DRAMA: Amber Hikes, Kenney Aide, Lambasts the City’s Leading Gay Journalist

Whatever your feelings on Ernest Owens are, you will agree with me here: something is seriously wrong

Ernest Owens is a columnist and reporter for Philadelphia Magazine.   His editorials and exposés are widely read across the city.    As a black gay journalist he has unearthed several hidden controversies like (this, and this, and this) and failings of Philadelphias gay population to come to grips with a long-term problem that it refuses to address: a rampant racial divide that separates black LGBT people from the rest of the gay population in the city.

That divide was exposed raw for the entire world to see when Darryl DePiano, owner of the iCandy bar was caught on tape calling his black patrons the N-word.  As a consequence, the Black and Brown Workers Collective formed and focused intently on the leaders and businesses that operate within the city’s historic gay district.  The City’s LGBT liaisons put together a marketing campaign that included adding two new colors to the rainbow pride flag that flies outside City Hall.  This made international news.

Slapping two extra colors on the flag apparently satiated everyone into thinking that the racial issues in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood have been healed and all is now well.  Except that hasn’t happened.  Further, a startling private conversation from a Kenney aide now reveals that the mayor’s own personal irreverence for the press has spread throughout the Kenney administration.

Here’s where it gets crazy

Amber Hikes. Photo credit | Ashlee Kulp

Amber Hikes was appointed to run the mayor’s office of LGBT Affairs after interpersonal disagreements led to the ousting of Nellie Fitzpatrick, the former occupant of the office who was reeling from criticism for her handling of the City’s response to iCandy and other instances of discrimination against blacks and Hispanics at Gayborhood businesses.  The replacement to Ms. Hikes resulted in praise from most everyone in the LGBT community believing it to be a wise decision.

At the end of last month Mark Dobbins, a mentally-unstable former Philadelphia resident approached Hikes claiming that Owens was threatening to harm him.   Dobbins frequents most of Philadelphia’s neighborhood and political Facebook groups and maintains a presence on Twitter.  He has been electronically harassing Owens since the beginning of Owens’ coverage of the Gayborhood and has attempted to have Owens fired from Philadelphia Magazine without success.   The Philly Mag reporter has since retained an attorney and delivered a cease and desist letter to Dobbins’ home in Connecticut.

Dobbins posted select screenshots of his interaction with Hikes to his social media profile, leading to Owens discovering that his far-away serial stalker and harasser hasn’t given up his infatuation and has taken it to the Kenney administration.  But there’s a twist:

During that conversation, Hikes claims that Owens has led a “smear campaign” against her and the Office of LGBT Affairs.   A simple Google search reveals only positive or neutral factoid articles from Owens over the last 12 months about Hikes and the LGBT Affairs office since her elevation.

Owens responded directly to Hikes’ claim that he was running a smear campaign against Hikes and the LGBT Affairs office from his position as a columnist and reporter at Philadelphia Magazine.  Hikes responded with this video, where she doesn’t even mention Owens’ name and claims nothing untoward occurred.

What’s really going on

It’s pretty easy to see that Hikes’ inflated claims that she’s being mistreated by the city’s gay press is meritless since there isn’t any critique to be found of her by any established publication in the city, least of all from Mr. Owens’s reporting.

What’s really going on is that Mayor Kenney considers Ernest Owens to be a threat.

Left out of this little internet drama are two articles that Owens authored that directly attack the mayor and his policy he campaigned for as mayor:  the Philadelphia Beverage Tax which was practically the only sales pitch Jim Kenney had when he was a candidate in the mayoral race, and Ernest Owens exposing Rodney Mohammad, the head of the Philadelphia NAACP who was caught in documents being a paid campaigner championing the soda tax.

Exposing our city’s mayor using the leader of the NAACP as a paid stooge to promote a soda tax that is designed to be regressive and disproportionally impacts low income people, which is mainly black and brown people given the city’s demographics is of course going to make our mayor…the same one who is super sensitive to criticism in the press…mad.

