Archive: April, 2012
When the mayor announced that the feeding of (homeless) folks in city parks would be forbidden by an administrative rule, he did so in what looked like a hurry: a press conference was called on 30 minutes' notice, just weeks after a different rule requiring permits to serve free food was proposed by the city's Board of Health.
Groups currently serving meals on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — the obvious targets of the new rule — would be allowed to continue serving meals on the apron of City Hall, the mayor said. The ban on park food giveaways was to take effect, the mayor said, 30 days from his announcement.
That was about 45 days ago.
Turns out things seem to be moving a little more slowly than they appeared to be at the time. The Mayor's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said late last week that port-o-potties and hand-washing stations will be available starting tomorrow, May 1, but that he was not aware of any groups who had secured the required permits to serve food (though McDonald said he believed one group had started the process).
Yesterday, the Center City District released its report "State of Center City Philadelphia 2012." It is, simply, a glut of interesting information (at the news conference, CCD chief Paul Levy confessed to his agency's veritable love affair with data). Wages, jobs, office space, pedestrian traffic, taxes, it's all in there. (Example: the average Center City hotel guest spends $387 a night over a two-night stay.) But what's really cool are the interactive maps on the CCD's website.
Go to this page to see a map of all the outdoor cafes in Center City. Slide the little bar on the left to see the changes from 2002 to 2011. The other tabs on the page let you see a map of office buildings by year built; a map of workers by neighborhood; and a map of Center City jobs and wages. See anything noteworthy in any of those numbers?
Tuesday’s primary wasn’t just a school-voucher showdown or a biennial chance to crack open the local political machine and peer inside. It was also the dry run for Pennsylvania’s brand-new voter-ID law, touted by Pennsylvania Republicans as a voter-fraud deterrent. The legislation, signed in March, drew outrage from Democrats and civil-rights groups who say there’s paltry evidence that voter fraud exists in significant amounts and call the law a naked attempt to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning poor people, minorities and students.
This primary was supposed to be a practice run for November, when a state driver’s license, passport or other specified ID will be required to vote in Pennsylvania. Poll workers were supposed to ask for photo ID and inform those without it that they’ll need it next time, but confusion was abundant across the state. The Committee of Seventy reported poll workers “in many locations” in Philly weren’t asking at all, while some in other areas were overzealous. According to the ACLU, some poll workers in Pittsburgh erroneously told voters ID was required, a sign at one Harrisburg polling place read “Be prepared to show photo identification” and another in Cumberland County erroneously declared, “ID required to vote."
In Philadelphia, some Democrats took the opportunity to show their distaste for the measure.
“As you know, the Republicans in Harrisburg recently passed a new voter ID law,” began a letter distributed at polling places in the 5th Ward, which stretches from Society Hill through Midtown Village, Chinatown and Northern Liberties. “The law is scheduled for a test run in the primary. We advise you to decline to present a photo ID for this election if requested. ... The new law is being challenged in state and federal court. We think there is a good chance that it will be struck down.”
Naked City's live Philly 2012 primary election reporting extravaganza post
Welcome to our 2012 primary super-bloggo-extravaganza! Below, you'll find live coverage from Naked City's entrepid reporting team.
In the 182nd state house district, longtime incumbent progressive Babette Josephs faces a serious challenge from former treasurer Brian Sims, a former football player who would be the first openly gay state legislator in Pennsylvania history.
In the 197th, Jewell Williams, who left his job as state rep to become Philly's sheriff, will be replaced by Jamil Ali, JP Miranda, Kenneth Walker Jr. or Jewel — that's one 'l' — Williams, his daughter. To make it all more confusing, there's a simultaneous special election being held to fill that seat until November. More on that race from Philly Clout.
In West Philly's 188th district, incumbent James Roebuck, ranking member of the House Education Committee, is facing a serious challenge from Penn grad Fatimah Loren Muhammad — one of several candidates this year backed by a massive influx of money from a shadowy PAC supporting private school vouchers as my colleague Daniel Denvir has reported.
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.
See, it even looks dead in the rendering.
2100 Hamilton Street -- This is one of those dead proposals like the Aerial Tramway and Parkway22. Like those others, it pretended that it was going to be built but still managed to fail. The Residences at the Rodin was yet another pathetic-ass attempt to cash in on the mid-00s building boom. Had it actually been built, it probably would be sitting there emptier than it looks in the shitty rendering above.
