Three and a half years ago, Mayor Kenney won the Democratic primary in a historic landslide with an unapologetically progressive platform.
End stop-and-frisk. Implement universal pre-K. Send tens of millions of dollars more to Philadelphia's schools.
Create family-sustaining jobs. Make the city a place where your zip code isn't your destiny. And do this all not by raising property taxes but by selling tax liens, increasing the land assessments of abated real estate, and saving money through "zero-based budgeting."
Since becoming mayor, Kenney has tapped the relationships he's developed throughout his decades-long career in government to pass far-reaching legislation. But some of his biggest achievements, such as signing the first soda tax into law in a major American city, and beginning to overhaul the city's parks system, were never part of his campaign.
Other bold, flashy promises faded after Kenney was elected. Stop-and-frisk is reformed but not abolished. Pre-K is expanded but not universal. And zero-based budgeting? It's nonexistent.
On his 1,000th day in office, Kenney released a progress report. We ran a fine-tooth comb through it to determine what he's really gotten done. Here's what Kenney has accomplished, where we quibble with his account, and what remains unsaid.
— Holly Otterbein
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
The Philadelphia county jail population was on a yo-yo trajectory during the Nutter administration, swelling at times to more than 10,000 inmates packed three to a cell, which led to civil rights lawsuits. Working with the courts, the district attorney, and the public defender, Kenney's administration has overseen a sustained decline in the jail roster and even emptied the decrepit House of Correction. The 1,000-day report touts fewer people with mental illness in jail, a 25 percent decline in people held on detainers, and a 50 percent reduction in people held on cash bail.
Defendants are appearing for court 95 percent of the time, thanks in part to text and phone call reminder systems — that's light-years ahead of the abysmal court-appearance rates of a decade ago. Also highlighted: The city has for the first time identified the one-year recidivism rate (33.9 percent) and set a clear goal for reducing it (to 25.4 percent by 2021).
The reduced reliance on money bail — largely through a program to bring low-level offenders who can't make bail in front of a judge within five days — is a Band-Aid on a bail system that's been flagged as unconstitutional by the ACLU. Magistrates routinely hold people who are known to be indigent on money bail, and set high bails to keep defendants incarcerated pretrial rather than holding hearings to determine whether they can be safely released. In response, two different community bail funds have formed to do what the administration will not — crowdfunding bail and providing supports to nudge people to get to court.
The administration cited efforts to reduce Philadelphia's notoriously protracted case-processing times, but neither the city nor the courts actually has data to show whether cases are being closed more quickly. The city also boasted new diversion programs but could not say whether those amounted to more cases being diverted from criminal court. Most alarming is the state of the mayor's violence-prevention initiative: More than a year ago, Kenney installed a new Office of Violence Prevention charged with assessing and coordinating $60 million in antiviolence efforts, but just this September, as if starting anew, he announced the city still does not have a comprehensive violence-prevention plan. Progress has been halting: The number of homicides so far this year is the highest since 2012, though other violent crimes overall are down 20 percent in that same period.
— Samantha Melamed
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Why the ACLU says Philly bail practices are unconstitutional
No doubt, the mayor's top focus has been schools, and it shows. Though there was a long grassroots push for local control of the Philadelphia School District that predated the Kenney administration, the July 1 end of the School Reform Commission's 17-year run would not have happened without a mayor who wanted it to. While historic problems with the school system remain — chiefly, generations of entrenched poverty and low student achievement, with no ability to raise its own funds — the new, nine-member Philadelphia Board of Education has shown early signs of being more responsive and transparent than the SRC was.
The relationship between the city and its school system has long run hot and cold (especially around budget time); the new governance structure was designed, in part, to bring the two onto the same page, permanently. It's early days, but the promise of more programs like one that put 22 city-paid social workers into high-needs schools can benefit the school system significantly.
