Domb: City must step up collections on out-of-town tax delinquents

Before we ask Philadelphia residents to pay more in taxes and fees, let’s collect from delinquent property owners who are shirking their bills from out of town, argued Councilman Allan Domb at a council meeting on Tuesday, WHYY News’ Tom MacDonald reports.

“There’s still about $215 million of nonowner-occupied delinquency,” Domb said. “These are people that are not using [ the property] as their home.”

The councilman’s collection tool of choice is the tax lien and more specifically, securitized tax liens that could be bundled into bonds and sold to investors. The bill garnered immediate opposition from councilmembers who don’t want to see vulnerable homeowners losing their property to Wall Street bond buyers, Jake Blumgart reported in November when it was introduced.  Councilmember Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill on behalf of City Council President Darrell Clarke to preemptively exclude their districts, along with Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sanchez’s, from Domb’s proposal. The legislation hasn’t advanced since the fall. 

Afternoon map: Deco magic in Philadelphia

Where can you find an Art Deco masterpiece in Mt Airy? How about Upper Darby? Curbed Philly maps out 14 Art Deco structures throughout the city, including  the WCAU radio station at 1622 Chestnut Street, the first building in the country designed specifically for a radio station; the highly recognizable 14-story  Beury Building on North Broad; and stunning interiors of the Icon at 1616 Walnut Street.

How other cities responded to declining bus ridership

Bus ridership experienced a 5 percent decline from 2016 to 2017, according to the recently released Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, released February 2018. The numbers mark the lowest level of bus ridership in the past 30 years, according to TransitCenter’s Zak Accuardi, contributing to CityLab. The bad news comes with a silver lining though, Accuardi argues.  If, that is, transit agencies confront the trend and take it as an invitation for innovation. “The bus is not at an inherent disadvantage relative to trains,” Accuardi writes, “transit agencies and city governments simply need to make buses useful, which is to say fast, frequent, and reliable.” Accuardi points to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency as a municipal entity that integrated transit operations and planning with streets management and saw positive results. Other examples are found in Nashville and Houston, where officials recently redesigned the city’s bus system.

Here in Philly, SEPTA considering ending transfer fees as part of its own bus system overhaul, Jim Saksa reported on Monday. For now, the network reevaluation will consider the transfer policy as well as its extensive hub-and-spoke route map, Rich Burnfield, SEPTA’s deputy general manager told Saksa. “Off the table are other service improvement ideas like all-door-boarding (for quicker passenger pick-ups) building new bus-only lanes, and cracking down on bus-slowing traffic violations like double-parking,” he said.

Total transit ridership growth, across bus, rail, and other modes, in urbanized areas of over 20 million passenger trips, 2016-2017. Credit: TransitCenter/Madison McVeigh/National Transit Database
Total transit ridership growth, across bus, rail, and other modes, in urbanized areas of over 20 million passenger trips, 2016-2017. Credit: TransitCenter/Madison McVeigh/National Transit Database (TransitCenter/Madison McVeigh/National Transit Database)

Q + A with Bartram’s Garden’s Maitreyi Roy

The biggest threat to Bartram’s Garden “is not listening to the desires of its surrounding community,” according to Bartram’s executive director Maitreyi Roy, in an interview with Philly Mag’s Fabiola Cineas. Roy, who was trained as an architect, chose to work at the Southwest Philly park in order to use her skills in “the spaces in between buildings, in the public realm,” she said. A big focus of her work has been on “changing perceptions about who’s allowed in” to spaces like Bartrams. Cineas highlights Sankofa Community Farm, as one Bartram’s initiative that has helped bring people from the surrounding neighborhood into the garden while continuing Bartram’s agricultural legacy and improving fresh food access. Roy also talks about how the garden works with schools, churches, and other community institutions to connect with neighbors, and shares some fun gems to look out for, like a “secret beach along the riverfront that’s only visible when it’s low tide.”

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