December 29, 2005-January 4, 2006
The next chapter of the past years biggest stories.
It was the year a hurricane named Katrina wiped a major United States city from the map, a war in Iraq claimed its 2,000th American soldier and a leak left the vice president's right-hand man indicted. It was also the year that the City Hall bug finally landed corrupt officials behind bars and the Eagles went from runners-up to also-rans, thanks to a star who devolved from hobbled hero to reviled goat. But digging beneath the mainstream headlines of 2005, City Paper's writers and editors returned to the stories they brought you throughout the year to answer one simple question: What happened next?
"Jesus Geek Superstar," Feb. 3
The Story: On Oct. 10, 2004, 25-year-old evangelical activist Michael Marcavage and 10 of his followers were arrested at Philadelphia's "Outfest," a gay pride event; Marcavage was charged with criminal conspiracy, incitement to riot, and violating state hate-crimes laws. A videotape of the arrests, circulated on the Internet, showed that the protesters had not been violent, and the group became a cause célébre among conservative and Christian commentators. Marcavage, as the leader of the martyred group, made appearances on The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes. He looked to be a star on the rise.
What Happened Next: The charges were thrown out, but Marcavage remains mired in legal battles. He is presently suing the City of Philadelphia in federal court for the Outfest arrests, and alleges that the Borough of Lansdowne, where he resides, also violated his rights by cutting him off during a council meeting. As for Marcavage's stardom, he remains a public figurehis antics are adored by the mediabut a decidedly fringe one. He last made big news by saying that Hurricane Katrina was an "act of God" that "destroyed a wicked city. --Doron Taussig
"Divine Intervention," April 7
The Story: The Divine Lorraine, at Broad and Ridge, has had many lives. Constructed in 1894 during the waning days of Philly's Gilded Age, it first served as a luxurious apartment house and stomping ground for nouveau-riche industrialists and their pearl-clad matrons. In 1948, it became home to the Universal Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine, the controversial religious leader who claimed to be Christ incarnate. Under his watch, it became Philadelphia's first major integrated hotel. In 2000, the Peace Mission Movement opted not to renovate the aging Lorraine and sold it to developers. As a series of new owners negotiated the purchase of two surrounding vacant lots, the elements took their toll and the Divine crumbled from within. Late last year, a deal was struck to transform the hotel into a swanky apartment house and retail space, which they hoped would someday be the jewel of a fully resuscitated North Broad Street. Construction, they said, could begin as early as spring 2005.
What Happened Next: No scaffolding has been erected. No new ground has been broken. The Lorraine has changed hands again, though. For the third time in five years, it has been sold to big developers with big plans. In September, a group of investorslocal developer Michael Treacy Jr., among themshelled out a reported $10 million and announced plans to rehab the Divine into luxury condominiums. Moreover, five 15-story condo towers are to be built on the three-acre plot surrounding the hotel. Community leaders seem to be behind the latest plans but the question remains: Will the Divine actually see new life or will developers yet again let real estate prices rise, and then flip over the Divine to other big developers with other big plans? --Mike Newall
"Hop Heaven," April 14
The Story: Everyone's read the "I got to spend a day in the brewery" fantasy camp story. We wanted to take it a step further. Not just to spend a day brewing beer, but to ride shotgun on the birth of a new beer, or as in this case, exhuming a long-dead style. Downingtown's Victory Brewing was more than happy to oblige, letting us sit in on every step of their pre-Prohibition lager project wherein they brought back to life a style of lager that had been lost to the 18th Amendment. We observed recipe research to hopping; and brewing to kegging to consumption as Throwback Lager was rolled out to coincide with the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America in Philadelphia.
