Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Pipeline Project

In case anyone is interested:
Have you ever thought about running for office or working on policy?

Are you a woman between 18 and 40 years of age?
Then join us for The Pipeline Project!

Hosted by WOMENS WAY and facilitated by the International Women's Democracy Center, this intensive two-day workshop will provide participants with the tools and technical assistance to become leaders and decision-makers in the public and private sectors. Network with other like-minded young women and have an impact in your community!

Time: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Date: Saturday and Sunday, June 4 - 5, 2005
Location: Rohm & Haas, 100 Independence Mall West (Corner of 6th and
Market Streets), Philadelphia, PA
Cost: $50.00 per person
Breakfast and lunch provided

Please note: space is limited to the first 35 paid participants.

To reserve your spot today, please print and complete this form and
send along with your payment to WOMENS WAY at 1233 Locust Street, Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Or call our office at 215-985-3322 to pay with your Visa, MasterCard or American Express card.

Contact Tamela Luce, Manager of Development, at
tluce at womensway dot org
with any questions. Special thanks to Rohm and Haas for hosting this event.

Monday, May 30, 2005

In Memoriam

I have been pretty sick this weekend, and had about zero desire to write anything. I would be remiss though, if I let Memorial Day end without at least pointing you to this site on philly.com, that has obituaries of some of the local fallen soldiers.

On Friday, the Daily News put in photos of all of the local soldiers who died in action, and something about them. As I sat there, reading the list, knowing how many were the same age as me, knowing how many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives have been dealt with devastating blows over the past 2.5 years, I sort of lost it.

Anyway, whether it is watching Ted Koppel say the name of each solider who died over the past year, or reading the stories and obituaries, I think it is always good to take stock, and remind yourself that these are not simply statistics.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

PW on Neighborhood Networks

Philadelphia Weekly has a feature story on Neighborhood Networks, a new effort to be launched in Philadelphia next weekend. Neighborhood Networks is an outgrowth of the growing powerlessness of progressives in Philadelphia politics. The leaders of this new group have an admirable slate of priorities.
The organizers of Neighborhood Networks say they envision the group as a web of activists who can lend some time to political campaigns, in support of both progressive candidates for office and progressive policies.

"We care about good government," stresses [Marc] Stier, who unsuccessfully vied for a Pennsylvania House seat in last year's Democratic primary. "We want elected officials who don't give a $30 million tax break to a company like Comcast, which earned a $1.9 billion profit last year."

Rather, Stier and his cohorts would like to see a local Democratic Party that focuses on improving the quality of life of low-income residents by pushing for changes such as increasing the minimum wage and repairing abandoned homes.

-snip-

Specific issues to focus on will be determined during next week's conference, and later by the membership. However, the Neighborhood Networks website does make reference to pushing for new ethics rules in Philadelphia government and limiting gun sales statewide. On a national level, the organization could get involved in protecting Social Security, and defeating "judicial nominees who are right-wing extremists," according to the website.
The idea is pretty basic. Organize a bunch of progressive and get them to talk with their neighbors about local politics.

Credit Where It Is Due

1)To John Street and advocates like Sister Mary Scullion, because (with a hat tip to Philly Future) apparently, Philadelphia is a model city for dealing with homelessness. From the article, which is quite extensive:
After years of turmoil and political infighting, Philadelphia began a grand experiment by creating a new paradigm for dealing with homelessness that has become the envy of cities across the country.

Those cities include Denver, where officials are looking to the City of Brotherly Love as a model for how to end homelessness.

Philadelphia's success didn't come quickly or easily. Things started to change after what one official calls a "Philadelphia ruckus" in 1997 over a proposal to make it illegal to sleep on the street. A Catholic nun and her allies took on much of the city's political establishment in a series of angry confrontations at City Council meetings.

When the dust settled, a compromise emerged. Downtown business interests that were alarmed over the hundreds of people camped out on sidewalks struck a bargain with advocates for the homeless. In return for a law that allowed police to ticket people hanging out downtown, the city committed millions to build housing and launch treatment programs for mental illness and addiction.

Since the passage of that 1998 law, Philadelphia has added hundreds of beds in small shelters, transitional housing and apartment buildings throughout the city. Not only are the homeless offered a place to stay, they're assigned a case manager who gets them into programs intended to keep them off the street.

2) To Michael Nutter, who is on the verge of passing two pieces of legislation that I am really glad to see: A smoking ban, and his small ethics package. Certainly victories it did not look like he was going to have. The ethics bill is, however, one small step towards better government. Check out the article, which has this wonderful quote from Jannie Blackwell, one of the members of Council who was against even this basic bill:
"I think it's better for all concerned to take our time," said Blackwell, who earlier this year coined a phrase when she said Council was all "ethic-ed out."

3)To Wilson Goode, who successfully raised the minimum wage for City Workers, and those that do business with, or receive aid from, the City:
The bill, sponsored by Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr., requires those employers to pay staffers at least 150 percent of the federal or state minimum wage - whichever is higher. For workers now making the current minimum of $5.15 an hour, that would translate to $7.73. It would go into effect immediately for city workers and for new contracts. As existing contracts are renewed, they would be subject to provisions of the bill.

The bill covers for-profit firms that receive city contracts worth $10,000 or more in a 12-month period and that have annual gross receipts of more than $1 million; nonprofit firms that receive city contracts worth more than $100,000 in a 12-month period; all city agencies, departments and offices; and businesses employing more than 25 people that have city leases, concessions or franchises.

The bill does not cover all workers in Philadelphia because Council does not have the authority to raise the minimum wage across the board in the city, officials said.
Small Steps? Sure. But again, credit where it is due.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Repeal the BPT? Not so fast

According to reports, the City Council Committee of the Whole voted tonight to approve bill 040767, which will phase out the Business Privilege Tax. A final vote on the legislation will occur on Thursday, June 2nd.

It should be noted the bill did not receive enough votes needed (12) to override a mayoral veto. Despite attempts by supporters to frame the vote as a victory, it's basically the same thing that happened to the bill a few months ago. I suspect Councilman Cohen (and maybe Ramos) will vote for the bill on June 2nd, but not vote to override Street's veto. Councilman Cohen has been playing a coy game all along, telling both opponents and supporters of the bill that he hasn't made up his mind yet.

In reality, it's really an attempt by Cohen to leverage what little power he has in council. By presenting himself as a swing vote, he is able to secure various promises and favors from both sides. He did the same dance when trying to get support for his tax-credit for the working poor. And it was successful. When Street veto the tax reform proposals the last time around, he left out Cohen's bill. I suspect something similar will happen this time around.

That said, I could never imagine Cohen voting for this bill. I don't want to revisit all the arguments pro or con about the BPT, so I'll point you to two websites. The first is Philadelphia Forward, which is dedicated to the repeal of the BPT. It's run out of the Pennsylvania Economy League, a pro-business public policy organization that has connections to some of the largest corporations in Pennsylvania. The second website is a group called One Philadelphia. One Philadelphia is a coalition of community organizations, labor unions, and religious organizations that support fully funded social services. They claim the repeal of the BPT would cause drastic cuts in service. Some of the leaders of One Philadelphia are former City Councilman Angel Ortiz, Sherrie Cohen (Councilman David Cohen's daughter and a respected community activist in her own right), and Linda Rhym (the vice president of AFSCME DC 47).

So, check out those two sites and them post who you think is right.

Penn-Assisted HS Woes

Relations between West Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania have long been complicated by miscommunication and mistrust. Despite Penn's decision in recent years to aggressively promote University City west of 40th Street (rather than warn students away from the neighborhood as was long-standing past tradition), many long-time neighbors still question Penn's commitment to the community.

The University’s role in the decision to knock down much of the Black Bottom neighborhood in the 1950's to build Locust Walk and much of the center of today’s campus has left behind a legacy for many West Philadelphians, the impact of which has still not been completely shaken.

More recent concerns of West Philadelphia neighbors in relationship to Penn include the impact that the University has had in boosting property values. Increased property values caused by Penn-assisted mortgages have benefited some, but have also had the effect of driving rents sky-high, increasing property taxes and leaving out many of the kinds of homebuyers who traditionally bought into the neighborhood. As a result, there has been a slow disintegration of the neighborhood' economic diversity which flourished in the 70's and 80's from a mixture of rental, cooperative and owner-occupied properties.

Now, as was reported in yesterday's Inquirer and by our own Dan U-A, Penn is playing a role in the formation of a new high school. A spirited discussion about this issue has emerged on University City list-servs and I thought this message from Karen Allen, an activist and community leader active in the leadership of Cedar Park Neighbors for many years, was worth sharing:

The problem is not in having a good school-- everyone wants that. And if a good school is created for the University City community at large utilizing the resources of the University of Pennsylvania, great. The problem is creating a taxpayer-supported public school that is a de-facto private school for Penn employees without real community input.

