If Fattah Goes Down, Who Would Voters Replace Him With?

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams and state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and District Attorney Seth Williams.

It finally happened: Philadelphia Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was indicted on corruption charges Wednesday.

Already, political insiders are wondering if the congressman will resign in the coming months or simply choose not to run for reelection in 2016. If either scenario unfolds, who would replace him? And how would that work?

The question has been bubbling up ever since two members of Fattah’s inner circle pleaded guilty last year. You can expect more names than ever to be bandied about now.

Some of the bigger ones include Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams, Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, state Sen. Anthony Williams, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Brian Sims, School Reform Commission member Bill Green, former mayoral candidate Doug Oliver, ward leader Daniel Muroff and real estate analyst Dan Kessler. That’s not even a full list. Check out some other possibilities here.

Watching some of these candidates confront each other in an open election would be a sight to see, but there’s no guarantee that’s what would happen. Indeed, there are five distinct scenarios that could unfold here. Let’s run them down.
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Mayor Launches Free-Book Program for Low-Income Kids

This afternoon, Mayor Nutter announced the launch of Playstreet Book Club, a pilot program that aims to keep children from low-income families reading while they’re out of school for summer.

“We know that children, particularly low-income children, can lose up to two months of reading skills during the summer, putting them behind before the new school year begins,” Mayor Nutter says in a press release. “By providing children with free books to read during the summer, we hope to instill a lifelong love of reading, help them to build their own libraries at home and give them the skills they to be successful in the classroom. … We know that children need access to nutritious meals, enriching activities and supportive adults all year long in order to reach their full potential. The Playstreet Book Club connects children to all three of these elements at one location during the summer months.”

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The Brief: What Will Happen to the Homeless During the Pope’s Visit?

Pope Francis | giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com.

Pope Francis | Shutterstock.com.

1. Organizers say they are carefully considering the needs of homeless people as they make preparations for the Pope’s visit.

The gist: On Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter got in a physical confrontation with a homeless man who said that he was worried about the city’s plans to sweep the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of the homeless during Pope Francis’ visit in September. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that organizers say that is not quite what will happen: Instead, everyone — including the homeless — will be required to leave the Parkway before the Pope arrives for security reasons, but then will be allowed back inside through gates. The World Meeting of Families has also formed a committee whose aim is “to protect the dignity and rights of people who are homeless, to make sure there is no detrimental treatment,” Project HOME’s Will O’Brien told the Inquirer.

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Nutter’s International Trip Hopes to Lure Businesses to Philly

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Mayor Michael Nutter is once again leaving Philadelphia — this time going to Frankfurt, Germany and Tel Aviv, Israel in an effort to lure businesses to Philadelphia.

In Germany from Tuesday-Friday, the mayor and a small delegation will join Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann to sign a sister-city agreement. The goal is to increase economic and cultural collaboration between the two cities. (It’s Philly’s first sister-city agreement since 1992. Others are Tianjin, China; Florence, Italy; and Tel Aviv.) Read more »

Rich Negrin: My Day Begins and Ends With Gun Violence

Richard Negrin | Photo courtesy of the Managing Director's Flickr

Richard Negrin | Photo courtesy of the Managing Director’s Flickr

Richard Negrin, Philadelphia’s managing director, gets the question over and over again: “What’s your typical day like?”

A few weeks ago, he decided to pick a random day in advance, document his experiences rigorously throughout the 24-hour period (with the help of an intern, of course), and then write about them on his blog. When someone asked him the question in the future, he could point them to his essay. He settled on June 17th as the date.

His day, he said, ended up being a horrifyingly perfect “snapshot of what it’s like to be a big-city managing director” — as well as just “what it’s like to be an American.”

That’s because it began and ended with gun violence.
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The Brief: Mayor Nutter Rapped With The Roots in an Epic Performance

Mayor Nutter performs "Rapper's Delight" with The Roots. | Screenshot via 6ABC

Screenshot via 6ABC

1. Mayor Michael Nutter performed “Rapper’s Delight” with The Roots at the Philly 4th of July Jam this weekend.

The gist: You remember when Mayor Nutter did it at his 2008 inaugural ball. And then at his 2012 inaugural gala, too. Well, he performed “Rapper’s Delight” again this weekend, and it was his best delivery yet. I mean, he was backed up by The Roots and he dropped the mic at the end of the rendition, for Christ’s sake. Check it out on 6ABC. Something tells us this is his favorite karaoke song, too. Read more »

Philly’s Tax Lien Sale Sucked*

Investment desperately needed. | Photo by Jukie Bot on Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Photo by Jukie Bot on Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Philadelphia’s first tax lien sale under Mayor Michael Nutter was a flop. But it was also kind of amazing.

I’ll explain, but first, a quick primer on this complex but important problem. Tax liens are legal claims the city slaps on properties when the owners of those properties fail to pay their taxes. Liens give the city the right to auction off tax-delinquent properties and use the profits to cover the taxes that are owed. Property tax delinquency is an epidemic in Philadelphia. About 100,000 properties are in arrears — which is one of the highest rates in the nation — and they owe a total of about $500 million in unpaid taxes and penalties to the city and cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia. As large as that $500 million figure is, the bigger problem with property tax delinquency is probably the blight generated by past-due parcels, which are often vacant and owned by speculators, not homeowners.

The city has struggled mightily to curb rampant tax delinquency. The lien sale was an experimental attempt at a new strategy: selling the liens to private investors, who would then have the same authority the city has to collect penalties and interest from delinquent property owners, and even to begin foreclosure proceedings on delinquent properties. Lien sales are, at root, an outsourcing of delinquency enforcement.

Over the last few days, the city tried to auction off 865 liens online. The sale ended Monday, and the results sucked. Philly sold only sold 28 percent of the liens for a total of $2.1 million, according to data from the city’s revenue department.

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The Brief: Why No One in Philly Smokes Anymore



1. Philly’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low.

The gist: CBS3 reports that “the percentage of adult Philadelphians who smoke has dropped from 27.3 percent in 2008 to 22.4 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.” Even more impressive: A drop took place among all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the city, and it happened after smoking rates went up in 2000 and 2008. Also, the recent smoking rate doesn’t factor in the full impact of Philly’s new cigarette tax, which has likely caused smoking to become even less common. Read more »

Is Bad Data Costing Philly Millions?

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco

When governments collect bad data, it isn’t just a headache for bureaucrats and taxpayers. It can also cost states and cities millions of dollars. Take California, where workers in the Controller’s Office incorrectly recorded eight hours of leave as 80 and even 800 hours time and time again, adding up to $6 million worth of mistakes. Or Oregon, where an employee error led to a contractor receiving a check for $1,748,304.24, although it was supposed to get just $323.88.

California and Oregon aren’t alone. We may live in the age of Big Data, but a new report by Governing found that governments throughout the country still collect reams of shoddy data: Read more »

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