jennifer's blog

Inspiring

Since I have written so complaining-ly about law school and law firms and legal practice, I just have to recognize this. It deserves recognition.

The Inquirer today has a story about a woman--still just twenty-four--who managed to raise a lovely child since she was fourteen, navigate bad neighborhoods...

And on top of all that she had to figure out how a creative and unconventional African-American woman could fit in a law school and legal job market that does not mainly privilege those qualities. Today she's graduating from Temple Law.

She has a thousand reasons to celebrate, but the one I am quietly rejoicing over is that she'll be starting in the fall as a lawyer in Community Legal Services family advocacy unit.

That's a huge gift to the city (CLS lawyers have done so much incredible work over the years) and it is completely inspiring to me to see someone who struggled so much and who now could have access to the high salaries of private practice, instead forge her own definitions of sucess.

Dan U-A is in the best lightweight-men's-double boat in the entire country!

This morning Dan rowed so amazingly super fast he and his rowing partner are now #1 in the US for skinny boys who row in boats that have two people.

And now he's going to Poland to try to qualify for the Olympics!

Here's Dan and Cody on their way to winning yesterday's race. Guess who's wearing the Phillies hat?

The best part was after he won. Someone said that cheering for Dan in Poland would be the first time they could ever imagine themself chanting "U S A! U S A!" and his grandfather looked kind of serious and said "you know what happened when Michelle Obama said that..."

Actually knowing something about economics is depressing.

Unless you are Hillary Clinton, and refuse to bother with those "elite economists," things start looking dark.

This month, Harper's magazine published a 'sky is falling' article on its cover (uploaded here in pdf format, or read an abridged version here), stating that the economy is worse than we know. It charts how the calculation of government numbers (like the Consumer Price Index) has shifted and shifted again to make sure things look like they are moving in the right direction. For example:

[Nixon] proposed albeit unsuccessfully—that the Labor Department, which prepared both seasonally adjusted and non-adjusted unemployment numbers, should just publish whichever number was lower. In a more consequential move, he asked his second Federal Reserve chairman, Arthur Burns, to develop what became an ultimately famous division between "core" inflation and headline inflation. It the Consumer Price Index was calculated by tracking a bundle of prices, so-called core inflation would simply exclude, because of "volatility," categories that happened to he troublesome: at that time, food and energy. Core inflation could he spotlighted when the headline number was embarrassing, as it was in 1973 and 1974. (The economic commentator Barry Ritholtz has joked that core inflation is better called "inflation ex-inflation"—i.e., inflation after the inflation has been excluded.)

The adjustments continued: Reagan shifted the mechanism for accounting for housing costs, and pulled military servicemembers and suddenly classified them as 'employed' instead of outside the labor force. And then under Clinton, employment statistics shifted again:

Although expunged from the ranks of the unemployed, discouraged workers had nevertheless been counted in the larger workforce. But in 1994, the Bureau of Labor Statistics redefined the workforce to include only that small percentage of the discouraged who had been seeking work for less than a year. The longer-term discouraged—some 4 million U.S. adults—fell out of the main monthly tally. Some now call them the "hidden unemployed." For its last four years, the Clinton Administration also thinned the monthly household economic sampling by one sixth, from 60,000 to 50,000, and a disproportionate number of the dropped households were in the inner cities; the reduced sample (and a new adjustment formula) is believed to have reduced black unemployment estimates and eased worsening poverty figures.

This week the Inquirer wrote about just these people: outside of the statistics but not in a viable job. They talked to a former rower with a biochemistry degree who was laid off and is cobbling together work landscaping, financial consulting, and Ebay selling. And they talked to YPP's Mark Price about the gap between what the numbers show and how people are living here in the Philadelphia area:

As the bad economic news piles up, most people focus on the unemployment rate. But economists say these other measures of underemployment are also important indicators of economic distress. They tend to rise with unemployment, compounding the negative numbers. ....

