SEPTA, City Unveil Fancy New Bus Shelter Design

Photo | Sandy Smith

Photo | Sandy Smith

Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, SEPTA general manager Jeff Knueppel and Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities director Denise Goren all gathered at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia at 11 a.m. this morning to take the wraps off what may be the most useful and attractive piece of street furniture ever to grace Philadelphia’s streets.

That would be the new bus shelters that Intersection, an “urban experience” firm formed by the merger of urban technology design firm Control Group and the Titan advertising company, will install and maintain at more than 600 bus stops across the city. Read more »

Insider: Darrell Clarke Won His Needless School District Power Play

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

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

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

The laughter and colliding high-fives you heard recently in the vicinity of lower North Broad Street were those of Council President Darrell Clarke and school boss William Hite (+ entourages) celebrating their sealing of an agreement that allows Council greater access to school budget figures, management details and provide general fiscal oversight.

Clarke says the agreement “is a document that will not only get a consensus, but it will actually require that we see each other a whole lot.” There will be quarterly reports to council on hiring and meetings to discuss those reports and handle general inquiries. CFOs will meet with CFOs, and so forth.

Politicians being practitioners of “the gesture,” there was a real-live signing ceremony to communicate that this was a Very Big Deal. In case we weren’t properly impressed, Clarke and School Reform Commission Chief Marjorie Neff later jointly announced the agreement was “historic.”

The Clark/Neff announcement contains language suggesting the practical independence of the School Reform Commission has been diminished. Phrases like “our common goal,” “we will continue to fight,” “we cannot do this work alone,” all indicate a new concord that has these two in tandem, in agreement on the direction of the district. The governor still appoints a majority of the commission, but the new guv is a Democrat and that’s a difference that makes all the difference.

Given that Clarke, for months, held hostage $25 million to coerce this deal, one might think it was actually — well — significant. It ain’t. City Council has “forever” had annual hearings to review district requests for cash. They’ve always had the legal right to say “nope, not gonna do it.” The mere fact that Council interdicted district loot is proof they have all the clout they really need. Read more »

Darrell Clarke Thinks Philly Schools Need the Firm Hand of City Council

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by Philadelphia City Council and Associated Press.

Early this month, we told you about City Council President Darrell Clarke’s clear-cut power play to get Council more leverage over the School District of Philadelphia.

Now it’s looking like we underestimated his ambitions.

Clarke — who yesterday welcomed Council back from its long summer recess — wrote what amounts to a sweeping critique of the School District of Philadelphia and Superintendent Bill Hite in an op-ed published in Thursday’s Daily News.

He was responding to a tough recent editorial from the DN, which took Clarke to task for hounding Hite about problems — financial problems school district governance — that the Superintendent simply lacks the power to fix. Said the DN: “The superintendent is laboring under the illusion that the facts matter. They do not. The source of Clarke’s anger isn’t really over any particulars of district spending, it is over the fact that Council lacks control over how the money is spent.” Which, by the by, is exactly what Citified was telling you three days before the editorial ran.

In any event, Clarke was not cowed. His latest statement on the schools goes well beyond his past remarks, which had focused on the district’s financial management. Writes Clarke: Read more »

Darrell Clarke’s School District Power Play


Left, Darrell Clarke. Right, Bill Hite. | Photos by City Council and Associated Press.

City Council President Darrell Clarke has grown profoundly frustrated with the School District of Philadelphia in recent years. Now he looks poised to turn that frustration into action — and the impact on the district could be huge.

In private and in public, Clarke in recent weeks has ratcheted up pressure on the district and the School Reform Commission. He’s laying the groundwork for a campaign — one that likely will begin in earnest after likely next mayor Jim Kenney takes office in January — that is designed to win back some local control over the district, particularly its finances.

What’s his latest beef? Ostensibly, it was over a number of recent hirings and promotions in the school district’s central offices, which, after three straight years of fiscal crisis, is now staffed by a skeleton crew. Seriously. The number of empty desks in the (admittedly too big) district headquarters at 440 N. Broad is both depressing and alarming.

Clarke’s point, though, is that Superintendent William Hite came to City Council in the spring seeking cash on account of the dire needs in classrooms, not district HQ. He says, in essence, that Council didn’t approve $70 million* in new funding for it to be spent on senior bureaucrats making six figures. Read more »

Insider: Why the Jim Kenney & Darrell Clarke Bromance Means Great Things for Philly

Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke

Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke. | Photo courtesy of City Council.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

Before the primary election on May 19, the previous 18 months of a lame duck mayor and no sure-fire favorite to win the Democratic nomination created a power vacuum at the top of city government. If you know the mayor isn’t aiming to be the next governor (see Rendell, Ed), then beyond the first term there’s no incentive to play nice when you can simply just wait him out. If you didn’t like Mayor Nutter or his policies, or you felt that working with Nutter put you at odds with council, the smart play was to see who had next and work on that.

