August 15: School funding update | Amtrak negotiations | Former L&I commissioner seeks apology | By-right development draws criticism | Commerce Dept. forgivable loan program

Good morning Eyes on the Street. Enjoying the cool, sunny weather? It’s here through the weekend.

The School Reform Commission will hold a special meeting today to consider Superintendent William Hite Jr.’s proposal that he says will give him more flexibility to run schools whenever they open. Last week Hite warned that unless the district received assurance by Friday that the city could borrow $45 million from the state toward the district, schools would not opened as planned on Sept. 9. On Tuesday, Governor Corbett rejected the request until the teachers’ union signs a contract that includes “fiscal savings and academic reforms.” 

Yesterday more than 100 protestors stood in front of the School District’s headquarters in protest of the ongoing financial woes. Some schools have resorted to asking families to make private contributions, an ask some say is becoming an unfortunate trend. 

Pennsylvania must increase its subsidy for Amtrak’s Keystone Express trains between Philadelphia and Harrisburg and the once-daily Pennsylvanian train between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh by Oct. 1 or Amtrak could end the operations. Amtrak is in negotiations with Pennsylvania and 15 other states regarding the requirement, which is part of a 2008 federal law. 

Bennett Levin, the former Licenses and Inspections commissioner is asking Mayor Nutter for an apology. After Levin testified before City Council saying that the June building collapse was just the latest in a series of fatal accidents at least partly attributed to L&I, the Mayor’s Office released a statement saying Levin was out of touch. Now Levin is asking for a public apology.

Carl Dranoff’s One Riverside apartment tower at 25th and Locust could be built without any zoning variances and yet a string of neighbors oppose the project, PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reported. Since the 21-story, 167,000-square-foot apartment tower will comply with the city’s zoning code, it does not require a Zoning Board of Adjustments hearing, which in most development cases offers neighbors an opportunity to negotiate with the developer. In this case, neighbors will try to oppose the project through the Civic Design Review process. 

The Philadelphia Commerce Department announced a new forgivable loan program intended to help retail, food and creative businesses. Created in partnership with the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, the program will help organizations establish new locations or expand existing locations with loans ranging from $15,000 to $50,000. If the recipient meets the program requirements for five years, the loan is forgiven. 

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