Twelve district schools have been named "community schools" — given more supports and partnerships, along with a city-paid coordinator to manage them. And 4,000 students are enrolled in free pre-K programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, crucial to moving the needle on Philadelphia's low early literacy rates.
Kenney said that local control would bring onto the city the responsibility for fixing a structural imbalance in the school system's budget. The mayor proposed nearly $1 billion in new funding for the district — and a 4.1 percent property-tax hike — but City Council balked, and the compromise budget means the district is projecting a deficit in the later half of its five-year spending plan. Kenney's bold, "the buck stops with me" message may become more tough to manage in a few years, when the next big bill comes due.
Community schools and pre-K are puppies-and-rainbows priorities: Nearly everyone likes them. But they haven't worked out exactly as pitched. A challenge to Kenney's soda tax was eventually quashed by the state Supreme Court, but the threat of the suit affected their scope: Kenney at first pitched 25 community schools by 2020; that has been scaled back to 20 by 2023.
The initial plan for pre-K was 6,500 seats in the first five years; now, the city is talking 5,500 seats by 2023. There has been turnover in the leadership of both programs, too; the initial directors of the pre-K and community schools initiatives are gone.
— Kristen Graham
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Mayor to seize control of Philly schools — and pay for them
Advocates in Kensington, which sees more overdoses than anywhere else in the city, say they believe the city's distribution of Narcan — more than 57,700 doses since July 2017 — is helping to slow Philadelphia's overdose death rate. The anecdotal consensus among outreach workers in the neighborhood? More people are overdosing, but not as many are dying. That's likely because there's so much Narcan in the neighborhood: outreach workers, police officers, and drug users alike carry it.
Mayor Kenney's report also mentions the city's support of overdose prevention sites, or safe injection sites, where people can use drugs under medical supervision, be revived if they overdose, and be connected to treatment. While Kenney's health officials have been vocal in their support for the sites — two top officials are on the advisory board for Safehouse, the nonprofit that aims to open Philadelphia's first site — Kenney has distanced himself from the plan, stressing that any site will be operated by a private entity, not the city.
The city has also cleared several major heroin encampments in Kensington. The cleanup of the Gurney Street train gulch encampment, in 2017, has largely stuck: No one is camping along the trash-strewn train tracks where, for years, a few dozen people slept and hundreds went to use heroin. The most recent effort, which cleared two camps of about 100 people at Kensington and Lehigh Avenues and Tulip Street and Lehigh Avenue, got 120 people to accept some kind of social services and encouraged 48 people to enter treatment.
Kenney's report doesn't say how many of the people cleared from the Lehigh Avenue camps have stayed in treatment. And, by the end of this month, city officials plan to clear one of the remaining camps, at Frankford Avenue. But in order for them to do that, residents of the two short-term shelters the city opened to house the Kensington and Tulip camp residents will have to move on. Most, city officials said, are going into long-term housing. City officials have said they will make sure everyone in the shelters has a housing plan, but no one will be able to remain in those shelters, in order to make room for residents from the remaining camps.
After the mayor's report was released, the city declared a disaster in Kensington and announced a new approach to tackling the crisis, with seven city departments meeting daily to outline goals for the neighborhood and hold themselves publicly accountable for accomplishing them.
One of the city's major goals to combat the crisis is to increase access to medication-assisted treatment, considered the gold standard of opioid addiction care. As the city notes, people who use opioid-based treatment medications like suboxone and methadone, or an opioid blocker like Vivitrol, have a much better shot at recovery than patients who opt for a straight detox. The city says it has expanded suboxone slots from 100 to 1,000 over the last several years, and this summer began treating inmates in Philly prisons with suboxone to prevent overdoses among this high-risk group.
The mayor's report says about 9,000 people receive publicly funded MAT. But the city funds a total of 12,836 MAT slots, and 3,338 of those slots are still open. Historically, a lack of identification has prevented some people from accessing MAT, but the city's new 24/7 walk-in center, which opened in July, doesn't require ID to start. A trickier barrier to overcome is the pervasive stigma against these treatments — the idea that MAT patients are simply replacing one drug with another.
