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Teaching Peace in Philadelphia

The Daily News reported today that by this fall, the Paul Vallas driven efforts to have smaller high schools will be in full swing. According to the article, eight smaller schools will be opening this fall, with about a quarter of Philly students atttending a school with 800 students or less.

The move is designed to reduce overcrowding while offering students a broader array of course offerings. Schools CEO Paul Vallas said this week that the decision to make schools smaller is, to date, his second-most important reform behind the implementation of a standardized curriculum.

"It's all about expanding choice," he said. "The one thing I have mandated is that [the smaller schools] all have to be college-preparatory schools. The children who graduate from these schools have to be prepared for college."

First of all, statements like that last one are why I like Paul Vallas. I know many people have legitimate issues with him, and other YPP writers may not be fond of him, but, maybe it is just me, but he seems to oooze an attitude that says "kiss my ass, Philly kids will succeed." And, that really appeals to me on some level.

I am no expert on education policy, so take this with a grain of salt... But, I think the drive for smaller schools is a good thing. As someone said on here earlier, it makes it easy to keep track of kids, makes it harder for kids to get lost in the shuffle, etc. Can we have very good big schools? Of course. We can also have very good huge apartment buildings. But that doesn't mean it was good to build huge public housing towers. I think small schools are a step in the right direction.

One small themed school in particular caught my eye:

The Never-Ending Story

No, not the fantasy movie of my childhood, it is the

other never ending story, the PA legislature's pay raise.

Let's see who is pissed off:

1) Newspaper columnists.

2) Ordinary Citizens.

3) And... Governor Rendell's own cabinet member. Guess she didn't get the memo.

It turns out, that Estelle Richman, who runs the Department of Public Welfare, and is generally one of the real "good eggs" of State (and formerly Philly) Government, is "pretty upset" over the raises, as well.

Read more to see the rest...

Unions to Boycott AFL-CIO Convention

Four of the country's largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they plan to boycott the AFL-CIO convention, which begins today in Chicago. The conflict is one of the biggest in labor's history, stemming from differing opinions on the best strategy for rebuilding the strength of organized labor. The split will have broad implications for both local and national politics.

Formed in 1955 as a merger between the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO represents over 13 million workers. Locally, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO has 120 affiliates who represent a combined total of over 100,000 workers. The unions who appear ready to pull out include the Service Employee International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE-HERE. Together, these unions represent nearly 40% of the total AFL-CIO membership.

Lynne Abraham Reportedly Disbands Narcotics Unit

Our old friend is at again. Take a look at this email I got today from a Townwatch watch leader on the PhillyBlocks listserv. In the email he states that Abraham made a decision to disband the Narcotics unit.

You also may remember from the '05 Democratic Primary for DA that Abraham promised to implement "vertical prosecution," basing the work of the DA's office on geography, to more effectivly deal with crime. Abraham only began talking about this change in the DA's office after her primary opponent, Seth Williams, started to talk about community-based prosecution. The email below hints that Abraham may have backed off this promise too. It seems like there may be a bigger story here...

Check out the whole email by clicking "read more":

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:

If you were Mayor...

A question for our readers, contributors, etc:

Let's say you were the Mayor of Philadelphia, or the Governor of PA. If you had one executive order that you could use to create any law or policy that you want, what would it be? Would it address a specific focus like education or the environment? Would you instead try and do something related to how Government functions?

You are the Mayor. What would you do?

Budget Projections and Honesty

I got an interesting email from Brett Mandel and Philadelphia Forward yesterday. It said that, like all other years, as fiscal year 2005 comes to an end, it is apparent that the City underestimated Tax Revenue, by a significant sum. How much? 177 million dollars from their projections a year ago. But, "hey, that was a year ago, so, who knows how they thought the economy was going to do." However, they also made projections last month, and they were off by the smaller, but not insignificant 77 million dollars. That is not chump change.

Why does that bother me? Check out the extended entry.

Philly Corruption Trial: Corey Kemp Gets Ten Years

Wow:

A federal judge sentenced former City Treasurer Corey Kemp to 10 years in prison today, saying he "engaged in a corruption scheme that damaged the citizens and the image of Philadelphia."

"You not only cheated the city," U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson told Kemp, "you cheated the state, the federal government and your church. It is very discouraging because you had so much promise. You have only yourself to blame."

Ten years is a long time. Clearly the judge wanted to make a statement here, and make one he did. That said, there are two quotes, one from the judge, and one from Kemp's lawyer that seem particularly important:

Joe Trippi comes to the Philly Mayor Race

Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager and general internet cult figure, is coming to the Philadelphia 2007 Mayoral race. How? As a high paid consultant to future candidate, and general rich guy, Tom Knox.

