The Brief: Why Your Reverse Commute Is So Wretched

1. Why Philadelphia-area residents have some of the worst commutes in the nation.

The gist: The Inquirer took a long look on Sunday at commutes on the region’s overloaded transportation network, zooming in for a closeup on the exquisite agony of the reverse commute. This isn’t a newsflash. Everybody city resident who works in the ‘burbs knows the horror. But Inquirer reporters Jason Laughlin and Justine McDaniel explain how this happened. Basically, the region’s transportation network was designed for a time when 50 percent or more of the jobs in the Delaware Valley were located in Philadelphia. Now, that rate is down to 25 percent. Explains the Inquirer:

Now, saddled with an infrastructure built for an era when Philadelphia was the employment nexus, planners and transportation officials are engaging in a profound game of catch-up.

Across the region, a wave of transportation projects bigger than anything in the last 30 years is animating the long-stagnant landscape. For 21st-century commuters struggling along on 20th-century roads and rails, they represent hope — but not yet relief.

The system isn’t designed shuttle to people who live in South Philadelphia to office jobs on the Route 202 corridor. City dwellers who try to take regional rail to suburban jobs too often arrive at stations with no bus service. It’s a classic “last-mile” problem. Read more »

The Jim Kenney Forecast: Cloudy, With a Chance of Greatness

Kenney and supporters on election night. Photograph by Matt Slocum, Associated Press

Kenney and supporters on election night. Photograph by Matt Slocum, Associated Press

When Jim Kenney took the stage to accept the Democratic nomination for mayor about two hours after polls closed on May 19th, he was cheered by just about every bloc in contemporary Philadelphia politics. Labor was there, of course. So were veteran African-American politicians Dwight Evans and Marian Tasco, who helped the white guy from South Philly defy racial history and win big in black neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion and West Oak Lane. In the crowd, lifelong white rowhome voters mingled a little awkwardly with young-ish progressives and transplants. There weren’t a lot of big-business interests in the room, but Kenney had a quick private word with George Norcross, the insurance executive and South Jersey political boss who has turned his hungry eyes toward Philadelphia. Read more »

Jim Kenney’s Long War with the Archdiocese


Charles Chaput and Jim Kenney. | Photos by Jeff Fusco.

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney is a proud graduate of St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle. He was born and raised in a Irish Catholic family. He is the single most devoted fan of the Neuman-Goretti women’s basketball team in the world.

And yet, Kenney’s relationship with the Catholic Church is fraught. Actually, the more accurate adjective is probably just “hostile.” Kenney showed vividly just how little regard he has for local church leaders on Thursday, when he waded into the debate over the abrupt firing of a beloved, gay faculty member at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion. In an Inquirer story, Kenney accused “cowardly men” in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of orchestrating the firing. “If you’re a church official and you feel that strongly that this woman and her partner are such a threat to society, stand up and say so,” Kenney told the paper.

That might seem like extraordinarily blunt language coming from the likely next mayor of the city and aimed not-so-subtly at Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. But it’s actually not all that different from Kenney’s past public statements about the archdiocese. Like the time he urged Pope Francis to “kick some ass” in the archdiocese.

Kenney began feuding with the archdioceses as far back as 1998, when Catholic leaders mobilized to block a City Council bill granting benefits to partners of gay city employees that Kenney co-sponsored. More recently, he’s sparred with archdiocesan leadership over the closing of parochial schools, publicly criticized their decision to ban an 11-year-old girl from playing CYO football and wished out-loud that Pope Francis will straighten out Chaput and company when he comes to town in September.

Read more »

Johnny Doc Won the Mayor’s Race, Says Former Candidate Nelson Diaz

Nelson Diaz. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Former Democratic mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz has a fascinating interview with Sabrina Vourvoulias at Al Dia. Read her story here.

The most immediately newsworthy bits are his comments on John Dougherty, who Diaz blames for thwarting his campaign:

“…He got the Supreme Court, with his brother. He got city council. He worked out a deal with the Northwest, for Cherelle Parker and for (Derek) Green. So he’s got two more people he has some control over, and he will have the mayor’s office now.”

“So the question is, who won?” he continues.

“I think the guy who really won is Dougherty, who essentially is the controlling figure. And he’s part of the party, he’s the treasurer of the party, and so that’s the machine.”

Read more »

The Brief: Hite Damns the Politicos, Moves Full Speed Ahead

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. Tired of waiting, for reasonable funding that may never come, Schools Superintendent Bill Hite is pressing forward on his plan to reshape the district.

The gist: In a must-read story for the Notebook, Dale Mezzacappa breaks down a big administrative change underway at the School District of Philadelphia. In short, Hite is further decentralizing the district, shifting power out of the main office and into schools and a growing number of “learning networks,” which group schools both either geography or particularly educational needs and approaches. Writes Mezzacappa:

After three years of an administration defined by austerity, personnel cuts and school closings, Superintendent William Hite is ready to move forward with his vision of improving education in the District.

