Here’s hoping your weekend was 🔥. We dry out today under cloudy skies with temperatures in the high 50s.

We kick off this week looking at Mayor Jim Kenney, who has appeared increasingly unengaged in his mayoral duties as his second term has progressed.

Remember, I’m just the messenger. 🖐️

Also, we’re showcasing the creative ways that Philadelphians are using the plastic bags they’re finding in the street and in their junk drawers now that a ban is officially in effect. Spoiler alert: 🐶 💩 plays a role in this article.

If you see this 🔒 in today’s newsletter, that means we’re highlighting our exclusive journalism. You need to be a subscriber to read these stories.

— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

In his second term, what’s Mayor Kenney doing to move the city forward?

This was Mayor Jim Kenney’s chance to seize the spotlight.

With a city emerging from a global health crisis that is still affecting Philadelphia businesses and a tax code that is criticized by both the left and the right, he could have used his second-to-last budget address last week to address those issues.

Instead, Kenney laid out a $5.61 billion, largely status quo budget proposal in a dry, prerecorded video message played at a virtual Council meeting.

It wasn’t a surprising performance for a mayor who has appeared increasingly unengaged as his second term has progressed. But it is a strange dénouement for an administration that began with significant policy ambitions and is still far from politically isolated.

Remember, this is the same administration that presented the sweetened beverage tax that has funded more than 10,000 high-quality pre-kindergarten slots and the Rebuild program to improve parks, libraries, and recreation centers.

Our reporter Sean Collins Walsh reached out to Kenney, who declined an interview request, but members of his administration reject the notion that he’s lacked ambition. Sean’s report looks at not just Kenney’s tenure but compares him with other mayors at this juncture.

What you should know today

  • Meet the Philly teacher who has become a viral sensation thanks to his students – and his shoes.

  • Ukrainian troops are discovering massacres in towns just outside Kyiv that suggest Russia is committing serious war crimes.

  • Police and the Haddonfield community want to know who spray-painted swastikas at a Quaker burial ground.

  • Dawn Staley capped off her remarkable season as coach of the top-seeded South Carolina women’s basketball team with a 64-49 championship win over Connecticut last night.

  • Philly had a remarkable night at the Grammys in several categories.

  • Craig LaBan takes us to KPod, the reimagined Korean fusion spot from chef Peter Serpico in University City.

  • A documentary tells how two Rutgers scientists are studying people in the Amazon jungle to see how our more modern diets and medicine affect the human microbiome.

  • Local Coronavirus Numbers: Here’s your daily look at the latest COVID-19 data.

Bag ban forces Philly to get creative – and recycle

As the supply of plastic bags dwindles in the city, due to the enforcement of the plastic bag ban, residents are finding creative methods to line small garbage cans and pick up after pets.

As bag stashes lose their sources, Philadelphians are finding substitutes and repurposing the plastic that’s already out there — and it turns out that there’s a lot. City officials estimate Philadelphians go through one billion of these bags a year. From the shopping bags in junk drawers to those tiny black plastic bags that billow down the street, here’s how some residents are getting creative.

🐶 Tiff Krajci, 31, finds those tiny black bags, which she referred to as “beer bags,” on the street, in the park, and, alas, on trees to give them one more use before they head to the landfill. “I feel that’s like killing two birds with one stone because I’m also cleaning up what’s flying around in the neighborhood,” she said.

🐶 Spring Garden resident Holly Wright, 67, also has a solution to pick up after her Labrador – bread bags. Also, she says the plastic sleeves newspapers are delivered in are another good alternative. “Friends who get the paper save theirs for me and then they just give me like 20 at a time,” she said.

Our reporter Ximena Conde delivers more on how the ban has made one person’s trash another person’s dream bag stash.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

Tony B. Watlington Sr. will be the next superintendent of Philly schools, replacing the outgoing William R. Hite Jr., who held the position for a decade. Today’s question: How many applicants roughly did Watlington beat out for the role? Take a guess and find the answer here.

a. 300

b. 350

c. 400

d. 450

What we’re…

🪁⚡ Reading: This take on five other Philadelphians we should consider honoring instead of Ben Franklin.

⚾🧢 Considering: All of the other baseball worth watching in Philly – in addition to the Phillies.

👂🏾📣 Sharing: These answers from Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner to questions submitted by residents of Kensington and Harrowgate.

🧩 Unscramble the Anagram 🧩

Here, you can go for a spin, play 18 holes, or just sit and watch the water.

RUNS A FAIR KENQL

Think you know? Send your guess our way at morningnewsletter@inquirer.com. We’ll give a shoutout to a reader at random who answers correctly. Today’s shoutout goes to Jan Dalina of Philadelphia, who correctly guessed BEACH SPREADING as Sunday’s answer.

Photo of the day

Enjoy today. I’ll catch you tomorrow. 👋🏾