Mark Price, a labor economist with Pennsylvania's Keystone Research Center, lists the ingredients for what he terms "the most liberal definition of unemployment": people who are unemployed and looking for work, people who want jobs but have given up looking for one, and people who have taken part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work.

These measurements provide the broadest measure of labor underutilization, according to Price.

Last month, 9.2 percent of the workforce fell into one of these three categories.

These are among the numbers to watch if economic woes deepen, especially because the job market never fully recovered from the recession of 2001, Price said.

The 9.2 percent, which better captures the lived reality of people trying to pull together paychecks that will pay their bills, is huge. Stark.

And the debate goes back and forth over whether violence has to stop before eonomic development occurs (see this weekend's New York Time Magazine on an anti-violence initiative that is modeled after attempts to contain contagious disease). But in 2005 almost forty percent of working-age African American men in Philadelphia were unemployed or outside the labor force (see page 8). It's that number, not the manipulated overall federal unemployment rate, that determines what life is like in communities like Philadelphia's:

Two University of Washington social demographers analyzed 1970 and 1990 census data to examine all forms of violent deaths in Chicago - homicide, accidental death and suicide - and determine whether race or economic opportunity was the key predictor.

"Both black and non-black communities show generally similar responses to endemic joblessness in terms of mortality," Gunnar Almgren, lead author of the study, said. "Race is not an explanation for differences in violent death rates. It's about jobs. If you isolate any group from jobs, it is going to have negative effects, and inner-city black-community levels of joblessness are higher than any other group."

I never thought I'd see Little Pete's diner in the New York Times

The New York Times today was moved to ask the question that has bounced around this website for months: why is Michael Nutter, who in many ways seems to have an affinity for Barack Obama (cross-party appeal, plausible and powerful invocations of change and reform) supporting Hillary Clinton instead?

In some ways, the question that the endorsement has raised is the Rubik’s Cube at the core of the “post racial” politics that both he and Mr. Obama represent: If Mr. Obama’s candidacy is a historic racial benchmark, how do you introduce that idea into political discourse without reference to the old racial politics that give the benchmark its meaning?

Vivian McCabe, a grandmother, neighborhood block captain and supporter of both Mr. Nutter and Mr. Obama, expressed the frustration in a sidewalk interview the other day. “I was shocked,” she said, referring to Mr. Nutter’s endorsement of Mrs. Clinton. “Not because he’s black, but — I was just looking at him to...” She paused. “What words should I use?” she said. She could not come up with any.

If Mr. Nutter is inclined to ponder the conundrum, the political veteran in him — he was a Democratic committeeman, party ward leader and city councilman before running for mayor — does not show it.

The last sentence probably nails it. There's a cute section where Michael Nutter notes (over grilled cheese and chocolate milk at Little Pete's) that Obama is "'a really nice guy who’s talking about really important issues,' 'and I am aware that he is African-American.'" And an 82-year-old from Nutter's ward gets the last word: "'Nutter’s a smart fellow,' he said. 'He knows what he’s doing.' In this particular case...the new mayor just happened to be wrong."

Gone with the winds of "hope" and "change": a sort-of response to Kia Gregory (from a white girl)

This primary is like a lantern screen onto which pretty much any cultural construct can be projected.

Kia Gregory recently posted here. She's a good columnist, and she talks about a lot of things that loom hugely in the lives of a lot of people in this city, and which shockingly few other writers touch. But she also wrote this, in a list of reasons why she loves Barack Obama:

Hillary sometimes comes off like an angry drag queen.

and

She’s proven she can’t control her husband.

That's shameful. Actually it is f---ed, the same way Hillary Clinton has been, by everyone, and I mean that in the Catherine MacKinnon sense (subject-verb-object). Gloria Steinem, another very white girl, rightly got in a lot of trouble when she tried to defend her claim that America is more comfortable with (a very certain type of) black man in power, than they are any woman. (Also Kia Gregory, also pretty problematic: "Obama is the better candidate. He just happens to be black. He’s not running as a black candidate.") But there is some there, there.

