A couple days ago I received the latest letter from the new school superintendent, Gerald Zahorchak. He explains that we are in financial difficulty because the system spent $155 million on upgrades, and will be getting $27 million less in federal and state aid this year. So here are his suggestions, and my replies.
*Attract regional, national or foreign industrial investment in energy and environment, the health care sciences and heavy industry to retrofit such empty spaces as the old Western Electric Building, GE plant, The Mack plants, old sewing mills and the Neuweiler Brewery to name a few.These buildings have been vacant for decades, monuments to our industrial past. There are not enough green businesses to fill one of these giants, much less hundreds, in city after city, in the Northeast.Since Billy Joe's song, we have spent millions on Industrial Development Agencies to no avail. Even the business Obama visited last year has closed.
*Sell the Queen City Airport to a Fortune 1000 company, such as an innovative technical concern looking for a northeast location...Usually companies like this are lured with huge tax abatements for many years, and would have little need for such a large parcel. You could stop approving the Enterprise Zones which have yet to provide one dollar to the school system
*Gentrify Hamilton Street... like Manayunk.....Manayunk borders a city of 3 million and is surrounded by affluent residential areas. Hamilton Street is surrounded by poverty.
*Attract Bill Strickland types and retrain the poor and outcast.I wish I could retrain the School Board when it comes to hiring superintendents. Here's an idea; sit back and learn something about this community before making suggestions. Allentown's newly approved zoning ordinance makes it easier to convert vacant commercial buildings into apartments. You should have opposed that measure. Send a representative to zoning meetings to oppose every such conversion. Stop taking State of the Union speeches by Obama and Pawlowski as a plan. Cancel phase 2 of the school improvement plan. Prepare for more housing, more students, and less revenue.