That's what Allentown city council VP Tony Phillips told me yesterday, when I visited him at Seward's Steak Shop at 17th & Union. It's hard to believe Tony could be a regular there and still maintain such an athletic figure. I wolfed about six cheese steaks while he watched me in wonder.
Tony recently switched parties, fuelling all sorts of speculation that he intends to challenge King Ed for the Kingdom of Renaissance Square, also known as Allentown. He told me he plans on announcing his decision on the 26th. I think he intends to send King Ed back to Chicago.
Why'd you switch parties? Isn't it because you'd stand a better chance of beating Mayor Pawlowski in a general election than in a primary?
Not exactly. The Democratic party in Allentown is so far to the left that I feel like a Republican.
For one thing, the city hired forty-four management positions without hiring any blue collar workers. They've taken loans and bonds which are going to cost us down the road. The city may have a $5 million surplus, but it's on borrowed money. Why not pay as you go?
Is the city on sound financial footing?
That's hard to say. Nobody can follow the numbers because they're convoluted - hard to figure this out.
How do you feel about Mayor Pawlowski?
Ed has done everything he can to undermine my election. He supported two Republicans in the last general election because I stood up to him. He's dictatorial, flies off the handle and is a crisis creator because everything is last minute. He presents a lot of things that are just window dressing or that have a lack of full disclosure.
The police pension, for one thing. We had to sign it overnight, and the way he presented it is not the way it ended up. The police plan is another prime example. You just don't have enough people to run the program he has proposed. By November, we will be down another 15 to 20 officers. How do you implement a program without enough people? He hasn't explained how the officers are going to be trained to this new type of policing, either.
The police plan separates the city into four quadrants. That's a good thing, isn't it?
The city has always been divided in four quadrants. Now they're just setting the boundaries and selecting a captain. Another problem is prioritizing calls. You have to tell me what you are not going to respond to anymore.
What is Allentown's biggest problem?
Crime is always out there. That's number one. The other is economic development. What drives economic development? Jobs. There's no jobs. The administration touts $400 million in development, but there are minimal jobs involved, and what kind?
Isn't Allentown's crime rate going down?
We had a murder the other night and crime is going down? Hmmm. Numbers can be skewed. Reports can be downgraded. An aggravated assault can suddenly become simple assault or disorderly conduct.
Do you have any evidence this is going on?
I used to work there. [Tony was an Allentown cop]. There is no present evidence, but it's happened before.
What would you do?
We need to lose the "PC approach" and take crime head on. The numbers will go up, but would you rather have numbers go up or look good? You have to turn up the heat everywhere they are. With that done, you feel more secure and safe and can walk out of the house and down the street without looking over your shoulder.
Allentown's success rate, or clearance rate for crime, has dropped from 77% to 33%. How did that happen?
Decreases in investigations. It's a direct result of the number of people doing investigation. If that number is minimal, then so is the clearance rate. All of our investigators are hurting. The emphasis now is "boots on the street" and "felt presence," but nobody's left to solve crime.
When I was in the youth division, there were eight of us. Now I think it's four. The same is true of investigations and vice.
Is that the only answer to crime - turning up the heat?
Of course not. I've mentioned the need to start creating jobs. But there's another thing we need to look at - our kids. They are A#1 in Allentown. But did you know that Allentown youth groups have lost 750 kids over the past few years? Mayor Pawlowski promised that recreation would be a top priority of his administration, but it has gone downhill. Did you know that there were just four midget baseball teams in all of Allentown last year? In some age groups the kids had to be sent home.
Either we better start recruiting those kids or the gangs will do it for us.
Can you give me any examples of business you could bring to Allentown?
Sure, I'd reach out to Philly and DC, but let me give you an example from New York. A trash transfer business approached the mayor in July of 2007 with a proposal to lease land in Canal Park. It would bring trash in, compact it and load it onto trains heading away. In addition to the jobs this would create, there would be a transfer fee, tipping fee and lease.
Instead of jumping on this proposal, Pawlowski tucked it away so he could unveil it during his campaign for reelection. Some of us on council got wind of what was going on and took a bus trip to New York to see how it works. When Pawlowski found out, he went ballistic. But right now, the city could be earning $800 thousand per year instead of nothing. If Pawlowski had acted a year ago, this trash transfer system could be in operation. We should be earning money now.
For those of you who think Tony lacks the gravitas to manage Allentown, think again.