— Aubrey Whelan
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Declaring a disaster in opioid-plagued Kensington, Philadelphia officials announce a new rescue plan
The Kenney administration introduced a new, tiered pension plan that caps all new non-uniformed employees at either $50,000 or $65,000 pensions depending on their plan. In addition, current employees are contributing a few percentage points more toward their pensions depending on their salary.
The administration has been slowly decreasing the assumed rate of return from 7.75 in 2015 to 7.6 in 2018.
The pension fund remains dangerously low on cash. It has only 45.3 percent of the money needed to make future retirees whole, a tad above the 45 percent funding rate when Michael Nutter left office in 2015.
The city still allows for overtime to be used to boost pensions for thousands of employees. The city also kept two pension bonus programs that drain the fund of millions each year. In addition, pension experts say, the city's 7.6 percent assumed rate of return is still too high and risky, making it difficult for the city to achieve its projected 80 percent funding by 2029.
— Claudia Vargas
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Philly city worker triples salary with overtime, adding to record OT bill for year
The accuracy of the city's property assessments unquestionably has improved, and the system has become more transparent, since assessments now are aimed at representing 100 percent of actual market value, the result of the "actual value initiative" conducted by the Office of Property Assessments.
More than one-third of Philadelphia's residential properties — 165,000 — are overassessed, an Inquirer-Daily News analysis found, meaning the owners are paying more than their fair shares in taxes. Lower-priced properties on average tend to be overassessed, while owners of higher-priced homes may be paying too little in taxes — a continuation of a stubborn, statewide pattern. The report notes that the "actual value initiative" dates to 2014, predating the Kenney administration. It also states: "The improvement in accuracy was recently recognized when the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB), an independent state board, determined that the City's ratio of assessed value to current market value was 98.7 percent — one of the highest ratios in the Commonwealth." That figure is not necessarily an indication of accuracy; it is merely an average of all sales/assessment ratios in the city. It is one of the highest ratios in the state because other counties do not assess at 100 percent of market value.
— Laura McCrystal
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: 165,000 Philly homeowners may be paying too much in property taxes. Is the city assessing property fairly?
Under Kenney, a major change finally came to the way officer-involved shootings are investigated. A police unit, established in January 2017, conducts criminal investigations at the same time the Internal Affairs Division determines whether department policy was violated. This allows the new unit to compel officers to provide statements immediately, rather than waiting months before the DA's Office finishes its investigation, as had been the practice. "That's the biggest win there," said Hans Menos, executive director of the Police Advisory Commission.
The number of shootings by police has declined, from 62 in 2007 to 29 in 2014 and 13 last year.
Menos says the new unit has communicated well with the commission and family members of those who were shot. Under Kenney, the advisory commission's manpower and mandate have also been strengthened. In addition to reviewing incidents of police misconduct, the commission now also reviews police policies and practices.
The mayor's report touts the reduced number of police pedestrian stops in the city, but as a mayoral candidate Kenney had promised that if elected "stop-and-frisk will end in Philadelphia, no question." He later explained that he didn't mean Philadelphia police would no longer stop and frisk, but would try harder to avoid racial profiling in deciding whom to stop.
Under Commissioner Richard Ross, pedestrian stops decreased from 251,686 at year-end 2015 to 170,425 at year-end 2016, a 32 percent drop. That number was further reduced in 2017 to 136,938, or a 20 percent annual decrease. The downward trend continues this year, the report says.
Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that is good news. But she noted that the number for 2017 is about the same as it was a decade earlier, just before Michael Nutter became mayor. Nutter and then-Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey had made aggressive stop-and-frisk a priority. In 2011, the ACLU settled a lawsuit with the city that contended that stop-and-frisk, as practiced in Philadelphia, was racially biased. The settlement included a provision allowing the ACLU to monitor the program.
