Hot on the heels of success from his campaign video likening Philly to the Libyan dictatorship — which made it onto the Drudge Report — GOP mayoral candidate John Featherman has released another ad.
In this one, he yet again pokes fun at the city's political machine — in particular, the allegedly cozy relationship between leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties — as well as his opponent Karen Brown. For folks in the 8th Council District, you might want to tune in: Germantown Settlement is mentioned.
Following the death of two young children in a recent fire, members of the Olney neighborhood are speaking out against Mayor Michael Nutter's "brownout" policy.
On Feb. 22, a fire claimed the lives of two young boys, Peterson and Kevin Taing, who were 9 and 7 years old, respectively. It also destroyed the Taing family's house in Olney.
Several groups, including the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Media Mobilizing Project, One Love Movement and Firefighters Union Local 22, claim that the city’s brownout policy might be to blame for the boys’ deaths, since the closest fire station was on its scheduled shut-down at the time. Last summer, Nutter put forth a policy of "rolling brownouts," in which rotating fire stations are shut down, in order to save the city more than $3.8 million.
In a press release today, the groups admit that there’s no way of knowing whether or not the local station, Engine 61, would’ve been able to better fight the fire had it been open. “What we can say is, maybe if they were there, they would have had a shot,” says Mike Kane of Local 22 in the release.
The groups will rally against the brownouts on May 9 at the former site of the Taings’ home.
|Well played, Mayor's Press Office well played.|
You've won this round, Mayor's Press Office.
Today, the aforementioned office announced a new, giant pool of photographs a lot of really nice ones, actually taken by photography students Mitchell Leff and Kait Privitera of the mayor and members of his administration.
It's all very well and good, but in doing so, they have seriously hampered a two-year CP tradition born out of the relative paucity of official images of His Honor Mayor Michael Nutter on the city's website of simply posting, and reposting again, the same few inscrutable images we've come to love.
Like this one:
Or this one:
Thanks a lot, guys.
Perhaps to thoughtfully alert media outlets perhaps to keep us chewing our fingernails to pieces in anticipation all weekend (who wouldn't?) the office of Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz informed the media today that Mr. Butkovitz will unveil this Monday his "investigation" of the city's BigBelly Solar Compactors.
You've seen these in 2009, the city replaced 700 Center City trash cans with 500 BigBelly Solar compactors. The idea, simply, is that the machines use solar-powered motors to compact the trash, requiring fewer pickups (and reducing trash overflow), saving the city money and keeping it cleaner. The machines are the result of a $2.1M contract awarded by the city to BigBelly Solar.
We don't know yet, of course, what Butkovitz will have to say about the machines.
The Office of Controller, though, tends to release these special reports when something is not working, and not vice-versa.
And there's this: when I hear people grumble about the new compactors, which I do now and then, I hear the machines described derisively as "solar-powered trash cans" a phrase that carries the implication that a "trash can" doesn't usually need power in the first place (calling them "compactors," on the other hand, emphasizes the reason for solar).
Taking all that into consideration, check out this excerpt from Butkovitz's press release:
Controller Butkovitz will release his report that investigated the circumstances a BigBelly distributor was awarded a $2.1 million sole-source contract for the Citys new solar powered trash cans.
We'll see what the report says on Monday (and we'll post it here, of course) but if I were BigBelly, I wouldn't order a cake just yet.
Today is Mayor Michael Nutter's 53rd birthday so a happy birthday to you, Mr. Mayor.
We at the Clog were hoping, in honor of the occasion, to post an audio clip of the time the mayor suddenly crushed a water into a small ball with his bare hands during an interview with this reporter a moment that seemed, at the time, pregnant with inscrutable meaning.
But I couldn't find it. So, instead, we're presenting His Mayorship with this birthday hat and chihuahua in a birthday costume.
You're welcome, Mr. Mayor. Now let's talk about those casinos.
Yesterday, the Inky's "Heard in the Hall" blog posted a letter from (purportedly, I guess) a New Yorker who happened to be on the same ill-fated flight as Mayor Nutter and his entourage as they made their way to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City this past weekend.
The letter is a fascinating and highly flattering peek into the mayor and his staff on the road. Apparently the mayor, along with other passengers like the letter's author, got tied up in one of those hellish flights, first getting delayed for hours, then missing a connection and having to stay in Memphis overnight. According to the author, Mayor Nutter and his staff took it all in gracious stride (I love the part about waiting to sit at the bar):
"I am not from Philadelphia (I am from New York) but it was so notable just how cool, gracious and modest Mayor Nutter and his entourage were. Not once did they ever try and pull rank always waiting patiently in-line behind everyone else. ... never raising their voices, never asking for favors ... just acting like everyone else, but classier. Not even his staffers tried to pull the do you know who this is? routine. They all just waited patiently in line with the rest of us seething passengers.
