Seth Side-Eye
[Awesome photo by the Inky]

C’mon.  This clown is indefensible.

Word on the street is that District Attorney Seth Williams‘ non-profit is going to close itself down.  Not that Williams wants to shut it, mind you, but because everyone else who is a part of it has had enough of the joke and is done.

Last week noted civil rights activist and lawyer Michael Coard wrote this scathing diatribe in the Philly Tribune.  Coard was once an acquaintance of Seth Williams.  On the political scale, Coard is left of Fidel Castro.  Coard flipped his shit and has had enough.  Wants him gone.

What is Seth Williams doing?  Posting bullshit bubble-gum community shit in hopes nobody notices his ethics miasma…

This is what all Philly politicians do when they’re in hot water and have a social media account.  Consider Councilman Bobby Henon who had his offices raided by the FBI a couple weeks ago…

Ho hum nothing to see, just some more community news!    Here’s the thing though–nobody is buying what Seth is selling.

And really you’re pretty much a chump if you vote for this clown.  For Pennsylvania’s first black DA he has trashed his reputation in much the same way as Pennsylvania’s first woman Attorney General has.   The difference being the conviction of Kathleen Kane has already happened.  The prosecution of our District Attorney has yet to begin.

And that’s where you really need to sit down and evaluate your life.  If you’re still a Seth supporter, ask yourself this:  why?   What good is Seth Williams to this city?   Illegal gun prosecutions have plummeted in this city under Seth which means more black deaths.   Seth’s misogyny is very well documented.  His ethical shortcomings aren’t outmoded by him having a track record of being a great prosecutor–because he isn’t one.

Moreover he just handed a top job at the office to a deadbeat friend of his who’s only qualification is that he needs money.

My secret contacts who work at the District Attorney’s Office tells me morale has never been lower.   And this is an agency that is responsible for reining in crime in Philly.  It’s a miracle that our crime rate has not burst because the DA’s office has lapsed into such dysfunction.

Our lives are literally at stake.  And yours.

We don’t need a washed-up DA who lives like he’s still part of a frat running the top law enforcement agency in this town.  We need a prosecutor who can balance justice with respect that has an ethical backbone.

Seriously.   After next spring is over, don’t tell me you voted for this clown.  All that really tells me is that deep down in your heart of hearts, you are a worthless piece of shit.

Have a nice day.

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The seasonal summer crime wave is just about over and it’s time to ask… is the crime getting worse than before?

Well, for the River Wards, it’s not.  This infographic includes data from these two areas.

Of course this old head would like to let you know that there was no crime back in the day because all the neighbors engaged in vigilantism.


Left: Brooke Wiilmes, Philly real estate agent Right: A Toll Bros McMansion that went up in Chadds Ford
Left: Brooke Wiilmes, Philly real estate agent
Right: A Toll Bros McMansion that went up in Chadds Ford

I have known Brooke Willmes for the last 14 years.  She is on the short list of the most popular real estate brokers in Philly’s hottest neighborhoods (you can find her here at Fresh Quarters).  From new homes to DIY cases to commercial, Brooke does it all–and has been successful doing it in Philly on her own for ages.

That is why to her surprise Willmes learned her name is being used in the current Toll Brothers controversy regarding Jeweler’s Row.

Brooke Willmes' name appears on Agreement of Sale Contracts used by Toll Brothers
Brooke Willmes’ name appears on Agreement of Sale Contracts used by Toll Brothers

Specifically, her name and MG Real Estate, a former real estate brokerage Willmes used to work with about six years ago is showing up all over the Agreement of Sale contracts that Toll Brothers is using to acquire the properties it wishes to use in a controversial project to erect a 16 story residential tower that will displace some commercial tenants in the historic district.

“This is crazy,” Willmes said.   “I don’t know where they got my contract from.  I sent them a cease and desist voicemail but who knows if they’ll fix it.”   A lawyer from Toll Brothers returned Ms. Willmes’ call and flatly denied the plagiarism. Ms. Willmes then sent copies of the documents and was told that they will investigate.

Agreement of sale contracts are tricky business.  They’re also the lifeblood of real estate agents.   Boiled down an Agreement of Sale (or AOS) is simply an agreement between a buyer and a seller to buy/sell a piece of real estate for an agreed-upon amount.  It’s the add-ons to an AOS that makes them way more complicated than a will.

This is why many real estate agents and service companies have their own crafted Agreement of Sale contracts.  They’re specifically crafted for each type of state and municipality and have to be updated constantly due to changes in law and most-often because of landmark court decisions.   Most commercial agreement of sale contracts in Philadelphia include a special “zoning contingency” which allows both parties to walk away when NIMBY neighbors shoot down a request for a zoning variance, such as the case with St. Laurentius Church.  With such a contingency in the AOS contract if Fishtown neighbors convince the ZBA to rule against the project then the developer proposing the project can walk away from the deal with minimum financial damage.

