Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Young Philly Politics Store

It is just a start, but courtesy of my brother, we have started the Young Philly Politics store, at Cafe Press. As time goes on, we will put more stuff up there.

As an fyi, the stuff is pricd as cheap as they make them, so I am not making a profit from anything on there. Also, the T-shirts, when possible, are made in the USA, so they are a little more expensive.

Check it out.

Abraham gets "F" from African-American Chamber of Commerce

Oh Lynne! What are you thinking? (It is a shame this article is in the Daily News on Saturday, when about 8 people ready it.) Lynne Abraham, in her infinite good judgment decided not to answer a questionnaire from the African-American Chamber of Commerce. Maybe this is her attempt to further help Seth Williams and his campaign?

From the DN article, by two of the better Philly reporters, Attytood blogger Will Bunch, and city beat writer/Radio Times guest host Dave Davies:
The questionnaire asked candidates to commit to a variety of policies relating to African-American job training, economic empowerment and inclusion in building trades unions.

Abraham's Democratic opponent, Seth Williams, earned an "A" from the Chamber for his responses, but Abraham said yesterday the survey posed several policy questions she believed had nothing to do with her job as district attorney.

....

"We believe a District Attorney in 2005 should try and attack the sources of crime, not just arrest and re-arrest people," Crawley said yesterday. "And even if [these issues] aren't your direct responsibility, you have a pulpit as a citywide elected official, and people will seek your opinion of a variety of subjects."
Couple thoughts: Lynne Abraham keeps this up she may do enough to alienate the African-American community (again). Also, is it just me, or is she so damned short-sighted? Does she honestly think things are going well in Philly? Really? Maybe she thinks if she can just get the death penalty a few more times, things will really work out.

Keep it up through election day, Ms. District Attorney.

Friday, April 29, 2005

A Note from Seth Williams

Dear Philly Bloggers,

I am excited that my campaign is taking on such a life of its own. When you first decide to run for office, you dream that the issues and passions that motivate you will resonate with others. It is exhilarating to know that my ideas about how to restructure the DA's office are also important to so many of you.

As this campaign goes forward, I look forward to your continued support.

Thanks a lot!
Seth

PS- A special thanks to Will Bunch for "not endorsing" me. Maybe next time ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Former Assistant DAs For Seth Responds

I got this email, and though you should see it:
We are so pleased you have recognized Seth Williams as a great candidate for Philadelphia District Attorney. As former Assistant DAs in Philadelphia, we have first hand experience working with Seth. Without a doubt, Seth was one of the best leaders and innovators in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. It was a great blow to the morale in the DA's Office when Seth left to pursue private practice. Seth was the person in management everyone could talk to about professional problems without fear of reprisal. Seth's plan for community-based prosecution is sound. Having ADAs who handle cases from beginning to end will tighten the ties between communities, victims, cops and prosecutors. Seth also wants to hire and train the best possible candidates to be ADA's --- and then trust them to use their own sound judgment. This is a brilliant change from the current office policy where ADA's are forced to prosecute every case to the fullest regardless of what common sense and good judgment call for. If we are truly interested in a better Philadelphia criminal justice system, we need to find time and money to help Seth Williams.

Former ADAs for Seth

We're baaaack: Philly Bloggers unite again for Seth Williams.

Last week, in a day that was virtually unprecedented in the blogosphere, Philly activists united to spread the word, and give our collective endorsement to Seth Williams, the terrific candidate for DA.

You didn’t think it would end there did you? A few words, and then we are done?

Today, we unite again. This time with a specific goal: signing up volunteers for the campaign. (SIGN UP). All over the blogosphere, people have taken notice of Seth, and for good reason: He stands for everything grassroots and netroots activists have demanded Democrats stand for: reform, innovation, real connections to the community, and a fight against the status quo. More of the same is not good enough. Nor is simply a “D” following your name.

Whether you live in Germantown, or Germany, if you can make it to Philly for a day, you can volunteer. Hell, you can even sleep on my couch if you need a place to crash.

Sign up, leave a comment that you did so, and help spread the word.

In 2004, blogs helped unite activists around the most national of campaigns. They were the reason we had the campaigns of Howard Dean and Wes Clark and the reason John Kerry could match the George Bush money machine. Recently, they were the reason the social security debate has fundamentally shifted. Well, now we turn inward, to fix our own house. To help a dynamic candidate who we desperately need. And as sites such as this, and regional sites such as Philly Future build up, our voices will only get louder, and our actions stronger.

Sign up to volunteer for Seth, and let us know you did. Be part of the beginning of something big.

Other participating sites:
Rowhouse Logic
Philly Future
Above Avg. Jane

More:

Will Bunch weighs in
America's Hometown
DragonBallyee.
Swing State Project

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Corruption Trial: Juror Dismissed in the middle of deliberations

Very interesting:
In an extraordinary move, the federal judge in the City Hall pay-to-play trial replaced a juror during the 11th day of deliberations today.

...

The rare judicial move came hours after the judge read aloud five intriguing jury notes this morning, including one that accused a juror of not deliberating in good faith and two that suggest at least two jurors have doubts about the government's case.

One of the notes, delivered just before noon, accused a juror of illegal bias:

"I believe the following statements affect bias by a juror: 'The government lies. Prosecution made it up. They couldn't get Ron White so they made this up about Corey Kemp. They didn't play all the case. They omitted evidence... The FBI lies. The government didn't present the evidence to prove anything.'"
The move, which was fought by the defense, is pretty clearly a victory for the prosecution. A juror who clear was not voting guilty under any circumstances has been booted. That said, the judge received other notes that indicate there are some doubts about the Government's case:
"Regarding honest services fraud, if I find Corey Kemp honestly believed he was doing his job to the best of his ability and... his actions were not influenced by gifts from Ron White... but out of friendship... can I find him not guilty?"

The second note, signed by just one juror, said in part:

"One, is it permissible to discuss the fact that we have heard only selected portions of selected calls... can you consider omitted evidence? For example, the prosecution only showed what they wanted to show."
So where does that leave us? Obviously, it is more likely we will see a conviction tomorrow than we would see one yesterday, with that juror gone. But, there are clearly some doubts about the Government's case.

To me, the most interesting question is this: If you are the Street Administration, what outcome are you hoping for? A conviction, where you spin it that Corey Kemp was a rougue agent convicted for his crime, or an aquittal, where you say this shows the bug probe was BS the whole time. (But, with the tapes that have come out, we know there is pay to play, so are you then saying it is acceptable?)

Interesting stuff.

Next stop for the Whale: Wissahickon Creek

Yeah, the damn Whale, Helis, is back. Except now, instead of the Delaware, that nice big, salty river, he is in the Schuylkill. Maybe he just loves Philly too much?

From the Inquirer:
The sightings near the Girard Point Bridge come nine days after Helis was last spotted in the Delaware Bay, swimming toward the ocean.

Experts believe Helis, originally from Canada's St. Lawrence River, took up residence on the Delaware earlier this month to feed on shad making their spring spawning run upriver.
Maybe it is just a sign that Philly rivers are getting pretty clean? Maybe it is a sign that Helis was caught up in the Philly love? Maybe that slogan about the city loving him back really made him wistful?

But if I am rowing, and all of a sudden my boat gets flipped by a Beluga, I will be mighty pissed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Volunteer for Seth Williams on Thursday

I signed up to volunteer for Seth Williams' campaign, but I haven't gone to any of the events yet. I was hoping to go to do phone banking, but I have to work late on thursday, and won't make it. So, I'm hoping that people who read this will go to AFSCME this Thursday. Wouldn't it be great if this blog produced a bunch of volunteers for the event?
Here's the text of the email I got:

Volunteers,

As promised, the location for phone banking is:

AFSCME District Council 47
1606 Walnut Street
3rd Floor - Auditorium

The day is Thursday, April 28, 2005. The time is from 6:00--9:00 PM. The campaign needs 8 people, even if its for an hour or two. There will be coffee, tea, and snacks provided for you. Please let me know if you are available. Thank You.

Phone: (215) 985-2733

A National Party of Opposition, a Local Party of Ideas

Living in a Country dominated by Republicans, there is an intriguing debate going on the blogosphere about whether Democrats should be a party of ideas, or a part of opposition. People like Chris Bowers have, to my mind, spoken pretty convincingly about why we need our Democratic Senators and Congressman to adhere to that party of opposition viewpoint. Simply put, nationally, we do not control the debate and do not have the votes. As such we simply have to keep fighting tooth and nail to maintain as much of our past gains as we can. Any new ideas or policies that we have will either be stolen (at very best), ignored, or twisted around, and introduced as legislation called "Clear Skies" or "No Child Left Behind." Nationally, in the world of George W. Bush, our best case scenario is to present an aggressive, united, line of defense.

