ThinkFest Preview: Asa Khalif on the Black Lives Matter Movement


Critics of Black Lives Matter haven’t been shy in airing their skepticism of the movement. Where is their agenda? Where is their inclusiveness? How is this movement sustainable? And, seemingly at every turn, Black Lives Matter activists have responded: releasing a multi-point platform of demands, building coalitions with politicians and other groups, and, most impressively, demonstrating time and time again how much they have staying power. Read more »

The Very Slow, All-of-a-Sudden Transformation of Northern Liberties

2nd and Fairmount | Photo by Jared Brey

2nd and Fairmount | Photo by Jared Brey

Three and a half years ago, this magazine published a list of Hot Neighborhoods, in which Northern Liberties was described as a place that was “Not just for artists anymore.”

To make sense of that description, you have to accept a few assumptions. The first is that an “artist,” in this usage, is anyone who makes a decent-enough living doing something either creative or blue collar, and who lives outside of Center City both by necessity, because they can’t afford the rent, and by preference, because the outlying neighborhood has some aesthetic or historical character that appeals to the artist’s self-image. The second thing you have to accept is that Northern Liberties was once a place that appealed primarily to those types. The third is that its appeal had broadened. If we were to remake that list today, we could probably shorten the description. Northern Liberties: Not for artists anymore. Read more »

People Aren’t Taking This Miracle AIDS Drug, And That’s a Big Problem for Philly

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP

The eyes of Damon Jacobs were slowly filling up with tears.

It was a warm and busy day in late June, and at a national HIV conference in Philadelphia, Jacobs was talking about the time that he first learned about AIDS. He was 14, and Rock Hudson, a movie star known for his all-American good looks and sense of humor, had contracted the disease.

“There was lots of media coverage contrasting this healthy 1950s heartthrob image with a very ill, very thin and sick man,” says Jacobs. That portrayal made Jacobs and his fellow gay friends afraid that if they came out of the closet, they might someday end up unhealthy and frail like Hudson. From the summer of 1985 until 2011, Jacobs says, he carried that fear on his shoulders.

After 26 years, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, lifted that burden—but only briefly. Better known as Truvada, PrEP is a pill that can prevent HIV if taken once a day. When Jacobs first read about it after seeing dozens of friends die from AIDS, he was sure that people would flood the streets with joy. But the opposite happened: “Nobody was talking about it,” he says.

Jacobs is now a family therapist who works in AIDS research in Manhattan. He says he regularly sees young men in his practice who have tested positive for HIV, but who have never heard of PrEP. Jacobs blames this on primary care physicians and government agencies alike. “I encourage us all to think about how to get information to the people who need it the most,” he says.

According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 17,000 people living with HIV in Philadelphia, 12,000 of whom have full-blown AIDS. There is no data tracking exactly how many people use PrEP in the city. But national statistics are troubling: A study by the American Society of Microbiology found that white people, who make up 27 percent of new HIV cases in America, account for 75 percent of PrEP’s user base. Conversely, African-Americans, who make up 44 percent of new HIV cases in the nation, only constitute 10 percent of PrEP’s users; Hispanics, who make up 23 percent of new HIV cases, represent 12 percent of users.

In a majority-minority city with a HIV high rate, that’s a major cause for concern. And at least two measures show that PrEP is being underutilized in Philly: Philadelphia FIGHT, the city’s largest AIDS service organization, counts just 250 active PrEP users on its rolls. Meanwhile, only 170 people are taking advantage of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s free PrEP program, though nearly 700 have been referred to it. Read more »

28 Days Later, Still No Answers From Henon About the FBI Raid

Photo via City Council's Flickr

Photo via City Council’s Flickr

Next week, when City Council starts its fall session, Bobby Henon is going to have to be in the same room with a reporter. For now, he’s still not answering questions about the fact that the FBI raided his offices four weeks ago. Just like the time before and the time before that.

I happened to be in City Hall today, so I stopped by Henon’s office to see if I could ask him a question or two. He was up in the district office in the Northeast, his spokeswoman said. She said she’d get in touch with him and ask if he would answer the questions that Philadelphia magazine has repeatedly sent him. (Here are a few: Have you been interviewed by the FBI? Has your staff? Are you going to keep your part-time job with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the union whose headquarters was raided the same day as your offices?) Read more »

Johnny Doc Finally Comments on His FBI Raid Outfit

John Dougherty, in his trademark outfit

IBEW Local 98 business manager John Dougherty wore a white button-front shirt, shorts and a Philadelphia sports hat for the announcement of the NFL Draft location today (right) — and the FBI raid of his home on August 5th. | Photos: Bobby Allyn, Newsworks/WHYY (left); Dan McQuade (right)

When John Dougherty was raided by the FBI on August 5th, many reporters took note of the outfit he wore: white button-down shirt, khaki shorts, Sixers hat. Your humble correspondent wrote a guide to dressing like Johnny Doc for your Halloween costume or everyday errands or whatever.

