jennifer's blog

You know, let's not even worry about the City Commissioners office messing up voter registration processing

On an otherwise very happy Election Day this year, one dark spot was the mess the city made of processing new registrations and absentee ballots.

This failure went beyond the expected "I thought I registered but I never got a card." I saw many people coming in to the polling place with valid brand new registration cards, mailed to them by the city, only to be nowhere on the voter rolls. Nor on the supplemental rolls, printed out the day before.

Voting provisionally isn't the end of the world, but because in most cases that vote will not be counted it's frustrating for someone excited to cast a vote for the first time.

And then there were the "recieved after Election Day" absentee ballots.

Sure, the City Commissioners office should be reformed. Might be a good topic for the budget talks. But, to fix the voting administration problems, we should look bigger. Project Vote has compiled links to examples of recent public support for a new, federal, way of handling voter registration. The goal would be to have the federal government, rather than individuals or third-party registration drives, be responsible for getting every of-age citizen on the rolls. Look at the arguments below after the break, and let's start advocating for this.

EDIT: Kati says below, "If you are interested in working on election law reform in PA, there is a meeting on Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. at the Labor Council office (22 S. 22nd St.) to debrief the election protection efforts of various non-partisan groups, and to begin to strategize about a legislative agenda on election reform in 2009."

TODAY! Protest Prop 8 at City Hall

Please just come. People around the country are standing up today for the rights of all people and families to love each other with equality under the law.

TODAY, Saturday November 15. 1:30 to 4 pm. Dilworth Plaza at City Hall.

All kinds of details here: http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Philadelphia?t=anon

TODAY! "Philadelphia Freedom: Memoirs of a Civil Rights Lawyer" at Robin's Bookstore

Lately the 60s have been back. Primary debate questions about Bill Ayers (thanks Hillary). 'Black panthers' at Philadelphia polling stations (Fox News got me all excited, but they stayed away from Moore College of Art where I was stationed--apparently art students are not the vanguard of the revolution). Older friends and relatives wishing that RFK was alive to hear our new president's words on election night. We even have an Alinsky-trained president!

Okay, so it is not the 1960s, it's 2008. But clearly there are a lot of battles still to fight. And David Kairys has a lot to teach us about battles old and new.

If you haven't yet, get the Camden 28 documentary from TLA or Netflix. It starts out slow, but when you get to the part where Kairys has the entire Vietnam war on trial, it's a beautiful and crazy thing to see. Howard Zinn testifies about the role of citizen dissent in the American polity. A slide show indicts inner city disinvestment at a time where American money and lives were being bled overseas. And when the mother of one protestor, who lost her other son in Vietnam, testifies about her stance on the war, it is electric and maybe the most moving thing I have ever seen on film.

David Kairys talks TONIGHT, November 10, at 6 pm.

Robin's Bookstore is at 108 S. 13th Street, by 13th and Sansom.

TOMORROW! Rally to make affordable housing a reality! (And then come to the "First Suburbs Project" forum on Sunday!)

Last December, we won a historic victory when City Council passed Part 1 of an Inclusionary Housing bill. However, that bill doesn’t get us a single new affordable housing unit unless we pass Part 2. IT’S TIME TO GET IT DONE!!!

Join with the Philadelphia Campaign for Housing Justice for a RALLY FOR INCLUSIONARY HOUSING IN PHILADELPHIA!

Thursday, September 25 – 12:00 noon at Dilworth Plaza, City Hall, Northwest corner

Inclusionary housing is an affordable housing policy that requires builders of market-rate housing to include a fair percentage of affordable housing units in their developments or to contribute to a fund dedicated to affordable housing (an “in-lieu fund”).

It's crucial to get the implementing legislation passed--they need bodies at City Hall tomorrow to show that Philadelphians support having the private sector help fix the affordable housing problem too. Last time there were some reallllly cute kids in little painted cardboard house costumes, so get creative!

*****
And, like affordable housing, there are a host of urban problems that really are regional problems, that need regional solutions.

This Sunday, come out to be a part of the exciting "First Suburbs Project" and start organizing for those solutions to become reality!

