Archive: April, 2012
By day, Watusi Pub II is an unassuming, dilapidated property at the corner of 45th and Locust. By night, residents say it’s a full-fledged nuisance bar.
Several neighbors told us the music blasts until after 2 a.m. They said outside the bar, rowdy patrons scream at each other, or into their phones.
Basel Syrawan, who lives next door to the bar, said he’s learned to deal with the noise. He puts on some music and tries to drown out the pulsing bass. But yeah, he said, it’s a problem.
This year, the Nutter administration and City Council have tackled a few quality-of-life issues that seriously bug citizens. For instance, the city recently introduced a plan to crack down on illegal signs in neighborhoods.
But community members feel that the city has a lot more work to do around quality-of-life problems. In this week's podcast, reporters Holly Otterbein and Juliana Reyes discuss vacant properties, stray animals, litter and other issues that are bothering citizens. They also talk about what folks can do when the city refuses to address neighborhood problems — and how apps might make a difference in those circumstances.
"WE envision a tax structure that is fair and simple, real-estate taxes that reflect the true value of property, lower taxes on personal income, and an elimination of onerous business taxes on sales and profits."
That's a quote from the Final Report of the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission - a report published in 2003, nine years and two major tax reports ago.
In 2003 and again in 2009, business leaders, experts and others spent time studying and analyzing the city's tax structure; both groups issued reports remarkably similar in their agreement that Philadelphia's taxes are too high, badly structured and unfair. They agreed that the city should correctly value its property to enable it to collect more in taxes as values increase, as well as reduce business and wage taxes, because those taxes create a disincentive for companies to locate here.
TEN-YEAR-OLDS can tweet on their own.
But Councilman Jim Kenney apparently needs help. Professional help.
The at-large councilman is spending $28,800 in taxpayer money this fiscal year for the Center City-based company ChatterBlast to perfect his "social-media strategy." The company monitors his Twitter and Facebook pages, and has posted on Kenney's campaign-funded website.
No other Council member pays a contractor to help with Twitter. Just Kenney, who has the third-priciest staff on Council. He has 10 staff members with a payroll of $654,034, including his salary - plus another outside communications consultant.
Why does he need ChatterBlast on top of that?
"I, at 53 years old, do not have that facility," he said. "So I need consultant advice to communicate with a group of folks who are not necessarily in my age group."
Martin O'Rourke, the politically connected PR man whom Kenney's office already is paying $30,000 this fiscal year for a communications contract, doesn't have that facility, either.
"I have no clue how to tweet; I still don't understand the mechanics of it. It's a thing of the future," said O'Rourke, who has earned big bucks through contracts with City Controller Alan Butkovitz's office and the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
PHILADELPHIANS are tired of the illegal "bandit" signs that pop up on utility poles around the city, screaming "We Buy Houses!" or "Cash 4 Junk Cars." On Monday, the Daily News reported about one citizen who's taking matters into his own hands by tearing them down. But city government is (finally) trying to find a solution, too.
The Nutter administration has been working on a new strategy to fight the obnoxious signs. The plan is two-fold, said Brian Abernathy, chief of staff to the managing director: ramp up enforcement with a staff dedicated to tracking down offenders, and get city agencies to focus on taking the signs down.
We say that the city is "finally" cracking down because the current enforcement plan is . . . pretty much nonexistent. In 2010, the city wrote only eight tickets for illegal signs. When we called the Streets Department and Licenses and Inspections to ask about current enforcement, they both declined to comment.
THE PHILADELPHIA Housing Authority and Philadelphia Gas Works are duking it out over hundreds of thousands of dollars PGW says it's owed. But no matter who emerges victorious, the public will pay.
PGW says that former PHA tenants owe nearly $350,000 dating from the 1990s - and that PHA is responsible. PHA says the quarrel is between the utility and the tenants who never paid.
Meanwhile, the $350,000 debt may be just the beginning.