The Really Important Criminal Justice Conversation You Missed

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, WIlliam Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Rutgers professor Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, Redeemed founder William Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The one discussion this week that will probably impact Philadelphia the most in the not-too-distant future took place in a bar on Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Seth Williams were among a handful of city officials who participated in “Rethinking Crime and Punishment: A Next America Forum,” hosted by the Atlantic in the Field House, that spot you absentmindedly walk past all the time on Filbert Street across from Reading Terminal Market. Read more »

Womp Womp: Nobody’s Cheering for Philly at the DNC

Photo by Jared Brey

Photo by Jared Brey

One of my favorite things about big crowds is that you can sometimes make them scream and wave their arms around just by saying the name of the town they happen to be in at the moment.

Touring musicians do it to great effect. Politicians usually do, too. It’s not such a complicated thing: People like to have their location acknowledged. Even if you have nothing else in common with the rest of your crowd, you can all agree that you are in the same place, and that’s something to celebrate.

But the delegates gathered at the Wells Fargo Center for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia seem to be malfunctioning in this regard. Since the convention officially began at 4:30 p.m., there have been virtually no spontaneous outbursts of applause at the mention of our fair city.

Earlier, New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey leaned into the microphone to emphatically enunciate, “The City of Brotherly Love.” She left a healthy pause afterward for the inevitable cheers. But no. Nothing! Read more »

Kenney: Trump’s GOP Is the New Know-Nothing Party

jim-kenney-dnc-speech-940x540

Philadelphians know Mayor Jim Kenney as a man who is passionately pro-immigration. As a Councilman, he told anti-immigration protesters, “You can’t go through life hating.” On his first day as mayor, he signed an executive order making Philadelphia a sanctuary city again. And for years, Kenney has drawn parallels behind the way his Irish ancestors were treated in the 1800s to the way Mexican immigrants are treated today.

Kenney could have chosen to show the nation any number of sides of himself during his speech on Monday at the Democratic National Convention, the most high-profile address of his life so far. He could have talked up his pro-union or feminist bonafides. But with only three minutes to speak, and with the dystopian, dark anti-immigration speeches at last week’s Republican National Convention fresh in his mind, Kenney opted to focus on immigration.

He started his speech by recalling a shameful episode in Philadelphia’s and America’s history: the anti-Catholic riots in the 19th century. Irish Catholics were flooding the city; their numbers ballooned from 35,000 in 1830 to 170,000 in 1850. Nativists opposed the immigrants’ new way of living and worshiping — and they rioted. Read more »

WATCH: Here’s the DNC Stage Where Hillary Clinton Will Accept Nomination

It’s going to be a weird week.

Today, Democratic National Convention Committee chairwoman Rev. Leah D. Daughtry and Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled the stage and podium at Wells Fargo Center that will be used for the DNC next week.

Bleary-eyed reporters (perhaps none more than yours truly) covered the 7 a.m. event, which lasted only a few minutes. It was a preview of the pomp and circumstance Philadelphia will be getting for next’s week convention. The only possibly new information that we obtained was Jim Kenney offhandedly mentioning to reporters he used to attend WWE — he called the promotion by its old name, WWF — events when his son was a big wrestling fan as a child.

“There is no better city, no better backdrop, to showcase our party’s values than the birthplace of American democracy,” Daughtry said from the podium (the “reveal” of the podium was ostensibly the reason for this 7 a.m. press conference). “What you see here this morning is the result of many months of careful planning and dedicated work.” Read more »

Kenney, Other Philly Pols Added to Lineup of DNC Speakers

Jim Kenney Tom Wolf

L: Jim Kenney (Photo by Jeff Fusco) R: Tom Wolf (Photo by Matt Rourke)

The Democratic National Convention just got a bit more Philly.

Today, the DNC announced five more speakers for the event: Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey, and Congressmen Bob Brady and Brendan Boyle.

