FNAA petty argument over words threatens to end the Fishtown Neighbors Association.

When I last left this, a lawsuit had been filed by Jordan Rushie*, a former FNA board member against Jamie Ware, former president of FNA.

The lawsuit stems from a controversy over a funding grant application made to the Penn Treaty Special Services District.  PTSSD receives and distributes $1,000,000 annually from Sugarhouse Casino as part of a community benefits agreement.  Rushie assisted a grant application to PTSSD on behalf of Salon Blush, a hair salon located at York and Cedar Street, while Rushie was a board member of the Fishtown Neighbors Association.

At the time of this writing, two additional former FNA presidents have been captioned into the lawsuit; former FNA president Neil Brecher and former FNA president Jill Betters.

The last two additions to the defendants list stem from a communication Brecher allegedly sent to other FNA board members.  Quoting from the amended complaint:

69. On June 5, 2015, Brecher circulated another email to Jamie Ware stating that the PTSSD grant request application “poses a huge risk to the reputation as well as the 501c3 status of the organization.”

Brecher then continued…

“[b]ottom line is that at the very least, Jordan [Rushie] has to be asked to resign fom the board. I will not be dismissed on this point.”

And, in another email:

“There’s no mistake what he was doing. He was deliberately defrauding the FNA.”

What Was Illegal?

Brecher doesn’t specifically state where Rushie went outside the realm of the legal into the den of the illicit.   No one can seem to identify what, if anything, was illegal about Rushie helping Salon Blush fill out and file a PTSSD grant application.   Except one thing:  Rushie did not pre-clear the grant application through Brecher, who was not on the board of the FNA, or several other board members.  That certainly made Brecher and some board members upset.

The amended complaint also states that several oral conversations and meetings subsequent to Brecher’s objections, the FNA board proceeded with eliminating Rushie from the FNA board, stating that his support of a hair salon’s funding grant application to PTSSD was illegal and exhibited self-dealing.

Another FNA member [name suppressed since he’s not part of the suit] then tried to step in and give caution to Jamie Ware, then the FNA president, about confidently stating that Rushie’s actions were illegal:

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It’s not clear if FNA actually sought legal advice to determine whether or not the Salon Blush grant application broke the law.

Lawyers, Lawyers, Lawyers

As of now at least six attorneys from two law firms have been captioned into the lawsuit representing the Fishtown Neighbors Association.   This is just a guess, but the invoicing to FNA’s insurance carrier for director’s and officer’s insurance is bound to be a hefty tab if there’s this many people touching the file.

Thus far the FNA has not responded to the complaint on the Common Pleas Docket and isn’t expected to until the last amended complaint is made.

Insurance

The longer this stretches out and as FNA’s six attorneys bill hours to insurance companies for sending e-mails and making phone calls, the less likely it will be for FNA to remain in good graces with its insurance carrier.   Without insurance coverage the FNA would have to keep a hefty amount of cash reserves handy to cover other litigation, including filing and defending lawsuits on subjects core to representing Fishtowners.

Ironically, FNA receives significant funding through PTSSD grant-making, which is how this lawsuit got started in the first place.   If this case proceeds to trial and FNA loses, it could then face a damages assessment which would shutter the civic association with near certainty.

There doesn’t appear to be any settlement or easing-up of positions on either side of this lawsuit.  It’s still early and there’s plenty of space between now and the start of a jury trial for the claims made in the complaint to be argued in motions.

A tentative trial date has been set for summer of next year.

 

* Rushie is an attorney and also represents Philadelinquency.

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Councilman Brian O'Neill (District 10) Representing the Northeast
Councilman Brian O’Neill (District 10) Representing the Northeast

Every time Brian O’Neill decides to tinker with the Philadelphia Zoning Code he tries to fuck it up.

In legislation introduced yesterday, Councilman O’Neill who represents District 10 which runs up Oxford Circle to Somerton in the Far Northeast has decided that councilmanic privilege over just City-owned property is simply not enough.

He wants to expand it to all property in Philadelphia, including land that you own.

The amendment he proposed in Bill No. 160525 inserts very innocuous-looking language into the Zoning Code when it comes to the requirements for housing subdivisions:

(.2) The applicant shall provide documentation, in the form of a letter, that the District Councilmember supports any proposed changes to the City Plan before the Commission may consider approval the Preliminary Plat.

