Why Is City Council Ducking the Official Process for Big Zoning Changes?

A week before the May primaries, Council President Clarke and 10th District Councilor Brian O'Neill introduced a little-noticed resolution creating a new Council-controlled Zoning Code Review Commission that will be tasked with making big changes to the reformed zoning code passed fewer than 10 years ago in 2011. The Commission would be staffed entirely by Clarke and O'Neill, two of Council's most retrograde housing thinkers, rather than going through the official process that voters adopted in a 2007 Charter change for these kinds of commissions—the Zoning Code Commission.  Continue reading

As Neighborhood Populations Grow, Board of Elections Creates New Voting Divisions

(Proposed new division 5-36 | Image: Board of Elections) With the Census in the news lately there's been a lot of talk about how the once-a-decade population count could impact districting in 2021, and we've also been highlighting the need for people to tune into City Council redistricting too, which will happen within the six months after the Census numbers are released. It's also worth pulling back the curtain a bit on how even smaller districts are drawn at the smallest possible level—the division—which we're seeing right now with the Board of Elections' latest petition filing to redraw several voting divisions, and even create a few new ones, ahead of the November general election.  Continue reading

Why Should We Care About Council Side Gigs?

(Photo: Philadelphia City Council) City Council side jobs are back in the news this week, with Jeremy Roebuck reporting from federal court on the arguments over whether Bobby Henon's salaried position with IBEW Local 98 amounts to a bribe by federal standards.  Continue reading

Wolf to Bond $90 Million to Help Counties Pay for New Voting Machines

In the latest twist in the great voting machine replacement saga of 2019, Governor Tom Wolf announced a plan to bond $90 million to help counties cover the cost of purchasing new voting machines.  Continue reading

Let 16-Year-Olds Vote in Local Elections

10th District Republican Council member Brian O'Neill is putting the finishing touches on his "Get Off My Lawn" platform for his 11th reelection campaign in Northeast Philadelphia, first banning food trucks from his entire district, and then endorsing the use of sonic waves to mess with teenagers' ears if they enter city parks after closing.  Continue reading

Making It Really Easy to Reuse Old Buildings: A New Broader Goal for Council's Preservation Bills

(Photo: Jon Geeting) A few of Mayor Kenney's Historic Preservation Task Forces's recommendations have made it onto the agenda in City Council at the end of the spring session, with a series of bills introduced by 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla that would make it easier to reuse buildings that are designated historic on the local historic register. Continue reading

How to Raise Even More Affordable Housing Revenue from the New Mixed-Income Housing Bonus

When last year's affordable housing package passed City Council, the big news was the Kenney administration's commitment to dedicating a lot more general funding to the Housing Trust Fund from expiring tax abatements, but as we've been pointing out, the more interesting story may be the Mixed-Income Housing density bonus program.  Continue reading

Philly's Finances are on the Mend as City Passes 2020 Budget

(Image: PICA) City Council passed a $5 billion 2020 budget on Thursday, with a $300 million increase in spending that will primarily go toward salary and benefit increases and various anti-poverty initiatives. Claudia Vargas reports that the budget will also include a first-ever contribution to the City's Rainy Day Fund, as a result of higher than expected tax collections.  Continue reading

Jewell Williams Might Retaliate Against the Media by Pulling Sheriff Sale Ads

(Sheriff Jewell Williams) Sheriff's sale ads for property foreclosure sales are a well-known source of influence peddling by the Sheriff's office, and now that Sheriff Jewell Williams has been deposed in the primary by Guardian Civic League President Rochelle Bilal, there are signs Williams may try and use his control of the $8 million ad budget to punish media outlets he thinks contributed to his loss. Continue reading

Legalizing Low-Cost Housing: Philly's Untried Affordable Housing Strategy

(Thin Flats | LEED Duplexes from Inhabitat) Affordable housing advocates demonstrated in Council last year in opposition to a move to open up the city's Housing Trust Fund to "workforce housing" projects, which are targeted at lower-middle class residents instead of the lowest-income residents. That measure still passed, but advocates had a good point: if there are only so many public dollars for affordable housing to go around, the most housing-insecure groups should come first.  Continue reading