The Soda Tax Battle’s Biggest Winners and Losers

Clockwise: Union leader John Dougherty, Mayor Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke and soda mogul Harold Honickman. | Photos by Jeff Fusco, iStock.com and HughE Dillon

Clockwise: Union leader John Dougherty, Mayor Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke and soda mogul Harold Honickman. | Photos by Jeff Fusco, iStock.com and HughE Dillon

One of the longest and most expensive political wars in recent Philadelphia history has come to an end. On Thursday, City Council voted 13-4 to enact a tax on sugary drinks and diet sodas. The American Beverage Association has spent nearly $5 million since March to flood the airwaves with anti-soda tax ads. But even that doesn’t capture the full scope of the soda industry group’s spending: It worked diligently to fight off a soda tax since 2010 — when former Mayor Michael Nutter first floated the idea — by lobbying Council members and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns.

This year, though, the soda lobby’s deep pockets weren’t enough to kill Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed tax. In the end, only Democrat Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Republicans David Oh, Brian O’Neill and Al Taubenberger voted against the 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on Thursday.

Philadelphia is the biggest city in the United States to approve a soda tax. The only other city in the country with a sugary drinks tax is Berkeley, California. Here, the levy will fund expanded pre-K, community schools, and an overhaul of the parks system, among other things. These are the biggest winners and losers in the city’s years-long battle over the soda tax:

The Winners

1. Jim Kenney

This is a career-defining victory for Kenney. The mayor took on one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States and won, which has boosted his national profile and proven that he has a critical number of allies on City Council. The fact that the soda tax will help pay for the renovation of the city’s parks, libraries and recreation centers — and that the administration will determine how to divvy up that spending with district Council members — means that Kenney could potentially have favors to give out for years to come. But how much political capital has the mayor spent in the fight over the soda tax? We may soon find out: District Council 33’s labor contract expires on June 30th. The city’s blue-collar union was one of the many groups that supported the mayor’s soda tax, which could make it more difficult for him to negotiate with it.
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The City Has Sunk $40 Million Into a New Police Headquarters It Might Not Use

A rendering of the proposed Public Safety Services Campus at 46th and Market streets. | Illustration via phila.gov

A rendering of the proposed Public Safety Services Campus at 46th and Market. | Illustration via phila.gov

OK, so a lot of people are intrigued by the idea of the Philadelphia Police Department possibly moving its headquarters to 400 N. Broad Street, the former home of the Inquirer and Daily News, as Philadelphia magazine reported this morning.

At this point, it’s still just a hypothetical scenario — although Mayor Jim Kenney didn’t hesitate to list a number of advantages to the site when he was questioned by reporters earlier today. (We’ll get to his comments in a minute.) In the meantime, we couldn’t help but wonder how much money the city has already shelled out as part of former Mayor Michael Nutter‘s previous plan to have the Police Department, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Department of Public Health all housed in the Provident Mutual Insurance Building at 46th and Market streets in West Philly.

City Council approved borrowing up to $250 million to transform the 13-acre site into the Public Safety Services Campus. According to Kenney’s spokesman, Mike Dunn, the city has already borrowed $64.9 million, and spent $39.7 million on “acquisition costs, design plans, environmental remediation, selective interior demolition [and] exterior renovation, including windows and roof.” Read more »

Sources: Police Are Considering Moving Headquarters to Old Inquirer Building

Left: 400 N. Broad Street Right: Police Administration Building (Wikimedia Commons)

L: 400 N. Broad Street R: Police Administration Building | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

In a move that would be rich with real estate-related irony, the Philadelphia Police Department is considering relocating its headquarters to the former home of the Inquirer and Daily News.

Wait, what?

You might recall that former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration spent several years mapping out an elaborate plan to move the department’s headquarters to the grand Provident Mutual Insurance Building at 46th and Market streets in West Philadelphia. Read more »

Is Philly Doing Enough to Save Cardiac Arrest Victims?

