Archive: September, 2010
We go to City Council meetings so you don't have to.
As far as Council meetings go, this was a fairly enthralling one, so let's just cut to the chase, shall we? But first, our weekly attendance record: Councilwoman Joan Krajewski wasn't at the meeting. Everyone else was. Moving right along â¦
- The bill abolishing the Office of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions and transferring all of its duties to the First Judicial District passed unanimously. Congrats, Committee of Seventy. Now just three more row offices to go, y'all.
- Councilwoman Maria QuiÃ±ones-SÃ¡nchez introduced a bill that would reform the city's long-criticized business privilege tax: It would raise the gross receipts tax and eventually kill the net income tax. (It would also add a tax credit to fresh food retailers to "address the problem of 'fresh food' deserts," says SÃ¡nchez in a press release.) According to co-sponsor Councilman Bill Green, this will remove the "disincentive for businesses" especially small businesses "to locate to Philadelphia." This, of course, differs from Mayor Nutter's plan kill the gross receipts tax and lower the net income tax by 6 percent. Should make for an interesting showdown. You can check out a copy of the bill here. (For an easier though longer read, here's a PowerPoint on the bill from SÃ¡nchez and Green's offices.)
- Also, in Nutter/Council showdown news, the deeds bill that aims to prevent property theft passed, with everyone voting in favor except for Councilman Brian O'Neill, who abstained from the vote.
- And finally, Council passed a resolution to call on the Delaware River Basin Commission to enact a three-year moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling and create a Marcellus Shale Study Commission to assess its environmental impact. If elected, gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett vows to place a moratorium on all such moratoriums.
The headline basically says it all: City Paper has been judged the overall best non-daily newspaper in the state by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association in its annual Newspaper of the Year awards. Papers from all over the state sent in randomly selected issues and were assessed on a host of criteria, including news coverage, opinion pages, layout and design and advertising, among others. We competed in Division V, or larger circulation non-dailies, which includes alt-weeklies, business journals, community papers and the like. You can peep all the individual categories here.
CP won first place in Newswriting Excellence, Layout & Design and Editorial/Opinion Page Excellence, and second place in Advertising Excellence, Best Use of Photography and Special Section.
Congrats all around.
Dept. of You're All Broke: Philly is poorer than Chicago, New York and LA; Detroit still sucks worse, says Butkovitz
This just in from Alan Butkovitz, who has yet to meet a statistic he won't press release:
PHILADELPHIA â City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released his monthly economic report that focuses on Philadelphia's new poverty rate of 25% that outpaces the poverty rates of the nation's largest cities.
Philadelphia, the sixth largest U.S. city, has a poverty rate above Chicago, 21.6%; Houston, 20.6; Los Angeles, 19.58%; and New York City, 18.7%. Detroit, the 11th largest city and about half the size of Philadelphia, has a higher rate with 36.4%.
While the current 2009 rate is below the City's 2006 rate of 25.1%, it was 18.5% in 2000. Philadelphia's poverty rate has seen steady increases the last two years.
Along with a look at poverty rates, the Controller's economic report includes City tax revenues for August totaled $177.3 million, a slight increase from last month's collections. Monthly sales tax collections were $23.4 million, making it the highest monthly collection since the 8% sales tax increase was implemented.
The Controller's economic report is compiled on a monthly basis and includes an Economic Snapshot and Forecast, as well as real estate information and other local statistics. These reports are circulated every month to assist key decision makers in understanding and anticipating local and national economic trends. Both of these documents are a useful tool for policy makers and analysts in understanding our regional and local economy.
To view the Economic Forecast and Monthly Snapshot, please visit the City Controller's Web site at www.philadelphiacontroller.org.
Today's entry in Dumbest Column Ever goes to Fatimah Ali, of the Daily News, who believes Ed Rendell is about to run for vice president with Hillary Clinton, because Hillary and Obama have a super-secret deal where he steps down and she runs in 2012, or something.
Read the whole thing for yourself, before the DN's editors happen to come to their senses and pull this embarrassing dreck off the Internet. Here's a taste (it really speaks for itself):
IT'S JUST a hunch, but for months I've been wondering whether Ed Rendell is gearing up to run for office again.
