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What’s Missing from the Gay Teacher Firing Debate

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, Pa., has come under fire this week for its decision to fire Margie Winters, one of its long-time teachers — allegedly because she’s a lesbian and married to another lesbian.

“Many of us accept life choices that contradict current church teachings, but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings,” the school said in a letter to parents.

Firing a competent, well-like teacher just because she’s gay seems like pretty despicable stuff. So was the school right to do this? Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia-based attorney that specializes in LGBT law, weighs in:

Read More…

Hey Philly, Stop Your Silicon Valley Penis Envy

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Marvin Weinberger, who faces a funding shortfall at his Philly co-working space Venturef0rth, blasted the local tech community last week. He said he’s “continuing to lose a few thousand dollars a month” and has “quietly turned to some pillars of the community for assistance, but have been rebuffed (often rudely).”

There are two sides to every story but Weinberger’s struggle to find tenants at his startup space raises a more important issue about Philadelphia’s tech community. Is it for real? And, more importantly, do we care?

The first question is easy to answer. The Philly tech family is very much for real, with many organizations in the area doing great things. Philadelphia is home to cool, growing companies like Curalate, RJMetrics, Aclaris Therapeutics and Zonoff. There are great startup accelerators and venture-capital firms like DreamIt Ventures, First Round Capital and NewSpring Capital. There are excellent incubators and communities for startups like Indy Hall and Philly Startup Leaders. These people, and others, are all doing great things and have grown a substantial tech industry out of nothing in a relatively short amount of time.

Unfortunately, the second question is not as easy. Read More…

How Selling Ads Can Save Philly’s School System

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

School Superintendent William Hite needs more money, and we’re all in agreement with him.

City Council has rejected the district’s latest funding plan and remains resistant to Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to increase real estate taxes. Governor Tom Wolf is behind allocating more dollars from Harrisburg to Philadelphia’s schools. Unfortunately, no one is proposing any further cuts to healthcare or pension costs because the unions are too powerful and give too much money to our politicians. Our population has been taxed to the extreme, and more taxes are very, very unpopular. And people living in Western Pennsylvania are understandably not thrilled to watch their hard-earned tax dollars be sucked down the Philly school system vortex.

But all this can change. There is a solution. When a business owner wants to grow — and no more revenues can be generated from the existing customer base — he or she looks for new customers and new markets. And the good news for our schools: New opportunities exist. They have names like Apple, Pepsi, Nike and Comcast. Let them advertise in our schools. Read More…

Who’s the Best Mayoral Candidate For Small Business?

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

The U.S. Census reports that there are more than 100,000 small businesses within the city limits of Philadelphia. And that number’s probably understated because there are likely many SOHO (small office home office) and part-time independent contractors not considered. Plus there’s been economic growth since the data was accumulated.

But no matter. The fact is, hopefully, there will be a lot of small business owners voting in tomorrow’s primary. And if you’re a small business owner and a registered Democrat (I’m not, so I can be agnostic here) and your main concern is who will be the best Democratic candidate for your business, then there’s really only one choice. It’s Doug Oliver. And for these three reasons. Read More…

The Empty-Nester’s Guide To Center City

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Congratulations! You made it. Your kids are grown. You’ve managed to save a few bucks. You still have a mostly-intact prostate. And now, you want to live the empty-nester lifestyle. You want to sell your house, dump all that old junk, store a few heirlooms, burn the furniture and start afresh in Center City. That’s what my wife and I did a couple of months ago. So to help you I’ve put together a few things that I’ve learned about living in town that you will also need to know.

There are a lot of homeless. They are everywhere and they are mentally ill. And it’s sad. There are also more than a few people who walk around having conversations with themselves. These are the Democratic mayoral candidates. And that’s sad too. Have a policy about the homeless. If you are feeling guilty then the best advice I received was that instead of giving money directly to them, give instead to an organization that can help them. For the homeless I recommend Project Home. For the city’s Mayoral candidates I recommend the Republican National Committee. Read More…

3 Reasons A Municipal Bank Is A Bad Idea

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Mayoral candidate Anthony Williams has been floating an idea for a municipal bank. The proposed bank, which would be owned and run by the city would focus on helping small businesses in the city who are unable to get loans from mainstream banks.

I not only run a small business but I also write every day on small business topics for the Washington Post and every week for Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines. My company has more than 600 small business clients and I speak to and interview thousands of small business owners around the country every year. If you’re familiar with the other things I write for Philly Mag you may agree that I don’t know much about a lot of things. But please allow that I’m more than a little familiar with the issues facing the country’s 30 million small businesses, let alone the tens of thousands in this city. So with that in mind I feel obligated to help Anthony Williams because he seems like a nice guy.

Mr. Williams…the municipal bank thing? Not a great idea. And here’s why.

• Getting capital is just not a significant issue for small businesses in today’s current economic climate. Sure, there are some that struggle with this and that will always be the case. But the great majority are not.

• The city can devote its resources in other, better ways to help the small business community. Providing a safe, clean environment to attract more residents and visitors will attract more start-ups, shops and companies so making our police force the very best in the country would be the a good start. Instead of a municipal bank, carving out a one-stop-shop in City Hall exclusively devoted to helping small businesses navigate the bureaucratic and intimidating maze of permits and regulations would be a huge help. Avoiding excessive regulations like the recent sick pay law would enable business people more flexibility to make their profits and employ more people. Figuring out a way to fund the city’s schools (and NOT the ways previously offered by the candidates that Mayor Nutter and city finance chief recently shot down as “bogus”) would attract more middle class families and companies to the city instead of driving them to the better schools in the suburbs. And if all of this could be done without raising taxes? Or even decreasing taxes for businesses? Be still, my heart!

• Finally – the city just can’t afford this, financially or politically. As Philly Mag’s own Patrick Kerkstra correctly puts it: “If the plan ever gets fleshed out enough to develop into a firm proposal, it would likely face a lot of hurdles—both legal and political. Municipal banks clash with the constitutions of a lot of states, though it’s not clear that would be the case in Pennsylvania. Then there’s the more basic political challenge of selling the public on the notion that City Hall ought to run a bank.”

A municipal bank is just not on the list of things that the next mayor of Philadelphia should be doing to help small businesses in the city. Let’s put that idea on the “nice try/good intentions” shelf and move on to something more substantive.

Milton Street for Mayor? Hey, Why Not?

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

As the city’s race for Mayor heats up in advance of the Democratic primary, the choice facing voters remains unclear, if not disappointing. Jim Kenney seems like a good candidate but mostly unwilling to address the city and school system’s pension and healthcare woes with needed cost cuts. I love Lynne Abraham’s intelligence, energy and passion for the city, but then again so did Benjamin Franklin when he first voted for her in 1788. Anthony Williams has a long track record in the State Senate but has faced criticism over entanglements with the Philadelphia School Partnership. They’re all flawed, really.

Which brings me to Milton Street. Hey, why not I ask?

In a piece for the Inquirer earlier this week Tom Ferrick Jr. warned us not to forget the past of Milton Street. Forget it? We should embrace it! Read More…