Only in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, wine kiosks â that just so incredibly Pennsylvania Liquor Control Boardian response to the inconvenience of not being able to buy a bottle of wine at a grocery store âwere shut down all over the state. The problem: a glitch that caused the machines to fail to dispense wine. Auditor General Jack Wagner plans to audit the kiosks â and that will be a good read.
One of City Paper's many spies sent us this picture of a kaput kiosk at the Fresh Grocer in West Philly.
Said spy also delivered a disturbing report on the difficulty of using the things in the first place â including, but not limited to, a computer system that offered a discounted white wine under neither the "white" nor "discount" category.
It's a little hard to make out the text above, so we dutifully transcribe it here:
There have been occasional glitches with the wine kiosk. One example: a transaction is approved, but the wine doesn't dispense from the machine.
Although the glitches have been few and far between, incredible customer service is important to us.
We have temporarily shut down the kiosk while the manufacturer updates the software and installs new sensors.
We hope this will be resolved quickly so can continue to offer this great convenience to our customers.
We've got an idea for an even better way to offer great convenience to Pennsylvania customers ... but, after all, it's Christmas.
Bless you, PLCB â and all your faulty wine kiosks, too.
Since having its license finally revoked by the Pennsylvania gaming Control Board last week, the Casino Formerly Known as Foxwoods has been much in the news.
But another story seems to be slipping through the cracks: even without the (presumed) competition from a second Philadelphia casino, Sugarhouse Casino, which opened in September, has shown a surprisingly poor performance.
City Paper finds that Sugarhouse is bringing in less than half the revenue it told the state to expect just six months ago.
In two presentations in May, Sugarhouse offered the Gaming Board revenue estimates that bear little resemblance to the business the casino has brought in so far.
On May 13, Sugarhouse officials made a presentation estimating $240M in net slots revenues for its first year in business with $132M going directly to the state or city in taxes and local share assessment. On May 19, Sugarhouse repeated those projections in another presentation.
Let's do some math: 240 million expected total slot revenue / 52 weeks = 4.6 million per week â right?
And $132 million in tax revenue for the state and city / 52 weeks = $2.5 million weekly â right?
But Sugarhouse isn't bringing in close to that much.
Even during its opening week, Sugarhouse reported just $$3.6M in revenue â still less than the target $4.6.
Since then, slot revenues have dropped by half: last week, they raked in $1.86 million before taxes: that's about forty percent what they're supposed to be making.
To be fair, Sugarhouse's table games are actually ahead of schedule, bringing roughly double the projected amount. But they account for much less of the casino's total earnings: even if table games bring double the expected revenue, it would amount to $5 million dollars extra. The current slots earnings, meanwhile, suggest the casino may bring in as much as $38 million less than expected.
As state officials prepare to bid another casino license for Philadelphia, maybe it's worth asking whether a second casino â or even a first â is even remotely viable.
Philadelphia Police just sent out an advisory to the media, alerting us that a Facebook group called "Catch the Kensington Strangler Before He Catches Someone You Love," had posted a picture of ... someone ... that is not the Kensington Strangler:
From the advisory:
Attention Facebook Users: This message is an official message from the Philadelphia Police Department. The photograph of a male displayed on this Fan Page, Triz Jefferies which has been posted as a suspect wanted in the Kensington Strangler case IS NOT CORRECT. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, this male is NOT a suspect and is not wanted in reference to these crimes.Â
To administrators of this site and users: please remove, and refrain from posting any photographs of individuals who are not officially identified as suspects by the Philadelphia Police Department. Failure to take appropriate actions may subject you to liability.
As of about three minutes ago, another picture appearing alongside the familiar police sketch that's been circulating was removed.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked the license for the proposed South Philly casino (formerly known as Foxwoods Casino), after investor asked â yet again â for an extention to find financing.
The decision does not, however, mean that the state has decided against building a second casino in Philadelphia, as directed by Act 71, the 2004 surprise legislation that legalized casinos in Pennsylvania in a single late-night session.
The Board will, presumably, seek new proposals for a new casino. This news comes, however, amid surprisingly low performance by Sugarhouse Casino, which saw a drastic decline in revenue after opening and has been significantly below state goals â all raising the question of whether the proliferation of casinos has reached a saturation point.
Casino Free Philadelphia, a grassroots organization that opposes casinos in the city, issued the following statement via email:
We know the fight is not over. Assuming the Foxwoods revocation stands, the PGCB will now seek to solicit new bids from other companies for a second casino in Philadelphia. We'll continue to fight against a casino anywhere in the city.
Our objective now is to prevent the casino rebidding process from taking place -- all while keeping pressure on SugarHouse through our Casino Town Watch, exposing the casino's predatory tactics and making clear the community opposition any casino in Philadelphia will face.
Despite disturbingly-Philadelphian indications of votes coming in past the poll's closing time, CP declares Drew Lazor the victor in this year's Philebrity Awards!
