Last month, for the first time in recent memory, the chairman of the Philadelphia GOP issued a press release on a pressing public policy question: the citywide property reassessment known as the Actual Value Initiative.
That might not seem like such a big deal. But given the timid, low-profile tradition of the city’s Republican Party, the move was heralded by some as signaling the arrival of a reinvented minority party, one that actually intends to challenge the city’s Democrats on the issues.
The pro-privatization Students First PAC has been a huge player in state politics from the moment it emerged in 2010 flush with cash, much of it from three local businessmen who together founded Susquehanna International Group, a global investment company.
New lobbyist disclosure statements filed recently with the city’s Board of Ethics offer a first-ever look at how special interests attempt to influence policy in Philadelphia behind the scenes. The reports, which cover the first quarter of 2012, don’t contain any huge revelations, and many of the filings appear to be incomplete. Still there are some fascinating nuggets.
According to the new records, 89 separate entities—from corporations as big as McDonald’s and Microsoft to non-profits as provincial as the Committee of 70—have officially registered as “principals,” meaning they either directly lobby city government themselves or hire professionals to do so on their behalf. Of those, only half reported spending $2,500 or more on their Philadelphia lobbying expenses, which is the threshold for filing a detailed quarterly report.
2009 was a tough year financially for most every family, but it was downright catastrophic for Rep. Bob Brady and wife Debra. Or at least, that’s the way it appeared on federal personal finance disclosure reports filed by the 14-year congressional veteran and boss of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee.
Philadelphia mayors have dreamed of selling off—even giving away—the publicly owned Philadelphia Gas Works for nearly 20 years. The obstacles: Some pols blanch at the mere mention of privatization, and few buyers were interested in taking on the utility's huge debt.
In 2009, on day three of the Obama administration, the President met with Eric Cantor and a handful of other congressional leaders in the White House. The way Cantor tells it, he presented Obama with a list of GOP ideas for righting the economy. According to Cantor, Obama observed that he disagreed with Republican tax policy, and then said: "Elections have consequences."
We know that Philadelphia is the most deadly of the 10 biggest cities in America (it's not even close). And we know that there are times in this city—like now—when high-profile killings join the steady drumbeat of less publicized murders to create a kind of terrifying noise that, for a while, manages to drown out everything else. Last week, fellow Philly Post contributor Christine Speer Lejuene asked two questions. 1. Does Philly's high murder rate actually affect you? And 2) What's the value in dwelling obsessively on crime statistics?
On the surface, City Council's first working session of 2012 seemed altogether different. Gone was the wizened frame of the recently retired Anna Verna; in her place at the head of council chambers was Darrell Clarke. Gone too were five other council members, a (mostly) sorry lot that will not be missed by those Philadelphians who expect their legislators to actually, you know, legislate. In their place were six new council members: some nervous, some buoyant, all of them— one would expect, at least—anxious to make a name for themselves.
But no. Not yesterday, at least. The first council session of 2012 was—with the exception of the Clarke for Verna swap—much like any other of the past four years. A handful of council members, Clarke, Bill Green, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Curtis Jones, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode, Jr., kicked off the new term with fistfuls of bills and weighty resolutions, while their fellows—including all six of the freshmen—offered up nothing but empty commendations and small-ball zoning housekeeping within their districts.