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.
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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 »
1. Organizers say they are carefully considering the needs of homeless people as they make preparations for the Pope’s visit.
The gist: On Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter got in a physical confrontation with a homeless man who said that he was worried about the city’s plans to sweep the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of the homeless during Pope Francis’ visit in September. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that organizers say that is not quite what will happen: Instead, everyone — including the homeless — will be required to leave the Parkway before the Pope arrives for security reasons, but then will be allowed back inside through gates. The World Meeting of Families has also formed a committee whose aim is “to protect the dignity and rights of people who are homeless, to make sure there is no detrimental treatment,” Project HOME’s Will O’Brien told the Inquirer.
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Darrell Clarke is not impressed. Photo | Jeff Fusco
City Council President Darrell Clarke has forcefully come out against the ambitious plan spearheaded by Paul Levy and Jerry Sweeney to overhaul the city’s tax structure in a way they say will promote economic development and job growth.
This is a big deal. Tax reform — which is usually shorthand for lowering Philadelphia’s extremely high tax rates on wages and businesses — has been hotly debated in the city for decades. Proponents see it as the single best answer to Philadelphia’s anemic job growth. Opponents question the assumption that lower taxes would generate jobs, and they worry that it would starve city government of badly needed revenue.
But this tax reform plan, which is backed by an unusually broad mix of business and labor interests called the Growth Coalition, is a bit different that earlier proposals. It would slash wage and business taxes, yes, but the coalition proposes to pay for those tax cuts by increasing real estate taxes on commercial properties by 15 percent.
And the coalition is selling the package as a net revenue winner for the city, which is a large part of the reason why this plan has some real momentum (most of the mayoral field embraced the rough outlines of the plan, for instance).
But Clarke clearly isn’t buying it. He’s naturally suspicious of sweeping plans that purport to solve big problems at little-to-no cost (excepting those he hatches himself, naturally enough). Look at his position on the sale of PGW, or his doubts about the Land Bank. Read more »
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. | Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information from Clarke spokeswoman Jane Roh.)
Mayor City Council President Darrell Clarke launches 2,000 unit affordable housing plan.
The gist: Last year, City Council announced an ambitious plan to build 2,000 units of affordable housing in (largely gentrifying) neighborhoods across the city. Yesterday, Council and Clarke celebrated the imminent ground breaking on 32 of those units in Francisville.
The plan is an interesting one. Unlike a lot of affordable housing, this initiative is targeted squarely at working class and middle class residents earning 80 percent to 120 percent of the area’s median income. As Newsworks reported: Read more »
Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.
There are few City Hall scenes more dispiriting than the display of mutual contempt that unfolds each year when the School District of Philadelphia comes to City Council begging for money.
This year’s spite of spring featured: Read more »
Photo by Jeff Fusco
The next mayor of Philadelphia is going to face massive challenges: A horribly underfunded pension system, a poverty rate higher than that of any other big city in the country, and a school district stuck in a seemingly never-ending budget crisis.
Oh, and City Council.
Sure, if Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney wins the general election as expected, he and most City Council members will share the same political party (because this is Philadelphia, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 7 to 1; plus, lots of Democratic lawmakers are running unopposed in the fall). But being on the same team is no guarantee that Council and Kenney will get along, as Mayor Michael Nutter knows all too well.
In recent years, Council has expanded its reach by a wide margin. It hired its own lobbyist in Harrisburg, planned a total reorganization of city government, and killed Nutter’s proposed sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, to name just a few examples of its muscle-flexing.
Does Kenney have what it takes to work with City Council? He’ll need to have a productive relationship with lawmakers in order to push through his progressive agenda, which includes expanding pre-K, developing so-called “community schools,” and raising the minimum wage. Read more »
The Kenney coalition. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider. McCalla is a policy consultant who has provided pro bono advice to mayoral candidate Anthony H. Williams, amongst other candidates this election cycle.)
Over the last several weeks, culminating in the Tuesday election of Jim Kenney as the Democratic nominee for mayor, an historic shift was taking place amongst African American pols that creates a new reality in city politics.
Black political empowerment, before it went from a movement to a slogan, was fiercely predicated on cultural affinity. That is to say, like most Philadelphians, Blacks were going to “vote race.” Through the 1960’s, only three or four black elected officials — Congressman Robert Nix, Republican Councilwoman Ethel Allen, Councilmen Earl Vann and Tom McIntosh — made it into office in Philadelphia and not all at once. Political impotence combined with the oscillating indifference/hostility of City Hall, forged the determination to grow in power as the black population grew. Read more »
1. Philly’s Campaign Finance Reform, Against All Odds, Is Still Kind of Working
The gist: Look, it’s true: Super PACs, which can spend unlimited amounts of money in elections as long as they don’t coordinate with any campaigns, are dominating Philadelphia’s mayoral race. A single super PAC backing state Sen. Anthony Williams for mayor stockpiled nearly $7 million from Jan. 1st to May 4th. That’s more money than was raised in 2015 by all six of the city’s Democratic mayoral candidates combined. Meanwhile, the labor-affiliated super PACs Building a Better Pa. and Forward Philadelphia, which are supporting former City Councilman Jim Kenney, together raised almost $2.3 million. Compare that to the three frontrunners — Williams, Kenney and former District Attorney Lynne Abraham — whose campaigns each raised only $1 million-plus.
Will the funders of Philadelphia’s super PACs have undue influence over the next mayor? That’s a fair, and open, question. But there’s good news! The candidates themselves still must abide by the city’s campaign finance rules, which cap contributions at $2,900 for individuals and $11,5000 for political action committees. Read more »
City Council President Darrell Clarke laid out a plan last week to help fund Philadelphia’s cash-starved schools: He wants to sell liens on commercial properties, which he says could raise “millions of dollars” a year.
Clarke also suggested lien sales would give residents more faith in the city’s tax collection efforts. Currently, Clarke said, “This city cannot say with full confidence that it is doing everything it can to collect from those who owe.”
Tax lien sales have both major pros and cons. As the debate on education funding moves forward, let’s consider a few of them. First, the potential upsides:
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