We are just so damned proud.
Last week, the story of the "Kensington Strangler" â the person-at-large who may or not be responsible for multiple murders and choking assaults in and around Kensington âÂ reached fever pitch in the Philly news media, the Inquirer and Daily News both running lurid headlines about the massive police manhunt underway in Kenzo.
But in amid all the hype, it's not clear that the Kensington Strangler really exists â or, rather, that a single person has been responsible for certain recent crimes. In fact, it's not clear to what extent some of these crimes could happen fairly often.
To be sure, police have linked the same person (by DNA) to the two murders-by-strangulation that ignited the story. That Kensington Strangler does exist, and has yet to be identified.
But several more cases of murder and assault involving choking have not, despite appearing over and over again in articles about the Strangler, been linked to the same suspect.
And CP wondered: Kensington is, after all, a neighborhood ridden with both violent crime and prostitution â could it be that the sudden media spotlight was simply picking up incidents that happen more frequently than we'd like to believe?
Indeed, Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers told CP late last week that he thought the media was "going overboard," and cautioned that half-dozen or so crimes being examined may not, in fact, be linked:
We believe the three [assaults on prostitutes that involved choking] are closely tied. The two homicides are definitely tied. And the three assaults and homicides may be tied together. . . But this is [an area with] high risk activities.
In fact, Evers said, the police have already arrested one area man accused of choking a woman â but who police say is unconnected to any of these cases. Police have also detained a person of interest in the recent murder of a third woman, but do not presently believe that person to be connected to the other two murders or choking cases.
In other words, there's no doubt women are being attacked and choked in Kensington â but whether it's the work of a single individual, or a disturbing glimpse into patterns of regular violence against these women â is much less clear.
The city's chief integrity officer is, CP just learned, investigating a weekend incident in which the Streets department issued, and the Philadelphia Police enforced, a temporary parking order on a Fairmount block which, according to the observations of one resident, appeared aimed at providing parking for a private party.
This weekend, City Paper caught wind of an interesting incident that occurred on Friday, in which an entire block in Fairmount was suddenly â and for reasons unclear â subjected to a temporary no-parking order.
The details came courtesy of Chris LaPierre, a resident of the 800 block of N 26th St, who told CP today the following story (the incident was mentioned today on Philebrity):
On Friday, LaPierre was having dinner when a Philadelphia police officer knocked on his door and told him (apologetically, he says) that he'd have to move his car, due to a temporary no-parking ordinance affecting both sides of the entire block. LaPierre moved his car (no small feat in Fairmount), and, upon returning, noticed someone else parking on the block. He warned them about the situation, but the driver seemed unconcerned: "The guy said, 'We're fine, don't worry about it,'" he reports.
As the block filled up with cars, LaPierre inspected and found many to have, posted inside their dashboards, written notes on City of Philadelphia letterhead.
He then watched as the newly-parked cars' owners proceeded to a party at the house across the street, a property belonging to attorney Worrell Nero.
A call to Nero's office today was un-returned. CP made slightly more headway with the Mayor's Press Office.
At 6:15 p.m., spokesperson Katherine Martin told CP that the city's Chief Integrity Officer, Joan L. Markman, is looking into the incident and the process by which the temporary parking order was issued.
Ms. Martin declined to elaborate.
Parkinggate? Just had to coin it first. Plus, the double-g is cool.
Also: Vote Drew Lazor! He deserves it, and yes: you can vote every day. Cupcakes, indeed.
Hall Monitor: DiCicco jumps into the public fray and more: Electronic billboards, bald eagles, public testimony, tow trucks
It's Thursday, and that means it's time for our City Council roundup.
Public Comment DiCicco jumps in:
This week marked the second in which public testimony is allowed as part of Council's weekly meeting the result of a court decision determining that Council's previous meeting format, in which testimony was not allowed, violated the state's Sunshine Act regarding government openness and transparency.Members of the public may now spend up to 3 minutes commenting on agenda items.
That still doesn't cut it, says attorney Darrell Zaslow, who appeared for the second week in a row before Council to urge the body to hear testimony on any issues, whether they're on the agenda or not.
"I believe you are in violation yet of the Sunshine Act," Zaslow told the body.
Another interesting twist came when Bob Caruso stood to testify against a planned development near the riverfront in Old City, which he characterized as a nightclub, and upon which a controversial electronic billboard is proposed to be placed.
So far, Council members have been reluctant to engage with those who testify in them meetings probably out time concerns, and perhaps also not wishing to be dragged into a debate during the session.
But Councilman Frank DiCicco, in whose district the development is being built, couldn't resist:
"I certainly don't want to get into a debate with the folks here to testify, but ... what is the procedure, because I do have a question for the last witness."