Do you care about Southeastern Pennsylvania, believe that citizens can and should impact policy and legislation and want to ensure that all people in our region have quality education, working infrastructure to support our communities and appropriate housing?

The Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) First Suburbs Project is an exciting well-organized coalition of suburban leaders addressing these issues head-on ~ and I think that you should come be a part of the process.

Details:
First Suburbs Public Forum - Advancing an Agenda for Regional Change
- Sunday, September 28, 2008, 4pm to 6pm at St. Patrick's Catholic Church - 714 DeKalb St., Norristown, PA 19401

On September 28, 2008, over 600 suburban leaders will convene at St. Patrick's Church in Norristown to unveil an agenda for change centered on three policy areas: education finance, infrastructure, and housing. This agenda will be presented to the dozens of legislators including State Senators Edwin Erickson and Anthony Williams, State Representatives and County Commissioners who have committed to attend (see attached flyer for a list). There is a chance that Governor Rendell will be there. These elected officials will hear an agenda for change that has specific, actionable steps that will benefit the older developed suburbs of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and the region as a whole.

Some history: The agenda that will be presented has been developed by hundreds of suburban leaders, who have participated in working group sessions over the course of the past year. The First Suburbs Public Forum builds from the previous gatherings of the First Suburbs Project. In December of 2007, at the First Suburbs Summit at Bryn Mawr College, over 350 suburban leaders launched Issue Action Groups in the three policy areas of education finance, infrastructure, and housing. In May, 2008, at the First Suburbs Issue Convention at Bishop McDevitt High School in Cheltenham, over 300 suburban leaders reconvened to review the principles developed by each Issue Action Group and to select the immediate priority issue for the organization. Since then, the Issue Action Groups have continued to meet to develop specific action steps, consistent with the principles they identified in May. For more information on SEPA First Suburbs Project, go to: www.sepafsp.org

Who should come:
You, your loved ones, young people, old people, anyone who you know who cares about these issues. The meeting is only 2 hours and will not run over. (My father has been very involved in this effort and will be the mc, so I can give you my personal word on that.) Leaders will be asking the legislators for specific commitments so we need as many people there to show support as we can.

I live in Philadelphia, should I still come:
Yes, this is about regional equity and is important for everyone in our region. Plus, Norristown is only 25 minutes away, especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Stopping 'suicide by cop'

How to stop the police from fatally shooting the mentally ill? The plan seems to be to switch to tasers.

The Philadelphia Police Department has begun issuing Tasers to some officers. Up to a dozen officers who completed a training program are carrying the electrical stun guns. ....

Healy calls the Tasers "just an additional tool." Police also carry pepper spray and batons. Officials hope to have about 160 officers trained in the program by the end of 2008.

There's a history of the Philadelphia police shooting and killing people in the throes of mental breakdown or crisis. While the shootings may be legally justified, they are tragic and potentially avoidable. In 2004, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the issue, highlighting Philadelphia. And in 2007, after the police shot and killed Charles Kelley ("the deranged 26-year-old man lunged at them with a knife, yelling, 'Kill me! Kill me!' - an apparent case, say advocates for the mentally ill, of suicide by cop"), Jill Porter wrote about seven such shootings from the past seven years.

She also reported that Philadelphia was finally responding to requests for a specially-trained 'crisis intervention team' (a model that had worked in Memphis, Tennessee) with a pilot program.

"We spent years meeting with police, being stymied and stonewalled by [former Police Commissioner John Timoney] and everyone else," said Sister Mary Scullion of Project Home. "They did not want to deal with it." ....

The CIT program will be piloted in some of the city's most dangerous streets: the East Police Division, which includes North Philadelphia and Kensington.

About 100 officers will be trained so one of them will be available "no matter what shift, day or night," said Carolyn Ulmer, manager of acute services for the city's Department of Behavioral Health, which has worked with police and other agencies to develop the program.

Last month, 911 operators completed training to help them identify when an emergency call might involve someone who's mentally ill.

If so, a CIT officer would be among those sent to the scene and "take the lead role" in handling the incident, Ulmer said.

