charlesdog12's blog

A Real Reform Movement

There has been a lot of talk on this site and the progressive community about the so called “reform” movement. I am a big proponent of such movements because I have always ascribed to what David Cohen said, “We don’t need bigger government, or smaller government. What we need is better government, a government that works for the people.” The question is, how do we create a reform movement that includes everyone, one that includes a broad cross section of the great economic, social, racial, and geographical makeup of our great city?

The Ward System: My Experience

There has been a lot of talk about Ward Leaders and the Ward system on this blog, and I thought that I might bring things into perspective. I think that first of all, we have to actually realize what Ward Leaders do. I am in no way here trying to talk about straw men as much as I am here to clarify a few things with my personal story.

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After Dean lost the primary, I decided that I “had the power” and talked to a long time neighbor, friend, and Ward Leader, Greg Paulmier (disclosure: I’m supporting him for Council in the 8th District). It was an interesting time in my life where I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I had dreams of moving to NYC still in the back of my head. But I sat down with him, in his kitchen, and we started talking about what I could do to get involved.

Stop and Frisk Policy Considered Harmful

I’ve been thinking about the proposed “Stop and Frisk” policies lately. It took me a while to react, because it’s pretty much par for the course. Candidates being “tough on crime” is the kind of thing that you come to expect. I have always had the position that being tough on crime is almost always being stupid on crime, but that’s not what got me upset. What upset me was the fact that we all know that this is racial profiling, and racial profiling is just plain old wrong. And if you think that it’s OK to do this as long as you have some policy wonkish board where people can go make complaints, then I implore you to read my story bellow.

“None of the Above” For Mayor

The title of this entry is in reference to a Richard Pryor movie called Brewster’s Millions. It’s a pretty funky tail about a guy who inherits 300 Million dollars on the condition that he spends 30 Million in a month, in order to teach him to hate spending money. One of the things that he did to spend all that money was, oddly enough, run for mayor by telling everyone to vote for “None of the Above”.

I don’t intend to say that people shouldn’t vote. But what I do intend to say is that there is no candidate in the race that deserves anyone’s full support. People seem to be extremely passionate about their candidate of choice, but, in my opinion, none of them deserve such passion. So, at least I’m an equal opportunity candidate basher.

We Need More Startups

Every day I sit through traffic on 76 on my way to and from the Main Line to go to work. It’s an odd situation, considering that I have always thought that the suburbs were the 5th ring of hell. But I do this, because, sadly, there are no jobs to be found in the Philadelphia city limits. This is even more amusing considering that I am a Software Developer at a time where there are more programmer jobs then there were during the dot com boom. I found out the other day that India, now, is outsourcing jobs to the U.S. I thought that my co-worker was joking, but he was dead serious. So why is it that I can’t find a job in Philly?

Casinos and My Neighborhood

Dan and I grew up about 5 blocks from each other in Germantown. We both lived about a mile and a half away from the proposed Casino site in East Falls. And I want to point and make it clear that it is in East Falls, NOT Nicetown. This insisting otherwise is a little insulting, not for the simple fact that it’s a lie, but more so because it almost has this feeling of, well, hey, it’s a poor Black neighborhood, so who cares if they screw it up. I care, but I digress.

The history of East Falls is pretty interesting. It is where Grace Kelly was born and raised. It’s where Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were going to get married. (I later found out that the press got wind of it, so they got married in Mt. Airy.) It’s where our Governor calls home and where Arlen Specter used to live, along with a myriad of Judges and other elected officials.

One Brick At A Time

Every day that I drive to work in Jersey, I see symbols of everything that this city once was, everything this city is, and everything that this city can be. I drive past the converted carriage houses and Victorian houses in Germantown. Then I swing over to East Falls, where I pass by the houses of our Governor and Senator, Grace Kelly’s childhood home, and the beautiful house where Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner got married. Then I swing down Allegheny Avenue and Richmond Street, through North Philly, Port Richmond, and Kensington, which is like driving through a rainbow with very distinct lines.

On this stretch, there is one thing in common. No, it’s not the crippled row homes, the sleazy local bars, the trashy fast food restaurants, the crappy pager stores, or the check cashing places. They are there too. No, what I see is almost a cruel joke. I see old abandoned factories with beautiful trim, broken windows, and crumbling bricks. At one time, these buildings were magnanimous structures bustling with life. Men and women from our great city would come here and make the things that fueled our economy, and their kids had it better than they did. They may not have owned a house, but their kids did. They may not have been able to read, but there kids did. They may not have had a place to call home, but there kids did, and it was here.