The problem is best illustrated with the Penn-Alexander School. As you know, anyone living west of 47th Street, north of Sansom, and so forth, though still in UC, cannot send their kids to that school. Buy/sell a house, what's the first question? "Is it in the catchment area?" Well, the "catchment area" was originally envisioned to only encompass an area that when examined, included the highest concentration of U of P employees, and the highest concentration of upper income residents. A horrible fight ensued in UC in 2000-2001 between those living outside those boundaries who wanted the school to encompass the entire UC area, and those who wanted it to be their own little bailiwick.

Now comes the Penn assisted high school. Despite all of the community associations and what-have-you in UC, we find out about it by reading about it in the paper. Who other than Penn has had input into this process so that all of UC or the West Philadelphia community can benefit from this? Will there be the same artificial boundaries so that a kid living on the even-house numbered [south] side of Sansom Street can get a good education while the kid living on the odd-numbered side gets crap?

If taxpayer money goes into this project, then the school should be open to the entire UC community, and that entire community should have input in the process.

Karen Allen

As a life-long, but still “Young Philadelphian” (just turned 26), I can tell you first-hand the ways that the neighborhood has changed for the good and the bad in recent years. I agree with a lot of what Karen says above and I think the lesson from this latest controversy in University City is that the inherent right of neighborhoods to determine their own fate can’t be eliminated in the pursuit of higher property values and greater economic “growth.”

Do not misunderstand me: it is incredibly important that Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are finally growing and becoming more economically valuable (as was reported in today’s Daily News here). However, we must be able to have honest conversations about how these changes in some cases cause the destruction of the very attributes that made our neighborhoods attractive to investors in the first place.

Equally important is that the political leaders driving these decisions (and make no mistake, Penn’s leadership is highly political and carries as much, if not more weight then the Mayor and Council combined) must have people and not their own profit as their driving force.

Coming up in University City, I was taught that we have a fundamental moral obligation to always work to build a city that addresses the needs of all Philadelphians, regardless of income, class, race, sexual orientation, gender, religion or ability. I can only hope that the next generation of young Philadelphians from University City to Hunting Park learn the same lesson.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Shot Across the Bow: Regionalization, Seth Williams, and the Philadelphia Machine: Part 3

I have spent the past few days going over the results of the Seth Williams v. Lynne Abraham battle, and I want to get this down on paper, and solicit your thoughts. What I am trying to get out is to examine the effect that bloggers and online activists had in this race, and what I think are some lessons and indicators for the future of Philly blogs and Philly politics.

This is the third of three parts. See Part One here, and part two here.


12,000 votes. Seth Williams, a little known candidate, running against the incumbent who had an 8 to 1 money advantage lost by only 12,000 votes. I know I have repeated that number quite a bit, but, take Seth completely out of the equation for a minute, and return to that number. It is important, because when we think about the future of Philadelphia, and specifically when we think about mobilizing real forces for change in 2007, there are some real lessons here.

Before I go further, I should say that although most of these thoughts are my own, they have unquestionably been influenced by conversations I have had with a series of people over the past two weeks.

The biggest lesson? The Democratic Machine in Philadelphia does not know what they are doing. The Philadelphia paradigm of how you get out votes, by throwing up posters, handing out street money to committeeman and ward leaders, and tell people when they come to the polling place is simply not effective. Again, the margin in a race where a 14 year incumbent outspent her opponent 8 to 1 was 12,000 votes.

Where did Lynne Abraham’s money go? Let me give you a personal experience. The polling place where I worked had the usual Democratic committeewoman. And all day, as Val and I went and knocked on doors and talked to voters, many of whom had no idea there was an election out there, the committeewoman sat and watched DVD’s. All day. Now, to be fair, that is not representative of what committee people generally do. Nah, what they do is sit by a polling place and hand out ward endorsed ballots to those about to vote. Anyone who has been in Philly knows this is pretty much standard operating procedure. But how many people have stopped to ask whether this is actually works? Is this really the most effective way to get as many votes as possible for your candidate?

At one point, ward leaders in Philly were very powerful. If you needed a job, etc, you went to see your ward leader, to see what the party can offer. In return, you voted for who they said to. But how about today? Who even knows who their ward leader is? Even committee people, who in theory are the most local of all representatives, really do not seem to do too much. (There are some exceptions of course, with some very active, effective Ward leaders. But again, they are the exception.)

Tom Ferrick hints at similar thoughts:
District Attorney Lynne Abraham is the closest thing to a permanent force in Philadelphia politics.

She's been a public official - in one capacity or another - for 30 years, 14 of them as the city's chief prosecutor.

So excuse me if I wonder out loud what happened to her in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Abraham won, of course.

She got 56 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for her opponent, Seth Williams.

But Williams - a young former prosecutor - had no money, no name recognition, and nearly zero support among the organized Democrat pols.

Yet he came within 12,000 votes of beating the incumbent? Hmmm.

2007 is going to be a huge year in Philadelphia politics. Huge. Besides a new mayor, we could potentially have a slew of new councilmen, as people retire, go to jail, or are too old to campaign. We are going to be presented with a stark choice: Do we use this opportunity to fundamentally change how our political system operates? Or we do stand by, and do the same old shit, as people like Sharif Street (he who represents Predatory Lenders) et. al. entrench themselves as the next generation of political leaders?

People ask me who I suppot for Mayor in 2007. My honest answer at this point? No one. Not a single damn candidate, from Michael Nutter or John Saidel to Chaka Fattah or John Dougherty. Why? Because fundamentally, when it comes to real changes in Philly politics, they are all the same person.

Fattah, in fact, is a very useful example of what I mean. Yes, as a Congressman, Fattah has a very good voting record. Generally, it is a given that he will vote the right way. (The same goes for Bob Brady. I cannot say the same about NE Philly’s Congresswoman MBNA.) But really, when you represent all Democrats, voting the right way is not really tough. Yet, would Fattah, who assuredly would be a darling of many as a candidate, fundamentally change anything about the way Philadelphia politics operates? Doubtful. Why would he, anyway? It will have elected him Mayor. And so, we get the same policies, the same way of selecting our officials, and the same political culture in Philadelphia, where our candidates our based on their last name, or their political chits. Well, for me personally, I am tired of that culture, of that system. I want something different. I want a candidate who will be elected on the basis of making permanent changes to the Philadelphia power structure. None of the current slate, and frankly, no one currently in office, will do this. So, I think that unless something changes, I will support nobody.

12,000 votes. Do you know what that means? It means that if progressive minded people unite, with a campaign run with real intelligence, using proven, modern methods of reaching the people of Philadelphia, we can send shock waves through Philadelphia. We need a candidate. One who can inspire, and think big. A candidate who will run a campaign that will be ignored by the powers that be until it is too late. The powers that be are not paying attention. But, as the leaders are replaced bya younger generation, I worry that they will eventually modernize, and we will lose the chance we have, the chance to awake the sleeping giant that could make a huge difference in Philly politics.

We need a candidate though. In fact, including the race for City Council, we need a slew of candidates. Any idea who they are?

Rally to Raise the Minimum Wage

From the Philadelphia Unemployment Project:

Raise the Minimum Wage Rally
Outside the Gallery Mall
9th and Market Streets
Wednesday May 25, 11:30 am

The minimum wage hasn't been raised from $5.15/hour in eight years. It is currently
worth less after inflation than it was in 1968. New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and
a dozen other states have already raised their minimum wages--most to over $7 per
hour. We are fighting for state legislation that would increase the minimum wage to
$7.15 per hour.


Ray has already written an excellent post on why raising the minimum wage is a great tool for economic development. I don't have a ton to add. Please note this rally is separate from Wilson Goode's effort. The proposed bill would raise the minimum wage across Pennsylvania, not just Philadelphia.

Two things worth noting in the school district

This is cool:
The University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia School District plan to create a high school in the university's West Philadelphia neighborhood that will focus on international studies.

The school, which would open in September 2006 at a location that has not been determined, is slated to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a new network of international high schools, officials said yesterday.

Students will study world languages, take an international curriculum integrated across subjects, be connected to schools worldwide via technology, and be immersed in community service for groups with worldwide links - which could even include international internships.

The effort advances what Penn calls its commitment to revitalize its neighborhood, focusing in part on improving school options, to benefit the community and university staff who choose to live in the area.
Penn, the City's largest employer, and one of, if not the biggest driver of the rise in Philly home values, strikes again. As the article says, as Penn has operated its own Charter school, neighborhood home values have gone up and up, as more people want to be inside the eligibility boundaries.

A few in the community have expressed concern that the school will only serve a very targeted number of people (read: white middle-class kids), and I very much hope that is not true. One thing (get ready for some pop psych here with no basis in fact) I think can be really powerful for poor children of all colors is to get some perspective on the world, to sort of think outside the US borders. So, assuming this is done equitably, this is unconditionally good news.

And, so is this:
Nearly five years ago, Central High School's alumni set out to raise $100,000 to give the school's Barnwell Library fresh paint, carpeting and furniture.

A few alumni, though, had grander dreams.

