Archive: March, 2013
Now that New York is on the verge of approving mandatory paid sick leave for workers, what will happen in Philadelphia?
For the second time, Philadelphia City Council passed a bill requiring companies to pay workers when they are sick. The first time, Michael Nutter vetoed it, and the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Bill Greenlee, could not gin up enough votes for an override.
In its most recent testimony on the bill, Nutter administration officials maintained their position that while they support paying workers when they are ill, they think it’s unwise for Philadelphia to pass such legislation in isolation when surrounding suburbs do not require it.
Nutter is expected to make a decision on the current bill April 4. Stay tuned.
This post has been modified.
The field of Democratic candidates for vacancies on Philadelphia courts has shrunk significantly, with 20 lawyers giving up their races for Common Pleas Court or Municipal Court, or both, after getting low ballot positions in the random drawings conducted by state election officials last week.
The withdrawals leave 25 attorneys going after six nominations for Common Pleas Court, and a dozen competing for three vacancies on Municipal Court.
The field for Philadelphia Traffic Court is also down, to 25 candidates for three Democratic nominations. None need law degrees, or even high school degrees.
Another man is dipping his toe into the pool of potential candidates in the 2015 mayor’s race, and it’s a familiar name -- former City Councilman Frank Rizzo, son of the late, legendary cop-turned-politician who served as Philadelphia mayor from 1972 through 1979.
“I’m going to explore that possibility and maybe get myself involved in that next mayoral primary, as a Democrat,” Rizzo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I have spoken to some people about it and I was received very well.”
Rizzo, who turned 70 in early March, was a Republican Council member from 1996 through 2011, winning one of the two Council-at-large seats reserved for non-Democrats. (That’s not how it reads in the City Charter, but that’s how it’s worked since Democrats took control of the city in the 1950s.)
Rizzo lost his Council seat in the 2011 primary, after friction with the GOP machinery and criticism over his participation in the city’s early retirement program, known as DROP. Afterward, his Republican relations became more strained -- the result, he says, of refusing to back Councilman Brian O’Neill’s bid for some partisan redistricting changes – and Rizzo was dumped from his largely-ceremonial post as Council’s minority whip.
Michael Williams, an attorney and former minority-contracting official in the Street administration, pulled out of the race for city controller Wednesday and declared his support for incumbent Alan Butkovitz.
“Our city faces difficult decisions regarding Actual Value Initiative (AVI) property tax increases, labor contracting negotiations and streamlining or eliminating bureaucratic red tape,” Williams said in a press release announcing his decision. “Alan clearly shares my passion for all the issues that are important to me. I know that he is the only candidate who will make these issues central to his campaign.”
Butkovitz has been a strident critic of the property tax reassessments mailed out last month by the Nutter administration and spoke in March at a labor rally where Mayor Nutter was excoriated for asking the state Supreme Court for permission to impose contract terms on 6,800 members of AFSCME District Council 33.
Williams’ withdrawal leaves two other Democrats challenging Butkovitz’s bid for a third term – Brett Mandel, an aide to Butkovitz’s predecessor, Jonathan Saidel, and Mark Zecca, a former assistant city solicitor. The Republican candidate is Terry Tracy, a retailing executive.
The 2013 Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic will start and end at the Manayunk wall but will skip the Art Museum and Ben Franklin Parkway in favor of a more compact course.
But at least the June 2 race will actually happen, surviving a threat to its existence when previous organizers could not find a coprorate sponsor. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and other civic leaders organized to save the iconic event, famed for its leg-burning climb up Manayunk’s hills, recruiting Parx Casino and New Penn financial as sponsors.
The race will end atop Lyceum Ave., part of the steep climb known as the Wall, which organizers hope will provide dramatic finishes for the crowd.
For the first time in the race’s history, prize money will be equal for men and women racers at $30,000 each.
The women's race begins at 8:30 a.m. and consists of five laps of the 12-mile circuit followed by the men's 10-lap, 120 mile race at noon.
Riders will still cycle along Kelly Drive and through Fairmount Park, but the abbreviated course aims to consolidate crowds and reduce city charges for closing streets, police overtime and cleanup.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo’s palatial Spring Garden mansion nearly quadrupled in value under the city’s new property assessment system.
