This is the coffee can of destiny.

It helps decide who runs the city.

Every local primary election, Philadelphia candidates pick a number from the Horn & Hardart can to determine where they appear on the ballot. Pull the right number and enjoy a boost in votes; pull the wrong number and face a steeper climb to victory — and maybe wind up in the dustbin of history?

An inanimate celebrity in Philadelphia politics, the coffee can is meant to bring randomness, and thus fairness, to the ballot design.

A few years ago, when Alison Macrina was living in Houston, she noticed that the city was voting ever more Democratic, but there was no organized party machine. So, as local judicial elections approached, she recognized there was an opportunity for anyone with an energetic campaign to jump in and have a real shot.

Macrina helped campaign for Franklin Bynum — a defense lawyer, democratic socialist, and prison abolitionist — and he won. In fact, he was part of a blue wave. Harris County, which marked its highest turnout ever in a midterm election, also elected 17 Democratic African American women judges, all of whom upset Republican incumbents after collectively campaigning on the potency of “Black Girl Magic.”

Now, Macrina, 34, and other organizers from 14 groups — ranging from the left-wing political group Reclaim Philadelphia to criminal-justice reform advocates including the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project — are seeking to replicate that impact here in Philadelphia, where seven seats on the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts are vacant.

Many of those groups worked to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2016, and they see pushing the judiciary to the left as the next step to criminal justice reform.

A few years ago, when Alison Macrina was living in Houston, she noticed that the city was voting ever more Democratic, but there was no organized party machine. So, as local judicial elections approached, she recognized there was an opportunity for anyone with an energetic campaign to jump in and have a real shot.

Macrina helped campaign for Franklin Bynum — a defense lawyer, democratic socialist, and prison abolitionist — and he won. In fact, he was part of a blue wave. Harris County, which marked its highest turnout ever in a midterm election, also elected 17 Democratic African American women judges, all of whom upset Republican incumbents after collectively campaigning on the potency of “Black Girl Magic.”

Now, Macrina, 34, and other organizers from 14 groups — ranging from the left-wing political group Reclaim Philadelphia to criminal-justice reform advocates including the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project — are seeking to replicate that impact here in Philadelphia, where seven seats on the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts are vacant.

Many of those groups worked to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2016, and they see pushing the judiciary to the left as the next step to criminal justice reform.

A few years ago, when Alison Macrina was living in Houston, she noticed that the city was voting ever more Democratic, but there was no organized party machine. So, as local judicial elections approached, she recognized there was an opportunity for anyone with an energetic campaign to jump in and have a real shot.

Macrina helped campaign for Franklin Bynum — a defense lawyer, democratic socialist, and prison abolitionist — and he won. In fact, he was part of a blue wave. Harris County, which marked its highest turnout ever in a midterm election, also elected 17 Democratic African American women judges, all of whom upset Republican incumbents after collectively campaigning on the potency of “Black Girl Magic.”

Now, Macrina, 34, and other organizers from 14 groups — ranging from the left-wing political group Reclaim Philadelphia to criminal-justice reform advocates including the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project — are seeking to replicate that impact here in Philadelphia, where seven seats on the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts are vacant.

Many of those groups worked to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2016, and they see pushing the judiciary to the left as the next step to criminal justice reform.

A few years ago, when Alison Macrina was living in Houston, she noticed that the city was voting ever more Democratic, but there was no organized party machine. So, as local judicial elections approached, she recognized there was an opportunity for anyone with an energetic campaign to jump in and have a real shot.

Macrina helped campaign for Franklin Bynum — a defense lawyer, democratic socialist, and prison abolitionist — and he won. In fact, he was part of a blue wave. Harris County, which marked its highest turnout ever in a midterm election, also elected 17 Democratic African American women judges, all of whom upset Republican incumbents after collectively campaigning on the potency of “Black Girl Magic.”

Now, Macrina, 34, and other organizers from 14 groups — ranging from the left-wing political group Reclaim Philadelphia to criminal-justice reform advocates including the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project — are seeking to replicate that impact here in Philadelphia, where seven seats on the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts are vacant.