This afternoon, alumni and school officials will unveil what they call their "wow library" - a new communications, research and media facility that Apple Computer Inc. has named a national demonstration site for school-library technology.

Central graduates picked up the project's $4.5 million tab.

"The alumni did it all - not the school district," marveled Ellen Rosen, a library assistant in the new Barnwell Library. "I think that's what's incredible... . So many people are attached to their colleges. These people are attached to their high school."

Colleges and private schools are accustomed to ambitious fund-raising, but officials say the capital campaign by Central alumni may be unprecedented for a public school in this area.

....

Tina Weinraub, Central's "cybrarian," said the school would try a new electronic checkout system. Staff will be able to inventory books instantly with handheld scanners. And alumni are paying subscriptions for several research databases.

"It's the premier place to work in Philadelphia as a librarian," Weinraub said. "The library will be a portal to all the knowledge that's out there."
The idea that Central High, a 2,300 person high school that is both economically and racially diverse, will have a real research library? Awesome.

Now if we could just get those types of facilities in our other schools.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Seth's 05 Legacy

Tom Fitzgerald has a pretty nice piece in today's Inquirer about the reactions of local political leaders to the Seth Williams campaign.

Fitgerald's piece points out that Seth cut into Abraham's base wards from 2001, winning Chestnut Hill, parts of Mt Airy and the 30th Ward (which is actually in Center City south of South Street, not University City as Fitzegerald states).

Since my role for the campaign was to engage the email community (which demographically can be quite different than bloggers) in the campaign, I am pretty excited to hear that we won those areas. The wards Seth won outside of the African-American base are proof of the effectiveness of our direct emails and blogs (not to mention the Inky and NPR).

Before I comment on this more, I really want to delve into the numbers and speak with more authority about places we made gains from 2001.

As one part of the longer report I would like to post about the Seth Williams experience, I would like to include the stories of readers like you either as volunteers for Seth, or at the polling place, or in the nighborhood on election day. If you have any experiences to share, please send me an email at raym@localnet.com.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Shot Across the Bow: Regionalization, Seth Williams, and the Philadelphia Machine: Part 2

I have spent the past fewdays going over the results of the Seth Williams v. Lynne Abraham battle, and I want to get this down on paper, and solicit your thoughts. What I am trying to get out is to examine the effect that bloggers and online activists had in this race, and what I think are some lessons and indicators for the future of Philly blogs and Philly politics.

This is the second of three parts. See Part One here.

....

Seth Williams, and his Campaign Organization

I cannot help but think that with Seth Williams we have seen a real future leader of Philadelphia. His concession speech, a copy of which we will hopefully soon be able to release, was maybe the best speech I have ever seen in person (or maybe second only to Paul Wellstone discussing the future of our Country). It was wonderful, for the same reason the Williams campaign so engaged those who actually were paying attention: it was motivational, emotional, and heartfelt. You knew that Seth took the loss hard, but the enthusiasm and electricity there is for those who have met him is something that many politicians can only dream of.

The audience for his speech, at his campaign party was incredibly diverse, which leads to another hope I have: That Williams can create a heretofore unique coalition (well, maybe Fattah has this, but other than him, no one.) of black and white, and of middle-class, working-class, and poor. His next race is four years away, and that is a damn long time in politics, but the groundwork is there. We just have to figure out the best way to keep him visible in that time.

In terms of how the Williams campaign functioned, I do not really have a ton of inner knowledge of how campaigns or GOTV operations are supposed to work. Ray does, and I hope he will answer this post with one of his own, as an analysis of how the campaign functioned well, and how it did not.

The campaign was willing to embrace internet outreach and blogs, and attempted to do so. As you know if you were on the email list, the campaign sent out plenty of emails. Was it effective? Honestly, I don’t know. It is frankly hard to get people to open mass emails. As any organization can tell you, people are opening less and less from their inbox these days (yeah, that can be tracked). So, while I would like to hear Ray’s thoughts, I think it points to a different way to approach the use of email. Just as the most effective way to GOTV is going door to door and making personal contact, we need to figure out how to recruit people to send real, personal messages to their personal networks. In other words, we need to have people volunteer to almost be “email captains.” I don’t know how many people signed up for vote pledges from my blog, because I didn’t really get people to say they were coming from us. But I do know that multiple people pledged their vote in response to real emails from me. It speaks to how we must act in the future.

(The same goes for the happy hour, which certainly got as many or more attendees from personal pleas from me than any blogging I did. While that may change as the readership of Young Philly Politics grows, there are a very limited amount of people around the Country who have the following devoted enough to have enough committed readers that they can simply post a message and inspire an army of volunteers or donations or whatever. I certainly aspire to that, as do all political bloggers, but we are a long way from there.)

I actually think the vote pledge thing is a very good idea. However, just as I think it can be effective, and quick, when you get emails, the most effective way this can be used, as I see it, is for a campaign that uses strong, grassroots, door-to-door canvassing. As you spend five or ten minutes talking to someone, you do not finish by asking them for money, or anything like that; you finish by asking for their vote pledge. And, if you start that about a year out for a major campaign, I think it can really make a huge difference.

As an aside, I just want to note that many ward and City leaders who deem themselves “progressives” basically blew this, in a big way. If just a few of them had stepped up, they could have made a huge difference. But, instead they were “disrespected” because some didn’t feel that the campaign paid them enough “respect.” Give me a freaking break. Here we had a candidate who virtually everyone believed would improve Philadelphia, and virtually no one was willing to take a chance. Seth was standing there, shouting at the gates, and even those who knew he was right refused to let him in.

From a personal perspective, here is why I supported Seth so strongly, and will continue to do so, assuming he continues his fight in the same way: He fought on the issues, and he fought against the status quo, and did so in the right way. He was the model of what a “reform Democrat” should be. I am unabashedly liberal, progressive, whatever. But what I want most out of my elected officials in Philadelphia does not necessarily surround ideology, but is instead based around ideas, process, etc. I have no idea who I will support for Mayor, but I will not support someone who is happy with the way things are in Philadelphia, with the way our Government functions. There are too many progressives, and far too many “D’s” in Philly to accept what we have. Philly needs more than people who are satisfied with the trains running on time. Seth epitomized that.

When we have a City being dealt body blows form the Federal Level (and the State level when a certain guy from East Falls is not Governor), we cannot afford to have officials only considering their own hold on power. I say this because I have faith that in a City like Philadelphia, if we can start picking officials the right way, if we take down the barrier that keeps good people from running for office, we will be happy with most of the issues, most of the time.

Seth was outspent by 8 to 1. Yet, he only lost by 12,000 votes. Part of that was his campaign, and the fact that he worked his ass off. But part of it was this fact: The Philadelphia Democratic machine is not nearly as strong as many would have you believe. I mean, really, what exactly did Lynne Abraham spend all of her damn money on?

In fact, that brings me to part, number three.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Physical Philadelphia

I love Inga Saffron's column in the Inquirer because she relentlessly points out the need for Philadelphia leaders to pay attention to our physical city. In this week's column, she draws our attention to the 36 new residential high-rises planned for Philadelphia.
At their best, the new high-rises increase density, concentrating a lot of people in a little space. That's good for Philadelphia because density brings livelier, safer sidewalks, more businesses and restaurants, and more potential customers for SEPTA. But you can't expect to cram all those people and their cars in the same space without any preparation or planning.

Yet projects are whizzing through Philadelphia's zoning process with almost no review and no consciousness about how they fit into the greater whole. The zoning board still insists that towers be built with parking spaces for every unit. In most cases, developers take the easy way out and build stand-alone garages, either as bases under their towers or on sites next door. Both approaches run counter to planning wisdom. Cities like Seattle are working to limit garages or encourage underground parking.


Please read the full article.

The behavior of the Philadelphia Zoning board is a growing problem as our city attracts new people and businesses. Short-sightedness, cronyism, and perhaps some downright corruption have left our city without a clear set of guidelines for development, despite our city planning commission, which consistently provides clear vision and planning. Of course, the solution to this problem is to work on electing more responsive leaders. But, that will take a while. And as you can see from Saffron's article, changes to the physical landscape of Philadelphia are happening quickly. So, I think it makes sense to advocate now for rational zoning practices, and to make sure that we ask our new leaders to articulate their vision for our physical city when they try to win our votes.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Shot Across the Bow: Regionalization, Seth Williams, and the Philadelphia Machine: Part 1

I have spent the past two days going over the results of the Seth Williams v. Lynne Abraham battle, and I want to get this down on paper, and solicit your thoughts. What I am trying to get out is to examine the effect that bloggers and online activists had in this race, and what I think are some lessons and indicators for the future of Philly blogs and Philly politics.

This is the first of three parts.
...

As has been discussed elsewhere, (such as Tim Tagaris on Swing State Project and elsewhere, and of course in The Inquirer) many paid attention to what was happening in this race because it was a pretty unique event: bloggers from a specific geographic area uniting around candidates.

