Philadelphia Metropolis

March 2010 Archives

Public No More

Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has revealed the first step of her plan to remake the city's public schools and it includes a heavy dose of outsourcing.  Of the low-performing schools Ackerman named Tuesday (March 30) as Renaissance schools, nine will be... (Comments)

A Passover Memory

By Nina Betensky  It's been two years since my mother died.  There isn't a day that goes by when I don't hear her voice in my head giving me unsolicited advice.  In fact, I can't believe she is still telling... (Comments)

Modular Solution

Building modular homes may be an answer to Philadelphia's high construction costs.  As Alan Heavens reports in today's (March 29) Inquirer, using modular construction, where the house is build in pieces in a factory, can save anywhere from $12 to... (Comments)

Special Report: Preserving the City's Recent Past

By Alan Jaffe What if the National Park Service didn't have the funds to keep the Liberty Bell from cracking again and crumbling? What if the city zoning board voted to raze Independence Hall and replace it with a tax-ratable... (Comments)

March Sadness

By Margaret O. Kirk This year, March Madness is just not the same. My beloved UNC Tar Heels, last season's NCAA Champions, didn't even make it to the first round of The Dance. Then there's the Duke factor: How did... (Comments)

Horrible Herb

By Tom Ferrick Jr. It would be a shame if Herb Denenberg, who died earlier this month at the age of 80, is remembered only as a TV personality who did goofy things to promote consumer protection - ala Denenberg's... (Comments)

Special Report: Preserving the City's Past II

By Alan Jaffe Everyday we walk or drive past buildings that once defined the Philadelphia skyline and continue to serve as important markers of the city's history. But many are lost in the long battles to protect them and slow... (Comments)

Too Many Bambis

Bill Ecenbarger's piece in today's (March 27)  Inquirer about Pennsylvania's deer population is littered with interesting statistics.  The number of white tailed deer in the state? 1.5 million.  The number killed by hunters each year? 300,000.  The number killed by... (Comments)

Special Report. Preserving the City's Past III

By Alan Jaffe At the 11th hour, it often has been the neighbors of a historic site that have been the heroes that saved it. They have rallied to rescue what they cherish, and recently those treasured resources have been... (Comments)

The 12 Percent Solution

It looks like property taxes will be going up in Philadelphia this year.  Unhappy with Mayor Nutter's proposal to impose a $300-per-household trash fee, Councilman Frank DiCicco proposed a 12.1 percent increase in property taxes on Wednesday (March 25).  Both... (Comments)

Big News for Phildelphia

It's a brief item in the Daily News, but big news for Philadelphia. The city's population is growing.  The Census Bureau, in its latest estimate, put the city's population at 1,547,297 as of July, 2009. That is about 7,000 higher... (Comments)

If it works, shut it down

Earlier this year, Metropolis did a three-part series on Philadelphia's Gun Violence Task Force, a $5-million-a-year effort to stop straw purchasing of guns.  By almost any account, the task force is a success, with nearly 700 prosecutions and convictions.  The city... (Comments)

Veon Convicted, Corbett Exhales

A Harrisburg jury found former state Rep. Mike Veon guilty on 14 counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest Monday (March 22).  Though the jury acquitted Veon on 45 related counts, the verdict is still good news for Attorney... (Comments)

Suddenly Famous

By Gregory P. Pacana When I was growing up in the 1970s, my neighborhood really didn't have a name.  People used to refer to it as the area between Fishtown, Kensington, and North Philly.   Sometimes people would call it Spring... (Comments)

Gone in 60 Seconds

By Phil Goldsmith In a system that has seen dozens of touted educational reforms over the decades; a record was set last week for the shortest reform effort in the history of the Philadelphia School District. In the event, you... (Comments)

Birth of the Gorilla

John Micek of the Allentown Call has a good story about the day in 2001 when the state legislature decided to increase state pensions.  The piece dovetails with our special report on pensions running this week. The Micek piece traces... (Comments)

Flash Mob Season

By Tom Ferrick Jr. My wife and I were part of the flash mob on South Street on Saturday night. Maybe I should clarify that. We were not participants. We were involuntary witnesses, caught in our car in a traffic... (Comments)

