Correction:  The difference between sales tax in Philadelphia and PA suburbs is actually 2%, not 1%.  That’s twice as much reason to leave the city to shop!

Wednesday is when the $2/pack cigarette tax will go into effect.  Since the tax only applies to retailers in Philadelphia County, they’re the only ones who will pass on this tax.  But not in the ‘burbs!

We’re lookin’ out for you so only the poor and those who have no transportation only have to pay this tax.   Listen to me, and you’ll $ave $ave $ave!

October 1 is when the $2/pack cig tax goes into effect
October 1 is when the $2/pack cig tax goes into effect

I’ve sworn a vow never to pay this tax.  You can save money doing it easily by two ways:

  • Buy in bulk.  Two cartons of cigs will more than offset the cost of gasoline.   As the tax is $2 per pack and a typical carton is 10 packs of cigarettes, the tax is $20/carton.   Buy at least two cartons in the suburbs, and you’ve avoided $40 of tax.  For most cars that’s half a gas tank!
  • Combine your cig-shopping with other errands.  Going to Bucks County to buy cigarettes?  Do your grocery shopping up there too.  There’s discount shopping in Bucks just like there is in Philly.  You don’t have to keep surviving off the dollar stores down here, you can go up there.   The sales taxes in our suburbs are 2% lower so while you’re avoiding the Philly cig tax, you’re also saving money just by shopping… anywhere else.
  • Also… Be an early riser or a late to bed on your weekend shop.   If you’re going to go to a smoke store, call ahead on their hours so you can avoid weekend traffic.   If you don’t have a car, you can still buy cigarettes in the suburbs by taking the EL to Upper Darby or the Railroad to Manayunk and walking out of the city on the bridge.  If you work in the suburbs and reverse commute–stock up on cigs before you come back into the city.

Let the stupid Philly voters pay this tax.  You don’t have to!

Remember, this is the brainchild of Michael Nutter and Council President Darrel Clarke.  Yay for regressive taxes!

This is my last post over the gay bashing thing in Rittenhouse, where yesterday I posted where the 3 defendants being charged in the attack live… with their mommy and daddies.

To people thinking I am judge, jury and executioner:  Stop being such a fucking hypocritical dickweed.   If this group of 12 were all black and from the inner city, you would have prejudged this whole group, called them animals and God-know-what else, and moved on.   We both know it’s true.  Stop lying.  The only people who say that on each and every person charged and paraded in the media are defense attorneys seeking clients.  Further, this is the Internet, so stop being so butthurt about it.   PDQ is not an extension of Common Pleas court and you know it.  You aren’t the thought police.  You remind me of the snooty neighbor who’s son is caught with crystal meth and too embarrassed for her neighbors to find out, she goes and steals all the newspapers of everyone around her hoping they won’t read it.

Look… get over it.   People don’t have a bigot gene in their DNA; people are programmed to be bigots through culture.   I grew up in a region of the country where it’s totally fine (and still is) go to around publicly advertising how much you hate the faggots.

Something just seems off when you have a group of TWELVE against two gay guys.   Sure, these could have been raw biker guys who go to the gym 5 times a day and are on steroids and have some roid rage.  I know a few gay men who are like that, but they’re a rare species.   But I saw the three defendants, not one has a scratch on their face and one of the gay victims had his jaw wired shut with an eyeball that looks like it wants to pop out of its socket.  Fucking get a clue, will ya?

To all the folks who think hate crime legislation fixes will be the solution, or part of it:   Explain how hate crime legislation would have stopped this attack, or any others for that matter.   It just makes some people feel good about themselves, but it does nothing really to change the way society views LGBT people.  Oh, we like to think it does that, but no… the studies prove it doesn’t.

The reason why bigots attack women, ethnicities, LGBT folks, the disabled, the elderly even… is that they are all perceived as weak people.

Go ahead and call R. Lee Emery a faggot to his face. I dare you.

LGBT people can certainly change the way society perceives them.  If gay people are perceived as assertive and aggressive, bigots will run away.  For instance, if gay people were generally known to be more receptive to getting concealed-carry licenses, or were more prone to file civil lawsuits, what have you… bigots will go look elsewhere for their sick fun.  Kind of like putting The Club™ on your car’s steering wheel.