Trippi has become the darling of many progresives, and has managed the campaigns of people like Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy, so it looks like he generally picks progressives to work for. What will he do for Knox?

Check out the extended entry for more...

Citizen Power and the Voter Referendum

Still seething with anger about the legislative pay raise last week, Inquirer columnist John Grogan wants to take direct action. According to him, the decision by Pennsylvania lawmakers to raise their own salaries is such an outrageous abuse of power that our elected officials need to be punished. His strategy? Voter referendum.

We wouldn't ask the legislature or governor. Heck, no! We would gather signatures and get this puppy on the ballot. We would let voters decide.

Simple. Clean. Beautiful.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Philadelphia’s Economic Future Part 2: Population Loss Not the Only Factor in Determining the City's Health

A few weeks back, I started to examine Philadelphia’s economic future in a post you can read here. This is the second part of a series that will ultimatly make reccomendations to our city's political leadership on how to create a high-road economy in Philadelphia that has a tax-base sufficient enough to support citizens and businesses well into the future.

One of the most common ways that we Philadelphians have measured the relative health of our city has been through an examination of population growth. For instance, the Inquirer devoted front page space, in this article a couple weeks back, to the announcement that Philadelphia was going to maintain its spot as the nation's 5th largest city, having successfully kept Phoenix at bay one year longer. The implication of the Inky story was that Philadelphia was doing something right by not losing as many citizens as it had the year before.

And, it certainly is true that the city has bled population over the past 60 years. There are a lot of reasons for this population loss. However, regardless of how many Philadelphians have emigrated from the city, examining population growth or decline alone is not an accurate way to measure the health of the city’s economy.

Click read more, to see the rest

What's Up with Bob Casey?

I was planning to write about Santorum, but Dan beat me to the punch. As a follow up, there is another post over at Attytood drawing attention to speculation that Santorum might be trying to lose the PA senate race to run for President in 2008.

So what's left to write about? Bob Casey, of course! The folks over at Attytood are also wondering if Santorum is trying to lose the race anyway, why not get a more progressive Democratic candidate than Casey?

Well, for starters, you're not going to find many candidates with better positions on most issues than him.

Click Read More to see the rest.

Rick Santorum: Clinically Insane?

Every election, we have to deal with far-right politicians, who look their constituency in the face, and pretend they are "moderates," or "compassionate conservatives." And, too many times our media does not even bother to point this out. (My personal favorites are the Orwellian "Clear Skies" type bills offered by the Bush White House.)

Luckily for all of us in PA, I don't think this will be a problem in the 2006 Senate race. And, I think it is because Rick Santorum may be a little nuts. As in clinically crazy.

OK, so, PA is a reasonably moderate state as a whole. We have a Dem Governor, with Clinton/Clinton/Gore/Kerry all winning in the Presidential elections. Yet, we have a Republican AG, a Republican House, a Republican Senate, a Republican Majority of Congressional delegates and of course, two Republican Senators. You would think that as you approach the general election, you would end up trying to appeal to those in the middle, right?

Well, obviously, this is not the case with Rick Santorum, who seems to be aiming straight for the crazy vote, and hoping that will be enough to carry him through in 06.

Click "Read More" to see the list:

Hot Dogs, and the Appearance of Impropriety

As Ben said earlier, Mayor Street has some critics who are probably a little irrational in how much they hate him, and want him to fail. But, that said, when simple little things like Milton Street getting no-bid contracts happen, Mayor Street only stokes the fires.

The issue here? For Live 8, Milton Street was a subcontractor for a company that received a no-bid contract to sell food at Live 8. Why is it bad for Milton to get a no bid contract, even if it is only to sell hot dogs or pretzels? I will let John Street answer the question:

"I don't like the fact that this was a contract Milton entered into with no bidding... It has the potential to be looked at as a kind of insider's deal."

That was Mayor Street talking about Milton and his no-bid contract at the airport, during the 2003 election campaign. He promptly removed the appearance of impropriety by cancelling the contract with Milton.

STATE MINIMUM WAGE RAISED FOR LAWMAKERS ONLY

The Daily News has an editorial today titled : "MONEY FOR NOTHING
- STATE LAWMAKERS TAKE A STAND FOR THEMSELVES"

It rightfully notes that "THE MINIMUM $11,380-a-year raise that Pennsylvania state legislators voted themselves last week is more than their constituents who work full-time at the state minimum wage make in a year."

Clearly, as a lawmaker who voted against City Council's last pay raise to $98,000 ( $102k with the recent COLA), I am distressed that my counterparts would vote for the raise without the consideration of a minimum wage hike for all Pennsylvanians.

But, also as someone who has accepted the raise, I understand that many lawmakers believe that they deserve the raise. Some do, many do not.

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