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How Philly’s DA plans to drop low-level drug charges; developers scramble to limit changes to 10-year tax abatement | Morning Newsletter

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Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks to the media during a news conference in August.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks to the media during a news conference in August.Read moreHeather Khalifa / File Photograph

    The Morning Newsletter

    Start your day with the Philly news you need and the stories you want all in one easy-to-read newsletter

Oh, the weather outside is — well, maybe not so frightful after all. Despite earlier reports of potentially disastrous winter storms, Philly’s skies are now expected to be clear and snow-free for the rest of the week. And under a new interim program from Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office, low-level drug charges against those who are addicted to drugs may be cleared, too.

In other news, Philly’s real-estate developers are scrambling to minimize any financial damage they may face from proposed changes to the city’s 10-year tax abatement on new construction.

— Oona Goodin-Smith (@oonagoodinsmith,

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has long argued that people should not be in prison for drug addiction, but now he’s putting that philosophy into action.

His office has quietly launched an unprecedented interim “diversion” program, where prosecutors withdraw charges for those who show proof they’re in drug treatment. Under the initiative, only those who refuse to go into treatment would face prosecution.

Expected to affect an estimated 230 people each month who are arrested for possessing drugs, the effort is low-tech and a radical departure from Philadelphia’s past attempts at diversion.

Philadelphia’s tax abatement, adopted almost 20 years ago to spur growth in the city, has become a lightning rod for controversy in recent years.

Now, a proposed bill — to be discussed in a City Council hearing today — would cut the value of the 10-year abatement for residential construction almost in half. In response, developers have scrambled to lock down a deal to minimize any financial hit they may face under new legislation.

Inspired by the Pantsuit Nation Facebook groups that sprung up around Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in 2016, a New Jersey woman has created a statewide “Post-It Posse” campaign to give New Jersey voters a neighborly nudge to vote by mail.

Armed with postcards, Post-Its, and steely resolve, the group is seeing results.

What you need to know today

  1. ICE is accusing Philadelphia city officials and the Police Department of endangering the public by letting a child sexual predator go free. It’s actually more complicated than that.

  2. Under Philly’s new school police chief, officers will be given tools to understand adolescent development, trauma, and de-escalation.

  3. A Northeast Philadelphia carpentry foreman won a $10 million settlement of a lawsuit he filed against a Delaware County contractor after the foreman was critically injured during construction of an apartment high-rise in Old City.

  4. This Giving Tuesday, if you’re the right age and are planning on donating to charity, here’s how to give directly from your retirement account and save on taxes.

  5. Avalon, N.J., officials told Elaine Scattergood to cut the vines growing on her house earlier this year. Now, the beach town’s case against her flora is creeping toward trial.

  6. The number of millennials caring for their parents through school and their first jobs is increasing, and research shows they’re often more at risk than their non-caregiving peers for mental health issues.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Things are looking merry and bright at the Philadelphia Zoo. ✨Thanks for the photo, @amyjani.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s interesting

  1. A ragtag, social media-savvy group of Philly baristas is taking on Starbucks. But does the brewing worker movement stand a chance against a major corporation?

  2. Lil BUB, the tiny internet perma-kitty with large eyes and a larger personality, has died, but her social media celebrity lives on.

  3. Philly’s restaurants are earning their bread and butter lately by upping the pre-meal game, writes food critic Craig LaBan.

  4. This season, a black Santa Claus at the Fashion District is on a mission to spread holiday cheer while reflecting the diversity of Philadelphia.

  5. After a decade of looking, researchers have found a Philadelphia veteran’s photo, completing a tribute to the 3,150 Pennsylvanians listed on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall.


“We must realize that the suppression impulse of the powerful is a manifestation of vindictive hatred. Recognize that if Altman were a black woman or man, the brutality would have been far worse.”Ronsha Dickerson, community advocate and co-founder of Camden Parent Union, on the forceful removal of Camden activist Sue Altman from a New Jersey tax break hearing.

  1. As the 2020 Census approaches, we must not allow hard-to-count children to become invisible, a Philadelphia pediatric doctor warns.

  2. In single-party New Jersey, dissent is chilled and disenfranchisement runs deep, writes the Inquirer Editorial Board.

What we’re reading

  1. Looking for a new podcast recommendation? Billy Penn lists 10 of the best episodes from the local newscast that Philadelphians should be listening to.

  2. Last week, a man used a Narwhal tusk to break up a deadly knife attack on the London Bridge. The Washington Post explains the mystical history of the undersea unicorn horn.

  3. In rural Michigan, a 113-year-old school is down to just six students. The Detroit Free Press profiles the one-room schoolhouse struggling to survive.

Your Daily Dose of | Decking the Hall

On Wednesday, hundreds will gather for the annual holiday tree lighting at City Hall. But getting the enormous fir into place is a far more calculated process than it appears, involving a road trip to New York, a drone, six days of decorating, more than 3,000 lights, and a 130-pound Liberty Bell topper.