THIS WEEK has been a real head-scratcher in Philly politics. And when you don't have any hair, you tend to notice these things.
Let's start at City Hall.
Kevin Vaughan was appointed chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the fiscal watchdog group that must approve Philadelphia's five-year spending plans in order for the city to get state funding. Vaughan was appointed by Gov. Wolf - on Mayor Kenney's recommendation.
Oh. That's . . . convenient.
So who is this fella whom Kenney recommended to oversee Kenney's budget? Why, he's a former ward leader who headed the Philadelphia Forward super PAC that raised $1.4 million last year - to help elect Kenney.
Our colleague Claudia Vargas reports that Vaughan will lead the discussion on whether to approve Kenney's first spending plan, which includes a bond deal and a soda tax. Vaughan, by sheer coincidence, told Vargas that he supports both initiatives.
That was fast.
Clout is not a professional accountant, but isn't this what folks call letting the fox guard the henhouse? Can Vaughan be a fiscal watchdog?
No, really, Vaughan sounds like a good guy (he takes photos of wildlife in his free time!), and appears to be eminently qualified (he worked in city government for 28 years, holding more positions than we have room to list), and brings some much-needed diversity to the administration (which is kinda white, TBH).
"At the end of the day, the mayor believes if someone's qualified for the job, they shouldn't be disqualified because of their political affiliations," said Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt. "There are several other PICA board members and a lot of other checks in place to make sure the city operates in a fiscally responsible way, and we're confident Mr. Vaughan's experience will only add to that oversight."
Fair enough. For all we know, Vaughan could turn out to be the best damn PICA chairman since the agency was created in 1991.
Regardless, here at Clout, we like to give people code names. Therefore, Vaughan shall hereby be known as Kevin "Foxtrot" Vaughan.
Don't complain, Mr. Chairman, that's a badass nickname. Maybe even better than T-bone.
Who are these kids?
Speaking of the soda tax, a Clout tipster directed us to the website of Philadelphians for a Fair Future, the coalition supporting Kenney's plan to expand pre-kindergarten and upgrade city parks through the aforementioned tax.
The website features a bunch of smiling kids - whom we assume to be naturally pleasant and not hopped up on Mountain Dew or some other taxable devil juice.
But the tipster points out that these aren't Philly kids. In fact, we don't know who the heck these kids are. The photo was pulled from the stock photo website Shutterstock. Just type in "diversity children" and it's the first photo that pops up.
"You'd expect they'd be able to find real-live Philadelphia kids for something like this," the tipster emailed.
You'd think. But kids do love soda, though, so. . . .
State Rep. Martina White, the Northeast Philly Republican who was elected last year in a special election, is making a name for herself these days.
On Wednesday, White teamed up with State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Bible-thumping Angry Man from the other side of the state, to whip up some good ol' fashioned xenophobic paranoia by lashing out against "Pennsylvania's Illegal Alien Invasion."
"I understand many illegal aliens come to this great country to make a better life for themselves and their families," White said, according to Fox43 in Harrisburg. "However, it should not come at the expense of our freedom as Americans. With every new illegal alien that comes into our state, we lose a bit more freedom. Freedom to feel safe in our workplace and businesses, and the freedom to travel without fear."
Sounds like somebody has been watching a little too much Donald Trump. You do know we're not talking about real aliens, right? Undocumented immigrants are people, my friend. (Just like corporations, as Mitt Romney once noted.)
Community Legal Services, a group established by the Philadelphia Bar Association to help low-income residents, pointed out that the anti-immigrant bills backed by White and Metcalfe are "based on misinformation."
"In fact, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare or food stamps and there is no evidence that they are improperly accessing these benefits," CLS said in a statement. "The legislature should focus on the problems that do exist, like ending wage theft, which suppresses wages for all Pennsylvania workers."
This kind of Trumpian red meat - blaming The Other for the nation's problems - is standard fare for someone like Metcalfe, a real-life manifestation of John Goodman's character in the Coen brothers flick Barton Fink. He's a shameless bomb-thrower who believes he has a direct line to God, describes SEPTA riders as welfare queens, and once torpedoed a routine House resolution by lamenting that "Muslims do not recognize Jesus Christ as God."
But White? She's from the 170th House District, where President Obama took 57 percent of the vote in 2012 and where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by 2-1.
This ultraconservative rhetoric doesn't seem to match the district. Unless Northeast Philadelphia turned into northeast Mississippi while we weren't paying attention?
L&I: 'Our bad'
Big ups to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, which swiftly corrected itself after mistakenly issuing a violation to developer Max Glass for displaying a Bernie Sanders mural at 22nd and Catharine Streets.
Turns out the mural was political speech, not a painted advertisement, so a permit wasn't required. L&I rescinded the violation hours after our colleague Julie Shaw started asking questions Tuesday.
Which is good to hear, because L&I in the past has been loath to admit that it might possibly be wrong.
"Making L&I more responsive is a priority of this administration," L&I Commissioner David Perri emailed us Thursday. "We are public servants and our work product belongs to the public. In order to have credibility with the public we must admit and correct mistakes when they happen."
On Twitter: @wbender99 and @ByChrisBrennan.
Phone: 215-854-5255 and 215-854-5973
- Staff writers William Bender
and Chris Brennan contributed
to this article.