I was watching Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer on tv, with the sound off, and I was thinking about the drag queen thing (which Ms. Gregory quoted, kind of out of context, from Matt Taibbi, who is not really the best one to go to on gender issues, whatever his other charms). Anyway, there's also some there, there. There's a drag-like element to Hillary, and to other women who have to navigate the--I'd argue, unnavigable--gulf between the conventional markers of feminity society expects from every woman and the conventional markers of power and authority. Barack Obama, though African-American, makes DE II comfortable. He makes me comfortable. He seems smart, calm, competant. He looks really good in a suit (another thing Ms. Gregory notes).

I don't think anyone, even those who hate her, thinks Hillary isn't as smart or smarter than Barack. It's Yale Law versus Harvard Law, for god's sake. But she doesn't make people comfortable, she makes them uncomfortable, and her uneasy blend of power and femininity looks like drag because it is. There is no model for that blending, because each of those poles demand conflicting things.

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect is the closest thing I've ever seen to a woman in power who is still totally a woman, and still powerful. She's a chief detective in a British police agency who is constantly negotiating a power structure that was not built with space for women; the men below and above her actively collude to impede and undermine her. And she's not young, but she's hot. She gets home, alone, or to her older white professor lover, or her younger black detective lover, gets undressed to just a half-buttoned white shirt, pours some whiskey, and she is at that moment powerful and sexy and human without any of those things being in conflict. That's what a woman looks like without the drag queen mask. And that is what all the half-sketched-out women in the Wire miss: they, together, reflect all the fragmented projections that are placed on women. D'Angelo's girl is needy and sexually manipulative, Daniels's wife gains power and turns cold and loses her marriage, Kima is is all boy, Rhonda, well I'll leave the race and gender stuff there alone.

So I think that Hillary does suffer from all this. I don't have statistics and polling or some way of objectively comparing the reductive narratives the media insists on imposing on everyone at every turn. But I will argue you to the ground if you tell me that Hillary is not hurt by the position she is in (I think spending a couple minutes reviewing Chris Matthews' random association hyper-analysis of Hillary's comportment would give you a pretty solid exhibit one). Her husband screws her and screws her by screwing someone else, and we screw her for that. What would a Hillary look like, for example, who didn't need to project Lieberman-level foreign policy aggressiveness?

Kia Gregory also wrote in that column that "When I heard Obama speak at a journalism convention about the image of him and his wife Michelle and their two daughters on the White House lawn, I got goosebumps." Me too. In the end, I honestly think when I weigh race and gender (and it is hard not to, even if it is pointless to try), I think it matters more to have a black president right now than a woman one. It is ridiculous that so long after the civil rights era the image of a black first family is still so foreign, and as sad as it is I think that having a black man white people think is "articulate" and with whom they are comfortable in the highest office in the country could set off a real and sudden and revolutionary shift. But Hillary can't make the same jump. Even if she were elected, and little girls suddenly really thought they could be president, they would still have to figure out how to do that without ending up in drag.

The administration comes out swinging for the BPT cuts, Maria Quinones Sanchez is at bat for everyone else

As sad as I am that Irv lost last May, I am proportionately that happy that Maria is in City Council advocating for her district and all the people in this city who keep being left behind as this city's rising tide lifts only some boats.

City Council signaled yesterday that Mayor Nutter would have a difficult time deep-sixing already approved wage-tax cuts for the working poor to help pay for his proposed business-tax cuts.

At least five Council members said in a budget hearing yesterday that they flat-out opposed or were deeply skeptical of calls to eliminate the so-called David Cohen tax credit, which was championed by the former city councilman, who died two years ago.

"With an acknowledged rate of 25 percent of our citizens in poverty, I'm not satisfied that we're presenting a budget where we are more aggressive on our business-tax cuts," said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sanchez.

So far, the budget is good in many ways, and generally restrained. But that doesn't mean that criticism should be muted if it is due. Stan has been prescient on this:

Cohen's low-income tax credit isn't slated to go into effect until 2013, and its impact on the city's current five-year plan - the subject of yesterday's hearing - is minimal. But after the tax credit has been phased in, it will cost the city about $80.8 million in 2016, and the annual cost will continue to go up.

