Kenney Is Officially Ending Brownouts

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Mayor Jim Kenney will officially put an end to one of his predecessor’s most controversial policies tomorrow.

A spokeswoman for Kenney says he will announce Thursday that he is eliminating the fire department’s policy — known as “brownouts” — of temporarily closing a handful of fire stations each day in rotating neighborhoods.

In 2010, former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration began using brownouts as a way, it said, to save almost $3 million a year amidst a budget crunch. Nutter insisted that brownouts did not compromise residents’ safety and called critics’ suggestions to the contrary “unnecessary hysteria.” Over the last 10 years, the number of annual fire deaths in Philadelphia has dropped by 77 percent. But the firefighters union fiercely argued that brownouts put citizens in harm’s way.

Kenney, the son of a firefighter, promised to end brownouts during his mayoral campaign. When the firefighters union endorsed Kenney last February, it cited his opposition to brownouts as one of the reasons it supported him. Read more »

Nutter Lands Yet Another Job, at a Bloomberg Initiative

Michael Nutter

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Former Mayor Michael Nutter has landed a new gig. This time, it’s as a 2016 senior fellow for What Works Cities.

Since leaving office last month, Nutter has also accepted positions at Columbia University, the Homeland Security Advisory Council and CNN.

What Works Cities is an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which was founded in 2015 by former three-term New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Its goal is to help cities use data and evidence to become more efficient and improve residents’ lives. “Nutter will serve as a national spokesperson for this work and an advisor to current mayors,” says a press release announcing the news. “He will also provide advice and strategic support to participating cities, focusing on taking action and community engagement efforts.” Read more »

Jim Kenney’s Team: Mostly White, Majority Women

Jim Kenney walks through City Hall on Inauguration Day with Deborah Mahler, his Deputy Mayor of Intergovernmental Affairs, and others. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Last May, Jim Kenney won the mayoral primary in an eye-popping, record-breaking landslide, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in almost 40 years. His campaign’s secret? It built a racially and geographically diverse coalition, something pretty unprecedented in this oft-divided city.

South Philadelphians and Northwest Philadelphians, white working class voters and prominent African-Americans, church leaders and gay rights activists — they all got behind Kenney. And Kenney promised that, when he got to City Hall, he would make his administration as diverse as the group of Philadelphians that put him there.

Has he lived up to that pledge?

In his first few weeks in office, Kenney named almost 80 high-level appointees.

A Citified analysis found that the majority of those picks — 55 percent — are women. In a city government where men have historically landed a large majority of high-paying jobs, that represents significant change. Kenney says appointing women was one of his priorities, and he has made a point of hiring senior women advisors throughout his career. As a City Councilman, his longtime chief-of-staff was Deborah Mahler. When he resigned to run for mayor, two “power women,” as the Daily News called them, played a key role in his mayoral campaign: manager Jane Slusser and PR pro Lauren Hitt. Now all three are in the top echelon of Kenney’s City Hall.

Millennials are also well represented in the upper ranks of Kenney’s administration: about 18 percent of his top picks are 35 or younger, and many are holding down big-time jobs. The city’s budget director, chief data officer, and director of emergency management are all 35 or under. So are Slusser and Hitt.

But when it comes to another factor — race and ethnicity — Kenney’s top appointees do not reflect the population of Philadelphia. Sixty-six percent of his high-level appointments are are white, 22 percent are black, 8 percent are Latino, 3 percent are Asian, and 1 percent are Native American. Comparatively, Philadelphia’s citizenry is 36 percent white, 41 black, 14 percent Latino, 7 percent Asian and less than 1 percent Native American.

When I ask Kenney’s spokeswoman if he is satisfied with that mix, she’s blunt. “No,” says Hitt. “He’s not.” Read more »

Nutter Scores Another Job, As a CNN Commentator

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

Back in November, then-Mayor Michael Nutter told a reporter that he wanted to “do something really radical” when he left office: make “money for the first time ever.”

This should help Nutter bring home the bacon: CNN has hired him as a new commentator. Brian Stelter, the cable channel’s senior media correspondent, first reported the news.

Read more »

Kenney Appoints NYC Soda Fighter to Lead Health Department

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, left, speaks while New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks on during a news conference in March 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The man who led Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on sugar, salt and fat in New York City is coming to Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney named him to lead the Department of Public Health on Monday morning.

