Time to Fix Eminent Domain

James Dupree's studio.

James Dupree’s studio.

Congratulations to James Dupree.

After a long fight with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), the artist last week learned that he can keep his studio in the Mantua section of the city. The fight began back in 2012 when the PRA, citing the city’s eminent domain authority, seized his property and offered him what they considered a fair market value to vacate. Dupree disagreed on that. The PRA claimed, and still claims, that the area is a “food desert” and needed his block so that a private developer could build a supermarket. Dupree also disagreed. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “A developer could easily build around my studio or on the vacant block next to me.”

The reasons can be debated. But there’s one thing that requires no debate: The eminent domain process has to change. Eminent domain is defined as: “The power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.”

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9 Reasons Business Owners Hate the Holidays

Run a small business? Then you’re keeping a big secret. C’mon … fess up. It’s about the holidays.

Sure, December is a festive, wonderful, joyous month. You’re not completely insensitive to the meaning of the season. You can party with the best, soak up the goodwill, and wipe away a tear when Will Ferrell gets everyone in New York to sing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

You love Christmas time! At least that’s what you tell everyone.

But deep down inside, behind that smile plastered on your face and your wishes of “peace on earth” and “happy holidays” there’s something else you’re feeling. It’s panic. For a business owner, the holidays churn up fears and bring out the worst of your financial anxieties. You know this is true. And you know the reasons why:

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Four Reasons Philly Business Will Find Things Tougher Next Year

So far, the outlook for 2015 is pretty good. Most experts are predicting a continued economic strengthening with even one member of the Federal Reserve saying Monday that the “dreary days” of the economy may be over. The Hartford says both small- and medium-sized businesses are “successful” and “optimistic” about next year. Additional surveys of businesses conducted by Sage, Principal, ADP, PNC and others confirm the same: increased financial strength, growth and optimism as we head into the new year. Seems like good times ahead.

Uh … except for businesses in Philadelphia. Here, we face a few unique challenges. Challenges that may mean 2015 (and 2016) may not be so good. If you’re running a business in or around the city, be careful of these four potential bumps in the road.

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5 Reasons We Should All Be Thankful for Comcast

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This holiday season there are plenty of reasons to give thanks. Sure, there are challenges that we face. But the economy is rebounding. People are more educated. Our standard of living has never been higher. Poverty is at an historical low. Life expectancy is at an historical high. Natural disasters are killing fewer people. Fewer are dying in wars. And, of course, we have Comcast.

Yes, you haters, Comcast. We have Comcast. The media and entertainment giant that people love to hate. The company that, with just a brief mention of its name, turns seemingly reasonable, charitable, kind and loving human beings into angry, violent lunatics. The company that is the butt of 78.53% of the jokes on late night TV. The prime example of what customer service should not be. The target of lawsuits and scathing blog posts. People just love to hate Comcast.

Well, you can deservedly blame Comcast for a lot of things. But when you watch the Eagles this Thanksgiving, look up a recipe for pumpkin pie online or just make a simple phone call to Grandma because you didn’t feel like going over the river and through the woods this year, you can thank Comcast. And be grateful. Because Comcast is doing great things. Don’t believe me? Here are five things Comcast did … just this past month!

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5 Ways Businesses Will Profit From Philly’s Coming Energy Boom

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Did you hear? An economic boom is quietly and slowly happening in Philadelphia.

“With little fanfare,” this report from last weekend says, “Philadelphia is undergoing a revolution powered by the U.S. energy renaissance. Renewed investment and activity in the region’s sprawling railway network and aging infrastructure is turning the City of Brotherly Love into a potential energy hub that some believe can rival Houston.”

Just this past month daily crude oil output in the U.S. topped 9 million barrels for the first time since March of 1986, and as Patrick Kerkstra wrote in this must-read Philly Mag piece: “The spoils of the Marcellus Shale gas fields will gush into the core of the city and its suburbs through broad new pipelines. Gargantuan processing facilities, built with billions of dollars of global capital, will rise like steel stalagmites along the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. New factories — lured by the abundant low-cost energy the pipelines provide — will hire thousands of working-class residents to make plastic, steel, cement and countless consumer goods. Air pollution will increase, but so will the local GDP, as energy traders and executives fill up downtown office buildings.”