What Happened Next: The brewery sold out of its 50-barrel Throwback run in less than four weeks. "That's quick," says Victory's Bill Covaleski. "We look at that as a pretty big success, [and] it didn't even leave Pennsylvania." Not bad for a brew that started as part history project. During the brewing process, Covaleski talked about the possibility of trying to find someone who was alive and drinking in America during the 1920sa Grandpa Simpson typewho might be able to taste test Victory's brew against his memory. "One of the disappointments was that I tried to get in touch with my father's high school to see if we could get some old-timers," says Covaleski, "but I didn't get any response from them." The beer received mixed reviews at beeradvocate.com: Some drinkers felt it was a tasty, drinkable session beer ideal for summer consumption; others
thought it was too similar to Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Still, the brewery received enough interest from customers that they've put Throwback on the schedule for an April brew and May 2006 keg-only release. --Brian Howard
"Industrial Evolution," April 28
The Story: Over the last several years, a slew of painters, filmmakers, fashion designers, ceramic artists and other creative types have inhabited an unlikely location: a turn-of-the-century former carpet and textile factory in Port Richmond. The building's owner and manager, Tom Oliver, rents out studios and workspaces in varying shapes and sizes to individuals and businessesfrom The Ceramic Shop, which offers classes, studio space and materials, to upscale fashion designers Paul Heyne and Karen Bogut, to artists like painter Rebecca Rutstein. These artists hone their crafts in some of the same spaces employees of the Oliver family's knitting factory made stockings during the Second World Warand love it. As word spread about the affordable, flexible and artist-friendly Oliver Knitting Factory, tenants were becoming more eccentric by the day: a boxing ring and training center had just set up shop in April.
What Happened Next: We caught up with Oliver while he was switching the 222,000-square-foot building from natural gas to oil, a massive annual duty. He's seen "a flurry of activity" with several new tenants, including a metalworker who makes decorative wrought-iron gates ("He's the epitome of this whole thing, he's industrial and artistic," says Oliver) and a jeweler who saw the CP article and "kept talking to me until I made a space for him," laughs Oliver. Kat Reilly's Halcyon Gallery continues to hold art exhibitions, DJ nights and benefits for neighborhood organizations. No more boxing gym, though. Oliver says the city wasn't happy with the shows they were putting on. --Lori Hill
"Crime Choppers," May 5
The Story: Four months into an astonishingly murderous year for Philadelphia, we wrote about the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP), a program designed to make the city's most dangerous neighborhoods safer. It targeted young men and women most likely to kill or be killed, and showered them with supervision and mentorship. After six years operating mostly beneath public notice, YVRP was showing remarkable success, cutting the murder rate by as much as 50 percent in some areas. Yet the expensive program's funding was in danger of drying up.
What Happened Next: On May 18, a commission appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell to figure out how to curb handgun deaths released a report that recommended bringing YVRP into an additional police district. The vote of confidence in Harrisburg proved to be a tipping point. In June, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a field hearing at the National Constitution Center to determine which youth violence programs merited support. City officials, including Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, repeatedly focused attention on the YVRP, which Sen. Arlen Specter suggested might be worth expanding. On Nov. 1, Mayor Street announced that the program had received a $3.7 million state grant to expand its scope. YVRP will now join the battle against youth violence in West Philadelphia's 19th police district. --Trey Popp
"Breaking the Levy," May 12
The Story: Brett Mandel really doesn't like the business-privilege tax. He founded an organization, Philadelphia Forward, to rally for its repeal, but he uses abnormally lighthearted tactics to work toward his goal. On tax day, Mandel traveled around the city in a van with a projector screen, showing a video he'd made featuring small business owners talking about the BPT, underscored by mournful music.
What Happened Next: Mandel has continued to employ unorthodox methods, most memorably sending out an e-mail about a veterinarian who planned to leave town on account of the BPT. The subject was, "Can Tax Reform Save This Puppy?" Philadelphia Forward has gotten noticed, too, receiving much acclaim for making the subject of tax reform almost bearable to think about. As for the BPT, City Council passed legislation calling for its gradual reduction last week, but the mayor has vetoed similar bills in the past, and proponents failed to achieve a veto-proof majority. It looks like Mandel will have to keep coming up with tax jokes for at least a few more months. --DT
"Restraining Disorder," May 19
The Story: On Jan. 27, an 18-year-old Philadelphian named Walter Brown died in a juvenile-detention facility called Northwestern Academy after being "assisted"pinned to the floor by adult staff membersfor an extended period of time. Philadelphia's Juvenile Court immediately pulled nine other Philadelphia youths out of Northwestern; in the prior two years, it had had children removed from three other facilities because of allegations of abuse or decrepit conditions.
