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Got ideas for a better Ben Franklin Parkway?

IT'S THE CITY'S carotid artery, a vital network through which much of the city moves, but the Ben Franklin Parkway is, more often than not, so clogged with cars that people are forced to the sidelines. It's a grand sweep of boulevard that was designed to elevate our idea of The City, and while there is plenty to inspire awe, there has been little to inspire actual human activity or contemplation for those who risk their lives crossing its streets. Like so many things in this city, the Parkway has been the focus of decades of conversation about how to improve it. Reaching consensus over what the Parkway should be has been tough, as the recent battles over public feedings of the homeless illustrate. In recent years, small but significant changes have finally begun appearing: a cafe, a newly refurbished Sister Cities Park, plantings … oh, and a new little museum called the Barnes.

IT'S THE CITY'S carotid artery, a vital network through which much of the city moves, but the Ben Franklin Parkway is, more often than not, so clogged with cars that people are forced to the sidelines. It's a grand sweep of boulevard that was designed to elevate our idea of The City, and while there is plenty to inspire awe, there has been little to inspire actual human activity or contemplation for those who risk their lives crossing its streets. Like so many things in this city, the Parkway has been the focus of decades of conversation about how to improve it.

Reaching consensus over what the Parkway should be has been tough, as the recent battles over public feedings of the homeless illustrate. In recent years, small but significant changes have finally begun appearing: a cafe, a newly refurbished Sister Cities Park, plantings … oh, and a new little museum called the Barnes.

The Center City District has been instrumental in some of these changes; now, the city's Parks and Recreation Department is looking for projects and ideas that can link the Parkway better to the adjacent neighborhoods. To that end, the department is holding a series of public forums wtih PennPraxis to hear what residents would like to see there. The last two forums are next week: Monday, at Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, 22nd and Mount Vernon streets; and Tuesday, at Next American City Storefront for Urban Innovation, 2816 W. Girard Ave. Registration starts at 6, forum runs from 6:30 to 8:30. You can also send ideas to praxis@design.upenn.edu.

CORRECT LIMITS

ON TUESDAY, a Common Pleas judge affirmed that when the law firm Cozen O'Connor spent many billable hours in 2007 helping U.S. Rep. Bob Brady stay on the mayoral ballot, it was helping him try to "influence the outcome" of an election. (And here we thought Brady was trying to stay on the ballot without influencing the outcome of the election.)

The decision means the legal help qualifies as a campaign contribution, so Cozen can't forgive the $448,468 debt Brady owes for help fending off Tom Knox's attempt to get him kicked off the ballot — because that would make it one big, limit-exceeding contribution to the campaign. And the Ethics Board, which argued against Cozen in this case, has previously ruled that Brady can't fundraise outside the city's contribution limits to pay Cozen back.

Campaign-finance laws exist to curb the buying and selling of influence. Think how much influence could be bought if a law firm were allowed to give a candidate — in this case, a powerful one who happens to be a congressman and chair of the city's Democratic Party — almost 450 grand worth of campaign help outside the limits everyone else has to abide by.

Cozen argues this rule will make it harder for candidates to get legal help fending off ballot challenges, some of which are frivolous. But that's why City Council amended the city's campaign laws in 2010 to enable candidates to raise litigation funds separately from regular campaign money — to make paying for litigation easier. Those litigation funds are also subject to campaign-contribution limits.

Cozen plans to keep fighting this issue in court. We hope the court continues to affirm the city's campaign laws and the limits they establish.

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