Dear Amazon: Here Are 25+ Really Good Reasons for You to Come to Philly

Philly to be home to Amazon’s new HQ?

Amazon has outgrown Seattle, and the behemoth is on a newfound quest to find a home for its second North American headquarters. The new HQ, what’s been dubbed HQ2, would employ a whopping 50,000 and would cost a pretty penny to build and operate—$5 billion to be exact.

So naturally, such an announcement has already set off a wild race among our nation’s big cities (side eye to Pittsburgh) as Amazon is soliciting bids for the development and says its giving priority to locales with more than 1 million people. Philadelphia’s very own mayor, Jim Kenney, jumped into the fray on Twitter to express excitement at the idea that the City of Brotherly Love has a real chance to house one of the world’s most valuable companies.

The Philly tech and business community is already standing strong with Mayor Kenney on this one. I put a call out to the business community: Why would Philly be the best place for Amazon’s HQ2? Answers came pouring in within minutes.

So, Dear Amazon, here’s a shameless list of why you should absolutely come to Philadelphia: Read more »

Kenney Calls Out Philly Police Union Head Over “Divisive Words”

L: Jim Kenney (photo by Matt Rourke/AP) R: John McNesby (photo by AP/Joseph Kaczmarek)

This weekend, the nation learned that Philadelphia police union chief John McNesby had referred to Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating outside the home of a cop who fatally shot a black man as “a pack of rabid animals.”

At least, that’s how it seemed on Twitter and Facebook. Everyone from actor Kumail Nanjiani to Black Lives Matter supporter Shaun King to anti-feminist, anti-Islam pedophilia apologist Milo Yiannopoulos commented on the incident on social media. Rapper Killer Mike of Run the Jewels also called the union boss a “punk-ass” during a set at Made in America on Sunday. Read more »

Philly to Trump’s Big New State Dept. Hire: Your Company Owes Us $100K

Michael Karloutsos’s Water Works Restaurant and Lounge closed in 2015, when the Cescaphe Event Group took over. | Photo by Melissa Kelly

Michael Karloutsos, a political heavy-hitter who owned Philadelphia’s upscale Water Works Restaurant and Lounge for nearly a decade, landed a high-level job at the U.S. Department of State in July.

Perhaps that means his company can finally pay off the giant bill that City Hall says it owes.

In January 2016, an arbitrator issued a $403,903 award against Karloutsos’s now-shuttered restaurant, arguing that it had failed to pay years’ worth of utilities and gross sales fees to the city. The Kenney administration told Philadelphia magazine that Water Works hasn’t forked over $109,345 of that award.

Karloutsos declined to comment, but his wife and co-owner, Anastasia Karloutsos, said Water Works owes only $38,019 and will satisfy that debt by early 2018. Read more »

One of Us: Jim Kenney

Illustration | Andy Friedman

My name is … James Francis Kenney.

I grew up in … South Philly, at 3rd and Snyder. Mummerland.

I wanted to grow up to be … an actor or a lawyer. I guess I’m both.

I decided to run for public office when … I became insane. I’m kidding. I had to make a career for myself. I was working for Vince Fumo, I was getting to a certain age, and I wanted to do more public service.

One thing I miss about Old Philadelphia is … the Broad Street Bullies. I loved every one of them. Read more »

Stop Using the Poor to Justify Your Hatred of the Soda Tax

Sodas for sale in a refrigerated case

Photo by Marlith (license)

For reasons that I’ll get into later in this column, I don’t eat a lot of pie. But over the Fourth of July weekend, I had a slice of sweet potato pie from ShopRite, and it was pretty decent.

Grocery store entrepreneur Jeff Brown owns a chain of ShopRite and Fresh Grocer stores in places throughout Philly mostly populated by people of color — places that were once designated as “food deserts.”

He’s also one of the leaders in the movement to repeal the city’s sweetened beverage tax. When you walk into any of his stores, a section filled with drinks not covered by the tax — complete with the largest sign in the world hanging overhead announcing their levy-free status — practically grabs you by the throat.