Councilman O’Neill’s bill effectively makes all subdivision creation solely at the whim of the councilperson before any development could proceed to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission or could be heard at zoning.   Effectively this allows a councilperson to have direct approval power over private development–even development that is by-right under the Philadelphia Code.

A subdivision has a special definition in Philadelphia.   It is typically a single parcel of land with multiple homes built on that parcel.   Or, it’s a grouping of parcels that is tied together, with houses that sit on them as part of a shared entity.   Anyone with a large enough piece of land can create a subdivision.   If you’re thinking “the suburbs” where there’s many of these things, you’re not far off the mark.  There’s plenty of them in Councilman O’Neill’s council district.

But subdivisions exist elsewhere in Philadelphia.  Particularly in places like Fishtown and in South Philly where parking is tight and developers have to find more creative ways to create parking with new home construction that doesn’t involve garage fronts.   To eliminate the garage-front problem, some developers will bundle a larger piece of land into a subdivision to create a shared driveway and then create a condo association which sells the rowhomes built facing the street while the condo association maintains the shared driveway in the rear which all the condo owners use.

Subdivisions require extra approvals than just building permits and zoning.   All of them have to prepare stormwater runoff plans before the City can authorize development on a site.   Under the proposed change you need a letter of support from your city councilperson before anyone at the City can look at your plans.  Moreover, the language doesn’t require the Council-member to write a letter of support, or explain why he won’t write a letter—so he can pocket veto it.   He doesn’t have to return your phone calls or e-mails asking for a letter.

With this proposal from Councilman O’Neill you literally have to suck Councilmanic Cock before you can go apply for regular permits.   This isn’t about buying City-owned land or going through zoning.   This is even more basic than that.

It is a massive expansion of councilmanic privilege.

And yeah, this legislation came out of the hands of a Republican too boot.

The only way this could get worse is if O’Neill then proposed you get his permission before you switched from Comcast over to FiOS for your apartment tenants.

I said at the beginning of this article that O’Neill can go eat a bag of dicks.   When the new Zoning Code was put into effect he didn’t even wait a year before he tried to start messing with it by trying to fatten parking requirements on most residential and commercial property.   He then came back very quickly and went for another bill to ban automotive businesses in his district (remember, it’s the Northeast).  Then O’Neill came back again with a dim-witted bill going after daycare centers.

Every single time Councilman O’Neill has attempted to tinker with the Philadelphia Zoning Code it’s been for dumb-ass shit that doesn’t make sense outside his district and rarely makes sense in his own.

I hope Johnny Doc is reading this article today.   This bill certainly doesn’t help Local 98 electricians get any new business.   Maybe Doc can make some quick phone calls to ensure this thing never finds its way out of committee.

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He’s done.

fattah

A Federal jury finally got to hear testimony from Greg Naylor, the key person and the tightest individual in the inner circle surrounding teacher-endorsed Congressman Chaka Fattah.

Testimony on the witness stand against Fattah paints a picture of one of Philadelphia’s most powerful politicians as a perpetual money-deadbeat, taking on obligations left and right, then reaching into the campaign fund to cover those obligations when his Congressional salary and his wife’s as a (former) anchor at NBC10 wasn’t enough.

Naylor admitted cooking up false tax returns for Fattah’s son to sign, listing him as a political employee in order to cover back tuition owed to Drexel University.   That tax return was part of the charges Chaka “Chip” Fattah, Jr. was convicted and sentenced to prison for.   More importantly: Fattah directed Naylor to do it, linking the congressman.

The problem for Fattah began when he ran for mayor.  Campaign finance rules were established in Philadelphia to limit outside money after a Republican candidate for Mayor Sam Katz came dangerously close to defeating incumbent mayor John Street after it was revealed that the FBI had bugged Street’s office.  Fattah was one of the key architects of John Street’s comeback campaign to paint the City Hall FBI probe as a D.C.-fueled campaign to eliminate black Philly politicians.   The spin-doctoring worked and Street was re-elected.   Soon after it was revealed that the FBI wasn’t targeting Street but was listening in to learn how a West Philly imam connected to the drug trade was able to secure City contracts, leading to the infamous “Pay-to-Play” scandal which ruined Street’s legacy forever.

Those campaign finance rules set by City Council after the 2003 election stuck and Fattah was adamant to get around them.   Instead of grassroots fundraising, Fattah already had access to one donor who could lend him $1,000,000 right away and could swamp the election.   Fattah fought in court to get the City’s campaign finance rules removed–it failed.   He proceeded with the loan scheme anyway.