First and foremost, none of the regionalization that we saw in this race would have happened with out Philly Future. Karl and Matt have created a site that has helped make Philly bloggers, many of whom never would have met or read each other’s writing, extremely aware that there are many others out there just like ourselves. While we could have had some sort of Philly-wide blog effort, it would not have been noticed by as many eyes, and would not have included as many people, without a central site that Philly bloggers of all stripes can and do connect on. The awareness that it has raised set the stage for what occurred, pure and simple. I admire that, and admire what they have created (and continue to create) in a total volunteer effort.

In terms of the three days of action that we took together, I saw each day as having a unique effect. The first day, first and foremost created a buzz. As I proposed the first day, I don’t think any of us had any idea where this was headed. But, what became clear was that even the proposal for a coordinated day itself, got people excited. Some, like Chris from Rowhouse Logic, had already written plenty about Seth, others had not. However, what was clear was that as that first day progressed, bloggers had decided to better educate themselves, and their readers about the issues at hand. To this day, the best endorsement I have seen of Seth was Karl and Matt’s from Philly Future; better than mine, better than any union, and better than the Inquirer.

Seth said in his concession speech that it really meant something to him that bloggers, who actively looked into the real issues at hand, had given him his support. The Philly Future editorial is a perfect example of this. How many of us made personal attacks of Abraham? None. Instead, like the candidate we supported, we argued from facts and research. And, I think most of that research came from that first day, or from the build-up to it. So, with real, solid research, this was not simply a couple of bloggers directing each other to their home page. Instead this was a series of well-presented cases for a change in Philly politics. As posts went up, from Chris to Jane, it became clear that this whole thing was about a lot more than navel gazing.

And, simply put, the buzz was created in the first day. I know for a fact that various reporters read, at minimum, Young Philly Politics and Philly Future every day. There is no question that as this grew, and as they saw online activists uniting, we had an impact.

The buzz grew as Chris Bowers joined in from MyDD, and Tim Tagaris wrote about the day on Swing State Project. All of a sudden, this was not simply a Philly effort, but an organic test case for BlogPac, a group of high-powered, well-read national bloggers, who are trying to unite bloggers around local or regional issues. And so, the murmurs spread from Philly to California, and back again. What the hell was going on in Philly?

Of course, the day ended. That is when things got a lot more interesting. There were no real plans for anything in the future, and no real idea how to turn that day into something more. So, as a few people asked whether we had any planned in the future, we decided the best case was to simply strike again. This time, a coordinated day with a set goal for attracting volunteers, but, once again, to keep shouting at the windmills that in Seth, we had a candidate that Democrats had to pay attention to.

In a way, certainly with my post at least, there was a little bit of defiance with the second day. Because nothing would have been easier than to simply pat ourselves on the back for what we did, and call it a day. But, as posts started going up again, all over the Philly blogosphere, and back on MyDD and Swing State Project, it was clear that this was not an effort that was going away. In the blogosphere, a week is an eternity. And there was no question that our cute little story of a “Day of Action” was going to go away, if not for reuniting on the second day.

We may have been shouting, but clearly people started to pay attention and we were mentioned in the Daily News. We also, one week prior to their letter being published in the Daily News, we had a group of Assistant DA’s write us as to how important this all was. With that day, I knew we were really on to something. And with an Inquirer reporter calling us to try and get the story of what was going on, it was clear that outsiders were interested, as well.

Day 3, with the goal of collecting vote pledges, continued along, with possibly the most visibility of any of the days. (I will get into the vote pledge thing specifically, later on.) Did the campaign collect thousands of votes from our effort? Certainly not. But, the murmur kept growing, and became real loud when our effort landed us an above the fold story in the Inquirer’s metro section. That story, followed a few days later by the Inquirer endorsement for Seth, was really important. I will be interested to see the division-by-division breakdown, but I would wager that those two stories helped grab the attention of many of the Philly liberal elite (a group that pretty much slept through this election, from start to finish), and at least helped them identify that there was a very real, progressive thinking candidate out there, and that he was up for election in a couple of weeks.

We then went offline, with our happy hour and fundraiser the Friday before the election. And, whether they came because of our blogs, or email, or personal relationships, we turned out 40 or more people in 2 days, and raised a substantial amount of money. And, as many bloggers who had never met Seth beforehand got a chance to speak with him, and as we got to meet each other, we had a lot of fun. There was visible excitement in that room; mainly for this wonderful candidate, but also, at least from me, with the realization that there was some real hope for the future. Because while this race presented a stark choice which made our unification much easier, it was clear that this race was just one step. As our collective buzz grows, I realize that not only do we all have a growing audience, but we now have real, concrete allies. Each of which we must continue to grow, and use, as the fight for Philadelphia politics takes hold.

Spread the Word: Rick Santorum Compares Democrats to Hitler

I love that when Conservatives attack people like Move On, for supposedly going overboard in their attacks of Republicans, they are always so successful in getting the media to brand liberal organizatons as extremists.

As Atrios pointed out, Republicans were so successful disparaging MoveOn, when they ran a contest asking people for 30 second advertisements about Bush. A few, out the loads of videos they received, compared Dubya to Hitler. This was all Fox News needed to brand Move On extremist, which they still do today.

And, if I recall correctly, Paul Krugman ran into the same BS when the UK version's cover of his book gave Dick Cheney an oil mustache that looked too much like a Hitler 'stache to some. The story was pushed into the media, all over Fox, etc. It was proof of just how much of an extremist Paul Krugman was.

Now, our good friend Rick Santorum, he who compared being gay to practicing beastiality, has compared Senate Democrats to... Adolf Hitler. Imagine, just imagine, the reaction if Harry Reid or Dick Durbin did this. We need to push this far and wide, and demand that the Media pays attention. (Please check out The Swing State Project for a full list of all the bloggers who are swarming over this.)

As Chuck Pennacchio says:
As an historian of Holocaust-era Germany, I find Rick Santorum’s comment to be offensive, divisive, and destructive. Rick Santorum should immediately issue a public apology, and then retreat with conscience to consider the lasting damage he has done to the United States Senate and to the memory of 12 million Holocaust victims.


His number is 202-224-6324. Call him tomorrow, and let him know how inappropriate his remarks were.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Head of the Bar Association on our Judicial Election System.

I am too exhausted to write much tonight, but I wanted to highlight a really important column in today's Daily News, written by Philly Bar Association Andrew Chirls, on the way in which Philly picks its judges.
NOW THAT yesterday's primary is behind us, it's obvious that anyone paying attention to the way judges are chosen in Philadelphia is bound to come away with a host of strong feelings, all pretty much negative.

The words that immediately come to mind are: outrageous, disgraceful, pitiful, obscene. And those are the milder terms.

How else to react to a system that openly courts convicted felons as electoral advisers? That measures the worthiness of judicial candidates by how well they can sing karaoke? That has judicial candidates handing ward leaders checks for $1,000 or $2,000 in return for possible endorsements, and party-endorsed candidates forking over as much as $35,000 to Democratic City Committee?


And there is this, which I guess is about judges, but could reference Philly politics generally:
We, as citizens, need for them to live up to their leadership positions by working to make sure that merit and qualifications are part of the system.

The alternative to this is the same old failed mechanisms. Philadelphia cannot afford that. We must demand action from our political leaders now.
Check out the whole thing if you get a chance.

The Fillibuster Rally

As most know, Republicans started the Senate showdown of the fillibuster today. Why destroty the fillibuster, especially when something like 96 percent of Bush's judges are approved? Simply put, because the far right wing fundamentalist wing of the Republican party has told Bill Frist that if he does their bidding, he becomes their choice for the Republican nominee. They have gone so far as to run adverstisements trying to paint Democrats as anti-Christian because they dare stop the nominees of royal nut-jobs like Priscilla Owen as nominees for lifelong appointees to the federal bench.

I ramble, but if you want to keep up with the debate, head over to the Swing State Project, which has been folowing it all day.

Meanwhile, back in Philly, Moveon has organized its own local 24 hour fillibuster, started at 12 noon today. They will be out there all night, reading speeches from FDR, MLK and JFK, reading their own writing, poetry, etc. Ray, of this website, is one of the organizers of the rally. If you have any time, even just a few minutes, before 12 o'clock, head over to 6th Street, between Arch and Market, and see what it is all about. I stopped by tonight, and I plan no going tomorrow before work, as well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

12,000 votes

We lost, by a margin that looks to be approximately 12,000 votes. 12,000 goddamned votes.

I will write more over the next few days about what this all means. But, I just want you all to know that I just saw, in a concession speech, someone who is clearly not only Philadephia's next District Attorney, but someone who will help usher Philadelphia politics into the next century.

I will leave you with what Seth said in his concession speech at the party: People said a positive, issues driven campaign could not be run in Philadelphia. People said that if an African-American candidate ran for DA, he had to resort to [charges of] racism, to pour gasoline on his own City. He refused, and ran a campaign where he can look his daughters in the eyes, and tell him he is proud of what he did. And, he finished with the same thing that he said when he led a group of PSU students to Harrisburg to protest apartheid:

His feet are tired, but his soul is rested.

