Troy Graham @troyjgraham
Philadelphia City Councilman James F. Kenney has changed tactics in his drive to get the city to soften its stance against marijuana possession, introducing a bill today to make possession of less than an ounce of pot a civil violation punishable by a $25 fine.
Previously, he introduced a bill that called for police to stop making custodial arrests for pot and instead issue offenders a summons to appear in court. But court and Nutter administration officials said that bill would create too many administrative burdens to implement.
Kenney said ending weed arrests would save thousands of police hours spent on a low-level crime - last year 4,200 people were arrested for pot possession, he said. Recent ACLU studies have found a racial component to the law: More than 83 percent of those arrested in the city for marijuana were black.
Troy Graham @troyjgraham
The campaign committee of Philadelphia Controller Alan Butkovitz – a potential mayoral candidate next year – has hired a nationally renowned media strategist whose most impressive recent victory was a write-in campaign that elected Mike Duggan as mayor of Detroit.
Butkovitz is prohibited by the City Charter from saying that he’s running for mayor without first resigning his current job. In an interview late Tuesday, he said his committee, Friends of Alan Butkovitz, had hired Joe Slade White & Company for “whatever I’m doing next.” He said he still had not made a decision about the 2015 mayoral race.
(Butkovitz, a former state representative from Northeast Philadelphia, won his third term as controller in November. It’s unlikely he would need high-powered strategists if he were only eyeing a re-election campaign three years from now.)
The 18-story city office building at the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, formerly the local headquarters for Bell Telephone, will be closed through the weekend as contractors try to repair the building's elevators, damaged by water from a broken pipe.
Mayor Nutter said Wednesday that the 1,900 workers assigned to various departments inside the building should check with their supervisers to see if they should report to alternate work locations for essential services on Thursday. The building was already to be closed Friday because of a city holiday.
The building houses the city's Department of Human Services, Law Department, Parks & Recreation, Planning Commission, Commerce Department, the city Board of Ethics and the Philadelphia film office, among other agencies.
A fight over Democratic leadership of South Philadelphia’s 36th ward is on again. A Commonwealth Court judge issued a ruling Tuesday reinstating petition challenges against 27 candidates for Democratic committeeman, generally allied with longtime ward leader Anna C. Verna, the former City Council president.
Developer Ori Feibush had organized the challenges, claiming the neighborhoods would benefit from new, more independent leadership.
Common Pleas Court Judge Charles J. Cunningham initially threw out 37 challenges on technical grounds – 27 because copies of the relevant voter signature petitions had not been attached to the legal paperwork, 10 others because of late notice to the candidates.
Troy Graham @troyjgraham
T. Milton Street Sr., who managed to snag 24 percent of the Democratic vote from Mayor Nutter in 2011 despite having just finished a federal prison sentence, said on his Facebook page Sunday that he intends to run for mayor again in 2015.
His post was accompanied by a picture of the Bartram High School “conflict resolution specialist” who was knocked unconscious by a student in March. Street, who attended a meeting at Bartram last week to discuss violence in the school, said he had organized the “414 community movement to stop the violence.”
He said he would make a formal announcement of his candidacy and describe the 414 community movement “in detail” after the May primary.
City Commissioner Stephanie Singer doesn’t think the schedule City Council set for budget hearings is respectful of the Jewish holiday Passover.
The city commissioners, who oversee elections in Philadelphia, are scheduled to testify in a budget hearing before Council on April 14, which happens to be the start of Passover. Singer said she planned to observe the holiday with her family in Washington D.C., and she “assumed it would be easy” to get the hearing moved.
But, she said in an e-mail sent Wednesday from her campaign account, “Council President Darrell Clarke has explicitly refused to accommodate my religious tradition.”
Philadelphia Phuture PAC, one of the numerous political action committees funded by the city electricians union, IBEW Local 98, has agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for failing to make a timely disclosure of $17,975 worth of printing to promote various candidates in the 2013 Democratic primary election.
The PAC had ordered an assortment of flyers, bullet ballots, sample ballots and door hangers from Strassheim Graphic Design. The material was distributed on Election Day by Concerned Irish Americans, another of Local 98’s satellite PACs.
The $17,975 printing bill was eventually paid by Philadelphia Phuture in September 2013, but it should have been reported immediately, before the election, and listed as a debt to Strassheim when the PAC filed its post-election report in June, the city Board of Ethics said in a settlement agreement released Wednesday.
State Rep. Pamela DeLissio, whose district includes Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls, has survived a residency challenge, based on her ownership of a suburban Harrisburg property where she had registered her car and claimed a homestead exemption.
Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Rochelle S. Friedman ruled Monday that while DeLissio used the Harrisburg property to ease her commuting while working in the Capitol, and took advantage of it to save money on her auto insurance, the evidence was insufficient to prove that she had changed her stated domicile in Roxborough, the base for her legislative seat.
“Candidate credibly testified that the Philadelphia property has been her permanent residence since 1997 and is the place to which she returns when she is not working in Harrisburg,” the judge said in a six-page opinion, noting that DeLissio’s voting address, family, doctors, bank and credit card statements and home garden remained in Philadelphia even after she bought the Harrisburg property in 2006.