If you want to stay in Kenney’s good graces that means Ernest Owens is your enemy as well, or as Amber puts it “his behavior” needs to be “corrected”.

And that’s why Amber Hikes attacks him so.

KENNEY LIED: All The Soda Tax Money Is Being Thrown to City’s General Fund

The Philadelphia City Controller has issued the following statement.   I strongly suggest you read every word of this.

Very, very carefully.

As part of a larger effort to increase transparency and show the public how the City spends taxpayer money, the City Controller’s Office will release information periodically to keep the public informed.  Today, the Office of the City Controller released its first set of information as part of this effort, data on the revenue generated by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) and FY18 to-date and the expenditures related to those funds.

The data shows that the majority of revenue generated by the beverage tax is not being spent on Pre-K, Community Schools, and debt service for Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild), as originally intended.  According to information recorded in the City of Philadelphia’s general ledger system (FAMIS), about 74% of the nearly $85 million generated by the beverage tax since its inception has gone to the City’s General Fund.

In FY17, the City collected more than $39.5 million, spending 21.2% or about $8.4 million on Pre-K and less than 3%, or $1.2 million, on Community Schools. About 76%, or $30.0 million, of FY17 beverage tax revenue, went to the General Fund.  To-date (as of March 2, 2018) in FY18, the City has collected almost $45.2 million, spending about 25% of funds, or almost $11.3 million, on Pre-K and less than $1 million, or just 2%, on Community Schools.  Almost $33 million, or about 73%, of revenue generated by the beverage tax t0-date for FY18, has gone to the General Fund.  No revenue has been used for Rebuild.

 

I think history will reflect that today is the worst day in the mayor’s entire political career.

This Is Who Philly Progressives Hope Can Unseat Martina White

Mike Doyle is running against Martina White for state rep up in Northeast Philly–home of detached townhouses and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Here’s probably the most Democratic Party-type of Facebook post he’s made in the Trump era…

Well, Mike…

Firearms-ownership isn’t restricted to citizens, legal permanent residents and American Nationals (i.e. Samoans) can also acquire them.   Even then it does require that they not be under the category that Commonwealth and Federal Law have defined as prohibited possessors.   So, citizens who have serious misdemeanors that carry the possibility of one year of jail time or longer, a felony, someone who is under a protection-from-abuse court order, and people who have been declared by the state as mentally unfit are all excluded.

As for the “you commie liberal pu**y” remark, yeah that’s a pretty progressive thing to say as a candidate.  Oh yes… he also has back taxes and he claims that he fell behind on his taxes with the City’s Revenue Department because he donated money to the #NoDAPL protests, who were trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Because obviously that is something a person who is concerned about “commie liberal pu**sies” would do.

Something tells me that Doyle isn’t going to be getting the FOP Lodge 5 endorsement.

Amazon Should Stay Away From Philly – For Our Own Good

Amazon isn’t a positive experience for any city

My career is in tech.  I have done tech all of my life.  I’m also a fan of capitalism, reasonably-regulated markets, and disruptive technology.

I’m one of the first people to tell you that Amazon should stay as far the fuck away from Philadelphia as possible.

It’s not that I don’t like Amazon’s business.   Like you, I order things from Amazon regularly.   It’s a slightly less evil corporation than Google; a company that started its life trying to avoid invasion of privacy only to turn its back on that for good.

I want to show you something.   This is what Seattle is like, the city where Amazon’s HQ1 is located:

People think that the tent city dwellers are comprised solely of heroin addicts.  There are a lot of former tech employees living in a situation that Seattlites happily call “camping”.   They’re trying to sound cute, and still show that they care.   The monied classes in the Puget Sound don’t really give a shit about any of these folks.

And the tent cities are not small.  Over 15 different Seattle neighborhoods including 5 suburban towns in Puget Sound now have camps.  There is a camp less than 2 miles from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA.