"While I and other business colleagues, were so fed up that we chose to not wait for the free shuttle to the hotel, choosing instead to take a $25 cab ride ... we were shocked to see Mayor Nutter and his entourage walking towards the shuttle stop and waiting patiently with all of the others (including the screaming babies).
"But the real kicker was when we got to the hotel and tried to cash in our $12 meal vouchers. ... the restaurant had an open dining room, and a bar area. The dining room closed at 10. And food was only available at the bar until 11. Mayor Nutter and his folks finally had checked in and were just trying to grab a bite to eat just after 10 pm, but they refused to seat him in the empty restaurant, and instead insisted that they wait until spaces opened up in the bar (which was completely full and overwhelmed by the sudden influx of passengers/guests) ... Again, Mayor Nutter and his people just quietly waited for any seats to open up at the bar
And I'll say this: As a reporter, I've found the mayor himself and his staff, particularly the mayor's press office, with which I interact fairly often, to be remarkably accessible and down-to-earth even when my writing is, as is often the case, critical.
They deserve some credit for being accessible not only out on the road, as this letter suggests, but here at home, too.
Updated: Mayor Spokesman Douglas Oliver returned an earlier call today. His response is below
How do you know the mayor is serious about the soda tax? He's putting the screws on homeless shelters.
In an email to service providers scooped right out of my hands by my intrepid colleagues at It's Our Money Dainette Mintz, Director Office of Supportive Housing and Deputy Managing Director for Special Needs Housing, asked that providers show up to this Thursday's budget meeting in support of the mayor's proposed tax on sweetened beverages.
It isn't exactly breathtakingly out of line for the administration or any administration to put a little good old fashioned pressure on departments to support a budget proposal.
But this request is a bit different: it's highly specific, being made to a department whose providers have had to cut services for several years in a row; and while departments are often asked to come and support a budget they're part of, the direct relationship between the Office of Supportive Housing and the soda tax isn't obvious.
In fact, it's a little convoluted, as expressed in the letter below. Some service providers seem befuddled:
"To support a patiucalr tax that's unsusual," says one. "I'm not sure what we'd all do come together and chant?" the provider added.
Larry Ceisler, a long-time Philadelphia media consultant currently working for the Beverage Coalition which opposes the sweetened beverage tax argues that the mayor, who has criticized the lobbying effort afoot, is effectively using a multi-million-dollar department to lobby.
"The mayor is playing hard-ball. I understand, I get it," says Ceisler. "What the proponents of this tax want to do is to shoot the messenger, the lobbyists and people asked to lobby for people who feel threatened by this tax But if you look at that letter, and its implications, to me that's akin to a twenty-million dollar lobbying campaign."
Mayor Spokesman Douglas Oliver vehemently denies that the letter was anything other than an attempt by the administration to"make sure that our stakeholders are aware of the reality that we're facing as a city, and that they're facing as providers. And that they have an opportunity to voice their opinion if they should choose to do so."
As to why providers were being asked to support the beverage tax in particular, Oliver argued that since the rest of the budget has passed committee, the beverage tax essentially is the rest of the budget.
Asked if other departments' vendors were contacted in the same manner, Oliver said he wasn't sure, but that "Everything didn't necessarily go out at the same time on the same day."
Indeed, the Office of Supportive Housing isn't the only agency being called upon: an email from Health Commissioner Donald Schwartz to unknown recipients reads:
On Wednesday, March 17, 2010 Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz will testify about this important public health initiative. The hearing will begin at 10:00 am in room 400 in City Hall. Members of the public are invited to attend.
The mayor's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Here, below, is the letter from Ms. Mintz:
As you may know, the City has been engaged in budget hearings with City Council in an attempt to pass a balanced budget for FY 11. Yesterday, Council passed a budget which included $17M in additional spending cuts; $4M in new taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars; $7M in new revenue to be generated from additional trash pick up fees from small businessess and multi-dwelling residences; and, $ 86M in additional revenue to be generated via a 9.9% increase in property taxes for 2 years. City Council did not pass the Mayor's proposed Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax.
The budget passed by Council will reduce the City's fund balance (cash on hand) to $ 42.5M and this will impede the City's ability to borrow money. The Administration believes that a fund balance of $ 42.5 M is insufficient and will result in an unstable cash position. A large percentage of the City's revenue is not realized until the beginning of each calendar year (January) and, in practical terms, the City may not have enough cash on hand to meet all of its contractual obligations over the next six months. In addition, there is a concern that the State of Pennsylvania may not pass its budget on time just as what occurrred last year. If this happens, the City would not receive its cash payments from the State thereby further reducing the available cash on hand. That scenario coupled with the lack of additional incoming revenue and the inability to borrow money could result in the City freezing payments similar to or even worse that what was experienced last summer.