This building would have been located just beyond the official edge of Franklintown, the underwhelming result of a shitbird 1970s revitalization plan that still isn't complete... home to dozens of Dead-Ass Proposals. The condo would have been placed above what is known as the Hamilton Triangle, a hole created by the old railroad tracks that run under Pennsylvania Avenue, right behind the Rodin Museum. It was named the Residences at the Rodin, which is kind of a misleading name ... the residences aren't AT the Rodin Museum!!
Proposed in 2007 by the PRA Development and Management Corporation, this wasn't going to be your typical condo. They were going for ultra high-end. There would be less than 50 units, some going for over $1 million. It would have deeded parking spaces, a grand rooftop pool/lounge, concierge services, and some big motherfucking domiciles with goofy names like "Laurent," "Bridgette" and "Monique."
The design for the building, created by architect Leonard Ciccotello, was rather unusual compared to similar types of structures being built at the time. It would be an L-shape with a circular tower imbued into the inside corner. Mansard roofs and a glass dome decorated the top. The outside corner of the building, facing the corner of 21st and Hamilton Streets, would have a gazebo-like abutment sticking out. All eleven stories would sit on top of a parking garage that would fill in the train tunnel below and rise above street level. This is one of those designs that looks great on paper (or computer screen) but could end up looking corny in real life, like the Symphony House.
Meh, it could be much worse.
The plan was so high-end that Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty would handle the sale of the condos. Shortly after proposing the project, some construction actually began. The old rails were pulled up, concrete footings installed, and a hole was dug. A contractor's trailer sat on Hamilton Street for five months. No one seems to be sure what happened. Some believe that the appearance of construction was created to spur sales of the condos, others think they needed to begin construction to keep their permits. Either way, nothing further was built.
Kurliss Sotheby's attempted to sell the unbuilt condo units all the way up into late 2009, but the crappy economy and the stagnant sales of units in the nearby Tivoli (which is doing fine now) killed the Residences at the Rodin. They tried their damnedest to get the fuckers sold-- even going as far as putting up Youtube videos with 3D tours of the building.
The scars of this Dead-Ass Proposal are still visible. The Hamilton Triangle still has the concrete footings and building materials for the project lying around, covered in vegetation. The Ninth Police District uses the hole for parking. Though it probably looked like butt in real life, it would have been nice if the Residences at the Rodin was built. Anything is better than a hole.
Franklin Town had a whole bunch of new proposals and soon-to-be-built projects in the queue. It might FINALLY come to fruition here in its fourth decade. Hopefully the Hamilton Triangle will find itself filled sooner or later, if it doesn't become part of a proposed park that would follow the old rail tunnel.
The Hamilton Triangle today. Five years later, the footers still stand, and a bunch of construction crap lays about.
In case it wasn't clear who was the hometown favorite at Famous Fourth Street today, the loudspeakers touting Attorney General candidate Patrick Murphy and the sweatshirts and swag draped over each chair pretty much told the story.
Councilman Bobby Henon, who was having lunch at the deli, said he was there to show his backing for both Murphy and Ed Neilson, the Democrat for the 169th Legislative District in the state House: "The city of Philadelphia can be key, getting a strong turnout here, especially when other areas of the state have had snow. It's a tight race but the support that John Dougherty and the building trades have brought out could be critical."
Murphy said he felt good about the hometown support. "The enthusiasm is palpable all across Pennsylvania. People want an attorney general who is going to stand up and fight to keep our families safe." Murphy — who has been running with a promise to take an activist stance in the AG office on issues like mandatory pre-abortion ultrasounds — said his legal acumen, his military background serving in Iraq and the South Philadelphia fight he picked up working as an Eagles security guard at the Vet's 700 Level would more than see him through this race and his time in office.
Asked what demographic he thought would be key to a win today, Murphy said: "The true Democrats, the ones who don't think it's OK if you give money to Gov. Corbett and then run on the Democratic ticket. They're the ones who will be supporting us."
CP just ran into City Commissioner Stephanie Singer (red white and blue hair and all) at Famous Fourth Street, Philly's election-day hangout, and she reported a "light turnout, and voting running smoothly." However, she said there were a few scattered issues that had been quickly resolved. Meanwhile, Committee of Seventy is collecting a full digest of incidents and complaints, including an inspector who arrived late and was acting "erratically," a break-in at a poll site that is now a crime scene, various reports of broken machines and some garden-variety candidate malfeasance. They are also reporting a degree of confusion about the new voter ID rules. Here's Seventy's breakdown as of 12:30 p.m. today.
