Happy Friday, Inquirer readers! How are we doing? Good? Good.
Today, we bring you the latest update in a West Philly housing saga that’s been demonstrating just how hard it is to get Philly residents to accept affordable housing developments — even in places where they’re worried about being priced out.
Then, meet the Doylestown father, venture capitalist, and GOP donor who poured $500,000 into school board elections across the state.
And, a California woman is suing Bill Cosby in federal court, alleging that in 1990, the comedian raped and imprisoned her in Atlantic City.
All right, let’s get to it! And remember, if you have some thoughts to share with us, drop us a line and email us back.
In her short time on City Council, West Philly’s Jamie Gauthier has emerged as one of its biggest champions of privately built affordable housing. She’s crafted several bills that would give zoning bonuses to developers who set aside reduced-price apartments for low-income renters.
So when a well-known New York developer showed her plans for a building on a former junkyard where every apartment would rent at below-market rates, she embraced the proposal as a model for her fast-changing district.
There was promise with that plan. Because the developer was promising three-bedroom apartments for as little as $400 a month to qualified renters, Gauthier felt the project could help low-income families remain in Cedar Park and enjoy the improvements — like better shops and schools — that come with gentrification.
But the reception to the original proposal for a 174-unit apartment house was anything but welcoming.
In community meetings, residents from an assortment of neighborhood groups railed against the building’s height and “modest” parking count.
Those groups then did what neighborhood groups do: They negotiated with the developer to modify its proposal — making it worse, much worse.
The Cedar Parks saga demonstrates just how hard it is to get Philly residents to accept affordable housing developments, even in parts of the city where residents say they are worried about being priced out by gentrification.
Unlike neighborhoods where battles over development have been going on for years, the intense back-and-forth with the New York developer was a new experience for many.
Read columnist Inga Saffron’s full story on this saga and what the future holds for this West Philly neighborhood.
Like many parents, Paul Martino was frustrated when his children’s Bucks County school district announced it would start virtually last year despite broad support in his community for in-person instruction.
As a venture capitalist, he also saw an opportunity.
“It was an execution failure. It wasn’t a COVID issue,” said Martino, 47, who runs a venture fund in San Francisco and has two children in the Central Bucks School District. “School administrators were just scared and didn’t attack the challenge. I’m not saying everyone’s gonna be built like a Silicon Valley CEO … but once you work with people like that and an unforeseen challenge comes in front of them, they solve the problem.”
Schools around the region opened in person this fall. But across Pennsylvania, hundreds of candidates are now running for school board seats backed by $500,000 from Martino — who says he wants to ensure those closures don’t happen again.
His “Back to School PA” effort, which Martino says has given $10,000 to 50 local political action committees, appears to be unprecedented in Pennsylvania’s school board elections — and marks a significant infusion of cash into typically lower-budget races.
It’s also drawing pushback from Democrats who view the effort by Martino, a longtime GOP donor, as funneling money toward mostly Republican bids to gain traction on local boards — echoing a national strategic push on the right at a time when schools are at the center of a culture war.
Read more about Martino’s efforts and the response to them from reporters Maddie Hanna and Julia Terruso.
What you need to know today
A California woman is suing Bill Cosby in federal court, alleging that he raped and imprisoned her in 1990 in Atlantic City. Lili Bernard, who filed suit Thursday, is one of 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, many of whom, including Bernard, could not press criminal charges against Cosby because of the statute of limitations.
Here are the community groups getting the first $2 million of Philly grants to combat gun violence. The city still has $20 million left to give, but the first grants will go to organizations that provide housing assistance, mentorship programs, trauma counseling, job training, and youth music programs.
A fired Morrisville cop was convicted of using a police database to harass a Bucks County couple. He used his access to a confidential database to identify a man he believed had driven too slowly in front of him as he was on his way to work.
Philly City Council has approved the Driving Equality Bill that bans traffic stops for low-level offenses, which disproportionately has targeted Black drivers.
Yesterday marked Day 7 of the John Dougherty federal bribery trial. We have the latest updates here.
Pa. state universities will seek a 15% boost in funding and more money for student aid. The move would raise the state funding allocation from $477 million to $550 million. The system also is seeking $201 million for student financial aid and up to $40 million for university debt relief.
Through your eyes | #OurPhilly
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