Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
Where does Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell live? It seems like a simple question, but it might have a complicated answer.
An intrepid reader has furnished the City Paper with a copy of the water bill for 235 S. Melville St. in West Philadelphia, the official residence of the, let's say, mercurial councilmember according to campaign-finance documents. According to the bill, no water has been used at that property for the past month. Moreover, it appears from the bill that no payments were made for the previous two months and that no water was used during that time.
So where does Blackwell reside, and why does she own a home that no one apparently lives in? Has she been on an extended vacation? Or has she resorted to Ben Franklin's tradition of "air baths"? Her office has not yet issued an official response, but a staffer said, "Well, that is probably erroneous … but that is her house."
According to city property records, Blackwell also owns a modest rowhome about 15 blocks west of the Melville Street property. Records indicate that there is water usage at this address, suggesting Blackwell may actually reside there. The second home, inherited from her deceased parents, is only half the size of her Melville Street property.
If Blackwell is living there, why she would not list this property on official documents is a mystery, particularly given that both fall within her legislative district. And why anyone would own a home they didn't occupy or rent is also mysterious.
UPDATE: Blackwell contacted the City Paper and made the following statement:
"I wish they would give me a bill for zero water usage, but I've never seen such a bill. I wish I could get away with zero water usage, but obviously I can't," she said. "I've lived there [Melville Street] ever since I married Lucien Blackwell."
Blackwell could not explain the discrepancy in billing, saying that she often used a great deal of water for events she hosts on her block.
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