Repaying that loan after his humiliating defeat at the polls set in motion the events which haunt him now.  Fattah has been in a perpetual cycle of owing creditors.   Keeping up appearances, he still maintained his multiple homes and his lifestyle appeared undamaged.  Beneath that veneer his finances had exploded.

In a way, Fattah is somewhat a farce of the traditional 1970s-style liberal-Democratic ethos:  get the money now, spend the money now, worry about the consequences later.

Fattah won’t be a Congressman anymore by next year.   As the trial continues at a pace faster than most of us care to admit there’s a real possibility we could actually see Fattah convicted within the next two weeks and sentencing delivered before Fattah’s term officially ends.    He literally could be sentenced to prison while still a sitting member of Congress.

Naturally, most of Fattah’s most ardent supporters who have papered-over his avarice all these years are staying silent and keeping their heads in the sand.

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Well, almost all.

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Welcome to the neighborhood
Welcome to the neighborhood

Oh you’re a newbie?  Well, eat shit and die then.

I’m certain just about every transplant to Philadelphia excluding those who live in Center City eventually discovers Philadelphia’s deep parochialism-complex.  It will surface its ugly head over and over and over, for decades.   For transplants who have been here longer than 35 years, this phenomenon only goes away when the generation of residents older than you in the neighborhood eventually dies until no one is left alive who can ever remember a time before you were you.

Even among those people there’s some unfortunate to be unlucky that even living in Philadelphia as a transplant for a half-century doesn’t categorize you as someone who has a stake in a neighborhood’s long-term future.

Ok… with those niceties out of the way I’ll go ahead and explain what I’m saying real rap.

I do not give a fuck that I was not born in Philadelphia.

I was born on a military base because my father was on TDY in the United States Navy (if you don’t know what TDY is then I doubt you’re even a U.S. citizen much less love this country).  He did 3 TDYs of Vietnam during the war.   He retired with an E-8 pay grade.   I got three birth certificates–one of which is written entirely in Portuguese–because I was a Portuguese dual-citizen as well as an American.   My parents had to live as far away as Alameda during Vietnam (where my dad’s home port was) and in Boston, where my parents were convinced that some of the most retarded people in the Northeastern United States are, and a ton of shitty military sites in between.   My family was nomadic.

More importantly, I am American.   I can live wherever the fuck I want to, so long as I make the housing payment.

There’s no racial tests for getting a home loan, there’s no “you must be born here to be able to buy this house” restriction, because guess what motherfucker?   This ain’t motherfucking communist China you dumb fuck.

See, in the rest of the United States–that’s the part outside Philly you rarely visit–people move for jobs, they move for spouses, they move because they’re tired of where they live now.   And they have every right to locate to wherever they fucking want to go in this country.  Here’s the most awesome thing:  you can, too!  Isn’t freedom great?!

Were you born and raised in Neighborhood XYZ?   That’s good.  That’s a whole different experience than I am used to and it’s pretty challenging to turn over generation after generation in one GPS coordinate.   You have every right to and I respect that.    Longevity is just as important as fluidness.

But, hear me out:  I have a right to pick where I want to live and I picked where I did because it made sense for me.   Because really, when I’m looking to buy a home my first thought is… “oh yes lemme go ask some random stranger who lives blocks away if it’s proper for me to buy a house here.”    That’s not how things work, honey.  If you don’t like it—guess what?  You don’t get a say in the matter.    You can eat shit and die for all I care.  You can rub your knees raw on that floor praying as hard as you want that “I’ll go back to where I came from.”

Honestly if I was going to “go back to where I came from” I would pack my house with as many undocumented immigrants as I could find and then abandon the house before I left and let you live with that fun.

So when your argument about whatever-nobody-really-gives-a-crap-about neighborhood topic has an argument bookended with “well YOU weren’t born and raised here I’ve lived here my whole life!!!!”  my default response is:

I don’t give a rats ass where your mom pushed you out of her hoo-ha.

Like the location of where your umbilical cord was thrown in the trash matters on issues like orange cones in street parking spots, what have you.

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Kenyatta Johnson
Kenyatta Johnson

Councilmanic privilege costs money.

The City might be picking up more costs in the aftermath of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson‘s surprising loss to OCF Real Estate developer Ori Feibush.

Feibush’s attorney Wally Zimolong has filed a motion this morning in Federal court at 6th and Market.   The tab is $116,000.

 

 

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