"It starts to take off and become a very sizable cost," said Steve Agostini, the Nutter administration's budget director. "You know, if folks want to . . . debate that, that's entirely legitimate, but we just want them to understand there's a price tag associated with it."

The administration's view is that its broader plan for wage-tax relief will benefit lower-income residents, in addition to other taxpayers. The city's wage tax was at 4.96 percent when the Cohen tax credit was adopted. Scheduled reductions to the tax rate and statewide casino revenue are expected to lower that rate to 3.11 percent by 2013.

Council members asked whether it would be possible to slow the city's scheduled wage-tax reduction rate in order to fund the tax credit for the working poor. Nutter's representatives acknowledged that was possible.

And I think priorities are a valid subject for debate and criticism.

Putting his deputy mayorship where his mouth is

So Michael Nutter named another deputy mayor. Why is it headline news? Because it is the deputy mayorship for the office of ex-offenders, and the new deputy mayor has been in prison.

This is not really a surprise, and I mean that in the best possible way. While I share some of Stan's concerns about the mayor's tax priorities, his appointments have (with scant exception) been wonderful.

One weird thing about picking Ronald Cuie: he's not exactly every guy from West Oak Lane who got caught up in dealing when he was younger and managed against the odds to turn himself around.

He's already been a deputy mayor, under Rendell, and a deputy managing director under Goode. So he's privileged. And he did the kind of things that privileged people do: cocaine and alcohol. If he hadn't gone too far, and hadn't ended up beating, tying up, and torturing a companion, it is pretty unlikely that his coke habit would have gotten him thrown in jail.

As it was, he spent only three years in prison for his conviction ("robbery, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and criminal conspiracy"). Presumably when he got out, he had at least some of the safety net that a once-high-ranking city official is likely to have.

This all makes him pretty atypical of the people coming out of prison and back to Philly neighborhoods. He's clearly spent time and energy since his release devoted to helping make systemic changes in the prison and re-entry systems. Hopefully he will serve as a literal bridge to those in power who think they are detached from the problems of those in prison, those getting out, and their families. And hopefully he has come to understand the huge structural obstacles people who aren't deputy mayors face when they have to restructure a life after incaceration.

So a very nice gentleman from the City Solicitor's office wrote me back

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to request records that would show exactly who pays what under the Business Privilege Tax (this is why). The request made it to the right people--the Revenue Department and the City Finance Director--after some trial and error and with the help of some of you.

Last week I received an email. The City Solicitor's office is reviewing the request, and will determine what will be released.

February 13

Dear Ms. Kates,

This response is to your letter addressed to Department of Finance. You request various records relating to payments under the Business Privilege Tax.

I am writing to let you know that we have taken this matter under consideration. However, in order to adequately review and respond to your request, a legal review is necessary to determine whether and to what extent the records you are requesting are public records subject to access under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, 65 P.S. §§ 66.1-4.

We will keep you informed of our progress, and anticipate being able to respond to the entire request no later than 30 days from the date of this letter.

So, a couple more weeks and then the, um, real fun begins: data analysis!

Gun violence forum on February 19: so many of my favorite people in one room

Guess which ones?

A. Michael Nutter
B. David Kairys
C. Brett Mandel
D. John McNesby
E. Mary Catherine Roper

No no, I love everyone. Anyway, if this gets past rhetoric and posturing, it seems like a great chance to hear what is really going on with the city's plans to get at gun violence and that awful murder rate. Regardless, that's a pretty interesting group of people to have in one room--the head of the ACLU, a giant of the civil rights bar, the head of the FOP, and whatever it is that Brett Mandel is.

Feb. 19, 2008 at 4:00-6:00. Free and open to the public (RSVP to SPIN@temple.edu). Temple University, Klein Hall Moot Court Room, 1719 N. Broad St.