Results so far

Abraham 58, Williams 42. Less than one third counted.

(According to KYW)

Reports: turnout low. Every vote will make a difference.... HELP US

Guys-

Reports are that turnout is very, very light. This means that every vote truly will count, and we need to GOTV. Every volunteer will make a difference, even it is just for a few hours after work.

If you have any time at all, head to 1606 WALNUT ST, and they can give you literature, and help direct you....

We are in the final hours, and we have a real chance to win. But we need your help. Come to 1606 Walnut, and tell them you have a few hours.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Our Job in the Next 23 Hours

Elect Seth Williams.
Show up at 1606 Walnut St Tomorrow, any time you can, and help get the job done.

(Also, vote yes on Growing Greener.)

(Per a question in the comments- 1606 Walnut St, First Floor. It will be easy to spot.)

What you can do right now.

What the campaign needs, more than anything, is to GOTV. To that end, please log in, get a list of addresses or telephone numbers, and remind people that tomorrow we have a huge election, and a real need for a change.

The election will have 18 to 24 percent turnout, every single vote matters. The incumbent's strategy has been to hope people do not notice that we have an election. Log in, sign up, and get involved. Below is what you say...

GOTV Phone Rap for the Final Push

Hi, how are you. My name is ______. Is _____ [name] in?

[If the person you are seeking is in, continue; if not, ask when they might be in, and then thank the person you are talking to for their time. If the person you are looking for has moved away, and the person you ARE talking to has recently moved in, then they are a potential turnout target and you should proceed with the rap. You'll mark the contact who has moved as a bad contact AND add this new person as a good contact and continue rap with them.]

I’m a volunteer working on the upcoming election on Tuesday May 17th. Are you planning to vote for Seth Williams or Lynne Abraham for District Attorney?

[Seth] Great! I'm a volunteer with the Seth Williams campaign and we're working to get out as many voters as possible on Tuesday to make real changes in the DA’s office and our city. The race is really close, but if we all get out and vote on Tuesday, we can defeat Lynne Abraham and make the DA’s office a force for change in our city.

Your polling place is the same as the one you went to during the presidential election. If you don’t know where that is, you can go to www.hallwatch.org to find out. The polls are open from 7 AM-8 PM.

You can go to the website www.seth4da.com and download a campaign poster to put in your window and get other information about Seth to share with your friends.

Thanks for your time _______ [name], and thank you for your support. Make sure to vote on Tuesday!
[Undecided]

Ok, well I'm a volunteer with Seth Williams for DA and we believe that the best solution to gun violence and crime in our city is to elect a new DA who understands the links between crime and drugs, jobs and public health. After 14 years with Lynne Abraham, I think it is time for a change. You can see more information on our website at www.seth4da.com and I hope you'll decide to support Seth on May 17th.

[Abraham] OK, thanks for participating in our survey, and have a nice day

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All Hands on Deck

Two days. Really, 35 hours, and then election day begins. When it is over, I will turn my focus onto many other Philly matters. But, man, these are the final, and I mean final, hours.

Are you doing what you can? If you can spare even a few hours on election day, do so. If you can spend a few hours tomorrow making calls, or knocking on doors, go to the website, and log in. Who wants to hang out on election day, knocking on doors, getting out the vote, and then celebrating at night, at the campaign party?

And, in the news today, a few important developments. Remember the controversey over the number of cases that are dismissed in Philly? Well, the Inquirer did its own examination, and, what did they find? Seth is right, of course.

Also, not insignificant, the Philadelephia Tribune joins the Inquirer in calling for change, and endorsing Seth.

Again, come out on election day, party with me and many others as we get votes for the change of Philadelphia.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Photos from the happy hour


The candidate


Dan U-A


Ray Murphy

All photos shot by Matt, from Tattered Coat, where there are some additional pictures available.

Seth Williams Happy Hour

So, last night was the blogger driven happy hour for Seth Williams. And, considering this was all put together in the last three days, all I can say is "wow." With a really cool mix of liberal do gooders, bloggers, ex DA's, and the campaign staff, we easily had 40 or more people, signed up a slew of volunteers, raised a significant amount of money, had a great time, and once again heard from, and talked with the future DA of Philadelphia. It was empowering, and really just a lot of fun.

From the blogosphere, we had Chris Bowers from MyDD, Chris from Rowhouse Logic, ACM from A Smoke Filled Room, Matt from Tattered Coat and Philly Future, and Ray, Charles and myself from Young Philly Politics, as well as a few of our "in theory" posters. It was cool to put faces to names, and to email addresses.

Chris has a really great write-up, titled "Momentum," which is quite apt:
The turnout for last night's Happy Hour for Seth Williams was terrific and the enthusiasm in the room was palpable. Strike that, the enthusiasm was incredible and the room was so packed that it was difficult to move, let alone get a drink. Seth gave another in a long string of speeches that have left me speechless. Just to prove that I wouldn't make much of a reporter, I took no notes and I can't quote directly. There was a line from his speech that I really loved. It was something like "When you give a check to a lot of politicians in this city you expect something in return like a patronage job or a city contract. I can't offer you that and I'm not going to give you that. What I'm offering is justice, equality, safety and a better city." Again not the exact quote but pretty close. Wow is, I believe, the right adjective.

We can win this thing. Have no doubt in your mind that we can win this election.
Cannot say it better myself. We have pictures, and maybe even some video that should appear sometime today. But make no mistake, this small happy hour, where 40 people gathered because of blog and email driven invites, is significant. This, I think, is only very, very much the start for what our power can do, and what it will do, over the next few years.

I will write more later. In the meantime, go to Seth's website, and sign up to volunteer (and donate if you are so able). There are all kinds of things you can do up to, and during, election day. Be part of the change...

More soon.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Party/happy Hour/fundraiser Update

Just a reminder. Tomorrow, 5:30PM. It will be a cool group of people, and a great chance to meet Seth Williams. Send me a quick email for details.

LOCATION:

Black Sheep Pub
17th Street, between Locust and Spruce

All the cool kids are coming.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bloggers and Others: Friday Happy Hour Party/Low Key Fundraiser for Seth

On Friday evening, at 5:30PM, a few of us are putting together a happy hour/final weekend kickoff/low key fundraiser (like $25) for Seth Williams. As with our days of action, the fundraiser will be coordinated with bloggers around the City. Already, Chris, at Rowhouse Logic is in, as well as myself and Ray Murphy. Come have a beer with some of the writers of Young Philly Politics, like minded people, and Seth Williams himself.

It should be a pretty cool crowd, a mix of blog and non-blog types. Send me an email at danielua (at) gmail dot com if you are interested in checking it out.

It will be a fun, constructive way to kick off the weekend, and meet some cool Philly people, including Seth.

VoteMay17.org

Check out VoteMay17.org, a site started by those who were responsible for the recent GOTV rally in Dillworth plaza.

They talk about some important down ticket issues, such as the Growing greener initiative, which is really, really important. Check it out when you have a chance.

A Note on Commenting

Obviously, blog traffic has increased today. As such, I turned off anonymous comments.

This is a blog open to everyone, but I should be clear- while you are free to disagree with anything being said, slander, and other troll-like comments will simply be deleted. We want real discussions on the future of Philadelphia. We do not want, and will get rid of those comments which serve no purpose other than to inflame.

For a recap:

Arguing about Philly politics, from all perspectives: Good thing, and welcomed.

Baseless, slanderous arguments, and inflammatory comments from those with fairly obvious agendas: Deleted.

Bloggers and Seth Williams

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an excellent article this morning about the impact of bloggers on the race for District Attorney. Perhaps the most significant thing was the willingness of campaign staff to recognize the contributions bloggers have made.
Williams strategists say they believe the bloggers provide at least a modest counterweight to District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham's power. She is a 14-year veteran who has plenty of campaign cash - but so far no bloggers - and the support of Democratic Party ward leaders.

"The bloggers tend to be leaders," said Ray Murphy, who runs Williams' Internet operation. "I think of them as carrier pigeons spreading the word."

Over the last month, about 70 people have signed up as volunteers on Williams' Web site, most of them encouraged by bloggers, Murphy said. They have joined supporters from several unions to run phone banks and canvass for votes, he said.

In addition, Williams says about 4 percent of the $77,141 he has raised since Jan. 1 has arrived by way of the Internet.

At least 10 Philadelphia-oriented blogs, with a daily readership that the campaign estimates at 3,000, have staged three coordinated "days of action" for Williams. They have urged readers to consider Williams' platform, to volunteer for him, and to file an electronic pledge to vote for him on the candidate's Web site, www.seth4da.com. Some of the bloggers also have filed regular dispatches on the campaign.

Though it seems modest, a national Democratic political consultant who specializes in Internet organizing sees the Philadelphia effort as a beginning. Bloggers in Pittsburgh have been talking up a candidate in the mayoral primary there.

