Council Candidate Sherrie Cohen Calls for Boycott of City-Sponsored Travel to Indiana

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen's Facebook

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen’s Facebook

The gay rights movement backtracked several years last week when, in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which effectively legalized discrimination against LGBT people. The action spurred several advocates to take a stand, including San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, who signed an executive order that stated: “Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety.”

Today Philadelphia City Council At-Large candidate Sherrie Cohen is following his lead, by asking Mayor Nutter to sign an executive order boycotting city-sponsored travel to Indiana. Her wishes were made clear in an email sent out this afternoon. You can read it below:

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How Bike Lanes & Shared Streets Pay for Themselves, and Then Some

Shared streets, like this proposed project in Seattle, make room on the roadway not just for cars, but for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders as well. | Rendering by Mithun.

Shared streets, like this proposed project in Seattle, make room on the roadway not just for cars, but for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders as well. | Rendering by Mithun.

New research suggests that “Complete Streets” — those carefully designed, multi-modal travel corridors that often include, yes, bike lanes — can yield handsome returns on investment for cities. Like millions, sometimes realized in no more than a year, because shared streets reduce collisions, which in turn saves money on medical costs and property damage. And there’s more. These street alterations are also correlated with increased property values and even higher employment numbers. Read more »

3 Reasons Mayor Nutter Shouldn’t Build That New Prison

At first glance, you can’t blame Mayor Michael Nutter for wanting to build a new prison. The House of Correction — which has an awesome name — is super old and doesn’t even have air conditioning. Both the inmates and the staffers deserve better conditions than the facility can provide.

Still: Nutter should hold off. Let the next mayor deal with it, if necessary, but not this year.

Why? Three reasons: Read more »

Mayor Nutter Recognizes Gloria Casarez in Final Budget Address

This morning, Mayor Nutter delivered his annual budget address—the last one during his tenure as Mayor of Philadelphia.

Before he got started, he took a moment to recognize Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of LGBT affairs, who lost her life last fall after a long battle with cancer, and a handful of other female government employees who lost their lives in the last year.

Mayor Nutter at the 2014 LGBT History Celebration at City Hall, Casarez looks on. | Photo by Bryan Buttler

Mayor Nutter at the 2014 LGBT History Celebration at City Hall, Casarez looks on. | Photo by Bryan Buttler

Before we begin, I’d like to have a moment of silence to recognize three tremendous public servants who we lost over the last year: Gloria Casarez, the first Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, Joan Markman, our first Chief Integrity Officer, and Lieutenant Joyce Craig, the first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.

These three extraordinary women were exemplary public servants, consummate professionals and dedicated leaders. Let their lives and their service act as a continual reminder to all of us to do our own jobs better and let us keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

For more specifics on the Mayor’s budget address, head to our News blog.

Morning Headlines: Will Council Go For Nutter’s Proposed Property Tax Hike?

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Mayor Michael Nutter will present his final budget address for fiscal year 2016-17 today at 10 a.m. Early reports indicate that Nutter will look to increase the property tax rate from 1.340 percent of assessed value to 1.465 percent, or a hike of over 9%, according to The Inquirer. The money raised by the increase would help fund the School District of Philadelphia. While other budgetary items include  $5.5 million to beef up L+I, $5 million in neighborhood improvements (fixing the curbs, sidewalks, lighting, etc.) and a whopping $20 million to pave the streets (because, winter), all anyone seems to be talking about is the increase in property taxes.  Read more »

The Brief: Mayor Nutter’s Last Tax Hike Is a Whopper

Michael Nutter

Photo | Jeff Fusco

When Michael Nutter was sworn-in, waaaay back in 2008, the assumption in Philadelphia’s tax-cutting crowd was that one of their own was in the mayor’s office. After all, this was the guy who, in 2002, had handed hard-nosed Mayor John Street one of his most humiliating defeats by assembling a City Council coalition that forced the administration to resume wage tax cuts that Street wanted to stall. Even newly-minted councilman Darrell Clarke, Street’s protege, voted with Nutter on that one.

And yet, despite that legacy, and despite those expectations, Nutter will introduce a budget this morning (so long as the snow doesn’t intervene) that includes yet another whopping proposed tax hike: 9.3 percent on the real estate levy.

If City Council goes along with it, this will be the fourth property tax hike on Nutter’s watch. Then there’s the “temporary” (actually permanent) sales tax hike. The tax on cigarettes. Not to mention the other taxes/fees that Nutter sought but failed to get. The soda tax. A higher liquor-by-the-drink tax. A trash collection fee.

These Michael Nutter tax hikes say some interesting things about the man, much of it contrary to public understanding of him. Read more »

The Brief: Will Tom Wolf’s Big Bold Budget Flummox Republicans?

Gov. Wolf. | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Gov. Wolf. | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Both Mayor Nutter and Governor Wolf will introduce their proposed budgets next week. There, the similarities end. Nutter, in caretaker mode, seems certain to offer up a mostly status quo plan next Thursday. The big wild card is how he’ll respond to the School District of Philadelphia’s $103 million “ask” of the city. There are no palatable options available for Nutter and, truth be told, City Council will probably end up doing what it wants no matter what Nutter pitches.

Governor Wolf’s address this Tuesday, however, is shaping up as something far more interesting. The state is staring down a $2.3 billion deficit, and Wolf has a panoply of expensive ideas and initiatives he wants to fund, starting with significant new cash for schools statewide. The assumption is that he’ll call for some significant tax hikes. But we also know Wolf wants some big tax cuts, namely on local property taxes and  the corporate tax rate, which now stands as the second-highest in the nation. Read more »

Company That Tried to Purchase PGW Is Itself Sold

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

UIL Holdings, the Connecticut company that last year attempted to buy PGW from the city, has itself been sold to a Spanish firm.

UIL officials said the $3 billion deal with Iberdrola materialized only after the PGW sale fell through. But the timing of the deal raised questions at City Council, and Council President Darrell Clarke suggested the move vindicated Council’s concerns about selling to PGW. Council let the proposed sale of PGW to UIL collapse last year without ever holding a hearing — or vote — before a deadline for the deal’s completion.
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Inside Take: What to Expect From Mayor Nutter’s Last Budget

Expect less of this for Nutter's final budget address. | AP photo/Matt Rourke

But you can expect less of this for Nutter’s final budget address. | AP photo/Matt Rourke

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

This year’s budget will look a lot like last year’s: Mayor Nutter is in his final months, and he won’t be in office for the full fiscal year, so a caretaker budget is likely. But, even if he were continuing on, the budget probably wouldn’t change drastically. Why? Because Philadelphia has traditionally done incremental budgeting, where each department and agency looks at what it spent during the past year and adjusts upwards or downwards slightly.

There is one big pro and several cons to incremental budgeting. The pro? It’s the least time consuming approach. Read more »

Inside Take: Behind the Philadelphia Budget Curtain

EDITOR’S NOTE: A city’s priorities take form in its budget. Insider Rachel Meadows, a city budget maven and staffer in former at-large City Councilman Bill Green’s office will give Citified readers a guided tour of Philadelphia’s budget in the weeks to come. Today, Budgeting 101.

Each year, in late February/early March, the mayor delivers his Philadelphia budget address to City Council. Sometimes this address is eventful (warning: turn your sound down before clicking!), but most of the time, it’s pretty mundane. Read more »

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