July 9: Cigarette Tax Ping-Pong | Late Night SEPTA Numbers Up | Power Lines Down | Basement-Dwelling Millennials

Good morning! Here’s what we’re reading this Wednesday. What stories are on your radar this morning?

The local cigarette tax to fund Philly schools is in trouble as the state Senate passed a 5-year sunset provision amidst heavy lobbying from the tobacco industry. The bill now goes back to the House, which has left town for the summer, so Philly won’t get to start collecting the money until at least September. Notably, Senator Anthony Williams – a Mayoral candidate – was the lone Democrat to vote for the cigarette tax slow-down provision. Should make for interesting campaign fodder in 2015.

Good news: Pennsylvania counties could stand to reap millions because of a U.S. District judge’s ruling against the banking industry’s mortgage registry MERS, which skirted county recorder of deeds fees. 

The #SEPTA247 campaign looks like a big win: late night subway ridership is up nearly 50% over the Night Owl bus service. SEPTA’s chief financial officer thinks it’s because of cultural shifts since they last ran the service: “I think it confirms what [general manager] Joe Casey said about how the city has changed since we last ran subways all night,” said SEPTA chief financial officer Richard Burnfield on Tuesday. “We’re seeing a lot of activity in Old City, Walnut-Locust, Lombard-South.”

When Philly streets get dug up to replace water mains, why isn’t the city also burying the ugly power lines? This Old City’s Geoff Kees Thompson points out that neither the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities nor City Council have adopted power line burial as even a long-term policy goal. Power outages from big storms (77,000 are without power this morning) are more of a suburban problem, but it would still be worth studying the potential maintenance savings for the city. 

Recovering economist and Philly-based publisher of the nationally-popular Eschaton blog Duncan Black says Philly politicians are still too enamored with “The Visitor Model” of economic development that wants to “attract visitors at any cost.” Instead of giving out more hotel tax breaks, he advises them to “make it a nice(r) place to live – give your actual residents more nice things – and you have local demand/expenditures. You don’t have to bribe people to visit.”

Basement-dwelling Millennials: real or not? Derek Thompson at the Atlantic argues that the trend of young adults living with their parents is being overstated by the media, as the Census is counting a lot of people living in dorms as living with their parents. But Trulia’s chief economist Jed Kolko says that we actually are seeing an unusually elevated number of young adults living at home. The debate is significant because if there are a lot of Millennials living at their parents’ houses due to the bad job market, then we’ll see a big jump in demand for apartments when the job market improves and those folks move out.

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