The Brief: The Return of Local Gun Control



1. Now that the Commonwealth Court has overturned a controversial law making local gun control efforts harder to enact, will cities and towns get back into the gun control game?

The gist: Last week, a Commonwealth Court panel ruled that Act 192 — a state law that made it far easier for the National Rifle Association to challenge local gun control ordinances — is unconstitutional. It was a a rare victory for gun control advocates in Pennsylvania. After Act 192 was adopted by the legislature in 2014, dozens of local municipalities repealed their gun control ordinances, rather than risk getting sued by the NRA, and getting stuck with big legal bills. If the Commonwealth Court’s ruling stands, the old status quo would return. At Newsworks, Bill Hangley explores what the impact of the ruling is likely to be: Read more »

Three Philly Election Officials Face Voter Fraud Charges

(Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock)

(Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock)

Three people have been charged with voter fraud in two separate cases stemming from the 2015 and 2014 Philadelphia primary elections.

Robin Trainor and Laura Murtaugh are both charged in a 2015 incident in which Trainor allegedly guided her husband’s vote, voted in her son’s place, and received Murtaugh’s help doing so. Read more »

Millennials Don’t Vote for the Same Reason Your Generation Didn’t

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

A lot of people are really, really worried about the fact that millennials don’t vote in mayoral elections.

But maybe they shouldn’t be.

Don’t get me wrong, it sucks. Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s recent mayoral race. That’s the worst turnout of any age group in the city.

As a 29-year-old whose third-favorite holiday is Election Day, I’d love it if that changed. Millennials are actually the largest voting bloc in the city, which means that we could theoretically wield more clout in local elections than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and our grandparents. Forget pensions, here come more bike lanes! (I kid, I kid.)

But we’re probably not going to pack the polls at the same rate as our parents anytime soon. While that’s not ideal, it’s not the end of the world, either. Because I think our voting habits will get better with time. Read more »

The Brief: Philly’s Maternal Mortality Rate Is Worse Than Libya’s


Photo |

1. A new report digs into Philadelphia’s extremely high maternal mortality rate.

The gist: The city’s maternal mortality rate is 27.4 per 100,000 births, according to a new study by the Department of Public Health. “The surprising findings for many people was that so many of these tragic deaths were related to social-economic status,” perinatologist Jason Baxter told NewsWorks. Other causes include domestic violence, drug addiction, mental health issues and chronic disease. Read more »

Behind the Scenes With Jim Kenney’s Twitter Brain Trust

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Depending on your point of view, Stephanie Waters either has the best or worst job in Philadelphia politics. She’s the digital director for Jim Kenney, the city’s presumptive next mayor.

That means she’s in charge of Kenney’s famed Twitter account, where he remarked as a city councilman that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was “fat assed,” that Justin Bieber may have benefitted from a beating, and much, much more. As a mayoral candidate, Kenney’s account has turned relatively tame, so much so that some have wondered if his staff occasionally bans him from using it.

In a brief Q&A, we asked Waters if there is any truth to that rumor and more. Her responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Read more »

How to Fix the Mayor’s Race

The party’s over, almost before it’s begun.

The worst thing about the Philly mayor’s race? It’s over.

Some of my journalistic colleagues who attended forum after forum and reviewed commercial after commercial no doubt feel differently. And certainly, the primary election process seemed to produce a well-qualified and forward-thinking potential mayor in the form of Jim Kenney.

But it’s June. The campaign has been over for weeks already, but a half-year remains before Kenney takes office, assuming no independent candidate emerges before November’s otherwise foregone conclusion of a general election. Which is more than enough time for him to lose any honeymoon momentum from the election he might otherwise have had — putting him (and the agenda that voters thought they were supporting) at a disadvantage when he takes office.

That’s not good for Kenney. That’s not good for the people who voted for him. And that makes it arguably bad for the city as a whole.  Read more »

Progressives Won the Philly Election? You Sure About That?