What Happened Next: The autopsy ruled that Brown's death was, in fact, caused by the assist, but the Northumberland County district attorney did not charge anyone in the matter, citing the fact that there were no state-enforced guidelines regarding the length of time someone could be restrained. An enormous expose in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed myriad problems in the way the Department of Public Welfare monitors the facilities that hold delinquent children. DPW head Estelle Richman convened a panel to look into the guidelines for conducting and reporting restraints, but, says Sandra Simpkins of the public defender's office, "We don't know of anything that has come of it so far." --DT
"Food Fight," June 16
The Story: Two groups representing farmers marketsfor-profit Farm to City and nonprofit The Food Trusttangled over regulations that would require the groups to pay annual licensing fees and follow regulations on location, trash removal, stand design and maintenance. The nonprofit wanted a break on fees while the for-profit pushed for a level playing field.
What Happened Next: City Council passed legislation requiring both groups to pay identical fees for their identical product. (To obtain licenses, the groups must first pay a $50 application fee and annual fees of $300 for one to three locations; $500 for four to six locations, etc.) Bob Pierson, program director at Farm to City, says he hasn't heard whether L&I has the licensing program up and running. A department spokeswoman said they will have no information to release about the licenses until at least mid-January, but the legislation will apply to markets which start in mid-May. John Weidman, a senior associate at The Food Trust, says time will tell whether the fees discourage new markets from opening. "We would have rather have had the city go the other way with something aimed at stimulating farmers-market development," he says. "We think city residents want more of these things and the ordinance doesn't do anything to address that." --Jenna Portnoy
"Why Can't We Keep Them?" June 16
The Story: When people talk about "brain drain," they tend to complain that graduates entering the technology and business sectors don't stay in Philly. But what about young idealiststeachers, social workers, nonprofit folkswouldn't it behoove Philly to keep them, too? A new nonprofit called Philly Fellows, started by Haverford grads Matthew Joyce and Tim Ifill, aims to retain recent grads who went to college in the area by offering them housing, internships and networking opportunities. The program was scheduled to kick off in the fall of 2006.
What Happened Next: Philly Fellows is on track. Joyce and Ifill have identified 18 nonprofit partners with which the fellows will intern. The program has also received a $35,000 grant from the state AmeriCorps office, and over the last two months, the founders have held information sessions at all of the schools they plan to partner with. The new projected starting date is July 31. --DT
"Holy War," June 23
The Story: The Rev. Dr. Ken Staley led more than 100 church members into City Council chambers in silent protest of Councilman Michael Nutter's refusal to scrap his vision of a tax-paying, job-creating business at 49th and Parkside instead of a tax-exempt megachurch. Since 1993, Christian Stronghold Baptist Church leaders have tried to build on 15 acres in the West Parkside Industrial Park, but that can't happen without the Fourth District councilman's backing.
What Happened Next: Mayor Street and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity endorsed the church, now on Lancaster Avenue near 47th Street, and Staley is seeking a nod from the Hispanic Clergy. A quarter of the church's 4,000 members participated in a worship service at the site in August. "We raised our hands to the Lord and prayed that he would remove any and all barriers," Staley says. Staley is also planning a January community forum to dispel misconceptions about the church, especially the idea that it would block a business promising to employ a large percentage of locals from inhabiting the site. If such a deal exists, Staley says it hasn't been made public. Meanwhile, plans are moving ahead for a shopping center at 52nd and Jefferson; there's still talk of a mushroom factory building in the industrial park.
Although Nutter has showed no indication he's going to change his mind, Staley says he would like to sit down with the probable 2007 mayoral candidate to discuss the matter. --JP
"Shock and Law," July 21
The Story: Mike Flowers, a 36-year-old Havertown native, abandons his well-paying job as a white-collar criminal defense attorney and heads to Iraq to join the investigative team working to send Saddam Hussein to the gallows. Flowers joined the Justice Department's Regime Crimes Liaison Office, which is based in Baghdad and is assisting the Iraqi Special Tribunal in prosecuting Hussein. "During my time as a NYC prosecutor, I had experience with corpses, some quite sadistically mutilated," said Flowers, who visited a mass grave of Hussein victims. "I also came across random body parts while working on the debris pile at Ground Zero, but this was different simply because of the scale. Thousands of bodies. The vast majority women and children with their clothes in bagsrefugees. Slaughtered."