The SPIN forum will explore legal, policy and political solutions to Philadelphia's most intractable problem - gun violence. In a city where 392 people were killed last year and three police officers were shot in a week, stemming the tide of gun violence is the key to Philadelphia's revitalization. Panelists will examine the positive and negative implications of Mayor Michael Nutter's “Stop and Frisk” plan and evaluate alternative approaches. Please join us to engage with members of the community, law enforcement, politicians, researchers, students, and advocates to inform the policy debate about how to eliminate the guns yet preserve civil rights.

Speakers: MICHAEL NUTTER, Mayor of Philadelphia; DAVID KAIRYS, Temple University, Beasley School of Law; BRETT MANDEL, Philadelphia Forward; JOHN J. MCNESBY, Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police; MARY CATHERINE ROPER, Pennsylvania ACLU

Forum Sponsors: Temple University Beasley School of Law; Temple Law Student Bar Association; Government Affairs Society; National Lawyers Guild, Temple Law Chapter

Following the Forum, Temple will recognize members of the Rubin Public Interest Society.

Calculated and calculating: Ramsey sends police where the numbers are, which is apparently not Point Breeze

The Inquirer has done some independent analysis of the recommendations in Ramsey's crime plan: specifically, it has looked at where resources are being sent and why.

One big shock: Point Breeze and five other districts with among the worst crime rates in the city last year don't get any more police or money under the plan.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who released his plan on Jan. 30, identified nine high-crime districts where he wants to shift 200 officers to patrol duty. The 17th District, which includes Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, was not among the chosen few.

The nine districts Ramsey selected for special attention are some of the city's most populous and account for nearly two-thirds of Philadelphia's homicides.

But six less-populous police districts - including the 17th - have higher crime rates than some of the districts Ramsey wants to target, according to an Inquirer analysis of the Police Department's 2007 crime statistics. Crime rates provide analysts a way to compare the number of offenses among areas with different populations - the higher the rate, the greater the likelihood someone in those areas will be a victim of a crime.

The apparent reason: Ramsey is committed to getting numbers down, and the more people who live in an area, the more cold hard crime numbers. Even if the crime rate by population is lower, as in areas like University City and Chestnut Hill--both of which are getting added resources.

Ramsey's chosen districts combined account for 55 percent of the city's population. Consequently, they have the highest number of violent crimes. And it is the total number of crimes that Ramsey is focused on reducing.

So this numbers game at least partly accounts for who is targeted for extra help, and who isn't:

Four of the districts Ramsey chose have better-than-average violent-crime rates - the city average is 1,456 incidents per 100,000 residents. They are the 14th District in Northwest Philadelphia, the 35th District straddling Broad Street in the north, and the 18th and 19th Districts in West Philadelphia. They include some of the city's most stable neighborhoods: Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, West Oak Lane, Wynnefield, University City.

Conversely, six districts that reported some of the worst violent-crime rates last year did not make the commissioner's list: the Sixth District, which includes eastern Center City and North Philadelphia; the 16th District, including Mantua and Powelton in West Philadelphia; the 23d District in North Philadelphia; the 24th and 26th Districts, encompassing Kensington, Fishtown and Port Richmond; and the 17th.

Stepping back, most of the reforms Ramsey has proposed are great because they touch on basic policing. If they are achieved, they will help every area in the city, even those that aren't targeted for extra resources.

However, there's one thing that is agreed upon by basically everyone who cares about and pays attention to the crime problem: we need to target resources to where the problems are. This holds for stop-and-frisk (use the data we have to focus on problem corners rather than casting a broad net), as well as where to send patrol officers on their rounds and where to put the money and bodies.

When we are talking about the murder rate, numbers are people, so any drop in that rate is a good in itself. However, this is a very calculated distribution of our limited resources, and that calculation doesn't take into account the desperate need of people in places like Point Breeze, where there are less people but more destructive crime.