Philadelphia’s assessors now say the 27-room Victorian brownstone is worth $2.6 million, up from just $675,000 under the old system.
The new assessments don’t take effect until 2014, and it’s still not clear what the tax rate will be. But if the city taxes properties in 2014 at 1.32 percent with a $15,000 homestead exemption, as Mayor Nutter has proposed, Fumo’s tax bill would rise from $21,105 to $33,673.
With Fumo still completing a 5-year federal sentence on fraud and other charges, it’s impossible to know whether he will appeal, but he has done so before. This time around, he might have to weigh the decision with his son, Vincent E. Fumo, and fiancée, Carolyn Zinni, who recently became co-owners of the property with him.
Troy Graham @troyjgraham
In a budget hearing today, Council members lobbed at administration officials a number of questions skeptical of the citywide reassessment key to Mayor Nutter’s property tax reform effort.
Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. went so far as to label the process of assigning a market value to each of the city’s 579,000 parcels a “wild-assed guess.”
And Council President Darrell L. Clarke, using the example of a Francisville community leader whose home was assessed at $455,000, told the Office of Property Assessment’s chief assessor, Richie McKeithen, “You’re basically speculating.”
“What that person is expected to pay in taxes is not speculative,” Clarke said. “It’s real dollars.”
Besides the comeuppance for Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who promised us an early spring, Monday’s modest snowstorm represented money in the bank for the city treasury – a reminder that the city has saved money on snow removal this year because there was so little snow to clear off the roadways.
City budget director Rebecca Rhynhart put a number on it -- $4 million. That’s what the city budgets each year to hire private contractors to clear especially-heavy snowfalls from city streets, when there’s too much snow to be handled by the city Streets Department. The city spent its budgeted amounts this winter for salt and Streets Department overtime, Rhynhart said, but there was no need to bring in private snow plows. The $4 million budgeted will flow directly to the city’s year-end balance on June 30 -- as long as the city endures no major snowstorms between now and then.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
Troy Graham @troyjgraham
One thing was clear from Council’s first day of budget hearings Monday – many of the members believe the administration’s drive to win the right to furlough non-uniformed workers is an unnecessary impediment to negotiating contracts with the municipal unions.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke noted that the city’s five-year financial plan – the official topic of Monday’s inaugural hearing – doesn’t anticipate the need to furlough workers. He also said the unions prefer lay-offs in times of economic stress because members then can collect unemployment benefits.
“I don’t understand why that continues to be a sticking point,” he said. “One, we don’t need them. Two the preference with the unions is if you want to lay me off, lay me off.”
Mayor Nutter’s chief of staff, Everett Gillison, said furloughs reflect the administration’s belief that it’s better to furlough workers in tough times, saving money without laying people off. He also said the issue of furloughs – the administration is seeking the right to furlough some workers for up to three weeks a year – is hardly the only matter holding up deals with District Councils 47 and 33.
Anne Marie Coyle, one of three dozen Democratic candidates for Common Pleas Court, is the big winner of this week’s judicial sweepstakes. A drawing at the Department of State in Harrisburg gave her the top ballot position for the May 21 primary election, usually a major factor in securing a seat on the bench.
Tracy B. Roman drew the top position among 20 Democratic candidates for Municipal Court, as well as the #2 position for Common Pleas Court.
Here are the full lists, in order of ballot position:
Common Pleas Court (6 vacancies): Anne Marie Coyle, Tracy B. Roman, Vince Giusini, Timika Lane, Sierra Thomas Street, Joe Fernandes, Daniel D. McCaffery, Giovanni Campbell, Katie Scrivner, John J. O’Connor Jr., Dawn M. Tancredi, Kenneth J. Powell Jr., Frank Bennett, Rania Major, Henry Lewandowski, Vincent N. Melchiorre, Martin Coleman, Robert M. Kline, Deborah D. Cianfrani, Leon A. King II, Roger Gordon, Derrick W. Coker, Abbe Fletman, Conor Corcoran, Paul Gambone, Fran Shields, James C. Crumlish, Jon Marshall, Daine A. Grey Jr., Michael Fanning, Shoshana Bricklin, J. Scott O’Keefe, Sean P. Stevens, Stephanie M. Sawyer, Christine Hope.