Mayor Jim Kenney made himself available to his constituents today — via Twitter — to answer any questions they had for him. At times, his sassy responses reminded us of the good ol’ days when Kenney tweeted about Jasmine oil, soft porn and how “smokin” Leslie Stahl is. These were our favorite questions and answers from today’s #AskKenney Twitter chat:
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Good morning, Philadelphia. The snow is beginning to fall and stick across the region. We’re not expected to get a lot — about an inch — but please be careful out there. Here’s what else you need to know:
Attacks return to the Schuylkill River Trail, arrests made.
The young men on bikes who have been robbing joggers, walkers and riders on the Schuylkill River Trail are back after going into hiding when police stepped up patrols on the trail. Trail users were relieved of cash and possessions in three separate incidents on two days this week, according to a 6ABC report. In the most recent incident on Wednesday, things got violent when the victim refused to unlock his cell phone and the young men began to punch and kick him. Police arrested four young men a few minutes after that incident, while other incidents reportedly remain under investigation. Residents living near the trail have been concerned about the attacks for months, and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has formed a task force to come up with ways to make the trail safer. Read more »
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Hannah Sassaman.)
Today, I’m 38 weeks pregnant. While I’m mildly (to hugely) unprepared for the roller coaster I know will hit when labor starts, my little family of three is excited to grow. One resource I’ve considered tapping for our ride to the hospital — a resource that has entered the scene since my daughter was born — is Uber.
I labored with my daughter through Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Our neighbors’ leaf-stuffed gutters overflowed through our window casings, bringing the storm into my bedroom as I paced through my contractions. By the time we were ready to go to the hospital, the only bridge left open between my West Philly home and Center City — taking us to Pennsylvania Hospital, more than 40 blocks away — was Chestnut Street. My husband drove at less than 10 miles per hour through the eye of the storm, through quiet, wet, humid streets.
For this round, we’ve been seriously considering skipping the drive and using Uber to get to the hospital. Uber has a killer mobile app, and payments happen automatically. It’s easy to see why the business has been growing exponentially around the world.
But Uber has its own risks for me and other Philadelphians — including marked discrimination against people who use wheelchairs, people with service animals, and, now, pregnant women in labor. Read more »
Market Street reimagined as more multimodal. | Image by Bryan Hanes and Parsons Brinkerhoff
Need proof of how far urbanists have come over the last few years? Mayor Jim Kenney is creating a brand-new position in his administration called the “Complete Streets Commissioner,” Citified has learned.
The National Complete Streets Coalition was founded more than a decade ago to ensure that roadways are not only designed for automobiles, but also for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt says the Complete Streets Commissioner will be tasked with “making sure our streets are as multimodal as possible, including advocating for protected bike lanes.”
This is the same Jim Kenney who, as a City Councilman in 2009, introduced legislation to increase fines for bikers who ride with headphones. I don’t point that out to suggest Kenney is not genuinely supportive of the Complete Streets movement, but rather to show how much things have changed politically in the last few years. On the same day in ’09 that Kenney unveiled his proposal, then-Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced a bill to require cyclists to register their bikes with the city. In 2012, against the cries of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Council gave itself the power to veto bike lanes. “The entire ‘mobility’ agenda … has long provoked epic eye-rolls whenever raised with the city’s political class,” Patrick Kerkstra wrote on Citified last year.
And now? Bikers and urbanists are a recognized political constituency in the city, deemed deserving of virtually their own commissioner. Read more »
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, left, speaks while New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks on during a news conference in March 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
The man who led Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on sugar, salt and fat in New York City is coming to Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney named him to lead the Department of Public Health on Monday morning.
Thomas A. Farley is known by critics for a brand of “dietary paternalism” that gets the government involved in the food and drink choices of its citizens — but is praised by admirers for helping New York dramatically increase the life expectancy of its residents.
Remember when New York tried to limit the size of sugary soda drinks that could be purchased? That was Farley’s brainchild.
“Dr. Farley’s ‘out-of-the-box approach’ to public health, along with his medical expertise and his experience running one of the largest health departments in the nation will make him a valuable asset to Philadelphia,” Kenney said in a statement announcing Farley’s appointment. Read more »
Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.
Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the United States. There are about 395,000 people living below the poverty line here, including 126,000 children. The city’s poverty is brutal, far-reaching and the root cause of many problems.
And yet an estimated 40,000 eligible Philadelphians failed to apply for the biggest antipoverty program in the nation last year. It’s called the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, and it gives qualifying city residents an average refund of $2,400. Add it all up, and that means Philadelphians left almost $100 million on the table. One. Hundred. Million. Dollars. That’s money that could have not only helped the poor, but also given a jolt to the local economy.
