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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Philadelphians, Suburbanites Are Ripping You Off

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Philadelphians, you are being ripped off. No, not by the government. Nor the parking authority. Nor even the overpriced coffee shop on the corner. You’re being ripped off by none other than me. And my friends. And my neighbors. And it’s time you did something about it.

That’s because the people I know are ripping you off pretty much every weekend (and many weeknights, too). Don’t believe me? Take a look at center city’s streets on a Saturday night. Or the squares on a Sunday afternoon. Go to an Eagles or Phillies game. Ride up and down Kelly Drive. There are lots of Philadelphia residents there, of course. But there are also lots of non-Philadelphians. There are families from New Jersey, tourists from Chicago, and empty-nesters from Lower Merion. We’re all going into town. It’s fun. It’s safe. It’s inviting. We’re using your restaurants and taking advantage of your entertainment. But we’re not paying our fair share. And that’s why you’re getting ripped off.

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Atlantic City Is Not a Happy Place

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Shutterstock

I live outside of Philadelphia, less than 75 minutes away from Atlantic City. But I haven’t visited Atlantic City in more than a decade. Why is this?

It takes less time to go there than New York or DC and other shore towns. There are beautiful hotels. There is no shortage of great entertainment. There are beaches and a boardwalk. It’s the ocean. It’s a resort. Yet … I just don’t go there. Over the years, whenever my wife and I want to take our kids to the shore we always ignore Atlantic City, opting instead for a day at Margate or to rent a house for a week in Ocean City. We are not alone. Most, if not all of my friends, neighbors, even clients are the same way. My mother, who used to go there at least monthly to gamble hasn’t been there in years. Why should she? There are plenty of other gambling alternatives right here in and around the city.

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The Easy Way to Cut Your College Tuition in Half

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A neighbor of mine is sending her son to a well-respected New England liberal arts college. A friend of one of my kids is starting her college career at a West Philadelphia Ivy League institution. Another friend is attending an excellent state school in Michigan. My kids, as I wrote in this month’s Philadelphia magazine, are each attending good schools in the mid-Atlantic area.

As parents, we are all forking over anywhere from $30 to  $60K per year, per kid in tuition, room and board.

Are we paying too much? Yes.

Is it the fault of our higher education system? Mismanagement? Gouging? Yes.

But let’s not entirely blame these colleges. As parents, we share some of this blame. We could be paying a lot less in tuition and getting the same result. But we don’t. Why?

We’re afraid of what others may think. Our egos sometimes get in the way.

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Why Am I Paying $110,000 a Year in College Tuition?

The author in one of his more desperate moments. Photograph by Adam Jones

The author in one of his more desperate moments. Photograph by Adam Jones

There are some jobs I would love to have. Professional baseball player. Writer for Saturday Night Live. U.S. Congressman. With the exception of baseball (I’m only five-foot-six, unfortunately), I think I’d be pretty good at those jobs. But you know what job I’d be really good at? Running a university or college.

I’ve navigated my 10-person company profitably through the economy’s ups and downs over the past 20 years. And now I have the “pleasure” of paying my kids’ college tuitions as all three of them enter their sophomore year. Yes, all three at once. Two go to state colleges (one in-state, the other out-of-state), and one goes to a private university. Total tab: $110,000 a year.

My kids love their schools. They’re happy. I’m happy that they’re happy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. And from what I’ve seen over the past year, as both a parent and a business owner, there is lots of room for improvement. A university president? Me? Here’s what I’d do if given the chance.
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Here’s Why Philly Businesses Will Gladly Pay Millions for the Pope and DNC

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Fact: If the Democratic National Committee decides to hold its 2016 convention in Philadelphia the cost could range anywhere from $50-$75 million dollars. While the federal government would pick up most of this cost, as much as $10 million could fall on our local government (at least, that’s what New York’s mayor predicts if the convention came to his town).

Fact: When the pope visits Philadelphia in 2015 as part of the World Meeting of Families the estimated cost could be another $13 million, (the city of Milan paid 10 million euros when it hosted the event in 2012).

Fact: $10 million plus $13 million means the city could be on the hook for up to $23 million in additional expenses for these two events. Maybe even more.

Fact: It’s likely that Philadelphia’s business community will step up and raise the money to pay this bill so that taxpayers are not out of pocket. “We’re the fifth largest city in America,” Comcast’s David Cohen recently said in a radio interview. “And I think our civic leadership has the capacity to be able to raise the money to host these two pretty special events in consecutive years in Philadelphia.”

Great!  The city needs $23 million, and the business community will likely step up.

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20 Easy Predictions for the Coming Year

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The Revel casino is closing down. Duh. Anyone could’ve seen that coming. And most of the people I know did. We saw the new casinos in Philly and Valley Forge. We heard about the high prices at Revel. Even my own mom, a hardened slot machine competitor who used to travel to AC a few times a month has preferred to gamble locally because it’s cheaper and she can lose her money closer to home.

You knew this too. You are old enough and smart enough to be able to predict the future. In fact, there are a lot of things that you know right now that will happen sometime in the next 12 months. Just take a moment and think about it…

Jose Garces will be fine. Sure, the closing of the Revel means he’s out four restaurants. But are you worried about him? Didn’t think so.

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3 Rules for Surviving (and Thriving) on Yelp

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My sister is a really good doctor. She runs two busy offices in South Philly. Her patients include CEOs of large companies and union workers from the neighborhood. She sees everything from colds to cancer and knows the best specialists in town. I wouldn’t let her cut my fingernails, of course. But that’s because she’s my sister and I still remember her as a bossy 15-year-old. But her patients I know love her.

Except for this one guy. He skewered her on Yelp. He complained about her office. He gave her a low rating. And what was worse, that she didn’t even know about it until somebody (that was a gloating me) told her about it. She barely knew about Yelp. But apparently, her office was listed there and a handful of people made comments — all great except for the one guy. And it really, really upset her. I get it — people don’t like to hear bad stuff.

Is your business on Yelp? You better check.

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