The Empty-Nester’s Guide To Center City

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Congratulations! You made it. Your kids are grown. You’ve managed to save a few bucks. You still have a mostly-intact prostate. And now, you want to live the empty-nester lifestyle. You want to sell your house, dump all that old junk, store a few heirlooms, burn the furniture and start afresh in Center City. That’s what my wife and I did a couple of months ago. So to help you I’ve put together a few things that I’ve learned about living in town that you will also need to know. Read more »

3 Reasons A Municipal Bank Is A Bad Idea

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Mayoral candidate Anthony Williams has been floating an idea for a municipal bank. The proposed bank, which would be owned and run by the city would focus on helping small businesses in the city who are unable to get loans from mainstream banks.

I not only run a small business but I also write every day on small business topics for the Washington Post and every week for Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines. My company has more than 600 small business clients and I speak to and interview thousands of small business owners around the country every year. If you’re familiar with the other things I write for Philly Mag you may agree that I don’t know much about a lot of things. But please allow that I’m more than a little familiar with the issues facing the country’s 30 million small businesses, let alone the tens of thousands in this city. So with that in mind I feel obligated to help Anthony Williams because he seems like a nice guy.

Mr. Williams…the municipal bank thing? Not a great idea. And here’s why. Read more »

Milton Street for Mayor? Hey, Why Not?

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As the city’s race for Mayor heats up in advance of the Democratic primary, the choice facing voters remains unclear, if not disappointing. Jim Kenney seems like a good candidate but mostly unwilling to address the city and school system’s pension and healthcare woes with needed cost cuts. I love Lynne Abraham’s intelligence, energy and passion for the city, but then again so did Benjamin Franklin when he first voted for her in 1788. Anthony Williams has a long track record in the State Senate but has faced criticism over entanglements with the Philadelphia School Partnership. They’re all flawed, really.

Which brings me to Milton Street. Hey, why not I ask?

In a piece for the Inquirer earlier this week Tom Ferrick Jr. warned us not to forget the past of Milton Street. Forget it? We should embrace it! Read more »

No, It’s Not Time to Abolish Fraternities

It was a bright spring day in New York City. And the doorman was just minding his own business, watching the traffic go by on Park Avenue. My mission was to steal his hat.

John was my accomplice. We had a plan. I hid around the corner of the building while John casually strode toward the doorman, purposely looking lost. John had a map in his hand. He stopped the doorman and asked for directions.  And when the doorman looked at the map with John … I sprang into action. I ran down the block and before he knew what was happening I snatched his hat off his head and galloped away. John took off in the other direction. 10 minutes later and 10 blocks away, John and I re-grouped to gleefully inspect our treasure.  We got the hat.

Yes, we were pledging a fraternity. And, like today’s fraternity and sorority members, we were college-aged idiots. Read more »

44 Taxes We Pay as Residents of the Great City of Philadelphia

Governor Wolf introduced his budget on Tuesday. And in it he proposed an increase in spending, no pension reform, no long-term deficit reduction and no cuts in costs. And although he’s lowering business and real estate taxes, there are proposed increases in our state income and sales tax. Mayor Nutter introduced his budget yesterday. And he wants a 9 percent property tax increase (oh, and good luck with that). Now the mayoral candidates are talking about a plastic bag tax.

And why not? We Philadelphians are used to taxes. It’s no big deal.

In fact, depending on whether you live and/or work and/or run a business in the city, you might be paying as many as 44 different taxes, fees and tariffs every single year — maybe more! Don’t remember them all? Who could blame you! So here’s a list to refresh your memory. And please let me know if I’m leaving anything out. I’m definitely forgetting something, right? Read more »

Why Do Teachers Get Snow Days?

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UPDATE: Philadelphia school teacher Steve Clark has written a response to this column

Hey school teachers, I have an idea.

Instead of fighting the School Reform Commission and campaigning for a friendly governor and organizing your efforts for a sympathetic mayor and protesting at City Council meetings and complaining about contributing more to your health insurance and your pensions let me suggest another tactic: How about you actually go to work?

Even when it snows. Read more »

10 Reasons Paid Sick Leave Is Great for Business

Illustration courtesy of Shutterstock.

Illustration courtesy of Shutterstock.

As business owners we sure like to complain, don’t we?

We complain about collecting cash and the price of supplies and the state of the economy and the dog-eat-dog competitive world we live in. But there’s fantastic news if you’re a business owner: Mayor Nutter recently came out in support of a city law that would require us to provide up to five days of paid sick leave to our employees, even for companies with as few as 15 employees.

Wait. Fantastic news?

How can this be fantastic news for a business owner? That’s because you’re just not getting it. Providing paid sick leave will benefit our companies in at least ten ways:

Read more »

Abolish Tipping? The Practice Should Actually Be Expanded

You fly to Chicago. Your hotel has a courtesy shuttle that picks you (and a few other people) up at the airport. The driver has a “tips” bucket in the front of the van. Do you tip him? How much do you tip him?

You arrive at the hotel. A valet greets your shuttle, helps you down with your bags and points you to the reception desk. Do you tip him? How much do you tip him?

Before going to your room, you go to the Starbucks in the lobby. You buy a $4 coffee. Typical of most Starbucks in hotel lobbies you are given a receipt to sign which has a line for a tip. Do you tip the barista who poured your coffee? How much do you tip her?

Later that day you leave your hotel and another valet hails you a taxi from the line of taxis waiting around the corner. He opens your door, tells the driver your destination, and wishes you a good day. Do you tip him? How much do you tip him?

You check out of the hotel the next day. Before leaving your room do you leave a tip for the housekeeper? How much do you leave?

Everyone tips the wait staff. But do you tip the coat check person? Do you tip the cab driver? Your hairdresser? The pizza delivery guy? The furniture delivery guys? The babysitter? At Christmas do you give “gifts” to your postman, your newspaper delivery person, the doorman, your trash guys, your manicurist?  Why should you? Aren’t they getting paid already for their job? Why tip them and not tip other service providers, like the flight attendant or even the SEPTA bus driver? What makes the SEPTA driver different than the taxi driver – aren’t they accomplishing the same thing?

Read more »

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.”

Read more »

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:

Read more »

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