How Johnny Doc Almost Took Out Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

Sanchez-Doc

From L to R: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and electricians union leader John Dougherty.

How in the world did an allegedly gay-hating, voter ID-loving racist who no one has ever heard of nearly beat an incumbent Democratic Councilwoman who both John Street and Bill Green III believe will be mayor one day?

That question has stumped political insiders since the Philadelphia primary battle between Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, the two-term Councilwoman, and Manny Morales, whose Facebook page likened gay men to flatworms and did a whole lot of other crazy stuff. Sánchez won the election with only 53 percent of the vote.

Reporter Max Marin offers a potential answer in Al Dia that is pretty intriguing — and which has big implications for the Sánchez’s political future. Read more »

Philly Is Getting an 8.5% Airbnb Tax

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb is about to get a lot less laissez-faire in Philadelphia.

City Council passed a bill, 15-0, Thursday, which is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter, that will force anyone who rents out their home on Airbnb or similar websites to pay Philly’s 8.5 percent hotel tax. That’s just the first new rule that will go into effect under the legislation: Hosts who rent out their homes for more than 90 days will have to get a rental license, and no one will able to rent out their homes for more than 180 days annually.

Currently, many people who use Airbnb in Philadelphia are technically part of the city’s black market, since short-term rentals are not permitted in residential areas. This new bill will legalize the industry. Read more »

The Brief: Mayor Darrell Clarke Launches Big, Bold Affordable Housing Plan

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information from Clarke spokeswoman Jane Roh.)

Mayor City Council President Darrell Clarke launches 2,000 unit affordable housing plan.

The gist: Last year, City Council announced an ambitious plan to build 2,000 units of affordable housing in (largely gentrifying) neighborhoods across the city. Yesterday, Council and Clarke celebrated the imminent ground breaking on 32 of those units in Francisville.

The plan is an interesting one. Unlike a lot of affordable housing, this initiative is targeted squarely at working class and middle class residents earning 80 percent to 120 percent of the area’s median income. As Newsworks reported: Read more »

The Brief: 130-Year-Old Water Main Bursts in West Philly, Eats Cars

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

1. A water main ruptured in West Philly, wrecking homes and swallowing up cars.

The gist: As you can imagine, the water main break on Sunday in West Philadelphia was a huge pain the butt for everyone involved. City officials evacuated 14 residents from the neighborhood, and dozens of cars were damaged. Jason Nark of the Daily News reported:

No one was killed or injured when the massive, 130-year-old water-transmission line burst on 52nd Street near Pennsgrove Street, but 8 to 10 million gallons can ruin a Sunday in a hundred different ways, and the ripples of inconveniences could already be felt after the waters receded, locals said.

“Look at my car, it’s done. I can’t call to set up a ride for work because the power is off, and I can’t charge my phone,” Wyalusing Avenue resident Albery Canty said, motioning to his muddy Cadillac.

[Robert] Johnson, 68, was supposed to be in South Jersey working on a customer’s bathroom and instead was sitting on his front porch complaining about federal infrastructure funding, while a worker readied a water pump and generator beside his basement window. The hoods were propped up on his pickup truck and his minivan, the mud drying to dirt in the heat, and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be out of work.
Read more »

How the Beverage Lobby Quietly Killed the Soda Tax in Philly, Again

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Much in the same way that the best lawyers kill lawsuits before they ever make it to trial, the best lobbyists kill legislation before it is ever introduced.

In Philadelphia, City Councilman Bobby Henon was seriously eyeing a tax on sugary beverages to help fund the financially crippled school district, according to several City Hall insiders. In fact, sources say Henon went to the trouble of drafting up legislation and putting together a plan to promote it. As a lawmaker who has launched anti-childhood obesity initiatives, it was a natural fit.

But when Council unveiled its education funding package last week, it included a hike in parking tax, a boost in real estate taxes, and an increase use-and-occupancy taxes … but no soda tax. Read more »

Insider: How to Stop the Annual School District Vs. City Council Smackdowns

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

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

This is school advocates’ most dreaded time of the year: city budget season. If there’s one thing all education advocates can agree on, it’s that the process of funding our schools is broken. The timing is all wrong and the discussion always seems to lack substance, directing attention away from what matters. How do we change this?

Council members argue for stronger accountability and transparency – they understandably don’t want to spend more money without guaranteeing something better for families and their constituents. The District reasonably argues for more funding – they need recurring funds to match rising costs, and they have agreed to open their books and provide endless accounting of spending.

What’s missing from the debate is a bridge that would span the divide between Council and the District: specific annual goals to match needed investment. Read more »

The Brief: Millennials Didn’t Vote This Year, Like At All

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

1. Voter turnout among millennials was abysmal in the mayoral election.

The gist: Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral election, according to newly released data from the City Commissioners office. Millennials make up the largest bloc of registered voters in the city, though you wouldn’t know it on Election Day. As BillyPenn reported, “There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000.” Read more »

School District Says Council’s Funding Plan Falls Short

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

[Updated] A Philadelphia City Council committee gave a preliminary thumbs-up Wednesday to a package of bills that would raise money for the cash-strapped schools. But school district officials say the proposal falls short of their request for an additional $103 million.

Instead of going with Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to hike property taxes by 9 percent in order to provide an extra $105 million to the schools, Council members are instead opting to spread out the pain to taxpayers. Their school funding package would increase the property tax by 4.5 percent, raise the parking tax by 12.5 percent, and boost the use-and-occupancy tax by 7.1 percent.

Lawmakers also gave committee-level approval Wednesday to Council President Darrell Clarke’s proposal to expand the city’s ability to sell liens on commercial properties. He says that could bring in as much as $30 million to the schools.

Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for Clarke, issued a press release that said Council’s legislation would “increase the local share of funding for the school district of Philadelphia by up to $100 million.”

But Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district, said that Council has only earmarked an extra $45 million for the schools.

“Did they meet the funding request that we put forward to them? No,” he said. “That’s clear, and that’s something that we would have liked to see.” Read more »

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