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 »

Fed Prosecutor Will Be Kenney’s City Solicitor

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

A federal prosecutor with a history of involvement in city politics will be the City Solicitor under Mayor-elect Jim Kenney: Sozi Pedro Tulante will be announced for the position at a press conference later today in City Hall. Read 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 »

Mike Dunn on the Empty Desks in City Hall’s Pressroom

An old news clipping — provenance is unknown — about City Hall's once robust and now-depleted press corps. | Clipping courtesy of Mike Dunn.

An old news clipping — provenance is unknown — about City Hall’s once robust and now-depleted press corps. | Clipping courtesy of Mike Dunn.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from former KYW City Hall reporter Mike Dunn.)

Decades of history can be found in the press room at Philadelphia City Hall, Room 212: typewritten stories stuffed into rusty file cabinets, yellowed newspaper clips and editorial cartoons taped to the walls, a bulletin board crammed with buttons from political campaigns long past. One day I found a manual typewriter, still functional, and I set it aside in case the power goes out.

Then there was a fraying clip of a magazine article, date and source unclear — perhaps from the 1950s — about the reporters who covered City Hall in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The article included a photograph of the press corp that toiled in Room 212 in 1928.

It is no surprise that the reporters are all male and white; that was, unfortunately, the American workplace of the time. But what is most striking was the sheer number of reporters: 15 (with Administration officials mingled in), representing five newspapers. And while they’re smiling in the photo, its easy to imagine that they spent each day scurrying through the Hall, chasing elected officials, and competing among themselves to break stories about the mayor and City Council.

Competition, of course, has long been the engine of journalism. In my time covering City Hall, I was awed by the dogged, ceaseless competition between reporters posted here for the Inquirer and Daily News. Sure, they keep an eye on what those in the broadcast media were doing, as well the weeklies and, more recently, the bloggers and politically-minded websites like But for decades, the fiercest competition that drove the dailies was simply between each other. It was the Inquirer versus the Daily News. Read more »

WATCH: City Hall Drone Footage Captures Rarely-Seen View of William Penn

Credit: Chad Aaronson / JerseyDrone

Credit: Chad Aaronson / JerseyDrone

Don’t know about you, but we don’t remember ever seeing William Penn from this angle!

We’re talking, of course, about the Penn statue that sits atop City Hall. Thanks to Chad Aaronson, the guy behind Jersey Drone, we got a sweeping view of our city’s seat of government and its long-standing silent icon in a drone video that Aaronson filmed two days ago. Funnily enough, the cool vid wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for… well, we’ll let him explain.

“I actually did not go to Philly with the intention of filming City Hall,” he told Property. “My original plan was to get some footage of the SS United States, however I could not get permission from the security guards to fly there. So, the next best thing was a cool building.”

Read more »

Milton Street Finally Brought Porn to City Hall Yesterday — and It Was the Right Call

Yesterday the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women gathered at City Hall with several City Councilwomen to demand that District Attorney Seth Williams fire three of his employees: Frank Fina, Pat Blessington and Marc Constanzo. The three men, now prosecutors for the City of Philadelphia, were all involved in Porngate, the snappy name for the scandal that erupted after the discovery of a glut of pornographic, misogynistic, racist and homophobic emails written and distributed on state computers.

In reviewing the conduct of his employees, Williams has said that he will not fire them; rather, he’ll have them go through sensitivity training. The members of NOW and the five City Councilwomen feel this is not enough. The question, if you boil it down, is whether these men can perform their jobs responsibly, fairly and effectively — including prosecuting sex crimes — given the attitudes reflected in the emails. Williams says yes; NOW and the Councilwomen say no.

Yesterday one woman after another stood behind a podium to talk about the old boys network, the lack of judgment, and why women need to be respected. There was a lot of back-patting: I’d like to thank Cindy for this, I’d like to thank NOW for that, etc. Despite all the words, not much was said. One TV cameraman starting packing up to go even while one of the women was still talking. It was an earnest presentation, but it lacked impact. For a discussion of porn, it was really quite boring.

I don’t say that to be flip. I say that as a former hell-raising activist who spent many hours in meetings about the most effective tactics for making change. Standing behind a podium and talking in generalities was never on the list.  Read more »

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