Planning Commission Takes a Stand on Exclusionary Council Bills. More Please!

(The site of the unrequited Historic Positano Coast District | Photo: TripAdvisor) There's already been a lot of attention to Mayor Jim Kenney's last-minute pocket veto of the Drexel food truck ban that we wrote about at the end of last year, where by declining to sign the bill, it expired at the end of Council's term instead of passing into law. Continue reading

Disaster Averted: Dauphin County Folds, Buys New Voting Machines

(Philadelphia's new voting machines | Image: WHYY) The long and winding saga of Pennsylvania's mandated voting machine upgrade is quickly drawing to a close as a final hurdle—a high-stakes game of chicken between the Wolf administration and Dauphin County Republicans—was finally resolved at the end of 2019 with County elected officials caving, and the voting machine purchase moving forward.  Continue reading

Mayor Kenney Makes His Clearest Commitment Yet to Citywide Street Sweeping

(We used to do it | Photo: Department of Records) It’s happening. In his second Inaugural address, Mayor Jim Kenney committed in no uncertain terms to a citywide street sweeping program that would reach every neighborhood—a change we have relentlessly, tediously, made the case for in this space over the last several years. Continue reading

Kenney Admin Hits Pause on Reassessments for 1 Year, As New Tech Arrives in February

The Inquirer's Laura McCrystal quietly broke a few big news items this week in her update on assessments that are worth flagging, with the imminent arrival of the long-awaited Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) software in February, and the impending announcement of a new Office of Property Assessment head to replace Michael Piper later this year. Continue reading

Philadelphia's Revenue and Spending Are Way Up Since 2016. Where Are Our New Services?

(Philadelphia revenue is up 23% since 2016 | Image: Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative) As Philadelphia has seen more job growth and investment in the years following the Great Recession, we've seen a lot more tax revenue come into local government as well, and Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative has a new research brief out looking at where those revenue increases have come from, how elected officials have increased spending in response, and what they've spent it on.  Continue reading

City Launching Art Contest for New, Stickier 'I Voted' Stickers

Philadelphia is going to be getting new and stickier 'I Voted' stickers to distribute on Election Day this year, Jonathan Lai reports, and the new design will be decided based on an art competition and a public vote. A similar process in New York City resulted in the subway map-themed sticker pictured, designed by artist Marie Dagata. Continue reading

That's a Wrap! The Major Bills That Passed—or Didn't—in City Council's Final Session

(Photo: City Council met for their final meeting of the year on Thursday, and passed several significant pieces of legislation that had been on the agenda this session. A few weeks ago we put together a list of the biggest items, noting that any bills that didn't pass in the final session would need to be introduced anew in the next term. Let's go back to the list to see what passed, and what will now either disappear or start again from scratch in 2020. Continue reading

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