The Brief: Why No One in Philly Smokes Anymore

1. Philly’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low.

The gist: CBS3 reports that “the percentage of adult Philadelphians who smoke has dropped from 27.3 percent in 2008 to 22.4 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.” Even more impressive: A drop took place among all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the city, and it happened after smoking rates went up in 2000 and 2008. Also, the recent smoking rate doesn’t factor in the full impact of Philly’s new cigarette tax, which has likely caused smoking to become even less common. Read more »

The Brief: Police Shootings Plummet 62% in Philadelphia

A Philadelphia Police Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

A Philadelphia Police Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

1. Police shootings fell 62 percent between 2012 and 2014.

The gist: 2012 marked a modern high for police shootings: City cops fired at civilians 104 times that year, killing 16 and injuring 32. Last year, the number of shootings dropped significantly. reports that police fired at civilians 40 times in 2014, killing four and injuring 21; so far this year, they killed one person and wounded seven. “This is exactly what we want to see,” Kelvyn Anderson, the director of the watchdog group Police Advisory Commission, told “Whatever the department is doing, this is exactly where we want it to go.”
Read more »

How Johnny Doc Almost Took Out Maria Quiñones-Sánchez


From L to R: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and electricians union leader John Dougherty.

How in the world did an allegedly gay-hating, voter ID-loving racist who no one has ever heard of nearly beat an incumbent Democratic Councilwoman who both John Street and Bill Green III believe will be mayor one day?

That question has stumped political insiders since the Philadelphia primary battle between Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, the two-term Councilwoman, and Manny Morales, whose Facebook page likened gay men to flatworms and did a whole lot of other crazy stuff. Sánchez won the election with only 53 percent of the vote.

Reporter Max Marin offers a potential answer in Al Dia that is pretty intriguing — and which has big implications for the Sánchez’s political future. Read more »

Is Bad Data Costing Philly Millions?

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

When governments collect bad data, it isn’t just a headache for bureaucrats and taxpayers. It can also cost states and cities millions of dollars. Take California, where workers in the Controller’s Office incorrectly recorded eight hours of leave as 80 and even 800 hours time and time again, adding up to $6 million worth of mistakes. Or Oregon, where an employee error led to a contractor receiving a check for $1,748,304.24, although it was supposed to get just $323.88.

California and Oregon aren’t alone. We may live in the age of Big Data, but a new report by Governing found that governments throughout the country still collect reams of shoddy data: Read more »

Should the Parking Authority Have the Power to Ticket … Everything?

Should the Philadelphia Parking Authority be put on the case?

Should the Philadelphia Parking Authority be put on the case?

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney wants the Philadelphia Parking Authority to turn its hyper-vigilant gaze on construction sites, littering, illegally closed sidewalks and possibly an array of other commonplace city code violations, reports Ryan Briggs for’s Next Mayor project. Writes Briggs:

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney says, if elected, he wants the Philadelphia Parking Authority to issue even more tickets — in addition to the parking variety for which the army of meter readers are already notorious.

He would like to see the PPA issuing tickets for things like litter and sidewalk violations on behalf of the Streets Department or checking construction and dumpster permits for the Department of Licenses & Inspections.

“We need to extend the ability to other departments…to issue tickets. I would like to do that with the Parking Authority,” he said. “We have people, city employees, out in the neighborhoods. They shouldn’t be working in silos, they shouldn’t be cross purpose to each other — and help each other do their jobs.”

It’s an absolutely fascinating idea. What’s more, it’s an early insight into the way a Mayor Jim Kenney might operate. Read more »

The Brief: Millennials Didn’t Vote This Year, Like At All

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

1. Voter turnout among millennials was abysmal in the mayoral election.

The gist: Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral election, according to newly released data from the City Commissioners office. Millennials make up the largest bloc of registered voters in the city, though you wouldn’t know it on Election Day. As BillyPenn reported, “There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000.” Read more »

Behind the Scenes With Jim Kenney’s Twitter Brain Trust

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Depending on your point of view, Stephanie Waters either has the best or worst job in Philadelphia politics. She’s the digital director for Jim Kenney, the city’s presumptive next mayor.

That means she’s in charge of Kenney’s famed Twitter account, where he remarked as a city councilman that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was “fat assed,” that Justin Bieber may have benefitted from a beating, and much, much more. As a mayoral candidate, Kenney’s account has turned relatively tame, so much so that some have wondered if his staff occasionally bans him from using it.

In a brief Q&A, we asked Waters if there is any truth to that rumor and more. Her responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Read more »

The Brief: Shane Montgomery’s Mom Presses for More Surveillance Cameras in Philly

Shane Montgomery

Shane Montgomery

1. The mother of Shane Montgomery testified in favor of a bill that would beef up the number of surveillance cameras in the city.

The gist: Last year, 21-year-old college student Shane Montgomery apparently drowned in the Schuylkill River after drinking at Kildaire’s Irish Pub in Manayunk. Kildaire’s did not have a working outdoor camera, and Montgomery’s body wasn’t discovered until weeks after his death. In the wake of the tragedy, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. introduced a bill in February to require all city establishments that serve alcohol to install a surveillance camera outside. NewsWorks reports that Montgomery’s mother, Karen, told Council on Monday, “I have no delusions that any camera would have saved my Shane. However, I am convinced without a doubt that had video shown his direction upon leaving his last stop, the suffering endured during searches without direction would have been lessened.” Read more »

The Brief: How Jim Kenney Is Like John Belushi


1. The inside story of how the Jim Kenney campaign started with nothing and won with 56 percent of the vote.

The gist: When Jim Kenney launched his last-minute mayoral campaign, he started the race with just $75,000 and a 14 point deficit, according to internal polling. “It felt like The Blues Brothers,” Kenney campaign strategist Ken Snyder told the Inquirer’s Chris Hepp. ‘It’s dark out, we’re wearing sunglasses and we’re out of gas. Let’s hit it.’ ” Snyder and Kenney pollster Anna Greenberg look back on the unlikely Kenney rout in this piece by Hepp. Some of the key nuggets here: the campaign initially was at times more worried about Lynne Abraham than Anthony Williams, the Dwight Evans‘ endorsement was in fact just as central to Kenney’s victory as the news coverage at the time suggested, and Kenney’s staff was baffled that it took so long for Williams to go negative. Read more »

Progressives Won the Philly Election? You Sure About That?

The victorious Jim Kenney on Election Day| Photo by Jeff Fusco

The victorious Jim Kenney on Election Day| Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia is suddenly a progressive utopia.

At least, that’s what you might believe after reading articles about the city’s primary election in the national media.

Jim Kenney, a former Philadelphia city councilman who has cast himself as a progressive in the mold of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, handily defeated five other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for mayor Tuesday,” reads the first sentence of The New York Times article about the race.

The Atlantic went a step further, writing that “progressives scored a victory” because the mayoral race “pitted a crusading left-winger against a charter-school advocate backed by suburban hedge-fund magnates” and “this time, the left-winger … actually won.” Even Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News declared that it was a new day after Kenney, “who ran on the most progressive platform of a major Philadelphia mayoral candidate in our lifetimes,” won in a landslide, at the same time that education activist Helen Gym succeeded in her campaign for City Council.

Not so fast. Read more »

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