Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Credit: Kenney for Mayor

Each year, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office receives hundreds of primo box tickets to events at Lincoln Financial Field, Citizen’s Bank Park, the Wells Fargo Center, the Mann and the Dell. The seats are one of the timeless perks of being a politician in this town — and the mayor isn’t the only one to use them.

For years, the guest list of “Mayor’s Box” ticket recipients was a well-kept palace secret. Reporters had to file right-to-know requests and fence with administration officials, who wanted it kept hidden for good reason: despite a thin premise that some tickets would go to good causes, patronage flowed generously through the mayor’s political circle. A 2005 Inquirer report found that just 72 of the 1,358 tickets handed out during former Mayor John Street’s first term went to charities and other nonprofits. It’s who ya know, right?

When former Mayor Michael Nutter took office, he vowed to clean up the insider excesses of past administrations and began publishing the ticket distribution report for the public. Mayor Kenney has continued this exercise in transparency. And the sunshine has clearly helped a bit. Here’s the breakdown of Kenney’s 2,631 tickets distributed last year, by the office:

  • City Council – 183
  • Elected Officials – 14
  • City Employees – 1,201
  • Groups – 248
  • Youth – 217
  • Nonprofits – 478
  • Mayor – 71
  • Schools – 121
  • Parks & Rec – 98

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Here are some of our noteworthy finds from this year’s list.

In the mayor’s inner circle

  • Richard Lazer, Kenney’s deputy mayor of labor relations who left office briefly this year to launch an unsuccessful congressional bid, was a man about town in 2017. He requested 36 tickets.
  • Staffers inside the Mayor’s Office collectively requested 112 tickets.
  • Kenney’s daughter, Nora Kenney, requested 18 tickets to attend a Phillies game with her Mummer’s troupe, the Satin Slipper Fancy Brigade.
  • 12 of the 14 tickets classified under “electeds” came from one legislator’s office: State Sen. Vince Hughes. State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald requested the other two tickets — for Aretha Franklin’s final Philly concert.

On City Council

  • City Council offices received 7 percent of the 2,794 tickets last year.
  • Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office cashed in more than any other: His office took 42 tickets to a range of events, including the a Harlem Globetrotters game, an Erykah Badu concert and Disney on Ice. (For comparison, back in 2013, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown had the most Mayor’s Box tickets on Council; she took 26.)
  • Speaking of Disney on Ice, did we mention City Council staffers really loved that show? In total, nearly a third (61) of their total ticket requests (191) were for the skating performance at the Wells Fargo Center last December.
  • Nearly every council office appears to have requested at least some tickets. The big event goers behind Johnson were Councilman Mark Squilla (29), Councilman Bobby Henon (18) and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker (12).

Read the full report here:

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Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...