Tax cuts and open government, part two: I get out my stationary and stamps

Yesterday, Dan wrote:

So, before we decide to cut business taxes or not, we should know how much every business- from big old Comcast to the smallest person just opening up shop, pays in taxes to the City each year. This may shock you, but under the previous Mayor, the Commerce Department generally refused to provide these numbers. I guess they thought it was their business only. But, with a new Mayor focused on transparency and the like, I am hoping things change.

and I got out my laptop. (And stationary, and envelopes and stamps.)

The letter was sent to the Department of Revenue, and copy given to Finance Director Rob Dubow. Notice of the request was also sent to the mayor, and Council members Frank DiCicco, Jim Kenney, Wilson Goode, and Maria Quinones Sanchez. So we'll see.

Philadelphia, Mississippi is not the only Philadelphia that mattered in the civil rights movement

YPP book club! This Thursday, Matthew Countryman will be at the Penn Bookstore with his book, "Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia".

During the 1940s and 1950s, liberal civil rights groups in the city successfully campaigned for Philadelphia's new City Charter to be the first in the nation to include a ban on racial discrimination in municipal employment, services, and contracts. Within a decade, however, black activists in the city were leading consumer boycotts and street protests against the city's liberal establishment for failing to overcome entrenched structures of racial inequality in labor markets, residential neighborhoods, and public schools. ....

Challenging the view that it was the inflammatory rhetoric of Black Power and the rising demands of black activists that derailed the civil rights movement, Up South documents the efforts of Black Power activists in Philadelphia to construct a vital and effective social movement that combined black nationalism's analysis of racism's constitutive role in American society with a program of grassroots community organizing and empowerment. On issues ranging from public education and urban renewal to police brutality and welfare, Philadelphia's Black Power movement remade the city's political landscape. And, in contrast to the top-down middle-class leadership of traditional civil rights groups, Black Power in Philadelphia fundamentally altered the composition of black leadership in the city to include a new cohort of neighborhood-based working-class and female black community activists.

I picked up this book, and am about to start reading it. If anyone else does, tell me and we can totally do an ad hoc book club. I know bits and pieces of the story: the intense murals at the Church of the Advocate, the Black Panther men up against the wall, people lining Girard Avenue under the College gates. I want to know more, and if anyone reading has personal stories of their involvement in or memory of these struggles I would love if you shared them.

So, go to the talk: Thursday February 7 at 5:30 at the Penn Bookstore, 36th and Walnut Streets. And then walk down to the Penn Book Center at 34th and Sansom and buy or order the book, because the Penn Bookstore is owned by Barnes and Noble and you shouldn't support them. Oh and there is totally a paperback that just came out, so even though it printed by an academic press, it's not even too expensive!

Broken windows, broken record

Ramsey's 21-page crime plan is, 10 or so pages of filler aside, a steady and sober one. It completely skirts the most troubling parts of Mayor Nutter's campaign rhetoric. Sure, like a bunch of us have observed, it's all in the implementation. But if they can implement this basic return to high visibility, community-based policing, the city will be much better off.

I like when Chief Ramsey says that the changes he is making are sustainable, that it's not Safe Streets and Safer Streets and the Return of Safe Streets--short-term infusions of money that get eaten up in overtime and then are gone.

But I really hope that 'high visibility' 'community-based' policing is not code for bringing misguided 'broken windows'-style policing to Philadelphia.

That would add more victims--and deep costs--to the battle against crime and neighborhood decay.

The Inquirer this morning has an article that claims the crime plan is about just that, those broken windows: "Small arrests aim for major impact."

The new commissioner aims to drive violent crime down 20 percent this year by focusing on fundamentals - shifting more officers from special units to basic patrol. A key tactic of the plan is to focus on quality-of-life issues - such as public intoxication, loitering and gambling - that sometimes escalate into violent crimes or drive law-abiding residents to move elsewhere.

This is a startling leap: is it really 'gambling' that is driving people out of their deeply-scarred neighborhoods? Is there a causal link between cracking down on public intoxication and stopping shootings, rapes, and violent assaults?

The real question the article raises is, will our violent crime problem be fixed one $10 marijuana bust at a time?

