Changing Skyline: Zoning by fiat may be on the way out in Philadelphia

Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic

This has not been a good year for despots. North Korea's Kim Jong Il met his maker, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is under arrest, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad faces a future that looks rocky. But in Philadelphia, City Council members get to rule their districts with an iron hand - at least for now.

Philadelphia is one of a dwindling number of big American cities where local legislators adhere to a courtly tradition called councilmanic prerogative. Like its royal antecedent, the prerogative grants the city's 10 district Council members the right to do as they please in their own patch. Whatever the measure - a history plaque or a major zoning change - the rest of Council will rubber-stamp it, knowing the favor will be returned.

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When Dallas is way behind Philadelphia in anything (especially football games), you gotta know it's really bad here. - BD

By Avi S. Adelman under Neighborhoods , Dallas City Hall