Seattle Democracy Vouchers are Democratizing Campaign Finance

It's been over a year since City Council last had a hearing on Council member Derek Green's campaign finance reform package, which would have established a new public financing option for local elections, and moved from annual contribution limits to cycle limits—two changes that would be expected to make our elections more competitive. Some good news out of Seattle about the success of their democracy vouchers program in the recent municipal elections could help renew interest in this idea in the next Council session. Continue reading

Visualizing Past Election Results and More with the Sixty-Six Wards 'Ward Portal'

(Preview of the Ward Portal | Image: Sixty-Six Wards) Election data fans rejoice! There's a really useful new Ward Portal tool from Sixty-Six Wards blogger Jonathan Tannen that now makes it much easier to analyze past election results or plan a campaign.  Continue reading

Why Some Housing Authorities are Buying Existing Buildings for Affordable Housing

(The Austin housing authority purchased this 452-unit apartment complex to operate as non-profit housing | Image: Community Development Trust) Everyone would like to see a lot more affordable housing created in Philadelphia, but the most common ways that capital-A Affordable Housing is created today makes this unaffordable to scale.  Continue reading

Seven Independents Filed for this Fall's City Council At-Large Election

Municipal-year general elections are usually pretty sleepy in Philadelphia, with most of the action happening during the primary, but this year we're in for a little more lively of a fall campaign season because there's a boomlet of independent candidates running for City Council At-Large.  Continue reading

Wolf Making Progress on Goal to Reduce Barriers to Employment in PA

(Tom Wolf is raising the roof...on licensing rules that make it harder to find work in Pennsylvania) Nearly 25% of all U.S. workers now need a license from the state to do their job, thanks to a growing tangle of state-level employment laws known as occupational licensing. Continue reading

Hyper-Local Funding and Inequality of Public Services

(Image: Most PA local tax bases are too small to do anything real) With a patchwork of over 2,500 different municipalities, 500 school districts, and over 1,500 different special authorities making up the most local layer of local government in most of Pennsylvania, most areas of the Commonwealth aren't terribly well-governed at the municipal level. That's because the skimpy local tax bases that result from so much fragmentation can support only bare-bones services in many places—and a great many PA local governments don't even have all the basics covered, with fully half of them lacking even a local police department.  Continue reading

The Case for Unbundling Parking and Housing

(At 1213 Walnut, you can rent just a home without a parking spot | Photo: Jon Geeting) Parking is a sensitive subject these days, with a few central and south Philadelphia neighborhoods seeing overnight curb parking occupancy rates nearing 100% or more, and little appetite from our elected officials to address the problem at the source by managing curb turnover. Instead, some elected officials want to approach the problem by increasing parking requirements for new or repurposed buildings in a vain attempt to fix the curb parking crunch. Some new research out of Boston helps illustrate why this approach not only doesn't work, but creates even more problems than it solves. Continue reading

The PA Suburban County Races to Watch This Fall

(Delaware County Democratic slate | Photo: MediaNews Group File Photo, Delco Times) Philadelphia has a more interesting general election than usual this year, with a competitive District Council race in the far Northeast in District 10, and what appears to be one of the more organized efforts yet to elect left-wing candidates Kendra Brooks and Pastor Nic O'Rourke to the non-majority party At-Large Council seats now held by Republicans Al Taubenberger and David Oh.  Continue reading

Court Ruling Points the Way Forward for Fixing Land Assessments

A Court of Common Pleas decision throwing out the City's methodology for assessing land under condo buildings could potentially open the door to a new way of assessing land citywide if the decision withstands City appeals.  Continue reading

Why Is City Council Ducking the Official Process for Big Zoning Changes?

A week before the May primaries, Council President Clarke and 10th District Councilor Brian O'Neill introduced a little-noticed resolution creating a new Council-controlled Zoning Code Review Commission that will be tasked with making big changes to the reformed zoning code passed fewer than 10 years ago in 2011. The Commission would be staffed entirely by Clarke and O'Neill, two of Council's most retrograde housing thinkers, rather than going through the official process that voters adopted in a 2007 Charter change for these kinds of commissions—the Zoning Code Commission.  Continue reading