Shortly after the city released data related to the Actual Value Initiative questions began to swirl about the accuracy of the new assessments.
And City Council has not been pleased with the answers it has received from the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) --the department that was charged with reassessing properties --about the methodology it used.
So today Councilmen Bobby Henon, David Oh and Council president Darrell Clarke introduced a bill today that would allow Council to hire an independent auditor that would audit OPA. The bill would also require OPA to release information related to its assessment process and demonstrate that its meets industry standards. OPA would also be required to maintain their records for seven years and that information must be open to the public.
"Right now we're not getting information," Henon said. "We're still not sure what methodology OPA and its assessors came up with in assessing real property in the city of Philadelphia. So for real checks and balances I think the audit is a direct and precise and concise way to get the proper data that we still have yet to receive."
Henon said in Washington D.C. which recently conducted a mass reassessment of its properties requires an annual publication of a report measuring the fairness and accuracy of assessments.
A week after Mayor Nutter announced his plans to raise money for the cash-poor School District, the administration submitted two bills that were introduced in City Council today that would increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax and create a new tax on cigarettes.
But Council president Darrell Clarke stressed that Council cannot move forward with the proposals until lawmakers in Harrisburg approve enabling legislation. The clock is ticking though for Council --the legislative body must approve a budget no later than June 30.
And Council is making a tweak to Nutter's plan. Nutter wants to raise $22 million by increasing the liquor-by-the-drink tax by 5 percent and $45 million by adding a $2 tax per pack of cigarettes. He also wants a small portion of the money raised from the cigarette tax to go toward the Philadelphia Health Department's anti-smoking program.
Clarke said the latter is not happening and all money raised will go to the schools.
"I wasn't briefed on a cessation program and based on the severity of what we have been talking about I believe that every dollar should go to the school district," Clarke said.
The school district is facing a $304 million budget hole and has asked the city for $60 million and over $100 million from both the state and its union.
What's your take on the city's new zoning code so far?
The Planning Commission and the Citizens Planning Institute want to hear what you have to say about the latest zoning code. A series of feedback sessions will kick off in June and all are invited.
The sessions will be held at One Parkway Building located at 1515 Arch St., the 18th floor, room 18029 and here are a list of dates and times:
--Wednesday, June 5 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. (Special topic: Registered Community Organizations RCOs)
--Friday, June 7 from 8 to 9 p.m.
--Monday, June 10 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Magazine has taken an unusual step in the political prognostication for the next mayor -- they posted an ad yesterday -- election day -- on Craigslist seeking volunteers. It said:
Large Eastern city with problems (but potential!) seeks bold, dynamic leader to run for mayor in 2015. Ideal candidate will have vision, independence, and the courage to take on entrenched interests. Large personal bank account helpful, but not required. Hacks, empty suits and defenders of the status quo need not apply. For more details, see phillymag.com/articles/desperately-seeking-leadership-philadelphia's-mayor
The ad lists the compensation at $186,000 (not too shabby) and says the job is located at City Hall but tele-commuting is OK (for politicians who like to govern in their PJs.) But remember, the city's Home Rule Charter says a candidate for mayor must have lived in Philadelphia for at least three years before the election and be at least 25 years old.
Good luck, job seekers!
Elected officials flocked to Relish restaurant in West Oak Lane on primary Election Day to discuss politics, the 2015 mayors race and more.
Ryan Boyer, business manager for the Laborers District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity said the city's next mayor should have a "vision."
"The city charter calls for a strong mayor and we need a mayor supremely committed to working people and creating those relationships that will allow deals to happen," Boyer said.
Some politicos and political insiders have said City Council president Darrell Clarke should consider a 2015 mayoral run. Labor leader John Dougherty made his first ever appearance to Relish and said he thought Clarke would be a strong candidate. (And because some could not make it to Famous in South Philly this afternoon for the Election Day luncheon there, Dougherty brought with him some Famous cookies to share. Mostly African-American politicians have gathered at Relish on Election Day, a tradition state Rep. Dwight Evans started four years ago.)
Meanwhile, voter turnout has been especially low at the polls meaning this is a "committeeman's election" and those backed by labor unions and the political machine will have an advantage. But Sheriff Jewel Williams said heavy advertising and a real get-out-the-vote effort could change that.
Williams and other elected officials predicted that City Controller Alan Butkovitz would win reelection. He faces second-time candidate Brett Mandel, who ran for the seat in 2009 and Mark Zecca, veteran at the Law Department. Butkovitz, who also showed up to Relish after visiting the Famous was confident he would win.
A Common Pleas Court judge has ordered Brett Mandel, a candidate in the Democratic primary election for City Controller, to stop campaigning inside polling places today.
A complaint filed this morning in Election Court by City Controller Alan Butkovitz's campaign and a South Philly polling place judge of elections claimed that Mandel strolled around St. Maron's Church at 10th and Ellsworth streets at 7:45 a.m., where four divisions of the 2nd Ward vote. The judge of elections claimed Mandel handed him a campaign sticker and "advocated for his election."