The other aspect is fear.  I think I saw quite a bit of that yesterday by enhancing the locations of the three defendants.  The Philadelphia Police Department had already published the block numbers of where each defendant lives; I used public tax records to add the specific house number.   Fearing retaliation, assassination, all sorts of crap was one response that came out of yesterday’s post.

I guess that’s a sign of progress.  Anything to demotivate bigots is something I consider something to go in the ‘win’ column.   Putting bigots in the closet is a life-long fantasy of mine.

See, bigots and other assorted dilholes is why I still carry a gun at night.  And in the car.  It’s why I still dump money on ammo that could be better spent helping the poor or insert whatever cause du jour you care about.  Because I want to live.  I don’t want to be beat up into a bloody pulp.  I want my rights and freedoms.  I’ve witnessed gay bashings up close and personal; have had to call the cops, I’ve had to defend myself.  It’s stupid.  It sucks, but we live in a universe with stupid people in it.

To all my queer folk still upset I use the F word:   Fag, fag, fag, fag, fag, fag.  Seriously, anyone ever put on an XBOX or Playstation headset on, switched on some game and get to listen to how the rest of America’s youth talk when nobody’s listening?   Fag, fag, fag, fag, fag.  I have not seen one gay activist group swear that they’ll head to online gaming communities to stamp out the “F” word from XBOX and Playstation.

I think the best way to ‘splain it is this South Park episode.

Personally, I don’t think banning the word “fag” will cure some social justice ill.  Guess what? There are zillion other words that can be used in subterfuge to refer pejoratively to gay people, so when you get “fag” stamped out you’ll have only several hundred more to go, you fruitcake.

So, why waste all that energy on stupid shit like banning a word?   It won’t shove bigots into the closet.  It just won’t.  So stop it.

To all my queer folk who think justice will be “served”:   Wait.  Hold-up.  You’re telling me, with a straight-face (hah), that privileged mayonnaise-white people from the suburbs, one of whom hired Frank Perri as their defense lawyer… THE lawyer that crooked Philly cops, rap artists and drug dealers with loads of cash run to to defend their sorry asses… on an agg. assault charge which doesn’t carry that much time to begin with for a first-offense… will be sitting in jail for ANY length of time?

Let’s not forget the possibility of pleading down to Simple Assault.  These kids could wind up with ARD and expunged records when they complete their diversion.

This is the Philly justice system we’re talking about, folks.  Had the victims died we might be talking something else, but they’re alive, and the DA started off with agg. assault.   These adult brats are not going to be going to jail for any significant length of time, if at all.

And then there’s the completely valid possibility that a jury will believe the stories concocted by the (“alleged”… *yawn*, whatever) gay bashers.  What then?  Hmm?

There’s a bright side to all this but you can’t see it.

The first time I’ve seen a gay bashing (that wasn’t against me personally), wasn’t in Texas, where I’m originally from, it was on Sansom Street in the Gayborhood, where one lesbian was rattled around like a rag doll by some random street people.   It didn’t make a peep in the press, except within the LGBT community and among neighbors near my apartment building and within the gay bars.   The broader public didn’t give a shit.  This was back in 2003.

In 2014, a clusterfuck of ‘burbanite douchebags pulls a similar stunt like this and it manages to dominate the news for a whole week and is the top billing on the Outrage Meter?   That’s a sign of gay acceptance inching its way along.

Bigots need to be sent to the closet.

Suburban faggots
Look at these cute little innocent darlings

From left to right, here are the home addresses where each one of these bigots charged in the gay attack in Center City live:

Phillip R. Williams – A property at 157 Acorn Drive, Warminster Pennsylvania, 18974 is deeded to a Thomas R. & Mary Jane Williams.  Google Streetview places the address approximately here.

Kathryn G. Knott – A property at 1211 Melody Lane, Southhampton Pennsylvania, 18966 is deeded to a Karl E. & Carol M. Knott.  Google Streetview places the address down this street approximately here.   Karl Knott, the father of Kathryn, was previously identified in local media as a police chief in Chalfont, Pennsylvania.

Kevin J. Harrigan – A property at 1058 Gotland Circle, Warrington Pennsylvania, 18976 is deeded to a James & Susan Harrigan.  Google Streetview identifies this house as the property.

