Clarke Calls 3-Cent Soda Tax “Divisive,” Says It Won’t Pass

Kenney_Clarke

Photos by Jeff Fusco

Some City Council members argue that a 15-cent tax on beverage containers is more fair than a three-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks because it would affect a broad swath of consumers rather than targeting low-income communities, who tend to drink the most soda.

But it would be harder to avoid, the Kenney administration says, which would ultimately make it more regressive, while doing away with any possible public health benefits a soda tax might generate. Plus, the container tax wouldn’t raise enough money to fund the expansion of pre-K classes, the creation of community schools, and the rebuilding of parks and rec centers that Mayor Jim Kenney has made the priority of his first year in office. At least not at the rate he wants to fund them.

City Council and the Kenney administration have just a few weeks to sort this out before their drop-dead deadline to pass a budget. At a hearing on Wednesday, Council President Darrell Clarke made his stance surprisingly clear: “Everyone on this side of the table knows that there’s not going to be a 3-cents-an-ounce tax,” he told Kenney’s finance director, Rob Dubow. Read more »

Clarke Wants $100 Million to Fund Housing Repairs

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi

City Council President Darrell Clarke | Copyright of City Council/Produced and edited by Michael Falconi

Council President Darrell Clarke will introduce legislation on Thursday to expand a variety of city programs aimed at housing repair and preservation. This would be paid for with the proceeds of a $100 million bond issue, according to an email sent by Clarke’s office to all members of City Council.

The legislation would also raise the city’s realty transfer tax by 0.1 percent in order to pay down the debt from the bond sale. That would bring in an additional $100 in tax revenue for every $100,000 of value in the sale of a house, on top of what the transfer tax already returns. Read more »

Where Does Darrell Clarke Stand on the Soda Tax? And Does it Matter?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Before City Council’s weekly meeting last Thursday, Council President Darrell Clarke apparently told Newsworks that he thought a three-cents-per-ounce tax on soda — which Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed as a revenue source for providing pre-kindergarten programs and making improvements to parks and rec centers — was too high. According to the word bouncing around the Council caucus room, Clarke had been definitive about that for the first time. A firm “no” on three cents. 

Some other reporters and I wanted to hear it for ourselves, but by the time we caught up with Clarke after the Council meeting, he was sounding more cryptic and non-committal — a not-uncommon mode for the Council President.  Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide: 2016 Election’s Biggest Winners and Losers

From L to R:

Clockwise: Mayor Jim Kenney, state Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Darrell Clarke, U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman and labor leader John Dougherty.

Oftentimes, elections feel like they’ve been decided by the powers that be before they’re even over. The 2016 primary was different: It was full of genuine nail-biters. At 8:30 p.m., I headed to state Rep. Dwight Evans’ Election Night party at Temptations on Chelten Avenue, and everyone around me spent the first hour-and-a-half of the celebration hunched over, obsessively refreshing the Department of State’s website on their phones as votes from different areas were counted. They weren’t just tracking Evans’ bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat — they were also following the Attorney General’s race, which looked like it might be won by Stephen Zappala at the beginning of the evening, as well as several close state legislative races.

By the end of the night, a seemingly unstoppable labor leader had lost, along with an indicted congressman, a bajillion-year incumbent, and a state representative who is part of one of the most powerful political machines in the city. What a wild election.

The Winners

1. The Northwest Coalition

The Northwest Coalition, led by Evans and former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, helped put Jim Kenney in the mayor’s office last year. The alliance was also instrumental in electing Derek Green and Cherelle Parker to Council. Now, one of its own is going to Congress — Evans defeated U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in the 2nd Congressional District race yesterday. (Yes, Evans will technically face Republican James Jones in the fall. But, with the district being overwhelmingly Democratic, we all know how this movie ends.) Another sign of the organization’s rising power: Relish, the Northwest Coalition’s Election Day lunch spot, drew bigger crowds yesterday than Famous 4th Street Deli.

What does this mean for the future? Good things for Parker, potentially, if she runs for mayor in 2023. It could also mean bad things for District Attorney Seth Williams if the Northwest Coalition decides to support a challenger when he runs for reelection next year. (Tasco isn’t a fan of Williams’.) It’s worth noting, however, that the coalition did suffer one loss yesterday, which proves it isn’t indestructible: state Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, its pick in the 200th House District race, was not reelected. Read more »

Clarke: Lack of Diversity in Some City Departments Is “Problematic”

RK

L to R: Darrell Clarke and Jim Kenney. | Photos by City Council’s Flickr and Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney was elected last year with a very broad, diverse coalition. Once in office, he promised to make his staff just as diverse.