Employment cures homelessness.    No company no matter what size would accept tax breaks or even 100% tax exemptions with a condition that local employment be a requirement.   Likewise a company like Amazon wouldn’t accept clawbacks for non-compliance either.

And Amazon is not going to setup shop without massive exemptions from direct taxation.   The term we call this behavior: crony capitalism.

Tech companies are far from being diverse workplaces

San Francisco and Bay Area tech firms have often lauded their diversity scorecards.    When it comes to racial diversity there is no tech company anywhere in Seattle or in Silicon Valley that looks good when you look at one simple metric:

How many black people check in source code or are the principle architects of the core products of your company?

In medium to large tech firms in the Bay Area this value is usually zero or a single digit number close to zero.

You will see black employment in tech firms rising when you look at any tech company’s diversity scorecard.   That is because black people are only allowed on the periphery.   They’re in graphic design.  Sales.  Marketing.   Operations support.   None of them are encouraged to move into the roles that are critical to a tech company’s survival.   Programming is so critical that few tech companies have felt the need to use their enormous pressure on colleges and universities across this nation to create more black tech employment in the jobs that truly matter–the ones that pay the highest salaries.

If you’re black and you want to get into that role you’re going to have to be like my friend Wil ReynoldsCEO of Seer Interactive:   start your own fucking company.

A tech firm that’s heavily loaded with whites, Asians and imports in the critical roles of the company is not a diverse workplace.  There’s no indication that the arrival of Amazon would change any of this hiring behavior and that is going to stick out like a sore thumb in Philly that has a large black population.

This old motel in Seattle will be demolished by Amazon soon. The company lent the building out as a temporary homeless shelter to fend off bad publicity.

There’s a bunch of starry-eyed people around here who believe that Amazon HQ2 will be a magical quick fix for our econ woes in much the same way the legislators believed casinos would be the cure for budget deficits.

It will do no such thing.   Fuck Jeff Bezos.

“STOP WRITING BAD THINGS!”, Cry Krasner Fans on Twitter About DA

Most of DA Larry Kranser’s fan club was pleased as punch when local journalists went out of their way to paint the recent District Attorney exits as human garbage, regarding last week’s flash decision by the incoming DA to let go at least 31 prosecutors out of the 550 employee DA’s office, with an option for more terminations.

Continue reading ““STOP WRITING BAD THINGS!”, Cry Krasner Fans on Twitter About DA”

That’SNOW’t What We Do – Beware of City and PHA-Owned Property

A BONE-FRACTURE-ALERT Has Been Issued For Philadelphia County

All residents in Philadelphia need to take extra precaution when walking near any property owned by the City of Philadelphia or the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Both agencies can only be sued by employees for slip and fall bodily injuries at properties where City and PHA employees actually work and are workplaces, and as a result of that only properties which are designated workplaces get snow and ice removed from sidewalks.

Those residents who are facing property tax hikes and live near a City or PHA owned lot or abandominum however are fucked.  You and your family will be taking your lives into your own hands as the likelihood of that property being cleared of ice and snow is totally up to unpaid volunteers.

ASIAN LIVES MATTER: City Council Stupidity Edition

Behold, the video:

If you thought the soda tax was stupid and unfairly targeted minority-owned retail business, City Hall has invented a new way to torture those very same businesses.

Councilwoman City Bass introduced Bill No. 170963 which attempts to impose restroom requirements at mom-and-pop fast food jawn, which is understandable. However, the legislation includes this:

(g) Customer access. No establishment required to obtain a Large Establishment license, as provided in subsection (4)(a)(.1), shall erect or maintain a physical barrier that requires the persons serving the food either to open a window or other aperture or to pass the food through a window or other aperture, in order to hand the food to a customer inside the establishment.