Since then, the Police Department has implemented strong accountability measures to reduce the number of illegal stops, Roper noted. But the department has not sufficiently addressed racial disparities in stops, she said, "especially the extreme differences in stop rates that we see in areas with majority white residents."
And while the mayor's report briefly acknowledges "an uptick in homicides so far in 2018," it devotes more space to saying that Philadelphia's crime rates are at their lowest levels in 40 years and that other violent crime — burglaries, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults — is on the decline.
Overall, violent crime has been decreasing in the last quarter-century because of data-informed policing strategies and the national waning of the crack cocaine epidemic, among other reasons. But Philadelphia residents are alarmed about the increasing number of homicides – a 15-year-old boy shot Oct. 4 at a South Philadelphia gas station was the city's 257th homicide this year, an 11 percent increase compared with the same period last year, and the highest number in six years.
— Julie Shaw
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Ex-Philly cop Ryan Pownall's homicide charge puts police accountability in the spotlight | Editorial
Mayor Kenney boasts that he has done more than any recent administration to prevent the loss of Philadelphia's historic patrimony from the onslaught of new construction. He certainly deserves kudos for being the first mayor in over 30 years to speak publicly and forcefully about the preservation crisis, brought on by the decade-long building boom. It hasn't been all talk, either.
After raising the issue during his campaign, he followed through by increasing the Historic Commission's budget by $96,000, enough to hire two additional staffers. The staff now has more time to vet candidates for the Historic Register. The commission has also approved the three new historic districts, which are often more effective at maintaining neighborhood cohesion than individual designations.
Kenney gets credit for convening a task force to study ways to encourage preservation and stem the epidemic of teardowns. Its report is due out in December.
Nevertheless, the destruction continues virtually unchecked. The task force's 18-month time frame is considered laughably drawn out given the steamroller of development fueled by the city's 10-year property-tax abatement.
Thousands of important buildings remain vulnerable because the city has never gotten around to surveying its holdings to see what is worth protecting. Philadelphia has lost several significant churches since Kenney took office, Spruce Hill's nationally recognized Victorian ensembles are under assault, and the storied block called Jewelers' Row is about to be torn apart to make room for a condo tower.
The commission still relies exclusively on citizen volunteers to do the hard work of nominating buildings for the historic register. All three of the new historic districts were initiated by volunteers.
If the task force embraces a demolition delay procedure and comes up with incentives to make renovation competitive with teardowns, it will be considered a success. But many preservationists remain pessimistic.
— Inga Saffron
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Philadelphia's preservation reform effort has lost its way | Inga Saffron
The Kenney administration's creation of soda-tax-funded pre-K program is respected by antipoverty advocates. Unfortunately, it's a 20-year solution, meaning it will be decades before we understand the program's potential benefits, such as higher graduation rates, increased college enrollment, higher levels of employment, delayed childbearing, and less incarceration. Still, the very act of starting a program whose possible success won't immediately bring plaudits to Kenney impresses advocates for its dedication to larger goals.
Opening the Hub of Hope engagement center for the homeless in the Center City sub-concourse was another administration move hailed as an "important first step," according to Sister Mary Scullion. Some 400 people use the center each day for showers, food, medical care, and access to social services. Of course, homelessness is a symptom of deeper problems regarding affordable housing and education that need to be addressed, Scullion said. Other advocates say that the growing legion of homeless in Kensington don't trek to the Hub.
The city's dedication to strengthening workforce development was lauded by Philabundance, the region's leading hunger relief agency. "The administration's been fabulous," said Melanie Cataldi, interim chief development officer. She credits the city with helping the Philabundance Community Kitchen train people for restaurant jobs.