If the pilot succeeds, it will be expanded to the rest of the department.

Hopefully this is continuing and will be expanded. Today's AP article about the PPD's adoption of tasers only mentioned a still-limited training effort:

Officials sifted through prison data on inmates who had mental health issues and decided to focus training on de-escalation techniques and tactics in three police districts in North Philadelphia.

Lt. Fran Healy says the specially trained officers will use Tasers as a less than lethal use of force during potentially violent encounters, especially with people in "mental crisis."

Yet the 2004 shooting of Julio Morais shows how persistant is the need for a thorough and widespread training program for the city police:

Julio Morais, 57, was killed by a single shot to the head after he allegedly struggled with officers who had come to his apartment to help social workers commit him to a mental hospital.

Police officials said a member of the department's SWAT team opened fire only after an initial attempt to subdue Morais with an electric stun gun failed, and then only when Morais lunged at the officers with a knife. One officer was slashed in the hand.

Clearly tasers alone can't solve the problem. The Christian Science Monitor reported that basic normal policing strategies may need to be set aside in interacting with mentally ill people:

People on both sides agree these individuals can be as dangerous to the public and police officers as rational criminals. But advocates say different police tactics could greatly reduce the likelihood of violence.

Much of what police officers are trained to do in dealing with rational criminals is dangerously wrong when it comes to the mentally ill, said Ron Honberg, legal director of the National Association for the mentally ill.

"Closing in on someone, sending out a SWAT team - these are prescriptions for disaster," he says. When officers "learn to keep their distance and talk soothingly, it significantly cuts down the chance of escalation."

And de-institutionalization combined with persistant shortage of adequate mental health care raises the likelihood these situations will arise:

[M]ore mentally ill people are on the streets than ever before - 500,000 more today than there were in the 1960s, when it was easier to commit them to institutions, says James Fyfe, deputy commissioner for training with the New York Police Department. Mr. Fyfe says NYPD dispatchers take a call from an emotionally disturbed person, or an EDP in police lingo, every 7.3 minutes.

Headlines!

1. The AP reports that three high school football players will stand trial in the beating death of an illegal immigrant man in central Pennsylvania. Helen Gym wrote last month about the shameful delay in bringing those charges, even though there was an eyewitness to the crime.

2. New day, old ways: the Daily News says that the Obama campaign will hand out street money for Election Day, unlike in the May primary. I like this part of the article:

"They told me there are going to be resources here," Brady said. "That's what we do in Philadelphia; we pay people to work. They understand that."

Craig Schirmer, Pennsylvania director for the Obama campaign, would not talk about street money. But he did say that the campaign would be working closely with the local Democratic apparatus.

"As a campaign, we really are enjoying working with Congressman Brady and Mayor Nutter and Congressman Fattah," he said.

3. I won't link anything that will ruin the result, but you can watch Jose Garces (chef-owner of Amada and the brand-new crazy-fantasy-land Distrito) face off with maybe the most annoying man ever, Bobby Flay, again on Thursday, August 21, at 9pm on the Food Network.

Agent provocateurs

The Inquirer today has an article about another infiltration of a progressive activist group. This time it's Ceasefire PA, and the nice middle-aged gun control activist was apparently hired by the NRA.

Mary McFate was the kind of volunteer the gun-control movement in Pennsylvania prized. By all accounts, she was dedicated and diligent, humble enough to stuff envelopes yet bold enough to lobby U.S. senators.
Now it seems that the CeaseFire PA board member may have been more versatile than anyone could have imagined. According to Mother Jones magazine, she was a spy for the National Rifle Association.

Mother Jones reported that McFate was in fact Mary Lou Sapone, who made headlines in the 1990 when it was revealed that she had been hired by a surgical-equipment company to infiltrate the animal-rights movement.

As McFate, the magazine reported, Sapone covertly infiltrated gun-control groups for more than a decade and received payment from private security firms and the NRA.

During that time, she inserted herself into some of the most important gun-control organizations in the country and was part of discussions on national strategy and policy.

