New Castle, things have been difficult in your municipality. Currently you are in Act 47 and are planning to release in a few years. Here in Erie, we narrowly avoided such a designation. However, congratulations are not on your planned release from Act 47, but on the adoption of a Home Rule charter! You did the study to realize that the third-class city code with an optional charter for a strong mayor-council is a recipe for failure. You have realized that when Act 47 is released, you will need to create your own charter to be successful as a community.
Coming from Erie, I admire your determination. My town has spent so much time trying to avoid Act 47 that we haven’t looked at the third-class city code failure system that we share, at the moment, in your state. of distress. In Erie, we have spent time blaming the failure to close the income deficits of tax-exempt properties and support infrastructure for job-dependent commuters who do not contribute equitably to the systems that benefit them. Like you, we have a lot of neighbors who make fun of our residents while blaming them for having trouble paying the bill.
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Cities around the world are primarily home to tax-exempt properties and jobs, and cities all over the world are booming. It is expected that 75% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, but here in Erie we are in decline. We are losing population to the suburbs and other cities. Rather than trying to operate under this third class city code which is obsolete and has repeatedly shown failure, I hope we can build on your example, and the example. cities from elsewhere, to find a new charter to use. A charter which will lead to the success of our city and give the strength to carry this region.
As you started planning your exit from Bill 47 in 2019, you must have looked at the system of a third class city code as you have had many exceptions since the proclamation of Bill 47 in 2007. I sometimes fear that Bill 47 might be the only way we in Erie would look at our own charter, but I dream that we would be proactive in reversing the failure. You launched a study commission just in November 2019 and acted quickly to advance a new charter! On May 18, your residents came out in force to vote in favor of exiting the broken system with 1,614 votes to 1,072. Coming from Erie, where studies do not always lead to action, I must say that I am impressed!
Watching the cities around our state continue to fail under our state codes has been depressing. Philadelphia is the poorest large metropolitan city in the country. Here in Erie, the demographics of our downtown are shameful. City after city is in distress.
I love to see success stories, however, and you seem to be copying success instead of failure. Congratulations, New Castle, for copying successful cities. Here in Erie, we see our influence faltering in light of Allentown’s success as they overtook us to become the third largest city in our Commonwealth.
Allentown’s growth came after some pivotal decisions about 25 years ago when they were smaller than us. They made three major decisions: a charter of autonomy, a multi-level property value tax and an investment zone. I see you over there, New Castle. You don’t copy us here in Erie, because we don’t do anything. You noticed that Allentown exploded in front of us, clearly overtaking us in this race. I see you there in New Castle with your new charter of autonomy and your property value tax. Just in case you want to become the fourth largest city in our Commonwealth, I hope Erie starts copying smart kids. We need to pick up the pace, but maybe we can reverse that drop like you did.
Democrat Chuck Nelson is running for Erie City Council.