The Geographical Problem

I think that one of the best things about this site is its Geographic diversity. Dan, Alex, and I grew up in Germantown. Ray grew up in West Philly. Ben grew up in the Burbs, but I will not hold that against him. We also have other frequent posters from Center City, South Philly, and I’m sure that the Northeast is represented somewhere. Because of this Geographic diversity, we can talk about the issues that face our great city with a breadth that you can’t find in many places. I think that the struggles that the Philadelphia activist community faces is the lack of this Geographical diversity.

A while back, I wrote about Empowering Communities, and I think that we need to really understand how important this is. If we want to effect a change in a community, then how can we do it if we don’t live there? How can we have any clout? We may be well intentioned, and we may not be pretentious, but at the end of the day, the people that we are dealing with know that they are staying there, and we are going to our apartment in Center City or Mt. Airy. And that is the best case scenario, that the people whom we try to help or communicate with appreciate us but still look at us funny. The worst case scenario is that they get offended. They think that we are going in and trying to “save” them. And let’s be honest. We do have that mentality sometimes.

Hammer and Nail

I think that the proponents of one issue or the other seem to think that that one issue is the basis for the problems for everything. Hey, even us hardcore progressives do it. I think that, for example, we need to stop talking about getting rid of Bush and talk more about bringing a spine back to the Democratic Party. Bush is bad, ra ra ra, but with the current lack of conviction in our party, even if Bush wasn’t there, there would still be a big problem. But I digress. Proponents of Tax Cuts seem to think that it will cure all of Philadelphia’s woos, and then do the dishes and slice the bread. As the saying in programming goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I think that all of us need to get out of that nail mentality.

I think that the best way to put things into perspective is to tell personal stories. I am a computer consultant, which means that I have to pay BPT. There are some serious problems with it, and I think that we need to fix them. For example, why should I have to prepay next year what I paid this year in taxes? What if I am in a volatile business where cashflow is important? Why do we have to pay a tax on gross income. Doesn’t this punish people who need to hire a lot of people and/or buy a lot of equipment? (Click Read More for the Rest)

Justice For Kayla

As many of you know, I live in Germantown. Once of the great things about Germantown is it’s great access to Kelly drive, just a Mile and a half away. One day, I was biking home on Midvale Ave. after a pretty good ride. When I got to Henry, I noticed that a block away there was a lot of honking, and I had remembered that same honking at that corner before. So I decided to see what was going on.

I road my Bike to the corner where I was greeted by protestors with signs that said, “Honk for Kayla”. I asked who Kayla was, and they told me that she was a very nice and very bright young girl from East Falls who was killed by a drunk driver a month ago. Listening to the story was moving and aggravating at the same time. Justice isn’t always as swift as it should be.

Well, it turns out that the protests have ended, and there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Academic Bill of Rights

It looks like the Conservative proponents of the Academic Bill of Rights had a victory in Pennsylvania. This from Inside Higher Ed:

But on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution creating a special committee that is charged with investigating — at public colleges in the state — how faculty members are hired and promoted, whether students are fairly evaluated, and whether students have the right to express their views without fear of being punished for them.

The language in the resolution closely follows that of the Academic Bill of Rights, which has been pushed nationwide by David Horowitz, a former 60s radical who is now a conservative activist.

Let’s be honest, not all professors are fair, and some use their position as a pedestal on which to indoctrinate the youth of America. Whether they are wrong or right, we have to make sure that students have the opportunity to freely express their ideas. If only it were about fairness. We all know that this is just another attempt by people like Horowitz to push a Conservative agenda in our higher educational institutions. Fairness is one thing, but they want to be able to not teach the theory of evolution and allow people to teach revisionist history when it comes to the Holocaust. That cannot stand. I also think that the teachers need to come up with some alternative plan. If we say that we are for fairness, then we have to mean it. We can’t just be against things, because then we look like obstructionists.

Michael Berube had some interesting comments on his blog about this. He quotes frequent Young Philly Politics reader Representative Cohen, who lead the fight against the bill:

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