· Refuse to give Judges of Election Your Photo ID: Voters in the 5th ward/18th division were given the attached letter from their two elected Democratic committeepeople telling them (1) to refuse to show their photo ID, if asked, and (2) in order to vote in the fall election, they must present a government issued photo ID. I informed the 5th ward leader (who suggested that all his committee people include this language in their handouts to constituents) that the letter has incorrect information. In fact, a government issued photo ID is only one type of photo ID that will be accepted. In Seventy’s view, telling voters to decline to present a photo ID today makes it difficult to evaluate whether the “dry run” is effective in determining how many voters do not have a photo ID that will be accepted at the polls in the fall.
· Polling Place Workers Confused About Voter ID: Seventy is working the social media and getting many reports that polling place workers (1) are not educated about the voter ID law, and (2) in many locations, are not asking voters to show a photo ID, as required. One of my Seventy colleagues just came back from voting in the 1st ward/15th division and was not asked for a photo ID.
· 188th House District: The Roebuck/Muhammad battle in the 188th is as heated as expected. A Roebuck staffer reported that the Muhammad campaign is distributing a “doctored” version of the official sample ballot in the 27th and 46th wards that omits Roebuck’s name and includes Muhammad’s. We will let you know of any efforts to confiscate the ballots by the Roebuck campaign.
· 182nd House District: A voter just called to complain that Babette Josephs, who is fighting to keep her House seat, was inside the 8th ward/3rd division and said to him: “I know I’m not supposed to be doing this, but please vote for me, Babette Josephs.” Unless they have a valid poll watcher’s certificate, candidates are not permitted to enter a polling place except to cast their own vote.
· D.A. Not Investigating “Scam” Stickers on Jewel Williams’ Signs: We checked up on the story in Newsworks that the D.A.’s office sent people out to investigate reports (also received by Seventy, which sent its volunteers to the site) that Jewel Williams’ signs (she is running for her sheriff-father’s former 197th House seat in the primary. She is not running in the special election) at the Mifflin School in East Falls were covered with “scam” stickers. A representative from the D.A.’s office, who is in Seventy’s headquarters today, said that his office did not send anyone to the polling place because this “did not rise to the level of criminal activity” that the D.A.’s office would be involved in.
· Busy Day for New City Commissioner Al Schmidt: City Commissioner Al Schmidt had to personally go to the 1st ward/7th division after reports that a Judge of Elections refused to seat a court-appointed Minority Inspector – and to the 36th ward/40th division where the Judge of Elections allegedly refused to seat an elected Minority Inspector. Schmidt also visited the 36th ward/8th division to deal with a report that the Judge of Elections refused to seat a clerk brought in by the Minority Inspector. (Clerks are usually appointed by the Minority Inspector). Friction between Judges of Election (usually Democrat) and Minority Inspectors (usually GOP) have become the norm during local elections.
· More Minority Inspector Problems: We are keeping tabs on an ongoing problem in the 2nd ward/6th division (Columbus Recreation Center, 1200 Wharton St.) where an elected Minority Inspector (who is actually a registered Democrat) apparently arrived late to the polls and has been acting erratically. Commissioner Schmidt and a representative from the D.A.’s office both visited the polling place to settle the problem. The Minority Inspector left and then returned. According to the Judge of Elections, he is threatening other people on the Election Board. The City Commissioners are going to Election Court (Room 285, City Hall) to determine the appropriate action. Seventy has a representative in Election Court and will keep you posted.
· CSI: The Palbano Recreation Center in Rhawnhurst (Bustleton and Solly Avenues) was apparently broken into (not certain when this happened) and is now a “crime scene.” The voting machines were moved to the hallway.
· Voting Machines/Polling Place Openings: There are scattered reports of machines not working and polling places not opening on time. The City Commissioners are handling these problems.
Philadelphia public schools are on the operating table, reeling from a knockout blow of heavy state budget cuts. It was too much to bear after decades of underfunding and mismanagement at the hands of shortsighted Philadelphians and mean-spirited politicians in Harrisburg.
