Archive: May, 2010
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak continues to play coy with the details of what he claims was an attempt by the White House to lure him out of the Democratic primary election against U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter with a job offer. Sestak repeated that claim on Meet The Press yesterday. And Republicans again seized on the story to attack the President Obama's administration, which too is being coy on the subject.
The one person who hasn't weighed in so far was former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, Sestak's Republican opponent in the Nov. 2 general election. Now Toomey has released a statement saying Sestak should "tell the public everything he knows" about the job offer.
"To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign," Toomey said. "Joe and I disagree on many important issues, from health care, to bailouts, to the unprecedented debt being racked up in Washington. That’s what our campaign should be about, rather than these other matters. Joe can clear that all away by simply disclosing all the facts that he knows, and I urge him to do that."
We’ve been trying to round up some more detail on the cuts Mayor Nutter announced last week after City Council did not act on his proposed soda tax. Nutter said he would have to slash $20 million from the budget to maintain positive cash flow, announcing cuts to police, fire and libraries.
A key question is what fire companies Nutter is looking to can. Nutter said he was going to close two companies, eliminating 40 jobs, for a savings of $3.6 million. But Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison today told us that no decisions had been made yet about which companies and it isn't clear how many workers might actually be laid off.
Last year, Nutter closed 7 engine and 2 ladder companies as part of a massive budget rebalancing, prompting protests from the firefighters union.
Council is trying to work with the Board of Ethics on a way to ease political activity rules for city workers without a charter change.
Fencl Award goes to a beat cop in Southwest Philadelphia.
Six people hospitalized in weekend shootings.
Mayor Nutter's tax on soda appears dead for now but his battle with City Council about the 2010-11 budget is still very much alive.
PhillyClout's Friday column takes a look at why state Attorney General Tom Corbett's attempt to subpoena Twitter to unmask anonymous critics could be political trouble.
And landlords who rent to students near Temple's main campus have to live with some new rules.
For the full details on Mayor Nutter's announced $20 million in cuts, click here for a pdf of the documents.
We caught up with some City Council members to see what they thought about Mayor Nutter's announcement this afternoon that he would cut $20 million from the budget after he failed to get passage of a proposed soda tax. So far, it doesn't look like anyone is particularly interested in reopening the soda tax proposal...
Councilman Bill Green -- "I find these cuts dissappointing, cynical and retribution for Council not passing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax."
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez -- "I was dissappointed in the memo this morning and I’m even further dissappointed in the mayor this afternoon. We have given him 85 percent of what he wants." She added that the two sides aren't even that far apart: "We’re talking about a difference of where he wants to be and where we want to be of 20 million."
Councilman Frank DiCicco -- "I’m hopeful that between now and the time he proposes to implement these cuts, we can sit down and cooler heads will prevail. In the business of politics you don’t always get what you want initially. "
We reached out to advocates and union leaders for the three departments taking the biggest hits in the $20 million budget cut announced by Mayor Nutter today. Here's what they had to say:
John McNesby, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police -- "We’re actually out there making a difference. If he cuts again people might as well lock their windows and doors. Crimes not going to go down. It’s only going to rise now in the summer."
Bill Gault, president of the fire union Local 22 -- "Once again he’s punishing the citizens because he doesn’t get his way. As always public safety is at risk… I think this is a little kid who didn’t get his ball. And it’s getting old."
Amy Dougherty, Executive Director of the Friends of the Free Library -- "My take is that I don’t think that Mayor Nutter or City Council want to cut services at libraries or anywhere else. I think they’re still negotiating. Libraries are barely open five days a week."
We've got more detail on the cuts Mayor Nutter says he'll have to make without additional budget revenue.
According to a letter Budget Director Stephen Agostini today sent to Nutter's chief of staff, the city needs to cut $20 million from the budget to manage city cash flow. In the letter he outlines the suggested cuts, which include:
- Eliminating two police classes scheduled for this year -- $4.5 million
- Deactivating two fire companies, eliminating 40 jobs -- $3.6 million
- Cutting library hours to four days a week -- $2.5 million
The budget plan passed by Council this morning - which includes a 9.9 percent two-year property-tax hike, along with taxes on some tobacco products and an increased commercial-trash fee - gives the city a $42 million surplus-fund balance. Nutter says that is not enough money to get through the year, an argument that Council has not been sympathetic to so far.
Nutter this morning sent a letter to Council saying that if they don't pass a soda tax or increase the temporary property tax hike, that he will have to eliminate $20 million from the budget. Despite the threat, they did not vote on the soda tax.
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, speaking at City Hall this morning, accused state Attorney General Tom Corbett of repeatedly using his office for political purposes. The latest example of this pattern, Onorato said, was a subpoena issued by one of Corbett's deputies to Twitter, seeking information about two accounts, including one connected to an anonymous blogger who frequently criticizes the attorney general, his staff and their work.
"You can't subpoena somebody if they say something negative about you," said Onorato, who faces Corbett in the Nov. 2 general election for governor. "It's the nature of the beast. To me, that's using your office in a political way."
The subpoena, issued May 6, demands that Twitter produce "any and all subscriber information" about the account connected to CasablancaPA.com and bfbarbie, including name, address, contact information, creation date, and all Internet protocol addresses.
Onorato calls that "Completely outrageous." He said it follows a pattern, citing as other examples the lawsuit Corbett filed to challenge federal health care reform legislation and the timing and targets in "Bonusgate," the long-running investigation into corruption in the state General Assembly.
The Associated Press reported today that the American Civil Liberties Union is helping the two Twitter users fight the subpoena and will ask a judge to quash it if an agreement can't be reached with the Attorney General's Office.
Council just gave final approval to a $3.9 billion budget plan with a temporary 9.9 percent property tax hike, taxes on some tobacco products and an increase in the trash fee for businesses and landlords.
Conspicuously absent from the plan was Mayor Nutter’s proposed soda tax, which Council did not act on today, despite last minute pressure from the mayor.
Council voted 11 to 5 for the property tax hike.Voting in favor were Council members Anna Verna, Marian Tasco, Darrell Clarke, Jim Kenney, Donna Reed Miller, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bill Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., W. Wilson Goode Jr. Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Frank DiCicco.
Voting against were Council members Brian O'Neill, Bill Green, Jannie Blackwell, Jack Kelly and Joan Krajewski.
Nutter's original budget included a $300 per-household trash fee and a 2 cent per ounce soda tax. Council balked at both moves. Ultimately they perferred a property tax hike to the trash fee, but a majority never backed a soda tax, which Nutter reduced to 3/4 cent per ounce in recent weeks.
The budget passed today gives the mayor a surplus fund balance of $42 million, which Council says is sufficient, but Nutter argues is not enough of a cash cushion to get through the year.