There Might Be a Car-Free #OpenStreets Weekend This Fall

Cyclists take to the streets during the “Pope Ride” Saturday. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

During Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last year, cyclists took to the open streets. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

Philadelphia may have its first official “Open Streets” event early this fall. Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city is “planning to do an event in the Sept./Oct. timeframe.”

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for hearings on Open Streets weekends, which would keep cars off of certain streets at certain times to open them up for pedestrian and bike traffic. The resolution refers to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last September, when cars were prohibited on many streets downtown, as “a de facto Open Streets weekend for the residents of Center City.” After that visit, advocates started passing around a petition for more Open Streets events, and eventually a few people made Open Streets PHL an official campaign. Read more »

Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders Is Wrong About the Soda Tax

Randi Weingarten Bernie Sanders

L: Randi Weingarten (Damian Dovarganes/AP) R: Sen. Bernie Sanders (Matt Rourke/AP)

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Randi Weingarten, written in response to an op-ed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and a member of a coalition of labor unions and civic groups supporting the mayor’s soda tax proposal.)

Philadelphia’s students deserve a fair shot to succeed, and Mayor Jim Kenney has a plan to significantly boost funding for critical programs.

The mayor is proposing a significant increase in pre-kindergarten, to provide 25,000 kids a chance to get their education started early. And he’s proposing to expand community schools that provide critical services like health care and counseling to students who often can’t access the support they need to thrive.

You’ve probably heard the corporate spin, but here’s the truth about Mayor Kenney’s soda tax proposal: It would tax corporate profits — not consumers — and generate $400 million to fund programs to give Philadelphia’s children safe communities and a quality public education. Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide: 2016 Election’s Biggest Winners and Losers

From L to R:

Clockwise: Mayor Jim Kenney, state Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Darrell Clarke, U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman and labor leader John Dougherty.

Oftentimes, elections feel like they’ve been decided by the powers that be before they’re even over. The 2016 primary was different: It was full of genuine nail-biters. At 8:30 p.m., I headed to state Rep. Dwight Evans’ Election Night party at Temptations on Chelten Avenue, and everyone around me spent the first hour-and-a-half of the celebration hunched over, obsessively refreshing the Department of State’s website on their phones as votes from different areas were counted. They weren’t just tracking Evans’ bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat — they were also following the Attorney General’s race, which looked like it might be won by Stephen Zappala at the beginning of the evening, as well as several close state legislative races.

By the end of the night, a seemingly unstoppable labor leader had lost, along with an indicted congressman, a bajillion-year incumbent, and a state representative who is part of one of the most powerful political machines in the city. What a wild election.

The Winners

1. The Northwest Coalition

The Northwest Coalition, led by Evans and former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, helped put Jim Kenney in the mayor’s office last year. The alliance was also instrumental in electing Derek Green and Cherelle Parker to Council. Now, one of its own is going to Congress — Evans defeated U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in the 2nd Congressional District race yesterday. (Yes, Evans will technically face Republican James Jones in the fall. But, with the district being overwhelmingly Democratic, we all know how this movie ends.) Another sign of the organization’s rising power: Relish, the Northwest Coalition’s Election Day lunch spot, drew bigger crowds yesterday than Famous 4th Street Deli.

What does this mean for the future? Good things for Parker, potentially, if she runs for mayor in 2023. It could also mean bad things for District Attorney Seth Williams if the Northwest Coalition decides to support a challenger when he runs for reelection next year. (Tasco isn’t a fan of Williams’.) It’s worth noting, however, that the coalition did suffer one loss yesterday, which proves it isn’t indestructible: state Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, its pick in the 200th House District race, was not reelected. Read more »

Relish Was Hot on Election Day — While Famous 4th Street Deli Was a Ghost Town

State Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Derek Green, former Mayor John Street, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Tom Wolf were among the many politicos at Relish today.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, Councilman Derek Green, former Mayor John Street, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Tom Wolf were among the many politicos at Relish today.

This year, Josh Shapiro didn’t go to the power crowd’s longtime Election Day lunch hangout Famous 4th Street Deli. Instead, the Democratic frontrunner in the Attorney General’s race dined at the other, newer power lunch spot in Philadelphia: Relish, a Southern restaurant in West Oak Lane that serves immaculate fried chicken and mac and cheese. “This is where real folks come to enjoy themselves in the middle of a busy Election Day,” Shapiro told me, as he worked the room in a crisp blue jacket and rimless glasses. “I enjoy the camaraderie here.”

Shapiro wasn’t alone. While the Famous 4th Street Deli managed to attract only a small crowd Tuesday, Relish was awash with politicos. Gov. Tom Wolf was there. So was Mayor Jim Kenney, who appeared on a live show on 900AM WURD that was broadcast  from the restaurant. U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty was there, too. Ditto former Mayor John Street, District Attorney Seth Williams, Pennsylvania Democratic Party leader Marcel Groen, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Sen. candidate Sharif Street, state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Councilman Derek Green, Laborers business manager Ryan Boyer and … the list goes on.

