Why Voter Turnout Sucked in Philly’s Mayoral Race

APTOPIX America Votes

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

1. Voter turnout in Philadelphia wasn’t always so pitiful.

The gist: Only 27 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral primary last week. It wasn’t always like this. In 1991, 49 percent of Philly voters came to the polls. In 1987, 67 percent did; in 1971, a stunning 77 percent did. Other big cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have also seen voter turnout plummet in municipal elections over the past few decades. CityLab’s Daniel Denvir has a theory about why that may be: Read more »

The Challengers: Helen Gym’s Aim — To Make Council Holds Schools Accountable

Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

All week, Citified is featuring Q&As with leading at-large City Council Democratic challengers on topics of their choosing. The prompt was simple: if elected, what’s a problem you would you prioritize, and how would you address it? To keep the conversation substantive and on-point, we asked the candidates to focus on a relatively narrow question (i.e., not “schools,” or “crime.”)

Longtime schools activist Helen Gym is running an at-large campaign powered by an enthusiastic grassroots network of supporters, the backing of teacher unions and her own indomitable personality. Her presence on Council would surely shakeup a a legislative body that is, plainly, sick and tired of talking about the city’s struggling schools and the questions of how to fund them.

Gym would make schools her central focus if she is elected to Council. In particular, Gym wants to dramatically change Council’s approach to schools oversight, and that’s the subject she chose to discuss with Citified. Read more »

Did Helen Gym Trip Up on the City’s Campaign Finance Law?

Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

City Council candidate Helen Gym | Photo by Alex Hogan

[Update, 6:08 p.m.]: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers PAC and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania PAC both employ the same treasurer, Jack Steinberg, according to the Department of State’s website.

[Original, 2:39 p.m.]: Philadelphia’s campaign finance law is as strict as a nun: City candidates can accept no more than $11,500 annually from an individual political action committee.

Philly even has a rule on the books to prevent donors from evading the limit by making what is known as a “pass-through” contribution. PACs are barred from writing a maxed-out check to a candidate, then writing another check to a separate PAC, and asking that PAC to donate the funds to the same candidate.

Did City Council At-Large candidate Helen Gym just trip up on that rule? Read more »

The Brief: Democrats to Endorse Openly Gay Council Candidate for First Time Ever

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen's Facebook

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen’s Facebook

Bob Brady, chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, says City Council At-Large candidate Sherrie Cohen is expected to win the party’s endorsement.

Cohen tells us the policy arm of the city committee recommended her for an endorsement Saturday. She expects the full party to ratify the decision next month.

That could be a deciding factor in the City Council At-Large race (which, in all seriousness, is more interesting than the mayor’s race some days).

Read more »

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?

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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:

Read more »

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