Philly’s Biggest Losers of 2016

Background image by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia™

Background image by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia™

Now that the last shreds of wrapping paper have been vacuumed up and the good dishes are finally put away, we revisit our time-honored tradition of taking a look back at the year and the losers, miscreants, and ne’er-do-wells it spawned. (For a more optimistic view of Philadelphia, consider Holly Otterbein‘s Biggest Winners of 2016.)

Ed Rendell

The once-lovable former champion of the everyman now spends his time being largely irrelevant and making facepalm-worthy comments in places like the Washington Post. But when you’re pulling in a cool $5,000 each month to do virtually nothing for a casino in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you probably don’t care. Read more »

Teamsters to Pro-Soda Tax Lawmakers: No More Campaign Money For You

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 8, 2016 file photo, opponents of a proposed sugary drink tax demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is set to become the first major American city with a soda tax despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the beverage industry to block it. The City Council is expected to give final approval Thursday, June 16, 2016, to a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet beverages. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

On June 8th, 2016, the Teamsters and other critics of the soda tax demonstrated outside of City Hall. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

What do special interest groups want for their campaign donations? Are they looking for favors, access, or just a sympathetic ear? Most of the time, voters can only speculate (and worry) about the answers to those questions. But every so often, someone pulls back the curtain and lets us see the world of political giving with our own eyes.

On June 17th, Teamsters Local 830 secretary-treasurer Danny Grace sent a strongly worded letter to several Council members who voted to enact a soda tax earlier this month. In it, he lambasted lawmakers for supporting “Mayor Kenney’s regressive, discriminatory and likely unconstitutional Beverage Tax.” Grace, whose union represents soda bottlers and truck drivers, wrote that he told Council members time and time again that “this unfair tax that targets only one industry would be ruinous to the Teamsters, leading to the loss of thousands of family-sustaining jobs.” And then he informed them, pretty bluntly, that Teamsters Local 830 wouldn’t be giving them any more campaign money.

“Throughout your time on City Council, the Teamsters have been proud to support you, both with financial contributions and feet on the street during every election cycle,” said Grace. “As a result of your vote to support a regressive, discriminatory tax that will decimate my local and other Teamsters locals in the region that rely on a healthy beverage industry for work, we cannot in good conscience continue to offer you any support whatsoever going forward.” Read more »

Councilman Squilla Introduces New Zoning to Ease Path for Hyde Hotel Project

Hyde hotel

Hyde Hotel | Rendering via Dranoff Properties, BLTa

Though Carl Dranoff’s plans to bring the SLS LUX hotel and residences to the corner of Broad and Spruce have been delayed by the state budget impasse, that hasn’t held him up from moving onto his other sbe-backed hotel project: the Hyde Hotel at Broad and Pine.

Jared Brey of PlanPhilly reports that Councilman Mark Squilla introduced two new bits of zoning legislation last week that would “remove some obstacles” for the project. One seeks to up zone the property from CMX-4 to CMX-5, the most permissive commercial zoning classification; the other would take care of issues with parking, loading, and roof decks.

The proposed 22-story building is seen as a “bookend” to the SLS Lux project, which occupies the northern corner of the 300 block of South Broad Street. It would rise 292 feet off of the street, and contain a mix 76 hotel rooms, approximately 83 apartments, a ground floor restaurant and an underground parking garage. The roof deck legislation comes into play due to a separate roof top restaurant and deck on the 23rd floor.

Read more »

Millennials Won — Mark Squilla’s “Promoters Bill” Is Dead

Mark Squilla

Councilman Mark Squilla | Photo courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

City Councilman Mark Squilla has decided to scrap his virally unpopular “Promoters Bill,” which came under fire last week from musicians, millennials and First Amendment advocates. The proposal would have required music venues to collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of performers for city police.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Squilla “had planned to amend the legislation, but decided it was too tainted by controversy” to carry on. “There’s been so much confusion and misinformation about the bill,” he told the newspaper, “that even if we struck that out, some people would show up to oppose it not understanding what they were opposing.”

