Let's Stop Relying on Volunteer Magic for Philly's Core Municipal Services

Philadelphia City government has an unfortunate tendency to assume volunteer magic will fill gaps in their service provision that are much too big to fill with unpaid neighborhood volunteer efforts alone—a similar phenomenon to the unfunded civic engagement mandate problem we've called out in the past. A couple of stories published this week help illustrate this problem in the areas of street trash cans and tree maintenance. Continue reading

Councilmember Jannie Blackwell's Swan Song: Wiping Out Food Trucks at Drexel

(This Council hates food trucks | Photo: WHYY) (UPDATE: The Drexel food truck ban passed Council on Thursday with only At-Large member Helen Gym voting against it.)Outgoing 3rd District Councilmember Jannie Blackwell leaves office in just a few weeks, but her lame-duck status hasn't stopped her from having a very productive fall session, where she's attempted to push through a lot of legislative leftovers she couldn't get traction for, or otherwise didn't pursue over the last four years.  Continue reading

Pennsylvania's Drinking Economy

(Why is this allowed? | Photo: Gregory Rec/Yahoo Finance) The 2019 annual report on Pennsylvania alcohol sales from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board found state residents bought 3% more wine and spirits than last year, for a total of $2.5 billion. That's been celebrated by some as good news for the state budget, which it is, but a big increase in alcohol consumption is also bad news for public health overall, and this tension goes to the core of why it's such a conflict for the state to be both the seller and regulator of alcohol. Continue reading

Another Party Pick Pleads Guilty

(DCC Chair Bob Brady says all party picks will have 'baggage' | Photo: Bob Brady, Philadelphia Inquirer) This week we saw another political bombshell with Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell announcing her resignation after being indicted by Attorney General Josh Shapiro on charges of perjury, tampering with public records, theft and more related to allegations that she misspent more than $500,000 of non-profit funds intended for people fighting addiction. Shapiro told the AP's Mark Scolforo he expects the case will result in a plea deal.  Continue reading

Abatement-Palooza: What's Happened, and What's Next in This City Council Term?

(2040 Market Street) Council President Darrell Clarke's late-breaking push for changes to the 10-year tax abatement has been spicing things up at the end of this City Council term, with the rumored introduction of two such bills, and the eventual introduction of just one bill. In keeping with the same spirit of our other post this week summarizing the bills likely to be left on the cutting room floor at the end of this term, let's take a look back at the many abatement bills introduced this year in light of these recent moves, and see where this may all be headed. Continue reading

Which Bills Will Be Left on the Cutting Room Floor at the End of this City Council Term?

(Which bills aren't passing this December? Only Darrell Clarke knows, maybe | Image: WHYY) With a new City Council taking office in January, Council’s legislative agenda gets a fresh start too, with the expiration of all bills that aren’t passed in December. Council isn’t finished yet for the year, though, and Thursday November 21st was the last day it would have been possible for anybody to introduce new legislation this year. Now the clock’s ticking for all the existing bills introduced in the 2015-2019 session, and unless some of these get a last-minute boost, they’ll either disappear or they’ll have to be reintroduced in the new term.The list of all the bills is long, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the more significant bills, or groupings of bills, that are becoming less and less likely to make the cut this term. Continue reading

Voting Coalitions in the 2019 Municipal Elections

Last week we took a look at which groups of wards played a decisive role in the 2019 general elections, and specifically Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks's surprise win in the At-Large Council race. The wards are small enough that they can be a good way to understand by proxy which demographic groups supported which candidates, but thanks to Jonathan Tannen's Sixty-Six Wards ward portal, there's an even more fine-grained way to look at this. Continue reading

What Does Wage Tax Data Tell Us About Philadelphia's Economy?

Did you know that Philadelphia's Revenue Department releases monthly reports on wage tax data that's broken up by 46 different employment sectors? It's true, and a new blog post from Miguel Garces at the Department of Revenue digs into the data to highlight some of the changes to the city's economy over the last decade.  Continue reading

Dauphin County Playing Chicken With the 2020 Elections

(Philly's New Voting Machines | Photo Credit: WHYY) Over the past year we’ve been following the roll-out of new voting machines in counties across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was spurred on by an order from Governor Tom Wolf that counties must be equipped with voting machines that have a paper trail for the 2020 elections, for security reasons. The vast majority of PA counties did not have voting machines that meet these criteria, so this set off a round of voting machine procurement across the state.  Continue reading

Four Takeaways from the 2019 Municipal Elections

The 2019 Municipal Elections finally came to a close with a big surprise on Tuesday with the election of Kendra Brooks, one of two Working Families Party candidates, over Republican Al Taubenberger for one of the two At-Large Council seats that have historically been held by Republicans. This culminates an election season that ushered in lots of other big political changes too, in both Philadelphia and the broader region. Here are a few of our big takeaways from a momentous year in local politics. Continue reading