But power abhors a vacuum. In times of uncertainty people seek and gravitate towards strong leadership, even when they don’t agree with the leader. Key players can’t operate on the sidelines for long without knowing who is going to be running the show. Businesses plan in 5-10 years cycles. Developers plan in 10-20 year cycles. Everyone likes to talk about change, but it is the other two C’s — continuity and contracts that keep a city humming.

The recent mayoral primary was not a referendum on policy or politics: 75+ forums, town halls and debates effectively eliminated any opportunity for candidates to truly distinguish themselves on policy. After the past eight years, what we were looking for was leadership style.

Much digital ink has been spilled in these pages about the burgeoning power and emerging prominence of City Council President Darrell Clarke. I think strong leadership in council is a good thing. During the past 18 months Council President Clarke has filled the power vacuum. He’s the prom king and he’s looking for a solid date and dance partner for the next eight years. Read more »

Council’s New Hires: $105K for a Graphic Designer & a Social Media Maven

Screenshot 2015-08-27 17.29.15

A sample of City Councils new graphic designer at work.

There’s no arguing that City Council could use a little help with its image. And it’s getting it, in the form of two relatively new staff positions in the Office of City Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

The hires? Anthony Buford, a full-time graphic designer, who was put on Council’s payroll in January, and Patricia Gillett, a full-time digital media director, hired in July. Their salaries are $50,000 and $55,000, respectively, plus generous city benefits.

Citified heard about the new positions this week, when council staffers were invited by the “Council Creative Team” to a “quick, 1-hour training course for finding, selecting and preparing photos for print and digital uses.” Also on the agenda? “A short introduction to the new City Council logo…” Read more »

$25 Million for City Schools, Suddenly in Doubt?

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Last spring, which feels like eons ago, City Council grudgingly agreed to increase funding to the School District of Philadelphia by $70 million. That was $30 million short of what the district was asking for, but $70 million really is a big round number, and it took a bevy of tax hikes — including a 4.5 percent hike in the property tax rate — to raise the funds.

City Council was grouchy in the extreme about coming up with that $70 million. So grouchy that it opted to hold onto $25 million of the $70 million — to be released to the district only when and if Council decided to do so.

Well, the school year hasn’t even begun, and Council President Darrell L. Clarke already has some real problems with what the district is doing; specifically Superintendent Bill Hite’s spending of $1 million on big new promotions and hires for central office administrators. Read more »

Why Philly’s Special Election Matters

Photo by Derek Hatfield/

Photo by Derek Hatfield/

In a special election on August 11th, a small sliver of voters will choose Philadelphia’s three newest representatives in the state House. The winners are virtually predetermined, but the race is still worth watching. No, seriously. We promise. Don’t stop reading!

The candidates are Democrat Ed Neilson and Republican Timothy Dailey in Northeast Philly’s 174th District; Democrat Joanna McClinton, Republican Charles Wilkins and Independent Tracey Gordon in the 191st District, which stretches from Southwest Philly to Darby Township; and in the 195th District, which includes parts of North and West Philly, Democrat Donna Bullock, Republican Adam Lang and write-in candidate Judith Robinson.

The Democratic candidates — who were selected by their party ward leaders, not voters — will very likely win because 1) there are innumerably more Democrats than Republicans in these districts; for instance, consider their beastly 13-1 voter registration edge in the 195th district. And 2) it’ll be a low-turnout election in which only diehards will show up the polls. But the races still matter for a few reasons: Read more »

If Fattah Goes Down, Who Would Voters Replace Him With?

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams and state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and District Attorney Seth Williams.

It finally happened: Philadelphia Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was indicted on corruption charges Wednesday.

Already, political insiders are wondering if the congressman will resign in the coming months or simply choose not to run for reelection in 2016. If either scenario unfolds, who would replace him? And how would that work?

The question has been bubbling up ever since two members of Fattah’s inner circle pleaded guilty last year. You can expect more names than ever to be bandied about now.

Some of the bigger ones include Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams, Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, state Sen. Anthony Williams, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Brian Sims, School Reform Commission member Bill Green, former mayoral candidate Doug Oliver, ward leader Daniel Muroff and real estate analyst Dan Kessler. That’s not even a full list. Check out some other possibilities here.

Watching some of these candidates confront each other in an open election would be a sight to see, but there’s no guarantee that’s what would happen. Indeed, there are five distinct scenarios that could unfold here. Let’s run them down.
Read more »

Will Bill Green and Sam Katz Team Up for Surprise City Council Run?


Bill Green and Sam Katz.

Bill Green and Sam Katz — two of the city’s most capable and pugnacious political pot-stirrers — are considering running for City Council at-large as a two-man slate in this November’s election, Citified has learned.

If they were to run and win, they could upend a political system that, by design, traditionally awards Philadelphia’s under-powered Republican party two at-large City Council seats. It would be an enormous blow for the city’s GOP.

A Katz-Green victory could also change the balance of power in City Council, and present likely next mayor Jim Kenney with a pair of well-informed and high-profile potential critics. Read more »

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