Clout: Bodine Street is Democratic party central

Posted: November 11, 2011

BODINE STREET, an alley that runs north from Spring Garden Street in Northern Liberties, may not be much to look at.

But it has powerful neighbors.

The west side of the block is taken up by Finnigan's Wake, a mammoth bar and catering hall run by Democratic committeeman Mike Driscoll.

To the east, construction is under way for the new Democratic City Committee headquarters.

City Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced legislation last month to erase that block of Bodine Street from the city's map.

Driscoll hopes to turn the street into a courtyard topped by two decks for the second and third floors of his bar. It would also provide some parking for the bar and party headquarters.

Talk about a solid business plan - a bar already popular with politicians across a courtyard from the Democratic headquarters!

We suggested a revolving door.

Driscoll told us some have wondered whether his bar will have a tunnel to the new headquarters.

The legislation, approved by Council's Streets and Services Committee despite opposition from the City Planning Commission, is ready for a final vote.

But DiCicco says he is holding off on that because the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA) opposes the idea.

That, DiCicco added, grows from dismay among neighbors about the behavior of some of the rowdier Finnigan's Wake customers.

Driscoll told us he wants the street to provide a better entrance for his catering hall. He says the proposed decks will not be used for loud, rowdy parties.

DiCicco is holding the legislation until he can set up a meeting with Driscoll and the neighbors. He hopes to trade concessions from the bar on how current customers behave for community approval of the plans.

That sounds like a tough sell. NLNA President Matt Ruben says his group was caught off guard by the swiftly moving legislation and wants it withdrawn.

The new Democratic headquarters is expected to be completed by February. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the local party chairman, sold the party's longtime headquarters on Walnut Street in Center City last year for $2 million.

Brady was an original investor in Finnigan's Wake but says he left the deal after being elected to the U.S. House in 1998.

An ethical windfall

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics, which to us looks a little overworked and underfunded, caught a break recently when the Fund for Philadelphia, a city-run nonprofit, discovered some cash in the bank for the agency.

Former Mayor John Street sent $332,000 from the city's general fund to the Fund for Philadelphia during his second term.

That money, which was supposed to go to the Board of Ethics, instead went into one of the nonprofit's many bank accounts and just sat there.

Ed Fischer, who took over the Fund for Philadelphia last year, audited the accounts and found money meant for all sorts of city projects. The ethics money was the most significant amount that was found, Fischer said.

The Board of Ethics is now preparing a request to have the money transferred to its accounts.

Soda wars continue

Tuesday's general election is over, but political battles rage on.

Council has twice thwarted Mayor Nutter's push to tax soda and other sugary drinks.

But the "Philly Jobs/Not Taxes Coalition," a/k/a the American Beverage Association, is convinced that Nutter will try again.

Residents in Mayfair and South Philly found literature from the coalition hanging from their rowhouse door handles recently.

The message: "The Mayor wants you to pay more for many of your favorite beverages. Any proposed new beverage taxes will increase your grocery bills. Hard working Philadelphia families can't afford to pay anymore taxes. Tell the City Council to say NO to higher beverage taxes."

Not to be outdone, the city has been advertising on the Broad Street Line about the dangers of overindulging on sugary drinks.

That message: "Sodas - Two per day for a year is equal to drinking 63 pounds of sugar."

Coalition spokesman Larry Ceisler says the door-hanger is part of a continuing defense.

"It's really a public-policy battle that had never stopped," he said. "I don't think the mayor has ever stopped. I don't think the coalition can stop, either."

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said there are no plans to revive the soda-tax proposal right now.

Quotable:

"No. We're going to hide it!"

- City Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, responding sarcastically - we think - to a reporter who asked if the commission would share results from voting-machine cartridges that had not been turned in one day after Tuesday's general election.

- Staff writer Jan Ransom and

"It's Our Money" writer Doron Taussig contributed to this report.


Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or e-mail

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com and follow on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN.

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