At a budget hearing Wednesday, City Council members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of diversity in the top staff of departments overseen by Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Rhynhart. They include the Office of Innovation and Technology, the Fleet Management Office, and the public property, procurement and records departments, among others.

City Council President Darrell Clarke said at the hearing that only 22 percent of the executive staff in those departments are people of color. (This figure does not include the records department, for which data was not immediately unavailable.)

“That’s clearly problematic,” said Clarke.

Council members also said no minorities hold the top jobs at the Department of Public Property. In the Office of Fleet Management, there isn’t a single woman executive, lawmakers said.

“Based on research from boards across the country, when you have diverse boards, you actually get different and oftentimes better decisions,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “And so that’s why it matters to us that we have a city, particularly those in leadership, in executive positions, that look like the city of Philadelphia.”
Read more »

Why Mayor Kenney’s Endorsement of Steve Zappala Matters

L: Steve Zappala R: Jim Kenney | Photos by Matt Rourke/AP and Jeff Fusco

L: Steve Zappala R: Jim Kenney | Photos by Matt Rourke/AP and Jeff Fusco

This news had political insiders buzzing on Friday: Mayor Jim Kenney announced that he is backing Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala in the Attorney General’s race.

“Steve’s record of taking illegal guns off the street, combating violence against women, and fighting wrongful convictions and bias in the justice system makes him the clear choice,” Kenney said in a statement. “Steve has also protected our tax dollars by convicting politicians when they have crossed the line.”

Also on Friday, Zappala campaign released an advertisement that features Kenney and state Sen. Tony Williams, who ran against each other in last year’s mayoral primary. Read more »

10 Things to Know About Kenney’s Ambitious, Expensive Budget Proposal

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

What a difference a couple months makes.

When Mayor Jim Kenney delivered his Inauguration Day speech in January, he announced few new or detailed plans. When he gives his first budget address Thursday morning, things will be completely different: He will lay out a vision that is bold and far-reaching.

The big details have already been revealed: Kenney wants to sell $300 million in bonds to completely redo the city’s parks, libraries and recreation centers. He also hopes to create a three-cents-per-ounce soda tax in order to help pay for expanded pre-K, community schools, a job creation plan, the debt service for his overhaul of public spaces, and much more. The tax would also help bolster the city’s underfunded pension system somewhat.

But there are lots of other fascinating and important things about Kenney’s five-year budget plan that haven’t been announced yet. Here are ten of them: Read more »

Wait, Were Officials Trying to Limit Public Access to Kenney’s Budget Address?

Kenney_Clarke

Photos by Jeff Fusco

Was there a plan afoot to make Mayor Jim Kenney’s budget address a VIP-only event?

On Tuesday, an aide for City Council President Darrell Clarke sent an email to lawmakers that seemed to suggest that only invited guests would be allowed to attend Kenney’s speech.

When I asked Clarke’s spokeswoman about the message, though, she called it “inaccurate,” and promised that Kenney’s budget address would be open to members of the public. A spokeswoman for Kenney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read more »

Kenney: Soda Tax Could Raise $400 Million for Pre-K, Parks, Jobs

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney says his proposed soda tax could bring in $400 million over five years — money that would be used to fund universal pre-K, along with other high-priority projects at City Hall.

Kenney discussed his proposal — to tax sugary beverages at three cents per ounce — in an interview with the Inquirer. Kenney opposed the tax when it was proposed by then-Mayor Michael Nutter several years ago at two cents per ounce. So did Council President Darrell Clarke — who, for now, is mum on the topic.

Kenney’s proposal seems designed to win Clarke’s support, however, with revenues going to fund two of the council president’s priorities: Community schools and an energy jobs plan — to the tune of $39 million and $23 million over five years, respectively. Another $26 million would go to help gird the city’s underfunded pension system, while $56 million would be used to retire debt on Kenney’s new plan to make over the city’s public spaces. (The bulk, $256 million over five years, would go to pre-K.) Read more »

5 Takeaways From Kenney’s Chamber of Commerce Speech

Photo Credit | Matt Rourke, AP

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

In his first few weeks as mayor, Jim Kenney didn’t announce many new or surprising initiatives. On Inauguration Day, City Council Darrell Clarke unveiled more ambitious plans than Kenney did; just last week, it was Clarke — not Kenney — who rolled out a massive jobs plan in the mayor’s reception room.

During his speech at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s annual mayoral luncheon on Wednesday, Kenney had an opportunity to change that. Past mayors have used the event to reveal some of the ideas up their sleeves. In fact, a spokeswoman for Kenney said last month that he didn’t provide more specifics on Inauguration Day because he planned to do so at two other events: the chamber talk and his budget address.

So did Kenney follow through? Here are five takeaways from his speech to the Chamber of Commerce: Read more »

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