Philly's Transit Ridership is Sagging. Bulk Pass Purchases for City Workers and Students Can Help.

(When large institutions buy in bulk at SEPTA, everybody saves | Image: Jon Geeting) Philadelphia has lost a lot more transit ridership over the last several decades than many of our big city peers, according to some new research from the Urban Institute.  Continue reading

City Council Redistricting Kicks Off This Fall

  With the new Census block group data expected to be released next month, a six-month countdown is about to begin for City Council to draw new maps for the 10 Council districts. Continue reading

Rep. Seth Grove Says Republicans Won't Solve County Election Problems Out of Spite

(Rep. Seth Grove) PA Republicans in the legislature don’t have the votes to override Governor Wolf’s veto of their omnibus election legislation, which contained a number of poison pill measures to restrict voting access.  Continue reading

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