Locally, however, this is not the case. Here is where Democratic ideas can flourish. Here is where we can have policy and politician incubators, so that when it is our time to lead again, we have a sense of what, and who, we need to see our collective vision for the Country succeed. This incubation happens on a State level (think Vermont giving insurance to all), or on a more local one (such as the City of Philadelphia providing affordable Wi-Fi to all City residents).

Democrats will always win in places like Philadelphia. But we need to ensure that these leaders are not only serving local needs, but understand that in the grand scheme of things, they are serving a much broader purpose: they, and their policies, are the future of the Democratic Party. Having patronage driven, vision-less, ineffective, and yeah -conservative- Democrats, representing us on local levels provides quite a dim vision for the future. Just the opposite, having local politicians who understand the need for reform, for engaging their community and for challenging the status quo, give us a future to look forward to. That is why we need to think big about the Mayoral race in 2007. And, much more pressing, why we need Seth Williams as District Attorney. He is the complete package- experienced, idea-driven, progressive, and simply a fundamentally decent man. We have a chance in three weeks to make a statement about what kind of City we want, and what kind of party we are, and I hope we do not blow it.

I have previously laid out plenty of reasons for Seth, so I will not bore you with more. But, again, a few quotes of his that I always come back to:
I'm running for District Attorney to bring the criminal justice system into the 21st century. Today, it's not enough to be "tough" on crime. We have to be smart. After more than a decade as a Philadelphia prosecutor, I know what it takes to make the system work for all Philadelphians. It takes partnerships within each community -- with town watches, schools, police and neighborhood organizations -- to build a justice system that works just as hard to prevent crime as it does punishing criminals.
In the above, you can almost take out the criminal justice system, and insert "Democratic Party." It is not enough to be tough on crime, and on a local level, it is not enough to simply have Democrats in office. We need more.

And, of course, there is this, and why I think we can pull in people from outside of the Philadelphia borders:
As one of the most visible faces of national law enforcement and the head of the largest law firm in Pennsylvania, the DA has a special obligation to be a leading advocate for justice reform and modernization in Washington and Harrisburg.
With great coverage in the Inquirer, and with events like this weekend's large motorcade, Seth is clearly gaining momentum. It is up to us to help him keep pushing the envelope, both for the future of Philadelphia, and for the future of the Democratic party.

Building on all of this, and on the previous Day of Action, we are going to attempt to nationalize this race. I cannot give all the details immediately, because they are not completely fleshed out. But, Democrats in more places than Philadelphia have a stake in this race. And, as a result of that, we are going to try to put something to the test: Can we mobilze a national group of grassroots activists to a local cause? Especially when, in a election where 100,000 votes gives us the win, we can make a real, tangible difference? Philly bloggers came together in an unprecedented manner last week. And now, with some help from our national friends, we will see just how powerful a combination of national and very local blogs can be.

Stay tuned.

Context?

Imam Shamsud-din Ali, a muslim cleric and Philadelphia power-broker, is in the third day of his federal racketeering trial. According to prosecuters, Ali stole thousands of dollars in donations from the Sister Clara Muhammad School. On a personal note, I worked with Shamsud-din on the campaign to get city council to pass a resolution against the USA Patriot Act. We had a few public meetings at Sister Clara Muhammad School and Shamsud-din personally lobbied several council members who were undecided. I always thought he was a pretty nice guy. I remember one time at a public meeting when some audience member was loudly denocuing Zionism, Jews, and pretty much all white people.

I was in the middle of giving a speech and, being one of like four white people in the room, wasn't really quite sure what to say. Smooth as butter, Shamsud-din stepped up to the microphone and gave an impassioned speech about tolerance the need for people from different backgrounds to work together for the common good. The guy shup up and meeting went forward.

However, I was still pretty shocked at these quotes from Pat Gillespie. Gillespie, who used to a Republican State Representative from Northeast Philly, is now the head of the Building and Construction Trades Council. The unions he represents gave thousands of dollars to the Sister Clara Muhammad School. According to the article, Gillespie says his high opinion of Shamsud-din wouldn't change, even if the charges were true.

Say what?

I can't help but think the Daily News must be quoting Gillespie out of context. There is no way Gillespie said he would still like someone who stole thousands of dollars given by his union. That's a surefire way to get yourself thrown out of office by angry union members.

At least, one would hope.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Allyson Schwartz/Bankruptcy Watch continues

Has anyone heard anything from Rep. Schwartz to their Bankruptcy complaints? I know for a fact that she heard it from a lot of people. Yet, I still have not heard a single explanation from her office. If she thinks she can just hide out for a few weeks and expect this to blow over, she is wrong. She voted for the worst piece of consumer legislation in recent history, one that especially aims at women with medical crises. (This, from a Congresswoman who was the goddamned Director of Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women.)

Nah, this is one we will remember for a long time.

Congresswoman Schwartz may have moved from liberal NW Philly to run for Congress, but she still gets an incredible amount of financial support from 19119 and the like. Here is to hoping they cut her off.

Good Article on Seth Williams

Check out the Inky today for a good piece on Seth Williams, by Thomas Fitzgerald. To those who read our posts on Thursday, much of it will be familiar. But it is a good article nonetheless:
When he began campaigning in earnest several months ago, many political leaders in the city wondered, Who is this upstart? After all, Williams had no history in Philadelphia politics.

"Some people say I should wait four more years. I say, why? For who? For what?" Williams said. "This is about the victims of crime."

Now the political establishment knows who he is.
Good to see he is getting a little more coverage. It is time for Philly to step to the plate and support him. Expect to hear more from this site and others on some more things we can do for the campaign over the next few days.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Has Rick Santorum jumped the shark?

Wow. What a week to be Rick Santorum. No, really, what a week! I think that this was the week that Rick Santorum jumped the shark, so to speak.

OK, where to begin… Lets see:

First, there was a Quinnipac Poll released, showing Bob Casey kicking Santorum’s ass, 49-35. A real whoopin’. As Kos details, part of Santorum’s slippage may from the fact that people do not like his Schiavo BS.

Speaking of Schiavo, 8 days ago, Will Bunch, in a post that shows how powerful an investigative journalist can be with a blog, details how when Santorum was “grieving” with Schiavo family, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, he was shuttled around on a Wal-Mart Jet. Not surprising, since Wal-mart is dumping money into the GOP’s lap, to fight such awful things as higher minimum wages, any estate tax, and the like. (Check out the post for more on their cozy relationship.)

Then, Moneyline, and Will Bunch again, detail more about the Schiavo fundraising junket. Turns out, he was plied with money from Outback Steakhouse, who undoubtedly helped Santorum craft his BS minimum wage bill that has a special middle finger for, yeah, restaurant workers. Another interesting read.

Then, Tim Tagaris, at the Pennacchio campaign, discusses an article out of Pittsburgh, detailing how, yet again, Santorum is shafting the people of his "hometown" of Penn Hills out of thousands of dollars. As Tim says, Santorum cannot be trusted with our money if he constantly is shafting his “hometown.”

Then, the guy who supposedly doesn’t read polls, wants the GOP wingnuts to rethink their insane destruction of the fillibuster, because some poll told him it was really unpopular with voters. (Wait, you mean trying to destroy a longstanding Senate protection of minority rights by saying liberals are anti-Christian does not rub some people the wrong way? Crazy!)

And finally, today... As Markos detailed, Rick Santorum wants to keep the National Weather Service from giving giving free weather reports on the net. That is a little odd, until you realize that Accu-Weather, based in State College, is also dumping cash in his lap.

What a week! Keep it up Senator! In just one short year, you can kick out the renters, and shack your 7 kids in the 3 bedroom house in your ‘hometown,’ outside of Pittsburgh.

Seth Williams Says Thank You

First of all, yesterday was only a start, both for our involvement in this campaign and beyond. Thanks to everyone who participated, linked, etc. Sites are reporting that they had increased traffic, meaning the word was getting out. Lets keep it that way, and expect to hear more on some ideas of what we can do offline real soon.

And, last night I got an email from Seth himself:
The response of the Philly blogosphere to my candidacy so far has been truly amazing and today's unprecedented day of online action was remarkable. Please express my thanks to all of the bloggers who participated and helped
me get the message about my campaign out to thousands of Philadelphians.

It is an honor that online activists like you, who work so hard each day to reclaim our democracy, consider me one of your own. It is also important to me to run a true, honest and issue-based campaign that can net the kind of support you all lent today.

With less than a month left to go before the election, I hope that you and other dedicated online activists will be able to organize more of these kinds of actions. If there is any support or guidance I can offer, please let me know.

Thanks again!

Sincerely,
Seth Williams

PS- Please make sure to tell all of the bloggers and their readers to sign up for regular campaign email updates here: www.seth4da.com/email
Lets keep this going...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Now: Online Day of Action For Seth Williams

As many know, we are one month away from an election for District Attorney in Philadelphia. Despite the fact that the mainstream press refuses to give the race its due, we in the online activist community are uniting behind a candidate that we can truly believe in: Seth Williams.

