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

Plus, an intriguing Independent candidate is jumping into the City Council At-Large race.

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.”

Why it matters: No, Bykofsky is not retiring, he says. But his Candidates’ Comedy Night has been a ritual in the Philadelphia political scene for decades. I’ve gone to a few of the events, and it’s something special to see Congressmen and governors be put through the ringer that is stand-up comedy. More importantly, the comedy night has raised more than $500,000 for Variety. Cheers.

2. A former top Nutter aide is making an Independent bid for City Council At-Large.

The gist: PlanPhilly broke the newsAndrew Stober, a former chief-of-staff for the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, is running for City Council At-Large as an Independent in the fall election. Though you may have never heard of Stober, he is a celebrated transportation wonk and was thought to be one of the brightest young aides to Mayor Michael Nutter.

Why it matters: This is a pretty intriguing development. Yes, Stober starts out with very little name recognition. But he would likely attract support in urbanist and “New Philly” circles and, more significantly, Nutter may throw his weight behind him. That could make a huge difference. And keep in mind, Stober would not need to compete with the Democratic candidates for Council At-Large, but rather the Republican candidates, who bring in far fewer votes. That’s because two at-large seats are reserved for “non-majority” candidates. Traditionally, Republicans have won those spots, but Independents, Green Party members, Working Families Party stalwarts, etc. can snag them, too. In the 2011 general election, for instance, the top Democratic City Council At-Large candidate got 130,403 votes, while the top Republican got only 48,675 votes. Another thing going for Stober (or any Independent who would run): The city’s Republican Party isn’t backing its own at-large incumbents.

3. Outsiders, not Council members, make the policy case for a higher parking tax.

The gist: Philadelphia City Council introduced three bills Thursday to help fund the cash-strapped schools: a parking tax hike, a property tax hike and a use-and-occupancy tax hike. The legislation would raise an estimated $70 million, which falls short of the school district’s request for $103 million. Councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored the parking tax increase, told Citified, “I’m putting this in as one of the options to look at. We’re not making any firm decisions on anything yet.”

Why it matters: When pressed for more details, Greenlee did not make the policy argument for a parking tax. But there is one. Some argue that a higher parking tax would discourage developers from building parking lots downtown and incentivize them to construct buildings instead. A 2013 article on Streetsblog compares the land use of Pittsburgh, which has an extremely high parking tax, to that of Detroit, which doesn’t have a parking tax:

Policies enacted by Pittsburgh have helped discourage solo car commuting. The city issues a 40 percent tax on parking throughout the city. It’s the highest tax of its kind in the country, and at one time it was an even higher 50 percent. In 2006, the Pittsburgh City Paper reported the city was generating about $44.5 million a year from parking taxes — more than it was making from taxing resident income.

Detroit issues no special tax on parking. The city as a whole, like most U.S. cities, uses parking minimums that artificially inflate parking, but the rules are relaxed somewhat downtown, says Rob Linn, formerly of Data Driven Detroit. … (Linn is now with the Southwest Detroit Business Association.)

Linn said he thinks the preponderance of parking in downtown Detroit isn’t so much a result of parking regulation, but the way the city taxes land.

“Parking lots are taxed as vacant lots; buildings are taxes at a much higher rate,” he said. “It sort of weirdly discourages you from doing anything with your land.”

Will Council members make the policy argument for a higher parking tax? We wouldn’t hold our breath. But others are. Helen Gym, who won the Democratic primary race for City Council At-Large, argues that a parking tax not only helps schools, but “leads to better land use.” PlanPhilly is laying out the case, too.

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