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Archive: May, 2009

POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009, 5:36 PM

A simple request this week from City Council President Anna C. Verna threatens to upset the delicate balance of a city panel that is just getting its legs - or so fear some of the panel members.

The panel is the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, a group formed nearly 10 months ago to try to resolve long-simmering issues with no easy solutions, from court backlogs to prison overcrowding. Its powerful members, who meet monthly in a small room in City Hall, include Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, DA Lynne Abraham, Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge D. Webster Keogh, Public Defender Ellen Greenlee, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield... Got the picture?

The issue? Council appeared to have caught up with the board's... well, existence, during budget hearings a few weeks ago. (Unhappy with Mayor Nutter's proposed budget for many of the criminal justice agencies, the board voted on its own proposal and discussed it with Council.)

POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 2:35 PM

Philadelphia is on its way to getting an improved radio emergency system.

A City Council committee this afternoon voted in favor of extending its current contract with Motorola Corp. for four years and $34.5 million.

The measure now awaits a vote by the full Council.

POSTED: Friday, May 22, 2009, 2:50 PM

Mayor Nutter wasn't available for comment after he endorsed Dan McElhatton for DA last Friday, which happened via a recorded phone call to voters just four days before Tuesday's primary election.

He has since broken bread with Seth Williams, the successful Democratic nominee in that race, hosting a joint news conference to show they're both on the same page, at least as far as efforts to help Williams win the general election in November.

Still, here's what Nutter had to say this afternoon about his backing of McElhatton.

POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009, 12:20 PM

City Council President Anna C. Verna this morning said the city's five-year sales tax hike approved today as part of the city budget, would benefit suburban merchants at Philadelphia's expense.

In response to questions about support in the state legislature for the city's proposed one-cent tax hike - from 7 percent to 8 percent - Verna said surrounding counties should favor it because it would help them.

"We’re voting for a tax hike, but at the same time, the surrounding counties would be the beneficiary of the sales tax," she said following this morning's City Council meeting. "Because if you live in Philadelphia and have to buy a large item, and it is taxable, you’re going to go to another county where you may not have to pay that tax."

POSTED: Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 4:21 PM

A powerful, long-time incumbent will be replaced today.

And we're not talking about Lynne Abraham.

John Dougherty is stepping down from his post as president of the Pennsport Civic Association after 16 long years as the neighborhood group's leader. The civic is holding its own election today, and one Tom Otto is running for president unopposed by Dougherty or anyone else.

POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009, 11:41 AM

Philadelphia isn't alone in seeking to raise taxes. Three of 12 other large U.S. cities studied in a new report issued today by the Pew Charitable Trusts are also looking to generate new dollars by doing so.

The report takes a look at how Philadelphia fits in the mix with other cities facing budgetary problems. To read the report, go here.

Here's a bit from this morning's press release.

Only New York is looking at two major tax increases, in property and sales. Philadelphia had been in that category until last week when Mayor Michael Nutter abandoned his plan to seek a property tax increase in addition to raising the sales tax. Neither city has approved its budget for the coming fiscal year.
 
The two others considering major tax hikes are Atlanta, where a property tax increase is on the table, and Columbus, which is considering a higher income tax.  In some cities, including Boston and Los Angeles, major tax increases are all but impossible to enact—the result of state laws, ballot initiatives and constitutional restrictions.
 
“We found that almost every city we studied has a significant budget problem on its hands, largely due to falling tax revenues, decreased state aid and weakened pension funds,” says Larry Eichel, project director of Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative. “But the size of the problem varies dramatically from place to place, as do the strategies for dealing with it.”
 
Alone among the cities studied, Pittsburgh has a modest surplus (1 percent) for the current budget year. Among the others, Philadelphia, with a one-year budget gap of about 11 percent, is roughly in the middle, with some cities, including Detroit, facing gaps of about 20 percent.
 
Rather than raise broad-based taxes, most of the cities studied are emphasizing service cuts and coupling those cuts with furloughs and freezes on salaries. One way or another—through attrition, early retirements or layoffs—each of the cities with a budget gap is seeking to reduce the size of its workforce and/or its personnel costs.
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009, 5:16 PM

Has another shoe dropped?

Mark Alan Hughes, hired nearly a year ago to the day, announced today he is stepping down as Mayor Nutter’s hand-picked choice to create and lead Philadelphia’s first Office of Sustainability.

“I’m an academic at heart, so my goal was to lay the groundwork and set the direction for the future, and do my best to hand over workable plans to the policy implementers,” Hughes said in a statement.

POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2009, 2:23 PM

It's official.

Mayor Nutter has waded into the five-way Democratic primary for District Attorney - and endorsed Dan McElhatton, who in one recent poll was said to have been trailing front-runner Seth Williams.

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