AS THE city considers what to do with the independent Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT), we must learn from the awful mistake of abolishing the independence of the Fairmount Park Commission.
As a former commissioner, I know that the parks had, and BRT still has, independence from direct politics that made sense originally and still does.
But BRT's independence and usefulness has been corrupted by politicians meddling in the selection, qualifications and the job of its commissioners. And since it's been political mischief that corrupted the BRT, why would anyone think of giving BRT's responsibilities over to those same politicians, a fox-and-henhouse story and an example of the backward "bizarro world" thinking that abolished the Fairmount Park Commission?
The park commission, a historic institution with our city's greatest collection of local and national cultural treasures second only to the Art Museum, had its independence voted away and now there is no board of directors with independent authority to protect the park from irresponsible City Council and mayoral privilege. That was clearly the biggest danger for all of us who voted against that referendum.
Would any future mayor be a responsible steward of the city's taxation? What a frightening thought! Our mayors do not even take full executive authority over the departments already attached to their office, so why place yet another department into the lost realm of a mayor's office?
Instead, reform ought to come from selecting new highly qualified BRT commissioners by the judges while rejecting all political influence in their selections. Fair, honest and independent oversight of BRT's responsibilities is too important to toss out with the bathwater, as the voters unfortunately did when they abolished the beneficial protections of the park commission.
Let's not make the same colossal civic blunder twice under one mayor.
Gardner A. Cadwalader