We totally encourage you, if you feel so inclined, to mail each and everyone of these families that are in pain and confusion a fruitcake for their troubles.   #WithFruitcakeWeCanFinallyHeal

(Yeah yeah, there’s that whole innocent until proven guilty thing.   Here’s the Affidavit of Probable Cause.  Y’all “let’s not talk about this anymore until a year later after the trial is over” types can suck my dick.)

OCF Cafe Before/After, on Point Breeze Avenue
OCF Cafe Before/After, on Point Breeze Avenue

Late last week I took down PDQ as my personal friend, Ori Feibush, launched his campaign to run for City Council.  You might have been wondering: why?  Put simply, I love what Ori has done in Point Breeze.  He’s far younger than I am, and yet he has created a business out of rebuilding a Philadelphia neighborhood.  Since you’re coming to this site for my opinion, I felt it was easier to just show his launching campaign video than to dwell on some narrative.

Point Breeze Did Not Redevelop Because of Osmosis, It Redeveloped Because of Ori Feibush

The old Point Breeze was considered a lost cause by most Philadelphians who did not live in that neighborhood.  It was a neighborhood plagued with violent crime.  Blight was intractable and the neighborhood’s dysfunction appeared for decades to be complete.

As is the case with inner city neighborhoods close to Center City that went through decline, housing stock in Point Breeze is in more need of repair and hasn’t aged well.  The last time Point Breeze was in anything you could call growth was during World War II, when the neighborhood had hit peak employment.  It has never gone up since then.  Since the 1950s the neighborhood has declined over a span of 56 years.

One day, a year before the Great Recession swept across the country, Ori Feibush had started building a few new homes in the area.  One of the first that I noticed was one he had done on Manton Street.   I was shopping for my very first house to buy as I had saved up money right before the recession had really started to bite people, thinking “this is my chance.  If I am ever going to own my own home ever in my life, it’s going to be right now while everyone across America that went nuts during the housing boom loses their shirts.”

House prices across the country plummeted and interest rates sank.   I was nervous, but I had also saved up quite a bit of cash and I was on the hunt for a house to buy in the city.  I still had my job, I wasn’t quite sure if it would last, but I was willing to take a risk to get my hands on a piece of land in the city to call my home.

So when I started clicking through house listings and noticed some of the new homes going up in Point Breeze, my first thought was:  Christ.  Granite? In the kitchen?  I hope those countertops are also embedded in the walls to keep the stray bullets from flying into the house.

That’s how I discovered Ori.

People See Opportunities and Invest in a Neighborhood

Redeveloping Point Breeze wasn’t a new idea.  Long ago, Kenny Gamble had splashed around ideas to grow Universal Companies into Point Breeze on a massive scale since the available land in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood just to its north was getting scarcer and land prices had risen too high to make bank on any cheaply-built affordable housing.

But unfortunately for Gamble, nobody had a blank check of millions to write him.

John Longacre‘s concept of Newbold as a subneighborhood within Point Breeze had started to show some success.  However, Newbold was created as a concept with one premise: hug the Broad Street Subway.  Most of the neo-urbanites moving to the city want to enjoy Philadelphia’s existing transit network.  Deeper into Point Breeze your only option is to walk, ride a bike or take the bus.  But the closer to Broad Street you are, the easier it is to reach a subway stop.

OCF, the firm Feibush founded, focuses its attention towards long-neglected Washington Avenue; a wide expansive industrial boulevard that certainly is not visually appealing.  The premise: someday Graduate Hospital will in-fill down to its southernmost reaches, and Point Breeze and Graduate Hospital will finally connect.  They’ll blend much the same way Southwark and the Italian Market and East Passyunk do on the other side of Broad Street.  From this area in Point Breeze you can walk all the way up to Market Street.

So many people consider Point Breeze a lost cause, the land values reflect it.  Empty lots for as cheap as a thousand bucks.  So many people thought it would be stupid to build anything there, Feibush proved it would be stupid not to.

Why Are People Moving into Point Breeze?

Philadelphia as a whole is benefitting from a shift in national values towards urbanization.  The suburban dream was turned into a nightmare in 2007/2008.  Without this event, or the condo and house boom in the city before it, Philadelphia’s population would never have stopped declining.   We all know what happens to cities caught in a death spiral.   While Detroit depended on a single industry to sustain it, Philadelphia did not.  But, Philadelphia had a complex tapestry of manufacturing that spread across to just about everything—and it lost all of it.  Why are we doing better?

