Will USA250 Be Philly’s Biggest Party Yet?

Illustration by Gluekit (images: iStockphoto; logo: USA250)

Salty air. Nature’s euphonious soundtrack. Spotty cell reception. One has to wonder how many great ideas start on a boat. In 2008, Andrew Hohns, a Philadelphia lifer who always has the city top of mind, was sailing — or, rather, attempting to — in Penobscot Bay in Maine with his buddy, Chris Chimicles. From their rambling discourse, a realization: America’s 250th anniversary was approaching — and Philly should play host. The other big birthdays — 100, 150, 200 — all were here. “The discussion,” recalls Hohns, “was one great outcome of an otherwise windless afternoon.” Read more »

Why Is Bob Brady Still in Charge?

Photo | Colin Lenton

Photo | Colin Lenton

Bob Brady, the U.S. Congressman and boss of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, is six-foot-one and has a massive barrel chest. His head and neck are also strikingly thick; his voice is almost as gravelly as Tom Waits’s. In another life, he would have been a bodyguard. So when his black SUV whizzes past a couple police officers in Washington, D.C., they spot him easily. “Good morning, Congressman!” they shout, looking sincerely pleased to see him.

Brady grins. “The cops work for me,” he says. “The cops, the zoo, the garden, Smithsonian Institution, every employee, sergeant-at-arms, the courts, every one of them.” He is the ranking Democrat on the Committee on House Administration, which funds every office and panel in the chamber, manages many Capitol employees, and, apparently, oversees the National Zoo. The officers are smiling on this sunny morning in March, he says, because he got them a raise. “They’d all vote for me for Speaker!” Brady boasts. He’s used his committee to make many friends. In 2010, he says, back when the Democrats controlled Congress, a Republican named Kevin McCarthy asked Brady to pass legislation out of his committee. “I gave him a bill. I gave him two bills. I gave him three bills. And he never forgot that.” Today, McCarthy is the House Majority Leader. Read more »

Here’s What Philly’s Congress Members Think About Trump’s Airstrikes on Syria

trump, syria

President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A number of local Congress members have weighed in on President Donald Trump’s decision to order a missile attack on Syria.

In a speech last night, Trump said the airstrike was issued – without Congressional approval – in response to a chemical weapons attack earlier this week that is widely believed to have been carried out by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. That attack reportedly resulted in the death of at least 80 Syrian civilians.  Read more »

There Won’t Be a Manayunk Bike Race This Year

Philly Bike Race 2013

AP Photo | Joseph Kaczmarek

The Manayunk bike race, most recently known as the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, will not be run in 2017. The race posted the news on its website on Friday morning.

The race sponsors passed along a statement from the City of Philadelphia: “Regrettably, even after extensive fundraising efforts, we were not able to find enough sponsors interested in covering the $1 million cost of the bike race to host it this year. While we are disappointed, we remain committed to working with Councilman Jones as well as the East Falls, Roxborough and Manayunk commercial corridors on other events, including a Free Streets event in that area.” Read more »

What the Incredible Rise of the Independent Voter Means for Philly

Philadelphia Independent Voter

Voting booth photo: William Thomas Cain/iStock.

For more than half of the 20th century, the number of registered independents and third-party voters in Philadelphia didn’t change much. From the 1940s to the early 1990s, there were never fewer than about 20,000 or more than 50,000. (Stick with me through some math here — it’s important.) Things began to take a turn in 1997, though, when the amount of indies and third-partiers in the city rose to 52,600; five years later, it climbed to 70,400; five years after that, it soared to 92,600. Today, there are nearly 124,000 in Philly — that’s an eye-popping increase of more than 154 percent over the past 20 years.

During the same time period, the number of local Democrats has grown by 24 percent, and Republican registrations have shrunk by 37 percent. In fact, for the first time in modern history, independents and third-party voters are now only 1,600 people away from outnumbering Republicans in the city. That’s stunning.

The boom in independents in Philadelphia could have an impact on local, state, and even federal elections. It could threaten the few GOP-held seats in city government. It could also chip away at the power of Philly Democrats to swing statewide and presidential races. And maybe, just maybe, it could make room for Socialists, Libertarians or Working Families Party members in local elected office. Read more »

To Resist Trump, Fix Philly’s Elite, Boring, Anti-Competitive Democratic Party

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah.