“As Donald Trump continues his divisive convention in Cleveland with dangerous ideas that would pose a threat to our economy and national security,” the DNC said in a release, “Democrats are preparing to lay out the clear stakes in this election in Philadelphia — a choice between building walls and tearing people down or an optimistic unifying vision where everyone has a role to play in building our future.” Read more »

Philly Workers and Businesses Might Get a Big Tax Cut … In Two Years

Photo credit: ryanoshea via Flickr.

Photo credit: ryanoshea via Flickr.

For years, a chorus of business leaders and policy wonks has been singing the same tune: The business and wage taxes in Philadelphia are too high, and they drive jobs to the suburbs.

It’s been a loud, harmonious chorus. It’s rare to find someone who disagrees. Opinions diverge, though, when the conversation turns to solutions. City government can’t easily lower business taxes, not with a huge hole in the pension fund and a school district perpetually starved for every dime of revenue it can get. And City Council is loath to again raise taxes on homeowners, an entrenched constituency that feels like the go-to source for revenue every time the city needs more cash.

But a remarkable thing happened earlier this month. State lawmakers took the first step toward allowing Philly to raise taxes on commercial properties without having to raise taxes on residential properties, too, as long as it matches the increase with a reduction in the wage and business taxes. It would be the first hole in the part of the state constitution known as the “uniformity clause,” which requires Pennsylvania cities to tax all real estate properties at the same rate. Read more »

Here’s Where Philly’s First Nine Community Schools Will Be Located

Photo | Jim Kenney

Photo | Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney hosted a press conference on Monday to announce the first nine community schools, which the city hopes to transform from education-only facilities to multipurpose community services centers over the course of the next year.

The first nine schools are located in South, Southwest, North, and Northwest Philly. The Mayor’s Office of Education selected the first cohort of schools from a number of applications, using input from residents at community meetings and neighborhood health and safety data. Five of the schools in the first round exceed the citywide rates for child poverty, asthma, obesity, and diabetes. Five schools are also located in police districts with the highest rates of gun violence and four schools have 20 percent or more ESL students.  Read more »

City to Host Immigration Forum During the Democratic National Convention

Photo | Jim Kenney

Photo | Jim Kenney

The Mayor’s office will host a discussion on immigration during the Democratic National Convention this month.

Mayor Jim Kenney will join Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, and Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, as well as national immigration experts for a discussion of immigration’s impact on the nation.

The immigration forum will also address how cities and businesses can build “inclusive and welcoming” communities without extensive federal immigration reform.

The forum will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on July 25th in the ballroom of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Read more »

After Dallas, Kenney Asks Philadelphians to “Be Willing to Hear One Another”

A Dallas police officer, who did not which to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. At least two snipers opened fire on police officers during protests in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A Dallas police officer, who did not which to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. Photo by LM Otero/AP

Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement Friday asking the citizens of Philadelphia to “listen and be willing to hear one another” after a violent and tense week in which several shootings across the country have gained international attention, frustration and anguish.

His statement comes on the heels of last night’s shooting in Dallas, which occurred during a Black Lives Matter protest and claimed the lives of five police officers and wounded seven others. Two civilians were injured. Read more »

Catholic League Head: Mayor Kenney Is “Un-American”

Bill Donohue, Jim Kenney

Catholic League head Bill Donohue and Mayor Jim Kenney

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is a group dedicated to “defending the right of the Church to promote its teachings with as much verve as any other institution in society.” It was founded by a Jesuit priest, but is led by a layman. Since 1993, Bill Donohue has been the Catholic League’s president. He frequently issues bombastic press releases about Catholicism and the public.

You know what’s coming. Yesterday, Mayor Jim Kenney called Philly Archbishop Charles Chaput’s directive to deny communion to gay, divorced and unwed couples “un-Christian.”

Today, Donohue and the Catholic league struck back. “James Kenney was elected mayor of Philadelphia,” Donohue wrote in a release. “He seems to think that gives him the authority, or qualifications, to run the Catholic Church in his city. It does not.” Read more »

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