Philly, You’re No Houston


Why is Houston doing so well? In an interesting Wall Street Journal piece earlier this week, two urban planning experts say that Houston’s “pro-growth policies have produced an urban powerhouse — and a blueprint for metropolitan revival.” The writers say:

[T]he city’s low cost of living and high rate of job growth have made Houston and its surrounding metro region attractive to young families. According to Pitney Bowes, Houston will enjoy the highest growth in new households of any major city between 2014 and 2017. A recent U.S. Council of Mayors study predicted that the American urban order will become increasingly Texan, with Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth both growing larger than Chicago by 2050.

But really? Is Houston that good? Better than Philly? For the most part, no. But for one big part: yes.

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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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Is Michael Nutter Too Honest?

Philadelphia Schools

Over at Politico as part of the magazine’s “What Works” series on innovative ideas and urban reinvention, WHYY’s Holly Otterbein takes a look back at the Michael Nutter-mania that swept Philadelphia back in 2007 and wonders, as we prepare to select our next mayor, if it’s possible for a Philadelphia government to be “honest and effective”:
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A Hollow Victory for Philly Schools

Dave Davies nailed it, as he so often does, when he described last week’s surprise deal enabling Philadelphia to tax cigarettes and send the proceeds to the schools as simultaneously “awful” and a “stunning, come-from-behind legislative win.”

The $2-a-pack cigarette tax looked dead right up until Wednesday night, when a surprise amendment offered by State Rep. John Taylor-the lone Republican in Philadelphia’s 34-strong delegation to Harrisburg-won enough support for the initiative to enable it to pass the tax-averse House. 119-90

Considering the alternative, there’s little doubt that this was a win for the city (and a reminder that a 100-percent Democratic delegation is clearly not in the city’s best interest). Parents, students and educators owe Taylor, the rest of the delegation, Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke (all of whom lobbied hard for this) their gratitude.

But let’s look at what was won.

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Kenyatta Johnson Consultant Asks Staphmeal Blogger to Start Anonymous Anti-Ori Feibush Site

Joshua Scott Albert (left); Micah Mahjoubian

Joshua Scott Albert (left); Micah Mahjoubian

Micah Mahjoubian is one of the most connected players in Philadelphia politics. He had a high-ranking job in John Street’s administration for eight years. He was senior adviser for Johnny Doc’s ill-fated run for State Senate. He was recently elected to be a member of the Democratic State Committee in the 1st Senatorial District, an office he holds today. And he is on the board of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. So what’s Mahjoubian doing consorting with ex-convict Joshua Scott Albert, the notorious creator of the blog Staphmeal, who is still on probation after spending 8 months in jail? Read more »

Did Councilman Nutter Ask for Ticket to Be Fixed?

Mayor Nutter doesn’t always get props, but one thing that still brings him praise — and helped him win office in the first place — is voters’ sense that the man is ethically upright.

So, will Tuesday testimony that he once — as a councilman — tried to get a ticket “fixed” at Traffic Court end up damaging his reputation?

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Philly’s Ex-Chief Data Officer: I Quit After Clash with Revenue Commissioner

mark-headd-400Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s first Chief Data Officer from the fall of 2012 to April 2013, has finally explained why he left the position. It happened after a squabble with the city’s Revenue Department commissioner after Headd’s team built a real-time dataset of property tax balances.

Though the city built an API that would allow sharing of real-time data with other city agencies, Revenue Department commissioner Clarena Tolson wouldn’t allow the data to be released. Headd says the city has issued permits to tax delinquents who owe millions.

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