The last time I had thoughts about Pennsylvania's governor setting his sights on higher office, he'd just been elected mayor, but had already aimed his sights toward the governor's mansion, having lost the race once before. This time, I'm wondering if he might be eyeing Washington - as Hillary Clinton's running mate. That's of course, if Bill Clinton doesn't join her on a ticket instead.
Let me explain.
Anyone who's spent any time observing Pennsylvania's governor knows how ambitious he is. He's also plenty cozy with the Clintons (and we know how ambitious they are). We've been seeing a lot of Rendell on TV recently - more than you'd normally expect from a governor who'll leave office in a few months. And, despite what she's said about never running for president again, never's a very long time, and I've never believed for a moment that Hillary Clinton's eye isn't still fixed on the White House.
I'm not the only journalist who believes she's still gunning to return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson shared similar thoughts over the weekend when MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews asked his Sunday roundtable of political reporters about President Obama's ability to "recoup the magic he had when he ran for president but has continued to lose since he's been in office." (My bet's that Obama will get a second wind like he did when his numbers plunged during his campaign.)
Most of Matthews' guests were adamant that they think its unlikely Obama won't run for a second term because it will take at least eight years to clean up the mess that President Bush left behind.
But Gerson doesn't count Clinton out of making a second presidential run. (As far-fetched as it seems, I've often wondered if Obama had cut a deal with Secretary of State Clinton that, if things didn't go well during his administration, he'd back her instead of running again himself.)
And on it goes from there, and no, it doesn't get any more cogent or grounded in facts or analysis. Which leaves you wondering: Exactly which DN editor said, "Sure, Fatimah, I'll run your pointless speculation. And hey, here's a check."
Philly Mag and writer Jason Fagone get big, big ups for running this absolute ball-buster of an investigative piece into Emanuel Freeman and his Germantown Settlement, which with a a combination of millions of tax dollars, unfettered greed and avarice, a loathsome city bureaucracy and Council members and officials who were all too happy to keep directing your tax dollars Freeman's way, even after his incompetence and alleged corruption was laid bare managed to put this Northwest community into a deep, deep hole.
He was, as one source put it, the âMugabe of Germantown,â and the city couldn't have cared less.
It's long, but seriously worth your attention. If heads don't roll over this here's looking at you, Councilwoman Miller then this city truly isn't ready for primetime.
Until very recently, through the social agency, Freeman provided services directly to 15,000 of the city's most vulnerable residents, and he has always bragged in his grant requests that when you add in his real estate ventures, he touches the lives of 195,000 peopleone in every seven residents of Philadelphia.
He's the largest developer in Germantown, and is also the community's largest employer, which partly explains why politicians, both white and black, have always liked him: everyone from Governor and ex-mayor Ed Rendell, who used to call him âManny,â to Congressman Bob Brady, who scored him a $250,000 federal earmark in 2009, to Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, whose daughter, Shakira, was paid $55.14 an hour by a Freeman-run nonprofit to âconsultâ with her mother, using walking-around money controlled by legislators and administered by Rendell's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). (Brady didn't respond to an interview request, and Miller said her daughter worked hard, and that to single her out for scrutiny was âunfair to the children of elected officials.â)
When you start to add up the grants, tax breaks and low-interest loans, you find that Freeman has raised at least $100 million for his enterprise since the mid-'80s. To an oil company, $100 million is a rounding error, but for a nonprofit working in a single part of a single city, it's unheard of. Crazy, though: When you visit Germantown, you can't see where any of this money went. When I walked through Germantown this spring, with two black women who used to work for Settlement and have since become its critics Anita Hamilton and Debra White-Roberts, of the Wister Neighborhood Council what we saw was blight: a run-down, graffiti-tagged strip mall called Freedom Square, built with $400,000 from the city, $600,000 from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), and $600,000 from the federal government; three abandoned, boarded-up stucco homes on East Penn Street; and a gaping foundation pit on Wakefield Street, full of trash bags. Settlement âdevelopedâ these properties. âThis is all we got,â White-Roberts told me. âWe're worse off than if the money hadn't come here in the first place, because we don't know where it went.â
Time and time again, Miller took Freeman at his word. She didn't challenge him. And almost no one was willing to challenge Miller. Not even in the summer of 2008, which is the pivot point in the Settlement saga the moment when it stops being a troubling historical yarn about race and real estate and becomes something way more raw.
