COUNCILMANIC prerogative? Wendy Beetlestone is not a huge fan.
Beetlestone - the federal judge who presided over the civil trial of archenemies Ori Feibush (the evil developer!) vs. Kenyatta Johnson (the evil councilman!) - has denied the city's request to overturn the jury's May verdict.
The jury, you may recall, awarded $34,000 to Feibush, who complained that Johnson had blocked his purchase of two Point Breeze properties as political payback.
Beetlestone's opinion, published Thursday, spells out how Philadelphia's unwritten (and ripe for abuse) policy allows individual Council members to control development and zoning variances in their districts by introducing or withholding required resolutions - in this case, with unconstitutional results.
No wonder the FBI is investigating.
"Given the evidence, it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that the custom of councilmanic prerogative was the moving force behind the violation of Feibush's constitutional rights," Beetlestone wrote. "Johnson would not have been able to block the sale absent the councilmanic prerogative, confident that he would not be subverted by his City Council colleagues because the custom required deference by them to his decision not to introduce the resolution."
That's a mouthful. But it's really quite simple:
Council members have defended their veto power, saying that they - naturally - are in the best position to chart the course of development in their respective districts because they - naturally - know the players and the issues and whatnot. In reality, Council is basically a group of politicians with a god complex who have collectively agreed not to see a shrink. At least when it comes to doling out vacant land.
Johnson has said that he blocked Feibush from developing the Cleveland Street lots because he wanted to preserve them for affordable housing.
But Beetlestone noted that when the properties were put up for competitive bid in January 2014, "there were no affordable housing or other specific plans for the site." And even though a Johnson staffer later said Johnson would only support affordable housing proposals, the councilman continued to "introduce resolutions for other properties in his district for market-rate housing," Beetlestone wrote.
Johnson ultimately introduced a resolution to transfer the (still-vacant) Cleveland Street lots to the Land Bank, where they were relisted "without any restrictions on market-rate housing," Beetlestone wrote.
Feibush said Thursday that Beetlestone's opinion "clearly delineates the harm caused by Councilman Johnson's use of councilmanic prerogative," and added he hoped the city would "accept this ruling and won't waste any more taxpayer dollars in pursuing further appeals."
Oh, but it will.
Johnson declined to comment Thursday because, his spokeswoman said, the city Law Department is appealing the ruling.
An eagle-eyed Clout tipster - possibly with too much time on his hands - informed us that the @PhillyGOP Twitter profile pic is a thumbnail-size train wreck.
The photo is - or was, as of early Thursday afternoon - a shot of City Hall with the quote, "Philadelphia is corrupt and contented." It is attributed to "Lincoln Stevens" in 1903.
"Serious bad news on the Twitter profile pic and quote," the tipster wrote.
One: "Lincoln Stevens is not a person." Two: If they somehow got journalist Lincoln Steffens confused with U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, the latter died in 1868. Lastly, and perhaps most d'oh-worthy: "Lincoln Steffens (the person who actually wrote the quote) was talking about a REPUBLICAN controlled Philadelphia!!!"
Dang. That's pretty bad, @PhillyGOP. Although Clout has made bigger mistakes.
Philadelphia Republican Party Chairman Joseph DeFelice took it all in stride when we pointed out the error(s).
"Thanks for following us!" DeFelice emailed. "Glad we are now relevant. Duly noted."
By midafternoon, the Steffens/Stevens quote had been changed to a safer logo featuring an elephant.
Elephants are good.
Can't go wrong with elephants.
$12 million omission
As you might've heard, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver kind of trashed Pennsylvania and Philadelphia last weekend, from our charter schools to sports fans to cheesesteaks. Philebrity's Joey Sweeney responded with some helpful coping mechanisms.
State Sen. Anthony Williams decided instead to pen a "Dear John" letter to Oliver. The whole charter-school bashing was just too much.
"I really do enjoy your wit and informative style, but you went too far with your segment on Pennsylvania's charter schools," Williams wrote, informing Oliver that Pennsylvania has world-renowned museums and the "best cheesesteaks in the world."
"And yes, this is the state that has some of the best public charter schools, delivering quality education to children who can't afford to move to a better district!" Williams continued, adding that public school employees have had their share of scandals, including cheating and embezzlement.
Except there's a gaping hole in the otherwise well-informed and somewhat funny letter:
Williams forgot to mention that wealthy charter-school backers at the Susquehanna International Group shelled out millions of dollars for his unsuccessful gubernatorial and mayoral runs in 2010 and 2015.
Like, roughly $12 million altogether.
Maybe he just forgot.
Seamus in the house
John Rafferty, the Republican candidate for attorney general, recently was spotted campaigning with Seamus McCaffery at a Fraternal Order of Police convention in Philadelphia. Yes, that Seamus McCaffery - the former state Supreme Court justice who retired in disgrace due to the Porngate scandal.
"At a time when the Office of Attorney General is nearing the bottom of the barrel in terms of its public perception, what is a candidate for attorney general to do?" a Clout tipster asks.
OK, McCaffery probably wouldn't be our first choice to bring to a party. But then again, he is a former cop. The tipster said McCaffery was "taking candidate Rafferty around, introducing him to everyone."
Guess ex-Justice J. Michael Eakin was busy that day and couldn't make it to the convention.
The Philly FOP has endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro for attorney general.
- Staff writers William Bender and Chris Brennan contributed to this column.
On Twitter: @wbender99 and @ByChrisBrennan.
Phone: 215-854-5255 and 215-854-5973