City Council Members: “Porngate” Prosecutors Should Resign

The binder of Porngate emails, available at the Supreme Court Office of Prothonotary at City Hall. | Joel Mathis

The binder of Porngate emails, available at the Supreme Court Office of Prothonotary at City Hall. | Joel Mathis

Nine members of Philadelphia City Council signed a resolution calling for the resignation of three city prosecutors involved in the Porngate email scandal. The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who was one of the leaders of a press conference of City Councilwomen last week.

In addition to Bass, Jannie Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr., William Greenlee, Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones Jr., Marian Tasco, and Maria Quinones Sanchez signed on to the resolution. The full City Council will vote for it next week; with the support of that many members, it will pass.

They join State Sen. Anthony Williams, Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty and even Milton Street in calling for the jobs of city prosecutors Patrick Blessington, E. Marc Costanzo and Frank Fina. The three worked for the state when they received emails on state accounts from colleagues that many have deemed pornographic and/or offensive.

Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams has said the three have been disciplined, and ordered to undergo sensitivity training; Williams said only Fina sent such emails.

“Who conducted it? When was it conducted? What kind of training was it?” Bass told City Council today. “These are all very valid questions that the citizens of the city of Philadelphia want to have answered. And we call on our district attorney to do the right thing and tell us.”

Williams talked to Citified’s Holly Otterbein about Porngate in September. “I know Frank Fina and Pat Blessington and Marc Costanzo,” he told her. “Could they in the heart of their hearts have things I don’t know? Yeah, I don’t know what’s in the heart of everyone. But from what they demonstrated as employees here, from their work product, from people who go to lunch with them, from people reviewing their emails here, I can safely say that I think that they can operate and be productive and add to the District Attorney’s office here in Philadelphia as we try to mete out justice for everybody.”

In state-level developments in the porngate scandal, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin called for the Judicial Conduct Board to wrap up its investigation and forward the case directly to the Court of Judicial Discipline. (JCB investigates ethics violations and files charges; CJD decides cult or innocence, and imposes punishment.)

Eakin was the “John Smith” who received pornographic and offensive emails. After the Daily News reported he was a friend who helped out Eakin’s re-election bid, JCB chief counsel Robert Graci stepped aside from the investigation.

“In an effort to alleviate any mistrust of the process, I have asked the Judicial Conduct Board to forgo further deliberation of this matter, and remove the matter to the Court of Judicial Discipline immediately,” Eakin said in a statement. “The Board’s process is set forth in the Constitution and involves confidentiality, which has led to unfortunate and wholly misguided accusations against the integrity of its process, as well as the integrity of the Board’s members and staff.

“The CJD, however, is not bound by the same strictures and allows a fuller airing of the facts before a dispassionate body, which will have the opportunity to express without hyperbole the reasoning behind whatever result the Court may reach. It is my fervent hope that advancing the Constitutional procedure will in the end assure public confidence in the process, and its result.”

Op-Ed: A Once-in-a-Generation Chance to Strike a Great Deal with Comcast

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writers Hannah Sassaman and Gretjen Clausing.)

Thousands of Philadelphians live their lives online. Coordinating with coworkers. Connecting with family. Pursuing education. Searching for affordable healthcare. Maybe reading this blog, getting the information we need to make our city better.

But Philly has the highest rate of deep poverty of any big city in the country. That poverty means we have one of the lowest rates of internet access nationwide. Low-income Philadelphians often can’t afford to get or keep internet connections when feeding a household month to month. Seniors face both limited budgets and a steep curve in adopting internet as a new technology. Poverty means a limited tax base to fund our public schools, so our students face deeply uneven access to tech education and access to computers across our school district.

Our West Philly neighbor Ms. Tracy Emerson lost her job while dealing with a major foot injury and pursuing a degree. Her Comcast service cost too much – so she cut it out of her budget. Now she tethers her phone so her son can look for work. Her daughter stays late at school to fill out college applications. “Even if I go to the laundromat, I bring my computer so I can do my homework,” says Tracy. Similar stories abound citywide.

At a recent City Council education committee hearing, Superintendent Bill Hite noted that new computers were needed by many principals and their schools, alongside nurses and counselors. While some schools have great technology, many classroom machines are over 10 years old, he said. And the teachers who volunteer to maintain tech systems and integrate tech into curricula understandably struggle to do that while also serving as substitutes and dealing with other crises in our underfunded schools.

In Comcast’s hometown, we should never hear these stories. But though access to the internet is a veritable utility for most of us – something we can’t do without – choices are shrinking for broadband in many communities, not growing. Sprint bought the CLEAR network, which provides fast wireless to thousands in Philly – and is shutting it down November 6th. FIOS still isn’t available to many.

For years, the City has been trying to improve this as they work to renegotiate Comcast’s “franchise” – the lease that lets Comcast use city-owned streets and utility poles to sell their services. That 15-year agreement expired this month. The city likely won’t get another chance like this for another 10 or 15-years. Read more »

Is Ed Rendell Trolling Philly’s Democratic Machine?

Former Gov. Ed Rendell is up to something. He’s one of the most popular Democrats in the city, and yet he keeps throwing his weight behind candidates who are not backed by Philadelphia’s Democratic Party.

One of his hand-picked hopefuls isn’t even registered as a Democrat. This week, Rendell endorsed Andrew Stober, an Independent candidate for City Council. Back during the primary campaign, Rendell supported Council candidates Allan Domb, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Paul Steinke, none of whom were endorsed by the Democratic City Committee. And while he didn’t officially endorse Doug Oliver — a long-shot mayoral candidate in the spring who didn’t get any love from the city’s party leaders — Rendell certainly boosted his profile by saying lots and lots of nice things about him. (Rendell eventually endorsed Jim Kenney, the Democratic mayoral nominee, but not until August.)

