Should Philly Tax Airbnb Rentals?

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

If you rent out your home on Airbnb, you might be a lawbreaker wheeling and dealing in Philadelphia’s black market.

Currently, the city doesn’t allow short-term rentals in residential areas.

A new City Council bill would change that by legalizing rentals of 30 days or fewer in residential neighborhoods. But there’s a catch: The legislation would require anyone who rents out their home on Airbnb or similar sites to pay the city’s 8.5 percent hotel tax.  Read more »

UPDATED: Worst. Mail. Ever. Kenyatta Hit Piece Pictures Ori in a Hot Tub

Feibush-Hot-Tub-Mailer

[Updated: 8:25 p.m.] Ori Feibush says the photo of him reclining in a hot tub was probably taken from his girlfriend’s Facebook page. He says the shot was taken at a hotel in Florida, not at his house (which, he says, does not have a hot tub).

Kenyatta Johnson spokesman Mark Nevins pushed back on Citified’s description of the mailer as “distasteful,” characterizing it as just “a funny picture of a guy in a hot tub.” Says Nevins: “The most distasteful thing in this campaign so far has been Ori’s use of the word ‘retard’ to describe Mayor Nutter. This is the guy who launched his campaign in Philadelphia magazine by insulting Kenyatta, by calling him a ‘poverty pimp,’ and a terrible human being who uses his office for evil. So it’s not exactly like Ori occupies the high ground.”

And how does Feibush feel about the mailer? “I couldn’t even get mad at it. I was laughing so hard. He spent $20,000 to let people know I haven’t gone to the gym in a while.” Read more »

Allan Domb Throws Big Bucks Into Council Campaign

Photo of Allan Domb in the lobby of Parc Rittenhouse by Laura Kicey Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/tag/allan-domb/#yov81b2TdtFSVoOi.99

Photo of Allan Domb in the lobby of Parc Rittenhouse by Laura Kicey

When developer and real estate mogul Alan Domb got into the race for an at-large seat on City Council, there were two pressing questions. Question 1Why? Why, why, why, why, why? Question 2: How much money would he spend on the race?

We have a partial answer to question two. Domb has contributed at least $250,000 to his campaign, according to a release from the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. That’s a big enough check to double the contribution limits for all at-large City Council candidates. That means individuals can donate up to $5,800 to any at-large City Council campaign, and PACs can contribute up to $23,000.

Who does this help, apart from Domb? City Council incumbents. Incumbents are far more likely to get PAC cash than are challengers. And coming so close to election day, the doubling of the limits really only helps those candidates that are supported by PACs.

We don’t know exactly how much Domb has sunk into his campaign. It could be millions, or it could be $250,001. Either way, Domb has given a big assist to council incumbents, which is likely to revive speculation that his candidacy is a stalking horse bid orchestrated by City Council President Darrell Clarke. Domb has said repeatedly he’s in the race to win.

Of course, it’s possible for a campaign to serve more than one purpose.

Did Helen Gym Trip Up on the City’s Campaign Finance Law?

Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

City Council candidate Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

[Update, 6:08 p.m.]: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers PAC and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania PAC both employ the same treasurer, Jack Steinberg, according to the Department of State’s website.

[Original, 2:39 p.m.]: Philadelphia’s campaign finance law is as strict as a nun: City candidates can accept no more than $11,500 annually from an individual political action committee.

Philly even has a rule on the books to prevent donors from evading the limit by making what is known as a “pass-through” contribution. PACs are barred from writing a maxed-out check to a candidate, then writing another check to a separate PAC, and asking that PAC to donate the funds to the same candidate.

Did City Council At-Large candidate Helen Gym just trip up on that rule? Read more »

Think Philly Has Too Many Billboards? Too Bad

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PennDOT now has control over you, Gary Barbera sign.

Just a couple weeks ago, Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that has huge implications for billboard haters and lovers alike.

The legislation by Councilman Bobby Henon was expected to add more digital billboards throughout the city, while simultaneously cutting back on the number of billboards overall. It would force any company that wants to convert a traditional sign into a digital sign to tear down two regular signs elsewhere.

But Henon said on Thursday that he is recalling the legislation, which was years in the making, because PennDOT went and bigfooted Philadelphia. Read more »

Could Infrared Technology Vaporize Potholes in Philly?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

After this year’s brutal winter, Philadelphia officials say they’re on pace to patch up a record number of potholes. In Pennsylvania, one state lawmaker says the pothole situation is so “out of control” that drivers should be able to sue the state for property damage caused by the craters.

But Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh says there’s another way: He wants city government to use infrared technology to seal potholes.

“We’re aware of the technology, but we’re not using it,” he says. “So we’re dealing with higher costs, less efficiency, more inconvenience, and more costs total when you consider flat tires.” Read more »

PSA: Mayor Nutter’s Property Tax Hike Would Only Cost You a Cheesesteak a Month

spot-burger-cheesesteak-940

Say, can you spare a cheesesteak?

A new ad from the city government says that Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to raise property taxes by 9 percent would cost the typical homeowner an extra $104 annually. Need that translated into your favorite stereotypical Philly food? The ad (below) does just that: $104 is the price of “a cheesesteak once a month” or “4 soft pretzels a week.” Read more »

3 Arguments For, and 3 Against, Darrell Clarke’s Alternate School Funding Plan

City Council President Darrell Clarke laid out a plan last week to help fund Philadelphia’s cash-starved schools: He wants to sell liens on commercial properties, which he says could raise “millions of dollars” a year.

Clarke also suggested lien sales would give residents more faith in the city’s tax collection efforts. Currently, Clarke said, “This city cannot say with full confidence that it is doing everything it can to collect from those who owe.”

Tax lien sales have both major pros and cons. As the debate on education funding moves forward, let’s consider a few of them. First, the potential upsides:

Read more »

The Brief: Are the Mayoral Candidates’ School Plans “Bogus”?

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

1. Mayor Michael Nutter said the candidates running to replace him have proposed “bogus” school funding plans.

The gist: Nutter made the attack while touring a city school with Gov. Tom Wolf last week. He said, according to the Inquirer, “You cannot run around this school, shake hands with students, take pictures, read to second graders, talk to middle schoolers, inspire high school students, and then when you’re back at your office comfortably not put forward the money that they need to educate their students. Let’s cut the phoniness. Let’s be serious about educating kids.”

The six Democratic mayoral candidates oppose Nutter’s proposal to raise an extra $105 million for the city’s schools by increasing property taxes by 9 percent. They’ve offered other plans to boost funding, such as hiking the liquor-by-the-drink tax and selling tax liens.

Read more »

A Quiet Coup in City Hall

Inside City Council chambers. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Inside City Council chambers. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Half the audience is sweating before the debate even begins inside the packed, sweltering basement auditorium of Greenfield Elementary School. There are at least 400 people here, and while the crowd is perfectly civil, there’s still a bit of an edge to the mood. This is a high-stakes election; the proof of that is all around. There’s a documentary crew filming the candidates and audience, campaign volunteers are crawling all over the place, and an obligatory thickset white dude in an Eagles hoodie passes out unsourced fliers about the black candidate. All standard election-season fare in Philadelphia. Read more »

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