A Hoot for Making the Citizens Scratch Their Heads and Ask What Government is Doing.

When it comes to Philadelphia Weekly, I’m always undecided.  I can’t decide if I like the cheeky, in-your-face writing, or if it’s too informal for my taste.  I also don’t know if the content is creative and energetic, or if it’s just trying too hard.

Whatever my hang-ups with the publication may be, writer Aaron Kase hit it out of the park with this one.  Kase’s story about the lack of oversight in City Hall is provocative and leaves the reader to scratch his head and think, “Should we be doing something?”

In the set-up for the article, Kase paints a visual picture of the decade-long renovations done on City Hall.  He then contrasts the physical cleanup of City Hall to the lack thereof within its marbled walls.

 “When do we start cleaning up the inside?” Kase writes.

The writer then adds that although various “watchdog” organizations, like the Board of Ethics and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), operate within City Hall, each office is limited: This means that no one’s keeping a close eye on city government.  Kase follows this weighty claim with a great quote:

“‘Council managed to carve themselves out so they don’t have a heck of a lot of oversight,’ says Zack Stalberg, president of the independent political watchdog group Committee of Seventy. ‘People will be careful about how they deal with City Council. It’s made up of 17 individuals who have the ability to get in your way.’”

Thoughout his article, Kase includes additional compelling quotes from an assortment of government leaders and watchdog groups.  He is thorough in his analyses, and gives fair time to both “sides.”  And the media doesn’t escape his scrutiny.

“If the government isn’t policing itself effectively, that leaves the media. Currently, there are just four full-time reporters covering City Hall, three for the Inquirer and one for the Daily News. The Inquirer’s “Heard in City Hall” blog is a great resource, but the government is awfully large for four reporters,” says Kase.

The Philadelphia Weekly writer brings his intriguing story to a close by leaving his readers in a contemplative state.

“They might be writing brilliant laws to bring the city back from the brink of total budget meltdown. They might be playing Tetris. They might be committing heinous acts of unspeakable vulgarity and using taxpayer dollars to sop up the mess.  We just don’t know,” writes Kase.

– Julie Gargotta

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