Our city happens to be in the right spot with the right infrastructure. We’re a hop and a larger skip away from the shale oil fields of Western Pennsylvania and North Dakota, respectively, and located smack in the middle of the populous and energy-hungry East Coast. There are thousands of acres of industrial space along both rivers just waiting to be built and re-built. There are huge refineries already in operation near the airport and in Marcus Hook and other refineries and holding facilities in Trainer and Hunting Park. We’ve got the right rail connections and large ports. We’ve even got Patti Labelle, and she’s a national treasure.

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The President Is Wrong on Net Neutrality: The Internet Needs Fast Lanes and Slow Lanes

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You’re staying at a hotel. You get online. When you log in, you’re given a choice: You can use the free Internet service that the hotel provides or you can pay extra for “faster downloads.” Like me, you’re a cheapskate, so you choose free. And it works fine … most of the time. But how about first thing in the morning when you’re checking your email? Or maybe right after dinner? Notice something? Yeah, you did — it’s slower. Much slower. And I’m sure you can guess why. Every user of the free service who’s waking up or getting back to their rooms from the conference you’re attending are all complaining about the boring keynote speaker … .and checking their email. And because you’re all sharing the same, free service you’re all suffering from slower performance.

Welcome to net neutrality.

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What Taylor Swift Could Learn From Uber About Spotify

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I was in Las Vegas this week and the taxi driver taking me to the airport asked me what I thought of Uber, the company whose ride sharing service UberX is currently invading Philadelphia. Apparently, the company is also setting its sights on Vegas. After I told him (I’m a fan of the service), I asked him what he thought of Uber. He said, “I’m not entirely sure, but things are always changing in this world and we have to change with them.” Smart guy.

Which brings me to Taylor Swift.

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The PPA Is Right About UberX

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Thank you, Uber, for teaching our city a lesson.

Just this past week two friends of mine were out to dinner in South Philadelphia and needed a cab ride home. It was late. The restaurant was off a main road. There were no cabs around. One of my friends knew all this, so as he finished up the meal he did a very, very “bad” thing. He pulled up the Philadelphia Uber app on his iPhone and ordered an UberX vehicle. And here’s what happened.

The app was easy to use. The app worked fast. The app identified a vehicle for them. They tracked the progress of the car using the app’s GPS service. The car arrived within 10 minutes of being ordered. The car was clean. The driver was nice. He drove them to their destination. They securely paid with one click using the app. They got home safely.

According to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the company, the driver, and I guess my friends if you want to really stretch it, broke the law.

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Four Lines of Political B.S. That Make Philly Voters Swoon

Got an election coming up? Running for political office in the city of Philadelphia? Or maybe you’re running for a state or local office that requires votes from Philadelphians?

Relax! I’ve got you covered. There’s still plenty of time to win. All you need to do is say the right things.

It doesn’t even have to be what’s right for the city in the long run. Just focus on the short term. Your job is not to make tough decisions and lead. Your job is to just to get elected, OK? That means you must study the polls and just tell the mob what they want to hear so they’ll vote for you. So what do you need to tell them? Here are a few core messages that are guaranteed winners.

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A California Ruling Is More Bad News For Philly Teachers

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite, left, accompanied by Gov. Tom Corbett, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite, left, accompanied by Gov. Tom Corbett, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Being a Philadelphia school district teacher is not an easy job. And this past week it just got harder. Not only because of yesterday’s decision by the School Reform Commission to terminate the district’s agreement with the teachers union and require teachers to now pay in for their health insurance. It’s also because of a ruling in California.

Per Breitbart last Friday:

In what will be a devastating blow to California public employee unions, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled in the Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy of the City of Stockton that pensions managed by the California Public Employee Retirement System, known as CalPERS, can be cut in bankruptcy “like any other garden variety” unsecured debt. He rejected the unions’ argument that the world’s largest pension fund is an “arm of the state” and that public employee pensions are protected by federal and state laws.

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