Today, all around the Philly blogosphere, we will be spreading the word about Seth , his case for Philadelphia reform, and why we need him in office immediately. Our goals are threefold. First, we want to spread the word, and raise awareness about the upcoming race. Second, we want to sign up as many volunteers as possible for the campaign. And third, we want to see how many donations the progressive community can make in a day. It is a day to flex our muscles, and show what we can do for a candidate who we desperately need.

Why vote for Williams? Just a few of the reasons...

First, Lynn Abraham is flat out awful. How? How about the fact that she steals the homes of law abiding Philadelphians? How about the fact that she runs a DA's office that doesn't believe in collecting statistics, (quite strange, if you ask me)? How about the fact that her policy is all death penalty, all the time? The list goes on...

Why Seth Williams? Let us count the ways.

First and foremost, Seth is a fundamentally decent man. Want to see a comment on his character? How about the fact that Seth, when he was in College at Penn State, led a march of students from Happy Valley to Harrisburg, to protest PSU's implicit acceptance of Apartheid in South Africa? See Jane's post for more on his trip.

Second, this is a candidate who will make an immediate difference. From March 28:
Seth Williams has a plan to reorganize the DA's office by neighborhood. Just as neighborhood groups attempt to have relationships with police, they would have relationships with District Attorneys. Getting DA's out in our neighborhoods, working with communities to both prosecute and to prevent crime, is a huge step in the right direction. Different neighborhoods have different needs, and Williams' plan would aim to address that. While car theft may be the biggest crime in one neighborhood, guns may be in another. A cookie cutter, wait and see approach does not work...

Third, this is a candidate who understands that
As one of the most visible faces of national law enforcement and the head of the largest law firm in Pennsylvania, the DA has a special obligation to be a leading advocate for justice reform and modernization in Washington and Harrisburg.
Fourth, this is a candidate that understands that if you do not address the public health aspect of the War on Drugs, you get nowhere.

The list goes on and on and on....

Those of us who want to see our City improve must put our money where our mouths are. We have a candidate who can make a real difference in this City. Please help. As we said, there are three important things you can do: One, email this post to as many people as possible, and spread the word. Two, sign up to volunteer on the campaign. And three, please donate, and help Seth run ads as the campaign winds down. Every dollar makes a difference.

Throughout the day, I will update the post with Philly bloggers who are joining in on the effort. Together, progressives in Philadelphia can make a difference. But, as I said, we have to put our money where our mouths are, and support a dynamic candidate who will enact real, progressive reform in Philadelphia.

Update:
Chris, from Rowhouse Logic joins in.
Jane says her piece.
Karl and Matt, editors of Philly Future, give a detailed case for change.
Alex at Music for America, steps to the plate.
ACM, of a Smoke Filled Room, spreads the word.
America's Hometown endorses Seth.

And they keep on coming:

Dragonballyee
Diary on DailyKos
Suburban Guerrilla
The West End
Chris Bowers at MyDD
Tim Tagaris at The Swing State Project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Open-Thread

So it occurs to me that I don’t understand the Bankruptcy Bill at all. I am sure that it is a bad Bill because many people who’s political views I respect have said so, but I have no ammo whatsoever in defending that position. I was talking to my friend last night, and he made a good point. If you borrow 3000 dollars from someone, then why shouldn’t you have to pay it back? Is there something that I don’t understand here?

Now, I am against the Bill, but I would like to hear more details about it, so that I have more ammo the next time around. Consider this the Bankruptcy Bill Open-Thread.

(Update, By Dan: The Bill has been signed into law by the President. Thank you Congresswoman Schwartz, for turning your back on all of us.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Candidate’s Night

So I went to candidate’s night tonight for my local Ward. These things are all the same. You go there, eat food, and listen to all these Traffic Court Judge and Court of Common Please Judges do their thing. But guess who actually showed up and spent a good amount of time there? Lynn Abraham.

I have to tell you, I never thought that I would be impressed with her, and she didn’t even meet my low expectations. She gave a whole bunch of statistics but no answers. She talked pretty vaguely about gun court, and she pretty much stole stuff about illegal guns from Seth’s playbook. She is just your normal politician.

Seth wasn’t there, but I did get to see John Braxton, who I was impressed with again.

Drinking Liberally: Have a beer with Seth Williams

From Peter Baker:
Drinking Liberally, tonight at Ten Stone, 21st and South Sts. in Philadelphia, starting at 6 pm.

Also tonight, Seth Williams, Democratic Candidate for District Attorney here in Philadelphia, plans to stop by from around 6 pm to 6:45. This is a good chance to ask some questions, and get more information on a frequently overlooked but extremely important race.

Read more about Seth Williams here:

http://www.seth4da.com
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/4/11/8626/76384

See you tonight!
I believe Seth will be there from 6 to about 6:45. If you haven't met him, this is a great chance to do so.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Where the Senate candidates stand. All of them.

In today's Inquirer, Carrie Budoff (along with Thomas Fitzgerald), continues her evenhanded, thorough coverage of the US Senate campaign. I complain about the media as much as anyone else, but Budoff has now done a few really good pieces about this race.

Today went into the details of Bob Casey, Jr's stance on abortion, among other things. It shows an interesting contrast between father and son styles on the issue. For example, Casey, Sr. refused to endorse Clinton because he is pro-choice, while Casey, Jr. was active in the campaign for Kerry. And, I think the article correctly shows why I like Casey: He is pro-life, (presumably) because of his religious convictions, but when he says pro-life, he does not simply mean "pro-birth." And, while he does not pretend he is not pro-life, it is not the issue that defines him.

From the article:
Casey, now the state treasurer, has never made abortion a prominent piece of his public profile. He didn't call attention to it during his eight years as state auditor general, or in his campaigns for office, including a failed 2002 bid for governor.

Nor does he spurn abortion-rights proponents, as his father did on several occasions. Last year, Casey appeared in a TV commercial endorsing Democrat John Kerry, who opposed the federal ban on late-term abortions.

But Casey also doesn't equivocate.

"What I've said in the last month and what I've said in the last 10 years makes it very clear that I'm pro-life, and I always will be," Casey said.

....

"Someone who's pro-life does have a corresponding obligation to help the mother and child after birth," Casey said. "Too often, the issue has been framed in a more limited way."

Top Democratic leaders see Casey as their best chance against Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who worked for eight years to help pass the 2003 ban on late-term abortions. To win the nomination, Casey must first get by Chuck Pennacchio, a University of the Arts professor who supports abortion rights.
A few interesting things: One, is that Pennacchio is now regularly mentioned as an opposition candidate. (Congratulations on that to Tim Tagaris, who has forced the hand of the mainstream media on this issue. I hope if I ever run for office I can afford a high price consultant duo of Tim and Ben Waxman. I would be set.) Second, I think Casey clearly comes across as a decent man. Someone who generally cares about the average, hard-working Americans who want a decent home, the ability to see a doctor when they are sick, and a good future for their kids.

But, and this is a big but, his aim to straddle the line with abortion gets him in big trouble. Because, apparently to Casey, the abortion issue is not about his religious beliefs, but about "biology," because he says "there's a life there." While this may be Casey's way of moderating his pro-life stance, he ruins it with this:
"Casey said he would, as a senator, avoid a litmus test on any issue in voting on judicial nominees. He would oppose expanding federally supported embryonic stem-cell research beyond 2001 levels. He would not require pharmacists to go against personal beliefs and fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting."
Science, eh? So you know no life is started for a few days after people have sex, right? Then why would you have problems with the morning-after pill, which simply prevents pregnancy from taking place? Pure, pure hypocrisy.

Furthermore, the idea that a pharmacist can refuse to fill a goddamned medical prescription is ridiculous. If they can refuse to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, can they refuse to fill it for normal contraception? Reeeee-diculous, and really scary. It should tell you something when Rick Santorum is the co-sponsor of the bill (with JOHN KERRY).

Casey wins by talking about compassion, about a return of poverty alleviation as a Democratic principal. He loses when he tries to skirt this line on choice. Especially when he tries to make this something it is not. This is about his religion, fine. But lets not pretend otherwise, because it only hurts him in the long run.

The article then finishes with a rundown of where Santorum, Casey and yes, Pennacchio, stand on many of these specifics. And while it was not included in the article, here is what Pennacchio apparently said to Budoff about abortion (from mydd):
"We can either choose to eliminate rights or improve lives, and I choose to improve lives. Nobody wants to see another abortion, but what we need to do is make our society a stronger, more supportive environment, in which women will have a real choice."

"The most critical question, the common ground question, is how do we reduce the abortion rate without criminalizing women and doctors? What we need to address, all of us, is how to give women a real choice by providing life affirming support in the form pre-natal care, post-natal care, and economic opportunity."
I include those last few quotes, because, more than anything else, that is the exact, exact right way that Democrats should be talking about choice.

Comic Relief with William Rieger

Rep. William Rieger, a way too long serving member of the PA House is back in the news, courtesy of Inquirer columnist John Grogan. Rieger, you may remember, was criticized last year because instead of actually being present in Harrisburg to vote, he balled up some paper, and jammed his voting machine so it would constantly record him present.

