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Archive: June, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 2:20 PM
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ( Jacquelyn Martin)

This could be awkward: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will award former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the 2013 Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center on Sept. 10.

Bush, chairman of the National Constitution Center, is a potential contender for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  Clinton is already considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination in that race.

“Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy,” Bush said in a news release just issued by the National Constitution Center. “These efforts as a citizen, an activist, and a leader have earned Secretary Clinton this year’s Liberty Medal.”

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 2:08 PM
Bobby Henon. (Akira Suwa)

The city's building trades' experts told a Council Investigatory Committee, established to look into the deadly Center City building collapse, that more needs to be done to ensure construction sites are safe.

"We do not have any kind of protocol for demolition," said Pat Gillespie, business manager for the Philadelphia Building Trades. "We have a lot of license requirements, but no one enforces things."

Before a four-story building that was being demolished collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store on 22nd Street near Market earlier this month leaving six people dead and 13 injured, the city had no regulations in place for private demolitions. That has since changed. (See earlier coverage here for more on those changes.)

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 11:49 AM
Thomas Knudsen (left) is going to be new "chief recovery officer" for the Philadelphia School District. Knudsen attended this SRC meeting when his new appointment was announced. January 19, 2012 ( SARAH J. GLOVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Over the next few years, Philadelphia should be able to collect about $155 million of the $515.4 million owed to the city by delinquent property taxpayers, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study looked at 36 U.S. cities and found that Philly has the fifth-highest delinquency rate. Compared to cities with similar poverty rates, however, Philly has had similar rates over the last few years.

Cities with high collection rates, the study found, adhere to strict timetables about when and how to go after delinquents, whereas Philly has been inconsistent.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 6:01 PM
From left, School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Mayor Nutter, and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams head to a news conference at City Hall Wednesday, May 15, 2013 to announce a new school tax plan - raising taxes on cigarettes and liquor by the drink in Philadelphia - to help raise funds for the ailing school district. (Ed Hille)

A state Senate committee approved a package of bills today including one that would allow the city to enact a new $2 per pack tax on cigarettes to help fund the Philadelphia School District.

The cigarette tax, proposed locally by Mayor Nutter and recently approved by City Council requires state enabling legislation. Council concluded its budget season last week leaving the school's budget crisis in Harrisburg's hands. The budget approved by Council included $45 million in new revenue from the cigarette tax and a promise from Nutter to increase tax collections by $28 million.   

Concerns were raised about Council ending the budget season with funding for Philly schools that is not guaranteed since the cigarette tax is dependent on state authorization and the proposal had received some pushback from state lawmakers.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 3:33 PM
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a meeting of the State Budget Crisis Task Force at the National Constitution Center. ( Matt Rourke)

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking this afternoon at a State Budget Crisis Task Force forum at the National Constitution Center, said "we all have a stake in the passage" of immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the U.S. Senate.  One big selling factor, Clinton said, is that the push will keep America's population younger than other countries.

"I think it will increase the number of taxpayers and the rate of economic growth in virtually every state in the country," Clinton said. "I say that because its a budget externality that we don't think about a lot.  But if you look all over the world, demographics is destiny. And, having lost it, I can tell you that youth matters."

Clinton, 66, let the crowd chuckle at his joke but then noted that the U.S. population is younger than Europe and Japan and will be younger in 20 years than China if that country does not shift it's "one-child" birth regulation and immigration policy.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 1:36 PM
The 33rd annual Odunde festival opened with a reception at City Hall yesterday. Guests included (from left) Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell; Stanley Straughter, festival chairman; Lois Fernandez, festival founder, and Charles Koffi, ambassador from the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire. (STEVEN M. FALK / Daily News)

Stanley Straughter, who until recently was chairman of the Philadelphia Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, has pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting repayments for political donations in a scheme to circumvent campaign-contribution limits.

Straughter, 71, is the third person to plead guilty in relation to the case of Jeffrey Thompson, a Washington political operative who allegedly orchestrated a web of donors whom he would direct to make campaign contributions and repay. Thompson was not named in court documents but has been identified as the target of the broader probe by numerous D.C. media outlets.

Straughter admitted to knowingly violating the law for accepting at least $132,600 in repayments, court documents show. The donations for which Straughter plead guilty were for the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and U.S. House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington.

POSTED: Monday, June 24, 2013, 12:04 PM
The Philadelphia Traffic Court Building on 8th and Spring Garden Streets on Thursday, January 31, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )

Nine defendants accused in a massive ticket-fixing scheme in Philadelphia Traffic Court asked a federal judge this morning to dismiss the charges, claiming the alleged practice is not a crime.

Henry Hockeimer Jr., attorney for former Traffic Court Administrative Judge Michael Sullivan, told U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly the federal case is built on the prospect of money the city might have collected if traffic ticket holders were found guilty by the judges.  But no fine exists until that guilty verdict, he said. 

"It can't be speculative," Hockeimer said. "In this case, stuff has to happen. There has to be a hearing. There has to be an adjudication by a judge."

POSTED: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 3:04 PM
Mayor Nutter (File Photo)

Mayor Nutter who was delinquent on his gas bill and satisfied a lien last week told reporters today he made a mistake and simply "just missed it."

"I made a mistake," Nutter said at a City Hall news conference this afternoon. "I was not putting it off. I made a human error."

Nutter said he didn't know the bill was outstanding. He said he did not recall notices warning that a lien could be placed on his property for an outstanding bill and noted that he and his family are fairly busy. He said he thought he paid the bill.

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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