And with that, DiCicco helped set what may prove important precedent. The witness was called back to the microphone, and DiCicco engaged with him, emphasizing that the development is not a nightclub:
"I will not let my fifteen years of hard work in Old City be destroyed by one project, which I think is a much-needed project," he said.
Bald Eagles(100776): A rare bald eagle's nest has been identified in Pennypack park. A bill was reported out of committee today that would place parts of the park under special protection.
The Billboard (no vote): Many members of the public testified against the placing of a giant electronic billboard on the aforementioned Old Development, which would face drivers coming across the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Opponents (mostly neighbors) voiced concern over the sign's appearance, effect on neighborhood aesthetics, pollution footprint (they emit CO2, it turns out), and effect on drivers.
AAA spokesman (and Philadelphia taxpayer) Rick Remington testified that "such a sign would pose a hazard to motorists as they weave their way through heavy traffic and tight turns trying to enter the city. For those leaving the city, a safety hazard would be posed as flashing lights suddenly appear in their review mirror."
"Many of you no doubt are aware of the increased attention on distracted driving ... these electronic billboards are another form of distraction which diverts motorists from the job at hand."
Tow Trucks (100536 no vote): Tow truck drivers and company owners appeared to voice their continued opposition to the bill, which would place tow truck dispatch authority under the PPA. Today we heard an interesting take on the mater from Gary (I didn't catch his last name, but will try to supply it) an ex-convict who opposes a provision in the bill that requires the PPA to deny a license to anyone convicted of aggravated assault on an official or convicted of various crimes related to vehicles.
"I'm 46 it's kinda late to be looking for a new career. ... Everybody shouldn't have to pay the price, because I work hard."
"They never mention the good stuff we do," he added: "Help people, take people home, take people to hospitals, get up at 3 o'clock in the morning. Them companies should be dealt with like individuals, because lot of good people including myself are going to be hurt."
It isn't every day Philadelphia happenings get mentioned in the New York Times let alone the front page: but this story appears to have sneaked past every news outfit in Philly.
Yesterday, the Times reported that the Philadelphia History Museum has been in the process of âquietlyâ selling more than 2,000 of their items in order to raise money for the museum's $5.8 million renovation, as well as tighten their collection. The newsy hook is that in the museum world, pawning off your collection for some cash money is pretty much frowned upon (even in the recession and even if, like the History Museum, your nearly 200-year-old building needs a face lift).
If you haven't heard about the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent in a while, it's because it's been closed for almost two years now due to renovations. The remaining work will cost about $1.5 million, and the museum hopes to pay for it with the sale of a mystery artifact. (Other mysteries include why museum treasurer George J Kleiber initially told the Times that there were no records of the sales, then later âI'm sure there are records around. I'm not sure I've seen them.â)
The question being raised is whether selling off historical assets to fund renovations is ethical. It turns out to be tricky.
Kleiber told the Times that many of the artifacts they were selling didn't fit in with their âmission as a history museum.â Most notably, the museum sold an 1815 still life by the Philadelphia artist Raphaelle Peale-- a charming painting of a fish, an onion and a fennel bulb, among other things. Kleiber justified its sale by saying, âThe Peale we felt was very much outside the mission. We're a history museum, not an art museum. It's a picture of a fish.â
Not all agree. From the Times:
Others say the scope of the sales is troubling. âThe motivation appears to be liquidation, rather than preserving the embedded knowledge and experience that these artifacts bring,â said Kenneth Finkel, lecturer in American studies at Temple University who briefly served as deputy director of the museum. âDecisions made by donors and curators and libraries become the legacy. And the decision to deaccession stupidly is also a legacy.â
The only other news organization to weigh in so far is blog ArtNet, which had this to say:
âDespite the general rule against selling works from museum collections, it happens all the time, with the understanding that the institution's savvy curators have some grander vision in mind, finely tuned by their years of sophisticated experience in their field. Not so at the PHM, which seems to be run by a confederacy of dunces, with Kleiber as head fool.â
Ok, apparently I mixed up Philadelphia City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione and the undead truck driver featured in Pee Wee's Big Adventure. My reportorial bad.
And speaking of reportorial ... Heard in the Hall reports that prolific PW reporter Aaron Kase managed to get Commissioner Tartaglione's hackles up today. [My reportorial bad again: I misspelled Aaron's last name in the original post].
Kase, apparently, was pressing her on recent revelations that her daughter, former Deputy Commissioner Rene Tartaglione Matos, committed ethics violations in engaging in campaign work against State Rep. Angel Cruz (including ordering 2,000 promotional ballots for Cruz which directed his supporters to push the wrong ballot button).
According to Heard in the Hall, the shoe dropped when Kase asked if her office was corrupt.
Replied Tartaglione: You say that... I'll jump over this table and punch you out!"
Luckily (we reporters have to stick up for each other) Case escaped unharmed. Unluckily, the episode just missed the paper's print deadline. Look's like it's off to the blog mines with you, Aaron.
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