Johnson said he wanted Korman, which enjoys favorable financial terms for the project under a decades-old deal with the city, to ease neighbors' concerns before he signs off at Council hearings on the proposal this week. "I can't say we've been inundated" by protests, he added. "I'm paying attention to the individuals who live in Southwest Philadelphia. I'm trying to separate facts from fiction and emotions."
Closer to Center City, the Planning Commission, in its monthly meeting Tuesday at 1 p.m. upstairs at 1818 Arch St., will review proposals for nearly 600 more units along the Delaware.
Those include developer Louis Cicalese's 180-unit 230-250 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd.; 200 units at Pier 40 North, 933 N. Penn St., to be presented on an "information only" (no vote) basis by architect Ian Cope, of Cope & Linder, and 202 units at Piers 34-35 South, 735 S. Columbus, also by Cope.
Slow to act?
It's been five months since the Harrisburg Authority posted a scathing "forensic audit" laying out possible violations of the Pennsylvania Local Government Unit Debt Act and other state laws governing municipal borrowing by bond professionals and public officials in the incinerator-refinancing deals, interest-rate swaps, and related transactions that have left Harrisburg broke and facing either public-asset sales — as state officials have recommended — or a bankruptcy that might leave angry bondholders struggling to collect from the people and agencies who approved the deals — as the current city council would prefer.
The city's former receiver, veteran bond lawyer David Unkovic, had hoped Gov. Corbett, a career lawman; Harrisburg-based U.S. Attorney Peter Smith; state Attorney General Linda Kelly; Philadelphia-based Securities and Exchange Commission municipal-bond team head Mark Zehner, and other public watchdogs would act on that report.
No sign of that. So on Sunday, Unkovic, who resigned in March after going public with his concerns, broadened his call to action in the editorial pages of the Patriot-News. "Hundreds" of U.S. municipalities "are suffering the financial ravages caused by the unchecked greed of major financial institutions and their local enablers," wrote Unkovic.
"In order for a democratic republic to work, a fundamental respect for the law is essential. … Disdain for the law is so embedded in Harrisburg's political culture that it constitutes a very insidious form of corruption. … The corruption that ended up financially strangling Harrisburg needs to be rooted out of our democracy. There must be a renewed respect for the law in Harrisburg and across Pennsylvania."
Since he resigned, a Corbett administration spokesman has publicly raised questions about Unkovic's fitness for the job. The prosecutors and the SEC have declined comment on investigations (or the lack of same).
But three Pennsylvanians who have each gone to one or more of the agencies to urge action on the audit results have told me our watchdogs have privately expressed reluctance to pursue elected officials and the pros they hired, because it's tough to show those officials profited personally from wrong acts.
That's not good enough for Unkovic; unless what happened in Harrisburg is corrected, he believes there is every incentive that overborrowing and private profit at public expense will continue across the commonwealth, maybe until your town is broke, too.
Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.