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 »

Officials: Philly’s Water Is Safe

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

Philadelphia’s water is safe, city officials said Monday at a Council committee hearing on lead poisoning.

Water Department Commissioner Debra McCarty said that Philadelphia is not experiencing, and will not experience, a water contamination crisis like Flint, Michigan.

“Philadelphia’s drinking water is lead-free, and there are clear differences between Flint and Philadelphia,” McCarty said. She blamed Flint’s catastrophe on the fact that the city changed its water supply, which Philly has not done. Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: Republican City Councilman Proposes Bill to Aid LGBT Small Businesses

City Council Entrance

Councilman David Oh proposed a bill that will consider LGBT companies as another category of disadvantaged business enterprises to help give them a better shot at landing city contracts.

Republican Councilman David Oh introduced Bill 160152 last week as a method of “finding ways to expand access and encourage local small business owners of all minority groups to apply to be prioritized for city contracts.” With the LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill being blocked by Republicans at the state level despite increasing public support, there is currently no guarantee that local LGBT businesses will be able to receive proper consideration for city contracts. The bill would also expand protection to those who have experienced “religious prejudice.” Nationally, progress for LGBT businesses and owners has not matched the rapid policy advancements for their individual rights. Read more »

Kenney’s Massive, Costly Plan to Make Over Rec Centers, Parks and Libraries

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney just revealed his most meaningful proposal to date, one that could become the signature accomplishment of his first term if he pulls it off. According to PlanPhilly, which first broke the news, Kenney is going to propose selling $300 million in bonds in order to repair Philadelphia’s parks, recreation centers and libraries at his budget address next week. He hopes to raise another $200 million for the massive initiative from the state, feds and nonprofit organizations.

This is huge. For comparison’s sake, former Mayor John Street’s defining Neighborhood Transformation Initiative was paid for by a $295 million bond issue passed by City Council. Kenney’s proposal is so large that it could trigger a debate about whether this is the right time to pursue such an investment, given that the School District of Philadelphia and the city’s pension system remain deeply underfunded.

Kenney told PlanPhilly that his goal is to provide the city’s neighborhoods with the parks and rec centers that they deserve.

“When we have a football league in South Philadelphia where we have suburban people come into our communities and look at what our kids have to play with, and then our kids go out to the suburbs and play in pristinely manicured fields, it makes us feel like second-class citizens, and we’re not,” he told the website. “I think this investment will give people in every community a sense of equity and fairness, that we care about them and we value them as citizens.” Read more »

City Bill Would Crack Down on Nuisance Businesses

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

City Hall would gain new powers in cracking down on “nuisance” businesses under a new bill proposed by Councilwoman Cindy Bass — and neighborhood groups would be given a formal say in determining the future of businesses that run afoul of the law. Read more »

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