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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: January, 2009

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 11:44 AM

Mayor Nutter and City Council members Blondell Reynolds Brown and Darrell Clarke just kicked off the application process for people interested in serving on the city's new Commission on Parks & Recreation.  That new advisory board will set standards and guidelines for the new city Department of Parks and Recreation.  Voters in November approved a city Charter change to create that department by merging the Department of Recreation with the Fairmount Park Commission.

Applications for the new commission's 15 posts -- with nine appointed by the mayor chosen from nominations provided by Council and six from existing city posts -- are due no later than March 9.  The application can be found on the city's main Internet page.

Nutter had a good chuckle when asked if the process was being politicized because applicants have to be vetted in a City Council public hearing and then selected by the mayor.  Previously, the city Board of Judges appointed Fairmount Park Commission members in what Nutter called a "Kremlin-like process."

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 11:16 AM
Filed Under: Budget | Nutter
Munching on a cheese omelette and whole wheat toast, Mayor Nutter talked about the national economic downturn and the Philly budget crisis this morning with the breakfast crowd at the Station Diner in West Philadelphia.

"Can I put this on your tab?" asked Ron Braxton, 61, of West Philadelphia, when Nutter rolled in to the crowded eatery on 52nd and Market streets at about 9:30 a.m. But Nutter shot right  back: "Come on man, you know we ain't got no money."

Nutter recently announced that the city faces a new $1 billion funding gap over five years, which raises the prospect of  service cuts and tax hikes. A previous $1 billion gap was in the fall closed through cuts and layoffs. Due in part to public criticism over the last round of cuts, Nutter plans a massive public-engagement process to get citizen input on how to balance the next budget.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 9:43 AM

The Daily News takes a close look at the city court program designed to help people deal with the danger of home foreclosure.  Want to know more?  Read about it here.

Gov. Rendell talks about not joining the Obama administration and warns Philadelphia about losing wage tax relief unless two city casinos get moving.

The trial of City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, and three political allies is now under way.  Jury selection is set to resume this afternoon.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 7:24 PM
Gov. Rendell tonight revealed one thing he plans to do after his term ends in 2010.

“I’m going to write a hopefully funny book which uses humor to tell some lessons about the what the political system in this country is,” Rendell said, at a forum put on by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

But until then, the former mayor said "I don't want to waste a day of my time as governor."

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 3:02 PM
Sixty-five people summoned for federal jury duty have about a one in four chance of being called as one of 12 jurors or four alternates in the trial of City Councilman Jack Kelly’s former chief of staff, Chris Wright, his campaign treasurer, Andrew Teitelman, and two brothers, Hardeep and Ravinder Chawla, who have given him tens of thousands in campaign contributions.

Crowded into an overheated courtroom this afternoon, the potential panel faced questions from U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno. Ten of the potential jurors had heard about the case. Two know a potential witness, City Councilman Darrell Clarke. Nine have served on juries before and 17 have been involved in court cases, as a defendant, victim or witness. One is awaiting trial on DUI charges. And one said the he would have a problem being fair or impartial toward the Chawla brothers because they are natives of Burma, raised abroad and now naturalized citizens.

Twenty of the jurors said the trial, expected to last about two weeks, would pose an undo burden on their lives. Two said they would have a problem with evidence from a wiretap in which one person recorded another without their knowledge or permission. Kelly recorded a June 2007 telephone call with Wright for the feds along with a face-to-face meeting with Ravinder Chawla that month.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 1:24 PM

City Councilman Jack Kelly, we learned today in federal court, is not much of a computer user.  Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, is on trial along with Kelly's one-time campaign treasurer and two brothers who have donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

"Councilman Kelly is computer illiterate," said attorney William DeStefano, while explaining why one of the brothers, Hardeep Chawla, had emailed Wright for help getting Kelly to write a letter of reference.  Hardeep had recently given Wright $1,000, which the feds consider a bribe for the letter and other services.  DeStefano painted Wright as more of a middle-man for a boss unable to read e-mail. Chawla wanted the letter for a judge who was due to sentence him in 2006 for defrauding the government on leases for two buildings.

Kelly is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution after he agreed to tape a telephone conversation for the feds with Wright in June 2007 and a face-to-face meeting with Chawla's brother, Ravinder.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:42 PM

City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, and three men charged with bribing him, lost their first legal round in a hearing before jury selection starts today.  Wright, on trial with brothers Ravinder and Hardeep Chawla and their attorney, Andrew Teitelman, sought to keep the jury from knowing that Hardeep Chawla pleaded guilty in 2006 to defrauding the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno will let the jury hear about that since it is crucial to the government's claim that a $1,000 check given by Hardeep Chawla to Wright before his 2006 guilty plea was a bribe to get Kelly to write a letter of reference to the judge in that case.

Bill Winning, Hardeep Chawla's attorney argued that the government was pushing a "preposterous theory."  The other defense attorneys agreed that hearing about Hardeep Chawla's prior conviction could prejudice the jury against all four defendants.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 11:54 AM
So it’s a week into the new Obama administration and still no word on when the new president will appoint a director for the promised White House Office of Urban Policy.

With roughly 80 percent of the nation’s residents living in metropolitan areas, urban policy experts have stressed the importance of cities to the nation’s economy. Obama received praise for his campaign pledge to create an office of urban policy in the white house.

Obama, who worked as a community organizer early in his career, is expected to be better for cities than the previous administration. Back in October, when he toured Philly, Obama told a crowd in Germantown: "If we can rebuild Baghdad, we can certainly rebuild Philadelphia.”

So what’s the holdup? Rumors have been circulating for months that the director job will go Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. But so far no appointment has been made. And there no details have been released on the size or scope of the office.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
 Follow Chris on Twitter

Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
 Follow Jenny on Twitter.

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