June 12: Diverting casino revenues to DCED | Knight Cities Challenge Winners | Subsidized cooling?

Several of Philadelphia representatives in Harrisburg are advocating inserting language into state gambling bill to divert about $2 million in casino revenues to the Department of Community and Economic Development to fund city-based development and revitalization projects instead of sending it directly to schools or the city’s general fund, the Post-Gazette reports. Proponents of the change argue that “it is smart public policy that will allow Philadelphia, like other cities that host casinos, to spread some of those funds to community groups for public interest projects,” while critics call it another form of ‘walking-around money’ – “the long-assailed and largely obsolete practice of doling out tax dollars, with little or no accountability, to nonprofits, community groups, and other entities that legislators favor.” 

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge winners, selecting 33 winners from more than 4,500 applicants. This year, five awardees hailed from Philadelphia—Little Giant Creative received $295,000 for its project “A Dream Deferred – PHL Redlining,” Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Corporation received $175,478 for “Vendor Village in the Park: Vending to Vibrancy” for Mifflin Square, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture received $180,000 for “Tabadul: [Re]Presenting and [Ex]Changing Our America,” Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse received $50,000 for “Up Up & Away: Building a Programming Space for Comics & Beyond,” and the City of Philadelphia received $318,150 for its project “PHL Participatory Design Lab.” 

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner David Sweet says the state should look at how to bring subsidized summer cooling to low-income residents, writes StateImpact PA’s Susan Phillips. While Pennsylvania targets winter heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), some states, including New Jersey and Delaware, also use LIHEAP funds to subsidize air conditioning bills. Currently Philadelphia opens cooling centers during severe heat waves. Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability Sarah Wu says the city has no current plans to request the state to target LIHEAP for cooling.

The Philadelphia Citizen’s Quinn O’Callaghan highlights “Furnishing a Future,” a five-week workforce development program that teaches “students (many of them recently released from prison) the basics and not-so-basics of woodworking to turn them into skilled carpenters” and connects graduates to job opportunities. The non-profit mentorship and reintegration program, which operates out of NextFab, was developed to integrate hard and soft skills training for re-entering citizens. Founder Steven Greenberg realized that arithmetic and mental math skills, which are vital to any reentry class, are also the building blocks for carpentry and that “carpentry fills a niche in the American labor force, where there is a serious skilled labor shortage.” While Furnishing a Future has currently partnered with 25 businesses and every graduate has found employment, the program’s success means it will need to outgrow its current rent-free space and seek more business partners.

New renderings alert: Last Friday, Governor Tom Wolfe, Mayor Jim Kenney, and Janet Haas of the William Penn Foundation formally announced their collective commitment to raise the remaining $10 million of the $225 million Penn’s Landing I-95 capping park project, Melissa Romero reports. In addition to unveiling newest batch of renderings by Hargreaves and Associates, Friday’s announcement also revealed a few new details, including the plan for 1,500 new housing units, 500 hotel rooms, and more than 100,000-square-feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment.

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