As [Officer] Schoch patrolled the neighborhood, he looked for unusual behavior or groups on corners.

"Any time there's a large group of people, you have the potential for victims," he said. He was also on the lookout for pizza deliverers, who have been targets of recent robberies.

About an hour after he hit the road, driving east on Godfrey Avenue near Mascher Street while listening to the police radio and carrying on a conversation, Schoch jerked his head to the left. In seconds, he wheeled his car into a U-turn to intercept the drug transaction. The time was about 5:40.

"Come here," Schoch ordered the first man, who made a quick move away from the officer and tossed a wadded tissue under a parked car. Schoch forced him against his car. He told him to relax and extend his arms behind him for the handcuffs. The suspect, Ivory Jackson, 48, was still clutching a few dollars in his fist.

"I don't want to go through this again," said a bewildered Jackson, who wore a knit cap and an oversize coat.

After Schoch put the suspect into the back of the squad car, he explained what he had witnessed.

"Everything happens with your hands - a narcotics deal, a weapon. I couldn't even tell you what his face looks like. You watch the hands."

It's a small deal, a 1-gram bag of marijuana worth $10. A "dime bag" in the vernacular.

One of the two guys turns out to have a fraud warrant out on him, and they both get taken in and booked. The article is blase about whether or not this is productive or a waste of resources:

Some officers say the effort invested in making a case like this - Schoch and Leva spent two hours processing paperwork and evidence - removes officers from the street to hunt for worse offenders.

But Schoch said such arrests sent a strong message of intolerance for all crime. And it's impossible to say, until the arrest is made, when a minor stop might yield a bigger fish - somebody with a warrant for a violent crime, or somebody carrying an illegal weapon.

Sometimes these small arrests lead to information about bigger crimes, Schoch added.

"Some cops tell me I'm wasting my time with these arrests," he said. "I say I wouldn't want that stuff going on in my neighborhood."

Someone, explain to me what we get from an arrest like this?

The jury is somewhat out on the exact mechanics of the alleged deterrent effects of this "order-maintenance" or "broken windows" policing. I am happy to fight it out in the comments. But the costs of this policing are clear. A Temple study found that 88% percent of inmates in the city prison system are there for nonviolent, low-level offenses. We are under court order to get people out of the prisons who don't need to be there. The collateral costs of incarceration have been catalogued again and again: difficulty finding jobs, loss of resources in families and communities. Our new mayor and concilpeople like Wilson Goode have recognized the need to target reentry and probation to help get people out of the system, into jobs, and away from crime.

We don't need a crime plan that will throw a bunch more people into jail who don't really need to be there. Let's hope the article just shows irresponsible journalism, not policing.

Michael Nutter <3's Dan UA

There's been a lot of adulation thrown at the new mayor, but this is really awesome.

Mayor Nutter yesterday said he would enforce new city gun-control laws even without state authorization to do so - setting up a possible legal and political showdown between the state and the new mayor.

State preemption of our city's ability to deal with its own problems is itself a big problem. Until Michael Nutter just stood up and said enough, the loudest voice was probably our own Dan UA. Dan has called out the state's messing with: our smoking ban, our right to control our own zoning, our progressive anti-predatory lending bill (more than once), our campaign finance bill, and the effect of all this preemption on the casino fight. Oh yeah, and guns.

PS there's totally more but I got tired of hyperlinking.

Anyway, of all this state hand-tying, the refusal to let us deal with our gun problem is compounded by the fact that the state won't deal with it either. The laws we are talking about here are some of the same ones that Rendell begged (with 'clenched teeth' and 'pounding the lectern') the legislature to pass:

The bills would force owners to immediately report stolen guns; set monthly limits for firearms purchases; require vendors to report ammunition sales; and prohibit gun sales to anyone who is the subject of an order of protection.

They wouldn't.

So this is how it is going to work:

At the first regular meeting of the new City Council yesterday, Council members Darrell L. Clarke and Donna Reed Miller introduced the same package of gun-control measures that languished last year while the state legislature refused to authorize them.