Seem ridiculous? Well, Rieger has many more gems going for him (besides the obvious, like not living in his poor North Philly district.) And now, his aide is implicated in stealing money meant for programs to benefit N. Philly.

From Grogan's column:
It involves questionable behavior on the part of his longtime aide, Barbara E. Landers. Isn't that refreshing?

Landers was charged last week with skimming off more than $68,000 in state grant money. The money came from taxpayers' wallets and was meant to improve the blighted neighborhoods in Rieger's hard-luck North Philadelphia "home district."

.....

This was money he used his political clout to bring home to his district. This was money he steered to a longtime member of his staff. This was money he could have and should have kept tabs on. And now he tells the people who trust him to represent their interests he has nothing to say?

As their legislator, shouldn't he have made it his business to know? Shouldn't he have noticed the lack of visible improvements and begun asking questions?

...

He has one of the poorest attendance records in the General Assembly. He missed all but two of 65 meetings of the House Professional Licensure Committee over a four-year period, despite being its Democratic chairman. He has gone 15 years without introducing a single bill.

Until it was highlighted in The Inquirer, Rieger steered $575 a month in taxpayer-financed rent back to his aide, Landers, for what passed as a district office in the cellar of her rowhouse. To get to the "office," a visitor would have to walk through Landers' house, squeeze between her refrigerator and stove, and navigate a narrow staircase. How's that for service?
Bill Rieger, North Philadelphia's (once in a while, when he can make it over there) wonderful State Rep. It is long overdue for him to go.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tell Schwartz What You Think

By now, most people know about Allyson Schwartz's outrageous vote on the Bankruptcy Bill. Now it's time to tell her what we think.

E-mail her.

Also you can contact her office in the following ways:

Washington Office
423 Cannon Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone--202/225-6111
fax--202/226-0611

Montgomery County Office
706 West Avenue
Jenkintown, PA 19046
phone--215/517-6572
fax--215/517-6575

Philadelphia Office
7219 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
phone--215/335-3355
fax--215/333-4508

Allyson Schwartz extends her middle finger to Philly

I am stunned. Say what you want about our Congressional delegation, but generally, they vote the right way. However, on the most awful, repugnant, disgusting, anti-consumer legislation to come up in the Congress in years, Allyson Schwartz voted with the credit card companies, and against the thousands upon thousands of Philadelphians struggling to get by. Amazing. There are few pieces of legislation in Washington as disgusting as this one, and few that are so nakedly blunt tools for awful companies to hurt people with. (Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah voted the right way.)

The Bankruptcy Bill is a law that makes your skin crawl. It was written by the credit card companies, for the credit card companies. There was no ground swell of support for the law, just the desire of some very rich corporations to assume control over the lives of single mothers who fall ill, soldiers whose financial fortunes fall apart when they are overseas, parents who lose their job, and the elderly who struggle with high payments of everything. It truly is disgusting. So, do me a favor Rep. Schwartz, next time you come to Philly for one of your photo-op's on social security, and pat yourself on the back for all the haaaaarrrrrd work you are doing in D.C., leave me out of it. You represent no Philadelphian. Only yourself.

John Edwards, former candidate for VP, gets it, and says it a lot more eloquently than me:
Like a lot of Democrats, I voted for a bankruptcy reform bill before. I can't say it more simply than this: I was wrong.

The bill is supposed to crack down on irresponsible borrowers. That's the right thing to do. The problem is that this bill imposes big burdens on families who did everything right but went broke just because they lost a job or lost their health insurance. And, even more than the legislation I supported, this bill doesn't crack down on the real abusers.

Two million Americans go bankrupt every year, but you might never know it. People keep it to themselves. They're ashamed about what has happened to them. But they aren't alone-these families are our neighbors, our brothers, our friends. And I've listened to so many people tell me how their life was on track until hardship hit. Thanks to Professor Warren, we now know that half of families going broke suffered illnesses or high medical costs.

These men and women want to pay their own way, but they can't. They can't because the hospital wants $135,000 to cover the heart operation and the plant just cut back their hours. They can't because the bank is about to foreclose on a predatory loan unless they can pay $40,000 in 48 hours. They can't because they lost their job and now the electric company wants a few hundred dollars more just to turn on the lights.

This bill won't do anything to give struggling families more security. It will only make it harder for good and decent people to start over. The new means test that will mean hundreds of dollars in new legal fees for families who barely have money to put food on the table.

If we want real reform, we shouldn't punish every hard-working family looking for another chance. But we should get serious about the biggest abuses.

In some states, a multimillionaire CEO can drive his company into the ground, declare bankruptcy, and still keep his mansion-tennis court, Jacuzzi, and all. The 2001 bill at least stopped that by capping the "homestead exemption" at $125,000. This bill will allow many multimillionaires to protect their mansions if they plan ahead.

We've also seen the credit card companies and predatory lenders become more aggressive. Today, many Americans have seen their interest rates triple to 29% or higher-not because they missed a payment, but just because they lost a job and needed another loan. Many more Americans are losing their homes because lenders have hidden points and fees in their loans. These companies are making billions by kicking people when they're down. This bill does nothing to stop them.

Unfortunately, we know what the outcome today is going to be. But that doesn't mean we should give up the fight-it means we have to fight harder. If we want to stop bankruptcies, we need to address their real causes, like rising health costs. We need to stop the abuses by the credit card companies and the predatory lenders. We need to make sure all families, and especially those who are poor, can build their savings and assets so they have some security if something goes wrong. It won't be easy, but it can be done. That's what being American is about--standing with people who are struggling to do right, and taking on anyone who tries to take advantage of them.
Never, and I mean never, will I vote for Allyson Schwartz for anything. The darling of Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill showed her true colors. Unfortunately, instead of red, white and blue, we saw her allegiance: green.

Still Shrinking, barely

A while back, I asked the question, Can Philly still be shrinking? Apparently, the answer is yes, at least a little bit. According to new figures released by the Census, Philly has shrunk by 6,000 people in 2004. So, while that is a tiny loss, it is still a loss nonetheless. (I thought these Census estimates do not come out until July 1, so, I am not sure if we will get a second estimation for the year or not.)

From the article:
If the trend continues, Philadelphia's 45-year-long population loss could halt by the end of this decade.

The city shrank by 6,802 people in 2004. That is a decline of about 0.5 percent - in real terms, a virtual standstill for a city with an estimated total population of 1,470,151.

The new numbers are not an exact count, but they do represent a continued brake on the downward trend, said Matthew Christenson, a census demographer.

For a city that had two million people in 1960, any move toward ending population loss is a good move. Nevertheless, Philadelphia still has lost 47,000 people since 2001.

...

Neighborhood development activists say they think Philadelphia's appeal extends beyond Center City, whose population tends toward baby boomers and recent college graduates.

"There has been some real progress over the past few years in community morale," said Susan Sierra, policy coordinator for the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. "A lot of neighborhoods feel more like good places to live."

What remains most obvious, however, is the ongoing boom in Center City housing, where 6,436 units have been added since 1998.

"We've clearly added... 9,000 residents since the 2000 census," said Paul Levy, president of the Center City District. He estimates each new downtown housing unit adds 1.6 people.
I am surprised, very surprised that the shrinking continues at all. At some point it will stop, but it has not yet.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

More on the Minimum Wage

Will Bunch has a good post about Rick Santorum and some of the politics surrounding his minimum wage bill.

I've been traveling for the past week or so, which has limited my posting. However, I want to join the chours of voices saying what a good job Ray has done on his first two posts.

Take the poll, support some progressives

First, before I get started, I wanted to make a front page welcome to Ray Murphy. His first two posts have been great, and are exactly the sort of discussions we should be having here. And frankly, the post on the minimum wage educated me. So, Welcome, Ray.

Second, Politics PA is taking a poll to see who people think the next Democratic candidate should be for Lt. Governor. Right now, Barbara Hafer is winning. While I was happy that Hafer was going to run against Santorum, and I was very happy that she saw the light and switched parties, I think there are some better, more progressive choices for Lt. Gov. For example: Joe Hoeffel. (Another good choice might be Kathleen McGinty, who everyone seems to think is headed for higher places.) Although I do not think Hoeffel ran a great campaign against ol' Arlen, he seems like a genuine good guy, genuine proud liberal and genuine blogger. I would vote for him in a second. (As an aside, liberal is a word that we reclaim here and now.)

Anyway, whoemever your vote is, take the poll and support your pick.

(UPDATE- So they are not lost in the shuffle, check out the really good comments in Ray's BPT post.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Goode Addresses One of Philadelphia's Biggest Challenges: Low Wages

The Philadelphia Weekly had a piece today on the minimum wage increase bill that Councilman Goode introduced in Council a few weeks back. His bill would require city contractors and other recipients of city aid to pay workers a 150% increase over the current federal minimum wage which would come to $7.72 an hour instead of $5.15 an hour for city minimum wage earners.

