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Archive: July, 2013

POSTED: Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 6:30 PM

Is he a tour guide? A protester? A City Hall staffer in exile?

That’s what passersby thought when they spotted Daniel Westfield, 27, sitting in a school desk outside City Hall, wearing a suit and tie, and reading. 

Turns out he’s a performance artist, and he has a message for those of us on the daily grind: Take a break.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 2:28 PM
The Eiffel Tower rises from behind blossoming flowers and trees in Paris, France, Tuesday, (AP)

The state board that oversees Philly’s finances postponed a vote on the city’s five-year fiscal plan yesterday, saying it is short-staffed and needs more time to review the document.

Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority board member Michael Karp, who is in Paris and was on speaker phone for the meeting, proposed the delay because he had not received the PICA staff report on the plan until late last week.

By law, the board is required to take “action” on the plan by Aug. 3, a month after Mayor Nutter’s administration submitted it. Apparently caught off-guard by Karp’s suggestion, PICA members reasoned aloud that requesting additional information from the city and postponing the vote constituted “action.”

POSTED: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 12:55 PM
Mayor Nutter (right) and Everett Gillison, his chief of staff, outside the glassed-in Real-Time Crime Center. Of the $20 million cost, federal grants paid $10.6 million and the city paid the rest. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)

Top Nutter administration officials held a City Hall press conference today to highlight the city’s “collaborative approach” to fighting crime, which has decreased dramatically in the first half of the year in several key areas.

Although Managing Director Rich Negrin said, “There’s nobody dancing in the endzone” over the new numbers - homicides have fallen 30 percent since this time last year - the well-attended event featured little new information and was designed to showcase the city’s existing anti-crime tactics.

Everett Gillison, Nutter’s chief of staff, said that the administration’s philosophy in fighting crime is to collaborate across departments to address the issue holistically and engage the entire community.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 2:28 PM

About 40 people gathered outside City Hall today to call for a federal higher minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

“Everybody deserves a decent living wage,” said Andre Butler, a banquet server who says he makes less than $9 per hour and struggles to support himself and his retired parents. “People like myself don’t have the opportunity to live the life we deserve to live.”

The push for raising the minimum wage got a shot in the arm earlier this year when President Obama included the issue in his State of the Union address.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 4:50 PM
Ori Feibush (Jeff Fusco)

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted against a proposal today for a controversial project in Point Breeze by developer Ori Feibush.

The decision comes two weeks after residents packed a ZBA hearing and spoke out against Feibush's plan to build four large single-family, three-story houses on 20th Street near Annin, including one for himself. The area is currently zoned for three houses.

Annin Street resident Haley Dervinis was thrilled ZBA voted against the plan. Dervinis testified against the project a day after receiving a letter from Feibush's attorney threatening to sue her for libel and slander for what he said were "defamatory" comments made on blogs and Facebook.

POSTED: Monday, July 22, 2013, 3:25 PM
Mayor Nutter (File Photo)

Mayor Nutter has repeatedly appealed a firefighters' arbitration award and now the union has teamed up with other union leaders and elected officials in an effort to make it harder to challenge future awards.

In the fall, City Councilman Jim Kenney will introduce an amendment to the Home Rule Charter that would require that the Mayor get two-thirds of Council's support before challenging future arbitration awards. The proposed ballot question could be before voters in November. Some Council members said they believe there will be enough support on Council to get it through.

"These are individuals who lay down their lives for us," Kenney said. "What has been done to the firefighters is uncalled for."

POSTED: Friday, July 19, 2013, 2:05 PM
Mayor Nutter and City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith have cut off access to some government records. (File)

The Nutter adminsitration released today scores of documents related to the deadly Center City building collapse.

Previously the administration had refused to release some documents pointing to ongoing criminal investigations. 

"The collapse of the building on 22nd and Market was the kind of tragedy that should never recur," said City Solicitor Shelley Smith in a news release. "Given its magnitude, we of course recognize the public interest in documents pertaining to events leading up to the collapse, but our responsibility to the citizens always requires that we balance the demand for information with the need to protect the integrity of critical investigations."

POSTED: Friday, July 19, 2013, 1:11 PM
City Councilmen Jim Kenney (left) and Bill Green (center) are targeting AVI as the city's budget season begins Thursday. City Controller Alan Butkovitz is also a vocal critic of AVI, and questions the accuracy of its assessments.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says the city's five-year plan is reasonable, but warned of several uncertain conditions that could impact Philadelphia's financial future.

"While our independent report indicates the city's presentation of the plan is reasonable, the plan includes particularly sensitive assumptionswhich the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) should consider when assessing the Plan," Butkovitz said in a statement.

The city projects it'll collect $536 million in property taxes in fiscal year 2014 and $2.3 billion over five years, but Butkovitz said that amount could change depending on the number of appeals made under the city's new property-tax system, the Actual Value Initiative. He also noted it's difficult to determine how much the city will be able to collect from delinquent property owners.

About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to
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