"A lot of national campaigns see the Internet as a glorified ATM machine," said Tim Tagaris, the consultant working to set up Chuck Pennacchio's 2006 U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania. "Regionalization is going to be the next wave," Tagaris said.
I think the most important question we'll be facing in the next couple of weeks is where to go next. We need to make a serious assessment of what blogs did for this race, the money and votes it produced, as well as possibilities in the future. Where next?

Don't go, Paul!

Philadelphia students cannot afford to lose Paul Vallas, a man who combines high expectations of students with actual methods of helping them meet them. As smart as David Hornbeck, but with so much more political savvy and skill (ie, I doubt he will call State Reps racist), Vallas has, in my mind at least, been a wonderful CEO of Philly public schools.

Why am I saying all of this? Because apparently, according to The Inquirer, there is some movement in Illinois to draft Vallas to run for Governor:
The brother of Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas is leading a campaign to change residency requirements in Illinois, which would give Vallas the option of returning and running for governor in 2006.

The report detailed in yesterday's Chicago Tribune comes one day after Vallas said that he plans to finish out his five-year contract, which expires in July 2007, and that he would like to stay even longer. Vallas' comments were made in response to speculation that he was preparing to leave - rumors fueled in part by efforts in Chicago to get him to return.

Yesterday, Vallas said his comments stand, regardless of his brother Dean's involvement.
However, I will just take Vallas at his word when he says:
"I'm not going anywhere," Vallas, 51, who earns $225,000, said in Monday's interview. "I'm going to honor my contract. I've got to make this work."
We simply cannot afford to lose Vallas, so I hope he is honest about that.

30 Seconds on who we are

If you are reading this for the first time, due to the Inquirer article, welcome, and have a look around.

Young Philly Politics is a group blog co-written by a number of people with the goal of getting the young, and young at heart, actively involved in Philadelphia politics.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seth Op-Ed in the Inquirer

I am not sure how I missed this op-ed by Seth Williams in the Inquirer. Luckily, it was caught by Chris, at Rowhouse Logic.

A quote:
The current district attorney has been too busy chasing Philadelphia residents who insure their cars in Wildwood to prosecute a single gun trafficker in state court, something her office has never done. No D.A.s are currently assigned to investigate and prosecute illegal gun dealers.

In 1995, the state legislature passed a law that allows prosecutors to charge "straw" purchasers as accomplices to crimes committed with the gun they illegally sold. The Philadelphia D.A.'s Office has never prosecuted a defendant under this law.

It is the felon whose gun case is discharged today who becomes tomorrow's murderer. It's unlikely that prosecuting insurance fraud instead of illegal gun dealers has prevented one murder this year.

As the next district attorney I'll prioritize the resources of the office to better reflect the communities' concerns and the realities of today's world. As a result, Philadelphians will feel safer - for themselves, for their children, and in their neighborhoods.
Seven days...

A Different Perspective on the Corruption Convictions: Raise the Minimum Wage!

Yesterday’s convictions are most useful in sending a message to City Hall players to do a better job not getting caught next time. The convictions will have little impact on ending the pay-to-play culture that has been a part of city life since long before John Street’s time. This is clearly a problem for city progressives, but also in many ways a red herring.

As distracting and unethical as municipal corruption is, the cost of no-bid contracts, Eagles tickets, decks and even $10,000 cash gifts are not the cause of Philadelphia’s budgetary woes. The real problems in our city have been caused by a shrinking tax base which has just as much to do with an increase in poverty over the past 30 years as it does with population loss.

These are problems that no one knows exactly how to solve. However, avoiding solving these problems because of their complexity is irresponsible, especially for thoughtful, circumspect people like the readers of this and other local blogs who have spent so much time supporting Seth Williams for DA because of his thoughtful and logical approach to a complex issue.

So, I suggest that we, progressive Philadelphians, take the corruption convictions in stride and maintain leadership on the more important issues facing Philadelphia. We must focus our energy progressive candidates, like Seth, and also on progressive legislation and policy ideas that truly move the city forward.

An example of this kind of forward thinking is the minimum wage bill that Council and the Mayor are expected to pass this week sponsored by Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. The bill would raise the minimum wage by 150% for workers employed by the City or City-funded entities.

This is great legislation that can truly improve Philadelphia's future as rising wages mean rising tax revenue which benefits all of us. Further, low-wage workers spend more of their money in their own neighborhoods then higher wage earners which means that an increase in local wages has a huge impact on neighborhoods all throughout Philadelphia.

The bill has the support to pass this week, but we must be vigilant and help guarantee its passage. The Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable here in Pennsylvania and all across the country have been notoriously aggressive in quashing minimum wage increases and are likely to undermine this effort in any way they can.

The most likely strategy they will pursue is to say that increasing the minimum wage in Philadelphia will make our city less competitive with other counties in our region. While many reputable economists have generally disproved the truth of this statement, a simple way to avoid the business community’s trap is to simultaneously support the state bill to raise the minimum wage sponsored by Philadelphia’s own, State Senator Tina Tartaglione and State Representative Mark Cohen. Since New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio have already raised their minimum wage, the state competitiveness argument will fall flat.

Raising the wages of the majority of Philadelphia households who currently pull in an average of $30,000 a year will not only increase our city‘s tax base, but it will also restore a faith in government for low-income people who have been disenfranchised since long before Corey Kemp came to City Hall. Our anger and sense of disillusionment with corruption must not be given more priority because of our privilege than the much more fundamental sense of failure that our city, state and federal government exudes every day to those with out any privilege at all.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Corruption Conviction

As most people know by now, the City corruption trial saw verdicts delivered today, and for former City Treasurer Corey Kemp, it was guilty on something like twenty counts of corruption. Ouch. Commerce Bank officials, including their PA president, were also convicted, while Ron White's "paramour" was convicted of perjury.

See all about the conviction here.

Unfortunately, the saga will still go on. First, because the jury deadlocked on a bunch of counts, the judge has to decide whether to send them back to continue those deliberations, or whether to declare a mistrial, where we could get a whole new trial on these charges specifically. And, of course, Kemp and others will clearly be appealing.

Some people yell that what Kemp and others did was reprehensible. Others have contended this is simply the US Attorney going after business-as-usual in Philly. Well you know what? They are both right. This was awful, and I strongly believe this was generally business-as-usual, or a simple escalation of it at the very least. So, while Kemp should serve time, the city government should be served notice: the pay to play culture is simply unacceptable.

What can we do? Well, an obvious first step is Michael Nutter's ethics bill. (See stopplaytoplay.info to sign a petition for the bill.) But, clearly, that watered down ethics bill is only a first step. It strikes me that if we really want to end much of the corruption that is in the City government, we have to get money out of the political process. It may be pie-in-the-sky to demand that Presidential elections are publicly funded, with strict limits. But what about municipal ones?

Why don't we publicly fund our elections? Once and for all, get money out the process in Philly?

I will put it like this, as the power of this blog grows along with others, as the power of alternate progressive power structures build, I think we need to figure out how to make this a signature issue. It could be simple- raise 50,000 or something, and get 1 million dollars in public funds, or something like that. But only if you agree not to spend a penny more.

.....

I went this afternoon to a GOTV rally on my lunch hour. Speaking were an impressive cadre of people in Philly driving for change- from Joe Hoeffel to Beth McConnell of PennPIRG, to Brett Mandel of Philadelphia Forward. Everyone in the rally was officially non-partisan, and not taking any sides in the primary. But what was clear is that virtually everyone wanted Seth Williams in office. Yet, of course, conventional wisdom says he is still a long shot. Why? Why is the person that everyone wants still shut out by the powers that be? MONEY. If he had it, if he was advertising as much as Abraham, she would be dead in the water. But as it is now, it is too easy for ward leaders, et. al to ignore underfunded challengers. Take out the money from campaigns, and we will get far better candidates running for office, and far less pressure for elected officials to use their office as a feeder to their checking account. And the culture that bred Corey Kemp? Nah, it will not be totally wiped out. But it would certainly be dealt a swift blow. And in the process, we just may get a government less concerned with preserving their own fiefdoms than running this City as best they can.

Like Music? Like Politics?

I just received a call from my man Dan of Music for America who asked if I knew anyone in Philly who was interested in volunteering for some of the upcoming shows MfA is working, including tonight's Maktub concert at the North Star Bar. If you work a show with MfA you obviously get in for free. You also get to make a big difference by talking with our generation about the issues that effect us, registering them to vote, reminding them about the upcoming primary, etc.

If your on this site you obviously like politics. And chances are that you also like music. So why not come out to a Music for America show and enjoy a little of both?

For those who don't know who Maktub is, they're a soul/rock/"jam until the lights come on" type of group. You can listen to them here.

GOTV Rally at Noon Today: Dillworth Plaza

If you work downtown, or will be around, there will be a non-partisan GOTV rally at 12 o'clock, at 15th and JFK, in front of the Frank Rizzo statue.