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah. Photos Jeff Fusco, Pa. House, Matt Rourke via AP

Philadelphia’s Democratic Party suffers from the same cancer as the national Democratic Party. Only it’s arguably much more advanced.

Think the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders behind closed doors? In Philadelphia, the Democratic City Committee paves the way for its preferred candidates out in the open, without any shame: Before the mayoral primary even started, Philly Democratic Party boss Bob Brady publicly threw his weight behind state Sen. Tony Williams. The party puts its thumb on the scales in Democratic primaries for the judiciary, City Council and General Assembly, too, and its endorsements matter even more in these races because so few people pay close attention to them.

Think the national Democratic Party turns a blind eye to corruption? Earlier this year, the Democratic City Committee endorsed Chaka Fattah for Congress after he was charged with using taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to pay back an illegal loan. How could the party do this, as its schools were starving and its constituents were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty? Oh, but it gets worse: This month, Philly Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta was reelected after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering at a mental health clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Imagine how selfish you have to be to run for office after admitting to bilking the most vulnerable among us — and imagine how little she’ll be able to get done for her constituents, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants, now that she’s the laughingstock of Harrisburg. The list goes on and on. Over the summer, the FBI raided the offices of Democratic Councilman Bobby Henon and subpoenaed Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign finance records. The feds are also reportedly investigating Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams.

Think the national Democrats are boring and not liberal enough? Let me introduce you to Katie McGinty, the uncharismatic Senate candidate who lost to Pat Toomey in an election that Democrats desperately needed to win in case of a Donald Trump upset. A lot has been made of the fact that McGinty, a moderate who supports fracking and is wishy-washy on sanctuary cities, received millions of dollars from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the primary. What has gotten much less attention is the fact that she was just as much a product of the Philadelphia Democratic Party as the DSCC. Everyone from Brady to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter to numerous City Council members backed her in the primary over Democrats John Fetterman and Joe Sestak, two anti-establishment figures who might have fared better in a year in which people were clearly crying out for change. Read more »

Kenney: Trump’s GOP Is the New Know-Nothing Party

jim-kenney-dnc-speech-940x540

Philadelphians know Mayor Jim Kenney as a man who is passionately pro-immigration. As a Councilman, he told anti-immigration protesters, “You can’t go through life hating.” On his first day as mayor, he signed an executive order making Philadelphia a sanctuary city again. And for years, Kenney has drawn parallels behind the way his Irish ancestors were treated in the 1800s to the way Mexican immigrants are treated today.

Kenney could have chosen to show the nation any number of sides of himself during his speech on Monday at the Democratic National Convention, the most high-profile address of his life so far. He could have talked up his pro-union or feminist bonafides. But with only three minutes to speak, and with the dystopian, dark anti-immigration speeches at last week’s Republican National Convention fresh in his mind, Kenney opted to focus on immigration.

He started his speech by recalling a shameful episode in Philadelphia’s and America’s history: the anti-Catholic riots in the 19th century. Irish Catholics were flooding the city; their numbers ballooned from 35,000 in 1830 to 170,000 in 1850. Nativists opposed the immigrants’ new way of living and worshiping — and they rioted. Read more »

Kenney, Other Philly Pols Added to Lineup of DNC Speakers

Jim Kenney Tom Wolf

L: Jim Kenney (Photo by Jeff Fusco) R: Tom Wolf (Photo by Matt Rourke)

The Democratic National Convention just got a bit more Philly.

Today, the DNC announced five more speakers for the event: Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey, and Congressmen Bob Brady and Brendan Boyle.

“As Donald Trump continues his divisive convention in Cleveland with dangerous ideas that would pose a threat to our economy and national security,” the DNC said in a release, “Democrats are preparing to lay out the clear stakes in this election in Philadelphia — a choice between building walls and tearing people down or an optimistic unifying vision where everyone has a role to play in building our future.” Read more »

Local Democrats Join Unprecedented House Sit-in For Gun Control

In a nod to decades-old, traditional-style protesting, several local Democrats were among more than 200 total to participate in a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, demanding tighter gun control in the wake of Orlando’s mass shooting — the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.

Representatives Bob Brady, Mike DoyleBrendan Boyle and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Donald Norcross of New Jersey joined in to demand a vote on legislation that would bolster background checks and prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Democrats called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to debate and vote on gun legislation next week, despite a scheduled recess.

Read more »

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