Will Jim Kenney and Council Play Nice?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

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 »

Insider: Black Pols Will “Rue the Day” They Backed Kenney

The Kenney coalition. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

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 »

The Brief: Philly’s Strict Campaign Finance Rules Are a Success! Sort Of …

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 »

3 Arguments For, and 3 Against, Darrell Clarke’s Alternate School Funding Plan

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:

Read more »

Darrell Clarke: Fund Philly Schools By Cracking Down on Tax Deadbeats

Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr

Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

A Philadelphia lawmaker has a plan to fund the city’s schools and crack down on tax deadbeats at the same time.

City Council President Darrell Clarke introduced a bill Thursday that would expand the local government’s ability to sell liens on commercial properties.

He says it could raise “millions of dollars” annually for Philadelphia’s schools. He did not provide a more specific figure.

Read more »

The Brief: $1 Million Reasons Why Tony Williams’ Star Is About to Rise

Tony Williams. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Tony Williams. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

1. Pro-Williams super PAC ups ad buy to a cool $1 million.

The gist: Dave Davies reports for Newsworks that the American Cities Super PAC—that’s the one supporting Anthony Williams and funded mostly by those three super rich suburban traders—is upping its television ad buy to $1 million.

Why it matters: Well, that’s an awful lot of money, and it’ll buy a lot of TV time. It’s a particularly big figure in a campaign where the candidates themselves seem to have struggled raising cash. Some people wonder why Tony Williams is seen by many political pros as the favorite in this race, even if he’s not the current frontrunner. This is a big chunk of the reason why. Read more »

Clarke Wants ShotSpotter Tech for Philly

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Council President Darrell Clarke wants to bring ShotSpotter technology to Philadelphia in an effort to reduce shootings and track shooters.

The technology has been used for more than a year in Camden, where it’s credited with helping police reduce overall violence, and it’s now being rolled out in parts of New York City. The technology uses a series of sensors to detect gunfire and triangulate its location in real time, helping police respond quickly to a shooting scene if need be. Read more »

Who’s Afraid of Darrell Clarke?

Darrell Clarke

Darrell Clarke

City Council President Darrell Clarke—and by extension City Council as a whole—is showing in both words and deeds that Council intends to play a huge, perhaps dominant, role in city government now and in the future, no matter who is elected mayor. Read more »

City Council Won’t Debate Property Tax Hike Until After the Election

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

The Philadelphia City Council must decide in the next few months whether to support Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to raise property taxes by more than 9 percent to fund the cash-strapped schools.

That’s not an easy choice for legislators to make during an election year.

Lucky for them, that debate won’t take place until after the May 19th primary, in which 15 of 16 Council members are up for reelection. That’s because Council has scheduled its hearing on education funding for May 26th.

Read more »

The Brief: Doug Oliver Doubles Down on Being Vague

Last night, I interviewed long-shot mayoral candidate Doug Oliver at Venturef0rth as part of Citified’s new Candidate Conversations series.

Going into the Q&A, my big question was: Does Oliver deserve to be in the major leagues?

He’s never held elected office before. His exploratory committee had only $1,085 in the bank at the end of 2014. And yet, former Gov. Ed Rendell has called him “enthusiastic,” “refreshing” and “charming.”

During the interview, I found Oliver to be energetic and honest and passionate about the city. But he was also stunningly vague at times, and perhaps more surprisingly, unapologetic about his lack of specific proposals to fix the city’s problems. Toward the end of the Q&A, I told Oliver I thought the mayor’s race in general has suffered from a dearth of ideas. (You can watch the full exchange above.)

As a candidate who has pitched himself as someone with “fresh eyes,” I asked him what his big idea is for the city. He doubled down on being vague.

Read more »

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