Tom Ferrick is one of my favorite authors when it comes to good governance in Philadelphia. His thoughtful and thorough reporting continues to be invaluable as Philadelphia negotiates its latest education crisis. However, his latest crusade demanding that Philadelphia's non-profits in the robust "ed's & med's" sector contribute to city coffers via PILOT's - Payment's In Lieu Of Taxes.
Partly in response to Ferrick's recurring critiques, some of these organizations banded together to create a report about all of the positive things that they do contribute to the city, from education and medical care to employment and economic activity. But I think there's a truism that these groups just can't state: the City Government is a bad investment.
How could these successful organizations like Penn, Drexel, and Temple see PILOT's as a good investment? These schools and hospitals are successful because they're focused on tangible results, and frankly, the city government presents a pretty awful return on investment.
Let's take Penn for example (since that institution is the reason that I became a Philadelphian in the first place). Personally, I am happier to see Penn support other organizations where there investments deliver real results. Why give money to the Sanitation Department when UCD will actually keep the streets clean? Why give money to the School District, when dollars spent at Penn Alexander produce what is inarguably the most successful elementary school in the city? Why subsidize the police department when their own police force keeps the campus and its environs one of the safest stretches of the city?
PILOT's are throwing good money after bad. Penn, Drexel, CHOP, and the rest are obligated to invest the money that they earn in a way that serves those they've earned the money from. I'm happier to see dollars go to organizations outside of city government that actively, tangibly, produce a better city.
Until these groups can see real results from money spent with city government, I think that they are right to invest where they see real results. Maybe that's a good potential outcome - just imagine - The Philadelphia Sheriff's Department, brought to you by the Fels Institute of Government.
In the end, it's the same reason that you or I don't throw an extra few hundred bucks in with my property taxes every year, and instead give to non-profits in town. When I spend my money there, I see results and accountability, and we are all served with a better city. City Government just isn't giving me (or Penn) that.