Blah blah blah.

L to R: Philadelphia student athletes Danny Rumph and Ryan Gillyard died 10 years apart of the same heart condition. | Photos courtesy of Marcus Owens and Twitter

Last April, 15-year-old St. Joe’s Prep student Ryan Gillyard collapsed while jumping rope at his football team’s conditioning workout. Gillyard had undetected hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic disease that made his heart muscles abnormally thick, interfering with that organ’s ability to pump blood.

When the Inquirer covered the teenager’s death four months later, it became clear that an automated external defibrillator — the portable medical device that could have delivered a lifesaving shock to Gillyard’s body — was available at the practice field where he fell, but wasn’t used during the emergency. “The reason,” the newspaper said, “was unclear.”

Ten years before Gillyard died, another star athlete with the same condition collapsed during a pick-up basketball game at a Mt. Airy recreation center. The building where 21-year-old Danny Rumph was shooting hoops didn’t have a defibrillator. On Mother’s Day 2005, Viola Owens watched helplessly as her only son passed away. It took 31 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene. By that time, it was too late.

In 2013, with some help from the fire department, Owens installed defibrillators in all 150 of the city’s recreation centers. But many Philadelphians still don’t know how to use those devices, or how to administer CPR. More often than not, studies show, bystanders like Owens are powerless when the unthinkable happens. And what good are emergency response tools if few people know how to use them? Read more »

Michael Nutter to Stump for Hillary Clinton in Wilmington

Photos by Matt Rourke/AP

Photos by Matt Rourke/AP

“When I support a candidate, I fully support that candidate,” said former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter back in 2008 while standing by his endorsement of Hillary Clinton in spite of growing support for her opponent Barack Obama.

“It’s what I do when I get involved in a campaign. I campaign like I’m campaigning for myself,” he said.

Nutter wasn’t exaggerating. Eight years later, he’s still in Clinton’s corner and still campaigning with just as much vigor.

On Sunday, April 17th, he’s heading to Wilmington, Delaware for a Clinton organizing event. There Nutter will join Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams, along with several Delaware state representatives and senators to plead their case for Clinton. Her campaign said in a press release that “Nutter will be joined by Mayor Dennis Williams and state and local elected officials to highlight their support for Clinton and her plans to break down the racial, social and economic barriers that hold Delaware families back.” Read more »

Op-Ed: How Kenney Proved He’s Serious About Open Data

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Mark Headd. He was the Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia from 2012 to 2014, and is now an open data evangelist advising municipal governments across the country.)

For the first time ever, Philadelphia has just made public — in easily usable formats — the salaries of every municipal employee, including elected officials. This data is now available for anyone to download freely from the city’s open data portal and will be updated quarterly.

No doubt about it — this is a major victory for journalists, good government advocates and open data enthusiasts in Philadelphia. But it’s also a victory for everyone who lives or works in the city. Here’s why: Read more »

This Cool New Tool Lets You Look Up the Salaries of City Workers

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

For years, open data advocates have been calling on Philadelphia to publish the salaries of city workers. Today, they finally prevailed: Mayor Jim Kenney announced this afternoon that the city had put the salaries of all 30,000 municipal employees (including elected officials) on OpenDataPhilly. The information will be updated every three months, according to the administration.

“This is a major win for Mayor Kenney,” says Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s former Chief Data Officer. “This says to me that he is fully committed to open data.” Read more »

Insider: Kenney Didn’t Break His Promise to End Stop-and-Frisk

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

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

There’s a difference between the truth and facts. Facts are plain, simple and elementary: He said X; she said Y. The truth is more complicated, more nuanced, and requires more intelligence and maturity to understand.

Here’s the truth of what’s happening with Mayor Jim Kenney and stop-and-frisk: He is not breaking his campaign promise to end the police tactic, as some have claimed. In fact, all the other mayoral candidates would be in the exact same position as he is now if they had won the election.Inline image 1 Read more »

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