UPDATED with Domb's replies, read my column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer here. EARLIER: Center City real estate broker Allan Domb hasn't been advertising himself under his familiar title, the "Condo King" in his run for City Council as an at-large Democrat. Backed by a political action committee, he's buying TV time and (God bless him) a full-page Inquirer ad, and enjoys the backing of energetic ex-Mayor Ed Rendell.
A businessman on Council -- to do what? "Alan has big ideas to revitalize our city," the ad promises. Then lists three examples, and veers right off:
1) "Alan will donate his salary to our struggling schools." That's Idea One? To shave a $127,000 salary, from a $4 billion budget?
2) "Alan will use his business experience to make Philadelphia more affordable for everyone." I thought Domb's business, the more successful it gets, has the effect of driving up the price of Philadelphia real estate? Which is great, if you own some: especially if you don't have to pay the tax assessment increases. But the result is typically the opposite of "more affordable." (See also, for example, New York City under Giuliani and Bloomberg.)
3) "Allan will collect more than a half billion in neglected property taxes." Him, and what army? Not City Council, which, despite minority member David Oh's efforts, show little intention of squeezing deadbeats or rolling back exemptions popular with developers.
Domb is right that many taxpayers feel it's awfully unfair that so many Philadelphia property owners aren't forced to pay property taxes. But how exactly is he going to change this by joining City Council?
We get it -- like Ori Feibush, like some very-old-time Philadelphia City Council members, Domb is a successful businessman who sees some combination of public service and personal advancement by winning election. (Though it's more commonly done these days through agent candidates: see also Jeff Yass and his colleagues at Susquehanna International Group, who have spent millions trying to convince voters to elect Anthony "Hardy" Williams, lately as Mayor.)
But these candidates don't seem confident that business leadership is enough to run on. Domb, for his part, wants to be seen as not personally benefitting, against deadbeats, and in favor of "making Philadelphia more affordable," in vague ways.
Are more city voters approaching the place where more of them are ready to trust the Dombs and Feibushes, instead of the elected professional government types who have dominated Philadelphia through long years of office and factory stagnation?
What exactly are they prepared to do to build the city up behind the tax-break-driven high-end housing market, with its veneer of prosperity, to address the chronically weak employer interest in the city's prospects, as shown by the fact that Philadelphia office and warehouse rents remain stuck at 1980s levels?