Hite is moving ahead even though he doesn’t know yet whether he will get the financial support from the city and state that he needs to make it happen. He said his main goals will be stability, equity, and opportunity for all students, outcomes he hopes to achieve by making schools — not the central office — “the primary unit of change.”

Read more »

How Jim Kenney Plans to Run City Hall

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Mayors need to know politics and policy. They need to be an ambassador for Philadelphia outside city lines, and a leader who can rally public opinion within.

But they also need to manage the enormous enterprise that is municipal government, an operation that spends $6.9 billion a year and employs nearly 28,000 people. And yet, somehow, management is often overlooked as a must-have mayoral skill.

In truth, we don’t know all that much about the management chops of Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney, who is a slam-dunk election away from being the city’s next mayor. His primary campaign is the largest enterprise Kenney has ever run. For the 23 years before that, he was in City Council, where he managed a Council office comprised of just a few employees.

That’s not a lot to go on.

But after Kenney sat down for an interview with Citified, we now know a bit more about the type of manager he intends to be. And there actually are some worthwhile lessons to take from the way he ran both his campaign and his council office. Read more »

The Brief: These Are the Most Ticketed Blocks in All of Philadelphia


1. Never hope for a parking grace period on the 500 block of S. 2nd Street.

The gist: Inquirer/Daily News data analysts Dylan Purcell and Michelle Tranquilli have taken a swing at the massive release of parking ticket data released by the city last month. Their analysis found that the single most ticketed block in the whole of Philadelphia is 500 S. 2nd Street, where drivers found a staggering 24,695 violations waiting on their windshields between January 2012 and March 2015. That’s the block featuring angle parking in the middle of the street, just south of Headhouse Square. A close runner up was the 100 block of Chestnut Street, where 24,516 tickets were issue. South Street from 2nd to 6th Streets is one big danger zone, as are the big shopping blocks west of Broad on Walnut. Read more »

Latest Anti Gentrification Rallying Cry? Tax the Flippers

Fear of gentrification is one of the most potent political forces in Philadelphia today. That much, most can agree on. But is that fear broadly valid, or generally misplaced? That’s a harder question, and you’ll hear a lot of different answers to it. And, it seems, some very different policy ideas about how to manage housing in a city that is growing again (a little, at least).

A lot of the anti-gentrification forces have coalesced into a group called Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, which includes a host of politically potent labor and neighborhood organizations. In recent months, they’ve begun pressuring Council to enact a simply huge “anti-speculation tax” that would only apply to properties that are sold twice within two years. They’re going after house flippers and some market-rate new construction, basically. Read more »

The Brief: Airlines to Spend Up to $2 Billion More on PHL Improvements

1. A new lease agreement between airlines and the City of Philadelphia secures an additional $1.3-$2.1 billion in new airline spending at the airport and a $12 minimum for all PHL employees.

The gist: It took two years, but the city and the airlines operating out of Philadelphia International Airport have a new deal. It’ll last between five and seven years. Mayor Nutter signed off on it yesterday. The total overall value of the deal comes to $2.8 billion – $4 billion (depending on how long it runs), which includes as much as $2.1 billion in payments above and beyond the last deal, Wendy Ruderman reports for the Daily News.

By law, all that extra cash must be spent at the airport itself (sorry, schools). About $158 million is set aside for capital improvements at the airport, and as much as $750 million more could be spent on a single as-yet unannounced mega project. The rest will help the airlines “modernize operations,” though it’s not clear from the coverage what that means, exactly.

The big political stumbling block that was cleared in this deal is the requirement of a new $12 minimum wage for all airport employees, including those who work for the airlines through subcontractors. Securing that was a priority for City Council, which refused to sign off on an agreement that didn’t include that provision. Read more »

Candidates Love a Camera

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney with state reps Dwight Evans and Cherelle Parker, May 2, 2015.

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney with state reps Dwight Evans and Cherelle Parker, May 2, 2015.

July’s Philadelphia magazine is The Selfie Issue. Whether you check it out online, or pick up a glossy copy, you’ll be treated to dozens of self-portraits of beautiful, interesting Philadelphians … and a bunch of politicians.

Citified being what it is, we’re here to focus on the latter. Apologies.

But wait, before you go, take a moment to check out Darrell Clarke on the race track (seriously), Sam Katz getting a little handsy with the Pope, Vince Fumo making the absolute most of this image rehab opportunity, and more.

Oh, and if there’s a pol you think should be included who’s not, odds are good we asked them to participate and they declined (it took Mayor Nutter’s press office an impressive four minutes to reject our invitation).

First up, this classic American couple. Read more »

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