Wednesday deluge I -- Housing, vendettas, and Jannie Blackwell
Apparently a believer in the notion that no publicity is bad publicity, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has been collecting quite a bit of it recently, mostly in the form of her obstructionism, whether it's the city budget, a Youth Center project that she previously supported (and that is holding up the Barnes relocation), or today's edition: the Housing Trust Fund. Blackwell actually helped establish this fund, which is intended to support the establishment of affordable housing in the city (as part of new development and renovation); see brief summary here. However, now she's holding it hostage, apparently as part of a bid to make sure that City Council has a direct hand in seeing how the money is spent. She is demanding that the fund be paid out equally among all Council districts, which makes little sense, given the uneven distribution of new projects as well as of low-income residents (and, in fact, 1/3 of current fund applications come from Blackwell's West Philly district). What am I missing here? The best anybody can come up with is that Blackwell is willing to hold this worthy program (and many potential benefitting programs in her own District) at gunpoint to get more concessions in Mayor Street's plans to restructure the city's housing agencies -- in fact, this piece claims that she wants Street to spend the Trust Fund's money not on its intended projects but to supplement funds used to pay housing agency employees who might otherwise lose their jobs in the shake-up. Does your head hurt yet? Not pretty.
So, that's the story. Here's the blow-back:
- Gwen Shaffer at the Philadelphia Weekly looks at this perplexing change of allegiance -- Blackwell is also now proposing repealing the entire Fund! The more you read, the harder it is not to conclude that it's about getting more power for Council away from the mayor, independent boards, and/or housing activists. At the expense of people with little or nothing. Shoddy.
- Ray Murphy, often a Blackwell defender, is pretty peeved by this turn of events, and offers his own speculations about what might be going on behind the scenes with Blackwell's longterm ambitions and possible alliances. He also looks at the larger question of housing needs versus the availability of middle-class jobs, and other economic factors that could come into play here and in similar situations in the future.
- Tom Ferrick, using one of those dream sequences that I hate above all else in the Philadelphia papers, points out that perhaps Blackwell is tired of being Street's doormat and is using her general obstructionism to assert her right to respect in city dealings. Probably true, but still weak.
- Marc Stier notes that hearings are being held today and tomorrow on measures related to the Housing Trust Fund, and urges people to attend and/or contact their Council representatives in support of the current program. He also gives some brief arguments about the specific proposals being discussed.