(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Rev. James Hall Jr. Hall is the pastor of Triumph Baptist Church in Germantown.)
Philadelphia City Council said yes to historic, heroic legislation last week. Three- and four-year-olds who have been on wait lists will now have access to quality pre-K. Children who go to school too hungry or traumatized by neighborhood violence to learn will now have access to resources right in their community school. Neighborhood libraries, rec centers and parks that have long suffered from neglect will now be rebuilt. However, many Philadelphians have not heard about these programs that will be supported by the soda tax because the same soda industry lobbyists who have been lying to residents for months with claims of “grocery taxes” have only ramped up their deceitful tactics in recent days. Read more »
Images via iStock.com
In 1973, Arizona became the first state in America to restrict smoking in some public places. Four years later, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the nation to limit smoking in restaurants and other public places. Soon thereafter, the state of California, San Francisco and New York City enacted their own smoking bans. Fast-forward to today: Thirty states and 812 municipalities have smoke-free laws on the books.
A few decades from now, will we look back and remember Philadelphia as the city that paved the way for governments across the country to tax soda, much like Arizona and Berkeley did for smoking bans?
That’s what some sugary drinks tax advocates predict, and they make a pretty convincing case. Read more »
Allan Domb in the lobby of Parc Rittenhouse. | Photo by Laura Kicey
A City Council committee voted 6-2 on Thursday to approve a small increase in the real estate transfer tax, which is levied when houses and other properties are sold.
The proposal was introduced on behalf of City Council President Darrell Clarke. Clarke wants the city to sell a $100 million bond and put the proceeds toward the Basic Systems Repair Program, which helps fix heating and plumbing systems for low-income homeowners, as well as a new program that makes low-cost loans for home repairs to middle-income homeowners. Revenue from the .1 percent increase to the transfer tax that the committee approved on Thursday would be used to pay down the debt on that bond.
Councilman Allan Domb, a Philadelphia realtor who earned the nickname of “Condo King” in the years before he ran for office, voted against the proposal on Thursday, saying he thinks the city should be able to find money for the Basic Systems Repair Program without raising a tax. Of course, it’s a tax that affects realtors more than many others. Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »