Joe Biden wants to make Housing Choice Vouchers an entitlement. Here’s why that’s good for Philly.

(Photo: Sheldrake Apts, funded by LIHTC) One of the better ideas in Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s new housing plan that would go a long way to help Philadelphia’s specific housing challenges is his pledge to make federal Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly Section 8) an entitlement.  Continue reading

State budget woes deepen, highlighting urgency of more federal aid

The U.S. Senate is still working on a deal this summer to, maybe, reluctantly, pass another economic stimulus package to help individuals, companies, and lower governments and infrastructure systems weather the society-wide economic retrenchment needed to suppress COVID-19. The biggest issue remains the expiration of unemployment insurance for many laid-off workers at the end of July, and the coming wave of state and local government lay-offs and budget cuts that together will set off further rounds of economic contraction and rising unemployment. According to one report, these lay-offs could total 4 million public workers.  Continue reading

Newsletter: Vote-By-Mail Election Fixes | Gerrymandering Reigns | State and Local Aid: Now More Than Ever

(Baskets of mail ballots | Photo: Philadelphia City Commissioners) Pennsylvania is one of a few states whose slow mail-in vote counts in the primary are creating a lot of jitters about the possibility of a terrifying Constitutional crisis in November.  Continue reading

Get Ready for Zoning Zooms

(ZBA Chair Frank DiCicco) One trend we’ve been watching throughout the pandemic has been the race to move more government functions and processes into the virtual space, and in particular, the emerging practices around virtual public engagement, which every agency is inventing on the fly. Continue reading

Three Winners and Three Losers from the 2020 Primary

The final vote counts are in and the wild ride that was the 2020 primary has finally come to an end. Despite the lack of a competitive primary at the Presidential level by the time the race hit Pennsylvania, this year featured multiple interesting races for state legislature that ended with voters sending several new faces to join Philadelphia’s delegation to Harrisburg next year, should they prevail in the general election.Let’s take a look at some of the highlights with three losers and three winners from the 2020 primary.  Continue reading

How to Speed Up the Vote Count in November

Another week has gone by and the Philadelphia City Commissioners are still not finished counting the ballots from the June 2nd primary, with about 118,276 of the 161,000+ mail-in ballots counted so far as of Friday morning. Continue reading

Where Things Stand in the 2020 Primary

(Image: Sixty-Six Wards) Philadelphia’s 2020 primary will surely (hopefully) go down as the weirdest in our lifetime, with so many large and novel challenges for voters, candidates, and election administrators.Because most people voted by mail prior to Election Day on June 2nd, and because Governor Wolf allowed any ballots to count that were postmarked by June 2nd and received by June 9th, we won’t know until sometime next week how many people actually voted in the election. We know that 226,000 absentee ballots were requested by Philadelphia voters, over 90% of which were Democratic ballots, but we don’t yet know how many will be returned. So far, 157,152 ballots, or about 70%, have been returned, with more coming in every day. Continue reading

Controller Rebecca Rhynhart Releases Alternative Budget Plan with No Tax Increase

The City's deteriorating fiscal situation has led Mayor Kenney to toss out his administration’s earlier budget proposal and return with a much-reduced version that solves for a $649 million budget gap with a mix of budget cuts and tax increases. Continue reading

Newsletter: Three Winners and Four Losers in Mayor Kenney's Budget Revision

Mayor Kenney released a revised budget proposal last week to reflect the reality of cratering city revenues resulting from the pandemic response and associated business closings. The budget gap, currently sitting at around $650 million, is five times greater than the one the city faced during the Great Recession, and the administration will need to cut around $341 million from their prior spending plan that debuted in March. It’s possible that the cuts proposed could become less dramatic if more federal money comes in, or the administration takes advantage of the new Federal Reserve municipal bond buying program, but for now, this is the budget we’re debating, and it’s real ugly. Continue reading

Planning Commission Tells RCOs to Start Getting Ready for Online Meetings

(No room for social distancing in the ZBA chambers) Philadelphia city government embeds public engagement requirements into a lot of its official processes, and one of the big question marks of the COVID-19 era is to what extent the City will allow itself to continue to do the public’s business given the inability to hold in-person public meetings, and what best practices will emerge for virtual civic engagement. Continue reading