Unknown pollster stirs Philly's mayoral-election pot

Jannie L. Blackwell
Jannie L. Blackwell
Posted: July 19, 2010

Someone's stirring the election pot 10 months before the mayoral primary.

A reliable Democratic voter - the type who votes in each and every election and is targeted by polling firms - said he received a call last week from a pollster interested in potential challengers to Mayor Nutter.

On the list: former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who lost his recent bid for lieutenant governor; State Sen. Anthony Williams, who lost his race for governor but is running for state auditor general; City Councilman Bill Green; millionaire Tom Knox, who ran for mayor in 2007; and businessman Sam Katz, who ran for mayor in 1991, 1999, and 2003.

The pollster also asked what were Philadelphia's most pressing issues, how Nutter was dealing with them, and whether the voter likely would support Nutter based on his achievements in public safety, government reform, and budget matters.

Then came a slimmed version of the first question: If the mayoral election were held today and the candidates were Nutter and Katz, who would you vote for?

No political camp has so far claimed ownership of the poll. - Marcia Gelbart

City takes interest in PGW account

Who would have thought the day would come?

Philadelphia Gas Works at the moment appears to be on stronger financial ground than the City of Philadelphia.

So stable does the utility seem that the Nutter administration has dipped into a decade-old bank account to scoop out $1.7 million in interest earnings that had been sitting untouched for two years.

City Finance Director Rob Dubow said the administration didn't want to lay a finger on the money until now out of fear that PGW would again slip into fiscal ruin - despite the city's own dire money problems that have caused it to close swimming pools and reduce library hours.

That fear seems to have dissipated.

"Looking at their cash flow for fiscal '11, it was clear for that year they were doing much better than we were," Dubow said. So out came the $1.7 million. And the city bank account - opened in 2000 when the Street administration extended PGW a $45 million loan because it was running out of money - is being closed for good.

While the city-owned utility might still face some financial storms, Dubow said, "they've gone from 10 years ago where they looked like they were underwater, to where they were bailing water, to now, where they are above water." - Marcia Gelbart

Blackwell celebrates with homeless crowd

For her 65th birthday, for the 13th straight year, City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell played host to her own birthday party and health fair for the homeless outside City Hall on Friday.

It was predictably festive, and classic Blackwell. An estimated 3,000 people ate hamburgers and hot dogs, a boisterous DJ blasted dance music, partyers rode around City Hall on seven-seated "conference bikes," and volunteers offered help with prescriptions. Blackwell stood in the middle of it all, taking sweaty hugs and kisses in 95-degree heat.

Blackwell's stated purpose: to put public officials in touch with the homeless they serve. Mayor Nutter was one of many officials who attended.

In previous years, Blackwell had corporate sponsors, such as Fresh Grocer, pay for the gig, and she usually kicks in campaign funds.

This year the Philadelphia Housing Authority sponsored the event for Blackwell, who is on PHA's five-member board of commissioners. It cost just under $7,000, PHA spokesman Kirk Dorn said.

PHA also sent more than 200 employees to volunteer at the event as a public-service gesture. "PHA Employees Celebrate Commissioner's Birthday Through Public Service to the Less Fortunate!" read the invitation/news release.

Dorn said the decision to fund this event came from the administration and was not voted on by the board. So Blackwell was not responsible for voting to celebrate herself.

"This is a woman who celebrates her birthday by feeding the homeless - this is not PHA funding Jannie Blackwell's birthday," Dorn said. "PHA management has no qualms about funding this gesture."

Blackwell's birthday is July 15. The notoriously workaholic councilwoman marked it in 2008 by taking a tour of New York City's homeless system. This year, she said, she kicked back and worked until 10 p.m. Thursday. - Jeff Shields

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