Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP
It took almost a year after his son and former chief of staff were indicted, but the other shoe dropped on Congressman Chaka Fattah this week, as federal prosecutors slammed him with an array of corruption charges, most of it connected to his ill-fated 2007 mayoral bid. Here’s what you need to know…
Why is this a big deal?
Chaka Fattah is one of the most consequential political figures in Philadelphia’s modern history. The Democrat has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District since 1995. But it’s his work in the city — building a grassroots movement that helped African Americans claim their fair share of political power — that has probably been most consequential. As a Philly Mag 2007 profile of Fattah put it:
Over the past 30 years, you see, Chaka Fattah, 50, has been one of the most dynamic and thoughtful political figures in the city. He has also been one of the most ambitious. That ambition has been responsible for more than its share of good: It’s helped the city sidestep financial ruin, helped countless low-income kids stay on track for college, and secured millions of dollars for local scholarships. It has taken Fattah from rabble to respectability, from obscurity to celebrity, from a West Philly rowhouse to an East Falls manse he shares with his TV anchor wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah. But it has done other things, too, things that aren’t particularly noble or pure or good: It has transformed Fattah from outsider to insider, from reformer to player, from someone who once idealistically raged against the machine to someone who has hackishly defended its most conspicuous sins.
What does the indictment say?
Fattah was charged on 29 counts — including conspiracy, bribery and racketeering — for allegedly participating in a number of schemes. The feds say he illegally directed federal funds to help pay off an illegal campaign loan, misused campaign funds to pay off his son’s student loans, and accepted a bribe in exchange for trying to land an ambassadorship for a lobbyist friend. Read the indictment here.
Also charged were three longtime Fattah associates and Herbert Vederman, a former deputy mayor and big time political donor. Vederman is the one alleged to have bribed Fattah to land that ambassadorship. Read more »
From left to right, Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Paul Mullen and Lisa Esler.
Suburban politics usually falls outside of Citified’s focus, but we’re going to make a quick exception for the special election in Delaware County’s 161st House District, which includes Swarthmore and other communities north and west of Chester.
The election — which will be decided Tuesday by presumably a tiny slice of hard core voters — has turned into a three-way scrum featuring Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Republican Paul Mullen, and Lisa Esler, who is mounting a credible write-in campaign and running to the right of Mullen. They’re vying to replace Republican Joe Hackett, who resigned less than four months after being sworn in for another term.
So what makes the race worth paying attention to? A couple things. Read more »
School Reform Commissioner Bill Green and three-time mayoral candidate Sam Katz have decided against running as a two-man slate for City Council at-large in November’s election.
This wasn’t an idle flirtation. They were seriously considering the possibility as recently as Wednesday morning.
Katz wrote in an email that “politics is critical but there are other ways I hope to continue to move the city forward.” He said he was “gratified” that “so many Philadelphians” encouraged him and Green — who he praised as a “dedicated and talented leader” — to “create an independent party.”
“There is a lot of fuel left in my gas tank. I won’t be a candidate but I have no plans to disappear,” Katz wrote.
Green wrote that he’s “always believed” that “providing educational opportunities to Philadelphia’s children would make a bigger impact in Philadelphia than anything else.” Then there are the pragmatic considerations. “Without multiple voices like mine on Council I would be spitting into the wind, sometimes, but rarely, effectively,” Green wrote. “My highest and best use is on the SRC at this point.” Read more »
Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP
You can’t have a RICO prosecution without alleged co-conspirators. So who have the Feds targeted in addition to Chaka Fattah?
Herbert Vederman, 69, Palm Beach, Florida.
Biography: A politically potent lobbyist with strong ties to former Gov. Ed Rendell, Vederman is the other big fish in this indictment (below). Vederman was a former clothing executive who joined Mayor Ed Rendell’s administration as an unpaid deputy mayor. He headed up economic development for the city for a time, and played a role in a 1995 City Hall scandal called “boobgate,” which involved strippers and L&I, because this is Philadelphia. He’s contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to Rendell’s political campaigns. Later, Vederman was a lobbyist for hire in the government relations division of Stradley Ronon, the law firm. He also served as finance director for the Fattah for Congress Committee for more than three years. Read more »
On Monday, Mayor Nutter faulted “little people with little pieces of information” for more or less inciting Pope panic in Philadelphia over the weekend.
On Tuesday, in a phone interview with Citified, Everett Gillison, Nutter’s chief of staff and point man on the Pope visit, said one of the big problems is that people are getting too much information. “It’s just the opposite,” Gillison said when asked if the lack of logistical details about the Pope’s visit was undermining public confidence. “They’re getting literally too much, too early, and that’s what’s causing all the angst. They’re getting inundated with what could or could not be …”
So that’s the official line: If anything, the city has been too forthcoming, and the real problem here is an over-competitive press and the uncharacteristic emergence of a mile-wide twitchy streak in too many Philadelphians. Relax, the city says, we got this.
