Philly Lawmakers Are Making Even More Money Than Before

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

Back in 2011, the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative studied how Philadelphia’s City Council compared to other legislatures in 14 peer cities throughout the country. At the time, Philly’s lawmakers had the longest average tenure of all 15 cities and earned the fourth-highest salaries. They also looked an awful lot like Philadelphia, with a ratio of African-Americans that closely matched that of the city’s population as well as the second-highest percentage of women members (41 percent).

Since that report, an election has brought several fresh faces to Council. That, in turn, led Pew to revisit the 2011 study and do a little updating of its findings. Read more »

Will Supreme Court Break the Power of Philly’s Municipal Unions?

The U.S. Supreme Court |

The U.S. Supreme Court |

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard a case that could undermine the power of Philadephia’s powerful municipal unions.

The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, doesn’t directly involve Philadelphia. But the issue it decides — whether civic unions that serve the School District of Philadelphia, City Hall and other public institutions can force non-members to pay union dues as a “fair share” of the benefits they receive from union activity — could have a big impact here.

“All of the unions in the city of Philadelphia, certainly the school district, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have negotiated fair share agreements. So if the court were to overrule that decision, it would have very serious consequences for all local unions, including the uniformed services,” attorney Elaine Williams told KYW. Read more »

11 Things You Might Not Know About: Philly’s Public Squares

They’re some of the most revered spaces in the city — the five open public squares William Penn laid out in the 1680s to keep the green in his “greene Countrie Towne.” Today we hoverboard inside them, crave homes adjacent to them, let our kids clamber over their statues and fountains. Here, some facts you might not know about Rittenhouse, Logan, Washington, Franklin and Penn squares, courtesy of James McClelland and Lynn Miller’s new book City in a Park. Read more »

Audit: Philly Firefighters Often Late to the Fire

fire department

Updated with comment from Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s farewell present to outgoing Mayor Michael Nutter? A reminder of the ugly early years of Nutter’s administration, when recession-driven belt-tightening forced unwanted — and unpopular — choices.

One of those choices? The “brownout” policy, implemented in 2010, that cut the Philadelphia Fire Department budget by shutting down three fire companies per shift per day, and rotating firefighters away from their usual stations to fill in at other locations. It was only in 2014 that the administration began to back away from the policyRead more »

Audit: City Pension Fund Still Going Broke

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released his annual compliance audit of Philadelphia’s city pension fund today, and it has some grim news: The city’s funding ratio—the amount of cash it has on hand relative to what’s needed to pay all its pension obligations—is at its lowest level ever.

According to city figures, the pension fund has only 45.8 percent of the assets needed to meet its obligations. That’s way down from the 77.5 percent it had in July 2001, two years after the city floated a $1.29 billion general obligation bond and put its proceeds into the pension account.

A chart released along with the compliance audit shows that the 2014 funding ratio is even lower than the roughly 47 percent balance the fund had in 1993. Read more »

City Hall Gets Ready for the Rising Tide

We’re only halfway through the 2010s, and to date, the decade has produced the two warmest summers, the snowiest winter, the wettest day and the two wettest years on record  — along with two hurricanes and a derecho, a storm containing straight-line winds strong enough to produce damage on the scale of a hurricane or tornado. Climate change caused by the greenhouse effect is likely to give us more of the same, according to climate research conducted by ICF International. And along with those greater extremes could come something else: an accelerating rate of sea level rise that could by 2100 put much of the low-lying land along the Delaware River under water and flood key evacuation routes if a Category 1 hurricane, the strongest yet to hit the city, came along.

Given these possible scenarios, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability decided it was time to take stock of the city’s assets and see what might need to be done to make them more climate-proof as the climate changes.

The report “Growing Stronger: Toward a Climate-Ready Philadelphia,” released Dec. 2 by the office,  describes simple steps city departments and agencies could take now and in the very near term in order to reduce the vulnerability of city assets to damage or loss due to extreme weather and climate change. Read more »

On Pope Visit Costs, Mayor Nutter Insults Our Intelligence One Last Time


So this is how Mayor Nutter is going out: By insulting Philadelphia’s intelligence.

We were going to have a sour taste in our mouths anyway after discovering in today’s Inky that taxpayers will pay $8 million in costs associated with the September visit of Pope Francis to the city. Most of us had understood that the costs of the visit would be borne by the World Meeting of Families.

Turns out there were some caveats. Read more »

Property’s Photo of the Week: Philly’s Beauty Is in the Most Random Places

A photo posted by Philadelphia 🍕 (@beansauer) on

We’d by lying if we said Chad Aaronson‘s cool City Hall drone video wasn’t still on our minds. So with that being the case, we went in search of yet another unique angle from which to view Philadelphia’s grand Second Empire construction. The #Phillyscape shot that won us over? This classic disorienting puddle capture taken by Instagrammer @beansauer.

Unlike the last reflection photo we featured of City Hall, this one showcases Philly’s recognizable building in the midst of late fall with some stray leaves sprinkled on the street. Its simplicity captures the season in Philadelphia perfectly (though of, of course, a mash up of the city’s foliage in all its glory is just as striking) and reminds us that for all our town’s flaws and difficulties, its got a whole lot of its beauty tucked away in the most random places.

Read more »

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