The call I got said that the people there would include the Committee of Seventy, Joe Hoeffel, etc.

Come if you can. I am going to try and run over there myself.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Remembering an awful day

Excellent article in the Inquirer today on the 20th anniversary of the MOVE bombing. For those in my generation, who can barely remember it, do not even know what it is, it is a striking reminder of one of the most awful chapters in Philadelphia history.

Thankfully, as with many things, time really does heal many wounds. Who amongst us still associates the Philly government with that? Can anyone imagine the City, in this day and age dropping a bomb on a rowhome, and then purposefully letting it burn? On the top of a house with children known to be inside?

From the article:
When the blaze was out, 61 homes were gone and 11 people, five of them children, were dead inside MOVE headquarters.

The days that followed were a period of sadness and shame unlike any in the city's history, the start of a civic funk that lasted for nearly a decade.

The disaster cost Philadelphia millions of dollars, with the final bill yet to be tallied. And it destroyed the reputation of the city's first African American mayor, W. Wilson Goode, once hailed as the embodiment of racial reconciliation and managerial competence.
The 70's and 80's were dark days for our City. But, I guess I take heart in the fact that I truly do not remember it, at all. Our generation does not recall the bombing, and do not live with that stigma. But, just our generation does not remember that strife, we have grown up, especially over the past 13 years, with the idea that we should and can begin to expect things from Philadelphia Government. Things are not perfect by any means, but the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak. The difference between today, and 20 years ago, is simply amazing.

And then, there is this, also from the article:
One of the odder sidelights of the saga is that another historic event took place in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985, an event that had at least as much impact on how the place would evolve in the next 20 years.

At midday, business leaders broke ground in Center City for One Liberty Place, the city's first true skyscraper. The ceremony marked the end of the restrictive gentlemen's agreement that no building could be taller than William Penn's hat on the statue atop City Hall.

This should have been a moment of triumph for Goode, a piece of progress he had helped make happen. But he could not attend. He was busy creating a different sort of legacy for himself and for his city.

The Endorsement

They have a chance now to choose a worthy successor to Abraham with fresher, better ideas to fight crime in their city. His name is SETH WILLIAMS, and The Inquirer recommends him to Democratic voters in their party's May 17 primary.

....

Evidence also piles up that Abraham has lost her edge administratively. Critics suggest that the best and brightest don't seek to work in her office anymore.

Abraham cares about Philadelphia. That shows in the way she tours neighborhoods with crime-prevention ideas. But she has spent too much of her time and her political capital bashing judges and throwing the book inappropriately at political protesters. It's time for a change. Seth Williams arrives right on time.

Inquirer Endorses Seth Williams

It is not online yet, but the Inquirer, in Sunday's paper gives Seth Williams a strong endorsement. Not unexpected- they understand the choices we face.

As an aside, an article about bloggers and Seth will likely be in the paper on Tuesday.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

You read it here first: The Williams-Abraham Debate

As I said below, I was able to be at Channel 6 this morning for the taping of the Lynne Abraham-Seth Williams debate.

I will give a quick summary some thoughts before I head out the door, and I will write more tonight.

Real quickly- in the audience with the Williams campaign, along with his mother was Bob Eddis, head of the FOP. What quickly struck me was how important the FOP, and their rank and file officers, see this choice as. They, the cops on the street, clearly see that the DA system is not working correctly, and that Philly needs a change.

As for the debate:
1)It was far too short for my opinion. Since Abraham ducks Seth at every chance, and they never have any time for back and forth, we need more than thirty minutes.

2)Abraham clearly has no qualms about talking out of both sides of her mouth. For example, she kept talking over and over and over about the power of "we," and how she started community based prosecution, etc. It was almost startling to someone who has seen her sneer at things like that. Even more surprising, for someone who speaks with disdain about those who want the DA's office to do more than simply prosecute the cases they are handed, she kept talking about all the other things the DA's office must do. Reeeeeallly? C'mon. I hope, boy do I hope, that the reporters who cover this at least call her on that. She simply cannot have it both ways.

Seriously, watch for the power of we thing. In fact, maybe we should have a contest to think what the WE stands for? Maybe she meant the power of me?

3)Seth was his eloquent self. He came across as smart and humane. He is a credit to Philadelphia, and, if Democrats are smart, he will be a credit to the party. In a way, the fact that he is simply a decent guy, who refuses to make this a campaign about race, and who did not want to be outwardly disrespectful of Abraham hides the fact that she simply talks about of both sides of her mouth.

4)Somewhere, right in the beginning of the debate, Abraham starts quoting statistics about her record! Who knew she kept them?!?! I thought she doesn't govern by numbers?!

5)The death penalty: Abraham, obviously completely obfuscated. Basically, she said it is only for the worst, most heinous stuff. Problem is, her record is that, much like John Ashcroft at the DOJ, she basically has mandated that DA's push for the death penalty whenever possible. She says it is for the worst of the worst, then how come 25 percent of Death Penalty cases from Philly are overturned on appeal? Isn't that a scary number? If one quarter of all death penalty cases are overturned, how many slip through that shouldn't? How many people are sitting on Death Row courtesy of America's "deadliest DA" that shouldn't be.

5) The "Mama Lynne" story that the papers love came up after the debate. Basically, here is what I heard. Guess who gave Abraham the name "Mama Lynne"? Wellll, it was not Seth Williams, it was his mother. Do you know why she gave him that name? Because he worked his ass off so much at the DA office, that she thought it was almost like he had a second mother. And then, when he resigned, he dared write a kind letter of resignation! Geez! And he used "Mama Lynne" when doing so! (And by the way- Lynne Abraham sat on the floor of the home of Seth Williams' mother in 2001, and told him that not only did she think that Seth should be the DA in 2005, but that she would support him. This was confirmed by Williams' mother, wife, etc. If Abraham says otherwise, she is simply lying. Thats it.)

6) Lynne Abraham, who scoffs at community prosecution, in a Bush-esque moment, takes credit for implementing it in Philly! Oh boy. Lets see: yes, there is a small unit of the DA's office that is deployed geographically. It is called, I believe the repeat offenders unit. It was started by a smart ADA by the name of Seth Williams. But, in the DAs office? That is pretty much their only set of ADAs deployed that way. But, to the untrained eye, how would someone know? When the media will not go into the facts, focus on the real choices, and instead wants to talk personalities (with the Mama Lynne thing, etc) Philadelphia loses. Period.

All for now. I will write more this evening.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Blogging the Abraham-Williams Debate: In Studio

I will be attending the Abraham-Williams debate tomorrow, to be aired on Sunday on channel 6. I don't know whether I will have to agree to shut up about it until Sunday or not, but if not, I will give you a report as soon as it is over.

Seth Williams Signs for Windows and Doors

Now available for download at www.seth4da.com are Seth Williams signs in color and black and white. Put these signs in your front windows and doors to display your support for Seth. You can also make copies of these signs and ask local merchants and neighbors to put them up too.

Let's plaster the city for Seth!

DA Candidates Debate on Sunday

A message from Seth Williams:

Dear Philadelphian,

In a year where violence caused by the sale of illegal handguns has torn apart too many Philadelphia families, it is appropriate that I will be debating my Primary opponent for District Attorney on Mother's Day.

Please tune in to Ch. 6 on Sunday morning at 11:30 AM to watch my
opponent, Lynne Abraham and I discuss our differences about eliminating crime in Philadelphia. The debate will last half an hour and is being sponsored by WPVI Channel 6 and the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia.

The debate is a great opportunity to host a mini-house party and invite your friends, family or neighbors over to learn more about the issues and support my campaign for DA. You can view our house party how-to guide to assist you in holding a debate watching party here:

http://www.seth4da.com/party

This is the first time that my opponent and I will have a chance to debate the issues important in this year's election. You will be able to see first-hand the differences between her and I on a number of key issues including the death penalty, community-based prosecution and the role of the District Attorney in eliminating the roots of crime.

Please tune in to Channel 6 on Sunday at 11:30 AM and invite your friends and neighbors over too.

Thanks for your support!

Sincerely,
Seth Williams

PS- There are some great opportunities to get involved in my campaign tonight and over the weekend. Click here to volunteer: http://www.seth4da.com/rsvp


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Day 3 of Philly Bloggers For Seth Williams: Collecting Votes

Today, in the continuing effort of Philadelphia bloggers to make a real impact in the upcoming District Attorney's race, we are taking part in the third united day of action for Seth Williams (see Day 1, Day 2).

Today, our goal is simple: to get as many Philadelphia voters as possible to pledge their vote to Seth. In an election where turnout will be in the 20's, getting as many people involved and committed to voting will be crucial.

What we are doing is asking our readers to take ten seconds and pledge their vote, (let them know Young Philly Politics sent you), and to commit to sending an email out to their fellow Philadelphia voters asking them to do the same. (A sample email is contained in the post below.) Above all else, we are coordinating again to spread the word and tell them to go to www.seth4da.com/vote, and become a part of the Philadelphia grassroots community that is making waves around the City, and around the blogosphere.

