City Council's Zoning Overlay Mania is Out of Control. Where is Mayor Kenney?

(Image: 9th and Girard) UCLA planning professor Michael Manville recently coined the term “pretextual planning” to refer to a phenomenon that Philly housing politics watchers will immediately recognize. The idea is that city governments will sometimes intentionally put in place bad rules governing housing and land use and other issues, in order to use the removal of the bad rules as negotiating currency for some other agenda.  Continue reading

Rep. Frank Burns is Charting a Course for State Liquor Licensing Reform

(Every supermarket with a beer section has to mean one less restaurant or bar under PA's broken licensing regime | Image: Jon Geeting) Pennsylvania liquor license prices have been spiraling out of reach for smaller restaurants and bars for several years now, without much interest from the political system, but one person in Harrisburg is finally starting to ask some questions, and it’s worth saying a good word about the recent work of Rep. Frank Burns, a Democratic state Rep. from Cambria County.   Continue reading

Wolf Vetoes Republican Voting Access Rollback, but Constitutional Amendment Fight Looms

(Image: Governor Tom Wolf) As expected, Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed HB 1300, the Republican election bill that would have made sweeping changes to Pennsylvania’s election code and rolled back some of the voting access expansion policies in Act 77—the 2019 law that established no-excuse vote-by-mail and other changes.  Continue reading

Don’t Delay the Emergency Outdoor Dining Fix Over Canned Cocktails

(Image: Boardroom Spirits of Lansdale, PA) Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 emergency order was overturned recently after voters approved the ballot question curtailing the Governor’s emergency powers, but one unanticipated side effect of the change was to also cancel the emergency provisions related to outdoor dining, including to-go cocktails and outdoor alcohol-serving rules.  That set off a scramble by the hospitality industry and supportive lawmakers to hurry up and pass a few bills that had already been under consideration to make some of these changes permanent, so that the existing bar and restaurant operations won’t face disruptions. (Sign the petition from the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association!) Continue reading

PA GOP Ignores County Elections Officials' Demands, Pursues Big Voting Access Rollback

(Image: Rep. Seth Grove) Ever since 2020 when Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail law went into effect, County election officials from across the political spectrum have been clamoring for state lawmakers to fix a short list of widely-known problems.  Their main asks include allowing counties to pre-canvass ballots before Election Day, and extending the mail-in ballot application deadline—changes which really would have very little bearing on the partisan outcomes of elections. Continue reading

City Council Bill Could Junk Philly’s Best Tax Factory for Affordable Housing

Philadelphia’s Mixed-Income Housing program is like a money-printer for the city’s Housing Trust Fund, raising far more than City Council originally anticipated when they passed it in 2018. As we wrote last month, the Housing Trust Fund just received its second-largest-ever payment under the Mixed-Income program, to the tune of almost $1 million for a single project. For context, the entire Housing Trust Fund has only been receiving about $20 million from the city in recent years, so receiving 1/20 of that from a single project is a big deal. Continue reading

What's in Rebecca Rhynhart's Alternative Spending Plan for the Federal Recovery Funds?

(Image: Philadelphia Magazine) Philadelphia is receiving a big cash infusion from the federal government to restore our funding levels and services after the pandemic-induced budget crunch last year, and there are a lot of questions out there about how strategically city elected officials are using that money.  Last week, the Inquirer published an op-ed by Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, in which she sounded the alarm about the Kenney administration's current approach, and laid out an alternative plan for spending the substantial funds allocated to the City via the American Rescue Plan (ARP).  Continue reading

What Will the NYC Mayoral Race Say About Philly's Next Mayor?

(Image: Kathryn Garcia) New York City’s Mayoral primary election is happening next month, and the results will be very interesting to watch from a Philadelphia perspective because of how Philadelphia’s Mayoral elections have often tended to mirror the political mood in New York. Mayor Michael Nutter’s technocratic political style was in many ways reminiscent of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approach, while Mayor Jim Kenney’s more closely resembles the more classic left-liberal approach and general vibe of Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was elected just a couple years before Kenney. Continue reading

Philly Almost Getting HQ2 is the Next Best Thing

A new book, “Amazon Unbound”, by the author Brad Stone revealed this week that Philadelphia was closer to the top of Amazon’s list of finalists for HQ2 than the conventional wisdom may have predicted, making it into the final 3 finishers with Chicago and Raleigh. Continue reading

That's a Wrap! Takeaways from Philly's 2021 Primary

District Attorney Larry Krasner won a decisive victory over challenger Carlos Vega in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, winning 66% of the vote to Vega’s 34%, as of this writing. The result isn’t entirely surprising given how often incumbents generally win reelection, but the background conditions of heightened gun violence and murders over the last year had many political observers wondering whether we’d see a thermostatic reaction to Krasner’s politics. In the end, most voters didn’t buy Vega and the FOP’s efforts to lay the blame for increased crime on Krasner, and the incumbent actually did better in the wards that had seen the highest numbers of shootings last year. Continue reading