The City of Philadelphia wants to fix this. On Friday morning, Mayor Jim Kenney will launch a campaign to boost participation in the EITC program. Could his administration finally keep Philadelphians from missing out on millions? Read more »
Crews remove snow along Broad Street after a winter storm, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Mayor Jim Kenney’s communications office just released a statement about the city’s snow removal efforts, in what is surely (at least in part) an effort to stem the flow of diatribe locals have directed its way since flakes stopped falling over the weekend.
As of Monday evening, the Kenney administration says, ploughs had reached 1,800 miles of road. By noon Tuesday, they had swept through 200 more — rendering a total of 2,000 miles, or 80 percent of Philadelphia’s streets, “passable.” That means the roads “have been plowed so that cars can traverse them, but black top may not yet be visible.” Officials also say 80 percent — or 900 miles — of residential streets throughout the city are currently drivable.
The press release reminds us that Winter Storm Jonas brought the fourth biggest snow buildup in Philly history, and adds that Kenney and other officials say that they’re aiming to render all through streets drivable by the end of Wednesday. Read more »
L to R: Freeland Avenue in Northwest Philly as of Sunday, and Mayor Kenney on Inauguration Day. | Photos by Tim Haas and Jeff Fusco
As a candidate, Mayor Jim Kenney promised to ensure that “every neighborhood matters” in Philadelphia. His campaign motto was, in part, a not-so-subtle reference to his predecessor: Many politicos (and residents) believe former Mayor Michael Nutter focused more on Center City than other neighborhoods during his time in office.
One of the more straightforward ways for an administration to show that it values every neighborhood is to quickly plow small streets throughout the city — not just main thoroughfares downtown — after a blizzard. Kenney, acutely aware of this fact, said at a Saturday news conference in the midst of Winter Storm Jonas, “I spent most of my life in South Philadelphia. And up until the Street administration, it never got plowed.'” He vowed to “get to the small streets.”
Has the Kenney administration done that? Without conducting a massive survey of roads throughout the city, it’s impossible to know for certain how many small streets are currently free of snow. But it’s clear many residents think the city hasn’t done a great job. Philadelphians are kvetching on social media that small streets in Northwest Philly, South Philly and other areas have barely been plowed, if at all. They’re kvetching to the regular old media, too. “Some small side streets in South Philadelphia still looked Sunday as if they could have been scenes from Alaska or the Arctic,” wrote the Daily News. “Residents complained that the city had cleared bigger streets like Broad, Chestnut and Spring Garden — but that smaller streets had been untouched.” Even Kenney’s own boyhood street in South Philly still hadn’t been plowed as of Monday, the Inquirer reported. Read more »
Photo by Jeff Fusco
A group of activists erupted in applause at City Hall Thursday when lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution calling on the city and school district to recognize two Muslim holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. “When we submitted this, the question that came from some good, well-intentioned people was, ‘Well, why now? And should we do this now?'” said Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who sponsored the legislation. “The best time to dispel myths, the best time to find good-spirited people, is in the height of controversy.”
The Philadelphia Eid Coalition has been fighting since last year to convince officials to observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The School District of Philadelphia currently closes schools on Christmas, Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and even Columbus Day, but not on those two Muslim holidays. The city government, meanwhile, does not officially recognize either Muslim or Jewish holy days.
Jones, who practices Islam, says it is more important than ever to make Muslim people feel included in Philadelphia.
“Young people needed to know that they’re welcome in this building and in this city,” he said, “so that nobody can come along and lead them astray to some anti-American kind of environment.” Read more »
Police barricades blighting Center City and Fairmount Park. | Photos courtesy of Keith Cox
Look, we’re Philadelphians, so we get it: Messy sidewalks are just another part of daily life, like paying taxes or cleaning up dog crap. Would we like to see the deformities that riddle our city walkways smoothed? Sure. Would we welcome a reduction in our booming population of garbage jellyfish (read: plastic bags)? Yep.
For sanity’s sake, though, most of us just see this stuff and let it go. We trip over the piece of sidewalk that juts out like a concrete middle finger, and we shrug. We get smacked in the face by a piece of litter, and we heave a laugh-sigh at the universe’s indifference to man, and man’s indifference to the planet.
But another, crazier breed of sidewalk detritus — obstructions so colossal that a single unit alone could viably comprise a child’s seesaw — well, they really stick in Citified’s craw. So we decided it was time to investigate.
The objects in question are disassembled police barricades, left behind long after they’ve served their purpose.
According to Citified reader and 58-year-old Rittenhouse Square resident Keith Cox, who is as frustrated with these abandoned eyesores as we are, the last few months have seen a number of them springing up on ostensibly random blocks around Philly — pairs of yellow wooden planks that take up yards of sidewalk space, their corresponding end-pieces tilting haphazardly off to the side like misplaced letters from a giant’s alphabet. Read more »