Archive: July, 2008
City Councilman Darrell Clarke weighed in this week on the effort to force two proposed riverfront casinos to relocate, telling state Rep. Dwight Evans that there are clearly two sides to the issue. Evans has pledged to work with Gov. Rendell, state Sen. Vince Fumo and Mayor Nutter in conversations with the casino developers on the issue.
Clarke, in a letter to Evans this week, said that much of the attention on the issue goes to residents who live near the Foxwoods site in South Philly and the SugarHouse site in Fishtown and oppose the projects. "However, there are a substantial number of residents in my district who support the SugarHouse casino in particular, and believe its completion will be a benefit to the community," Clarke wrote.
Three community groups have been negotiating with SugarHouse, Clarke wrote, on "unprecedented benefits" that the project might bring. Clarke said he wasn't passing judgment on casino locations but wanted Evans to know the pro-SugarHouse groups wanted to brief him on their efforts. He urged Evans to consider all viewpoints on the issue.
Mayor Nutter this morning announced three new leaders for his administration:
Allan Frank was named as the city's new Chief Information Officer. Frank, coming from the private sector company The AKA Group, said he was excited to work on the city's new 311 system and other programs that could make an impact on the lives of city residents. "I see this as a real opportunity to give back," Frank said.
Fran Burns, who had been a deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections, was named commissioner of the department. Burns said she wanted to make L&I more friendly, smarter, faster and better. "That's how simple it is and that's what we're going to strive for."
Mayor Nutter, declaring this morning that the city's economy needs arts and culture to grow nationally and internationally, restored an office closed by then-Mayor Street as more than 200 supporters roared their approval. Nutter appointed Gary Steuer, former vice president of Americans for the Arts, a New York-based non-profit, to be the city's Chief Cultural Office. Steuer, who will start work in October, will lead the new Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.
Nutter also re-established the city's Cultural Advisory Council and named Joe Kluger of the arts consulting firm WolfBrown to lead the council. Nutter asked members of the city's arts community interested in serving on the council to to submit their resumes to his administration.
Nutter joked that he pledged "early and often" while running for mayor that he would restore the office if elected. Street dissolved the city's Office of Arts and Culture in 2004 in a cost-cutting move. Nutter had hoped to recreate the arts and culture post on his first day on the job in January. It came six months later. "The community has been calling for this for some time," Nutter said. "I think in your heart of hearts you knew that I would fulfill the pledge that I made."
Catherine LuceyMore on the Board of Revision of Taxes' plan to move forward with new tax assessments.
Parkway facelift is officially announced.
Clout digs deeper into the story of Miss Rain Day.
Catherine LuceyAt today's press conference to announce improvements to the Ben Franklin Parkway, Governor Rendell called the avenue "the Champs-Élysées without the Burger King, without the McDonalds, without the movie theaters."
When Mayor Nutter took the mike he shot back: "I was stunned to hear the governor denounce Burger King earlier today. I'm sure it had something to do with the heat."
The city Board of Revision Taxes voted unanimously today to move forward with the "Actual Value Initiative," a program that would calculate what property taxes would be in the city if based on 100 percent of market value. [Here's a link to a story today on the issue.] Currently, properties in the city are assessed at 32 percent of their market value, a system that has helped to create disparities where some property owners pay too much or too little, compared to taxes on similar properties.
The BRT, while taking the action on the politically contentious issue, put much of the focus now on Mayor Nutter, City Council and the state legislature. The BRT is trying to come up with new assessment numbers by the end of the year for those elected officials to consider. Most of the seven BRT members said they won't be doing much more until the elected officials come up with programs and policies to help property owners who face rising tax bills due to the initiative.
But BRT member Russell Nigro, a former state Supreme Court justice, told his colleagues they have an obligation to fix what they all conceded is a broken system so that it is more fair to taxpayers, no matter what the city's elected officials do or don't do. "So we would like to have a partnership and work this out and have it come out to be exactly the way everyone would like it to be," Nigro said. "But we can't drop the ball on our end and do nothing at all."
Catherine LuceyWe hear that Mayor Nutter is set to announce the head of the reinstated Office of Arts and Culture tomorrow morning. The official title of the new appointee will be Chief Cultural Officer.
The city shut down the Office of Arts and Culture in 2004. The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, along with other arts groups, have been pushing to have it reopened.
No word yet on who the new arts czar is, but we hear it could be an out of towner.
Catherine LuceyMayor Nutter is reportedly going to be away from City Hall for the next two weeks, although he's staying mum on where exactly he's headed.
"I'm going to be taking some private family time," Nutter said yesterday.
But wherever that family time will be, Nutter said he'll be in touch with the office.