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.
Why it matters: The Ethics Board did not provide a comment to Davies about what it plans to do. But the board is not the only problem Philadelphia 3.0 may have: As Davies points out, only three of the six candidates it endorsed won the May primary. Plus, it raised about $520,000 this year, even though it was originally rumored to be raising a few million. And, perhaps not coincidentally, Council introduced and passed a big parking tax hike in June without fanfare. Was Philadelphia 3.0 a flop? It may be too early to tell — it just got started this year, after all — but it surely didn’t get off to a good start. And that means that the city’s business community is continuing to struggle to make an impact in municipal elections.
2. Shocker: Fixing up vacant properties reduces crime in Philly neighborhoods, according to a Penn study.
The gist: In a newly published study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined crime in areas where owners of vacant properties were forced to replace their doors and windows under a new city law. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “They said that on average, within a year of the repairs, the area around those houses saw an estimated 19 percent reduction in assaults and a 39 percent reduction in gun assaults. And the blocks around a single vacant house that gets those mandated repairs could see, on average, eight fewer assaults and 10 fewer gun assaults, and five fewer nuisance crimes in the year after the renovations, the study said.”
Why it matters: This is a victory for City Council for passing the “Doors and Windows Ordinance” in 2011, as well as for the administration for enforcing it effectively. The study’s findings show that it is possible to cut back on serious crime by cracking down on small infractions, but in a way that doesn’t saddle people with a criminal record. (Violators face city fines.) The research also shows the extent to which Philadelphia could be transformed if more of its deadbeat property owners were either forced to clean up — or if, because of a land bank, more aggressive sheriff’s sales or other mechanisms, fewer of them existed in the first place.
3. Here’s where voter turnout sucked the most — and least! — among millennials.
The gist: Voter turnout among registered millennials in Philadelphia’s mayoral primary was a shabby 12 percent. BillyPenn created a map that shows where young people turned out above and below that average.
Why it matters: One of the areas where millennial turnout was the worst was University City. As BillyPenn wrote, “Schmidt explained this to The Inquirer last month when he pointed out that college-aged students will often register to vote in their new area when they come to school, but the city doesn’t necessarily register it when they leave town.” Turnout was the best in some South Philly neighborhoods, such as Pennsport and East Passyunk, as well as Fishtown. Those are all areas where millennials have settled in recent years. This seems to suggest that turnout may be a tad bit higher among millennials than it seems, due to the city’s imperfect voter rolls.