In the summer of 2008, Elders Place I and II were baking. The hallways were hot. Some of the air conditioners were broken. Low-income old people lived there. On August 1st, HUD inspectors found rodent infestations, leaky roofs, and either âwarmâ or âextremely hotâ hallways at both Elders I and II, plus a broken fire alarm system at Elders II; two months later, they went back, and their report noted problems with mold, ancient pumps, illegal wiring, water leaks, a lack of hot water, a âvery hotâ hallway, and trash. HUD wrote Freeman, to alert him to these dangerous problems.
Meanwhile, the social-agency side of Settlement was falling apart, too. On August 25th, an inspector with the city's Department of Human Services began a spot check on Settlement's âServices to Children in their Own Homesâ program, which was designed to keep children in their own homes and prevent foster-care placement where possible. The city paid Settlement more than $460,000 on its SCOH contract alone in 2008. Here's what the city inspector, who recommended that the city shut the program down, wrote in the report:
This agency seems to be able only to provide minimal social services to the families. They are deficient in most of the required standards, many of which are safety-driven. There were months and months of contacts notes missing. The agency blamed this problem on workers who were no longer employed with the agency. It appeared to this evaluator that many of the problems were systemic; meaning that the agency had no real or concrete understanding of what was required of them.
ONE CITY AGENCY actually followed procedure and cut off Freeman's funding, despite his repeated requests. On November 17, 2008, the director of housing, Deborah McColloch, rejected a request from Freeman for $40,000, pointing out in a letter to him that his audits were still delinquent, and that Settlement and its housing company owed outstanding payroll taxes to the city, state and federal governments totaling approximately $800,000. âI am sorry I cannot approve your request,â McColloch wrote.
On December 9th, Freeman wrote to Don Schwarz, head of the city's Department of Public Health. Schwarz is a distinguished pediatrician, and a senior Nutter administration official. Freeman e-mailed Schwarz asking for help in getting an emergency payment of $133,855 from the Department of Human Services.
At this point, Schwarz's agency, DPH, hadn't received an audit from Settlement since 2005, a clear signal to give Freeman nothing more. Instead, 14 minutes later, Schwarz replied to Freeman, copying Donna Reed Miller, apologizing for any delay in funds: âI am sorry for this.â Later that day, Schwarz sent a longer reply to Freeman, promising three separate payments for various needs, totaling $119,500 that would be rushed into Settlement's hands. âI hope this helps,â Schwarz wrote Freeman. âWe will continue to push to get you paid.â
Yes, it's been about a year ... OK, try 18 months ... since the last episode of the Philly From Scratch podcast.
(UPDATE: We're having some trouble with the feed presently. For now, if you're just dying to be notified of new podcasts and yes, they will come! click here to subscribe to the Philly From Scratch Google Group for notifications of new episodes. It's not perfect, but I'll at least keep you posted and won't spam you. You can also email me, just for the hell of it. Once our feed gets restored, you'll click here to subscribe via iTunes; you can try anyway, if you like.)
But anyway, the podcast is back now, with none other than the great Harry Shearer.
Shearer is a man of many hats: actor (This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind); comedian (Saturday Night Live); author (Too Many Indians), Simpsons-voice-extraordinaire (Mr. Burns, Smithers, Flanders, Lenny, Principal Skinner, Dr. Marvin Monroe, and others), radio host (Le Show), and his latest act: film documentarian.
A long-time critic of the role of federal government played in the flooding of New Orleans, Shearer has never let listeners to his radio show forget that what happened to the city was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one.
Seeing the approach of the five-year anniversary of Katrina and seeing that this point, five years later, seems to have escaped most of the media, as well as President Obama Shearer put together a documentary, The Big Uneasy, featuring a small handful of whistle blowers and researchers who present a compelling case that the federal government (the Army Corps of Engineers, in particular), and not Hurricane Katrina, nearly destroyed New Orleans.
Unfortunately, the film screened in most cities for one night only, but it's playing in New York City for a week starting this Friday (click here for showtimes).
In this interview, Shearer talks about the film, his show, why NPR rejected an ad for his show, and how the hell he manages to do as much as he does.
(Editor's note: We get lots of e-mail. Some of it is about stuff we've written, which is cool. Some of it is general bitching about the city, which is fine, too. But then there's the rest: chain e-mails, press releases, solicitations, ruminations on Obama's secret socialist plans, letters imploring us to find Jesus, etc. Good stuff all, but sometimes it's hard to find a place for it in the paper, what with the diminishing page counts and all. And that's a goddamn shame. So, without further ado, allow us to present Non Sequitur, letters to the editor about whatever. This letter, presented exactly as it hit our inbox, comes from Gary, who really just wants to save your soul from forthcoming calamity. Enjoy!)
