Did Philly’s Biggest Dark Money Group Break the Law?

1. The dark money outfit Philadelphia 3.0 may have violated city law — and been a flop.

The gist: A new, intriguing organization sprung up this year that was aimed at taking out some City Council incumbents and replacing them with more business-friendly faces. Parking magnate Robert Zuritsky founded Philadelphia 3.0, which includes both a traditional political action committee and a more secretive nonprofit corporation. NewsWorks’ Dave Davies reports that the Philadelphia 3.0 PAC raised 72 percent of its funding in 2015 from its own nonprofit, which is not revealing its donors. Is that legal in Philadelphia? Campaign finance expert John Dunbar said “there’s nothing in federal court rulings that prevent cities from requiring disclosure from nonprofit corporations like Philadelphia 3.0, and the city Ethics Board has said it expects such groups to disclose their donors,” writes Davies.

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The Brief: We’ll Soon Know the Names of All Cops Who Shoot Civilians

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

1. The police department is going to start releasing the names of officers who fire at civilians.

The gistCity Paper reports that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced in a memo yesterday that “the department will immediately begin disclosing the names of officers who discharge their firearms in Officer-Involved Shootings ‘within seventy-two (72) hours of the incident.'” According to the memo, this was one of the recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice in its scathing report on police shootings in Philadelphia. Also, the department will examine each case to ensure that “no threats are made toward the officer or members of their family prior to the release of this information.” Read more »

5 Questions About the Future of Philly’s Schools

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Earlier this year, students made a modest request of City Council. | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council did something Thursday that it’s done a lot in recent years: voted to increase both taxes and education funding. Lawmakers expect to raise an extra $70 million for the city’s schools by hiking the property, parking and use-and-occupancy levies.

So, where does that leave the school district? Somewhat better off than it was before, no doubt. But it’s not out of the woods yet, either. Its future depends on the answers to these five big questions, which we should learn in the coming weeks: Read more »

Philly Is Getting an 8.5% Airbnb Tax

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb is about to get a lot less laissez-faire in Philadelphia.

City Council passed a bill, 15-0, Thursday, which is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter, that will force anyone who rents out their home on Airbnb or similar websites to pay Philly’s 8.5 percent hotel tax. That’s just the first new rule that will go into effect under the legislation: Hosts who rent out their homes for more than 90 days will have to get a rental license, and no one will able to rent out their homes for more than 180 days annually.

Currently, many people who use Airbnb in Philadelphia are technically part of the city’s black market, since short-term rentals are not permitted in residential areas. This new bill will legalize the industry. Read more »

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

shutterstock_205907629

Photo | Shutterstock.com

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 »

The Brief: Stu Bykofsky’s Candidates’ Comedy Night Is Ending

1. Stu Bykofsky’s 25th Candidates’ Comedy Night will be the last.

The gist: For the past two-and-a-half decades, Daily News reporter Stu Bykofsky has convinced city, state and federal candidates to get up on stage and tell jokes for a good cause. (Well, try to tell jokes, at least. With the exception of state Sen. Daylin Leach, few politicians are actually funny.) All of the proceeds from Bykofsky’s Candidates’ Comedy Night go to Variety, a children’s charity. But Bykofsky says that this year’s comedy night on August 11th will be the final act. Bykofsky explained why he is wrapping up the event in an article today: “Let’s start with the truism that all good things must come to an end. It is an immutable fact I cannot do it forever, and 25 years is a mark often used in retirements.” Read more »

Big Parking, Property Tax Hikes Proposed to Fund City Schools

Bill Greenlee | Photo via City Council's Flickr

Bill Greenlee | Photo via City Council’s Flickr

[Updated at 1:10 p.m.]

Philadelphia City Council introduced legislation Thursday to hike three taxes in order to help fund the school district.

Though lawmakers have been pooh-poohing Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to increase education finding with a big ol’ 9 percent property tax hike for months, this is the first major step they’ve taken to advance an alternative plan.

Councilman Bill Greenlee proposed raising the parking tax from 20 percent to 22.5 percent.

“I’m putting this in as one of the options to look at,” he said. “We’re not making any firm decisions on anything yet.”Inline image 1

Council members also sponsored legislation Thursday to increase the property tax from 1.34 percent to almost 1.4 percent, and to boost the use-and-occupancy tax from 1.13 percent to 1.21 percent.  Read more »

Will Council Fund Schools With a Big Parking Tax Hike?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

[Updated at 4:20 p.m.]

Philadelphia school district officials are asking City Council to pay a huge bill this year. They say they need an extra $103 million, even after lawmakers have voted to increase funding by $376 million over the last four years.

At budget hearings this spring, Council members have scoffed at Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to foot the bill by raising property taxes by 9 percent.

Now, an alternative plan by Council is beginning to take shape. And, after a dark-money group created by parking magnates backed Council candidates who ran against incumbent legislators, it might include a parking tax increase. Read more »

Surprise! Philly’s Commercial Property Taxes Are Pretty Damn Low

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Study after study and politician after politician have said that Philadelphia’s taxes are way too high. But a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence shows that there is at least one exception to that rule.

It found that Philly has among the lowest taxes in the country for small-scale commercial and industrial properties.

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