Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Philadelphians Mistrust Local Government According to a Recent Poll

An Issues PA-Pew statewide poll suggests that the recent Philadelphia municipal government corruption trials (and various guilty pleas and convictions) has affected area residents' perception of government. AHT is shocked. Apparently, Philadelphians faith in local government is at a low ebb. A scant 20 percent of Philadelphians say they trusted local government to do the right thing at least most of the time. In the Philly suburbs, that level of trust jumps to 47 percent. What can be done to increase Philadelphians’ level of faith in their local government? Support current efforts to tighten ethics laws and in 2007 vote for a Mayoral candidate with the fortitude and conviction to restore dignity, professionalism, and high ethical standards to the second floor of City Hall.

Convention Center Expansion: Funding is on the Way

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is expected to soon release the first installment of land acquisition funding that will expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s footprint. The Commonwealth committed $632 million to the project last summer. The expansion is on schedule for a late 2008 opening, according to Councilman Michael Nutter, the chair of the Convention Center Authority.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Montco to Develop Global Warming Strategy

According to PennFuture, Montgomery County will be the first county in the Commonwealth to develop a global warming strategy. Penn State University is helping Montco prepare a greenhouse gas inventory and decision makers will begin meeting this fall to develop a list of policy options that will produce emission reductions.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Councilman Nutter, Smokin' (actually, not smokin')

By a 10 to 7 vote margin, Philadelphia's City Council approved amendments that clear the way for a citywide smoking ban in bars and restaurants. Councilman Nutter shepherded the bill through after working on compromise amendments that exempts sidewalk cafes, offers a wavier process to private clubs, and gives bars an extra two years to comply with the law. For others, the smoking ban begins next January (see story).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cira Centre: 90% Leased

The office tower being constructed adjacent to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia – the first ever in University City - is almost fully leased out (see story). Out of 730,000 square feet, 412,000 square feet will be filled by tenants moving from within Center City. The remainder of the space will be filled by companies from outside the City and State. McKinsey & Company - an international consulting firm based in New York - will open its first Philadelphia office at the Cira Center. For those not in the consulting business, getting McKinsey in town is a big deal. It’s another indication that large, prestigious international businesses want to be in an urban setting that is economically and socially vibrant; America’s Hometown, Philadelphia, PA.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Breaking Wind?

The Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy ("PCIEP") runs an energy purchasing collaborative made up of 34 member colleges and universities. Nine have increased their purchase of wind-generated electricity to at least 10 percent. These schools are Eastern University (32.2 percent), Dickinson College (12.1 percent), the University of Pennsylvania (10.4 percent), Juniata College (10 percent), Allegheny College (10 percent), Chatham College (10 percent), Duquesne University (10 percent), Keystone College (10 percent) and Mercyhurst College (10 percent). Instead of "burning the midnight oil", will people say that students pulling all nighters at these schools are "breaking wind"?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I See Dead People (voting, that is)

While it is not clear whether the Chairwoman of the Philadelphia City Commissioners has a vision for running fairer, more effective and efficient elections in the City, Marge Tartaglione is apparently psychic (see story).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Zoning Bills: First Steps Toward Reform?

Three deceivingly minor zoning bills may constitute a big first step towards regulatory reform in Philadelphia. These bills – proposed by the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia ("BIA") - will be considered at a public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 in City Council Chambers.

These bills address difficulties encountered by those building/improving homes in Philadelphia. According to BIA, the bills would eliminate the outdated inner court requirements adopted to offer light and ventilation to tenements, exclude architectural features such as bay windows from setback requirements, and increase the maximum residential fence height to four ft. to permit Philadelphia homeowners to use standard retail fences. “If We Fix It, They Will Come” is BIA's agenda for “streamlining the development process and modernizing the zoning code” and can be downloaded here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

High School Students from West Philadelphia Build the Word’s First Hybrid “Super Car”

The car – that took almost two years to build - accelerates from 0 to 60 in four seconds and generates almost no greenhouse pollution (see story). The team is made up of 10th to 12th grade students from West Philadelphia High School's Automotive Academy. The sports car and the team that built it are leaving soon for the 17th Annual Tour de Sol, an alternative fuel vehicle event sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (“NESEA”).

Mayor Steps Down

Saying that the city "needs a fresh start." and that "[a] good leader knows when it is time to move on" the Mayor plans to step down on July 15. The Mayor’s announcement came after a recent Time Magazine article named him one of the three worst big-city mayors in the country and as a swirl of federal investigations has hindered his administration’s ability to effectively govern. Of course, I’m talking about the Mayor of San Diego, Dick Murphy. Did you have somebody else in mind?
Question: Does anybody have an opinion about what the Mayor of our City should be doing at this time, as former employees and associates are tried for and/or convicted of federal crimes? Should he be thinking about stepping down, for the good of the City? Should the public be thinking about retiring him - via the City Charter's recall provision?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Philadelphia Film Festival Set Record

The recently completed 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival drew record crowds; 65,101, up 4,000 over last year's record, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Of 300 screenings held from April 7 to 20, a record 90 were sellouts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Corruption Trial Verdicts Troubling You? Let's Stop Play-to-Play

In March, Philadelphia City Council could have modernized City government by passing two of Councilman Michael Nutter's bills that would have significantly changed the method by which professional service contracts are solicited and secured. The bills each needed 12 yes votes, but fell one vote short in each case. If you're disappointed, let the "status quo five" (the five Councilpeople who didn't support the bills) know that you are disappointed in them and want them to approve these bills - or similar pieces of legislation - when they come up in the future. Here's the website: http://www.stoppaytoplay.info

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cira Center is Filling Up

According to the Center City District, the Cira Centre has landed three new tenants; all are relocating from the Main Line. Mand Marblestone & Danziger - a Bala Cynwyd law firm - has leased 10,000 square feet. Reger, Rizzo, Kavulich & Darnall - a King of Prussia law firm - has signed a lease for 27,600 square feet. And Capsicum Group - a technology-consulting firm - is relocating from Berwyn, square footage unknown. Filling up this building and luring firms from outside the City is fantastic, but don't forget that they're coming in part because of the Keystone Opportunity Zone tax incentives. These tax incentives are fantastic, but think of all the other firms we'd lure if we could lower the tax burden more universally.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Philadelphia Construction Boom: Unprecedented

Ninety-five construction projects are under way in Philadelphia, with an aggregate value of $3 billion. The quantity and cost of these projects is unprecedented. In particular, Center City has never seen anything like it. The Philadelphia Business Journal has a good wrap up.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

RecycleBank a “Raging Success” - Increases Residential Recycling Rates to over 50%

RecycleBank has brought a groundbreaking recycling concept to neighborhoods in Philadelphia's “Fabulous Northwest” (see story). RecycleBank provides the City of Philadelphia with bar code technology that tracks a household’s recycling volume; households subsequently earn points that can be redeemed for coupons at local businesses. Cities and towns around the nation are looking to Philadelphia as the laboratory for this novel approach to incentivizing household recycling. Patrick Fitzgerald – one of RecycleBank’s founders – reports that the recycling rate in Chestnut Hill neighborhoods served by RecycleBank has increased from 15.5% to 50% percent since the program began in January. Initially, 600 households were involved; the program has since doubled. RecycleBank was launched by social entrepreneurs Fitzgerald (who is from Jenkintown) and Philadelphia native Ron Gonen, who conjured up the business model while graduate students.

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