By God's mercy,
I and a few other individuals have been holding a 20 foot âJudgment Day May 21, 2011â sign for the past week here in Philadelphia at 15th street, across from City hall by the Clothespin. Reception has been going well. we will be there today 3p-7p
We are not part of a church or any religious group. However, we believe God will begin to destroy this world in just 8 months. For more information, please send some of your reporters to take pictures of this controversial message. We are open to discuss why may 21 2011 is the beginning of the end, and will even be open to debate with any church why this date is true.
If you are interested, you can contact us at 215.XXX.XXXX
We go to City Council meetings so you don't have to.
Guess what a Philadelphia chromosome is?
One that's entirely screwed up, of course! More specifically, according to wisegeek.com, it's "a chromosomal abnormality which can lead to leukemia" which was discovered at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960, thus paving for the way for new and unprecedented treatment of leukemia.
What does this have to do with City Council, you're wondering? It passed a resolution this morning to make September 28 "Philadelphia Chromosome Day." Cute, right?
But onto more important stuff (which, for the record, took place after both Councilpersons Brian O'Neill and Bill Green peaced out, for what O'Neill called "urgent city business"):
Council passed a resolution objecting to the expansion of the Forum Theater, a place where you can watch porno flicks (with friends!) on 22nd and Market streets. The idea, said Councilman Darrell Clarke, is that a bigger sleaze theater kind of messes with the planned betterment of that neighborhood.
Bill 100360, which would (finally) abolish the Office of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, is moving right along. It was placed on the calendar for second reading and final passage next Thursday.
Remember the Promoters Bill 100267-A we told you about earlier this year? (Which was pretty terrible at first, but then admittedly got better?) Because of a few minor issues that needed to be cleared up, it's been sitting on Mayor Nutter's desk for a signature since June 17. Council passed a resolution asking Nutter to take a second look at it, pretty please, and Councilman Bill Greenlee says he has "no reason to believe" Nutter won't now sign it into law.
The following comes from a person who appeared in that Wild About Philly preview YouTube clip of their controversial DVD (below) of this year's Philly Naked Bike Ride (we discussed this in more detail in this week's forthcoming A Million Stories, which should be online later today). She asked to remain anonymous:
i had no idea the dvd was even being made. the fact that the gatherings before and after the bike ride were being filmed for a commercial dvd, ostensibly with an accompanying ad campaign, makes me extremely uncomfortable. i assumed i was being filmed for a one-time broadcast or a youtube news piece. at no time was it made clear that my image, voice and words would be for sale. i would not have agreed to be filmed if i had known that.
i'm not ecstatic about the filming of the ride itself or the sale of that footage, but that, to me, is par for the course. PNBR's photo policy is essentially unenforceable because the riders are moving targets. i don't mind being part of a wide shot of moving riders, but hey, that's zero content and would not sell at all.
i understand that the filming and sale of the footage of *me* and others is legal because it was in a public place. i was filmed talking at the afterparty. i find the cameraman's presence there and his active pursuit of interviews from still-naked people pretty upsetting. there was a LOT of alcohol involved (thanks to a "free beer if you're naked" policy), which obviously encouraged people including me to put ourselves in compromising positions, and there were almost certainly minors present.
i feel pretty helpless as far as the sale of the dvd is concerned. a letter-writing campaign? feh. i feel like this whole publicity thing will just increase the sales of the dvd and encourage scumbags who want to experience the novelty of naked chicks in center city all over again to buy it. i would sign my name on a pre-written letter if the campaign made one, but since there's no legal action available from what i've heard, i'm pretty pessimistic about the prospects of halting the sale of the dvd.
Pasted right from Craigslist. The missed connection here refers to Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz and a thrown friendship bracelet.
You are my favorite baseball player. That being said, I made you a friendship bracelet in Phillies colors. When you drove out of the CBP parking lot after the game on Sunday, I may or may not have thrown said bracelet at your car. I was kind of drunk and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Please accept my apology and the bracelet as I will try to mail it to you. Also, please give my apologies to Valdez because he drove out right after you and I also threw it at his car.
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