Double Jeopardy!: The Case of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Taxi Workers and Ron Blount

by Milena Velis and Todd Wolfson

Despite having already been exonerated on assault charges, Ronald Blount, President of the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance (UTWA) will stand trial for a second time this week on the same allegations. Back in October of 2009, in municipal court, a jury exonerated him in less than one hour. But that resounding decision has not deterred the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) from retrying Mr Blount for the same crime in their administrative court, Thursday April 22nd.

The PPA is attempting to revoke Mr. Blount's license in its administrative court, where complaints against cab drivers are heard. Cabbies have referred to the PPA court as a "kangaroo court," because there is no due process and cab drivers rarely receive justice. But this proceeding is about more than Mr. Blount's license. The PPA is motivated by its own political concerns, not by concerns of justice or safety within the taxi industry. To see this clearly some facts need to be laid out. Mr. Blount is the President and democratically elected leader of the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania (UTWA), an organization of over 1,000 cab drivers who fight for their rights in the face of unfair regulation by the PPA. For years he has been building the voice and power of cab drivers in this city, and because of this he is a threat to the interests of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Go, Inqy, Go! - Political contributions and the Parking Authority

I love the way THE INQUIRER is pounding the quote-unquote "Philadelphia" Parking Authority. City GOP benefits from Parking Authority. It needs it. The story starts off promisingly:

Though the Philadelphia Parking Authority has fallen short in its promised funding for city schools, it certainly has been a boon for the Philadelphia Republican Party.

Authority employees and consultants have contributed at least $214,000 to the Republican City Committee since 2001, according to an Inquirer analysis of campaign finance data.

The contributions this year have reached at least $33,210, or more than 14 percent of the party's total.

I wonder if that's the single biggest cadre of funders? Of course, "cadre of funders" gets hard to define for a newspaper article, but still I wonder.

My humble suggestion to Philadelphia reporters pursuing these questions: the story I'd like to see is some attempt to sort out how much money could, potentially, be going to schools and how, exactly, the law designates that they are supposed to determine that figure.

This schools issue is a big part of why I want to lambast the PPA so badly. If it were just an issue of over-spending and patronage, I would care but I wouldn't care as much. The simple fact is that the PPA is making our city harder to live in by tightening up parking rules, but they aren't delivering on the promised benefit of that: getting some more money into education.

Pound them, Inqy! Pound them!!!

New Podcast: The Legislator and the Agitator, with Rep. Tony Payton and Brady Russell

Tony Payton for State Rep

Click to download the first episode of

The Legislator and the Agitator. Rep. Payton and I were talking recently about the lack of podcasts about Pennsylvania politics. We're both pretty involved in it in our own way, so we had the idea of starting our own podcast. The intent is to give the inside and the outside perspective of two people working on the same political side. This is our first episode. In the future, we'll go more into each other's background and also try to spend more time talking about how we do what we do.

This first podcast is pretty topical, though. Show notes below. It's a little under an hour, but divided into four main segments, of about 15 minutes each. In other words, we have your next four walks to/from work covered. Fire up that Ipod, Pennsylvania!

Hit "Click More" to see the Show Notes!

The Parking Authority: do the audit, cut the staff, pay the schools

Rep. Dwight Evans has made me pretty skeptical this morning. He's a really smart guy. He understands our city. Yet, he says things that's going to make anyone seriously skeptical without backing them up. Take today's story on the Parking Authority in the Inquirer.

Reversing critical remarks he made just last week, Evans said he had met at length with the agency's leaders, gone over their books with his aides, and become convinced that they were doing a solid job.

"I'm satisfied that they're meeting their mission, that they're doing what they need to do," Evans said.

Reacting on Friday to news of increased staffing and generous executive salaries at the authority, Evans told The Inquirer that "it appears that it's running amok."

Although Evans said he still supported a comprehensive audit of the authority, he said he now considered the agency's principal failing to be merely one of public relations.

"If they have done anything wrong, it's that they've failed to communicate with the press, the public and the legislature," Evans said.

Yet, there is no explanation given of what encouraged him. I hope he's right. I hope it's doing things better than we realize.

Syndicate content