Ethics Board Fines Two PACs That Supported Manny Morales

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics announced on Monday that it had reached a settlement with two political committees that supported Manny Morales, who narrowly lost a challenge to 7th District City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez in last year’s primary election. The 7th Ward/Friends of Angel Cruz PAC and the Latinos United for Political Empowerment PAC have agreed to pay a total of $8,000 in fines for making in-kind donations to Morales’ PAC that exceed campaign contribution limits, according to the terms of the settlement.

The two PACs coordinated spending and get-out-the-vote efforts with the Morales campaign, the Board of Ethics found in its investigation. LUPE spent $22,000 in coordination with the campaign, exceeding the $11,500 limit for donations from a political committee to a candidate in one calendar year. The 7th Ward/Friends of Angel Cruz PAC spent $48,325 in coordination with the Morales campaign, according to the settlement. Both PACs failed to disclose the in-kind contributions on campaign finance reports. Each of the four violations — two excessive contributions and two failures to disclose — each carries a fine of $2,000. Read more »

Clarke: Lack of Diversity in Some City Departments Is “Problematic”

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L to R: Darrell Clarke and Jim Kenney. | Photos by City Council’s Flickr and Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney was elected last year with a very broad, diverse coalition. Once in office, he promised to make his staff just as diverse.

At a budget hearing Wednesday, City Council members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of diversity in the top staff of departments overseen by Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Rhynhart. They include the Office of Innovation and Technology, the Fleet Management Office, and the public property, procurement and records departments, among others.

City Council President Darrell Clarke said at the hearing that only 22 percent of the executive staff in those departments are people of color. (This figure does not include the records department, for which data was not immediately unavailable.)

“That’s clearly problematic,” said Clarke.

Council members also said no minorities hold the top jobs at the Department of Public Property. In the Office of Fleet Management, there isn’t a single woman executive, lawmakers said.

“Based on research from boards across the country, when you have diverse boards, you actually get different and oftentimes better decisions,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “And so that’s why it matters to us that we have a city, particularly those in leadership, in executive positions, that look like the city of Philadelphia.”
Read more »

Here’s What You Missed at Last Night’s Lively Town Hall on the Latino Vote

Latino-Vote-1

Clockwise: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez, state Rep. Angel Cruz, former presidential assistant Daniel Restrepo and state Rep. Leslie Acosta.

Wednesday night, five politicos sat in a row, most wearing blazers and glasses perched on their noses, fielding questions from a pair of journalists who framed them, one on either side. There was a patriotic backdrop, and there was wine. Never mind the fact that two of the five, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and state Rep. Angel Cruz, have a tense political rivalry.

Along with School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez, state Rep. Leslie Acosta, and former presidential assistant Daniel Restrepo, Sánchez and Cruz spent the evening talking with Al Día’s executive editor Sabrina Vourvoulias and Philly Mag’s deputy news editor Holly Otterbein about the Latino vote in Philadelphia and beyond. The group dropped a lot of knowledge. Here’s what you need to know: Read more »

The Latino Vote Series — Join Us for a Different Kind of Conversation

Clockwise: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez, state Rep. Angel Cruz, state Rep. Leslie Acosta and Daniel Restrepo, former special assistant to President Barack Obama.

Clockwise: Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez, state Rep. Angel Cruz, former presidential assistant Daniel Restrepo and state Rep. Leslie Acosta.

Would a Donald Trump nomination drive Latino voters to the polls in November? Will Hispanics in Wyoming, New York and Pennsylvania back Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? If Ted Cruz won a contested nomination, would that help the GOP attract more Latino votes?

In the 2016 presidential race, the much-coveted Latino vote has been a hot topic of conversation. But as Al Día writes, many of these discussions have been “from the outside looking in at the Latino community nationally, regionally and locally.”

Join us for an event that will be completely different: On Wednesday, April 13th at 5:30 p.m., Al Día is hosting a town hall about the Latino vote with Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez, state Rep. Angel Cruz, state Rep. Leslie Acosta and Daniel Restrepo, the former special assistant to President Barack Obama. Al Día executive editor Sabrina Vourvoulias will moderate the discussion, joined by Citified editor Holly Otterbein. This is the first event in a series on the Latino vote. Read more »

Bill Would Create Municipal ID in Philly

quinones city hall

Maria Quiñonez-Sanchez

City Hall may soon issue its own “municipal ID” to Philadelphia residents, a new form of identification modeled on programs in New YorkSan Francisco and other big cities with large populations of undocumented immigrants.

Though immigrants aren’t mentioned in the press release Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez issued in support of the legislation — which she introduced at today’s Council meeting — she pointed to New York’s year-old IDNYC program as a model for the Philly effort. That program has been heavily promoted, and heavily covered, as aiding undocumented immigrants in that city, as well as homeless residents who otherwise find it difficult to obtain state-issued IDs.

Sanchez’s effort has the backing of Mayor Jim Kenney.

“There is no question that something must be done to help bring Philadelphians out of the shadows,” Kenney said in the press release. “Our entire city benefits when all of our residents can legally own an apartment, open a bank account, and otherwise participate in our economy and society fully.” Read more »

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez Wants to Make Philly the “BCorp Capital of the World”

Maria Quinones-Sanchez | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Sometimes, a business can do well by doing good.

