New Castle News


November 29, 2012

Our Opinion: Don’t blame Act 47 for lack of growth in city

NEW CASTLE — New Castle City Council’s close vote yesterday on a new recovery plan under Act 47 reflects harsh fiscal realities.

But in some ways, council is missing the larger point.

There was considerable grumbling amid council’s 3-2 vote that Act 47 is doing the city no good. Instead, members of council groused that Act 47 seems to be setting the city up for little more than tax hikes and staffing cuts.

That’s certainly one way of looking at it. And without aggressive pursuits of alternatives, that is the city’s fate.

But blame does not lie with Act 47. First and foremost, the recovery plan for the city was intended to restore some measure of fiscal stability, to ensure revenues match expenditures. Prior to Act 47, the city was facing financial disaster.

In essence, Act 47 was a tourniquet, a means of stopping the bleeding. But that’s not enough to restore a community to health.

So does that mean Act 47 is a failure? Not really. Act 47 is a tool, a means of imposing necessary financial discipline. But it’s not a cure for all that ails New Castle.

Maybe council members have a point that the Act 47 recovery team could do more to help the city plan for growth rather than just austerity. Yet that’s also the job of council, the administration and the community as a whole. What meaningful steps have been pursued in such an effort?

Developing a game plan for growth in the city of New Castle isn’t something that’s cobbled together at the last minute as the clock is ticking down on the time available to approve a new plan. We suggest that officials start today to work toward developing such plans, rather than waiting three years and wonder why nothing happened.

That would be preferable to grumbling about which is worse, property tax hikes or additional blue bag trash fees. The reality is there isn’t much difference. Yes, renters must buy blue bags, but they also pay property taxes through their rent.

Regardless, the money is coming out of the pockets of the people who live in the city.

We don’t pretend that turning the city around will be easy. In fact, it will be difficult. But the first step is to recognize the need to do it.

The second step is to make sure no further damage is done. This includes government efforts that hinder the community’s potential for growth.

We note it wasn’t too long ago that members of city council were trying to weaken ordinance language regarding the protection of New Castle’s historic district. Why would that occur when the district is an asset the city ought to be promoting?

Yes, it’s appropriate to call upon members of the Act 47 recovery team to assist in developing programs to promote growth in the city. But the key word is “assist.” The people and officials of New Castle can’t escape their responsibilities.

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