Incarceration City

If Pennsylvania's state prison system was a city, it would rank right below Lancaster (No. 8) and above Altoona (No.9) in size.  There were 51,326 prisoners in state prisons at the end of 2009, and the number keeps rising, despite a drop... (Comments)

Dead on Arrival

That didn't take long.  One day after word leaked of a school district draft plan to change the way children are selected for magnet schools, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman squashed it like a bug.  "This is totally off the table," Ackerman... (Comments)

Pennsylvania's New Century

By Terry Madonna and Michael Young What's new and not so new in state politics? And where does the state seem to be heading?  It seems a good time, therefore, to assess the leading trends exhibited in Pennsylvania politics early... (Comments)

Sugar Tax for Pittsburgh?

Facing a big hole in his budget caused by pension payments due, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has added a "Me, too!" to the Nutter administration's idea of imposing a two-cent-an-ounce tax on sugary drinks.  The mayor says he is willing... (Comments)

Learning to Sink

By Lewis Helfand Modern man is strong. Modern man is athletic. Modern man is...actually none of these things, which is why he is always at the gym. I did my part to contribute to the American gym culture and began... (Comments)

The Magnet School Wars

Get ready for a rumble over a draft school district proposal to change the way children are admitted to the Philadelphia school district's magnet high schools. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman wants the district's central bureaucracy to take over the job of... (Comments)

Exuent Barnett

Philadelphia Managing Director Camille Barnett is resigning effective June 30.  She made the surprise announcement in a morning news conference (March 17), citing personal reasons. Barnett said she needed time to work out the death of her husband, who was... (Comments)

New Formula for Schools

It is complicated and likely to get contentious but the Philadelphia School District is moving towards a weighted funding program for its schools.  The idea is to create a formula that adds weight for such factors as poverty and student... (Comments)

Asian Students Pan Report

Asian students at South Philadelphia High School are not happy with the report done by retired Judge James Giles about the violent incidents at the school last December.  Giles was hired by the School District to look into the assaults... (Comments)

Special Report: Pennsylvania's Pension Crisis

Pennsylvania is facing a crisis over public pension systems. Over the next decade, taxpayers are going to have to pay billions to keep state and local employee pension plans afloat. In a special three-part Metropolis series, journalist Bill Ecenbarger reveals and roots of the crisis and how it will affect every taxpayer. (Comments)

The Dream Job

To: All Ward Leaders From Chairman Bob Re: An Employment Opportunity It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Vivian T. Miller, beloved leader of the 51st Ward - a true jewel in the crown of Philadelphia wardom... (Comments)


Philadelphia Icons
Twenty eight of the city's landmarks are featured in this Flickr crowd-sourced photo essay, The question is: How many can you recognize? Our guess is: fewer than you think. There are some surprising views of familiar places. Click on... (Comments)

Special Report: Pennsylvania's Pension Crisis II

By William Ecenbarger There's a new version of the three R's coming to Pennsylvania schools-readin', writin' and retirement. As the first phase of the pension crisis arrives, school districts will see their retirement costs zoom up by more than 70... (Comments)

Special Report: Pennsylvania Pension Crisis III

By William Ecenbarger It is politically fashionable to blame the pension mess on the dismal state of the national economy in general and the precipitous drop in the Dow Jones average in particular. But the Pew Center on the States... (Comments)

The Perambulation Rhapsody

By Jacob Lambert On a warm, slushy day the other week, I ran the errands that had mounted over the past days of snowbound hermitude.  There were stops at the library, the bank, and the vet. If I had time,... (Comments)

$epta Wants Fare Increases

SEPTA wants to raise the cost of using mass transit by raising fares on buses, trolleys and trains by an average of six percent.  The cost of a token would go up from $1.45 to $1,55 under the proposal. The... (Comments)

Trash Tax Dead?