This from the Weekly:

Goode says there's nothing radical about his proposal because the 150 percent wage "threshold" is already required under local and state tax-credit programs that encourage job creation. "It's a widely accepted dollar figure," he says.

This sounds like a great move to me. First of all, if the City raises the minimum wage first, there is more pressure on state and federal legislators to act quickly (there are minimum wage bills at both levels right now). Secondly, and more importantly, this is exactly the kind of visionary thinking we need to truly solve the problems faced by Philadelphia today. Despite this common sense logic, deference to business interests, as always, has emerged.

From the Weekly:
Gov. Ed Rendell says he supports a higher minimum wage, but it must be enacted at the federal level, so as not to put the state's businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

What disadvantage? As the Weekly points out, our neighboring states like New York, New Jersey and Delaware have already enacted minimum wage increases independent of the federal government. So the argument that businesses will leave PA if the minimum wage is increased seems kind of silly (not to mention the fact that a lot of minimum wage employers like McDonalds and Blockbuster need to be located within a close physical proximity to their customer base).

The Economic Policy Institue in Washington confirms the fact that minimum and living wage increases don’t cause job losses and, in fact, often improve the business climate:

Do living wage ordinances cause job loss?
EPI's evaluation of Baltimore's living wage ordinance found no job loss as a result of the ordinance (Niedt et al. 1999). The majority of workers interviewed for the study reported no changes in the number of hours they worked after the ordinance went into effect.

Employers interviewed for another study reported that although wages increased, these costs were absorbed by improvements in efficiency; raising wages decreased employee turnover, which decreased recruitment and training costs.

The evidence from minimum wage increases also suggests that there should be little or no job loss as a result of living wage ordinances. A recent EPI study failed to find any systematic, significant job loss associated with the 1996-97 minimum wage increase (Bernstein and Schmitt 1998).

Do living wage ordinances have a negative impact on the business climate?
Some living wage detractors argue that the living wage will create a "hostile business climate." But most living wage ordinances cover too small a portion of the labor force to have such a profound effect; most living wage ordinances cover less than 1% of the local workforce. Wages are only one factor in a business' decision to move to a location, and there is no evidence that an existing living wage ordinance has discouraged firms from locating in a city.

The real barrier to Pennsylvania business competitiveness is a conservative state legislature that refuses to invest in effective economic development strategies and quality education and training opportunities for all Pennsylvanians. If cities like Philadelphia can help pump wages up, city and state tax revenue will soon increase and create the fiscal flexibility needed to improve the workforce.

I am glad to see that Councilman Goode is demonstarting some real leadership and taking one of Philadelphia's biggest challenges head-on. It should be interesting to see how the rest of Council, the Mayor and the Chamber respond in coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I don't want to pay Rick Mariano's legal bills

And neither should you. In case you missed it, City Councilman Rick Mariano is under investigation for having a private company pay of his credit card bills when City Council was not getting its regular paychecks. And, of course, gets who gets to foot the bill for his legal defense?

From the Daily News
:As a somber Mariano, dressed in black, departed City Hall yesterday afternoon, he repeated his mantra "No comment, no comment" when asked whether the money for his legal bills would come out of his pocket, his campaign fund or city coffers.

But later, Frank Keel, Mariano's media specialist, whose fees are paid out of Mariano campaign funds, said, "It's our understanding and expectation that the councilman's legal bills will be paid by the city, but as of yet he hasn't received any bills."
We have already shelled out 2.8 million dollars in the probe legal defense bills, mostly to people such as George Burrell. Now we are going to be hit with Mariano's bills, as well? Thankfully, if he gets indicted, we may get all firm, and put our foot down:

Asked whether the city would continue to pay Mariano's legal bills if he were convicted of a crime, Diaz said the city would drop its coverage much earlier, at the point of indictment.

But if an indictment or conviction occurs and it's clear the public official was not acting "within the scope of his employment," does the city seek to recoup the money it has already paid out?

"I don't think we've addressed that issue," Diaz said yesterday. "I'd need to reflect on that."

Last year, during city budget hearings, the issue was posed to then-city solicitor Pedro Ramos by Councilman Michael Nutter.

Ramos said assuming the official had not been acting within the scope of his job, "I'd probably argue that we have a claim going backwards."

Whether the city would file suit to get those attorney's fees back is a "litigation decision," Ramos said, in part based on the cost of litigation.

As part of the package of ethics bills submitted to Council last fall, Nutter offered a bill that would require elected officials to file a public request for legal representation.

The bill, which is stalled in committee, also enables the city to seek reimbursement if the official is convicted or if the city solicitor determines the improper acts were outside the scope of official employment.
Legal bills, libraries. Legal bills, rec centers. Legal bills, cops on the street. I'm glad we choose legal bills.

Cohen Brothers do Philadelphia Politics!

O Brother Where Art Thou?, 2000:
Pappy O'Daniel sits smoking a cigar, nursing a glass of whiskey, and soliciting the counsel of his overweight retinue.

PAPPY: Languishing! Goddamn campaign is languishing! We need a shot inna arm! Hear me, boys? Inna goddamn ARM! Election held tomorra, that sonofabitch Stokes would win it in a walk!

JUNIOR: Well he's the reform candidate, Daddy.

Pappy narrows his eyes at him, wondering what he's getting at.

PAPPY: ...Yeah?

JUNIOR: Well people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some.

Pappy whips off his hat and slaps at Junior with it.

PAPPY: I'll reform you, you soft-headed sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform when we're the damn incumbent!

Philadelphia, 2005:

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham today said the city's criminal courts should be reorganized along geographic lines so that judges are assigned to handle all the cases from a particular area.

Abraham told members of City Council during a two-hour hearing on her office's budget that such "zone courts" would be more efficient, leading to fewer dismissals of cases, fewer trial delays and more accountability.

....

"I bitterly object to - to get political for a moment - my opponent saying, 'Oh, 50 percent of the cases are dismissed because the DA's not ready,'" Abraham said after the hearing. "That's not true at all. It's the antiquated way of randomly assigning cases to courtrooms that is in large measure responsible for it."
Other than to say I may watch too many movies, I think I will just let this stand, as is.

Unraveling Library Debate Reveals BPT Elimination as Real Culprit

I am excited to make my debut here on Young Philly Politics by following up on some themes that Ben and Dan have been pursuing lately in regard to "vision". I’d like to focus on the lack of vision apparent in the hot-and-getting-hotter library debate in which Council is pitting library expansion against maintenance of current services, all the while ignoring the real culprit: business privilege tax reductions.

The main branch of the Free Library at 19th and Vine has plans to expand and renovate for the future. The Library is pursuing funding for a plan to expand its main branch to include tons more internet access, a new children’s section and other improvements to help it stay relevant. Relevancy is a concept often foreign to City Council which explains this priceless interchange between Councilman DiCicco and Elliot Shelkrot, Director of the Free Library as reported by the Daily News:

"If you had to make a choice, would you rather fund the Central Library expansion or keep the branches open,"Councilman Frank DiCicco asked Shelkrot.

"Now you're asking me to play Solomon," Shelkrot began.

"No. Solomon had to cut the baby in half. You get to keep the baby whole. Which baby do you choose?" DiCicco asked.

After a bit of evading, Shelkrot said that he considered the expansion and building of a new library at the Central Branch more important to the future of Philadelphia.

DiCicco’s line of questioning stems from his claim that a $30 million bond approved by Council just over a month ago will cost the city $3.5 million in debt service payments a year. The $3.5 million figure is derived from a memo from Controller Saidel written in December.

Although the city has approved $30 million in bond funding for the $120 million library expansion project, the initial bond bill approved by Council is only for $10 million. This bond will require debt service payments of about $1 million a year. The first payment will be made in 2 parts over FY 06.

A feasibility study commissioned by the library finds that the expansion project will bring in $1.9 million in city wage tax revenue from the creation of over 1000 new construction jobs and will also help spur new growth along the Parkway.

So, debt service payments due in FY 06 cost less than DiCicco claims and will be covered entirely by the wage tax revenue generated by the project. The library expansion will also generate almost a million additional dollars for new projects or future debt service payments.

Despite this, DiCicco is leading the charge to rescind the Council bill which authorized bond funding for the library expansion even though the bond has nothing to do with the revenue shortfall causing library service cuts in the first place.

The real cause of library service reductions is the elimination of the business privilege tax. City Council, the PA Economy League, Philadelphia Forward, Young Involved Philadelphia and other proponents of conservative trickle-down economic theory have beaten the drum for tax reform for so long that the Mayor included a 3.8% reduction in business privilege taxes in this year's budget. That reduction is worth $70 million in FY 06. The Mayor’s budget is revenue neutral so that reduction will be balanced by an increase in parking taxes from 15 to 20 %.

