Big city politics and “constituent services” have always gone hand-in-hand: Rather than solve problems on a macro level, elected officials often get stuff done for friends, or friends of the re-election committee. It’s easier, cheaper, and wins you a lot more good will. But as one Philly Mag piece put in a couple years ago, it’s “absurd.”
Why should anyone owe a Councilman a vote for getting City Hall to do something that we’re already paying taxes for it to do anyway? How ’bout fixing dysfunction rather than cleaning up its wake?
An exhaustive investigative report by Metropolis Philadelphia has found one likely source for much of the cash that funds Philly’s personal politics. Each year, council members spend nearly $2 million disbursing grants to anyone they see fit–churches, Boy Scouts, and even local businesses, which the piece says is a direct violation of the council’s own regulations. (The story also maintains that some grants violate the city’s Fair Practice law.) The “Philadelphia Activities Fund” is technically lodged in the city’s Parks and Recs department, but can apparently fund whatever. Read the entire piece here, and see the entire list of grantees from 2008-2011 here. [Metropolis]