Poorly-written AOS contracts can create a terrifying land mine of lawsuits and court outcomes.   When a real estate firm or service company has a good contract it often copyrights the template it uses and charges others a fee to maintain the template and to customize it for its users.

So when Toll Brothers has been caught stealing Willmes’ contract, it naturally evoked scorn.

“I have no part in Toll Brothers’ development. At. All.” Willmes said.  “My name being on their forms will lead others to assume that I had a part in this development deal, which I didn’t.”

Willmes is right.   It could also put her at legal risk.  If any party to the contract was upset and decided to sue, they may include every party named on the contract into their suit, all the way down to MG Real Estate and Willmes whose names both appear on it.

You know, I can think of a lot better things that Toll Brothers could steal.  How about stealing good architecture? Toll Brothers is infamous for designing unsustainable crap.  It made a nationwide name for itself as one of America’s leading suppliers of McMansions.

And what about innovative locations for future development sites?  You know, Bridesburg is a super-cheap area and with Franklin Town Charter School being one of the better schools in the region, the apetite for mini-burbia in the city grid is actually palpable there.  Perhaps Toll Brothers could focus on that rather than ruining a historic district.

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Kenyatta Johnson
Kenyatta Johnson

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson hasn’t had a good year so far–the only highlight being his yacht party.

As you might recall before summer started Johnson lost a landmark Federal case filed by Ori Feibush.  The suit challenged City Council’s ultimate authority gimmick: councilmanic prerogative.

For those of you who don’t know, Councilmanic Prerogative is a tactic used by City Council to elevate the 10 district council members and turn them into mini-mayors.   The City’s charter requires land sale bills to be passed through city council legislation.   By custom no member of City Council will introduce a land sale or any other land use bill for a property that’s not in their home district.   To shore up this power all members of City Council agree to vote for whatever land use and land sales bills that council member introduces.   When a member of City Council refuses to introduce required legislation to sell a city-owned property it acts as an effective veto power.

The power of councilmanic prerogative is the main driver of campaign dollars and support of the real estate community into councilmanic coffers.  You can’t build anything much larger than an outhouse in Philly without the direct support of your council critter.

(Note: the seven At-Large members of City Council do not dare interfere with councilmanic prerogative or else they risk having their own pet legislation dying in committee by the other 10 district councilpersons.   That threat is real; no bacon to tell voters about at re-election time.)

The only time this City Council tradition has frayed was when Councilman Bobby Henon put forward a bill to buy a large amount of riverfront property slated for the prison complex.  That sparked a large debate about prison expansion which got other members of City Council hearing words from their constituents.   Last season Councilman Henon withdrew the bill for fear of other City Council members voting it down.   You don’t want to be the guy responsible for breaking a long-standing tradition that has been so good at concentrating power in City Council for so long.

But the hole has been blown open in councilmanic prerogative anyway.

As reported by William Bender in the Inky, Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a lengthy memo from the bench illustrating in graphic detail how councilmanic prerogative is not an impervious shield from liability.  The idea is simple:   even if City Council creates for itself a process of official action, and even if that action is legislation, City Council cannot invalidate Constitutional rights.

The jury found in Feibush v. Johnson that Kenyatta Johnson specifically retaliated when Ori Feibush had decided to run for City Council.   The amicable if strained relationship Feibush had with Johnson immediately soured after Philadelphia Magazine published an exposé on Feibush, hinting that he would run for Johnson’s seat.  Feibush did, and as we all know, he lost.

During his run for City Council, Feibush had entered winning competitive bids for several City-owned lots in Point Breeze.   After the RDA had started the machinations to close-out those sales, Johnson’s office intervened to torpedo them by refusing to issue the authorizing legislation that would allow the City to sell the properties.   Johnson stated that he wanted to distribute land in Point Breeze to affordable housing developers.   But that is laughable since Johnson has been caught giving away City-owned land in Point Breeze for well-below par value only for luxury housing to go up on it.

The Federal jury sided with Feibush and determined that Feibush exercising his freedom of speech right was the basis for Johnson’s retaliation.   The memorandum of law which I now call the “Beetlestone Decision” establishes that while the councilmanic prerogative is not an illegal practice it is also not a perfect shield that protects the City from torts and liability claims.

The Beetlestone memo is a very compelling read and may soon serve as a blueprint for others to follow.  The City has a large mountain to climb if it hopes to overturn Feibush, which likely won’t happen.   If the City fails at the 3rd Circuit (highly likely) the only avenue left is the U.S. Supreme Court.   Good luck finding a friendly voice there.

I asked Feibush what his next steps are.   He said his original settlement offer has been on the table:  the City can sell the still-undeveloped lots to him at above-market prices.   Or, the City Solicitor’s Office can continue to burn taxpayer’s money and pay Ori Feibush’s legal bills pursuing a dead-end case.   City Council seems determined to burn the loss permanently on its face.

The City of Philadelphia has 30 days to appeal Judge Beetlestone’s decision.