Many of those groups worked to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2016, and they see pushing the judiciary to the left as the next step to criminal justice reform.

A few years ago, when Alison Macrina was living in Houston, she noticed that the city was voting ever more Democratic, but there was no organized party machine. So, as local judicial elections approached, she recognized there was an opportunity for anyone with an energetic campaign to jump in and have a real shot.

Macrina helped campaign for Franklin Bynum — a defense lawyer, democratic socialist, and prison abolitionist — and he won. In fact, he was part of a blue wave. Harris County, which marked its highest turnout ever in a midterm election, also elected 17 Democratic African American women judges, all of whom upset Republican incumbents after collectively campaigning on the potency of “Black Girl Magic.”

Now, Macrina, 34, and other organizers from 14 groups — ranging from the left-wing political group Reclaim Philadelphia to criminal-justice reform advocates including the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project — are seeking to replicate that impact here in Philadelphia, where seven seats on the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts are vacant.

Many of those groups worked to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2016, and they see pushing the judiciary to the left as the next step to criminal justice reform.

There may not be as many seats available as in previous years, but the race to become a judge in Philadelphia is just about as crowded as usual.

As of the March 12 deadline to get on the ballot for 2019 judicial races, 41 contenders have filed to vie for six open seats on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Thirteen candidates have also filed to fill one vacancy in the Municipal Court. All but two of the Municipal Court candidates are also seeking spots on the Common Pleas bench.

The crowded field is only slightly fewer than the 50 candidates who fought for nine open seats on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas bench in 2017, and the 47 candidates who fought for 12 open seats on the Common Pleas bench and three Municipal Court slots in 2015.

 

A Philadelphia City Council committee has voted to encourage the Nutter administration to give homeowners a bit more leniency in the wake of the overhaul of the city’s property tax system.

At the hearing, Jennifer Schultz of Community Legal Services testified that the new assessment system known as “AVI” (Actual Value Initiative, see related story) left many homeowners confused and scared.

“The AVI program provided an unanticipated shock to many homeowners in Philadelphia when they received their 2014 tax bill,” she said.

Adding to the confusion, she said, was that the new assessments mailed out gave only the assessments, not the tax due, because the rate had not been set at the time.

“So it really was an abstract idea to see these changes in these numbers, because it was a moving target when the notices were going out,” Schultz testified.

Three openly LGBT candidates have announced runs for 10-year judgeships on the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, which rules on civil, criminal and family matters.

Henry Sias, Tiffany Palmer and Wade Albert are running as Democrats in the May 21 primary. A primary win would ensure a follow-up victory in the Nov. 5 general election because the city is overwhelmingly Democratic.

The court currently has 93 judges. Currently, there are six vacancies, but others may arise as 11 incumbents whose terms expire in January 2020 decide whether or not to seek another term by running in the May primary. Candidates must file nominating petitions signed by at least 1,000 registered Democratic voters in Philadelphia by March 12 in order to have their name appear on the ballot for the Democratic primary.

Henry Sias, 42, is a trans man and civil-rights attorney based in South Philadelphia. He was unsuccessful in his 2017 bid for a seat on the court but made a strong showing and is trying again.

Three openly LGBT candidates have announced runs for 10-year judgeships on the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, which rules on civil, criminal and family matters.

Henry Sias, Tiffany Palmer and Wade Albert are running as Democrats in the May 21 primary. A primary win would ensure a follow-up victory in the Nov. 5 general election because the city is overwhelmingly Democratic.

The court currently has 93 judges. Currently, there are six vacancies, but others may arise as 11 incumbents whose terms expire in January 2020 decide whether or not to seek another term by running in the May primary. Candidates must file nominating petitions signed by at least 1,000 registered Democratic voters in Philadelphia by March 12 in order to have their name appear on the ballot for the Democratic primary.

Henry Sias, 42, is a trans man and civil-rights attorney based in South Philadelphia. He was unsuccessful in his 2017 bid for a seat on the court but made a strong showing and is trying again.