Oh dear. I don’t think Cindy Bass was expecting a mad hoard of Asian business owners and their families to storm City Hall today, some wearing “Asian Lives Matter” tees and carrying signs.

Asian business owners have been feeling pressure lately. City Hall has also started to pay attention to the operating hours of Chinese take out restaurants. Combined with the soda tax and now this measure to remove life-saving devices meant to keep the employees of the establishments alive, so they can even run their businesses, it’s a wonder why anyone wants to run a business at all in a marginalized community.

Not great optics, City Hall.

Emails Reveal Council Pres Clarke Supports Temple Gentrification

Thomas Citro, a notorious slumlord, has the Council president’s ear

Fifteen years ago Temple U was still mostly a commuter college.  After 7pm, menacing towering hot lamps lit up Broad Street like Stalag 13, brighter than the sun does during daytime in an effort to deter crime for any of the few students or faculty still hanging around after dark.

Today in the shadows of Temple University’s shiny new buildings sits a rapidly growing hodgepodge of hastily-constructed multifamily rental units that have been going up like hot cakes and a small but flowering college-town has formed around the university’s southern and western sides where pedestrian activity is thick with students traveling back and forth between newly-constructed housing and the main campus.

One of the closest plots of land to Temple’s southern edges is Carlisle and Jefferson Street.  It’s the most premium spot to reach a large selection of fast food fare, the main campus, the Broad Street Line.  A block away sits a Fresh Grocer.  As they say in real estate, location location location.

And if that location happens to be city-owned land, which in most cases in North Philadelphia–especially around Temple it is going to be, that means you need to have a very intimate relationship with Darrell Clarke, the president of City Council and the overlord of dispensing municipally-owned property in District 5.

Citro

Thomas Citro is something of a notorious character for those who have had to deal with him in Northeast Philadelphia.  He’s the president of Citro Communications, which would make you think he has something to do with telecom.  Instead, he was for a time among the city’s largest property warehousers and slumlords, amassing a mountain of code violation complaints and delinquent taxes on his rental empire.

In the last 10 years, Citro has since shifted his focus from owning houses to running student housing.

Reporter Ryan Briggs from City and State has been taking a look at how Council President Darrell Clarke has been completely oblivious to tax delinquents getting City-owned property for next to nothing and in one case, an entire medical center was built without permits.

1405 & 1407 Jefferson St

Today we’ll take a look at how Citro manages to get these properties.   One piece of land that Citro has not been able to build on yet is 1405-07 Jefferson.  Right now it looks like this:

1405-07 Jefferson St
1405-07 Jefferson St

Last year, Citro was sending up feelers to Darrell Clarke’s office wanting to get this parcel.  This prompted a Clarke staffer to send this letter up to the Philadelphia Land Bank to prepare the parcel for a sale.   As far as Philadelinquency knows, Citro was the only interested buyer.

Clarke Letter to Land Bank
Clarke Letter to Land Bank

Just days after Clarke’s team sent the request to prepare the property for sale, Citro sends an email to Clarke’s office asking how soon he can close on the property.  (Guess no one else wants to bid on it?)

$190,000 Appraisal?  What?

Part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s process for selling City-owned land includes taking an appraisal of the property so the City understands what the market value is for the property it’s holding.   The PRA came back with a $190,000 estimate for both vacant lots on the corner.   Citro balks and claims that he had once put in offers for the two lots at $32K and $34K a piece, far less than the $190K the PRA now estimates the properties to be worth.

The PRA generally seems confused by Citro and asks him for backing documentation to show that the City had agreed in the past to sell him the lots at those prices.

How many apartments are you building?

This seems like an easy question.

Yo man, do you have plans for this shit or nah?

In another email exchange in January of this year, Citro and the PRA bounce back and forth over plans for the multifamily units.  Given that Citro already has a whole rats nest of buildings surrounding the site, he seems generally confused that the PRA is asking him to produce a package similar to a formal RFP–which is what the City asks for from most other developers who put bids on City-owned property.