Thomas A. Farley is known by critics for a brand of “dietary paternalism” that gets the government involved in the food and drink choices of its citizens — but is praised by admirers for helping New York dramatically increase the life expectancy of its residents.

Remember when New York tried to limit the size of sugary soda drinks that could be purchased? That was Farley’s brainchild.

“Dr. Farley’s ‘out-of-the-box approach’ to public health, along with his medical expertise and his experience running one of the largest health departments in the nation will make him a valuable asset to Philadelphia,” Kenney said in a statement announcing Farley’s appointment.  Read more »

Poor Philadelphians Are Leaving $100M in Tax Credits on the Table

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the United States. There are about 395,000 people living below the poverty line here, including 126,000 children. The city’s poverty is brutal, far-reaching and the root cause of many problems.

And yet an estimated 40,000 eligible Philadelphians failed to apply for the biggest antipoverty program in the nation last year. It’s called the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, and it gives qualifying city residents an average refund of $2,400. Add it all up, and that means Philadelphians left almost $100 million on the table. One. Hundred. Million. Dollars. That’s money that could have not only helped the poor, but also given a jolt to the local economy.

The City of Philadelphia wants to fix this. On Friday morning, Mayor Jim Kenney will launch a campaign to boost participation in the EITC program. Could his administration finally keep Philadelphians from missing out on millions?  Read more »

Nutter Joins Faculty at Columbia U.

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Michael Nutter | Courtesy of Columbia University

Michael Nutter is joining the faculty of Columbia University as a professor of professional practice in urban policy, the university announced Wednesday morning. He will teach in the university’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Nutter, who spent eight years as Philadelphia mayor before leaving office this month, also tweeted his appointment:

“As mayor of one of our nation’s largest cities, he has earned a national reputation as a leader in urban public policy — addressing key challenges in economic development, public safety, environmental innovation and many others,” Merit Janow, SIPA’s dean, said in a statement announcing Nutter’s appointment. “I know we will all benefit from his insights and experience.”  Read more »

Fix It: The Old, Forgotten Police Barricades Littering Philly Streets

Police barricades strewn about Center City and Fairmount Park. | Photos courtesy of X

Police barricades blighting Center City and Fairmount Park. | Photos courtesy of Keith Cox

Look, we’re Philadelphians, so we get it: Messy sidewalks are just another part of daily life, like paying taxes or cleaning up dog crap. Would we like to see the deformities that riddle our city walkways smoothed? Sure. Would we welcome a reduction in our booming population of garbage jellyfish (read: plastic bags)? Yep.

For sanity’s sake, though, most of us just see this stuff and let it go. We trip over the piece of sidewalk that juts out like a concrete middle finger, and we shrug. We get smacked in the face by a piece of litter, and we heave a laugh-sigh at the universe’s indifference to man, and man’s indifference to the planet.

But another, crazier breed of sidewalk detritus — obstructions so colossal that a single unit alone could viably comprise a child’s seesaw — well, they really stick in Citified’s craw. So we decided it was time to investigate.

The objects in question are disassembled police barricades, left behind long after they’ve served their purpose.

According to Citified reader and 58-year-old Rittenhouse Square resident Keith Cox, who is as frustrated with these abandoned eyesores as we are, the last few months have seen a number of them springing up on ostensibly random blocks around Philly — pairs of yellow wooden planks that take up yards of sidewalk space, their corresponding end-pieces tilting haphazardly off to the side like misplaced letters from a giant’s alphabet.  Read more »

Kenney Staffers Blame Nutter Aides for Lawsuit Snafu

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter, top, greets and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Relish restaurant in Philadelphia.

Outgoing Philadelphia Michael Nutter, top, greets and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at the Relish restaurant in Philadelphia.

Is Jim Kenney the anti-Nutter? A week into Kenney’s term as mayor, it’s probably premature to draw conclusions — but it’s easy to see how differing priorities between the two men are creating complications in the early going.

Case-in-point: Bobby Allyn at NewsWorks has been bird-dogging the story of how the Kenney administration has found itself uncomfortably thrust into the position of defending a stop-and-frisk lawsuit it doesn’t want to defend. Long story short: The Defender Association of Philadelphia wanted access to the police department’s records on stop-and-frisk; the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records said the defenders should get those records; the Nutter administration appealed less than a month before turning power over to Kenney’s team.

Kenney’s team members say they didn’t like the surprise. Now, fingers are being pointed. Read more »

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