But these bills have a new wrinkle - they don't call for state-enabling legislation. The previous bills were conditional on companion state laws in recognition of a 1996 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that said cities could not enforce their own gun laws.

But Nutter, Clarke and Miller, frustrated by the repeated failure of gun-control measures in the legislature, now appear ready to do just that.

"If these bills pass and if I sign them, then I expect to enforce them," Nutter said. "If you believe we can have a safer city by putting these measures in place, I think as good public servants we are compelled to take some type of action in the face of no relief coming from anywhere else."

And now that we have a newly Democratic state supreme court (thanks to the election efforts of a lot of you!):

[Temple law professor and totally awesome lawyer David] Kairys said the city's action could set up a test of a new Supreme Court, now under Chief Justice Ronald Castille, the former Philadelphia district attorney who promised to depoliticize the court.

"If there's really going to be a new day in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, this would be a fine place to start," Kairys said.

Now I know that this can't stop the shootings and all the bloodletting on its own. And there has been some troubling evidence that the new day might have shadows of the old (see, e.g., Clarena Tolson).

But this, no question this is a huge symbolic leap into a new day. And, as Dan has, you know, detailed, it has implications for all sorts of progressive law-making.

And for what?

Below, Dan respectfully and appropriately asked for focus on the loss suffered by the Goode family. It is a loss that is both painfully particular--a family member--and horrifically general.

Horrifically general because it is one of several recent police shootings, one of all too many black men killed in our city, of people killed in our city, and of people lost to one part or another of an endlessly failing drug war.

Dan also pointed to Mayor Goode's careful moderation. But Mayor Goode also said:

"I don't know anything except that, when someone is shot in the back, it raises questions that need to be objectively looked at."

Stop there for a moment.

This, two weeks after police in another corner of the very same neighborhood--Germantown--shot another man who was fleeing, running away from them, fired into a house filled with 50 people celebrating New Year's Eve, killing one man and injuring two others, including the nine-year-old he was pushing up the stairs away from those bullets. A hardworking immigrant man is dead, the wrong man arrested, and no gun yet found.

This, the same weekend police shot and killed a man who, while having a gun, may or may not have pointed it at police. All we know is one of two officers saw him "slowly take his handgun out of his waistband and hold it down by his side."

I am not a police officer, I don't know if the shootings were 'justified', and I am not judging those officers, though I agree with the stark truth of what Mayor Goode said about how deep the questions are that are raised when someone is shot by the police in the back. There will be investigations for all of that. For now the mayor and police commissioner and DA have my trust.

But just stop and think about those lives that were lost, and for what.

The undercover officers who shot Timothy Goode were patrolling to make drug arrests. Maybe a person in that situation was selling, maybe he was buying and maybe he was doing nothing illegal, was just in one of the many corners of corners of our city where drugs and drug selling and people carrying guns are all around.

But this--being shot and killed in the course of some corner drug bust--it's an almost incomprehensibly huge cost. And it is not a cost that we can continue to bear.

David Simon, who co-writes "the Wire" on HBO, the clearest mirror to American cities I have ever seen, whatever Mark Bowden says, says the show is about "how contemporary American society—and, particularly, 'raw, unencumbered capitalism'—devalues human beings."

“Every single moment on the planet, from here on out, human beings are worth less. We are in a post-industrial age. We don’t need as many of us as we once did. So, if the first season was about devaluing the cops who knew their beats and the corner boys slinging drugs, then the second was about devaluing the longshoremen and their labor, the third about people who wanted to make changes in the city, and the fourth was about kids who were being prepared, badly, for an economy that no longer really needs them.

Histrionic or not, it's true. The near-half the people sitting in city jails because they cannot afford bail are being treated as expendable. The people hurt or killed on all sides of the battle for the corners, they are being treated as expendable. Same with the thousands of kids who enter high school but aren't there by the end. There's no point to my sitting here preaching except to say that it is pretty clear that our moral imperative is to revalue every person and block in this city.

Syndicate content