Citro then follows up and sends over a basic site plan, showing the position of the streets, the curb and where the buildings will go.

What’s funny about this is later on in March, Citro asks for a settlement date.  This is how that went:

Wait, how big are these apartments again?

In April and some more back and forth with Citro to get him to reveal more detail about the apartment building, things move along.  But the executive director for the Redevelopment Authority spots something…

Ms. Nickolic from the Land Bank writes back saying Clarke is cool with it.

Hi.  Mr. Citro has a nasty habit of not paying property taxes and he racks up code violations.  Can your office explain why it’s giving him City-owned land?

This summer, Ryan Briggs from City and State had started probing the PRA asking for documentation and all communication between themselves and Thomas Citro.   Citro had not yet completed the sale of the property but it had already been placed on a list to be voted on at City Council.

To refresh the PRA’s memory, Briggs sent over a long list of properties that have issues, including previous transactions the PRA made with Citro.  Some of those violations and missing permits include the recent student housing that Citro has built.

By now the City was less than a month away from closing on the two Jefferson Street lots with Citro.

Oh shit!!!

This one e-mail from a reporter then caused a lot of e-mail traffic between the Redevelopment Authority and Council President Clarke’s office.

Out comes a new email from Council President Clarke’s legislative assistant who helps draw up the bills for passage.

Hmm.  I wonder what that could be.   Apparently Clarke’s office is confused by the number of units Citro intends to build.

Jeff explains it better.   He says Citro’s 16 units does not match up with what he took out zoning permits for.

Hey what’s the hold up?  Why won’t you give me this land???!

Oh God, he’s calling again

Ok, Time to Tell Citro to Fuck Off

As of today, the PRA has not yet sold 1405 or 1407 Jefferson Street.

No, You Don’t Have to Take Sides in the War On Police

The Philadelphia Police has problems.  Lots of problems.  So many problems.

People are now freaking out over a police corporal who has a confederate flag decal on his personal vehicle.  This prompted Rochelle Bilal, the prez of the Guardian Civic League, the black police officer’s association, to hold a presser.

Bilal’s presser relaying the complaints she has received is completely justified and welcome.  But the PPD is so problematic that even Bilal herself has scandal attached her.  She was caught double-dipping for a bankrupt boro just outside Philadelphia.

In this piece by Ernest Owens, he calls out some terrible remarks by FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby at a rally held at FOP headquarters.   This was an unforced error on McNesby’s part, due to the antics of Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif holding a flash protest in front of a police officer’s home.  He then goes further and opens an umbrella over all politicians who have accepted FOP support recently.

Even if McNesby was able to get 2,000 people to attend his rally, one sentence uttered into a microphone helped dig the grave of public trust just a few feet deeper that night.  Police reform activists now have everything they need to justify their activism.

Political isolation

The Philadelphia Police Department is driven into a corner and it’s mostly by its own making.

Progressive Democrats nationwide have staged a war on police in a quest to change policing culture.   The most successful aspect of that campaign is to push police unions out of politics.   Benevolent associations and police municipal unions are nearly completely disassociated from Democratic Party politics and have been booted from influence within Philadelphia.  It has raised the profile of progressive influence over traditional political machines.

Outside of Philadelphia in Trump Country it’s had the polar opposite effect.  Police unions of all types have become Republican backers.  It can be argued that if it wasn’t for their financial support and large number of friends and family members and associative networks, Trump would not have had the support he needed to become president.

That’s not to say that activists aren’t making mistakes.   They just blew a huge opportunity to get any police reform done and for that we’ll have three years of purgatory ahead of us until the next police contract.

Imagine a Philadelphia where public trust in policing is so eroded that everyday Philadelphians turn inimical towards cops.  If we aren’t already at that point, we’re just one step away from it.  If you take Owens’ advice, any candidate for office who accepts FOP money is toxic waste.  That would include Mayor Kenney, who the FOP backed in 2015.