Is Relish officially the new place for politicos to see and be seen on Election Day? “This place is taking over,” said Leach, who was noshing with Aren Platt, a political advisor to Councilwoman Cherelle Parker. “I grew up on Jewish deli food, so Famous always has a special place in my heart. But I gotta tell you, this place is terrific. We shall see how this rivalry plays out over the next few years.”

State Rep. Dwight Evans built Relish into the hot spot that it is today. He and former Councilwoman Marian Tasco are the leaders of the Northwest Coalition, a powerful alliance of black politicians that gained a great deal of political clout when it decisively endorsed Kenney in the mayor’s race. The fact that pols swarmed Relish, as Famous 4th Street Deli looked like a ghost town, underlines how much power the coalition has gained in the last year. Read more »

Bernie Sanders Op-Ed: A Soda Tax Would Hurt Philly’s Low-Income Families

Photo courtesy of the Bernie Sanders campaign

Photo courtesy of the Bernie Sanders campaign

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator representing Vermont. Pennsylvania’s primary is Tuesday.)

I applaud Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney for introducing a plan to provide universal preschool for all of his city’s 4-year olds. I strongly share the goal of ensuring that every family has access to high-quality, affordable preschool and childcare.

But I do not support Mayor Kenney’s plan to pay for this program with a regressive grocery tax that would disproportionately affect low-income and middle-class Americans.

I was especially surprised to hear Hillary Clinton say that she is “very supportive” of this proposal. Secretary Clinton has vowed not to raises taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year. For reasons that are not clear, she has chosen to abandon her pledge by embracing a tax that targets the poor and the middle class while going easy on the wealthy. That approach is wrong for Philadelphia, and wrong for the country. Read more »

Kenney Wants to Slash Funding For Philly’s Film Office By 50 Percent

Mayor Kenney (Matt Rourke/AP), Sharon Pinkenson

Mayor Kenney (Matt Rourke/AP), Sharon Pinkenson.

This is not exactly a great time for the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.

The flow of major film projects in the region has slowed to a trickle. The state’s Film Production Tax Credit was among the countless programs that were held hostage by the long-running budget debacle. And even with the budget standoff now kinda-sorta-somewhat-temporarily resolved, Hollywood isn’t exactly beating down Philadelphia’s front door like it did a decade ago, when it seemed like you couldn’t walk two blocks without running into Bradley Cooper or Mark Wahlberg. (OK, slight exaggeration. But you know what we mean.)

The film tax credit is still capped at $60 million, a sum that’s quickly devoured once it’s divided between Philly, Pittsburgh and other pockets of the commonwealth. And now it looks like the film office will have to get by with less funding from the city, too.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year aims to cut the amount of the money the film office receives by almost 50 percent, from the $163,952 that was doled out in fiscal year 2016 to $83,952. Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: Faith Leaders Are Advocating for Pennsylvania Fairness Act


Faith leaders and congregations have joined Equality Pennsylvania in pushing state legislators to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.

Last weekend, 18 Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish and Episcopalian congregations joined forces with Equality Pennsylvania to push elected officials in Harrisburg to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. The act, currently known as HB 1510 and SB 974, would add protections for gender identity/expression and sexual orientation to Pennsylvania’s existing Human Relations Act,, which was passed in 1955. Read more »

Bernie Sanders Says Kenney’s Soda Tax Is “Regressive”

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign stop, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Overnight, Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed soda tax has inexplicably become a presidential issue.

On Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in support of the tax as a way to fund expanded pre-K. Now, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is weighing in. He announced on Thursday that he is opposed to the tax.

“Making sure that every family has high quality, affordable pre-school and childcare is a vision that I strongly share,” he said in a statement. “On the other hand, I do not support paying for this proposal through a regressive tax on soda and juice drinks that will significantly increase taxes on low-income and middle class Americans.” Read more »

Kenney’s Soda Tax Gets a Big-Name Supporter: Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Texas Southern University Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Houston.

The war over Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal to tax sweetened beverages is fierce. The soda lobby is spending at least $1.5 million to oppose his plan, and Council members are raising pointed questions about it. Meanwhile, a coalition of numerous civic and labor organizations is lobbying hard for the levy.

On Wednesday, Team Soda Tax got a boost: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in favor of Kenney’s plan. CNN reports that she discussed Kenney’s proposal, which would fund expanded pre-K and other initiatives, at a forum hosted by a gun control group. Read more »

Kenney Bans City-Funded Travel to North Carolina, Mississippi

Mayor Jim Kenney is placing a ban on non-essential city-funded travel to the states of North Carolina and Mississippi, Nellie Fitzpatrick, the city’s director of LGBT affairs, announced at a City Hall press conference Wednesday afternoon. The ban is in response to controversial new laws in those states — North Carolina’s H.B. 2 and Mississippi’s H.B. 1523 — that limit protections on LGBT persons.

Fitzpatrick made the announcement flanked by Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine, who was in the city to discuss the importance of passing statewide non-discrimination legislation in the wake of Governor Wolf’s executive orders, and Rue Landau, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Read more »

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