The Brief: The 5 Council At-Large Candidates With the Best Signatures Game

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

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

A candidate has the opportunity to flex some muscle while collecting signatures for nominating petitions.

You only need to gather 1,000 legit signatures to get on the May 19th primary ballot for citywide office — but if a candidate amasses significantly more than that, they can theoretically inoculate themselves from a legal challenge and show the city that they’ve got a good ground operation. (Again, at least in theory. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady led the pack in signatures among mayoral candidates during the 2007 campaign, only to lose in the primary.)

March 17th is the deadline to file a legal challenge against a candidate over their nominating petitions. We told you how many signatures the mayoral hopefuls collected. What about the candidates in the second-most interesting race in town, the Democratic City Council At-Large tussle?

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How the Fight for Gay Rights Could Decide the City Council Race

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

Photo courtesy of Philly Bricks.

Philadelphia is one of the most-gay friendly cities in the United States. It has strong LGBT advocacy groups, a strong LGBT tourism scene, and strong laws protecting the LGBT community.

Yet, an out person has never been elected to the City Council.

If LGBT leaders in Philly and beyond have their way, that will change after this year’s municipal elections. Why now (besides the fact that it’s 2015)? There are two openly gay, viable candidates running for Democratic City Council At-Large in the May 19th primary; plus, many people in the LGBT community argue that the endorsement of an out Council candidate by the city’s Democratic Party is long overdue.

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The Brief: Ethics 2.0 in the Mayoral Agenda

Mark Headd

Mark Headd

In 2015, should a mayoral candidate’s ethics platform be taken seriously if it doesn’t address open data?

Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s former Chief Data Officer, argues that open data is a key part of any ethical government.

Almost three years ago, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order establishing the city’s open data policy. Headd writes on his blog:

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Education Firebrand Helen Gym Lands Big Union Endorsement, Donation for Council

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It’s official: The firebrand education activist Helen Gym says she is running for Democratic City Council At-Large in the May 19th primary.

Though she hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, she’s already got one major endorsement under her belt: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ executive board voted Thursday to support her.

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These Are the 88 Philly Schools Boston Consulting Group Recommended Closing

School District of Philadelphia

Education activist Helen Gym and a group of civil rights lawyers have won a two-and-a-half-year battle to get their hands on a secret report by consultants on proposed school closures.

The Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education, which Gym co-founded, first tried, and failed, to obtain the report by the Boston Consulting Group from the school district in 2012. When the state’s Office of Open Records ruled that the district had to release it, the district appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. The district lost, and appealed again to the Commonwealth Court.

On January 20th, the district finally decided to hand over the report and withdraw its appeal. Gym writes in The Notebook that it was quite revealing:

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Jim Kenney Will Upend the City Council Race, Too

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

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

The Philadelphia mayor’s race has changed overnight because Councilman Jim Kenney is soon jumping into it. So, too, has the Democratic City Council at-large race.

Philadelphians will now elect at least one new at-large Council member this year because Kenney must step down from his seat to run for mayor. With five Democratic at-large incumbents in the race previously, that was anything but guaranteed. (In this Democratic-dominated town, five of the city’s seven at-large seats are inevitably won by Democrats every four years.) Assuming that Council President Darrell Clarke doesn’t call for a special election to replace Kenney, here’s how his departure from the at-large race changes the game:

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How to Improve City Council

"And please, god, let me be re-elected.. Amen." Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page.

“And please, god, let me be re-elected. Amen.” Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page.

Philadelphia’s City Council is about as popular as I was in high school.

The legislative body’s approval rating stands at a sad 30 percent, according to Pew’s most recent survey. And that poll was conducted months before the local news media ripped City Council day after day for killing Mayor Nutter’s proposal to sell Philadelphia Gas Works behind closed doors. (You know you’ve screwed up when Dave Davies, perhaps the most measured reporter in town, calls you “cowardly.”)

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Bill Green Responds to Helen Gym: Honest School Dialogue Requires All the Facts

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From left: Bill Green (Jeff Meade, via Wikimedia Commons) | School District headquarters (Jeff Fusco) | Helen Gym (Alex Hogan, Flickr

In criticizing our decision to begin charging teachers for health benefits and directing the $44 million annual savings to schools, Helen Gym makes an important point: Unless the School Reform Commission is open to and responsive to public input, it cannot meaningfully improve public education in Philadelphia (“SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice—It’s Looting.”).

I share the value Ms. Gym places on winning “the public trust,” but she considerably weakens her credibility with the sloppiness and bad faith of her attack on the SRC.

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SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice — It’s Looting

gym-green-schools-940x540

From left: Bill Green (Jeff Meade, via Wikimedia Commons) | School District headquarters (Jeff Fusco) | Helen Gym (Alex Hogan, Flickr)

Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.

A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.

This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.

And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.

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