Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know:
An underground transformer fire plunged parts of Rittenhouse into darkness. What city officials called an underground transformer explosion caused a fire at the evening rush hour in the 2100 block of Walnut Street. According to a story on Philly.com, the fire knocked out power to about 400 customers in the 2000 and 2100 blocks of Walnut Street; 6ABC reports that the outage even affected last night’s performance of Rain at the Merriam Theater. Several buildings surrounding the site of the fire were evacuated for about two hours. As of this morning, PECO’s outage map reports the probable cause as an “underground cable problem”; 91 customers remain without power, which the utility expects to restore by noon. Read more »
FaceMePLS | Wikimedia Commons
The Philadelphia Fire Department’s now-defunct “brownout” policy failed to deliver on one big promise: that it would save the city money on overtime costs.
That’s one of the conclusions of a new audit by City Controller Alan Butkovitz, which was released the same day that Mayor Jim Kenney ended the policy instituted in 2010 by his predecessor, Michael Nutter, during the dire budget years of the Great Recession.
“Despite the PFD’s assertions that the brownout policy would lead to reduced overtime costs of $3.8 million, overtime for firefighters actually climbed from $15.7 million in fiscal year 2010 to $34.2 million in fiscal year 2014,” the audit reports.
Read more »
Updated with comment from Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s farewell present to outgoing Mayor Michael Nutter? A reminder of the ugly early years of Nutter’s administration, when recession-driven belt-tightening forced unwanted — and unpopular — choices.
One of those choices? The “brownout” policy, implemented in 2010, that cut the Philadelphia Fire Department budget by shutting down three fire companies per shift per day, and rotating firefighters away from their usual stations to fill in at other locations. It was only in 2014 that the administration began to back away from the policy. Read more »
Business was godawful in Philadelphia during the papal visit, according to a new “economic impact study” by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
Butkovitz found that 85 percent of the hotels, restaurants and retail stores that his office surveyed “said that revenue this September compared to prior Septembers was either significantly or somewhat less than average.”
Butkovitz added in a statement, “None of the customers that typically frequent these businesses were around, not only on the weekend, but were absent the week leading up to the papal visit.”
Butkovitz’s study has at least one major problem, though. His office surveyed only 108 companies located in the so-called “traffic box” — a relatively small area in Philadelphia where incoming traffic was banned during Pope Francis’ trip.
To get a real understanding of how the papal visit affected Philly, you’d have to survey businesses throughout the entire region. That’s because plenty of pilgrims booked hotel rooms, ate at restaurants, used transportation services, and shopped at stores outside of the traffic box — probably more than they did inside the traffic box, in fact, according to local economist Kevin Gillen. Read more »
From L to R: L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams and City Controller Alan Butkovitz | Photos by the Associated Press
After repeatedly bashing the Licenses & Inspection department over the past few months, Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz upped the ante Wednesday by calling for the head of the agency to quit.
Butkovitz said L&I has been “chaos” under L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams. Citing a new investigation of the department, Butkovitz said overtime has been abused, dangerous homes have been left to fester, and more than 1,900 building inspections have been conducted by employees who lack the adequate certification.
“He’s the captain of the ship and it’s his job to find a way to get it done,” said Butkovitz. “And instead of getting it done, he’s been interested in making it appear like things are better.” Read more »
Philadelphia businesses think Mayor Michael Nutter is doing a terrible job at communicating critical details about the upcoming papal visit, according to a survey of 68 hotels, restaurants and retailers by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
Here are the report’s key findings: Read more »
A lunch at Philadelphia’s Charter High School for Architecture and Design. | Photo courtesy of City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s office
Scarfing down a fattening, stomach-churning lunch every day used to be seen as a normal part of going to public school in America, as much as riding the bus and going to prom are.
But in recent years, as childhood obesity has skyrocketed, parents, students and health experts have pressured school districts to make healthier, more appetizing meals.
In Philadelphia, concerned students at one charter school took it up a notch and recently decided to audit their own lunches to see if they met federal standards. Read more »
City Controller Alan Butkovitz | Photo Credit: Curtis Blessing
Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz released an audit Wednesday that makes the school district look a little frazzled.
He says his team found that the district owed past employees more than $5 million in unclaimed compensation as of last June. Some of those workers left the city’s schools as long as 10 years ago. He also claims that school officials don’t know what happened to hundreds of TransPasses, which are provided to students to use to travel to school on public transit. “During a one-week sampling of TransPass activity at five different schools, school personnel could not account for 230 of the passes valued at $4,200,” a press release from his office reads.
Last year, just 13 TransPasses could not be accounted for in the Controller’s audit. Read more »
The City Controller’s Officer argues that 8,100 jobs are possible at Southport.
What should we do with Southport? The 239-acre parcel at the east end of the Philadelphia Navy Yard has been the topic of much debate over the years. Now that a plan is in place to deepen the Delaware River from 40 to 45 feet — allowing larger cargo ships to pass through — it’s high time to get the space in order.
In the latest re-development plan, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority has received 16 proposals for development and is reviewing the plans.
Read more »
Has your trash been picked up late in the past few months?
If so, you’re not alone. In the last two years, a whopping 80,000 households in Philadelphia have not had their trash collected on time on any given week, according to a new report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
Butkovitz has a theory about why this is happening. Read more »