Exit Interview: Pit Bull U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office

In Philadelphia, Zane David Memeger is a feared man. During his six-year tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he helped end the decades-long political career of Congressman Chaka Fattah, put Ironworkers Union boss Joseph Dougherty behind bars for extortion, and cleaned house at the city’s ticket-fixing Traffic Court. He’s also successfully prosecuted terrorists, human traffickers, pill mill operators and international arms smugglers.

This month, Memeger will step down. We talked to him Friday about the incoming Trump administration, how to clean up the city’s political system, and whether there is truly justice for cops who commit crimes. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Read more »

Has a Revolution in College Affordability Begun in Philadelphia?

Illustration by Glukit

Illustration by Gluekit

Some kids go to church to learn their virtues. I got the basics from watching Seinfeld reruns. Lessons like why it’s wrong to pee in the shower and why to never, ever trust a car dealer. (Episode 167: Jerry ventures to buy a convertible and is pummeled with hidden fees; he ends up with an “insider’s deal” because his friend is dating the salesman.) Part of being a good car salesman is making the buyers feel like they’re walking away with a steal (bonus cup holders!), whether or not it’s actually a good deal. That’s why car dealers offer discounts wherever possible. Sticker prices tend to be fickle. Read more »

Nerlens Noel Will Make Season Debut Sunday Against the Pistons

Sixers center Nerlens Noel has expressed frustration over the team's frontcourt jogjam | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel will make his season debut on Sunday | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel will make his season debut Sunday against the Detroit Pistons, head coach Brett Brown told members of the media earlier this afternoon.

Noel had surgery on October 24th to repair an inflamed plica above his left knee, an injury that had been troubling the fourth-year center for much of the preseason. Noel hasn’t played since October 4th, when the Sixers opened up the preseason against the Boston Celtics.

Noel spent the first few weeks of his rehabilitation in Alabama, where he trained with Kevin Wilk of Champion Sports Medicine. Noel had previously trained with Wilk when undergoing rehabilitation to return from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in college.

Read more »

There’s a Good Way to Fight Heroin Overdoses, but You’re Going to Hate It

Insite - vancouver

The injecting room at Vancouver’s Insite, North America’s first legal self-injection drug site. | Courtesy Insite

The news from last weekend was grim. Nine people, ranging in age from 20 to 40, died of drug overdoses. They included Victor Colon, a man the Daily News described having a “heart of gold.” There would have been more deaths, per Action News, but police revived four people with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.

The weekend was part of a harrowing stretch of 35 fatal drug overdoses between December 1st and December 5th. The news for this entire year is grim, too: The medical examiner’s office says there could be as many as 900 fatal drug overdoses in 2016, and police have used Narcan to save 125 people. According to a report from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in June, heroin overdose deaths spiked in 2011 and have remained high ever since. Read more »

Sidewalk Safety, Salary Secrecy Bills Help Close Out City Council’s 2016

City Council Entrance

City Council wrapped up its fall session on Thursday in much quieter fashion than the spring, when Council members were debating details of Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed soda tax until the very last minute.

The scuttlebutt about the last few months in City Council, as Ryan Briggs wrote yesterday in City & State, is that legislative business was overtaken by the presidential election — and if you’re somebody who thinks Council passes too many laws, you could see that quiet as a good thing. But Council did manage to pass a handful of important bills and get started on more legislation for the next session. Here are a few.

Salary Secrecy
Council passed a bill on Thursday that would prevent employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. The bill is meant to work against the perpetuation of pay discrepancies that hurt women and people of color, according to the sponsor, Bill Greenlee. Employers should base their compensation offers on what they believe the job is worth, Greenlee told the Inquirer, and not what the applicant has earned at previous jobs. Mayor Kenney plans to sign the bill, according to the Inquirer.

No ‘Conversion Therapy’ for Minors
Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill on Thursday that would outlaw “conversion therapy” for anyone under the age of 18. Conversion therapy is a practice that is meant to change a patient’s sexual orientation. It has historically incorporated a variety of medical and psychological treatment methods. The American Psychological Association says that conversion therapies have not been proven to be effective or ineffective, and frowns on any practice that assumes that homosexuality or bisexuality is something other than “a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.”

“This bill sends the necessary and clear message to all Philadelphians that ‘conversion therapy’ is a deceptive term for an unacceptable practice that employs psychological abuse, rejection and shame. No young person anywhere, and certainly not in Philadelphia, should be subjected to torture for who they are or who they love,” Squilla said in a press release.

Low-Bid Contracts
Council approved a bill that would let the city select the “best value” rather than the lowest bid when giving out contracts, as City & State reports. Council sponsors, including Bobby Henon, say the bill gives the city flexibility to choose a contractor who will provide the best work at the best cost, rather than requiring it to choose the contractor whose bid is simply the lowest. In an op-ed in the Inquirer, former deputy managing director Jay McCalla said the bill could open the door for cronyism and back-room deals, while the lowest-bidder requirement keeps contracting above board. Henon and other Councilmembers believe it’s a necessary reform. Even with the change, the city will still be able to use “lowest responsible bidder” as a contract option, with “best value” being used in an estimated 5 percent of contracts initially, according to Henon’s office. The proposal will require a change to the Home Rule Charter and the approval of voters.

Sidewalk Safety
PlanPhilly reports that councilmembers Mark Squilla and Helen Gym introduced a bill meant to improve sidewalk safety. Before he was mayor, Jim Kenney sponsored a law that requires developers and contractors who are seeking sidewalk-closure permits to first demonstrate that a covered sidewalk is not feasible. The new bill extends that requirement to partial sidewalk closures. It also requires applicants to explore other protected-sidewalk possibilities if a covered walk is not possible.

“There needs to be an incentive for pedestrian safety and there needs to be a disincentive for blocking both sidewalks and traffic lanes,” Gym told PlanPhilly. “It shouldn’t be easy or cheap to do. We think a covered walkway would be the most ideal situation, as it both protects pedestrians and doesn’t take up a lane of traffic. If a developer isn’t able to do that they have to prove why they can’t. We want to make sure they don’t just sit on the project for a really long time.”

Follow @jaredbrey on Twitter.

Wawa Gets Philly to Change New Tobacco Regulations

Wawa cigarette counter

The cigarettes for sale behind the counter at the new Wawa at 20th and Market streets | Photo: Dan McQuade

You might see more outlets selling cigarettes in Center City sometime soon.

The Philadelphia Board of Health last night approved new limits on tobacco sales in the city. But the Inquirer reports that the board tweaked its plan in response to a complaint from Wawa. Last week, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported Wawa had threatened to cease opening stores in the city due to the proposed regulations. Read more »

Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis Highlight Matchup Between Struggling Teams

The Sixers will take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans tonight as they look to break their eight game losing streak | Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers will take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans tonight as they look to break their eight game losing streak | Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will look to snap their eight game losing streak — and pick up their first road victory since January 20th, 2016 — tonight when they take on the equally struggling New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans are one of the few teams as equally decimated by injuries as the Sixers have been so far this season, with Tyreke Evans (0 games played), Quincy Pondexter (0 games played), Dante Cunningham (10 games played), and Jrue Holiday (9 games played) all missing significant time so far this season, for various reasons.

Yet the Pelicans still have Anthony Davis, one of the games brightest young stars, with his experience (this is Davis’ 5th year in the league) defying the fact that he is still only 23-years-old. If the Pelicans were having more success as a team Davis would be well on his way to an MVP caliber season, with averages of 31.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 2.2 assists per game.

Which big man, Davis or Embiid, will get more help from their depleted and inadequate supporting casts? That very well could determine the winner.

Read more »

« Older Posts