Dear Governor Corbett:
I have had the honor and privilege of serving the citizens of the Commonwealth as a member of the State Planning Board since it was re-established early in your predecessor’s tenure. At the time, many of us joined the Board eager to promote an ambitious policy agenda that so many, from business leaders and professional planners to environmentalists and the Brookings Institution, believed was urgently needed to stave off more municipalities from becoming distressed and the economy of the Commonwealth falling further behind.
Unfortunately, entrenched interests and a fear of change have largely stymied any progress. Meanwhile, the urgency of the agenda has now been made more real as the city that hosts our state government is in bankruptcy. And the notion that state government has the capacity to rescue it is downright ludicrous.
As a governor who came to office intent on reducing inefficiency in government and committed to reducing its costs, I am hopeful that you will focus your attention at the level of government where there is the most redundancy. Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities, 500 school districts, countless water and wastewater systems, police departments, and pension plans are anachronisms.
I had hoped that the State Planning Board would be asked to continue, if not redouble, its effort to find modern solutions to the decline of Pennsylvania’s communities. Instead, it is being asked to advise your administration on creating “green and walkable” communities and improving permitting processes for developers. While these are valuable goals to pursue, green and walkable won’t be meaningful in insolvent municipalities and developers won’t develop where the economy is choked by government redundancy.
As an appointee of Governor Ed Rendell, I believe you should be served by a State Planning Board comprised of your own appointees. I have decided to resign my position in order to enable you to appoint someone of your own choice. But I do hope that you will not fiddle as our own Rome burns. My own communities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton are all on the brink of insolvency. Many of our older boroughs in the Lehigh Valley are in trouble, too. It would be an honor to help you develop a policy agenda that acknowledges the scope of the problem and meets the challenge with an appropriately bold and urgently-pursued agenda. If I can help, I would welcome the opportunity.
I wish you well as you seek and implement a policy agenda that realizes the full potential of our Commonwealth.
Alan L. Jennings