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Candidate Insists He'll Bring Change to City's Business Image

August 23, 2007 By:
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Al Taubenberger

Al Taubenberger, who's hoping to be the first Republican to occupy Philadelphia City Hall in about 60 years, said during a meeting with Jewish community officials that he'd be a better communicator than the current mayor, and would find ways to keep big and small businesses alike from leaving the city.

"The business privilege tax -- I'm for eliminating it over time. The fact that there is a tax on gross receipts, whether a company is making a profit or not, it's egregious. It's ridiculous. It keeps companies out," said Taubenberger during an August 15 meeting with representatives from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. A similar meeting was held the week before with Democratic nominee Michael Nutter.

The 53-year-old Taubenberger has been working hard to convince even would-be supporters that he stands a chance of defeating Nutter. The president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce -- who has run unsuccessfully for Congress but never held public office -- has raised slightly more than $11,000, while Nutter has amassed more than $3 million.

But Taubenberger insists that in a year when people are looking for change, he's just the guy to deliver.

Rosalind Spigel, director of the Philadelphia branch of the Jewish Labor Committee, asked Taubenberger if by his own accord the business privilege tax nets the city about $400 million annually, how would he make up the difference if he cut that revenue?

First of all, the tax would phased out over the course of a decade. Second, he pledged to go through the city's budget line-by-line and eliminate at least 5 percent of total spending by cutting back on waste. That, Taubenberger argued, would limit the need to reduce or eliminate city funded programming or social services.

During his opening remarks, Taubenberger discussed his identity as a German-American; his parents emigrated from Nazi Germany in 1936 and by the 1960s had established a delicatessen in Northeast Philadelphia. A fluent German speaker, Taubenberger has visited his ancestral homeland several times and said he reads and thinks a great deal about World War II and the Holocaust.

"What had happened in Germany during World War II is probably one of the darkest moments in humanity," because Germany was such an advanced society culturally and intellectually, said Taubenberger.

If elected, Taubenberger said that he would sponsor cultural programming that will consider the relationship between Yiddish and the German language. Taubenberger also noted that he'd visited Israel in 1995 on an Israel Bonds mission led by then City Comptroller Jonathan Saidel.

The candidate, like his opponent, was pressed on what his response would be to the spike in violent crime that's griped headlines recently and been the subject of much debate for the past two years.

"You need more police -- and more police actually patrolling. Philadelphia has too many specialized units. Some of them work and some of them don't," said the candidate. "Philadelphia needs at least 600 new police officers." 

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