Progressives are certainly excited over the candidate for District Attorney Larry Krasner who capitalized on his bad relationship with police as a selling point of his campaign.   If successful beyond the DA’s race, the replacement of pols with moderate temperament in between the debate on police reform could be switched out for folks who are inimical to police in general.   That may produce reform or it could trigger a disastrous backlash.   I’ll explain.

You still need cops to have a safe neighborhood

A lot of Philadelphians firmly believe a falsehood that crime is just some random bullshit that happens to you and neither you nor anyone else has much if any control over it.  While it certainly feels that way, the city has been enjoying a long period of crime levels slowly decreasing thanks in part to redevelopment efforts and community engagement.

This war that progressives have chosen to wage against cops is not going to be free of consequences.  Police certainly do not have to engage neighborhoods.   “Community policing,” as it is known, is the idea that residents in police districts can become partners with police brass to help solve crimes and dissuade others from happening.  I don’t see how the Philadelphia Police will be able to have successful community engagement in neighborhoods where nearly everyone hates them and distrust is so thick you can taste it.

I am a firm believer community policing works because my own neighborhood I live in is deeply engaged with police and has constant contact with it whereas a decade ago it did not.  When combined with the effects of gentrification, violative crimes have been cut by half.

The worst thing that could happen to communities who do have a close relationship with police is to degrade to what police call a “radio district”, where patrols are thin and cops only respond to incidents assigned by dispatchers in a queue.

This was the Philadelphia of the 1980s and 90s where high levels of crime gave black and brown people only one option to deal with it: leave.   The mass depopulation of North Philadelphia is a living testament to it.

Swaths of the city are already radio-only in a city where we’re always short of resources.    If cops themselves decide that disengagement is preferable to get through a shift and community engagement is no longer worth the trouble we will all take a hit.

The mayor and City Council have been completely ineffective at pushing for police reform.  They will also be inert at the response to rising levels of crime.  Just as they were when crime levels in Philadelphia were intolerably high.

Lifetime Philadelphia residents remember this period all too well.    If you’re a police reform activist I suggest you make the most of this period as best you can.  If crime levels turn in the opposite direction, support for your work can rapidly erode and more residents will be forced into picking sides, and they’ll side with cops.

Tread carefully.

What’s With Philadelphia’s Black Leadership?

Wilson Goode Sr. (LIFE Magazine, 1984)
Wilson Goode Sr. (LIFE Magazine, 1984)

The Year was 1986

Wilson Goode Sr. was the first black mayor of Philadelphia.   Originally from the South, he had moved to Philadelphia and slowly worked his way up in public administration, eventually working in the mayor’s office under Mayor Green–the little-remembered 1-term mayor that came after Frank Rizzo.

White flight had toned down a bit from the mass exodus of the city during the late 1970s.  City planners, the mayor and City Council were boxed between a false hope that Philadelphia’s industrial might would one day turn a corner and the reality setting in that it would never, ever come back.   Goode had a vision of a new, service-oriented city whose economy was its people, not products.

Goode was also the antidote to a looming Frank Rizzo who seemed to be itching to come back to power and had become a behind-the-scenes power broker. Black residents of Philadelphia were hit with economic decline much harder than their white counterparts and whether Goode realized it or not, the idea of a black mayor made people feel that their economic suffering would get the attention it deserved.

Not long into Goode’s reign, one of the weirdest strikes hit the city.   Most of both AFSCME locals had decided to strike after contract negotiations hit a rough patch.  Many returned to work after a few days, but the city’s trash haulers decided to stay on strike after proposals were put forward to modernize the department and install larger compacting trucks.

