Tony Bruno Launches a Crusade Against the Philadelphia Parking Authority

Like so many twenty-first century skirmishes, the war began not with a bang, but a tweet:

Tony Bruno, the erstwhile Fanatic and WIP host who retired from the terrestrial airwaves in 2015, lobbed a virtual grenade at one of the largest armies in the city: the Philadelphia Parking Authority, otherwise known as the PPA.

Bruno is no stranger to verbal combat. He might be best known to Crossing Broad readers as a prominent veteran of the Radio Wars that our intrepid leader, Kyle Scott, has documented for posterity. Thanks to Kyle, our grandchildren will write essays comparing Hannibal’s invasion of Italy to Josh Innes’ brief assault on the Philadelphia market; Dwayne from Swedesboro will take his rightful place in history alongside Uncle Remus and Al Jolson’s blackface characters; and historians will debate whether the Camp David Accords had the same impact as the Baldy Summit of 2017.

Although Bruno has retreated from the radio scene, he has created a podcast and maintains an active social media presence. It also appears that he has decided to spend his golden years living in his native South Philadelphia, which is the setting for the Bruno-PPA conflict of 2018.

Bruno’s troubles with the PPA began last week. It appears that Mr. Monday Night was assessed four tickets in quick succession, which made his car liable to be booted. Bruno contends that three of the tickets were issued in error by an aggressive parking enforcement officer who ignored the 24-hour permit sticker on his vehicle windshield.

Despite receiving assurances that he would be able to dispute the charges before his vehicle was impounded, Bruno found that his car was towed. And so he decided to record his Sunday afternoon trip to the PPA’s impound lot to recover his vehicle:

The first four minutes of the video serve as an introduction, but the action doesn’t really pick up until the 14:30 mark, when Tony is informed by the PPA cashier that he will need to pay $927 in order to release his car. After some back-and-forth, it sounds like the parking czars demanded payment for historical tickets that appeared when Bruno’s name was entered into the PPA database. At the 17 minute mark, Bruno loses it:

“I want my car released today or someone’s gonna have hell to pay in this city…This bullshit’s gonna end in this city. I want my goddamn car! I have four tickets, and three of them were given illegally on my street…I’m making a documentary about what a corrupt extortion operation this is. This is an extortion operation. Extortion!

Tony’s outburst might seem unhinged, but any viewers of the old Parking Wars show would recognize it as a not unusual interaction with an agency that has a less than stellar reputation. While that garbage television series was geared toward portraying PPA subjects in the best light and using the camera to coax the worst theatrical instincts out of selectively chosen ticketed citizens, I would still find myself sympathizing with the citizens who just had their lives significantly disrupted. And I find myself siding with Tony Bruno now.

Though it seems contradictory, the PPA operates in a way that is simultaneously ruthlessly efficient and woefully incompetent. The agency dispatches meter readers throughout the city and, despite denials, expects each employee to reach a quota. I’ve spoken with a former parking enforcement officer who was sent to a less desirable (read: more dangerous) beat when he failed to detect an acceptable number of violations.

The job of the meter reader is to find violations. If you don’t find any, the logic goes, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Behavioral and work ethic standards decrease as one moves up the PPA’s employment ladder. The organization has served as a patronage den for the city’s Republican Party, which wrested control of the PPA from local Democrats in 2001 due to some clever maneuvering in Harrisburg. The organization has handed out sinecures to ward leaders and other politically connected Philadelphians. Six-figure salaries are common in upper management, and unusually generous comp time rules were in place for salaried senior staff through 2016. Even managers who are terminated for poor job performance seem to find their way back to the trough. Chris Vogler, who was dismissed from his position as manager of the red-light program, reappeared as a consultant for Xerox, which was bidding for a red light camera contract .

Until 2016, Republican ward leader and power broker Vince Fenerty ran the PPA; Fenerty resigned his position as executive director in 2016 when claims of sexual harassment and a legal settlement came to light. When he clocked out, Fenerty cashed in: in addition to the highest pension in the municipal government, Fenerty claimed over $200,000 in unused vacation time and was granted fifteen years of free health coverage.

After a blistering report from the state’s auditor general, the PPA responded by retreating to comfortable territory: the organization created an extra layer of bureaucratic bloat and hired a new executive director who had zero experience running an agency like the PPA. Moreover, the PPA redoubled its efforts to recoup the money for unpaid tickets dating as far back as 20 years.

These actions may have eased the pressure coming from Harrisburg and City Hall to reform the agency, but they have only exacerbated already frayed tensions between the PPA and the citizens it purports to serve.

Of course, Tony faced backlash on Twitter for not paying the tickets. And there’s some logic to this point. However, I would bet most of his critics do not live in town. Once they leave the city limits, they don’t have to worry about a PPA van cruising through their residential neighborhood at night and booting or towing their cars.

And what if you believe you were unfairly ticketed? Apparently, the booting and towing process is not slowed if tickets are in dispute.

