Archive: December, 2012
Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code
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Advocacy groups will file a complaint with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics Wednesday charging the Boston Consulting Group with violating city code by failing to register as a lobbyist while proposing that the School District close down traditional public schools, possibly accelerate privatization through charter expansion and increased private management, and bust blue-collar unions. The William Penn Foundation, it charges, also violated the code by failing to register as the principal on whose behalf, along with the undisclosed anonymous donors they solicited funds from, BCG was lobbying.
"This complaint is fundamentally about the public understanding that the controversial plan by the Boston Consulting Group was funded by narrow private interests with a specific agenda," said Parents United co-founder Gerald Wright in a press release. "They have been allowed unprecedented access to information and data denied to the public, and they have had unprecedented access to lobby top decisionmakers without ever identifying as lobbyists."
BCG and William Penn denied the allegations.
In a City Council Rules Committee hearing today, a handful of district City Council members found themselves in a somewhat unaccustomed position: Their various councilmanic prerogatives — the forces that allow neighborhood-specific legislation (like allowing a giant balcony over the sidewalk on an already rowdy bar, say) to sail through Council often undisputed — were encroaching on one another's territory.
That is to say, zoning legislation introduced by Councilman Brian O'Neill, to create a new type of commercial district, to limit or prohibit certain uses (including art studios, pet supply, hardware, takeout food, ice cream shops and more), in other commercial districts and to reduce building heights, struck many council members as having potentially enormous impacts on each of their districts — and not always to positive effect.
For example, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez has been trying to find ways to nurture a creative economy along the American Street corridor; O'Neill's bill would require artist studios and similar uses to go through the burdensome process of obtaining a zoning variance. "This impacts 60 percent of my commercial area," she said, adding that she hadn't had sufficient time to review the legislation. "I'm very uncomfortable with this level of impact on my district without me having a chance to really understand it."
"That councilmanic prerogative is so vital because we know our district," she added. And this bill "could be detrimental to my community development process."
A weekly series of foul-mouthed investigations into empty lots, dead-ass proposals and other design phenomena in Philadelphia. Find more stories like this at Philaphilia.blogspot.com.
|Conjectural rendering inserted into an aerial photo from its time period. Original image from Google.
1777 John F. Kennedy Blvd. -- This bitch-bastard's downfall caused a 20-year empty lot. 1777 JFK was a bold skyscraper proposal that attempted to work off the momentum of the late '80s, early '90s West Market building boom, but failed... miserably. Though the site of this proposal is now home to the plaza in front of the city's (and state's) tallest building, the addition of 1777 JFK would have solidified the immediate area much earlier.
As I talked about two weeks ago when I highlighted the Corestates Financial Center, the late 80's and early '90s were like a skyscraper-building marathon for Philadelphia. That mega-boom created the skyline we all know and love today, kicking the short-lived Bicentennial-era-skyline's dirty concrete ass. A leader among the many developers responsible for this period of ultra-construction was Richard I. Rubin & Co., Inc.
Richard I. Rubin, namesake of the company, was one of the biggest badasses to ever hit Philadelphia. Born in Russia and raised in Philadelphia, this South Philly High grad went from being the son of a Reading Terminal Market vendor to the largest office landlord in the city. He was like those Gilded Age self-made bazillionaires that I often write about, but lived in the mid 20th century. He could often be seen riding around the city in a Rolls Royce, with, no doubt, another Rolls Royce behind it carrying his enormous granite balls.
Rubin's real estate company was one of the pioneers that set sights on bringing Center City back to glory after the Penn Center revolution of the 1950s/'60s faded away. By the late '80s, your company was an asshole if you weren't in one of Rubin's buildings. Even when signs started to show that the West Market mega-boom was subsiding, Rubin & Co didn't give a fuck. In 1988, the developer purchased the defunct Philadelphia Centre Hotel (built as the Sheraton Penn Center Hotel in 1957) and demolished the shit out of it, knowing a new modern skyscraper would one day be placed there.