What Happened Next: The initial trial against Husseinhe's being charged with crimes against humanity stemming from a 1982 mass murdergot underway in October. The prosecution team has been laying out thousands of documents of evidence and hundreds witnesses detailing Hussein's crimes. The trial is expected to drag on well into the new year. "It has been extremely taxing in every sense," wrote Flowers in a recent e-mail, "but also incredibly rewarding. This is the fairest criminal trial on Iraqi soil in the last 35 years." Flowers has been promoted to second in command of the RCLO and will be staying in Iraq at least until next fall. "I've been left speechless so often here," writes Flowers, "that I'm afraid I'll turn into a mute." --MN
"Ms. DeYoung Goes to Washington," July 28
The Story: Marie deYoung, an activist and former Army chaplain who worked in Iraq as a subcontracts administrator for Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), launched a one-woman crusade to tell Americans that billions of dollars being wasted on government contracts overseas could be better used to fix problems on the home front. Her work regularly took her to Washington, D.C., where she helped Democratic leaders in the U.S. House Government Reform Committee take the case to their constituents, and the national media. Though deYoung has reams of documents to back her claims, KBR paints her as ill-informed. Privy to deYoung's information, Democratic U.S. senators and representatives disagree, but have little leverage. Since Republicans control the committees in which such accusations would be aired, they can't get the fiscal-responsibility issue onto the agendas.
What Happened Next: DeYoung continues to speak out at churches and in media interviews, including recent appearances on a Staten Island cable show. Sending out press releases for Paul Scoles, a challenger to U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, she still fields calls from KBR employees, government officials and advocacy groups who share stories that bolster her case. "This is the time to invest in candidates whom you know will fight for accountability in military contracts, for sensible plans to balance the budget, for investments in education and transportation infrastructure and for sensible international diplomacy," deYoung says. With war continuing to be waged in Iraq, KBR and Halliburtonwhich was once run by Vice President Dick Cheneyare still profiting. DeYoung, who is mulling a run for public office, is also watching the juicy post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction contracts Halliburton got from the federal government. --Brian Hickey
"Ploys of Summer," Aug. 11
The Story: This summer, 600 city youths got the chance to see wild animals, sleep in tents under the stars and swim in a lake at a city-owned and operated overnight camp on part of 671 acres of pristine land in the Poconos. But some council members view Camp William Penn as a place to cut costs, especially at a time when Street's budget proposal slashed heavily used city amenities such as libraries.
What Happened Next: Recreation Commissioner Vic Richard vowed to come up with ways for the camp to generate cash; at the same time, he fended off some council members' suggestions that the prime real estate, spanning rapidly growing Pike and Monroe counties, be sold to casino operators or another entity. Asked whether any progress has been made, Richard says, "That's still up in the air." He wouldn't discuss any proposed reforms until his department presents its budget plan to the managing director's office in mid-January but said, "It's very high on the radar screen." --JP
"Dirty Cash," Aug. 25
The Story: The city's beleaguered recycling program has the potential to save taxpayers $17 million a year, City Controller Jonathan Saidel's office found. But just as their report surfaced, the man who could have implemented Saidel's recommendations, recycling coordinator David Robinson, stepped down amid charges he and his boss, former Streets Commissioner William Johnson, threw lavish parties with public cash. The recycling program has been running without a coordinator for four months.
What Happened Next: An interview panel cut a pool of 48 applicants for recycling coordinator down to 15; six of those landed interviews and, as of Dec. 16, two were nominated to the final interview with Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson. Evan Belser, of the Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC), has confidence in one of the two remaining candidates, but he has little faith in the administration's commitment to restructuring a program he called "archaic."
