Philly’s Public Defender: George Soros’s Associates Wanted Me to Run for D.A.

L: Keir Bradford-Grey R: George Soros (Courtesy of

L: Keir Bradford-Grey (Courtesy of the Defender Association) R: George Soros (Courtesy of GeorgeSoros.com)

Why would an up-and-coming progressive turn down billionaire George Soros?

That’s the question some Philadelphia Democrats are now asking, after chief public defender Keir Bradford-Grey told her employees last week that she would not run for district attorney in the upcoming Democratic primary. “This is the biggest D.A.’s race in the country,” said one incredulous political insider following the announcement. “Once you have [Soros’s backing], you can go on to be the U.S. attorney, to be the president!”  Read more »

Philly’s Biggest Winners of 2016

Clockwise: Outgoing U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger, Villanova Wildcats coach Jay Wright, Mayor Jim Kenney, state Rep. Martina White and actor Sylvester Stallone.

Clockwise: Mayor Jim Kenney, Villanova Wildcats coach Jay Wright, Olympian Nia Ali, actor Sylvester Stallone and outgoing U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.

Believe it or not, a few people actually succeeded in the otherwise godforsaken 2016. Here’s to all the do-gooders, overachievers, strivers, thrivers, and folks who won so much they got tired of the winning. Read more »

The Quiet Commissioner: Inside Richard Ross’s First Year as Top Cop

Richard Ross smiles during his swearing in ceremony as Philadelphia’s new police commissioner, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, at his alma mater, Central High School, in Philadelphia. Ross said his top priority is reducing crime while improving community relations in what he called “a challenging time for law enforcement.”

Richard Ross waited a decade for the chance to get into this chair.

It’s a smooth, ergonomic number with a high back — a captain’s chair, positioned at the head of a long conference table inside a heavily wood-accented office on the third floor of police headquarters. He looks comfortable sitting there, the well-practiced understudy who’s finally gotten his crack at the lead role.

Ever since 2005, when then-Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson promoted a 40-something Ross from Homicide Unit captain to deputy commissioner, the consensus within the department’s many gossipy cliques was that he would end up with the top job sooner or later. He was a straight shooter, police insiders would say, a decent man who was smart as hell to boot. Read more »

In 2016, Jim Kenney Reminded Us How Effective a Seasoned Politician Can Be

Illustration by Nathan Arizona

Illustration by Nathan Arizona

Jim Kenney doesn’t want to be here. It’s mid-October, and we’re meeting in his sprawling office in City Hall to talk about something that should make him want to regale me like Homer: his first year as mayor.

The year 2016 may have been a disillusioning, disgusting, degrading slog for many Americans, but for Kenney, it was phenomenal. He shoved a soda tax through City Council, making Philadelphia the country’s first big city to pass such a levy and crushing the omnipotent beverage lobby in the process. He convinced lawmakers to spend a boatload of cash on his campaign priorities: expanded pre-K, community schools, and a $500 million overhaul of city parks, libraries and rec centers. He also persuaded 53 percent of Philadelphians that he’s doing a good job.

But Kenney isn’t happy, at least not at the moment. “There are good days, and there are bad days,” he tells me when I greet him. His eyes are bloodshot. His shirt and tie don’t match. Read more »

Council Members Push to Protect More of Philly’s Historic Architecture

The three buildings at left in this photo are the ones Toll Brothers has acquired in connection with its plan to build a mixed-use residential-retail structure in the heart of Jewelers’ Row. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

The three buildings at left in this photo are the ones Toll Brothers has acquired in connection with its plan to build a mixed-use residential-retail structure in the heart of Jewelers’ Row. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

A bill introduced in City Council on Thursday morning could end up nearly doubling the budget of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, a small department charged with protecting the city’s historic architecture that preservationists say has barely enough resources to do its most basic jobs.

The bill, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and co-sponsored by Mark Squilla and Al Taubenberger, and supported by the Kenney administration, would enact fees for permits that need to be reviewed by the Historical Commission. Commission staff currently must sign off on building, alteration, and demolition permits that affect historic properties and districts. That work takes up the vast majority of staff time, leaving little time left over to identify and designate historic properties, as the commission’s director, Jon Farnham, has acknowledged. Read more »

Enough With the Free Turkeys, Politicians — Get Serious About Reducing Poverty

Whole Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey

The older I get, the more I realize that for all of the progress Philadelphia prides itself on, there is still so much that needs to be done.

As I look around my West Philly neighborhood, not enough has changed in recent years to end the harsh realities facing inner-city Philadelphians each day. Every morning when I catch the Market-Frankford SEPTA line down 52nd Street, I pass by the same guys on the corner who are selling drugs as a way to survive. They’re young, black and unemployed — they’re partaking in a hustle that I’ve learned to not judge given that they’re not afforded many other alternatives. When entering the station, I also encounter similar traumatic images of homeless individuals sleeping near the stairwell.

And yet, each year our local elected officials give out turkeys instead of legislation to address the poverty that’s been plaguing our city for decades now. There’s something symbolic about this well-meaning tradition: It’s a Band-Aid on an epidemic, an action meant to look good (and make elected officials feel good), but that actually does very little. We’re still the poorest major city in the nation, and almost nothing has changed since officials announced an anti-poverty plan in 2013.  Read more »

To Resist Trump, Fix Philly’s Elite, Boring, Anti-Competitive Democratic Party

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah.

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah. Photos Jeff Fusco, Pa. House, Matt Rourke via AP

Philadelphia’s Democratic Party suffers from the same cancer as the national Democratic Party. Only it’s arguably much more advanced.

Think the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders behind closed doors? In Philadelphia, the Democratic City Committee paves the way for its preferred candidates out in the open, without any shame: Before the mayoral primary even started, Philly Democratic Party boss Bob Brady publicly threw his weight behind state Sen. Tony Williams. The party puts its thumb on the scales in Democratic primaries for the judiciary, City Council and General Assembly, too, and its endorsements matter even more in these races because so few people pay close attention to them.

Think the national Democratic Party turns a blind eye to corruption? Earlier this year, the Democratic City Committee endorsed Chaka Fattah for Congress after he was charged with using taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to pay back an illegal loan. How could the party do this, as its schools were starving and its constituents were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty? Oh, but it gets worse: This month, Philly Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta was reelected after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering at a mental health clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Imagine how selfish you have to be to run for office after admitting to bilking the most vulnerable among us — and imagine how little she’ll be able to get done for her constituents, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants, now that she’s the laughingstock of Harrisburg. The list goes on and on. Over the summer, the FBI raided the offices of Democratic Councilman Bobby Henon and subpoenaed Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign finance records. The feds are also reportedly investigating Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams.

Think the national Democrats are boring and not liberal enough? Let me introduce you to Katie McGinty, the uncharismatic Senate candidate who lost to Pat Toomey in an election that Democrats desperately needed to win in case of a Donald Trump upset. A lot has been made of the fact that McGinty, a moderate who supports fracking and is wishy-washy on sanctuary cities, received millions of dollars from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the primary. What has gotten much less attention is the fact that she was just as much a product of the Philadelphia Democratic Party as the DSCC. Everyone from Brady to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter to numerous City Council members backed her in the primary over Democrats John Fetterman and Joe Sestak, two anti-establishment figures who might have fared better in a year in which people were clearly crying out for change. Read more »

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