With the 2015 city elections in the rear view, The 5th Square PAC is shifting gears to focus on the 2016 primaries for the Pennsylvania state legislature in Harrisburg.
In 2016, we're working from the same playbook we used in 2015:
1. Create a platform of policy ideas
2. Vet candidates to see who lines up with the platform
3. Mobilize our supporters to help those candidates win.
Right now, we need your help with the first step. We need to know what changes urbanists want from Harrisburg
Submit your ideas for policy changes you want to see in Harrisburg that are relevant to the 5th Square's focus areas: winning safer streets for walking and biking, attracting more jobs and housing growth to PA's walkable urban centers, supporting affordable and reliable transportation alternatives to private car ownership, and funding more and better public spaces.
We've seeded this page with a few ideas we're interested in, and now we want to hear from you. Tell us your ideas, and engage with other supporters' ideas to help us get the best possible state platform.
Our state highway system is a mess, and represents an enormous mountain of liabilities into the indefinite future. The Legislature should mandate that PennDOT bring our existing roads and bridges to a state of good repair BEFORE adding a single lane-mile of new capacity.
Counties shouldn't have to accept the transit funding levels set by state government. If some regions want better transit service, they should be allowed to tax themselves at the county level, via a ballot referendum, to top up the state and federal money they receive. PennDOT should explore a higher match option for counties that go this route.
Raise taxes on large corporations who have dodged their responsibility as citizens of our area. Direct that new revenue entirely in to the school system. Our city will die on the vine if we can not populate it with a new generation of citizens who are positive members of it. This new generation will improve the ENTIRE region BECAUSE they are educated.
We've been a bit hesitant to wade into the school funding issues for a variety of reasons. While there's no question that fair school funding is incredibly important for a healthy and growing urban area, there's a challenge of scope for our organization. As an all-volunteer organization with limited resources, and a very specific mission focused on streets, land use, and transportation, it's been hard to justify devoting 5th Square's time and attention to a general push for school funding, especially when so many other groups are already working on this.
We would happily join the coalition for a fairer state funding formula, but so far, our thinking has been that it doesn't make much sense for us organizationally to be deeply engaged on this issue on a day-to-day basis, especially when the commitment level necessary to make a difference is so high. At the same time, we want to do right by our supporters, many of whom want to see us speak more to the education problems Philly is facing. So we want to challenge ourselves and our supporters to come up with some creative twofer ideas that can have an impact on both schools and urbanism in a single stroke.
Safe Routes to School is an obvious one, as is the push from groups like Community Design Collaborative and Big Sandbox to turn asphalt schoolyards into green community spaces.
Without wading into the pay-fors right now, what would you think about a funding formula plank supporting more state school funding for growing areas who are willing to budget for more housing growth in central cities and downtowns? Massachusetts adopted this policy in 2006 under then-Governor Mitt Romney, as a way to counterbalance local worries that more housing growth will mean more schoolchildren and ultimately higher local school taxes. By removing that excuse, Massachusetts has encouraged the kind of urban downtown development we want to see across Pennsylvania, and given more money to urban school districts at the same time.
Pennsylvania's Act 89 transportation funding law created a new Multimodal Transportation Fund to pay for walking, biking, and transit infrastructure for the first time. Currently the fund's budget stands at a meager $2 million. We're asking state legislative candidates to pledge to increase the fund to $10 million by 2020.
Local taxation lets communities with strong tax bases (rich ones) and low maintenance burdens (new ones) have lower tax rates and better public services than poorer, older ones. More regional taxes would spread the burden more fairly and take away incentives for sprawl and inequality.