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Speaker Spotlight: Melissa Murray Bailey pitches Development Workshop a reform agenda to address Phi

Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey visited the Development Workshop’s September meeting to pitch a reform agenda that she says would address the significant structural problems that have held Philadelphia back for decades.

During her presentation, Bailey acknowledged that she faced steep odds winning in the November general election in a city with an overwhelming Democratic voter-registration edge, but she argued that her bold ideas were necessary to move the city forward.

“This really could be a world class city if we just got out of our way,” Bailey told the members of the Development Workshop, promising that a Bailey mayoral administration would increase economic growth and reduce bureaucracy in order to speed development.

Bailey, who moved to Philadelphia several years ago to take a senior role in the Center City headquarters of her firm, said that she would spearhead a tax-reform initiative to attract new businesses to the city and stimulate job growth.

Bailey argued that the city’s current mix of taxes is confusing to companies seeking to relocate here and endorsed a plan proposed by several Development Workshop members to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to permit the city to tax commercial properties at a higher rate than residential development. The money would be used to finance reductions in the wage tax and in the city’s business taxes.

She also supported plans to turn Philadelphia into an “energy hub” by attracting new industries largely based upon the natural gas extraction boom occurring in Pennsylvania.

At the same time, Bailey argued that her plans to streamline and modernize government would boost business investment in Philadelphia. She endorsed a proposal to adopt zero-based budgeting practices for the city, in which city departments would have to submit annual funding proposals that align with the administration’s strategic goals.

Bailey said she would stabilize the city’s finances by leasing and selling municipal assets to generate funds to plug a hole in the pension fund – much like Mayor Nutter attempted to do by trying to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works to a private company. That proposal was rejected by City Council.

At the same time, Bailey promised to increase funding for education and to focus on early childhood initiatives as well as career-ready training for teenagers to ensure they are ready for the workforce when they graduate high school.

Development Workshop members questioned, though, whether Bailey’s plan to implement technology upgrades to eliminate the use of paper would really generate an additional $200 million annually for schools. Workshop members suggested, however, that stepped-up collection of delinquent taxes could bring in new revenue, however.

Some members suggested that Bailey’s plan to shrink the municipal workforce in half through attrition could result in problems for the development community by reducing the number of building inspectors, which could cause a safety hazard.

The Development Workshop thanks Bailey for taking time off the campaign trail to share her ideas and looks forward to meeting with Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney next month.

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