Is Rendell trolling the local Democratic Party? Or, to put it in less clickbait-y terms, is he trying to push for change in the party? What’s going on? Read more »

Independent Council Candidate Andrew Stober Endorsed by Nutter and Rendell

Andrew Stober announcing his candidacy in June. | Photo credit: screenshot of Stober announcement video.

Andrew Stober announcing his candidacy in June. | Photo Credit: Screenshot of Stober’s announcement video

Independent at-large City Council candidate Andrew Stober’s unprecedented campaign got a big — if expected – boost today, in the form of endorsements from Mayor Michael Nutter and former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Conventional wisdom — and long history — argues that Independent candidates don’t stand a chance in Philadelphia. But Stober is anything but a conventional Independent candidate. Read more »

The One Race to Watch in November’s Philly Election

From L to R: Council members David Oh and Dennis O’Brien | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

From L to R: Council members David Oh and Dennis O’Brien | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Most of the municipal races this year are like the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons: fun to watch, but we all know how they’re likely to end. Jim Kenney will beat Melissa Murray Bailey. Incumbent Sheriff Jewell Williams will sack Republican challenger Chris Sawyer. Register of Wills Ron Donatucci will destroy GOP nominee Ross Feinberg.

The race for City Council at-large is different. It could end with an incumbent or two being kicked to the curb, a millennial could get elected, and the local Republican party just might suffer a devastating setback.

In other words, it’s a real, actual, competitive race. Read more »

Allan Domb: The Condo King

Allan Domb in his Rittenhouse Square office. Photograph by Colin Lenton

Allan Domb in his Rittenhouse Square office. Photograph by Colin Lenton

There are two distraught gentlemen in Allan Domb’s lobby, flipping out about the Pope. The date is July 29th, almost two months before Francis and a million of his admirers are to plunge the City of Philadelphia into holy sacramental chaos. Domb’s visitors are emissaries from the restaurant world, here to bang warning gongs about the culinary gridlock they foresee: marooned employees, bewildered customers, spoiled meat.

“There doesn’t seem to be a strategic plan at all. Just, ‘Hey, you guys are fucked.’” This is Greg Dodge, manager of the wine bar Zavino. Either Greg’s face is really tanned or all the blood has rushed to his head. He’s wearing one of those shirts where the collar is white but everything else is blue. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” Read more »

Kane Unveils New “Porngate” Emails

Kathleen Kane

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today.

• The more trouble Kathleen Kane has, the more “Porngate” emails she releases.

The same day she was hit with a second perjury charge in her grand jury secrecy case, Kathleen Kane’s office turned over 1,500 previously unreleased “Porngate” emails to the Judicial Conduct Board — these emails associated with an account belonging to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin.

Kane said the email account contained “racial, misogynistic pornography” and told the Associated Press: “That means that your system, your criminal justice system that you think you have and you think you deserve is not working properly.” The scandal may not end for a long time, yet; there are still a reported 6,000 emails that her office has not yet released. Read more »

The Weekly Brief: How 83 Aliens Are Voting in Philly

1. There Are Dozens of Adarians Registered to Vote in Philly

The gist: Ever heard of Adarians? Oh, you haven’t? Weird. They’re a “species of bipedal humanoids from the planet Adari in the Inner Rim of the galaxy,” according to Wookieepedia, a/k/a/ the Star Wars wiki. They made an appearance in the comic-book adaptation of the Stars Wars novel “The Last Command.” They look nothing like the green guy in that photo above (apologies, Star Wars fans). And, according to an article in the Philadelphia Daily News, there are 83 of them registered to vote in Philly, and 206 signed up throughout the rest of Pennsylvania. Read more »

Darrell Clarke Thinks Philly Schools Need the Firm Hand of City Council

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Early this month, we told you about City Council President Darrell Clarke’s clear-cut power play to get Council more leverage over the School District of Philadelphia.

Now it’s looking like we underestimated his ambitions.

Clarke — who yesterday welcomed Council back from its long summer recess — wrote what amounts to a sweeping critique of the School District of Philadelphia and Superintendent Bill Hite in an op-ed published in Thursday’s Daily News.

He was responding to a tough recent editorial from the DN, which took Clarke to task for hounding Hite about problems — financial problems school district governance — that the Superintendent simply lacks the power to fix. Said the DN: “The superintendent is laboring under the illusion that the facts matter. They do not. The source of Clarke’s anger isn’t really over any particulars of district spending, it is over the fact that Council lacks control over how the money is spent.” Which, by the by, is exactly what Citified was telling you three days before the editorial ran.

In any event, Clarke was not cowed. His latest statement on the schools goes well beyond his past remarks, which had focused on the district’s financial management. Writes Clarke: Read more »

Here’s the Gap Between the Minimum Wage and Cost of Living in Philly

A new tool by MIT shows the enormous gulf between the minimum wage in and the cost of living in Philadelphia.

The state’s $7.25 minimum wage would need to be raised to $24.10 for a parent with a spouse and two children to be able to support their family in Philly, according to MIT urban studies professor Amy Glasmeier’s analysis. For a single adult, it would need to be boosted to $11.59 to meet a minimum standard of living.

The Living Wage Calculator maps the gap between the minimum wage and cost of living in cities and counties throughout the country, with darker shades of red indicating a greater difference. Philadelphia is pretty red: Read more »

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