While the Kenney administration is quick to extol its efforts toward helping people in poverty, it fails to address some big realities. As poverty has declined nationwide, Philadelphia's rate has remained stuck at around 26 percent for three years. The city's median household income dropped 4 percent from $41,449 in 2016 to $39,759 in 2017, an unusual and dispiriting development, economists say. And Philadelphia's deep-poverty rate, a measure of people living at 50 percent of the poverty line or less, rocketed from 12 percent — a level at which it hovered for five years — to 14 percent in 2017. "Given how strong the U.S. economy is," said St. Joseph's University poverty expert Maria Kefalas, "it's astounding Philadelphia is not seeing the benefits." She also criticized the city's maligned antipoverty agency, the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, as ineffective: "They should fire the entire office."
While the city touts its role in helping 20,000 people apply for public benefits since 2016 through BenePhilly Centers, professional hunger fighters say that's minimal, considering nearly 500,000 Philadelphians receive food stamps, a benefit that requires frequent sign-ups. Also, clients complain that some centers don't perform as well as others. Experts estimate that only 70 percent of Philadelphians who qualify for food stamps actually get them.
Cities (and mayors) have limited influence over poverty, because of its incredible complexity. "Big, poor cities depend on the state for policy on minimum-wage rates and education, which cities can't control," said national hunger expert Joel Berg. And only federal dollars can underwrite programs big enough to keep people in poverty fed and alive.
— Alfred Lubrano
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Around the country, incomes are rising. In Philly, they're falling.
The administration released a workforce development strategy for the city, focusing on training and connecting Philadelphians to blue-collar jobs in seven sectors: retail and hospitality, business and financial services, manufacturing and logistics, construction and infrastructure, tech services, health care, and early childhood education. It's an ambitious program that prioritizes city residents who have been left behind by the city's resurgence.
Longtime workforce development leaders, such as Cheryl Feldman, of union 1199C, championed the strategy, saying it was the first comprehensive plan of its kind for the city.
The plan coordinates workforce efforts across Philadelphia programs and funding streams. For example, Kenney's new pre-K program requires its teachers have associate's degrees, so 1199c created an apprenticeship to get teachers those credentials. The funding came in part by state and federal dollars secured by the quasi-public nonprofit Philadelphia Works, led by Kenney appointee Pat Clancy.
The gains are slow, as most are with workforce development programs — the 2017 inaugural class began with 36 apprentices and next year, it'll recruit 36 more — but the apprenticeship has been successful enough that it is now being re-created in Delaware County.
A major promise — and selling point — of the mayor's $500 million signature Rebuild effort, a plan to overhaul the city's recreation centers, libraries, and parks, was that it would create construction-work opportunities for more than just white men. This summer, City Council and other advocates stalled the already delayed effort, calling for enforcement measures that could hold contractors to the project's diversity goals. By the time that City Council approved Rebuild in June, the city had not developed any enforcement mechanisms.
Still, there's work underway to meet these goals. Philadelphia Works is piloting pre-employment programs that recruit and train people of color that could be used as a model to create a pipeline for Rebuild work.
— Juliana Feliciano Reyes
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Kenney's ambitious workforce plan to tackle blue-collar skills gap
Earlier this month City Council passed a package, crafted in part by Mayor Kenney, that could pump $71 million into affordable housing over the next five years. It includes zoning incentives for developers who build or fund affordable homes through payments to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund and resources for preservation and construction of affordable homes. A large chunk of the money would come from expiring tax abatements. Kenney is expected to sign the measure. Council members have said they will seek additional money (bringing the total to $100 million over five years) from the general fund, an addendum Kenney has not yet responded to.
The administration also is rolling out a tax foreclosure prevention program to complement the largely successful mortgage foreclosure prevention program. In the last three years, 2,500 homeowners have avoided foreclosure with city help, although that program has existed for a decade.
The city has also made progress stemming evictions. Following reports that one in every 14 Philadelphia renters faced eviction in 2016, Kenney's administration convened a task force, whose final report includes 17 recommendations, ranging from more legal support for tenants to a small rental loan fund for "mom-and-pop landlords." The city also created an Eviction Prevention Task Force, which is looking at what buildings and neighborhoods have expiring low-income housing tax credits. Mapping those properties gives an idea of which buildings might sell or renovate, putting tenants at risk of getting priced out.