Unofficially, the story is a little more complicated. Nutter administration sources in a number of departments tell Citified that the city very much wants to release more information and to firm up logistical plans sooner, but is being prevented from doing so by the Secret Service, the World Meeting of Families and Vatican security officials. The sources say that this dynamic — which effectively prevents the city from communicating openly with its own citizens — is extremely frustrating, particularly given the growing public clamor for information. Read more »
Photo by Jeff Fusco.
State Sen. Anthony Williams — the guy a lot of people thought would be the city’s next mayor — was involved in a unsavory mortgage deal in New Jersey that left him battling with a recalcitrant tenant, damaged his credit and raises some serious questions about his judgment, according to a story posted overnight on Philly.com
Reporters Ryan Briggs and Brian X. McCrone do a great job unspooling the entire mess in their investigative report. In short, Williams bought a home in Atco, New Jersey, that was on the brink of foreclosure, and rented the home back to the prior owner. The government generally takes a dim view of these sort of deals.
Williams says he’s a victim in all of this. The deal was put together, Williams told Philly.com, by a “friend of a friend.” Williams says he was in it for altruistic reasons. Per Philly.com:
Read more »
Bill Green and Sam Katz.
Bill Green and Sam Katz — two of the city’s most capable and pugnacious political pot-stirrers — are considering running for City Council at-large as a two-man slate in this November’s election, Citified has learned.
If they were to run and win, they could upend a political system that, by design, traditionally awards Philadelphia’s under-powered Republican party two at-large City Council seats. It would be an enormous blow for the city’s GOP.
A Katz-Green victory could also change the balance of power in City Council, and present likely next mayor Jim Kenney with a pair of well-informed and high-profile potential critics. Read more »
[Updated at 3:40 p.m. with 2014 data and comments from a public health expert.]
It looks as though Philadelphia-area residents are more likely to be diagnosed with having sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia than are residents of almost any other city in the nation.
This news comes from a somewhat bizarre source; the website RentApplication.com, which used Centers for Disease Control data to create a national STD map and a companion 10-worst list. But there’s no tricky methodology here. It’s just a copy and paste of quite reliable CDC data slapped into a map. And while it’s a transparent marketing ploy for RentApplication.com, it nonetheless shines a light on just how bad Philadelphia’s public health problem with STDs has become.
Philadelphia’s high ranking is all the more remarkable given that the list isn’t limited to big cities. The map includes data for thousands of communities, and even so, Philadelphia ranks 4th most “sexually diseased,” behind Montgomery, Alabama, St. Louis, and West Memphis. Read more »
The gist: More and more logistical details are spilling out about Pope Francis’ September visit to Philadelphia. This thing is just too big, with too many people involved in pulling it off, for the news to stay contained as long as city officials and event organizers would like. For instance, PlanPhilly’s Jim Saksa covered a board meeting of the Philadelphia Parking Authority yesterday, and heard an avalanche of new information about the visit. According to the PPA:
- A “significant security perimeter” will extend from Girard Avenue to South Street, river to river. It wasn’t clear what that perimeter would look like.
- SEPTA trains will not make stops within Center City. Likewise, SEPTA buses won’t be operating in Center City. Saksa confirmed that with SEPTA. No word on the subway.
- 50 Jumbotrons will be set up throughout the city to broadcast the papal mass.
- The Parkway can hold “about 700,000″ people, which is significantly less than the number that are expected to visit the city while the pope is in town.
Read more »
The William Street Common sidewalk cafe fence, then and now.
Back in June, we wrote about the quite-handsome but also quite large fence that had been erected around the big sidewalk cafe operated by William Street Common on the corner of 39th and Chestnut in West Philadelphia.
A lot of readers considered it a blatant land grab by power restaurateur Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Union Transfer, Boot & Saddle and more). Hornik, meanwhile, said it was a reasonable answer to the high volume of cars that pass by on Chestnut (he also said it wasn’t a fence, which was just weird).
Well, the city Streets Department checked it out and found that the cafe was “non-compliant” for three reasons:
1. The café does not conform with the conditions of the sidewalk café ordinance that the owner obtained for this location.
2. The owner never submitted a seating plan to the Department for approval.
3. A fence, barrier or railing of any type is required to be setback 14-ft from the edge of the curb along Chestnut St.
That’s from the Streets Department. In response to that inspection, it looks as though Hornik has shortened the fence and removed some of the horizontal boards. The effect now is less Maginot Line, more picket-fence. The new fence doesn’t wall off patrons in the same way the old one did, and it doesn’t feel like quite as distasteful an intrusion into public space. But it is still a fence, and it’s likely to leave at least some urbanists dissatisfied. Read more »