RAC recommends expanding a successful incentive-based recycling pilot program from two neighborhoods to 100,000 homes. But while the city wastes time deciding whether to invest in upgrades needed to expand the company's reach, RecycleBank may go elsewhere. A slew of advocacy groups joined under the Recycle NOW campaign umbrella are encouraging residents and elected officials to put pressure on Tolson and Mayor Street to act quickly, but the issue isn't expected to come up until next year's budget hearings. --JP
"Trashed in Brewerytown," Aug. 25
The Story: For three years, neighbors in the 2700 block of Master Street watched their backyards turn into a veritable garbage dump, complete with putrid odors, scurrying rats, maggot-infested food and broken appliances, all due to one man's trash-hording habit. After repeated complaints from residentsand one phone call from City PaperL&I cleaned up the mess and the man was taken in for mental-health treatment.
What Happened Next: L&I billed Alice Evans, the man's mother and owner of the dilapidated row home at 2730 Master St., for $4,350 in cleaning and sealing costs. According to neighbors, Alice Evans died last month. Because the fee is still unpaid, L&I spokeswoman Gayle Johns says a lien will be placed on the property and if anyone tries to buy it, they will assume the debt. There's a good chance the property will sell considering the surge in townhouse and loft apartments under construction in Brewerytown. In the meantime, longtime resident Wilhelmina Cassis and other neighbors have been cleaning up vacant green spaces around their homes and hope to plant a small community garden in the spring. "We haven't seen any trash back there since it was cleaned out," she says. "We're living in peace." --JP
"Frost Bit," Oct. 20
The Story: When Philadelphia Gas Works announced it would raise rates nearly 20 percent on top of a previous 4.9 percent increase, analysts predicted a "perfect storm" of conditions that would drain assistance programs and leave thousands without heat during a noticeably colder winter.
What Happened Next: Earlier this month, Gov. Ed Rendell signed legislation allocating up to $20 million in state funds to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the first time Pennsylvania has contributed to the federal program. But the money won't help everyone coping with the burden of costly heating bills. Last year, the state legislature imposed a change to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission code that for the first time allowed PGW and other utilities to shut off service for nonpayment in the winter. PGW said it would started exercising that right this winter.
Of the approximately 6,000 shut-off customers, many are low-income households put out in the cold due to nonpayment. Of that number, more than 1,000 are using alternative energy sources, such as kerosene or electric space heaters, which can cause fires. Having service reinstated is costly for customers because PGW requires the payment of a reconnection fee, overdue bills and a deposit. --JP
"Corruption Discontent," Nov. 3
The Story: A group of community groups led by Committee of Seventy's Zack Stalberg chatted up editorial boards, wrote letters and even planned an after-party hoping voters would turn out for an otherwise boring election and say "yes" to ethics reform. The ballot question took aim at the city's "pay to play" culture of giving contracts to big campaign donors and politically connected individuals.
What Happened Next: The referendum passed by 87 percent and, starting Feb. 1, puts into effect legislation first introduced by Councilman Michael Nutter more than a year ago. The victory sent a clear message to council in the wake of former City Treasurer Corey Kemp's conviction and the indictment of Councilman Rick Mariano.
In a vote earlier this month, council passed five of six reforms, again conceived by Nutter, that would impose campaign-contribution limits on companies that benefit from city-sponsored financial assistance, create an independent ethics board to investigate complaints and post-campaign finance reports online.
Before the ethics board can be established, voters must give their OK on another referendum on the May ballot.
Stalberg's planning another blitz, although low turnout is less of a concern. "People now are clearly on board the ethics train," Stalberg says. "I think we'll get in there just for insurance." --JP
"Held In Reserve," Nov. 24
The Story: Jim Basile is a regular, hard-working father of four from South Philly. A couple of months after 9/11, Jim joins the United States Naval Reserve. Many of Jim's fellow citizen-soldiers leave behind decent-paying jobs when called for deployments that often last a year or more and struggle to support their families. So, Basile bumps into City Councilman Jim Kenney outside the dry cleaners at Broad and Tasker streets and tells him about how some citiesPhiladelphia not being one of them offer tax breaks to active soldiers. The councilman agrees it's a good plan and swiftly calls hearings. The finance committee votes unanimously in favor of the tax-relief bills, but Basile fears that Mayor Street could veto the bills to spite a political foe.
What Happened Next: Shortly thereafter, Street signed both bills into law. Active reservists and guardsmen will no longer have city-wage taxes deducted from their military pay and as of April 15, 2007, the city will begin refunding active reservists and guardsmen property taxes.