So the District is today announcing that it's going to call it quits. Its organs will be harvested, in search of a relatively vital host.
“Philadelphia public schools is not the School District,” Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen told a handful of reporters at yesterday's press conference laying out the five-year plan proposed to the School Reform Commission. “There's a redefinition, and we'll get to that later.”
He got to it: talk about “modernization,” “right-sizing,” “entrepreneurialism” and “competition.”
Today we're posting sample ballots, endorsements and cheat sheets for tomorrow's primary. Each, of course, reprsents the opinion of the individual or group who sent it to us (because we don't have opinions).
Here are the picks by former City Controller candidate, tax reform activist, and general political gadfly Brett Mandel.
District 182 – Center City Philadelphia including Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, Grays Ferry, Bella Vista, and Logan Circle -- Brian Sims (D) is an attorney and civil rights advocate who is the former Staff Counsel for Policy and Planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association. Brian has the smarts and the energy to change the divisive and corrupting Harrisburg political culture. http://www.sims4pa.com/
District 188 – West Philadelphia including University City, Walnut Hill, Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, and Squirrel Hill -- Fatima Muhammad (D) is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and former associate director of Penn’s Greenfield Intercultural Center. Fatima is intelligent, principled, and capable. Fatima would be an exciting new voice in a state legislature that is often reluctant to change. http://www.electfatimah.com/
District 195 – North and West Philadelphia including Mantua, Powelton Village, Fairmount, and North Philadelphia -- Andrew Kleeman (D) is an experienced businessman and engaged community member. He has created jobs and fought for neighborhood change. Andrew is someone who could make a difference in Harrisburg in areas from green energy to governmental reform. http://www.kleeman2012.com/
District 202 – North and Northeast Philadelphia including Olney, Oxford Circle, and Lawncrest -- Numa St. Louis (D) is an attorney and community advocate and recently served as the Director of the Student Enrichment Academy of TAFS, the largest family shelter in Philadelphia. Numa is energetic and bright and is passionate about making real change. http://www.vote4numa.com/
District 172 – Northeast Philadelphia including Fox Chase, Bustleton, and Mayfair -- Kevin Boyle (D) is seeking re-election after his first term as State Representative. Kevin is a Philly guy (Cardinal Dougherty/La Salle University) who earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and has been a thoughtful voice for education issues. http://voteboyle.com/kevin/
District 156 – East Bradford Township, East Goshen Township, West Chester, West Goshen -- Bret binder (D) is a super bright lawyer who has grown local businesses and created jobs. He is innovative and energetic (and a heck of a pitcher) and will be a strong proponent for support for public education and other progressive issues. http://www.bretbinderforpa.com
Tomorrow's primary election ... yes, there's a primary election tomorrow ... is right on course to be yet another contest in which voters aren't tuned in to local races, by and large fail to turn out, and thereby leave the reigns of power in the hands of a tiny number of individuals who've bothered to figure out how to get their guys and gals in office.
But who can blame this hapless electorate: the races are many, the terms of debate often unclear, and the political alliances behind these races many and mucky.
The best place to get to know who you'll have the opportunity to vote for is the Committee of Seventy's extremely helpful voter guide, where you can find your polling place and see a list of candidates.
The next best place to go might be Philly.com's new voters guide, where you can generate a sample ballot from your address.
The third best place to go, though, might be your slightly-better-informed friend. There's no shame in using a cheat sheet — in fact, endorsement lists, cheat sheets, and sample ballots are one of the main ways interest groups get their ticket out to a wider audience.
So please, politicos: help out your fellow voter and send City Paper a list (or link to a list) of the candidates you or your organization endorses. We'll do our best to post it quickly.
Here's one to start, sent by Sam Durso, of Philly For Change, a group dedicated to making "progressive change" in Philly and which hosted several candidates' forums prior to announcing endorsements. This is their list.
Together, we proudly endorsed:
Larry DeMarco for the 161st State House district
James Roebuck for the 188th State House district
Charisma Presley for the 198th State House district
Michael Ellis for the 201st State House district
Matt Cartwright for the 17th Congressional district
William Dunbar for the 177th State House district
Babette Josephs for the 182nd State House district
J. Miranda for the 197th State House district
Mark Cohen for the 202nd State House district
Larry Farnese for the first State Senate district
Allyson Schwartz for the 13th Congressional district
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