The affordable-housing package is a Council-administration compromise. It isn't guaranteed to bring in as much money as an initial version funded through a controversial construction impact tax. Some advocates have criticized the new program, which will be available to some working-class homeowners, for not prioritizing the city's poorest.
On the whole, Council has been leading on the issue. Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez started the push more than a year ago. The success of the program depends largely on how the administration implements and promotes it.
Regarding evictions, what becomes of the many studies and recommendations remains to be seen. In January, the city, at the behest of Councilwoman Helen Gym, allocated $500,000 to pay for legal aid for people facing evictions. The city and Council boosted that investment to $850,000 this summer. It's a modest amount compared with the $155 million New York City spends to provide counsel for low-income renters, but it's incrementally driven up the percentage of people represented in court.
"The money put into eviction court remedies is minimal," said Phil Lord, who heads the Philadelphia Tenant Union Representative Network. "It's more than it was but inadequate to solve the problem." Still, Lord said the city has done "more, more significantly" on the issue of evictions than any administration since 1974, when he started working in the city. The topic of evictions has gained nationwide attention in recent years.
— Julia Terruso
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Task Force has 17 ideas for fixing Philly's eviction problem
Philadelphia "has experienced strong economic growth" since 2015, the report touts. Population and workforce rose while the unemployment rate fell from 7.1 percent in 2015 to 6.2 percent last year, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, about 6,000 unemployed people found work, leaving around 44,000 unemployed, in a city workforce of 704,000.
Philadelphia also has been adding jobs faster than the national average and some direct competitors. Working city residents rose to 660,000 last year from 646,000 in 2015. That 2.2 percent rise beat not only Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and other cities, but also Montgomery County and other Philadelphia suburbs, BLS data show.
The administration touts small, new offices of Vanguard and JPMorgan Chase, along with WuXi AppTec, Spark Therapeutics, and Jazz Pharmaceuticals, biotech firms that have chosen to expand in Philadelphia instead of the suburban pharma corridor out on U.S. 202. The city's concentration of colleges and science, engineering, and management grads is its big attraction.
Cities are in vogue. Unemployment fell faster in Boston, Chicago, New York, and most other big cities than in Philadelphia, which now has the fourth-highest unemployment rate of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. That's one notch worse than before Kenney took office. Even the three cities with worse unemployment than Philadelphia — Detroit, Cleveland, and Fresno, Calif. — reported bigger drops in the jobless rate since 2015. New York and Boston added jobs faster, as did other growing cities around the U.S.
With the city as its job engine, the region has added education, health care, and hotel and restaurant jobs faster than the national average. But the region trails the national economy in new manufacturing, information, and business-services jobs, three key private-sector growth areas.
The administration is quiet about big employers that got away, like the Army Futures Command headquarters. Boston has more biotech investors and start-ups. Despite all the positive spin, the nation's fifth-largest city has only the 20th-busiest airport, Federal Aviation Administration data show. The wage tax and the business gross receipts tax remain huge challenges, especially compared with companies' lower tax burden in the suburbs.
The city still needs to convince managers that it's viable long term. Population growth has been mostly fueled by immigrants and millennials. But when they get older and start relying on the schools, many move. The big questions are: Can Philadelphia fix the schools and its heavy tax burden?
— Joseph N. DiStefano
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Back to normal: Suburbs now growing faster than cities, except in Philly
The report credits the Roosevelt Boulevard "Route for Change" program as helping to make Route 1 safer, and just this month the Kenney administration got a big win toward that when the legislature approved the use of nine speed cameras along a dozen miles of the Boulevard. Philadelphia's street safety program stresses speed as a major cause in fatal crashes.
