The Brief: Why the Next Philadelphia Mayor Matters More Than the Next President

Matt Rourke | AP

This guy has more to say about Philadelphians’ economic mobility than President Obama. Matt Rourke | AP

In presidential elections, Philadelphians turn out. Over 690,000 Philadelphians helped re-elect President Obama in 2012. Four years earlier, 718,000 showed up at the polls. Those are pretty solid numbers.

When it comes to mayoral elections, though, Philadelphians really can’t be bothered. A piddling 183,000 cast votes in the 2011 general mayoral election. It’s a bit better when there’s a competitive primary, like Nutter’s first election, where 291,000 cast ballots. But that’s still a fraction of the presidential total, and nobody’s expecting turnout this year will actually top 2007.

Which is really stupid, and a shame, because local officials have far more influence over the lives of the people they serve than do the high-and-mighty in Washington D.C. Read more »

Lynne Abraham Goes Nuclear on Jim Kenney

Associated Press | Matt Rourke.

Associated Press | Matt Rourke.

At Thursday’s mayoral forum, the first of the 2015 election season, Lynne Abraham touched off what might be the first real fight of this campaign when she (metaphorically) slugged Jim Kenney for championing a bill back in 2007 that commits the city’s beleaguered pension fund to pay out bigger sums to retirees when the fund’s investments outperforms its goals. Read more »

Is Doug Oliver For Real? Meet Him & Judge For Yourself

Doug Oliver, Mayor's Press Secretary. Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photograph by Mitchell Leff.

Doug Oliver. Photograph by Mitchell Leff.

Doug Oliver is a wild card in the 2015 mayoral election. He’s the 40-year-old kid in an aging field, the first-time candidate vying against (mostly) lifelong politicians. He’s an underdog, yes, but an intriguing one.

Oliver more than held his own in the first mayoral forum of the election Thursday, and former Governor Ed Rendell has taken a shine to Oliver, counseling him and hinting that he might raise cash for Oliver or even, just maybe, endorse him.

Come judge for yourself if Oliver is ready for primetime. On Monday at 6 p.m., Citified’s Holly Otterbein will grill the candidate on his readiness for the job and his plans for the city. It’s the first in Philadelphia magazine’s Candidate Conversations series.

Read more »

Four Maps and Apps to Help You Better Understand Philly

OpenDataPhilly.org, that wonderful repository of public information about the city, just got a major overhaul courtesy of Azavea and the Temple University Center for Public Interest Journalism.

The site, which has been around since 2011, is a portal to 262 datasets about the city, from nitty-gritty schools information to a historic street name index to parks maps and much, much more. It’s always been a great spot to find vital data, but the snazzy new version makes that easier, plus it does a great job of highlighting what Philadelphia’s growing community of civic hackers—be they in government, the private sector, or their pajamas—is actually doing with all that data. Such as… Read more »

Candidates Unimpressive at First Mayoral Forum

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Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates assembled on a single stage Thursday morning for what was the first public forum of the 2015 election. It showed.

As a group, the candidates were uneven and not particularly focused. There was only one sharp exchange, between Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham over the question of pensions. There were some solid answers, and some lousy ones, but most were mediocre and forgettable. Read more »

The Brief: No Peace for the SRC

Green Williams Clarke

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved five out of 39 applications for new charter schools yesterday night at the tail end of a meeting that featured four arrests and lasted five hours. The decision appeared to please no one. One prominent national ed reformer called on SRC Chairman Bill Green to resign, for not approving enough charter applicants. Pretty much simultaneously, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten condemned the decision to approve any new charter schools. Gov. Wolf issued a statement saying his administration “continues to believe that the district’s financial situation cannot responsibly handle the approval of new charter schools.” We haven’t heard yet from Republicans in the General Assembly, but you can bet they would like to have seen more new charters than the five the SRC authorized. Read more »

Center City’s Housing Market Is Surging, But For How Long?

Photo credit: Gene Tobia via Flickr.

Photo credit: Gene Tobia via Flickr.

Center City has recovered from the recession, and then some.

Developers built 1,983 new housing units in Center City last year, a robust total that is the second highest since at least 2000 (The only year that was better? 2013). Property values stand at $307 a square foot, their highest value since at least 2005. Another 3,681 more units are in the Center City pipeline.

And yet, Center City District Executive Director Paul Levy is worried. Read more »

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