At the end of his video, Bruno directs his anger at Mayor Jim Kenney:

“And I’m promising you this, Jim Kenney. I’m promising you this right now. Every single day of this week, I will be out on the streets not just exposing the PPA…I will expose how you have swindled, lied, and destroyed this great city; how you have sanitized Center City by spending millions of dollars in Dilworth Plaza and fancying up the LOVE statue. And having second-rate, not even real City Council people staging protests to take down a Frank Rizzo statue. That’s all you care about! You don’t care about the people! You care about your bullshit social justice agenda.”

Here’s where I part company with Bruno. Mayor Kenney has little, bordering on zero, control of the PPA. Aside from making use of the bully pulpit, there is not much Kenney can do to impact the PPA’s operations. Since he’s not doling out the patronage jobs, the mayor cannot control the people who run the organization. If Bruno wants to vent, he should direct his outrage at the Harrisburg legislators who control the PPA.

That said, I think it’s completely fair to demand results from the mayor for a school system that continually demands money while delivering a questionable return on investment. Philadelphia has now opened a casino, increased the surcharge on cigarettes, taxed sugary beverages, proposed a property tax hike, and has subjected this city to an overzealous Parking Authority that ravenously seeks revenue to prop up a failing school system and a top-heavy management structure.

Millions of dollars have poured into the School District’s coffers, and the city is in the process of regaining control of its school system from the state. What are we getting for this money? Why are there still classrooms that do not have enough textbooks? Why do teachers still need to dip into their own funds to buy supplies for their students? How many students are reading at grade level? How many are graduating from high school either armed with a skill set that will allow them to enter the workforce or the grades and the knowledge to succeed in college?

There’s nothing wrong with asking these questions, especially when the city is burdening its citizens with the responsibility to fund the pursuit of answers.

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23 Responses

  1. Bruno is still pissed at how bad Innes was on the air. If they would have just had tony on, it would a been a huge success.

    1. Miss Robin is the one who is out of control. Bruno cannot tweet without her chiming in with something.
      She is the reason why he does not have a job – management was tired of her hanging around the stations.

  2. Nobody fkn cares. Water’s wet. Sky’s blue. PPA sucks… but it usually sucks more when you are an entitled old fart who thinks the rules don’t apply to you. His car is clearly past the sign in his tweet, so he got ticketed. Case closed.

  3. Didn’t Brace get his car booted once? charges were thrown out when he blew up about his status in the philly area

  4. All this post does is remind of how fat and terrible Josh Innes was. What a fat slob.

    1. Fat slob?

      And here I thought you were one of those tolerant liberals- accepting of all. Especially given all the bashing you do of anyone who resembles the conservative mindset.

      Thanks for exposing yourself you utter moron.

  5. Just realized that I was blocked by an overzealous has-been radio personality due to some inoffensive tweet I directed at him years ago. Well, now I’m glad that he’s burned all his bridges in this town and his car got booted.

  6. Tim, I still owe thousands to PPA for double parking my white van at the Jesuit summer confession camps I would drive you and other Prep boys to when your sins were extra-mortal. Your lack of discipline in religion class was incredibly dark, toxic and problematic!

  7. Philadelphia is the ultimate red pill. You watch a city that takes more and more, like city wage taxes, additional sales raxes, soda tax, etc and you the person paying ot all get less and less. Philadelphia made me a republican because the amount of money going in is ever expanding while the amount that you get out in terms of decent schools, garbage collection, snow plowing, anything gets worse every year. The PPA is the perfect symptom of the disease. One of many.

    It is the ultimate progressive paradise, no one is ever held accountable and the drones that occupy their comfortable offices as government employees get pay raises every year and a pension that doesn’t exist in the private sector. You are paying to be abused in the city of Philadelphia.

    1. Did you read the article??? Republicans in Harrisburg run the PPA. Not philly Democrats.

      Maybe read an article before you decide to spew your moronic right wing bs

  8. I don’t know what the pieces of shit that ride around all day and give tickets get paid, but it’s too much. Just fuckin get hit by a bus.

  9. It is of note that the Republican Governor Corbett cut over a billion dollars in education funding (across the state). Most districts are just now getting back on their feet from that. Who has run the school district since 2001? The state and their School Reform Commission, not local control. So while Kenney “props up a failing education system” know your facts. He has sought to regain local control. He is building a Pre-K program (soda tax) that will build a stronger education from the bottom up. Now if you wanted to right a wrong here, ask the PPA where the $80 million they shorted the district is. (http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/12/07/mismanagement-and-corruption-at-parking-authority-cheats-district-out-of-nearly-80-million) . I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you and the fine folks that comment here.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Dave. I think if you re-read that bit about propping up a failing education system, you’ll see the antecedent is the PPA; I wasn’t specifically referring to Kenney. As for the mayor, I am much more skeptical than you about the pre-K program. The city has been pouring revenue from the tax to plug holes in its General Fund, and the revenue generated has not met expectations. Besides, what does quality pre-K look like? What’s the plan to sustain the educational gains made from pre-K when children advance to kindergarten and beyond?
      The problems with the school system predate Kenney, and they predate any tax cuts Corbett implemented. That doesn’t mean citizens should not ask questions about the taxes they are asked to pay. That’s our job, after all.

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