Commissioner Lisa Deeley Doesn't Want the State to Give Voters a Longer Voter Registration Window

(PA voters could be deprived of a big voting access win because the City Commissioners are too bad at their jobs | Image: WHYY) The big list of voting reforms under discussion in Harrisburg has solidified into a shorter list of changes, and has been packaged into an omnibus bill that could get a full vote in the state legislature as soon as next week. Jonathan Lai reports that Governor Tom Wolf hammered out the deal with Republican legislative leaders, and if enacted this fall, the changes would go into effect for the 2020 election. But Wolf's approach to the negotiations upset legislative Democrats, who were angry about being left out of the discussion, and the bill contains a few provisions that have made some Democrats determined to sink the whole package. That would be a mistake.   Continue reading

Darrell Clarke Teams Up with Bart Blatstein to Stick it to Spring Garden Mobile Food Vendors

City Council members love to signal that they care about small businesses and improving the business climate for new businesses in the city, but there are few better indicators of what their true priorities are than how they vote on mobile vending issues.  Continue reading

Jannie Blackwell Goes Off-Message, Tells Dem Committee People to Vote for Republican David Oh

(In the Know with David Oh episode featuring Jannie Blackwell | Image: David Oh) Speaking at a ward dinner at the Enterprise Center on Wednesday night, out-going 3rd District Councilmember and 46th Ward Leader Jannie Blackwell told a roomful of Democratic committee people from about a half-dozen West Philadelphia Democratic ward committees to vote for Republican Councilmember David Oh in the November 5th election, according to sources who attended the meeting. Continue reading

That Time Jim Kenney Appointed Johnny Doc's Chiropractor to Run the Zoning Board

(Jim Moylan | Image: 6ABC) With the news that former Zoning Board of Adjustment chair Jim Moylan has plead guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges related to his theft from Local 98's charitable non-profit, it's time once again to remember that back in 2016, Mayor Jim Kenney really did appoint Johnny Doc's chiropractor to lead the agency that approves about a quarter of the development projects that happen in Philadelphia. Incredibly, that is a thing that happened not too long ago. Continue reading

How Philly Stacks Up on New "Ease of Doing Business" Rankings

A new study from Arizona State University attempts to compare the ease of doing business in large North American cities across six different metrics, and they find that in the U.S., Philadelphia is the 12th most difficult place to start a business, coming in 59th out of 66 U.S. cities. Compared to all big cities in North America, we were closer to the middle of the pack. And while you have to take these kinds of rankings with a grain of salt, since they couldn't possibly have captured the full context for all of these cities, they're still useful for highlighting some areas where we're further out of step nationally. Continue reading

City Council's Long and Mistaken Quest to Raise Parking Minimums Comes to an End

(Unused parking in Northern Liberties | Image: Bright MLS) One of the long-running sagas we've been following here since 2016 is the push from Council President Darrell Clarke and 3rd District Councilmember Jannie Blackwell to increase minimum parking requirements in the zoning code—an idea so bad there's a whole 800-page book devoted to how terrible it is. Continue reading

NYC Could Become Biggest U.S. City to Adopt Ranked Choice Voting

(Image: Jon Geeting) New York City could become the largest U.S. city to adopt ranked-choice voting this November, if voters there pass a ballot referendum recommended by their Charter Revision Commission. A win there could help provide a momentum boost to recent efforts to bring RCV to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.  Continue reading

In Changing the 10-Year Abatement, Focus on the Number of Homes Created

(Multi-family buildings have a better per-unit value for our tax abatement spending | Image: PMC Property Group) Some prominent members of the Building Industry Association signaled their openness to some type of compromise on reforming the 10-year tax abatement on property improvements at their recent conference, Michael D'Onofrio reports, raising the question of what kind of Plan B is best for those concerned about potential impact of any changes on housing creation. Continue reading

How PPA's New Parking Kiosks Can Bring Philly Parking Policies into the 21st Century

(The biggest change will be replacing the rest of the coin-operated meters | Image: ZD Net) The Philadelphia Parking Authority announced this week they'll be replacing their existing green parking kiosks with new models that use people's license plates to store payment info, rather than the paper tickets that you put on your dashboard now. But what seems on its face like a pretty ho-hum procurement story actually has some larger and more interesting policy implications, or at least it could if the PPA and city officlals want it to.  Continue reading

Proceed With Caution on Historic Districting

(Photo: Plan Philly/Eyes on the Street, used under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0) Several high-profile demolitions of historic buildings, most notoriously on Jewelers Row, have increased the salience of historic preservation politics in Philadelphia recently. The Mayor convened a Historic Preservation Task Force to revamp local preservation policy, and there are now three bills in City Council that aim to make historic designation more attractive for property owners. And there is indeed a good case to be made that Philadelphia, as a city whose brand is so tied up in its historical significance, should be doing more to incentivize historic preservation and generally make it easier to designate historically-significant buildings for special demolition protections. It would be better if more developers would reuse older buildings more often instead of tearing them down to build new.  At the same time, there's one area where our preservation policy is basically getting it right—even though many advocates don't like it—and that is the relatively high bar for creating new historic districts where whole neighborhoods, or large sections of neighborhoods, are placed under strict regulations for alterations or demolitions of existing buildings, and even the aesthetics of new construction.      Continue reading