

FROM YOUR editorial “No Compromise” (July 27): “Government needs to continue to run deficits to create jobs, which will increase demand for goods and services and get the private sector growing again.”

Matt Wolfe Response: When I read this, I presumed that it was an attempt at sarcasm or humor. I reread it. And read it again. I slowly came to the realization that I was mistaken. They actually meant it. The Philadelphia Daily News School of Economics. Scholarships available for members of City Council.

Brownouts at Philly Fire Houses Unsafe By Matt Wolfe

Brownouts at Philly Fire Houses Unsafe By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by PATownHall.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

BROWNOUTS, THE closing of some firehouses on a rotating basis, are stupid. Fires don’t decide when to start in any geographical pattern that can be predicted with the certainty to allow specific firehouses to be closed some of the time and open at others.

Public safety is a core responsibility of municipal government. Clearly the city is duty bound to make provisions for adequate fire safety.

What should the city do? Read More

Philadelphia Sales Tax Hike: Just Say No By Matt Wolfe

Philadelphia Sales Tax Hike: Just Say No By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by PATownHall.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

Editor’s Note: J. Matthew Wolfe is a member of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, representing the 8th Senatorial District in Philadelphia and writes for The Loyal Opposition, a Republican policy group focused on issues facing the City of Philadelphia.

Greetings from Philadelphia. Weather is hot and humid. Business climate is oppressive.

Philadelphia’s Mayor and City Council want to raise Philadelphia’s sales tax to 8%, fully 33% more than most of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, they need State Legislative approval to perpetrate this lunacy.

This legislation will impact Pennsylvania’s budget and will have an even bigger effect on Philadelphia’s economic health. As a Philadelphian I am asking that you alert your legislators to your opposition to this scheme. Read More

A pair of dreadful ‘Philly specials’ By Matt Wolfe

A pair of dreadful ‘Philly specials’ By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by Philly.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

Don’t do us any favors . . . Please.

Whenever the state Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, carves out an exception to a law to “help” this city, it somehow always ends up hurting Philadelphians.

Originally, only Philadelphia was allowed to assess a wage tax. That action, more than any other, has led to a huge loss of residents and jobs over the years.

When the state let Philadelphia assess a 1 percent sales tax on top of the 6 percent state tax, Philadelphia was the only municipality forcing its businesses to charge the higher rate. Read More

Reform, bunk By Matt Wolfe

Reform, bunk By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by The Philadelphia Daily News. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

THE POLITICAL excesses of Harrisburg have come home to Philadelphia.

First, Democratic state Sen. Vince Fumo is accused of fraudulently directing millions in tax money and charitable contributions to himself and to further his political ambitions.

Next, a dozen Democrats, including a current and an ex-state rep, are arrested for using tax dollars to pay campaign operatives. Read More

City’s Foolhardy Move On Minimum Wage By Matt Wolfe

City’s Foolhardy Move On Minimum Wage By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by The Philadelphia Daily News. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

THERE ARE 2,565 municipalities in Pennsylvania. Only one has a law that raises the minimum wage above that set by the federal and state governments.

Can you guess which municipality is the ONLY one with a local law that raises the minimum wage? Go ahead. Take a stab at it. If you guessed Philadelphia, you get a gold star.

Welcome to the recently enacted “Philadelphia 21st Century Minimum Wage Standard.” This impressive-sounding ordinance is another instance of City Council and Mayor Street putting politics over good government and pandering to special-interest groups.

It simply makes it more expensive to do business in Philadelphia. Read More