The victorious Jim Kenney on Election Day| Photo by Jeff Fusco

The victorious Jim Kenney on Election Day| Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia is suddenly a progressive utopia.

At least, that’s what you might believe after reading articles about the city’s primary election in the national media.

Jim Kenney, a former Philadelphia city councilman who has cast himself as a progressive in the mold of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, handily defeated five other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for mayor Tuesday,” reads the first sentence of The New York Times article about the race.

The Atlantic went a step further, writing that “progressives scored a victory” because the mayoral race “pitted a crusading left-winger against a charter-school advocate backed by suburban hedge-fund magnates” and “this time, the left-winger … actually won.” Even Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News declared that it was a new day after Kenney, “who ran on the most progressive platform of a major Philadelphia mayoral candidate in our lifetimes,” won in a landslide, at the same time that education activist Helen Gym succeeded in her campaign for City Council.

Not so fast. Read more »

Insider: 4 Things Jim Kenney Must Do To Fix Philly’s Schools

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

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

If you’re a parent in the School District of Philadelphia, you may have worried that officials would try to close your school. Or that your child wouldn’t have a nurse, would have to walk two miles just to get to school, or that their favorite teacher would strike.

But City Council has a different worry: Can your child read and write cursive?

At Council’s hearings on school funding this week, cursive — not Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to plug the district’s budget gap by raising property taxes  — dominated the debate.

My school has no air conditioning, one-fifth of a nurse, a rotating school-police officer, and the only technology upgrades are the ones we literally lug onto a truck ourselves. Writing this on a 90-degree day, my response to CursiveGate is entirely inappropriate for Citified and begins with a capital “F.” Whether that “F” contains the proper ascenders and descenders is at Council’s discretion.

Jim Kenney, the city’s presumptive next mayor, may have an easier time pushing his education agenda through Council than Nutter has.

School activist Helen Gym will likely sit in City Council next year. And in a mayoral election where education was the No. 1 issue, Kenney won a clear majority against five opponents, one of whom was funded by school-choice oligarchs. He has, dare I say, a mandate.

And yet, the mayor has little direct power over schools. But Kenney will be far from powerless. Here are four things he can do to support strong schools for every child:

Read more »

The Brief: Anthony Williams a No-Show at Dem (Dis)Unity Breakfast

This is the last time we'll run this photo. Promise. | Photos by Jeff Fusco.

This is the last time we’ll run this photo. Promise. | Photos by Jeff Fusco.

1. Anthony Williams a no-show at Democratic post-election unity breakfast to rally behind mayoral nominee Jim Kenney.

The gist: State Senator Anthony Williams was a no-show at a let’s-all-hug breakfast organized by party boss Bob Brady on behalf of Jim Kenney yesterday morning, Chris Brennan reports for the Inquirer. The entire point of the breakfast — which Brady graciously also hosted in 2007, when he was defeated by Michael Nutter — is to set aside any lingering hard feelings from the election (publicly, anyway), and make a show of backing the party’s nominee. Most of the breakfast attendees were Democratic ward leaders. Williams, in addition to being the (distant) 2nd place finisher in last week’s mayoral election, is a ward leader.

So where was he? Williams told Brennan that “he did not know about the breakfast meeting, received no invitation, and had no plans ‘to crash the party.'” That seems … dubious. Kenney shrugged it off. He told Brennan: “People take some time off … I assume that’s what it is, and I wish him well with the time he’s taking off to recharge and get back in the game.” Read more »

Why Voter Turnout Sucked in Philly’s Mayoral Race

APTOPIX America Votes

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

1. Voter turnout in Philadelphia wasn’t always so pitiful.

The gist: Only 27 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral primary last week. It wasn’t always like this. In 1991, 49 percent of Philly voters came to the polls. In 1987, 67 percent did; in 1971, a stunning 77 percent did. Other big cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have also seen voter turnout plummet in municipal elections over the past few decades. CityLab’s Daniel Denvir has a theory about why that may be: Read more »

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