How Philadelphia’s Fuzzy Racial Math Could Tip the Mayoral Election

Photographs by Jeff Fusco

Photographs by Jeff Fusco

Eight months into Michael Nutter’s first year as mayor, the New York Times Magazine published an 8,200-word story headlined “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?

It was a deliberately provocative question, and one that resonated in Philadelphia. Nutter, who featured prominently in the story, had won office a year before with an unprecedented multiracial coalition. Barack Obama had just delivered his remarkable speech on race — an address that seemed to convince many white voters to support him — at the Philadelphia Constitution Center.

At the time, it seemed very much as though Philadelphia’s long tradition of racial politics — that is, the tendency of whites and blacks alike to vote mostly for candidates of the same race — was winding down.

Well, not so fast. Read more »

The Brief: Johnny Doc’s Giant Helping Hand to His Supreme Court Candidate Brother Kevin Dougherty

1. Kevin Dougherty—Johnny Doc’s Brother—Is Amassing a Huge Warchest for His Supreme Court Campaign. Want to Guess Where a Lot of That Money Comes From?

The Gist: The Inquirer reports that Kevin Dougherty raised $707,931 through March, including at least $302,000 from IBEW Local 98, the union controlled by his brother John Dougherty. Kevin Dougherty’s total is $131,481 more than the other party-endorsed Democrat in the race, David Wecht, and $161,051 more than the best-funded GOP candidate, Michael George. Read more »

Should City Hall Lend Money to Small Businesses?

Tony Williams. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Tony Williams. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

(Tonight, Wednesday at 6 p.m., join Philadelphia magazine for a live interview with Anthony Williams. It’s free, open to the public, and Pipeline Philly is providing food and drinks. This format is THE best way to get to know the mayoral contenders. Click here to RSVP.)

State Senator Anthony H. Williams has an interesting idea. He wants the City of Philadelphia to form a municipal bank that would lend money to small businesses that he says are overlooked by traditional lenders.

It’s a notion that is sure to freak a lot of people out. Williams’ opponent Lynne Abraham is among them: “That scares me,” Abraham said at a mayoral forum earlier this month, when Williams mentioned his loosely-formed plan. It’s an understandable reaction. City Hall often struggles to deliver basic municipal services as well as city residents would like. Now it’s supposed to act as a banker, too? And what about the potential for corruption? How seriously should we take any of this? Read more »

Gorgeous New City Hall Gates to Come With a Politically Interesting Twist

The new City Hall gates. | Renderings and designs from Vitetta.

The new City Hall gates. | Renderings and designs from Vitetta.

Given City Hall’s grandeur, one of the more annoying features of the building has been the sad-sack gates at the four portals to the interior courtyard. They’re made of chain link, like you’d see on the perimeter of a prison, only without the razor wire.

Well, those gates are in for a pretty breathtaking upgrade in the not-too-distant future. Working off a conceptual design proposed by John McArthur Jr., the original architect of City Hall, the architecture firm Vitetta has come up with a painstakingly detailed, historically reverent set of schematics for the new gates, which could be completed by the end of the year, according to Bridget Collins Greenwald, the city’s Public Property Commissioner.

This is interesting news for an obvious reason: the gorgeous new gates are one more step of what’s become a very, very long project to burnish the tarnished jewel that is City Hall. But it’s interesting for another reason as well: Vitetta happens to have mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Jim Kenney on retainer as a consultant, at the rate of $75,000 a year. Read more »

The Brief: Lynne Abraham’s Racially Loaded Remarks From 25 Years Ago Are Back in the News

Lynne Abraham. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Lynne Abraham. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

1. An Old Philly Mag Quote Comes Back to Haunt Lynne Abraham

The Gist: Al Dia went into the archives and unearthed a politically problematic quote from Lynne Abraham in a 1990 Philadelphia magazine article. Abraham, who was in a meeting with a defense attorney, said: “There’s only one group of people who have problems with blacks more than whites in this city, and that’s Puerto Ricans.” That led Frank Burgos to editorialize in the Daily News columnist that Abraham was “the Margaret Mead of local race relations,” and not in a flattering way. What makes this interesting is that Abraham didn’t retract her statement when contacted by Al Dia. She told the paper: Read more »

A Quiet Coup in City Hall

Inside City Council chambers. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Inside City Council chambers. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Half the audience is sweating before the debate even begins inside the packed, sweltering basement auditorium of Greenfield Elementary School. There are at least 400 people here, and while the crowd is perfectly civil, there’s still a bit of an edge to the mood. This is a high-stakes election; the proof of that is all around. There’s a documentary crew filming the candidates and audience, campaign volunteers are crawling all over the place, and an obligatory thickset white dude in an Eagles hoodie passes out unsourced fliers about the black candidate. All standard election-season fare in Philadelphia. Read more »

Anti-Ori Feibush Vandalism Pops Up in Point Breeze

Feibush vandalism

Ori Feibush says a campaign office was vandalized and a tire slashed on one of his company cars. | All photos from Feibush.

Second District Council candidate Ori Feibush isn’t a stranger to vandalism. Long before he was running for office, he found a dead dog on the steps of his house. In 2013, someone threw a brick through the window of one of his coffee shops. That incident was caught on video.

Now, as his campaign against Kenyatta Johnson approaches its final month, more Feibush-related vandalism is popping up in Point Breeze. On Thursday, Feibush posted photos to his Facebook page of some really amateurish red graffiti reading “don’t vote 4 Ori” sprayed onto a couple of walls. Two weeks prior, Feibush said, one of his campaign offices was vandalized and a tire slashed on one of his company cars. Read more »

The Brief: How Some Charter Schools Keep Out the Riff-Raff

School District of Philadelphia1. How Some Charter Schools Keep Out the Riff-Raff

The Gist: This is an important, well-reported story from WHYY’s Kevin McCorry, that’s not easily condensed into a sentence or two. Be sure to check out it out. In summary, McCorry explores how some charter schools inflate their numbers—graduation rates, college placement, test scores and so on—by not replacing the large volume of kids who drop out. Read more »

Who Are the Best and Worst Ward Leaders in Philly?

Screenshot from

Screenshot from

The wonderful people at Code for Philly have created a fun new website about Philadelphia’s ward leaders. You may have thought, quite reasonably, that such a feat was impossible. Ward leaders are many things, but “fun” is not usually one of them.

But fun they are—when turned into virtual baseball cards that can be sorted and ranked on metrics such as voter turnout and the total number of vacancies in committee people ranks.  Read more »

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