It looks like Mayor's Nutter's trash tax isn't going to fly in City Council.  Council members have been getting email complaints and calls from constituents about the $300-a-household fee and now several council members say they are considering an alternative... (Comments)

The Soda Tax Wars

Mayor Nutter's proposal to impose a two-cent-an-ounce tax on sugary drinks is already meeting its goal of reducing obesity as industry lobbyists run up and down the halls of City Hall trying to kill the darn thing.  As Jeff Shields... (Comments)

Gaming the System

By Tom Ferrick Jr. If you ever wondered how police handle a drug stakeout, I can tell you.  There is a team of narcotics officers who stake out a drug corner.  They remain out of sight. One officer, usually the... (Comments)

Do Not Go Gentle...

Five members of the Board of Revision of Taxes are suing to keep their $70,000-a-year jobs.  The BRT members appealed Tuesday (March 9) to the state Supreme Court seeking to knock off the ballot question, due to appear in the... (Comments)

Waving the White Flag

She was surrounded by critics and now it looks as if Vivian Miller is waving the flag of surrender. The Inquirer reports today (March 8) that Miller, the city's clerk of Quarter Sessions, is planning to resign her elected position. Miller... (Comments)

The More Things Change....

 By Harry Nash Recently, I received a copy of the last edition of the original Philadelphia Bulletin from my mother who found the paper among my father's old things. My father was a newspaper man and I am certain he... (Comments)

The New City Budget: An Annotated Guide

An annotated list of 20 things you need to know about Philadelphia's city budget.  1. Despite all the storm and stress over the city budget in recent years, the fundamentals remain the same.  The trends at work over the last 15... (Comments)

The New City Budget: The Same Old Game

By Tom Ferrick Jr. The budget proposed by Mayor Nutter doesn't solve any of the city's problems it simply buys time. The city wants to raise about $185 million a year by enacting a $300 per household trash fee and... (Comments)

Trash Talking the Trash Tax

Guess who emerged as the loudest critic of the Nutter administration's plan to add a $300 annual trash-collection fee to property tax bills? John Street.  The former mayor, who now teaches government at Temple University, took his class to hear the mayor's... (Comments)

Tax or Cut?

The option the Nutter admnistration had this year in crafting its new budget was: do we make cuts in city services or find some way to raise more money?  The envelope, please. And the winner is: new taxes! And they... (Comments)


By Stacy Heenan Biscardi When my baby is pounding his plastic aquarium in his crib with his feet and I walk into his pale blue nursery and tell him: Nooooooo, he looks up at me with a huge gummy smile,... (Comments)

Prince of the City

By Jacob Lambert In just over two years, Bill Green has gone from bantamweight rookie Councilman to heavyweight mayoral contender, riding a growing image as a "reformer," a "rabble-rouser," a pain in the mayor's ass.  Green has assiduously promoted the... (Comments)

Good News for Arlen

At last, Arlen Specter comes out winning in a poll.  This one is the Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday (March 2).  It shows the incumbent U.S. Senator ahead of  both his likely November opponent, Pat Toomey by 49%-42% and, closer at... (Comments)

Philadelphia Faces

Philadelphia Faces
Bringing some joy to a dreary, mid-winter day, another crowd-sourced photo essay from Flickr. This time it is a collection Philadelphia faces taken by local photographers. Click on the arrows in the lower right-hand corner to see it full... (Comments)

The Politics of Dredging

It took 27 years, but the project to deepen 102 miles of the Delaware River channel from 40 to 45 feet began Monday (March 1).  Pennsylvania officials say the dredging is needed to keep the Port of Philadelphia competitive.  Within... (Comments)

The Blob

A city official once described Philadelphia's pension system as analagous to the 50s horror flick "The Blob" about an alien life force resembling...well, a blob...that landed near a small town.  Teenagers who saw The Blob tried to warn towns people... (Comments)

The Gun Wars: Targeting Straw Buyers

By Tom Ferrick Jr.   For a law-enforcement success story look to the work of the Gun Violence Task Force, a joint city-state venture created three years ago to crack down on illegal guns  in Philadelphia. In late December, the Task Force... (Comments)

The Barnes Ultimatum

By Tom Ferrick Jr. Histories are written by the victors, but apparently the losers get to do the documentaries.  Hence, The Art of the Steal, the story of the Barnes Foundation Museum debuting in theaters this week. The movie was... (Comments)

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