The primary reason is that jobs don’t have too far to go to flee the city.  Our suburbs are tightly packed around the city–so city dwellers can commute out to the suburbs where the jobs went.  Conversely, a lot of other kinds of jobs stayed and even grew because suburbanites travel into the city each day and from the 1970s onwards, Philly burbs exploded in growth, offsetting declines within Philly.

Now people want to move back into cities.  Philadelphia is unique because the property and land is cheap, and property taxes compared to our suburbs is a steal.   Sure, we have an oppressive Wage Tax, but the difference between real estate costs in the suburbs vs. the city offsets it.  We also have the shittiest public school system of all top ten cities of America–and we’re still seeing new faces move into houses.   The demand for urban housing is that strong.

Morever, Philadelphia’s house prices in the neighborhoods seeing redevelopment is still at or below the national average house price.  For many other cities, owning a house is just not a possible thing.  Here in Philly, it still is.  And it will be that way for a long time.

The Lotgate Lot
The Lotgate Lot

Some People Can’t Stand Ori — So Fuck Them

OCF started building in Point Breeze before the Great Recession hit.  Every home it builds sees a buyer within days after its finished–the demand is that strong.  The same goes for several other builders who have since seen the redevelopment and have decided to take a chance on the neighborhood.

Ori however has done more than that, he’s embedded himself into the community.  He rented there when he went to college.  He’s been familiar with the area for over a decade, and he’s built his home there.

Ori has detractors and enemies, and they’ll do and say whatever they must to try to get him to disappear.

I have seen quite a number of inane things, like the bullshit lawsuit trying to stop OCF Coffee from opening because “it will kill people“.  Obviously Councilman Kenyatta Johnson can’t stand that Ori is a success, and he certainly did not want OCF to have a major presence at 20th and Federal where you could not avoid seeing OCF.   The DA’s spokesperson also doesn’t like him, and of course Ori detractors tried to reach for any string they could pull–even dragging the City’s Chief Integrity Officer into the drama because Ori didn’t use the right kind of windows for another OCF Coffee shop in Spring Garden.

Then there’s the 3-story homes and roofdeck debate.   Most of the new homes going up on vacant lots are the 3-story variety.  In old neighborhoods the lot depth is quite shallow, so to get three bedrooms into a house you have to build tall.  One type of amenity certainly draws ire for some: roofdecks.    Mind you, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson himself lives in a 3-story home with a roofdeck, so those who want to kill off private redevelopment in Point Breeze have no problem asking Kenyatta Johnson to make his own house illegal.

To put it simply, there’s quite a number of folks in Philadelphia who suck the establishment’s dick who are more angry that Feibush has created a success and he hasn’t had to depend on the political machine in order to do it.  That is different than all other private developers in Philly, most of whom try to stay under the radar or they openly coddle their local pols so they can keep their business going.  Why do developers coddle their pols?  Those who don’t risk nuclear war.

There are very few business people in Philadelphia who could put up with as much bullshit as Ori Feibush has and still stay here.  A lesser person would have abandoned Philadelphia a long time ago, as so many other entrepreneurs and businesspeople have.  But Ori not only refuses to leave, he’s doubled down and made himself a permanent part of Point Breeze and is staying local.

As loud as Ori’s detractors might be, there are scores of residents young and old, lifer and newcomer, who admire the work that he has done.  When I moved to Philadelphia back in 2003, Point Breeze was a “section of the city”… that you normally see on Action 6 because of a homicide; some random hopeless area of despair that City Hall could never help or fix.

Now?  Point Breeze is truly a neighborhood with hope and a bright future.  The investment is coming from those who are moving in and those homeowners and other residents who stay and help contribute to the neighborhood’s recovery.  The Point Breeze of tomorrow will be a Point Breeze every Philadelphian will want to live in.

Point Breeze is a very large neighborhood like Kensington is.  The investment into Point Breeze we see today will end up as a vibrant mixed-income community spanning a large strata of income, race and class because the neighborhood’s size, which is also what is happening in Kensington right now.

I have yet to see a government fix or a non-profit thinktank solution to our blight, crime, social and real-estate woes, other than community investment and getting off one’s ass and doing some work.

This is why I support Ori.