You can guess what came next…

One of the most bizarre scenes hit the city’s streets… trash piles–some the height of four and five story buildings had started accumulating around Philadelphia as residents spent a month with no trash service.   Goode went to battle in the courts.  He threatened to replace all the city’s trash haulers with private contractors permanently, anything to get them back to work and to strike a deal.  When word hit strikers that private haulers were going to cross the picket lines, AFSCME representatives scoffed.   Wilson Goode said “try me” and started interviewing job candidates and prepared to fire the city’s trash haulers permanently.  The picketers rushed back to the bargaining table.

Goode became an instant populist hero across all quarters of Philadelphia.  The trash strike and Goode’s tough words to AFSCME transformed him into a national star.   Soon after the strike, Goode broke ground on what is now known today as Liberty Place–the iconic twin towers of the city.  It was possibly the peak of his career as mayor.   On the same day he broke ground on One Liberty Place, MOVE happened, which is the only thing we remember Goode for now.

2017.

Today we learn that Wilson Goode Sr., who now earns his keep as a minister was a lean-to as Congressman Bob Brady allegedly paid off his campaign rival Jimmie Moore to get him to quit running for congress against Brady’s seat.  Moore is African-American.  Reports say that Goode was contacted by Brady.  I can only imagine it was for a single reason—Brady wanted to use Goode to help broker the deal to get Moore to agree to drop out.

Whether Goode actually provided the assistance won’t be known until either the FBI or the US Attorney General releases whatever communications they may have recorded of the meetings.   It’s clear from prosecutor’s descriptions of what occurred that Goode was aware of what Brady was trying to do.

And ultimately: $90,000 left Brady’s campaign account and wound up in the hands of Moore, allegedly for “polling” expenses, if you can believe that.

Congressman Brady often faces little challenge in his re-elections in his specially-drawn safe district.  It’s very improbable that he would need to poll his constituents about anything, much less pay his primary campaign opponent to do the research—but that’s the story Brady’s press secretary is telling the Inquirer.

And this is just another item in the chain of Philadelphia’s list of Black Power Problems.

There’s DA Seth Williams, the first African-American District Attorney of Philadelphia.  He is currently sitting in a holding pen at the Federal Detention Center awaiting sentencing for his bribery conviction.

There’s the total collapse of the Fattah Organization, a power base that launched the careers of many other black politicians in Philly.  The founder of that political powerhouse–Chaka Fattah, once a political stalwart and long-time congressman who used to be Bob Brady’s equal in Congress who was able to assemble a factory that produced one black protege after another, is now serving a Federal prison sentence for wire and mail fraud.   His son Chip Jr. is also in Federal prison for fraud on school contracts.

Or how about the state prosecutions of State Rep. Louise Bishop, or LeAnna “I’m the fuckin’ Senator” Washington, or Thomasine Tynes for taking a fugly Tiffany bracelet as a bribe.

And then there was that one time when the second black mayor of Philadelphia, John Street, had let his poor choice of aides and staffers run wild.  They turned the Street Administration into an illegal den of Pay-to-Play contracting that nearly cost Street his re-election and came close to breaking the Democratic Party’s lock on the mayor’s office.   A chintzy public-relations blitz was launched with the Clintons and movie stars flying to Philadelphia, and local celebs like Bill Cosby and Patti Labelle were deployed to the Save Street operation to prevent Street from losing to Republican Sam Katz.

What is this?

As black representation in Philadelphia politics was infected by the very corruption that is at the core of our politics; it has changed most of us for the better.   It’s obvious now after these disappointments that identity politics is only skin deep.  It’s now reflected in the way Philadelphians vote and younger residents of the city are far less influenced by the “racial math” that so many older Philadelphians are accustomed to playing.  It’s not entirely gone, but the racial math game has led to enough election defeats that we know it’s a fool’s game to play it.

But that doesn’t mean the racial lens that we see our politicians through is gone.   Take a look at our Congressional districts.

Bob Brady’s district was drawn to hug the Delaware River to compact as many white Philadelphians as possible.   District 2, which used to belong to Fattah and is now represented by Dwight Evans, was created to compact as many black Philadelphians as possible.   District 3 was originally drawn to satisfy Northeast Republicans.    Philadelphia’s political leaders, including Brady, helped create these districts.