If even a small portion of the revenue generated by a parking tax increase were given to the Free Library rather than business privilege tax reduction, full-time week-day service could be maintained and all branches could be opened on Saturdays too (the Library says this would cost about $5 million, or about 7% of the amount of BPT tax reductions proposed). Instead, cuts are being made to basic services with the vague promise that business tax breaks will eventually generate economic growth.

The reality is that the jobs and economic growth that tax reform proponents have promised haven’t emerged so far and are unlikely to start any time soon. As Professor Robert Lynch pointed out in his paper, “Rethinking Growth Strategies,” local taxes are normally at the bottom of a list of criteria that businesses use when making decisions about where to locate their company. At the top of that list is location, quality of city infrastructure and service, access to roads and transportation and the quality and skills of the local workforce.

If our elected officials and city opinion leaders like Frank DiCicco, Michael Nutter, David Thornburgh and Brett Mandel can't understand what a real vision for change and growth looks like, eventually their grandstanding is going to be revealed for the political trickery it really is. We need to speak up and force City Council to stop pitting our present against our future.

Expanding the main branch of the library, maintaining current library services and maintaining fiscal flexibility to be able to adopt new ideas to generate growth (like Councilman Goode’s minimum wage increase bill) are the kinds of policies that will help make Philadelphia a world-class city in the 21st century. Eliminating business privilege taxes, which benefit only the wealthiest corporations, is a strategy that does nothing substantive to spur growth and will ultimately leave the average Philadelphian (including most small business owners) in the lurch.

Monday, April 11, 2005

If only more people read this site...

...they would have known this:
The city's white-collar employee union today snubbed District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, endorsing challenger Seth Williams in the May 17 Democratic primary.

"He's a mover and a shaker," said Linda Rhym, vice president of AFSCME District Council 47, which represents 3,400 city workers, including some staff in the prosecutor's office and the city prisons. "He has a vision and a goal ... his ideas were excellent."

The endorsement gives Williams, a former assistant prosecutor, another political credential in the campaign for district attorney, which has so far been a low-key affair. He was endorsed two weeks ago by of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents active and retired Philadelphia officers.
Yaaaaawn. Remember this post, seven days ago? Ben said:
Williams received the nod today from AFSCME DC 47. DC 47 represents over 5,000 employees, many of them city workers. The leadership of DC 47, particularly President Thomas Paine Cronin, is known for supporting progressive causes.
If you want to know, read Young Philly Politics. If you want to know late, read the Inquirer.

Good news of course for Seth Williams. Drip drip drip. He is slowly getting more coverage. But it does irritate me that the Inquirer called the race "low-key." Why is it "low key"? Because they have not covered it? There are literally issues of life and death at stake here. The only thing low-key has been their coverage.

Just another weekend in Philly: ten people shot

Jeez, its good we don't have any laws targeting illegal sellers of handguns. How else would the trauma centers at HUP and Temple keep busy?

From the Daily News:
Philadelphia's gun violence continued this weekend with at least 10 people shot late Saturday into early yesterday at eight sites from the Northeast to South Philadelphia, according to police.

Most of the shooting victims are young males, police said, and only one is older than 30.

...

Rev. Anthony Floyd, president of the Philadelphia Council of Clergy and a member of the police clergy, called for residents to take a stand against violence.

"We need community outcry," Floyd said. "We need to get the community involved, get out on the corners."

Sterling, of Nicetown, said that in the 16 years he has lived on his block, the area has become safer but that there still are several shootings every year there.

"Folks don't know what they need to do to rise above their situation," said Sterling.

"They are burdened."
Ten people shot. One weekend. Terrific.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Updated blogroll, and some new links

As you may have noticed, we updated our Philly blogs and resources page, thanks to a little prodding by Ben. If you have a liberal to liberalish Philly or Philly area site, and you want it listed, just email me and I will try and get it up there, at least eventually.

And, though I have yet to add them, there are a few sites that you might find interesting.

1)Santorum Watch
A site that collects a ton of info about Senator Santorum, including his anti Amtrak vote, followed by his pro-Amtrak column in the Inquirer, followed, I believe by some more anti Amtrak statements and maybe even votes. Anyway, good source material for Santorum stuff if you need it. It also includes his voting record, and a list of his biggest contributors.

2)Philly for Change
I have only been able to go to two Philly for Change meetups so far, and have a sporadic schedule that will probably keep me from being anything but an occasional attendee. But, I am telling you, there are some damn smart, dedicated, progressive people there who are good to be around.

3)Philly Neighborhood Networks
I have talked about them a bunch, but there website now has a lot more detail then previously. So if you are interested in what they are trying to do, check them out.

Friday, April 08, 2005

City Wi-Fi plan unveiled

Yesterday the City announced its plan for its City-wide wireless internet network. The main plan is that the City will start a non-profit, "Wireless Philadelphia," which will be in charge of getting everything up and running, and then selling wholesale access to the network to local ISPs, who will then sell it to all of us, at a price of like 16 or 20 dollars a month.

Of course, the non-naysayers still have negative things to say. Take Frank Rizzo, who has swung as wildly at this project as Pat Burrell at an outside slider. First, Rizzo compared our little Wi-Fi program to Boston's nororious "big dig," in of the better overstatements I have seen in a while. Then, when it turns out the City has come up with foundation grants to pay for a lot of the cost, Rizzo simply said, "They wont last forever!" Next he will invoke 9/11 or something.

From the article:
Neff said the city would serve as an "anchor tenant" for the wireless network, using it to enable meter readers, building inspectors, and other city workers in the field to access or input crucial data. The city also will provide light-post access for the network's hardware.

No city funds are to be used for the network, which will cost $10 million to build. Neff said Wireless Philadelphia would tap foundation grants, low-interest bank loans, and taxable bonds.

Some proceeds are to go to training programs for people who don't know how to use computers.

....

City Council member Frank Rizzo, the chief local critic of the plan, said he still suspected that taxpayers would end up footing the bill for wireless access. "Foundation grants aren't forever," he said.

A poll commissioned last month by a cable industry trade group also found that Philadelphians rated city wireless access a far lower priority than crime or schools. The poll also found doubts about administration assertions that the initiative would boost the city's standing in the global digital economy.

But others, such as Intel Corp., maker of computer chips, and Staples Inc., the office-supply company, have lauded the effort. Both corporations are both providing free assistance to Philadelphia's wireless effort.

Despite the voices of doubt, speakers at the kickoff press conference appeared particularly pleased by the effect on the city's low-tech reputation.

"I have not seen an initiative gain more immediate positive attention for the city, both internationally and nationally, [than] this one," said Ed Schwartz, a former City Council member who served on the wireless executive committee that crafted the plan.

A longtime technology advocate, Schwartz runs a nonprofit organization that has a $150,000 contract with the city to maintain a Web site about city neighborhoods.
Here is what this whole thing is about: Vision. You want to talk about a positive vision for the City, how about this one? I know Intel and the like are fronting some money for the project because in the end, the more computer savvy, internet ready people, the better for them. Well, on that note, how about getting some of our numerous foundation folks together with Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Gateway, etc, and propose a plan that Philly become a totally digital city, where every poor kid in the entire City has a computer in their home? Can you imagine the difference it would make, in a City where something like 40 percent of us are not online? And, given that you can equip someone with an decent, internet ready computer for 3 or 4 hundred dollars, it is feasible. Who knows, we may find that the next Bill Gates is actually sitting in a rowhome in South Philly, waiting for someone to give him or her some basic tools to succeed.

And for 20 dollars or less a month, I will be signing up myself.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Neighborhood Networks: Update

I got this email from Stan Shapiro, and, with his permission, I am going to repost it here. The conference should be really, really interesting. The more people that can be turned out, the better.
It's about a month since the last Philly for Change Meetup, and I wanted to update you about Neighborhood Networks (about which I spoke at the meeting.) In short, we're alive, kicking, and getting ready for a tremendous opening event on June 4.

The event will be at Penn Law School, running from approximately 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM. So that you'll be up to date about all the details, we'll be signing you all up on our announcement list-serv shortly (from which you can opt-out if you wish.) We also will have a website up and running soon of which you'll also get notice.

We remain committed to our initial vision: we're going to create a permanent, democratically-run structure that fields a ward and division support system for progressive candidates and issues throughout the city (and beyond.) We're going to do it the MoveOn way, by having folks responsible for particular precincts (called "divisions" in Philly), along with whatever group of helpers they can assemble. We'll try to get a two way conversation going, so that voters feel their views are being heard, and that those views are an important guide to decision making by the entire organization. And we're going to fight to get progressive candidates on the ballot who genuinely support our issues.

I know that Philly for Change is encouraging folks to have house parties to show its DVD on social security. Members of Neighborhood Networks would love to attend any of those parties, and bring you the latest on what to expect at the conference and beyond. Or, if you and/or a friend would like to host a gathering just to talk about NN, that would be great too. Just let me know the time and date, and we'll get someone there.

