Luck of the Draw: A Bad Way to Hire Judges

(Photo: Jon Geeting) Do you believe that Court of Common Pleas judges, who are responsible for deciding major civil and criminal trials, and family and domestic issues, should be chosen completely at random, by fishing a ping pong ball out of a coffee can? If so, you're going to love Philadelphia's upcoming judicial primaries. Continue reading

This Week: Two Chances to Give Feedback on New Voting Machines

(Image: Commissioner Al Schmidt) We've been writing about the slow-moving process to replace Philadelphia's voting machines before the Governor's deadline in 2020, and now the City Commissioners are evidently springing into action with a couple of public comment sessions on the new voting machines scheduled on a very tight turnaround of less than a week.  Continue reading

Who's Running in Philadelphia's 2019 Municipal Primaries? Here's What We Know

Philadelphia's 2019 municipal primaries are happening in just a few months on May 21st, and if the past two election cycles are any indication, the political mood both nationally and locally seems likely to remain unusually favorable to upstart political candidates independent from the traditional party structure. Is that trend going to hold this year? We're still more than a month away from the petition period to get on the ballot, but here's what we already know about the 2019 field. Continue reading

Smart Growth America Ranks Opportunity Zones on Support for Walkable Urban Development. How Does Philly Stack Up?

Municipal governments across the country are beginning to consider local strategies responding to the new Opportunity Zones created as part of the federal tax reform package last year, which are expected to leverage about $6 trillion in capital gains by recycling them into new business and real estate investment in about 8,700 low-income Census tracts across the country. That makes Opportunity Zones the largest federal community development program, with implications everyone is still trying to comprehend.  Continue reading

MontCo Will Debut New Voting Machines in 2019. Philly's City Commissioners Should Follow Suit.

("The Department of State won't certify our election results??" | Image: WHYY) Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all Pennsylvania counties to purchase new voting machines in time for the 2020 Presidential election, and his Department of State has been selecting the machines that they'll certify for counties to purchase. Many counties, including Philadelphia, have been dragging their feet, and some have even enlisted their state lawmakers to try and counter Wolf so counties can wriggle out of the deadline. And then there's Montgomery County.  Continue reading

Councilman Derek Green Proposes a New Independent Fiscal Office for City Council

City Council doesn't currently have a non-partisan way of evaluating what their bills cost, but that could change if a new bill from At-Large Councilman Derek Green becomes law, establishing an Independent Fiscal Office for City Council.  Continue reading

Rethinking Voter Turnout Beyond Registered Voters

(Image: Sixty-Six Wards) Philadelphia saw record midterm election turnout this November, with 53% of registered voters participating in the election. This is the way we're all used to thinking about turnout—as a percentage of those registered—but Jonathan Tannen's latest post at Sixty-Six Wards provides some interesting alternative ways of conceptualizing it as a fraction of all adults of eligible voting age—arguably a more useful way for wards and other political actors to think about it. Continue reading

Political Response to Johnson Land Scandal Ignores the Main Problem With Corrupt Land Sales: City Council

The reports that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has now been caught twice steering city-owned land to the same campaign donor have begun eliciting a political response, but predictably, all the policy changes elected officials have embraced so far fail to address the core issue: that City Council ordinances shouldn't be required to sell city land. Continue reading

Mayor Kenney's Police HQ2 Deal is Even Worse Than You Think

The Provident Mutual Building saga continues with Jacob Adelman reporting that the Kenney administration is moving forward with a plan to sell the noted white elephant and surrounding 13-acre property near 46th and Market for just $10 million, after taxpayers recently invested about $50 million into renovating the building for a new police headquarters. They're going to lose $42 million, which sounds bad, until you realize it's even worse than that. Continue reading

GOP Lawmakers May Try to Block Wolf's Push For New Voting Machines by 2020

(New voting machines | Image: WHYY) Governor Tom Wolf has been mounting a push to get counties to buy new voting machines before the 2020 elections that will have an auditable paper trail—something the voting machines in a majority of Pennsylvania counties don't have. For a variety of reasons this has led to consternation from county election officials, including our City Commissioners, and now the Senate Republican Majority Whip says he's drafting legislation to take away Wolf's power to force counties to buy the machines. Continue reading