Today’s rising black stars in the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee still have to pay homage to Bob Brady, as aloof and inattentive to racial issues as he is.  It’s rather pathetic, actually.

I don’t think the current crop of kids who are maturing and see a future in local politics are going to stomach this situation for much longer.  I don’t think they are also happy with the idea that the leader of the Philadelphia Democratic party brokered a deal–willingly–to get rid of a black rival for his seat in a primary by buying him off.   And worst of all: that some of Philadelphia’s black establishment either participated in it, or if they knew about it–stayed silent.

I hope that’s the case anyway.   This doesn’t look good for Brady, and it certainly doesn’t look good at all for Philadelphia’s image as a progressive town.

READERWRITER: City Hall Forced To Curtail Soda Tax Lies

This is one of those days where I turn Philadelinquency over for someone else to write something for a change.   If you have something interesting to write-up or would like to be a regular contributor here, applications and phone lines are open.

Another regressive tax fail

First it was the $2 cigarette tax that was implemented in 2014 to aid city schools.  That was projected to raise $75 million in FY17 but instead is now projected to only bring in $49.6 million by the City Controller’s office; a $25 million dollar “error”.

Now it’s the soda tax that’s failing.  It was projected to haul in $46 million by the end of June.  Current collections (at the end of April) show only $25.6 million received so far.  It seems very unlikely that the city will collect $10 million dollars in both May and in June to make the $20 million deficit (this on top of $6.5 million in April’s collections).

The administration is so beholden to their terrible idea, they will not be revising their end of year or 5 year projections.  Nope.

Instead they will only be adjusting the current FY projections so they can mask their failure. Instead of rethinking their idea, the Kenney administration has decided instead that there must be an issue in the collecting of the tax, as if there was a “pot of gold” amounting to $3.5 million dollars out there, by hiring nine new employees to the revenue department.

Wonder why Philadelphia has the largest deep poverty population in America of over 200,000?  Part of the problem are stupid ideas like this regressive tax. A regressive tax is a tax that attacks lower income individuals and families which is exactly what the cigarette tax and soda tax do.

Those at the poverty line or below are almost twice as likely to be a smoker than those in the middle or upper classes. According to 2013 Gallup report only 20% of adults who make $75k or more per year drink full-calorie soda as compared to 45% for adults who make less than $30k or less per year.

Surely you would think that this point would have gotten the attention of our great leaders in City Hall.  After all, it was published in 2013 and readily available to anyone with a phone or a computer.  Well if that point doesn’t make a difference, how about the ability for middle and upper class citizens to purchase their cigarettes and sugary drinks outside the city? As jobs keep moving out of the city and little to no jobs are being created in the city, the large segment of the city’s working population who commute out of town for work gives them a unique opportunity on a daily basis to purchase all of their cigarettes and sugary drinks city tax free before they return.  In 2013, it was estimated 15% of the working population commuted out of the city for work.

These taxes which are designed to punish the poor will continue.  If only the administration looked inward, to programs and spending they could cut (i.e. the Mayor’s proposal to build a park over I-95, arresting pension benefit growth, selling more city-owned vacant land), we might actually be able to reverse the increase of poverty and deep poverty status which combined sits at 26% in Philadelphia.

Scott Waller, Vice Chair, Philadelphia Young Republicans

Gallup, I. (2013, August 15). Regular Soda Popular With Young, Nonwhite, Low-Income. 
Retrieved June 13, 2017

The Soda Tax Bombed – Won’t You Please Spare a Dime?

It’s pretty bad.

The city projects the tax will bring in $46 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. To hit that figure, the soda tax would have to generate more than $20 million total in May and June.

You can get the rest of the Voice piece here.  The mayor’s spokespeople don’t even sound believable anymore.