The city touted adding a second paving crew to the Streets Department, which will allow 26 additional miles of repaving a year. This would make for a rate of 101 miles of roadway a year, still shy of the goal of 131 miles that would result in every city street being repaved once every 15 years.
Vision Zero, which advocates using education, engineering, and enforcement to eliminate traffic-related deaths, launched as promised with the release last year of a three-year action plan. Streets projects are underway under the Vision Zero umbrella, but it's also worth noting that the city's approach to street safety has become more holistic. For example, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has been involved in efforts to reduce Center City congestion, and SEPTA is studying how to redesign its bus network. In a city where authority over the streets is fractured among multiple agencies, this level of cooperation marks a new approach to improving Philadelphia's roads.
The report makes no mention of ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. Regulatory power over the industry lies with the state, but city officials have expressed concern over the role these businesses play in jamming street traffic, and education advocates have complained the taxation formula of the industry doesn't provide enough money for the schools.
One of Kenney's major pet peeves about the condition of Philadelphia's roadways before he was elected went unmentioned: construction sites blocking sidewalks. Yet the report included no mention of progress on this issue. The administration has nearly doubled the number of L&I inspectors in the Building Division from 42 to 81, but a quick walk through any part of Center City makes it clear the problem has not been solved. In a 2015 interview with PlanPhilly, Kenney said he favored charging contractors per day for sidewalk closures. Experts have said the city also could mandate that all construction sites create alternate walkways for pedestrians.
Bike lanes also aren't highlighted in the report, a surprising omission from an administration that promised 30 miles of protected lanes by the end of Kenney's term. At this point in the mayor's tenure, the city has added about three miles of protected bike lanes, and in a report issued this week the city backed away from the promise of 30 miles. These physical barriers between cyclists and automobiles are regarded as an important safety upgrade. The closest the report gets to the subject is a line about work to "plan high quality bicycle infrastructure."
While the report states the city is upgrading its large vehicle fleet with side guards, 360-degree cameras, and enlarged side mirrors designed to prevent drivers from killing cyclists and pedestrians in blind spots, what's not said is that city vehicles make up only a percentage of the many trucks on city roads, and those private trucks have no obligation to equip their vehicles with the same safety protections. Other cities have mandated all large trucks operating within municipal limits have these safeguards.
— Jason Laughlin
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: With bus service no faster than walking, a new approach to clear up Center City traffic jams
Environmentalists give the Kenney administration solid marks for a strong sustainability agenda. The shortcoming: It's almost too ambitious. Goals include reducing solid waste disposal at landfills or incineration by half, and committing to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035. But much of that also depends on voluntary efforts by residents and businesses. The city can control only so much of waste and energy in a city of 1.5 million people.
The city has a Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet. Good thing, because it has a big litter problem in its neighborhoods and along its rivers. The city has a litter index to identify dirty areas. It has aggressively sought to cut down on the amount of waste at big events and oversees a single stream curbside recycling program.
There's also a Clean Energy Vision Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and use "clean energy." But Philadelphia counts 600,000 buildings, including homes and businesses, within its borders. And many of them are old and drafty. Part of the strategy is to get residents and business owners to voluntarily reduce the amount of electricity they pull from the grid.
The plan for trimming municipal energy use, which costs $64 million a year in electricity for its buildings, seeks partnership with a renewable-energy provider to supply power through solar or wind. And the Energy Authority has a notable Solarize Philly program to help residents install rooftop panels at a discount. There's an option for income-based subsidized financing. And Philly has been named the fourth-fastest-growing city for solar.
A campaign promise to institute street sweeping has gone unfulfilled. As for recycling, much is out of the administration's control with a poor market for recyclable materials coupled with tons of unusable material entering the stream that gets diverted to landfills.
The administration has also yet to sign a deal with a renewable-energy provider, though Christine Knapp, director of the Office of Sustainability, said they are in negotiations. A contractor would still require Council approval. Finally, the program's initial goal for residential solar was to have 500 rooftop installations by the time the program closed in September. Only 300 have been installed after initial screenings and assessments. The good news: Laura Rigell, who manages the program, said 45 low- and moderate-income families now have solar, and 50 students have been trained to work in the solar industry.