Squilla says he’ll start from scratch on a new bill, this time while consulting the music industry. He insists that his goal all along was to ensure that every venue in the city paid an annual $100 licensing fee, including those that stream music from iPhones. Read more »

6 Times City Council Tried to Screw with Our Fun

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators' hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators’ hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

There’s nothing like a group of municipal lawmakers to ruin a good time, and Philadelphia’s City Council seems to be especially well versed in the art. Here are six ways that our elected officials have tried to mess with our leisure-time activity, starting in 2000 and rolling right through this week:

Thou Shall Not Rock and Roll

Sometimes, a terrible City Council idea goes away, never to be heard from again. And other times, it returns, like a hacking winter cough that you thought you shook a week ago. Such is the case with the Promoter’s Bill.

In 2010, Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee introduced Bill No. 100267, which sought to force promoters — whether they were promoting a DJ night at Silk City, a DIY concert in West Philly, a comedy night at Raven Lounge, or a touring artist at the TLA — to register with the city and to notify the police of each show no more than 30 days before the event. Every event. They also wanted promoters to tell the city how much they were paying the venues. After pretty much every person in the city under the age of 30 became outraged at this suggestion, the idea basically went away. Well, until this week.

Let us introduce you to our little friend: Bill 160016. Different number. Same stupid fucking idea, more or less. Earlier this week, word came that Councilman Mark Squilla wanted to require all promoters to apply for special licenses, and he also said that all performers should register their names and other personal information if they want the privilege of getting on stage here. Now that his idea has gone viral, he appears to be backtracking a bit, so who knows where this is going to end up? We can just see it now. Finally, the Led Zeppelin reunion happens, and before the band is allowed to play at Citizens Bank Park, Squilla asks, “But Mr. Page, what is your home address these days?” Read more »

36 Affordable Townhomes to Replace Vacant Lot in Port Richmond

Grace Town Homes rendering | Kramer + Marks Architects | Image courtesy of Ceisler Media

Kramer + Marks Architects | Courtesy of Ceisler Media

About ten minutes from the blighted Orinoka textile factory building, another eyesore takes up promising real estate. Fortunately, like Orinoka, the vacant lot at 2201 E. Auburn Street in Port Richmond awaits a Friday groundbreaking on a project that will, upon completion, bring 36 affordable townhomes to the area. Completion is anticipated for fall 2016.

The residential development is to be called Grace Town Homes, according to a press release, and was conceived from a partnership between the Women’s Community Revitalization Project and the Firm Hope Baptist Church. It was designed by Kramer + Marks Architects.

Read more »

Councilman Squilla Discovers Gawker After “White Lives Matter” Article

Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla at event last Tuesday labeled as a  "'White Lives Matter' Rally" by Gawker, via 6ABC screenshot.

Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla at an event last Tuesday labeled as a “‘White Lives Matter’ Rally” by Gawker in an article published on Friday. Photo via 6ABC screenshot.

On Friday evening, Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla learned the hard way what Gawker was after the New York-based blog published an article entitled “Philadelphia City Councilman Attends ‘White Lives Matter’ Rally.” Gawker used the above image of a defiant-looking Squilla speaking into the megaphone at an event that took place in South Philadelphia last Tuesday amid accusations that police failed to respond to an alleged attack at Fourth and Wolf streets. So is Councilman Squilla a closeted Klan member, was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was this simply not a “White Lives Matter” rally? We got him on the phone on Monday to find out. Read more »

Going Once: City Looks to Sell Almost 200 Properties at Auction

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 11.14.37 AM

“Seller is definitely motivated to sell!”

That snippet comes from the FAQs of the upcoming “as-is” land auction of around 185 properties.

What makes this a unique situation is that these properties are owned by the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Corporation. The Land Bank hasn’t officially gotten off of the ground as of yet and the city is looking to auction off a slew of properties in order to encourage private development.

So yes, the seller is definitely motivated to sell.

The properties are mainly located within Councilman Mark Squilla’s district, which includes South Philly, Kensington and a few in Port Richmond and Frankford. Fisher Auction Company is running the auction Read more »

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