This week Back Channel serves up the Philly GOP response to the looming fiscal crisis in Philly -yes, Virginia there is Philly GOP:
Schmidt is ready to pound home the problems and solutions outlined in "Quiet Crisis." He says the benefits issue demonstrates why Philadelphia's economic situation can't be blamed on the recession alone.
"The finances of this city were run with us holding onto a cliff by our fingernails," he said. "It didn't take much to push us off."
A city finance official makes a similar point in "Quiet Crisis": "If the economy stays healthy, we're OK. If there's a recession, we're dead."
The recession is here. So now what?
To start, Philadelphia needs two viable political parties, says Schmidt, who was a senior auditor with the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office for five years.
"One-party rule is always bad, always corrupt, and, with no checks and balances, is always inefficient," Schmidt said. He cited his own party's rule in Washington from 2001 to 2006, as well as the Democrats' 60-year dominance in Philadelphia.
"Without a two-party system," he said, "you don't have oversight. You have ward leader [and City Controller] Alan Butkovitz auditing ward leader Nutter, and all the other ward leaders in the Democratic Party with their own fiefdoms in city government."
While Schmidt would focus on pension and health-care costs, he insists savings could be achieved without sacrificing benefits. And he believes more regular audits of city agencies would reveal needless expenses that could be trimmed. That would spare core services such as police, fire and libraries from across-the-board budget cuts, which Schmidt called "a crude, blunt instrument."
He'd also rather see the city get its financial act together than use stimulus money to paper over long-standing problems.
"Borrowing more money is not the solution," Schmidt said. "The solution is better, responsible government that's accountable and reliable."