That’s the idea behind so-called “BCorps” — businesses that pledge to achieve social goals while making profits. It’s an idea that’s gained popularity in the post-recession era — and attracted the eye of Philadelphia City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. On Thursday, she introduced a pair of bills to attract and keep such businesses in the city.

“BCorps keep an eye on the triple bottom line — people, planet and profit — proving that you can do well and also do good,” Sánchez said in a press release announcing the initiatives. “By expanding our existing sustainability incentives, we can make Philadelphia the BCorp capital of the world.” Read more »

The Sánchez Insurgency

MariaSanchez_01

Photograph by Jared Castaldi

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez woke to the smell of her house burning down. It was around 5:30 a.m. on March 28, 2014, and the Democratic City Councilwoman was in the middle of the bravest and possibly most boneheaded political campaign of her life. She had persuaded her Harvard-educated husband Tomas and three of her bright young Council aides to run against a group of entrenched Democratic incumbents in the General Assembly, even though they had little money, no profile and no meaningful allies.

Democratic Party boss Bob Brady and his ward leaders — especially those from Sánchez’s district — were aggravated. Sánchez had defied the party for years, but this? This was rebellion.

Smoke curled around Norris Square, a Puerto Rican community in North Philly. Sánchez and her husband were staying a few blocks away from their house at the time, at her brother-in-law’s apartment. They’d relocated, in part, because Tomas was challenging State Senator Tina Tartaglione, and Sánchez’s house was just outside Tartaglione’s district, while the brother-in-law’s was not. That maneuver infuriated the ward leaders all the more.

A man knocked on the door. As soon as Sánchez opened it, she knew what had happened. “Please don’t tell me that’s what I’m smelling,” she said aloud, and yelled for her husband. “He just started to cry,” she says. “He didn’t even go down there for hours. He just couldn’t.”

Sánchez, though, bolted down the road in her pajamas. She arrived, panting, and stared at the three-story rowhouse that had been her home for 17 years. It was engulfed in flames. This was where she’d married Tomas, raised her two sons, and built herself into one of the city’s most powerful political figures. Now, the windows were blown out. Her beloved Latino art collection was stained by smoke. Her family photos were melted. “I had been saying, in particular to my son Tomasito, ‘Let’s take a moment and scan all these pictures.’” They never got the chance.

Later that day, police showed her video footage of a possible arsonist. She couldn’t believe who was on the screen. “I was like, ‘This looks like Edwin. But it can’t be Edwin,’” she remembers.

Edwin Diana was a close friend of her oldest son, Edgar. Sánchez had known him since he was a little boy. She had just seen him, actually. “He was on the scene of the fire with us,” she says. “He brought us coffee. He was like, ‘Is there anything you need, Maria?’”

But as Sánchez saw it, there was something even more chilling about Edwin’s face on that grainy video: At the time, Edwin was living with the great-nephew of State Senator Tartaglione, Tomas’s opponent in the upcoming primary election. Sánchez feared that the Tartagliones — a powerful political family — might have been involved. She still has no evidence of that; Diana was convicted of burglary but acquitted of arson. (His lawyer argued that the fire was caused accidentally when Diana lit a candle in the home.) As for the Tartagliones, they adamantly deny any connection to the fire. That didn’t matter to Sánchez. “My son had seen a bunch of stuff in our political lives, but for the first time, I really felt he was scared,” she says.

“I told Tomas, ‘We need to get out of this business. This is not worth it.’” Read more »

Lawmakers Fight for Muslim Holidays to Be Recognized in Philly

Photo by Jeff Fusco

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 »

City Council Women to DA: Fire Porngate Prosecutors

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

This morning, as promised, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women held a press conference in City Council’s Caucus room in City Hall to release a statement (not a resolution, they were sure to clarify) demanding that the office of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams fire three of its prosectors who were part of the porngate email chain: Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington.

The statement, which was signed by all five female Council members, noted that “The emails which these men forwarded reportedly include women in compromising sexual situations with captions indicating advancing in the work place requires such acts, depiction of African American babies as violent from infancy, and stereotyping and ridiculing of gay men.” The statement takes specific aim at Fina, “whose involvement in prosecuting sex crimes makes this behavior all the more disgraceful.” Read more »

Watch Out, Seth Williams

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, center, accompanied by investigators Marc Costanzo, left, and Frank Fina, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, center, accompanied by investigators Marc Costanzo, left, and Frank Fina, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.

The women of the Philadelphia City Council are mad as hell, and they want District Attorney Seth Williams to know they’re not going to take it anymore.

Tomorrow morning, they are planning to join with the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women to denounce “the demeaning, misogynistic and racist emails” exchanged by former state prosecutors who currently work for Williams, according to Philly NOW president Nina Ahmad.

Ahmad said all of the women members of City Council have signed onto a statement condemning the dissemination of the “Porngate” emails. Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez confirmed this. Sánchez also said prosecutors in the email chain should be fired.

“These people make judgement calls on people’s lives every single day,” said Sánchez. “There’s so much questioning of our judicial system, from the police to the attorney general, and we don’t need to further complicate that with the perception that people making decisions about which cases go to trial think it’s okay to do what they did.”

This is a huge, huge deal. The fact that all of the women on City Council are holding Williams’ feet to the fire … well, that’s a lot of political pressure. And it’s just as interesting that Democrats on Council are calling out another member of their party. Read more »

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