We think Neighborhood Networks is the very embodiment of the up from the bottom, participatory model that Democracy for Change, Howard Dean, and Philly for Change are all about. Thanks for expressing an interest in it, and I look forward to working with you on spreading democracy in our neighborhoods, soon.

And I know it's now almost a cliche, but thanks for all that you do.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Interviews?

Would anyone be interested in reading interviews of people in the Philadelphia political community? I'm thinking people who have been around a while-- maybe also some people often mentioned as candidates? People currently running for office? Long-time political operatives? Ward leaders? Currently elected officials?

Who would be on your short list?

The Surreal Life: Now Starring Lynne Abraham

"Damn it Jim, I'm a Doctor not a bricklayer." -Dr. "Bones" McCoy, Star Trek.

This is really one of the more bizarre articles that I have read for a while. Some of the quotes from our esteemed D.A. are so out there, as to be, surreal.

OK, so, the Seth Williams campaign got a hold of the sheet that each D.A. uses at the end of the day that tallies their daily statistics. He then sent it to the press. Why? Because, as the article says, Lynne Abraham has consistently said that her department does not keep statistics.

From the article:
Williams received the form from someone inside the district attorney's office who supports his run for district attorney over that of incumbent Lynne Abraham. The form is to be filled out by assistant district attorneys at the end of each workday, presumably to better keep track of courtroom stats in more than 20 categories.

How many trials took place that day?

How many verdicts? Guilty? Not guilty?

How many pleas were entered?

How many complainants, defendants and police officers failed to honor their subpoenas?

As government documents go, this one won't be confused with the Pentagon Papers. But it's more interesting than it first appears. Any media member who's requested statistics from DA Lynne Abraham has heard the refrain: "We don't keep statistics."

"They do keep statistics," says Williams. "Assistant district attorneys fill out this form every day. They don't release the statistics publicly because they aren't flattering."
OK, so, she is either lying, or, has one of most bizarre philosophies in running a large department that I have ever heard.

Consider this gem:
"The voters of Philadelphia did not elect a statistician," says Eleanor Dezzi, Abraham's reelection campaign director. "They elected a DA."

Dezzi says the form Williams gave PW represents numbers crunching done by one chief in one unit. There are, for instance, 11 different units in the office's trial division alone. "What's needed," says Dezzi, "is a system-wide method of gathering numbers."

The problem, she says, is that the expense of crunching numbers from tens of thousands of cases is prohibitive. More important, such an undertaking would run counter to Abraham's philosophy.

"She believes you look at each case on its own merits and in its own circumstances," says Dezzi. "Not all cases are the same, so it's difficult to make sense of them through numbers. Look at it this way: If every case were the same, there would have been only one episode of Law & Order."
Say what? No, really, say what? Imagine if poor ol' Sylvester Johnson had said, I cannot tell you how many rapes there were in Philadelphia last year. You didn't elect me to be a statistician dammit!

The article also questions whether Williams' assertion that 40 percent of Philly cases being dismissed is entirely fair, because that may partially be the DA's letting a merit-less case go. However, if this is true, this is more ammo for Williams' assertion that we need DA's out at detective units 24/7, where they can make those decisions on the spot, better informed, rather than going through the undoubtedly expensive process of scheduling, delaying, and dismissing cases at the last second. And, of course, if Abraham released the statistics, maybe she could further refute that. But, oops!, she doesn't keep them. Shucks!

One of the best ways to push back against reform is to refuse the collection of data. That is why, for example, there was an amendment proposed in California that would have banned the state from collecting any data on race. How can you prove the need for affirmative action when you have no statistics to back it up?

Abraham seems to be getting testier and testier lately. I think this is because rather than attacking her as a racist, as previous challenger and bomb thrower Alex Talmadge did, Williams is attacking her for her competency. And he is doing it from the position of someone who knows what he is talking about, and with good ideas of how to immediately fix things. He isn't saying she is a bad person, he is saying she is a bad District Attorney. That is not so easily dismissed, even by her supporters.

Apparently, Abraham is now discussing implementing community prosecution. Hmmm, I wonder where she got that idea. Sorry Ms. Abraham, you had over a decade to do that. It is time for a new D.A., with real reform in mind.

Business Privilege Tax

IF WE ELIMINATE THE BUSINESS PRIVILEGE TAX, WHO WILL PAY THE PRICE?

What impact could the loss of 10% of the city's budget have on city services and our quality of life, if the bill to eliminate the Business Privilege Tax passes City Council and becomes law? What are more effective strategies for economic growth than cutting taxes?


Join the Civil Rights Committee
Thursday, April 7, 12:15 PM, 10th Floor Boardroom
Philadelphia Bar Association, 1101 Market Street

Hear:
Jonathan Stein
General Counsel, Community Legal Services; Former Member, Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission
Sharon Ward
Director of Advocacy, Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth
Beth McConnell
Executive Director, PennPIRG Education Fund

In addition, Larry Frankel, Legislative Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania, will address the meeting on the privacy and civil rights implications of the use of video-surveillance cameras as a crime fighting tool, a recent proposal of Philadelphia's District Attorney and Police Commissioner.

Lunch will be provided at no cost but please respond to the notice below
regarding lunch.

*******************************DETACH HERE******************************

LUNCHEON RESERVATION for Civil Rights Committee Meeting - April 7, 2005 Please return as soon as possible to: Civil Rights Committee, Philadelphia Bar Association, 1101 Market Street, 10th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107-2911 or fax to 215-238-1159. There is no cost for the lunch but we need an accurate headcount for the caterer.

________ Yes, I will attend the meeting on April 7.

Name: ____________________________________

Phone:_________________

Address: __________________________________Fax: _________________________

Libraries and Common Sense Take a Hit

And the war on public services continues. Due budget woes, 20 libraries across the city are losing critical staff. The Philadelphia Daily News highlights the impact at the Cecil B. Moore Branch of the Free Library.
The cutbacks mean that the two certified librarians at Moore - and at other branches slated to become "express" branches - will be moved to full-service libraries. Also, the hours at the limited-service branches will be cut from 10 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. a couple of days a week to 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

City officials say the budget cuts at least keep the library branches open in the neighborhoods and they say library assistants, who generally have a high school or GED equivalent diploma, will get special training to help answer library patrons' research questions.

But Cathy Scott, the president of the union representing librarians said all of the express branches are slated for poor, minority or working-class neighborhoods.

"You won't find any cuts in library services in Chestnut Hill or Mount Airy," Scott said.
Setting aside what Scott says, there is another part of this story that bothers me. And that is the role played by Philadelphia City Council.
Last week, City Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced a bill to rescind $30 million Council approved in December to pay for the expansion of the Free Library's Central Branch. He said library officials had promised that the expansion would not hurt the neighborhood branches.
DiCicco to the rescue. This reminds me of stuff that happened over the summer. Does anyone remember the rallies held by firefighters against proposed budget cuts? Nutter, Kenney, DiCicco, and Kelly were all there. Now that same group is taking up the fight of the neighborhood libraries. However, there seems to be an almost total disconnect from reality.

These are the same people who are pushing for so-called "Tax reform." Why do they think budget cuts are necessary? It's hard to have enough revenue to fully fund city services if tax cuts are constantly being used as the silver bullet to help Philadelphia grow. Of course, I tend to think the city will not grow without decent public services-- like fully funded libraries. But that's my bias.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Stop Pay-to-Play? Not so Fast

I have a feeling this won’t be my most popular post on Young Philly Politics. But, in the spirt of open debate, I'm going to give it a shot.

The Philly blogosphere has been buzzing about an online petition supporting Councilman Michael Nutter’s package of ethics reform bills. His bills require full disclosure by city agencies granting no-bid contracts and also place limits on campaign contributions.

Given the prevalent corruption at all level of Philadelphia city government, this legislation seems like common sense. Of course, Nutter’s package fell one vote short of passage. Many people are understandably upset with council’s inaction.

However, I still can’t get too fired up about pay-to-play legislation. Nepotism, corruption and patronage are a part of politics. In fact, organizing politically is one of the only ways traditionally marginalized communities have been able to access jobs, education, city services and other benefits of social policy.

Without a doubt, the Street Administration has been corrupt. But have it been any more or less corrupt than Rendell, Goode, or Rizzo? I don’t particularly think so. I know some consider it a sin to criticize Saint Ed, but does anyone doubt he has done some major favors for big donors? A prime example is the massive tax breaks given to Comcast Corporation to build a new headquarters. If that’s not corporate welfare, then the term has no meaning.

Many people believe corruption is why Philadelphia fails to attract new businesses and residents. While this is part of the story, I don’t believe passing this legislation will really do much to create good jobs, improve city services, or make neighborhood’s safer. And these three things are the true foundation on which a revitalized city will be built.

Anti-corruption legislation, while commendable, is simply a reaction to an age-old problem and won’t do very much by itself. People with large amounts of money will always figure out how to influence the political process. There will always be corruption. However, I believe it is possible that the seeds of a new movement can be found within the efforts to reform Philadelphia politics. To save our city, it cannot just be a reactionary movement. It must be an effort with bold vision, offering new solutions to familiar problems. I want to build a city where economic and social justice is the cornerstone of social policy. Where City Council is a laboratory for new ideas and innovative programs. Where social services are fully funded and all jobs pay a living wage.

