City Council passed Bill 13-077000, which bans medical offices in Northeast Philadelphia.  While it doesn’t specify methadone clinics, it’s clear that methadone clinics along with all other types of medical practices will now need to go seek variances and meet with Registered Community Organizations before they can open.

The bill is now awaiting Mayor Nutter’s signature. [CBS3]

Bill No. 13077000

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Transportation funding died in Harrisburg last night. [Inky]

It’s not just mass-transit funding that died, it’s everything.  And I mean all of it.

Those closed bridges scattered all over Pennsylvania that GPS services like Garmin keep directing you to because the map makers still don’t know yet that the bridge is out?  Closed forever.

It also takes SEPTA a lot closer to its Doomsday Budget plan that most Philadelphians think is just policy fantasy for now.  Unsympathetic Philadelphians are conditioned to hear SEPTA begging for dollars annually.  And rural Pennsylvanians who receive more in transportation spending from the state than they pay in transportation taxes will sit content while bridge-heavy eastern and western sides of the state ponder their futures.

One remarkable thing struck me when I moved to Pennsylvania a decade ago from Texas:  all the potholes and bad roads.  Literally everywhere.   Of course it’s worse in Philadelphia where the City is charged to maintain its own streets where many of Philadelphia’s main thoroughfares resemble the surface of an alien planet that’s fit for a moon rover to roll around on than the family sedan, but you’ll encounter the same problem far away from Philly.

We Philadelphians do have one comfort:  our most important bridges to New Jersey are outside the full control of PennDOT and Harrisburg politics, and Jersey suburbanites who work on the other side of the Delaware certainly don’t want to lose their connection to their incomes and livelihoods.

During the 70s and early 80s Texas had its own crisis with its roads, which see heavy amounts of big-rig traffic with its commerce to Mexico.  It was the favorite place to raid the budget to raise cash and control state deficits.  That created a cycle of despair:   transportation problems echo into commercial businesses by driving up the costs it takes to maintain fleet vehicles.  It also rises municipal fleet expenses as bad roads damage all vehicles.  Soon enough, California was looking more enticing a state to be located in:  your trucks were far less likely to break their axles.  Railroad shipping also saw a boomlet as international shippers scrambled to move away from trucking companies and on to an aging and dying system that saw comparatively better maintenance.

And for anyone who has to insure large numbers of vehicles, which is just about every local government in the state, a bad road network dramatically raises the cost of carrying auto insurance.   Before long the savings gained by starving transportation multiplied costs elsewhere.

The starvation of transportation didn’t take long to reverse.  The State of Texas changed its transportation policy in the late 1980s and early 90s after enough business lobbyists and trucking organizations held sway.  The state started supplementing interstate highway projects where Federal dollars fell off.  More bridges to Mexico were opened and the veins that carry the lifeblood of commerce across the state were massively upgraded.  Most Texas cities dramatically expanded their ring road systems to get the heavy international freight trucks past their cities and out of commuters hair.   Texas even reached for some measures considered extreme and controversial, like toll roads.

The reversal from starvation to plush spending on transportation changed the face of doing business in Texas.  It made the state attractive again.

Transportation spending also poured into local systems.  The City of San Antonio along with its public transit system, Via, is now reintroducing streetcar service which hasn’t existed there since the 1950s, and Houston has expanded light rail.  Dallas has also added to its metro system.

In our state as our roads grow worse, snow doesn’t get plowed, bridges close and mass transit is poised to shut down, Pennsylvania has the feeling of a failed state.

Will I have to walk 4 miles to work every morning if SEPTA goes dark for me?   I certainly won’t be blowing $12,000 a year on car expenses (gas, tires, insurance, trips to the mechanic, service, not to mention our infamous parking) to drive on our crappy roads.

We have one of the highest paid governors in the land, the fattest state legislative body in America with more people representing such small constituencies than any other state, and yet driving from Point A to Point B in our state is fraught with danger because we refuse to set basic priorities–like making sure Pennsylvanians can do their work and get where they need to go to live out their lives.  Amazing.

I wonder where my PA income tax money goes to.  Call-girl whores and cocaine prices must have gone up.