NOTICE: The department of recreation will stop all services and programs after closing on October 2, 2009.
We deeply regret to inform you that without the approval of necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg, the City of Philadelphia will not have the funds to operate facilities.
Those words greet city residents as they walk into their neighborhood recreation centers. Similar signs are up at parks, health centers and libraries across Philadelphia.
Notices went up Thursday as the city raced towards its budget deadline. Philadelphia desperately needs cash -- we've already borrowed $275 million from JP Morgan Chase and Mayor Michael Nutter is set to enact his "doomsday" budget which would shut down many city services and layoff 3,000 city workers, including police officers and firefighters.
If Philadelphia starts operating under the "Plan C" budget, expect trash to pile up with twice-a-month pickup. Tall grass in neighborhood parks. No more free books (or free Wi-Fi for that matter) from your library. No daycare, senior programs, youth sports leagues. Fewer officers to keep the streets safe and fewer firefighters to answer critical calls.
The nation's sixth-most populous city might mimic a rural town -- and that's just the beginning.
Mayor Nutter has been banking on the Commonwealth to pass two bills allowing the city to temporarily increase the sales tax and delay payments to pension funds. So far, that hasn't happened.
Nutter waited impatiently at the State House in Harrisburg Thursday as the House Rules Committee voted to strip Senate amendments from one of the bills. The twice-revised bill will go before the House for a vote as early as Friday. Then it would need Senate approval.
"I think the people of Philadelphia are increasingly getting pissed off about this entire situation," an irate Nutter told the Daily News' Chris Brennan.
And he's right.
"Its a disgrace," Louis LaGioia, Sr. said of the entire situation. The newly-elected president of the South Philadelphia Senior Center on Passyunk Avenue believes closing the neighborhood rec centers is the equivalent of a death sentence for the city's elderly.
"You take this whole place away from the senior citizens...this is all they know...you'll kill them," an angry LaGioia shouted. "Some people, this is the only meal they have during the day."
The Free Library has started a campaign to "Keep The Libraries Open," urging residents to put pressure on their politicians. Will it help? Probably not. Whenever Philly's at the mercy of Harrisburg, it's a lot like Cinderella and her ugly step-sisters...without the fairy godmother.