Dougherty, the business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, was at the city’s announcement today that the NFL Draft would be held in Philadelphia next year. Ron Jaworski thanked him personally from the podium, saying the NFL Draft would not be held in Philadelphia if it weren’t for Johnny Doc. (Mayor Jim Kenney, for the record, said it was thanks to the hard work of a private/public partnership.) Read more »

Who’s Behind Phone Survey Critical of Seth Williams?


The other day I answered a phone call and found myself taking a 15-minute survey about District Attorney Seth Williams and a former and possible future challenger, Michael Untermeyer.

I was trying not to provide strong opinions (which as a reporter I of course don’t have to begin with), but I wanted to hear the questions, so I used the words “uncertain” and “somewhat” a lot. It was a pretty eye-opening survey, even as someone who’s followed the recent news about Williams fairly closely.  Read more »

Report: Feds Seek Kenney’s Campaign PAC Records

Jim Kenney is inaugurated as the city's 99th mayor Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The 57-year-old Kenney succeeds Michael Nutter, who leaves office after two terms. Kenney served on city council for more than two decades before he was elected in November. Kenney is accompanied by his children Nora and Brendan and was sworn in by Judge Kevin Dougherty. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

This afternoon, Philadelphia magazine’s Jared Brey wrote that Mayor Jim Kenney’s alliance with electricians union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty is looking worse and worse in light of the FBI investigation of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98.

In a matter of hours, things managed to go further south for Kenney.

NewsWorks’ Dave Davies broke the news that federal agents have requested documents from Kenney’s campaign committee. Read more »

Henon Goes Three Weeks Without Answering a Question About the FBI Raid

Photo via City Council's Flickr

Photo via City Council’s Flickr

A reporter’s worst fear is being called “silly” by an anonymous PR flack. So when that nightmare came to pass this morning after Billy Penn posted a column by an unnamed “political communications professional” criticizing our recent articles pointing out that City Councilman Bobby Henon has yet to answer any questions about the FBI raid on his offices three weeks ago, we had to pause and do some serious soul-searching.

Fortunately, that didn’t take very long. And Councilman Henon’s office once again didn’t respond to questions or a request for an interview that we sent this morning.

The nameless, faceless professional argued in their column Friday that Henon doesn’t have much to gain from giving interviews about the matter. But there’s an extra sort of volume to his silence about the FBI raids that goes beyond the standard non-commenting that other officials have been doing in the face of questions about their conduct. The anony-flack compares Henon to District Attorney Seth Williams, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, who have all reportedly come under the scrutiny of the FBI, and says they’re all smart to keep quiet. But the others have actually been a bit more forthcoming, while Henon has been totally silent. That’s why we’re focusing on him. Read more »

Kenney’s Alliance With Johnny Doc Looks Worse By the Day


Photos by Jeff Fusco

I had a nice little chuckle the other day when I was reading the latest installment in a growing series of Inquirer stories about FBI investigations involving local union leaders, politicians and appointees.

The story revealed that Joseph Ralston, an agent in the state Attorney General’s office, appeared to be the focus (or one of the focuses) of the federal investigation that’s been circling around International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the union headed by John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. It’s been just three weeks since the FBI initially raided Doc’s house, Local 98’s headquarters, and the offices of City Councilman Bobby Henon, who is on the union’s payroll. There have been new revelations about just how wide the FBI’s target is nearly every day since then.

“The pace of the investigation remains quick.”

That was the line that made me laugh. It’s a sober comment. Very newspaper. And funny, because it translated automatically in my mind to We’re not entirely sure where the hell this thing is going, but we’re keeping up the best we can.

But I’m sure Mayor Jim Kenney wasn’t laughing. And I’m sure he wasn’t laughing last night either, when another Inquirer story revealed that Jim Moylan — Kenney’s appointee to the hugely powerful Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Johnny Doc’s friend and chiropractor — is also someone the feds are interested in. Read more »

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