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”


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?


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 »

5 Things to Know about Darrell Clarke’s Massive Jobs Plan

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

On Inauguration Day, City Council President Darrell Clarke announced in a semi-mayoral speech that he would soon unveil an energy savings program that would create more than 10,000 jobs. “Stay tuned for more on that,” he said.

On Monday, with numerous bigwigs flanking him in the Mayor’s Reception Room, Clarke finally revealed the details of the massive, $1 billion, 10-year plan. Well, sort of. Here are five things you need to know about it: Read more »

Lawmakers Fight for Muslim Holidays to Be Recognized in Philly

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

A group of activists erupted in applause at City Hall Thursday when lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution calling on the city and school district to recognize two Muslim holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. “When we submitted this, the question that came from some good, well-intentioned people was, ‘Well, why now? And should we do this now?'” said Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who sponsored the legislation. “The best time to dispel myths, the best time to find good-spirited people, is in the height of controversy.”

The Philadelphia Eid Coalition has been fighting since last year to convince officials to observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The School District of Philadelphia currently closes schools on Christmas, Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and even Columbus Day, but not on those two Muslim holidays. The city government, meanwhile, does not officially recognize either Muslim or Jewish holy days.

Jones, who practices Islam, says it is more important than ever to make Muslim people feel included in Philadelphia.

“Young people needed to know that they’re welcome in this building and in this city,” he said, “so that nobody can come along and lead them astray to some anti-American kind of environment.” Read more »

Insider: Like Wall Street Bankers, Philly Pols Get a Golden Parachute

Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. Photo | City Council Flickr

Former Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. | Photo courtesy of City Council Flickr

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

How many Sherlock Holmes mysteries have we read where, at the end, our sophisticated sleuth declares that the murder weapon was hidden in plain sight? The lesson is: Never fail to connect the dots that are evident.

These little clumps of wisdom, and more, slowly swooped through my mind as I read that City Council President Darrell Clarke had hired W. Wilson Goode, Jr. as a senior policy advisor. You’ll recall that Goode had walked the dimly lit halls of City Council since 2000. But he lost his bid for yet another term last year, and faced the cold, cruel prospect of life outside the Council Bubble.

Goode was a respected, progressive legislator who passed more than 140 bills in his career, but the idea of him — or any politician — making a permanent living on the public payroll is upsetting. It suggests the self-dealing chicanery of former Council members Marian Tasco and the late Joan Krajewski, both of whom faked their own retirements in order to collect huge pension payouts. Read more »

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