Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Historical Commission (and More) To Be Shuttered Oct. 2

Only three days left until the city of Philadelphia sends out layoff notices to some 3,000 workers in preparation for its October 2 "doomsday" budget deadline.

Of special interest for public historians: the Philadelphia Historical Commission and all Free Library of Philadelphia branches will cease operations under the current proposed plan.

That is, unless the state Legislature approves the tax and pension changes Mayor Michael Nutter has requested.

If you're new to this alarming and disheartening subject, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a brief round-up over the weekend to catch you up on all the relevant issues. You can also read Mayor Nutter's most recent letter to the Legislature here. The situation is looking grim.

Now, if all the libraries close, I think we're all clear on the impacts. All the libraries will be closed.

But what, exactly, will this doomsday plan mean for historic properties in the city?

KYW Newsradio quotes Jonathan Farnham, executive director of the Historical Commission, as saying that historic properties "would be at risk" if the commission ceases operations on October 2. But the same story indicates that projects needing the commission's approval "would be delayed."

Does that mean everything needing Historical Commission review would be on hold until the staff is re-hired, at some point weeks or months in the future? Or will it be open-season on tearing down or altering properties in the city?

I hope we won't need to find out, but time is running out.

If you haven't already contacted your state legislators, please click here to do so. (This link takes you to the Free Library's advocacy page, where you can find your elected officials and a suggested letter urging them to act.)

UPDATE: Crisis averted, at least for now. On Sept. 17, the Legislature approved the tax and pension changes Mayor Michael Nutter requested. Nutter's "doomsday" budget is off the table. Read Nutter's letter to his staff here.

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