OPINION: The City Tolerates the FOP’s Lack of Respect for Black Lives

police

John McNesby of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” After the recent shakeups in the city’s political scene, our politicians have been unusually reserved about confronting what has now become one of the biggest obstacles to anything progressive in Philadelphia — the Fraternal Order of the Police.

For some odd reason, it’s hard for elected officials to criticize the city’s police union: Do so in any form and you might be mistaken for denigrating their service to the community. But there is a difference between condemning the job and holding it accountable — welcoming the latter should be required of any group that receives taxpayer’s dollars. Read more »

OPINION: Philly Isn’t Charlottesville. It’s Worse.

Rizzo Statue Protest | Photography by Ernest Owens

“Who is more racist: The North or the South?”

That is the age-old question I’m often asked when I tell people I moved to Philly from Texas. Initially, my answer was the South, easily. Philadelphia, with its majority Democratic political base and socially progressive laws, was a clear contrast to the land of statewide bans I grew up in.

But after seven years of residing in Philly, I can’t help but reflect on my grandmother’s long-held response to that question: “What’s worse: a town that can’t seem to get any better no how, or one that doesn’t get any better by choice?”

And it’s that line of thinking that has made me realize that Philly is one of the most unapologetically racist cities around. Read more »

Philly Fireman Taking Heat for Charlottesville Post

fireman, charlottesville

FaceMePLS | Wikimedia Commons

The Philadelphia Fire Department and Mayor Jim Kenney have spoken out against what they called a “reprehensible” photo posted by a Philly fireman after the Charlottesville rally.

The fireman, John Deluisi, shared on Facebook a photo of himself holding a burning tiki torch and wearing a hat with a Confederate flag on it. The caption read “Headed to VA,” where dozens were injured and one woman was killed this past weekend as a result of violence spurred by a gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Read more »

Mayor Kenney Endorses Larry Krasner in DA’s Race

Mayor Jim Kenney (L) and District Attorney candidate Larry Krasner.

In an unsurprising move, although telling nonetheless, Mayor Jim Kenney officially endorsed Larry Krasner in Philadelphia’s upcoming district attorney’s race on Thursday.

The mayor described the Democratic primary winner as “a reasonable, fair and thoughtful arbitrator of dispensing justice” at a press conference held at City Hall this afternoon. Kenney made a point to specifically compliment Krasner’s work advocating for the homeless and LGBTQ community during the early dawn of the AIDS epidemic, “when federal, state and local governments ignored a bourgeoning public heath crisis.” Read more »

City Council Approves Major Reinvestment in Philly Neighborhoods

rebuild

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke | Courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council has approved Mayor Jim Kenney’s ambitious plan to reinvest in Philly’s public spaces.

Rebuild, also known as Rebuilding Community Infrastructure, would allocate $500 million over seven years to the restoration of the city’s parks, libraries, recreation centers and playgrounds. Through the project, the city aims to revitalize communities, improve diversity in the construction industry and foster economic progress and inclusion.

“Every Philadelphian deserves a recreation center, park and library that is safe, inviting and full of amenities, and because of the legislation that City Council passed [Thursday], we are one step closer to making these goals a reality,” Rebuild executive director Nicole Westerman said in a statement.

The Rebuild bill approved in a 16-1 vote Thursday would issue the first $100 million bond for the project. City Councilman David Oh was the only member to vote against the measure because he felt skeptical that it would live up to its diversity goals, according to Philly.com.

For months, council members had debated how exactly and to what extent Rebuild would actually diversify the city’s building-trades unions – a major goal of the plan. Over time, the city aims for minorities and women to comprise at least 45 percent of the workforce behind the project – a figure pulled in part from the 2016 Economic Opportunity Plan. In addition to other initiatives, the city expects unions to attain workers from PennAssist, a pre-apprenticeship program established between the trades and the University of Pennsylvania that helps provide a path to union membership for public school students.

The project – which would be made possible through a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation — is expected to revamp between 150 to 200 of the city’s 400 recreation centers, libraries, playgrounds and pools.

Some of the Rebuild funding would also come from soda tax revenue. The American Beverage Association’s lawsuit against the tax (which was struck down by Commonwealth Court this month) has stalled the issuing of bonds for the project. The ABA said it plans to appeal the court’s decision.

Kenney said he’ll sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

Kenney, Comcast Champion IoT Tech at Philadelphia Smart Cities Summit

Mayor Jim Kenney addresses the crowd at Philadelphia’s Smart City Summit, June 14th. Photo by Haley Weiss.

This week Mayor Jim Kenney welcomed representatives from tech and other industries across the globe to Philadelphia at the Smart City Summit, the culmination of a packed week of industry events hosted by the LoRa Alliance and Comcast’s machineQ. The summit followed up the 8th LoRa Alliance Open House & Marketplace, which showcased some of the world’s top data technologies.

While addressing attendees at the Franklin Institute, Kenney, who continues to show his support for Philadelphia’s growing technology scene, highlighted the importance of making the city’s growing innovation space inclusive and accessible.

“Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America,” he said, encouraging tech leaders to act as mentors for future innovators in Philadelphia’s schools. “Over the next thirty to forty years, unless kids in our struggling neighborhoods have access to technology and innovation, that poverty needle will never move.”

Kenney’s Rebuild program, which would renovate the city’s recreation centers, libraries, and city parks, will be an opportunity for the city to integrate technology into those spaces. The $500 million program was approved by Philadelphia City Council on Friday.

Read more »

Funding Secured for Penn’s Landing Makeover

The new park and civic space for which funding has been secured is part of a larger overall vision for transforming the central Delaware riverfront. | Renderings: Hargreaves Associates and redsquare unless otherwise indicated, via Delaware River Waterfront CorporationThat huge new lawn intended to suture the gash separating Old City from the Delaware riverfront is a go.

At a noontime news conference at Penn’s Landing, Gov. Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, and Janet Haas of the William Penn Foundation announced that together they have committed all but $10 million of the $225 million needed to build a new park and civic space between Chestnut and Walnut streets from Front Street to the water’s edge and a new signature pedestrian bridge across Columbus Boulevard at South Street.

The William Penn Foundation also announced at the news conference that it would help the city, the Commonwealth and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) obtain the last $10 million needed to finish the job. 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 »

OPINION: Mayor’s Commissions Are an Exploitation of Diverse Community Labor

City Hall | Photo by David Gambacorta

There’s no way to put this nicely — the racial diversity of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration sucks.

For a majority-minority city, somehow the bulk of top leadership positions at City Hall are occupied by whites (as seen in this February 2016 analysis by Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein) and seem set to remain that way. In June 2016, PolitiFact PA estimated that at least 60 percent of the Kenney administration’s head honchos are white, along with 61 percent of exempt employees making $90,000 or more annually. When it was revealed during last year’s budget hearings that people of color make up only 22 percent of executive staffers in departments overseen by the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), City Council president Darrell Clarke described the disparity as “clearly problematic.” Read more »

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