When I talked with him about it on a mutual friend’s Facebook page, Brown told me the tax needed to be abolished because it was costing jobs. My response was that it needed to stay because, as a former teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, I saw how badly kids in our city need pre-K.

Then Brown broke out the “this tax hurts poor people” talking point that tax opponents have been using, and I got angry. Read more »

Historic Preservation Gets A Big Helping Hand From the National Trust

The designation of Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods as a National Treasure covers not just the well-known historic precincts of Center City — it extends to neighborhoods all over the city, from the factory town of Tacony to colonial Germantown to the 19th-century streetcar suburbs of West Philadelphia, shown here. | Photo: Neal Santos for the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The designation of Philadelphia as the first and so far only World Heritage City in the United Statea two years ago brought with it bragging rights but not much in the way of resources to preserve its historic character.

Today’s official announcement that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has added Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods to its list of National Treasures will do something to help preserve that character.

At a midday ceremony in the studio of the KieranTimberlake architectural firm, Mayor Jim Kenney, National Trust for Historic Preservation President and CEO Stephanie Meeks and Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Paul Steinke explained how the designation would both help the city bolster its historic preservation efforts and use its historic structures as engines of economic renewal, especially in the city’s more disadvantaged districts. Read more »

Meet Mayor Kenney’s Secret Girlfriend

Left: Mayor Jim Kenney and girlfriend Letty Santarelli board an IcelandAir jet in Philadelphia. Right: Santarelli waits at the airport.

Mayor Jim Kenney is doing all right for himself. Not only did he get to take a free trip to Iceland last week as part of IcelandAir’s new nonstop service to the island country, but he got to do so in the company of his secret girlfriend, Letitia “Letty” Santarelli. Read more »

First Nonstop Flight to Iceland From PHL … Stops in Boston

Photo | Victor Fiorillo

It was supposed to be a blissfully uninterrupted five-and-a-half hour trip to jagged peaks, blue lagoons, cascading waterfalls and the Northern Lights.

But Icelandair’s inaugural flight from Philly to the Keflavik International Airport, located about 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, took a little detour. The nonstop flight did, in fact, stop. In Boston. Much to the dismay of Mayor Jim Kenney, who was on board, as well as our reporter Victor Fiorillo.

The flight began experiencing technical problems around 10:40 p.m. while over Canada (apparently people on board detected a rubber smell) and was rerouted to the Logan International Airport, in Boston, where it landed around 12:30 a.m. Kenney, Fiorillo and the rest of the passengers are currently awaiting their next flight, set to depart from Logan at 4:30 p.m. and arrive in Iceland at 1:30 a.m.


Photo | Victor Fiorillo

City spokesperson Ajeenah Amir said the redirect was “obviously very out of the ordinary” and that “we and Icelandair are committed to doing all we can to ensure future travelers have a smooth travel experience on this new route.”

Yesterday marked the first day that Icelandair began offering nonstop flights between Philadelphia and Iceland. To kick off the flights, which will depart four days a week, Reyjkavik Mayor Dagur Bergþóruson Eggertsson took a two-day tour of Philly earlier this week, courtesy of Kenney, whose expedition is scheduled to include a dinner at the U.S. embassy and a trip to Iceland’s parliament.

Some commenters were having a bit of fun watching yesterday’s travel fiasco unfold.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

Poll: More Than Half of Pa. Voters Want to Legalize Weed

Image via Pixabay.

More than half of Pennsylvania voters – 56 percent – want to legalize marijuana, according to a new survey from Franklin & Marshall College.

According to the poll, support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time high in Pennsylvania. In 2006, when F&M first surveyed Pa. voters on the topic, just 22 percent of participants supported legalization.

Here’s how support breaks down along party lines, per the poll: 75 percent of independent voters are in favor of legalization, 65 percent percent of Democrats are in favor, and 44 percent of Republicans support legalization. Across the board, support has grown drastically since 2015, when the poll found that about 40 percent of Pennsylvania voters supported legalization.  Read more »

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