A judge ruled for Butkovitz and the judge of elections, ordering Mandel to stop the electioneering inside polling places.
The Committee of 70, which is monitoring polling places all over the city, said that was the most notable event so far in a low-turnout election. At another division of the 2nd Ward, the District Attorney's Office had to step in when the Judge of Elections refused to seat a minority inspector.
UPDATE, 4:53 pm: Mandel campaign manager Dan Siegel brushes this off as a misinterpreted joke. Siegel said Mandel has some temporary tattoos that he has been handing out to supporters. He saw a guy with plenty of tattoos in the polling place and offered him one, Siegel said.
Chris Brennan & Sean Collins Walsh
Every election day, PhillyClout camps out at the Famous 4th Street Deli to track the comings and goings of the city's political class. By tradition, we ask everyone we can three questions. This year's questions:
- If Alan Butkovitz wins a third term as City Controller this year will he complete it or step down to run for mayor in 2015?2.
- Who will win the 2014 Democratic primary election for governor?
- Who will be the next mayor of Philadelphia.
The pols and their answers are:
John Dougherty of Local 98: 1. He predicts that Butkovitz will win and complete the third term. 2. He gives U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz the early edge. 3. He said the next mayor is probably a candidate not currently being discussed but declined to say who that is.
Tom Knox, candidate for mayor in 2015: 1 He predicts that Butkovitz stays on as City Controller. 2. He didn't have an answer. 3. Tom Knox (naturally) but he predicts his toughest challenge will come from City Council President Darrell Clarke.
District Attorney Seth Williams: 1. He has not spoken to Butkovitz but expects him to step down during his third term to run for mayor. 2. He said nice things about Tom Wolf, state Sen. Mike Stack and state Treasurer Rob McCord. 3. He called state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams a front-runner.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz: "I heard the questions and I don't think I'm in the question answering mood today. You're trying to get me in trouble on my election day."
Happy primary election day. The PhillyClout team will continue the tradition of live-blogging from the Famous 4th Street Deli and from Relish restaurant, where politicians, ward leaders and supporters assemble to swap the gossip of the hour.
The top race on the local ticket today: The three-man Democratic primary election for City Controller. Brett Mandel, who finished third in the 2009 primary, fired off an email to supporters this morning, urging them to "Vote early, vote awesome." To reach awesome, Mandel said, his supporters should bring a friend to the polls to vote for him.
"Yours is a vote against the crooked politicians and insider deals that have held Philadelphia captive for so long," Mandel's email said. "It's a vote for unprecedented transparency that will make Philadelphia work for us."
John Dougherty, head of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, issued an email to his political supporters, stumping for incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Dougherty's email, also posted on his Facebook page, calls Butkovitz "not sexy" but "honest as the day is long."
"Brett Mandel, on the other hand, is an enigma," Dougherty wrote. "I've never seen anyone go so quickly from being a progressive, good government type to a conniving, lying political hack in four short years."
Mark Zecca, a 20-year veteran of the city Law Department, is also running in the primary.
So enjoy the show. Remember to send your Election Day tips to email@example.com.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., the newest member of the Senate Finance Committee, today said he believes crimes were committed in the controversial targeting of conservative non-profit groups by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. But Casey warned that members of Congress should "act responsibly" and not use the scandal for political gain.
The Finance Committee, which has oversight for the IRS, will hold a hearing Tuesday about the scandal. Casey joined the committee on Feb. 12 after U.S. Sen. John Kerry resigned to become Secretary of State. Casey's Republican colleague in Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, is also on the committee.
Casey said he wants to know how the IRS office in Cincinnati started targeting Tea Party and Patriot groups using "inappropriate criteria" and what will be done to prevent such use of a "political point of view" at the agency in the future. His main concern: "What measure of accountability" will be used.
"I would argue this misconduct rises to the level of unlawful activity," said Casey, who said the most disturbing part of a report prepared by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration was that IRS employees in Cincinnati returned to using the criteria after being told to stop by agency officials.
Toomey, in an afternoon conference call with reporters, said he wants to know who in the IRS made the decision to use the politically-based criteria to examine non-profit applications. He also wants to know who decided to resume using the criteria after being told to stop by IRS officials.
"This should not be a partisan concern," Toomey said. "Every American should be concerned. I would be equally outraged if the IRS was doing this to liberal organizations."
We knew the City Controller's race was a pissing match. But wow. Supporters of City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who is seeking a third term in Tuesday's Democratic primary election, are up in arms about a tweet from challenger Brett Mandel on Thursday.
Mandel's tweet said: #aimhigher - @PhillyInqurier endorsement of my candidacy. Also advice I gave my son in the NE High School bathroom!
The tweet included a picture of Mandel's young son, from behind, as he struggled to use a trough-style urinal at Northeast Philadelphia High School during a football game last fall.
Mandel, a self-described "prolific tweeter," said the fuss about this one tweet showed a problem with the campaign, which he had hoped would focus more on the city's troubled finances.
"If this is what we’re talking about, then the campaign has gone off the deep end in craziness," Mandel said. "These guys are worried that I’m tweeting a cheeky picture of my son?"