Why Philly’s Special Election Matters

Photo by Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock.com

Photo by Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock.com

In a special election on August 11th, a small sliver of voters will choose Philadelphia’s three newest representatives in the state House. The winners are virtually predetermined, but the race is still worth watching. No, seriously. We promise. Don’t stop reading!

The candidates are Democrat Ed Neilson and Republican Timothy Dailey in Northeast Philly’s 174th District; Democrat Joanna McClinton, Republican Charles Wilkins and Independent Tracey Gordon in the 191st District, which stretches from Southwest Philly to Darby Township; and in the 195th District, which includes parts of North and West Philly, Democrat Donna Bullock, Republican Adam Lang and write-in candidate Judith Robinson.

The Democratic candidates — who were selected by their party ward leaders, not voters — will very likely win because 1) there are innumerably more Democrats than Republicans in these districts; for instance, consider their beastly 13-1 voter registration edge in the 195th district. And 2) it’ll be a low-turnout election in which only diehards will show up the polls. But the races still matter for a few reasons: Read more »

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.

Read more »

It’s Not too Late to Rescue Sharswood From PHA Eminent Domain Plan

blumberg-apartments-940x540

“Plan, or be planned for.”

This was the mantra community activists in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood adopted in their efforts to regain control of the neighborhood’s future from the institutions that threatened to overrun it from the south.

On the other side of the river, a number of Sharswood residents thought that what they were engaging in with the Philadelphia Housing Authority was planning: a joint process by which they and the PHA would together determine the neighborhood’s future course after the authority demolished the Norman Blumberg Apartments at its center.

Then, as the final plans were still officially months away, the PHA revealed its hand: Sharswood was being planned for. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Demolition of Queen Lane Apartments Coming Soon-ish

queen lane apartments

It’s been almost two years since the Philadelphia Housing Authority announced plans to demolish the long-vacant Queen Lane Apartments in West Philadelphia, and to replace it with a 55-unit development. What’s another few months?

As it is, the Department of Housing and Urban Development can finally give PHA the go-ahead.  The project had been put on pause following the discovery of a historic burial ground in the building’s backyard. The cemetery’s borders have since been asserted, and future construction will not disturb it.

Read more »

Ready to Buy a Property, Maybe Even a Home? PHA Is Selling. Cheap.

CBS 3 says that the Philadelphia Housing Authority is about to sell of up to 200 of its excess properties—the official announcement comes at 11 am, and as you might expect, many of those properties are, um, inexpesive fixer-uppers.

“We’ve got properties throughout the city in all kinds of neighborhoods so we expect a range from $5,000 to a couple hundred thousand,” said Bob Dann, of Max Spann auctioneers.

It can’t be emphasized enough: All of the properties need renovation. Still, the auction might turn out to be a pretty good deal for the housing authority: A previous sale, of abut 400 properties, netted $7 million in 2011.

Child Dies in West Philly High-Rise Fire

A 5-year-old and a 3-year-old were rushed to the hospital with life threatening injuries after a fire broke out in a Philadelphia Housing Authority high-rise in West Philly. The 5-year-old boy later died from his injuries. A 35-year-old woman was also injured in the fire and was taken to Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to be treated for smoke inhalation. The Fire Marshall was called to the scene to investigate after firefighters got the blaze under control in 15 minutes. [CBS 3]

Apparently, No One at PHA Has Seen Poltergeist

At 301 West Queen Lane, which intersects with Pulaski Avenue, a “Burial place for all … Negroes … and Mulattoes as they Die in any part of Germantown forever” was created. Matthias Zimmerman purchased the land in 1755 specifically for such use. Although there were many burials between 1755 and 1766 (and for 161 years until 1916), the first known documented burial, from the March 24, 1766 records of the Upper Burial Ground of Germantown, was that of Christian Warmer’s “dead negroe … child.” Powerful cultural stuff. Powerful American history. You’d think that such a local site—arguably the oldest black public cemetery in America—is a public memorial for black, white, brown, yellow and red residents and international tourists alike. You’d think that Philadelphia officials would respect it as the century-and-a-half-old hallowed ground where free and enslaved black men, women and children were buried. But you’d think wrong. Instead of honoring these historic ancestors, those city bureaucrats—specifically, representatives of the Philadelphia Housing Authority—are perturbing them. Read more »

PHA Employees Lose Their Take-Home Car Privileges

Philadelphia Housing Authority employees must have missed curfew or something because the PHA is taking their keys away. At one point, more than 200 PHA employees had take-home privileges with agency cars. In an attempt to cut down on wasteful spending, the agency has been telling many of those employees to give up their cars. This week, 40 employees received such letters, leaving only 19 people with take-home privileges. [Inquirer]

Mayor Nutter Might Get More Control Over Who Runs the PHA

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will vote on a bill that—if passed—would give Mayor Nutter more control over who is named to the head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Right now, the mayor appoints two PHA board members. Two more are appointed by the city controller. Those four board members then select a fifth. Under the new rule, the mayor would appoint nine PHA board members with approval by a majority vote in City Council. Two additional board members would be PHA residents nominated in a process approved by the mayor, Council president, and PHA executive director. After two sex scandals, any change is probably a good thing. [Daily News]

PHA Director Lands Gig in Washington D.C.

Philadelphia Housing Authority Director Michael P. Kelly—who gave his two-weeks notice late last week—has already been assigned as the head the Washington, D.C. Department of Housing in Community Development. Washington Mayor Vincent Gray announced the appointment today, just three days after Kelly stepped down from his post in Philly. Kelly cited “personal family reasons” as his motives for leaving Philadelphia. His wife still lives in D.C. [Daily News]

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