Archive: January, 2012
Since Darrell Clarke became City Council President this year, everyone has been wondering how he and Mayor Nutter would get along. Clarke, after all, was a protege of Mayor Street, and the old mayor and the new one don't exactly get along.
At the official groundbreaking for Dilworth Plaza Monday, Clarke took pains to let everyone know that he and Mayor Nutter are doing just fine.
"I've been trying to show in a very public way that we are working together," Clarke told about 150 people gathered in an office building across the street from Dilworth. He and the mayor then shook hands.
The state House of Representatives races promise plenty of excitement in the April primaries with the entrance Wednesday of one T. Milton Street — yes, the former mayor’s prodigal brother — in the 195th District, challenging Michelle Brownlee, the first-term, handpicked successor to longtime legislator Frank Oliver.
Street, the former state Senator who gained 24 percent of the vote in a challenge to Mayor Nutter in last year’s Democratic primary -- using his recent jail term on tax charges as a rallying cry for the “Don’t Counts” -- announced his latest candidacy via Facebook. The district includes parts of West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and Fairmount.
Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez will have a lot at stake in the Democratic primary.
Former Philadelphia prosecutor Dan McCaffery’s exit from the three-way race to become the Democrats’ Attorney General nominee will likely tip the scales in favor of one of his former opponents.
Patrick Murphy, a Bucks County congressman and military prosecutor, now emerges as the clear front-runner for the nod. He was the top vote getter at the Democrats’ state convention earlier this month in State College, but failed to secure the two-thirds vote of delegates to get a party endorsement.
The hold-up? The 40 votes of Philadelphia delegates that broke for McCaffery under the direction of caucus leader U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.).
A state court ruled Thursday that about 200 Philadelphia paramedics belong to the local firefighters bargaining unit, a victory for the city’s firefighters' union and a blow to Mayor Nutter.
In its decision, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court reversed a decision by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board that had said the city could separate the paramedics from the firefighters.
The appeals court said the two groups should be able to bargain as one because they have worked alongside each other for decades. A spokesman for the firefighters' union praised the decision. A spokesman for Nutter says city officials are reviewing the opinion and weighing their legal options.
When is a deal not a deal, or at least far from a done deal?
When getting it done requires City Council legislation and relieving the concerns of gay rights and civil liberties groups who believe the deal perpetuates discrimination.
In September 2010, the city agreed to sell the Boy Scouts headquarters on Logan Square to the scouts for $500,000 and forgiveness of about $960,000 in legal fees.
The proposed sale would have settled a federal lawsuit that Philadelphia lost after it tried to evict the scouts from the city-owned building because the group’s national policy prohibits gay people from joining.
But selling city property requires council legislation. Councilman Darrell L. Clarke had introduced legislation allowing the sale of the building. In an effort at compromise, Clarke's proposed ordinance would prevent the Boy Scouts from selling the building for 10 years and would require that outside groups be able to use it for various programs, including diversity education.
The bill went nowhere as the gay community and others pressured the city to appeal the lawsuit instead. They also argued that the sale price was well below the building’s market value.
In the meantime, Mel Heifetz, who owns several Philadelphia apartment buildings, offered to pay $1.5 million for the Boy Scouts property.
On Tuesday, Heifetz renewed his offer, but Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said nothing has changed. The city believes it must honor the proposed settlement and cannot consider other offers.
Clarke, who is now president of City Council, says he has no immediate plans to reintroduce the necessary legislation.
“I was a little disappointed that we were unable to come to an agreement in the prior session,” Clarke said.
In hindsight, he said, he was probably a little naive about what it would take to make the sale go through.
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John Featherman is not easily deterred. As a rebel in the city's GOP who did not have his party's blessing to run for mayor, he ran anyway and very nearly beat party nominee Karen Brown in the primary.
Now, Featherman has decided to take on Bob Brady, the head of the city's Democratic party and congressman for the first district. Brady will have the city's Democratic machine behind him, and he's held the office since 1998.
Featherman, a Realtor, said that among the reasons he wanted to run was a story by Inquirer reporter Bob Warner that Brady invited judicial candidates to an October meeting at which Democratic party treasurer Frank Oliver told the group that they had to contribute $10,000 each or lose support from party ward leaders. Brady was not present when Oliver said that and later said no one would lose support if they did not raise the money.
State Rep. Tony Payton is serving his third term in the state House but he’s been at odds with important parts of the city Democratic organization since he first ran for office in 2006, barely beating a write-in candidate backed by Payton’s ward leader, Marge Tartaglione. “I never asked her permission to run,” Payton said.
Last year, Payton waved a tiny red flag in front of another Democratic bull, by donating $100 to the nascent Congressional campaign of former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, who is trying to defeat U. S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city Democratic chairman. The contribution was so small, Moore was not required to list it on the reports he filed with the Federal Election Commission. “We’ve never seen eye to eye,” Payton says of Brady, “because I’m critical of his lack of action on issues like hunger and job creation, or to flex the muscle of Washington for his district.”
So, is Payton savvy, or paranoid, to notice that the new boundaries of Brady’s Congressional district make some unusual twists to excise the upstart 30-year-old legislator and make him a constituent of Brady’s colleague, U. S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz? “This is clearly a political document,” Payton says. “I think he took me out of the district out of fear.”
Tom Knox, the former mayoral candidate who is heading the committee that will review possible asset sales by the city, says he hopes to finish the project well before the August 2013 deadline.
Although the committee was first announced in February of last year, it took until now to find enough members. The committee, which includes Drexel University President John Fry and Council members James Kenney and Maria Quinones Sanchez, met for the first time Tuesday.
Knox said the committee will review all city leases and consider consolidating facilities, as well as other options. If the committee spots an immediate opportunity, it will recommend making the change right away.