City Voters Will Get Say on SRC Future

City voters will get their chance to weigh in on the future of Philadelphia schools in November: City Council today approved a non-binding referendum on whether the state-controlled School Reform Commission should be dissolved and the schools returned to local control.

Advocates publicly asked Mayor Michael Nutter to sign the bill today, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he would.

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Council Passes Tweaked Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Marijuana decriminalization is one step closer to reality.

City Council today approved a revised decriminalization bill aimed at ending arrests for possession of small amounts of pot. Instead, offenders would be issued a $25 ticket — and have their stash destroyed on the spot, potentially. Persons caught smoking in public would be fined $100, but could erase that fine with community service.
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Morning Headlines: City Council Proposes Bills on Housing Affordability and Rezoning

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

City Council was back in session yesterday, and Jared Brey at PlanPhilly has the details on bills introduced by Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla and Darrell Clarke.

Johnson’s bill is designed to extend the city’s Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) in order to provide access to owners who live in government-subsidized housing. As it stands now, LOOP only includes residents who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and whose income doesn’t exceed 150 percent of the Area Median Income.

LOOP prevents qualified residents’ tax bills from increasing by more than 300 percent (300 percent!) in a year. Residents who already benefit from a tax abatement are excluded from the program, meaning that under the current rules, homeowners in subsidized housing can’t qualify. Johnson explained the plan to amend LOOP to Brey:

“Right now, individuals who live in affordable housing—obviously, they don’t have a certain amount of income, their taxes may have tripled, and currently they don’t qualify for the tax relief under LOOP because they have had some type of abatement in the past. But also, they’re in some type of a catch 22, because they can’t sell their homes because of a deed restriction, so the legislation that we introduced today will allow them to have the opportunity to participate in LOOP.”

Squilla and Clarke introduced bills related to rezoning efforts, neither of which were entirely surprising. Squilla wants to rezone a tiny part of Society Hill to allow commercial mixed-use and Clarke’s bill rezones neighborhoods west of Temple in exactly the way the Planning Commission predicted months ago.

All of which might explain why Claudia Vargas called Council’s agenda “tepid” in yesterday’s Inquirer.

New bills focus on housing affordability, zoning remapping [PlanPhilly]
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5 Reasons Fall Could Be Great for Politics in Philly

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All hail the end of summer.

Sure, that means it’s time to stop being lazy and get back to work. But for journalists, that means the dog days are over — actual news will start to happen again, and we can find new things to write and opine about. Hallelujah.

In fact, this stands to be a very newsy fall. And if everything breaks right, it might even be a really good fall, with city and state government finally making some breakthroughs on issues that have needed breakthroughs for a long time.

Here are five things that could make this a very good political fall in Philadelphia:

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264 Charged With Marijuana Possession Since City Council Voted to Decriminalize

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On June 19th, Philadelphia City Council voted to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, passing a bill introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney. But Mayor Michael Nutter opposes the bill, and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has said that he will continue to make marijuana arrests, even if the bill is signed into law. In the month following the bill’s passing, 264 citizens were charged with the crime.

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UIL: Despite Crucial Deadline Passing, We Still Want to Buy PGW

[UPDATE: 12:07 p.m.] Mayor Michael Nutter has issued a statement praising UIL Holdings for not backing out of the PGW sale, and essentially letting everyone know where the bottleneck is:

“This incredibly important issue is squarely in front of City Council and both the Company and our Administration have been providing voluminous amounts of information to City Council and its consultant, Concentric Energy Advisors,” Nutter said in the statement. “We eagerly await Concentric’s report and the opportunity to present our case for selling PGW to City Council and the public.

“We stand fully prepared to provide Council with any further information or analysis it might need as it conducts its vital and historic due diligence on this matter. We look forward to the introduction of the legislation and the announcement of a schedule of Council hearings. Philadelphians have an absolute right to know the basic details of the transaction and how it will impact them as consumers and also how it will affect the dedicated workforce and retirees of PGW, the fiscal impact on City government and its Pension Fund and the city’s economy.”

Full statement below:

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City Council Study of PGW Sale to Cost Nearly $100K More Than Expected

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

On the eve of a deadline that would allow Connecticut-based UIL Holdingsto back out of an agreement to purchase PGW for $1.86 billion, the Inquirer reports that the studies commissioned by City Council to evaluate the deal will end up costing $522,750. That’s nearly $100,000 more than the $425,000 Council had previously announced it was going to be paying Concentric Energy Advisors. The reason? Council modified its original RFP:

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City Council Spending $20K on Ads Defending Delay on PGW Sale

In February, Mayor Michael Nutter announced the sale of PGW for $1.86 billion. But City Council has questions, and didn’t review the sale before the summer recess. That delay matters: Since Council hasn’t taken any action yet, UIL Holdings can back out of the proposed sale after July 15.

Now, of course, the latest twist: City Council is spending $20,000 on radio ads defending the delay. Wait, what?

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