— Frank Kummer
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Miles of trash: Litter detectives stymied by illegal dumping on Philly's riverbanks
The city prevailed in a highly contentious "sanctuary city" case against the Trump administration, slugging through nearly a year of litigation before a federal judge ruled in favor of Philadelphia in June. The judge said the city's refusal to help enforce immigration laws was based on policies that are reasonable, rational, and equitable. The Trump administration had sought to withhold federal grant money unless the city agreed to actively assist federal authorities in identifying and turning over undocumented immigrants.
In the Gayborhood, where racial discrimination had stirred outcry, the city ordered bars and nonprofits to undergo training on implicit bias and fair business practices. Philadelphia also became the first city to add black and brown stripes atop its pride flag to represent LGBT people of color. The new colors have appeared in other cities and at celebrity events such as the Met Gala, where queer black actress Lena Waithe wore a rainbow cape with black and brown stripes in May. The city and others still acknowledge that much work in combating racism in the LGBT community remains.
The administration touted its efforts to hire a diverse workforce but didn't mention a report earlier this year from Pew Charitable Trusts, which called the city's hiring process "cumbersome, inflexible, and slow." The process, Pew found, can last a year, and by that time some of the best candidates are no longer available. (The Kenney administration says it is working to shorten the time it takes to hire.)
The administration also highlighted Kenney's decision to end a controversial city contract that allowed federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to access a key law enforcement database, known as PARS, and use that information against undocumented but otherwise law-abiding immigrants in Philadelphia. What the report doesn't mention is that, prior to Kenney's decision, he and Philadelphia police faced backlash after officers used bicycles to raid and destroy an encampment of protesters who were calling for the end of the contract with ICE.
The report states that Kenney issued an executive order to better address the issue of sexual harassment in city government "after more than a year of research and discussion by an interdepartmental working group." This language could use additional context.
Kenney signed the executive order the same day the city controller released an audit of the city's sexual-harassment policies and payouts. The audit showed that the city spent at least $2.2 million to settle sexual-misconduct claims in the last six years. The controller also suspects that number could be much higher.
— Michael Boren
>> READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: Philadelphia paid $132K to settle two sexual harassment cases in June
ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY
A new, easy-to-use application called Atlas allows people to type in an address and immediately have access to a property's deed history, assessed value, zoning documents, permits, and violations. The administration has continued to post the one-page annual forms that top officials must fill out describing all forms of income and any gifts received in the previous year. Now members of boards and commissions are among those who must disclose this information. (One problem is that the forms are self-reported and not everyone who should file has filed.) Also, the administration has posted 41 new data sets to the Open Data Philly website, which now totals more than 300 digital records, from Licenses and Inspections violations to city-employee salaries.
While the Kenney administration touted its release of public data as evidence of its transparency, it is still difficult to obtain public documents from the city. Most requests for simple items such as a contract, which is public information by law, are almost always sent to the Law Department to be vetted and redacted, often delaying the request by weeks. In comparison, state agencies upload copies of all state contracts valued at $5,000 or more on the treasury's website. Just across the river, South Jersey municipalities are expected to provide government contracts immediately upon request, thanks to the state's open records law.
Since 2014, the city has been ready to launch an online tool that would allow people to view the city's financial data such as the amounts and recipients of payments. But the administration has not yet opened the online checkbook to the public, citing delays in what is a small team in charge of the tool.
And there have been several stories in the last year that have raised questions about the city's management of taxpayer money — from a record year in overtime expenses to technology failures, and, most recently, a decision to move employees to a 7.5-hour pay schedule without knowing the cost of the decision. And don't forget about the missing $33 million, which the administration has said it is in the process of rectifying.
— Claudia Vargas
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