Clarke Calls 3-Cent Soda Tax “Divisive,” Says It Won’t Pass

Kenney_Clarke

Photos by Jeff Fusco

Some City Council members argue that a 15-cent tax on beverage containers is more fair than a three-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks because it would affect a broad swath of consumers rather than targeting low-income communities, who tend to drink the most soda.

But it would be harder to avoid, the Kenney administration says, which would ultimately make it more regressive, while doing away with any possible public health benefits a soda tax might generate. Plus, the container tax wouldn’t raise enough money to fund the expansion of pre-K classes, the creation of community schools, and the rebuilding of parks and rec centers that Mayor Jim Kenney has made the priority of his first year in office. At least not at the rate he wants to fund them.

City Council and the Kenney administration have just a few weeks to sort this out before their drop-dead deadline to pass a budget. At a hearing on Wednesday, Council President Darrell Clarke made his stance surprisingly clear: “Everyone on this side of the table knows that there’s not going to be a 3-cents-an-ounce tax,” he told Kenney’s finance director, Rob Dubow. Read more »

Councilwoman Wants to Tax Containers Instead of Soda

L: Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown ( ) R: Image via Alexander Kaiser, pooliestudios.com

L: Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia City Council) R: Image via Alexander Kaiser, pooliestudios.com

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown will introduce a bill on Thursday levying a tax on beverage containers as an alternative to Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed soda tax, sources familiar with the plan told Philly Mag on Wednesday. Read more »

Helen Gym Calls for Investigation of School Police Use of Force

Stills from the original video posted on Facebook by the Philadelphia Student Union.

Stills from the original video posted on Facebook by the Philadelphia Student Union.

Councilwoman Helen Gym sent a letter on Tuesday to the School District and the School Reform Commission calling for an investigation of an incident at Benjamin Franklin High School last week in which a student accused a school police officer of assault. The officer was filmed restraining the student, sparking condemnation on social media. A spokesman for the District told Philly Mag last week that the incident is being investigated, and that the officer had been reassigned.  Read more »

The Ori Feibush V. Kenyatta Johnson Verdict Is In: Feibush Won

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39111166

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5

A jury determined on Wednesday that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson blocked the sale of two vacant lots in Point Breeze to developer Ori Feibush in an act of political retaliation.

The jury found in favor of Feibush, who filed suit against Johnson in the summer of 2014 in the midst of a campaign to take Johnson’s City Council seat. It awarded Feibush compensatory damages of $34,000. Feibush had sought damages of $275,000.

Read more »

Kenyatta Johnson Vs. Ori Feibush Starts Today. Here’s What You Need to Know

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39111166

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The city-owned properties in question have not been sold. 

Jury selection starts this morning in developer Ori Feibush’s federal lawsuit against Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. The case is the second culmination of the years-long drama between the two Point Breeze residents; the first was Johnson’s decisive victory over Feibush in the 2nd District Council race last spring. Can he fight off another Feibush attack?  Read more »

There Might Be a Car-Free #OpenStreets Weekend This Fall

Cyclists take to the streets during the “Pope Ride” Saturday. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

During Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last year, cyclists took to the open streets. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

Philadelphia may have its first official “Open Streets” event early this fall. Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city is “planning to do an event in the Sept./Oct. timeframe.”

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for hearings on Open Streets weekends, which would keep cars off of certain streets at certain times to open them up for pedestrian and bike traffic. The resolution refers to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last September, when cars were prohibited on many streets downtown, as “a de facto Open Streets weekend for the residents of Center City.” After that visit, advocates started passing around a petition for more Open Streets events, and eventually a few people made Open Streets PHL an official campaign. Read more »

Op-Ed: Why Philly Should Expand the Property Tax Abatement

Photo by Jared Piper/Courtesy of City Council's Flickr

Photo by Jared Piper/Courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Allan Domb. Domb is a City Councilman as well as a longtime realtor and developer in Philadelphia.)

Earlier this month, a surprisingly critical op-ed was written about my proposal to extend the current property tax abatement from 10 years to 20 years for properties valued at $250,000 and under. The criticism was surprising because it failed to mention how successful the current abatement program has been for Philadelphia’s economy, both from a development and revenue-generating standpoint — for every $1 abated, the city receives $2 from other revenue sources over the life of the abatement.

Perhaps this criticism was so strong because I have not fully explained the proposal, which I intend to do through a variety of outreach efforts. In fact, I have already started doing this by meeting with interested parties to address all concerns. With that said, let me explain it. Read more »

Insider: Allan Domb’s Truly Awful Idea

Photo by Jared Piper/Courtesy of City Council's Flickr

Councilman Allan Domb | Photo by Jared Piper/Courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

Many Philadelphians cheered real estate developer Allan Domb’s election to City Council last year. Finally, they said, a real businessman who could bring innovative, market-savvy solutions to our city’s economic problems.

But those lofty hopes fell to earth with a dull thud when Domb introduced his first major piece of legislation: a bill to double the 10-year residential tax abatement to 20 years for houses worth $250,000 or less. It seems great on the surface, but it’s actuality a terrible idea.

Domb claims this expanded tax break on new home construction and major rehabs will encourage developers to build houses in struggling neighborhoods, and lead owners of blighted properties to fix them up.

It’s a laudable goal, one we all should support. But his proposal won’t actually further that goal, and will cost us precious tax dollars to boot. Domb’s plan will fail because it’s based on a misunderstanding about how the abatement works — a misunderstanding that’s shocking given his reputation as a real estate mogul. Read more »

City Council Holds Marathon Hearing on Youth Gun Violence

Kenyatta Johnson (Jeff Fusco)/Poster of Terence Ryans (David Gambacorta)

Kenyatta Johnson (Jeff Fusco)/Poster of Terence Ryans (David Gambacorta)

Cherie Ryans sat quietly in the back of City Council chambers this morning, propping up a poster with a black-and-white photo of her son.

Terence Ryans is frozen in time in the picture — 18, skinny, a Bills cap on his head, a hint of a mustache lurking above a faint smile. A smaller image of a Tec-9 semiautomatic hovers above Terence’s photo, along with eight words that cry out in black and red ink: Who Sold This Gun That Killed My Son?  Read more »

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