On Thursday, May 20, 2010, the Administration plans to go before Council to present the impact of Council's budget and the need to pass the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax.
While the Administration understands that the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax may not be popular, it is the only revenue generating proposal on the table. The Administration is therefore asking for a collective effort in support of this tax and that you show your support by coming to City Hall, 4th Floor on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 10 AM.
As always, thanks very much for your continuing partnership with us as we work to end homelessness.
Update: Well this is what I get for not checking my feeds before pounding the keys:
According to various sources in City Hall, including Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, members of the beverage industry have offered Mayor Michael Nutter $10 million toward obesity programs in exchange for his letting go of a proposed tax on sweetened beverages.
In addition, DiCicco said an offer was brewing from members of the soda industry to provide $10 million over two years to the city for health and wellness programs. He said those funds -- which would be provided if the proposed soda tax goes away -- could also help bridge the gap.
According to the mayor's office, it's not going to work. In an email about half an hour ago, spokesman Doug Oliver told CP:
The City would not accept an offer of $10m from the beverage association. It would not provide the City with the revenue it needs over the life of the five-year plan.
What does all of this mean?
On the one hand, there's the fiscal side of things: the mayor's proposed tax of 2 cents per ounce is supposed to raise about $77 million a year, $20 million of which would go to anti-obesity efforts; although they expect only about half of that, $38.6 million, in the first year. By those calculations, the mayor's right. A one-time $10 million gift, especially if it goes entirely to anti-obesity programs, doesn't balance our budget.
Finance Director Rob Dubow told Councilman Bill Green today that none of those proceeds would go toward anti-obesity programs this year.
And sources in City Hall say the administration has been bargaining around not two cents per ounce, but three-quarters of a cent, maybe even as low as half a cent per ounce meaning the revenue could be as low as $14M or less for the first year and somewhere around 28.8 million in following years, by my calculation. With that revenue cut in half, how much, if any, will actually go to fight obesity?
Which makes this situation a little complicated: Mayor Nutter's refusal to take the $10 million could be seen as principled, yet without it or, rather, if he has to compromise his tax too much to get it passed it's not clear whether there will be any new anti-obesity funding at all.
Both the soda industry and Mayor Nutter appear to be fighting a symbolic battle, at least to some extent.
The industry likely opposes his tax and is willing to pay him $10M to kill it not so much because of what it'll do to them here, but because Mayor Nutter may be paving the way for similar taxes elsewhere (perhaps statewide taxes; perhaps a federal tax).
And it's precisely because he's paving the way, say many sources in Council, that Mayor Nutter is fighting so hard to keep this tax alive. He's staked no little reputation on being one of the first mayors to pull off such a tax.
In a marathon session, City Council moved ahead on a 9.9 percent property tax hike, a tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars, and withheld a bill that would impose the mayor's baby: the sweetened beverage tax.
It seemed earlier in the day like that tax was going to pass but Council leadership was unable, apparently, to muster the nine votes needed. The administration, however, hasn't given up on the soda tax by a long shot.
Councilman Frank DiCicco, who proposed the first property tax hike as an alternative to a flat $300 trash fee, voted "no" on the 9.9 percent hike today, favoring a 12.1 percent property tax hike that would have made up most of the difference.
Council also approved a spending bill with about $17 million in cuts, disappointing Councilman Bill Green, who has proposed more than $40 in cuts himself, mostly by not filling unfilled positions.
Right now, Council will have to find about $18 million more in revenue or in cuts.
These bills have just passed first reading they'll need to pass again next week to become law.
This morning, the regular meeting of City Council was suspended in order to hear speakers on various revenue proposals being floated by Council and the administration, including a property tax hike between 9.9 percent and 12 percent, a sugar-sweetened beverage tax (between, apparently, half a cent and two cents), and a tax on smokeless tobacco products and cigars.
The plan seems to be this:
After this hearing, Council leadership will meet with the administration and try to hammer out a deal. Council needs nine votes to pass it, but the final votes on this stuff aren't usually quite that close: leadership would like to get 11.
Assuming it happens, Council will reconvene its regular meeting, amend the bills that constitute the mayor's initial budget proposal, and allow the revised budget a first reading and initial vote which will let them vote it in finally next week.
So what's the deal going to be? Not totally clear yet. A new proposal of a 12 percent increase to the property tax seems to be gaining some traction. It would close most of the current budget gap and likely obviate the need for other taxes. Councilman Frank DiCicco, about an hour ago, seemed to voice support for it, saying:
"We're going to take a political hit no matter what we do ... I say take the 12.10 [property tax hike] and not worry about the other taxes because we can't get the nine votes anyway."
However, it seems to be up in the air still whether Mayor Nutter is willing to drop his sugary beverage tax or not he's staked some political capital on it, and has received national attention for the proposal.
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