Tensions run high at Bustleton Civic meeting

In what quickly devolved into arguments and accusations, the Greater Bustleton Civic League tackled several issues at last night’s meeting, including recent crime spikes, DROP and zoning.

Though more neighborhood-centric topics dominated the three-hour meeting, Bill Rubin, vice chairman of the city’s pension fund, was slated as the highlighted speaker, with the intent of talking with Bustleton residents about DROP.

“Nobody had any idea who I was three years ago,” Rubin commented about the recent public scrutiny of the Deferred Retirement Option Program.

Rubin, who lives in St. Albert the Great parish, said he “understands the Bustleton area, and [the residents’] concerns,” though he admitted, he probably wouldn’t be able to change people’s opinions of DROP in the course of his short presentation.

Residents had only a few questions for Rubin after he thoroughly explained the program, why he thinks it’s a “good idea if used properly.” Established in 1999, the program allows City of Philadelphia employees to choose a retirement date ahead of time and begin collecting benefits. The program has been widely criticized in recent years when some of the city’s public officials elected to take the DROP and then came out of retirement.

Zoning matters

After several heated arguments among residents, variance applicants and political aides, zoning was denied for 1017 Norvelt Drive, where the owner wanted to use a second driveway to park his boat and car.

The issue took more than an hour to resolve, and required two votes.

What Rubin told Bustleton residents about this earned expressions of shock from most.

“The more money in the pension fund, the less money [the city] needs from tax payers,” he said, and went on to explain that it costs less for the taxpayers to pay a council member who retires and comes back than it does to pay a new council member.

As Rubin explained, those who elected not to participate in DROP were staying on the job longer and earning higher salaries than those involved with DROP. He then posed the question: “Is it better to keep older people (who earn more) on the payroll or incentivize them to leave?”

Before wrapping up and earning applause from the 50-plus residents at the meeting, Rubin encouraged people to look at city council members as executives of a company, and advised Bustleton residents to “replace that individual if you don’t like what they’re doing.”

Captain Zaffino told Bustleton residents robberies without weapons are down 96 percent in the 7th District.
(Captain Zaffino told Bustleton residents robberies without weapons are down 96 percent in the 7th District.)

Also at last night’s meeting…Captain Joseph Zaffino of the 7th Police District to speak with him or a district officer about crime rates, rather than take Internet statistics at face value. This announcement came after concern at last month’s meeting that the illegal operating of a school at 1806 Grant Ave. was directly linked to a spike in robberies. “The numbers will alarm people in this room, and they shouldn’t,” Zaffino said of crime statistics. Zaffino accounted for every recent robbery residents were concerned about, and said his district has “had zero problems with kids in this school.”

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