I wonder if pay-to-play legislation moves us down that path? I’m not sure our energies couldn’t be better spent in other places.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sign the Anti Pay-to-Play Petition

A group of dismayed, concerned citizens has started a site to recreate some momentum for ethics legislation in the City. Their plan seems to be this: on April 13th the group will deliver a petition from Philadelphia citizens demanding the passage of ethics reform. And then, Councilman Nutter will reintroduce his bill.

Check out their website at StopPaytoPlay.info. They have email links for the shameful five Councilmembers who voted against the legislation, and other helpful info. Check them out, and sign the petition, which takes all of 30 seconds.

All over Philly, concerned citizens are trying to make their voices heard, and make a difference. We need to find a way to unite all of us. I hope this and a few others of our sites (which, as Ben has noted, we should, and will be linking to more) can help in the process.

Holy Crap -- Updated

Update: Damn. Attytood goes to town on Cornyn. Nice when an investigative journalist can rock out on a blog.

Is the GOP trying to justify violence against judges?

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence."

AmericaBlog has a lot more.

If the Shriners come, does William Penn have to wear a Fez?

This is a little ridiculous and over the top:
Who's the big green guy in the white jacket?

Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce chief Mark Schweiker wants to see the City Hall statue of William Penn dressed in a "giant lab coat" on June 19 to greet the expected throng of visitors to Bio 2005, the convention of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The city has given similar honors to the playoff-bound (but ill-fated) 76ers and Phillies in recent years, the former governor figures. So why not dress up for the docs and their corporate business partners for the show?
First of all, as the little article mentions, it has not exactly been good luck to dress up William Penn. And, come on, can we keep a little dignity please? Making conventioneers welcome? Good. Selling out our local icons in the process? Bad.

And, there is a huge difference in putting a Phillies hat, which was a Philadelphia-centric, shared symbol of how much the town loved the 93 Phils and united around them, vs. putting a lab coat on William Penn. And, why would we stop there? What if the NEA comes for their convention? Shouldn't City Hall have a stack of books? How about the NRA? They have had their convention here, too. Should we give ol' Billy Penn an AK-47? And, if we start doing this, would that become a standard part of the convention contract? I hope not.

DC 47 Endorses Seth Williams

Seth Williams continues to get support for organized labor in Philadelphia. Fresh off his endorsement from the FOP, Williams received the nod today from AFSCME DC 47. DC 47 represents over 5,000 employees, many of them city workers. The leadership of DC 47, particularly President Thomas Paine Cronin, is known for supporting progressive causes. For example, Cronin was a driving force of the recent campaign to save SEPTA and played a critical role in convincing the Philadelphia AFL-CIO to come out against the war in Iraq. DC 47 also supported Tim Kearney in his long-shot attempt to unseat John Perzel.

In addition to volunteers and financial contribution, I think an endorsement from DC 47 will give Williams additional clout in seeking support from other unions. Cronin has been around for a long time and has solid relationships with many of the largest unions in Philadelphia. While the Philadelphia AFL-CIO has endorsed Abraham, this might be an empty gesture if CWA District 13, UFCW 1776, and other big unions decide to break with the endorsement.

The big question is the building trades. This includes powerhouse IBEW Local 98, headed by John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty. I doubt they will break away from Abraham, but I also don't see them getting particularly involved with this race. If they sit on their hands and the unions supporting Williams get seriously involved, we could have a race.

Obviously, unions aren't the only things that decide elections in Philadelphia. But they are a big component, for any challenger or incumbent.

Phillies and Politics

Just to piggyback on Daniel post, I think there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
The consensus seems to be that the Phillies will score a ton of runs. ESPN.com polled insiders about the best lineup in the National League and the Phillies finished third behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Marlins. Many believe the bullpen could be one of the best in the league - and the best in the division - if Wagner stays healthy and dominates as he has in the past.
Interestingly enough for the readers of this site, the first Phillies game I went to at the new stadium was with a bunch of people from AFSCME DC 47. From what I hear, DC 47 President Tom Cronin and Seth Williams have some sort of announcement they'll be making today.

Update: Matt over at Philly Future weighs in on the political implications of the Phillies being broadcast on 1210 AM.

A Good Day in Philadelphia

OK, so nothing to do with politics, but, baseball begins today. And while the Phillies didn't exactly wow us with their offseason, they still are a decent team. (Check out Rob Neyer of ESPN, uber baseball geek, who says that given a look at purely their statistics, the Phillies should have finished the 2004 season only one game back from the Braves. And, he thinks the Phillies will win this year. He is pretty much the only who thinks that, but you have to take hope where you can get it.)

Go Phils. Please.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Progress in N. Philly

America's Hometown has two quick notes about two new N. Broad Street Developments. The first devlopment, Avenue North, which has seen about 45 previous attempts to be completed (under names such as JumpStreet) will put a 75 million dollar development, with a much needed movie theater, retails stores, etc., into North Philly. There is a lot of buying power in and around North Philly. If you can make people see the Avenue North development as a destination, there is no reason it cannot do well.

The second development, the move of Philly school district officials into a new building on North Broad Street, (OK, this is not really North Philly. North Broad, yeah. North Philly, no. Anyway...) is seen as a big spur of economic development along North Broad. Condos are going up, people are moving in, putting down roots and spending their money in Philly. Always a good thing.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Building a U.S. left

One of my pet projects is trying to figure out how the right got so powerful and how the left became so weak in American political life. I've written a little bit about what I think needs to happen to help build a progressive youth movement and gobble up any articles about how to strengthen the infastructure of the left. Reccently, I've been thinking about the 1960s. Too many people idealize this decade as the time that the left was strongest. While this may be partially true, it can't be ignored that this was also a time when conservatives built their own strength.

That's why this article by Kevin Mattson resonates so strongly with me.
Remembering the ’60s as a time of heroic activism -- when ordinary citizens changed the terms of politics -- suggests we might be able to recycle those protest styles today.
...
But there’s also a limit to protest. With its emphasis on criticizing rather than building, it nurtures a narrow conception of opposition. Of course we need to criticize, especially with this administration in power. But for the long term, it’s far more important at this historical moment that we build. The left needs to think about long-term and broader ideas of change. Protest doesn’t help here; it’s too fleeting and spasmodic.
...
Today’s protesters ignore King’s reflections on his own historical context. Consider that John F. Kennedy was president when King wrote his letter, and that King was one of Kennedy’s most astute critics. King believed in 1960 that candidate Kennedy “had the intelligence and the skill and the moral fervor to give the leadership” the civil-rights movement had “been waiting for.” Soon, though, King realized Kennedy had “the political skill” but not “the moral passion.” Nonviolent direct action, with its intention of creating conflict to expose tension, was precisely the tool to jump-start that moral passion. King saw an opening that the movement could prod, and this got him the legislation he desired: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The year 1963 was its own time, distinct from 1968 and certainly 2004. George W. Bush is no John F. Kennedy, and today’s Republican leadership in Congress is a far cry from the Congress of 1963–64. The chance that Bush and congressional Republicans would be prodded into some kind of action by such protests is zero (unless, indeed, protest moves them to act more forcefully in the other direction). The protesters at the Republican convention of 2004 might have imagined themselves as working in the tradition of King. But the context had shifted so drastically that their actions fell on -- quite literally -- deaf ears. It wasn’t even clear what they hoped to accomplish. And when the goals aren’t clear, protest means little more than expressing rage. That’s why it often takes the form of political theater, which too often encapsulates those who make it in their own hermetic world; it replaces explanation of political ideas and policies with in-jokes and references that confirm pre-existing opinions. If you know a pig stands for a white guy with power, you get it; if not, you don’t.
...
Meanwhile, of course, an enduring movement was being built during the ’60s -- but it was on the right. Historians of the decade used to focus on left-wing organizations, writing books about sds, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, typically culminating in the tumult of 1968 and thus telling a story of factionalism and decline. Today, however, historians are growing more interested in documenting the right and telling a tale not of decline but of ascendance. James Miller, who wrote a marvelous book about sds, explained to the magazine Lingua Franca a few years back that “in terms of the political history of this country, the New Left just isn’t an important story.” Focusing on the left, he explained with a certain irony about his own historical work, evades “the extraordinary success of the forces that first supported [Barry] Goldwater, then [Ronald] Reagan as governor of California, and then [George] Wallace. I can’t help but see that absence in the historiography as integral to the mythologization of the Sixties.” Miller echoes the argument of M. Stanton Evans, a leading conservative intellectual and popular writer, who wrote, “Historians may well record the decade of the 1960s as the era in which conservatism, as a viable political force, finally came into its own.”
There's a lot more and I suggest you go check it out.

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