Franny Rizzo Not Running for Mayor After All

Frank Rizzo Jr

AP | JOSEPH KACZMAREK

Several months ago, Frank Rizzo, the son, submitted to a lie-detector test. He did so to prove that he was running for mayor for legitimate reasons, and not, as some suspected, to benefit State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams. (He would have peeled away votes from a white challenger, the thinking went.) Franny passed the test, I wrote about it, and then nobody heard from him again.

Perhaps we should have also tested him on whether he was really serious about his mayoral bid. Turns out, he wasn’t. Rizzo told me by phone yesterday that he had changed his mind, and will instead run to reclaim his at-large seat in City Council, as a Democrat. (Rizzo had been a Republican his entire career, until losing his 2011 re-election bid.)

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It’s Time to End Philly’s Horse-and-Carriage Rides

It’s not every day that New York looks around and says, “This place is too crowded, too dirty, too rough to deliver an acceptable quality of life.”

But next week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is slated to introduce legislation that would phase out the city’s horse-drawn carriage rides, a popular tourist attraction that’s significantly less popular with animal-rights activists (as well as any sentient person who has spent more than 15 minutes in modern-day city).

“We are going to get rid of the horse carriages. Period,” de Blasio told the New York Post shortly after being elected. “There are some moving parts to work out. But we are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape. … They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It’s over. So, just watch us do it.”

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PGW Sale: Not Dead Yet

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

No, the City Council doesn’t show much sign of budging. And yes, UIL Holdings — the Connecticut company that has spent most of 2014 trying to buy Philadelphia Gas Works from the city, said last week it’ll walk away from the deal when its contract expires at the end of December.

But the PGW sale isn’t dead yet. Close, but not quite.

Philadelphia Business Journal reports that UIL officials are continuing to meet with and lobby city officials, hoping that the sale can be put on the City Council agenda for one of the year’s two remaining scheduled meetings — or that an additional meeting can be scheduled for just that purpose. The Journal talked to UIL spokesman Michael West:
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PGW Sale Hopes Dim

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The proposed sale of Philadelphia Gas Works to a private Connecticut company — a sale long considered on life support, at best — is one step closer to outright death.

UIL Holdings said Thursday that it is ending its pursuit of the Philadelphia utility; it will not renew its option to buy when that agreement ends at the end of December. The announcement came after Thursday’s City Council meeting, considered the last chance to jump-start the process to result in a sale by year’s end.

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Kenyatta Johnson Sued Over Development Process

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson

A Montgomery County developer is suing Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, saying Johnson has steered city-owned property to “political insiders” for development — bypassing accepted practices along the way.

Michael Pollack, who does business as Bag of Holdings LLC, filed the suit Monday in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. While city policy says that city-owned lots should be sold through a competitive process when multiple developers are interested in the land, Pollack says Johnson “is trying to sell city-owned properties to political insiders and demanding purchasers use his preferred developers, in what is a flagrant violation of the City’s documented policies.” (See the lawsuit below)

The lawsuit identifies those insiders as including “but not limited to, Hayman Construction LLC, Tremelle Hayman, and Felton Hayman.” The city campaign finance records show that Felton Hayman has made three $500 donations to Johnson’s campaign in 2013.

That process has cut Bag of Holdings out of the development process in Johnson’s district, the lawsuit says.
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Are State and Federal Exams Dragging Down Philly Schools?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

With funding battles likely to rage in City Hall this week, City Council appears prepared to open another front in the battle over public education in Philly — this time, the target is the growing burden of standardized testing on public schools.

The council’s Committee on Education will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether to hold hearings on the growing burden of standardized tests required by state and federal authorities, and whether they ultimately harm or help the education received by Philadelphia students.

“What are we sacrificing, education-wise, for all these required tests?” asked Sean McMonagle, legislative aide to Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the resolution calling for hearings.

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UIL Says It’s Not Done Pursuing PGW

At this point, UIL Holdings — the Connecticut company that wants so badly to buy and privatize Philadelphia Gas Works — resembles the old guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, he’s in bad health. Yes, the future is dim. But he’s hanging on. “I’M NOT DEAD YET!” he screams.

Despite City Council’s unequivocal rejection of the sale, the company said late Monday afternoon it’s not ready to terminate its purchase agreement. According to a press release:
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Mayor: Council Is Fibbing! Council: Nuh-Uh!

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

So City Council has just released a rebuttal to a rebuttal to a letter summarily rejecting the sale of PGW. At least, I think that’s where things stand. It seems like everyone has a lot to say. Maybe — and I’m just spitballing here — a hearing on the proposed sale would have been a good place to air some of these issues out?

There will be no hearing on the sale, of course, which is at the root of this dysfunctional display. After two years, $21.3 million spent by the leading bidder, and two expensive reports from different analysts, Mayor Nutter figured he would at least get a Council hearing on the potential sale. Council President Darrell L. Clarke and the rest of council leadership — in what increasingly looks like a big political misstep — figured if council didn’t want the deal, why waste time with hearings?

You’ll find Council’s latest salvo below, as well as the Nutter administration’s effective, if dense, six pages of spin on the sale, which was first published last week by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

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