No huge speeches on why we need Seth, you all know it. (Just in case- here.)

And, as the day goes on, the list of blogs that are participating will be updated here, and at Philly Future. Be it by sending emails or writing on your own blog, take action, and become part of the solution.

Above all else, pledge your vote today!

Other participating blogs:

Above Avg. Jane, eloquent as usual.
Paradox
Dragonballyee
Rowhouse Logic
The Tattered Coat
The West End
America's Hometown
MyDD
iFlipFlop
Music For America

Sample Email for the Day of Action

Dear Friends:

Today, I am taking part in a City-wide day of action for Seth Williams, candidate for District Attorney. Seth is a candidate we can all support: He is smart, dynamic, progressive and will implement fundamental reforms that Philly's broken criminal justice system so desperately needs. In short, he is exactly the kind of elected official that we need more of. Unfortunately, Seth's message of reform is up against a Philadelphia machine that thinks the status quo is good enough.

Today, by pledging our votes (www.seth4da.com/vote), and spreading the word to others, activists all around the City are standing up, and announcing their attention to be heard on May 17th.

To pledge your vote (www.seth4da.com/vote) takes ten seconds. The impact however, as we alert thousands of people in our personal networks could be much bigger. In an election with 25% percent turnout, we have a real chance to make a statement about the future of our city, and what kind of candidates we will support.

To the future of the Philadelphia,

Dan
www.youngphillypolitics.com

PS- Please forward this on to any Philadelphia voter you can think of, and ask them to do the same. How many votes can we pledge in just one day? Go to www.seth4da.com/vote, and be a part of something totally new to Philly politics.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Coming Attractions: Tomorrow the biggest day for Seth Williams yet

Tomorrow, we have our third, and hopefully biggest day of action for Seth Williams. The goal tomorrow? Get as many people as possible to sign quick e-pledges to come out and vote for Seth. It is simple, quick, easy and effective, especially in a race where 100,000 votes gets you the win.

Whether you have a "political" blog or not, if you are moved, become a part of what we are doing. Be a part of something that is gaining the attention of both national bloggers all over the Country, as well as the Philadelphia media.

If you want to be a part of it, and help spread the word tomorrow, write me an email (DanielUA at Gmail) or leave a comment with yours, and I will let you know what we are doing.

The regionalization of blogs, made possible here by Philly Future, has the potential to be revolutionary in Philadelphia politics. Get involved!

(And if you don't have a blog, fear not, there is much you can do, as well. In fact, the spreading of the word, through emails, etc, is what can make or break this.)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Braxton Bumped Out of Controller Race

John Braxton, a progressive candidate for the Democratic nomination for City Controller, was removed from the ballot this morning by the PA Supreme Court.

Braxton's financial disclosure forms were challenged by his opponent, Allan Butkovitz, a month or so ago. Braxton was initially allowed to stay on the ballot after a panel of Common Pleas judges told him that he only had to fix the forms.

That decision was apparently reversed this AM by the state Supreme Court. While ethics laws are important, Braxton's removal is a real blow to democracy.

With Braxton gone, that leaves only one competitive race at the top of the ticket and only one progressive campaign to rally around, which is, of course, Seth Williams for DA.

Will Bunch indicts Dubya, and the Mainstream Press

I am at work, I can't write anything, other than to say, I am not sure if I have ever read a better indictment of the mainstream press than this. Go read it for yourself.
...The president lied to the American people. He started a war on false pretenses, and more than 1,500 Americans -- and an untold number of Iraqis -- died.

Well, OK, you sort of knew that already, didn't you? But there wasn't a smoking gun...until now. The Times of London got hold of the secret memo from Tony Blair's pre-war deliberations that show that in the summer of 2002 -- months before the Colin Powell charade at the UN -- that Bush had decided to invade Iraq...he just hadn't decided why. The story broke right around the time that Laura Bush was telling a joke about her husband jerking off a horse.

Red meat for a cynical press corps, no? If, as Shaw insisted, "'Gotcha' journalism is the order of the day," then surely this was the ultimate 'gotcha' story -- the leader of the free world, caught in a bald-faced, and deadly, lie.

That's why we've been anxiously waiting for the American press to pick up and banner the news. And yet we're still waiting. The Washington Post...nothing, really. The New York Times obtusely backed into it on Page A9, next to an ad for Mohan's Custom Tailors, with a headline -- "For Blair, Iraq Issue Just Won't Go Away" -- that seems to barely hide the newspaper of record's apparent contempt for the issue.

Fattah continues to eye Mayoral run

This is a day old, but should be quickly noted. According to John Baer, Chaka Fattah sounds like he is running for Mayor. (And when John Baer says someone is running for something, it is a pretty good indication that its happening.)

From the column, Baer gives us a few indicators that sure make it seem likely that this is the case:
He has a list of 100 people he calls "public-spirited leaders" he's touching base with regarding a possible candidacy. Even though the election isn't until '07, he already has talked with 70.

He has a list of 20 specific urban-policy items on crime and violence, education, housing, budgeting and more (he won't discuss details), the platform for a candidacy. Already.

And he's taken, for him, the unusual step of invoking national help in fund-raising. A letter went out a few weeks ago over the signature of former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards encouraging contributions to Fattah.

So when, near the end of a 90-minute interview in his Capitol Hill office, I say something like, "sounds to me like you're running" and he says, "I don't want to leave you with that impression," I say, "uh, sorry, too late."
Fattah is the 800 pound gorilla, sitting out there. His ability to raise money, along with his own powerful machine in West Philly, and his ability to garner support from many middle-class whites means that, in effect, this whole race could be over before it even begins.

Mariano refuses to show us the money

Or rather, his sources of money.

City Councilman Rick Mariano is under a cloud of suspicion as the Feds look into who paid off his credit card bills during a time when City Council was not being paid. But, on a newly filed financial disclosure form, Mariano simply left more to be asked.

From The Daily News:
With two exceptions, Mariano refused to detail to whom he owes money, how he earns money, if he has received any gifts or payments, and if he owns or works for any other businesses.

He listed only his City Council job and a credit card charging him 14.5 percent interest.

In a statement attached to the reports, Mariano said his attorney had advised him not to answer the questions, citing his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution and Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Actually, my favorite part is the quote from Jimmy Tayoun, former City Councilman, who was of course indicted and convicted of corruption, giving us lessons on City ethics:
"I love the feds," Tayoun joked. "If you can give them a politician, they'll give you the moon."
Only in Philly.

HELP THE DEMOCRATS TAKE BACK OUR STATE LEGISLATURE!

From Sherrie Cohen:

ENJOY A COMMUNITY JAZZ CELEBRATION and HELP THE DEMOCRATS TAKE BACK OUR STATE LEGISLATURE!!!

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2005, 7 PM, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, B and Olney Streets

Hear Wynne Alexander, renowned vocalist and pianist known for her unique sound, "Cosmopolitan Rock;" percussionist, Robert Lee, who has performed with R&B legends Clarence Carter and Bunny Siegler; and, the incredible Grover Washington Jr. Middle School Jazz Ensemble. $25 donation.

Presented by State Rep. Mark Cohen, Democratic Caucus Chair, Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Proceeds benefit Democratic candidates for state and local office.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Check this out

Just trust me, check it out.

As a hint, there is this quote from Seth Williams:
"I can't compete with her [Lynne Abraham's] money," Williams said. "So if I'm going to run a sort of 'Continental Army against the Redcoats' campaign, it's great to get these spirited followers who'll use technology to get donations and share the message."

Schwartz Still Silent on Bankruptcy; Anonymous Sources Not

Every few days, I look around to see if "progressive" Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz has said anything about the Bankruptcy Bill. Still, nada, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately for her, others are not so quiet. In fact, I got an email from an anonymous source telling me to check the Wikipedia (the free online enclyopaedia) entry on her. I did, and, if it is true, it is certainly revealing:
Political scientists noted her record high level of fundraising. Former state legislators should raise more money from PACs and rely on them for higher proportions of their total receipts. However, despite Allyson Schwartz’s State Legislative experience, she raised $4,597,032 ( [1] (http://www.opensecrets.org/states/election.asp?State=PA&year=2004)) from individual donations and comparatively little ($558,376) in PAC donations ( [2] (http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib_newmems.asp?CID=N00001579&cycle=2004)).

The finance department countered or prepared for Melissa Brown’s potential avenues for fundraising. They cut off her fundraising from PACs that would normally support her, such as Realtors and financial services by persuading them that Allyson Schwartz could also address their needs. The purpose of communicating with PACs was not always to try to gain contributions, for the campaign understood that certain PACs would not donate to Democratic candidates. Instead, their purpose was to say to them, "If you can’t support than don’t hurt us” and many did not contribute to the race on either side.
She sure did address their needs. And, we will see if she continues to do so. Meanwhile, it has been weeks, and no one has seemed to hear a peep.

Still waiting, Congresswoman.

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