How Philly’s Next Comprehensive Plan Can Make Housing Fairer

(Source: Philadelphia City Planning Commission) Eric Adams, New York City’s presumptive next mayor, spoke with the journalist/podcaster Ezra Klein about his city’s housing shortage, and how he would try to resolve the dysfunctional housing and planning politics that have blocked progress in addressing it. It’s worth a listen because Adams’s responses contain some important insights for Philadelphia as the Kenney administration and his planning bureaucracy begin to think about undertaking the city’s next Comprehensive Plan. For those not yet familiar, the city’s Comprehensive Plan is the City’s roadmap that guides a lot of the long-term housing and transportation and infrastructure work, and it’s required to be updated once a decade under state law. This is the main opportunity that the Mayor’s office has to impact city housing policy and set long-term policy priorities for the built environment. Continue reading

What Do We Know So Far About Philly's City Council Redistricting?

(City Council Districts by Population Change | Sixty-Six Wards) Last month we shared some initial population numbers for the ten City Council Districts from the 2020 Census, which will be the numbers used to redraw Council districts in the forthcoming redistricting. Continue reading

Philly's Failing 'Vision Zero' Effort is a Governance Problem

Mayor Kenney in his 2015 campaign made an audacious pledge that many Mayors were making around that time, which was to reduce pedestrian deaths and serious injuries to zero, and cut the number in half by 2026. Continue reading

City Council Considers Making 'Streeteries' Permanent

(13th Street | Photo: City of Philadelphia) Philadelphia’s expanded outdoor seating ordinance was a crucial lifeline to restaurants during the pandemic, and was one of very few visual, material things about life in the city that actually improved during the pandemic.  Continue reading

Philadelphia Still Has Almost 10% Unemployment and Not Enough People Are Talking About It

As an addendum to last week’s post about the luxury politics of anti-housing activists and their champions on City Council, Center City District’s monthly economic status report contains some pretty unnerving statistics about the jobs situation, like the fact that the unemployment rate still nearly double what it was in January of 2020, at 9.4 percent.  Continue reading

The Food Truck to Storefront Pipeline

(Image: La Chingonita) Some members of City Council have tried to ban or severely restrict food truck operations in recent years, often in response to complaints from area businesses that the trucks present unfair competition to brick and mortar stores since the trucks have lower overhead costs than a traditional restaurant business. Continue reading

Derek Green Calls For Hearings on Ranked Choice Voting

(At-Large Councilmember Derek Green) Philadelphia is coming up on a local election cycle in 2023 that for various reasons is expected to be very competitive. Several members of City Council are expected to resign to run in the open Mayoral race, leaving several open Council seats that will likely attract some larger candidate fields.  Our first-past-the-post voting system isn’t the best voting system available in cases where there are large candidate fields and only one possible winner, since somebody can win with just a plurality of the electorate, who the majority of voters don’t support. There’s a good argument that Ranked-Choice Voting systems do a better job at this by ensuring the winner is somebody who has majority support, and they do this by making voters’ second, third, and fourth choice rankings count for something. By letting people rank their candidate preferences in order, the voting system can take into account people’s second and third-choice candidate preferences, and reward the candidates who are most acceptable to a majority of voters. This also helps to remove the “spoiler effect” problem under first-past-the-post elections in cases where there are multiple candidates with the same constituency. There is also some evidence that Ranked-Choice Voting leads to more positive and constructive campaigning, as the candidates have some better incentives to be well-liked by their competitors’ fans, and be the number two or three candidate on a lot of other ballots. In cities and states with ranked-choice voting, it’s common to see candidates who are running for the same seat cross-endorse one another’s campaigns. In the most recent New York City election—the first one to use the ranked-choice system voters approved—Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang endorsed fellow candidate Kathryn Garcia’s campaign, asking his supporters to rank Garcia number 2 on their ballots (she didn’t endorse him back.)  There’s no prohibition on voters choosing only one candidate like they do now, but it was notable in New York City that voters overwhelmingly used the new ranking system—86% of voters overall, ranking on average about 3 candidates. That’s after the measure was approved by almost 74% of voters in a ballot referendum, so it’s evidently been very popular.  In Philadelphia, state Senator Tony Williams had been the only elected official to date to comment on this or to suggest bringing ranked-choice here, so it was interesting to see Councilmember Derek Green starting a local push this week, introducing a resolution to hold hearings on the implications of a ranked-choice voting system in Philadelphia. The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilembers Cindy Bass, Jamie Gauthier, Isaiah Thomas, and Allan Domb.  City Council can’t change this by themselves without state authorizing legislation, but Senator Williams has prepared legislation (SB 59) which would authorize such a system in Philadelphia, and it’s possible it could pick up steam with more vocal support from local elected officials.  Anyone who wants to see this happen should make sure to call or email their Councilmembers and ask them to co-sponsor Councilmember Green’s ranked-choice voting resolution, and then let their state Senators know you want them to support SB 59 this fall. Continue reading

For a Full COVID Recovery, Anti-Growth Politics is a Luxury Philly Can't Afford

(Image: Philadelphia City Council) One of the big-picture trends of housing politics over Mayor Kenney’s two terms so far has been a significant transfer of power over land use and planning from the institution of the Mayor, to the institution of City Council. Continue reading

Who Used Ranked Choice Voting in New York’s Primary?

(Map: Politico) Prior to New York City’s most recent primary election, which was the first to deploy the ranked-choice voting system approved by voters, there had been a lot of arguments between the different candidates and party interests about how voters and candidates would fare under the new system. Continue reading

Growth Politics and the 2023 Mayoral Race

  Dan Pearson at the Inquirer editorial board makes some important points about the Census results and the politics of growth that are under-appreciated among some of our local decision-makers, and deserve a full airing in the upcoming 2023 elections for Mayor and City Council.  Continue reading