The original Mother Jones article that exposed McFate is here, along with links to more of their reporting on corporate espionage.

Burger King made headlines last month after it turned out an executive had been using his middle school daughter's screen name to mock a farmworkers' group that had been lobbying Burger King for better conditions and wages for tomato growers. Around the same time, it came out that Burger King had hired a private firm to infiltrate the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Cara Schaffer, the owner of the security firm, wasn't quite at Mary McFate's skill level:

In March, a woman named Cara Schaffer contacted the Student/Farmworker Alliance, saying she was a student at Broward Community College. Her eagerness aroused suspicions, but she was allowed to join two of the group’s planning sessions. Internet searches by the alliance revealed that she was not a college student.

And at least in some cases, there's a neat irony at work: the conservative moles end up digging hard for the progressive causes they've infiltrated. The fake union carpenters played by the state police during the Philadelphia RNC in 2000 built a whole lot of really big anti-corporate parade floats. And Mary McFate was apparently a pretty decent gun control activist:

McFate did so much grunt work and provided so many helpful ideas that both Hamilton and Edbril suggested that, spy or not, she may have been a positive influence.

"I actually think she helped the movement rather than hurt the movement through all her volunteer efforts," Hamilton said. "I just don't see what she could have gained in terms of damaging information."

This stuff is serious, though. In May, a man was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison for an 'environmental terrorist' plot that did not get off the ground and which was largely pushed by a self-chosen spy for the government. "Anna" was doing a paper for a community college class in Florida about the FTAA protests in Miami, and then became a one-woman crack team for government spying, completely with a film-noir-esque seduction of a man she would push to blow up a cell phone tower or some similar target. There's a ridiculous and sad Elle magazine article about the whole mess scanned online here.

And for good measure, this week RNC 2000 is back with a long Daily Kos piece about those state police carpenters I mentioned above*, the puppets they helped build, and the redbaiting, John Birch-linked, misinformation they used to get an affidavit to arrest 70-odd peaceful activists in a privately-owned building. Including me.

*Local history lesson: the City of Philadelphia brought in the state police specifically to evade a consent decree forbidding them from secretly infiltrating activist groups, fought and won by civil rights lawyers following a shameful period where Rizzo's police messed with the Black Panthers and others.

Back to the legislature: Restoring the hate crimes bill

As we've been talking about the past few days, portions of Pennsylvania's version of a hate crimes bill were overturned by the state Supreme Court.

The reason is basically rooted in the process by which the amendments to the bill--new protections on the basis of ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity--passed. They were grafted on to another bill with a different purpose, not that uncommon in the Harrisburg of midnight riders, or the plot of Legally Blonde 2, or any legislature, really.

So we need to pass these amendments again, in a new bill. JSPAN, a Jewish organization that does progressive legal advocacy, is urging such a bill be drafted and passed quickly. There are many many exhibits of why the law is needed, the awful killing of Luis Ramirez being only one.

I have reservations about how much hate crimes legislation can accomplish--as Helen's posting (linked above) shows, we need strong and unbiased policing and prosecution decisions at every level of government, not only increased penalties at the sentencing stage. But these laws identify and recognize the particular injury that exists when crimes are motivated by bias and that is a necessary good on its own.

If you care about this, please encourage your sympathetic legislators to co-sponsor or support a bill to restore the stripped provisions to the Ethnic Intimidation Act.

You can look up and fax or call your representatives through Hallwatch, here: http://www.hallwatch.org/elections/wardbook/repfinder.

Yesterday the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) called upon two leading members of the Pennsylvania Legislature to lead efforts to re-enact protections against ethnic intimidation that were struck down on technical grounds last week by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

A letter from JSPAN President Jeff Pasek urged State Senator Connie Williams and Deputy Speaker of the House Josh Shapiro to introduce legislation to amend the state crimes code to restore protections on the basis of ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

Those protections were added to the law in December of 2003, but the State Supreme Court ruled that the legislation was invalid because the final bill had strayed too far from its original purpose. According to JSPAN, the legislature can easily solve this problem by adopting a clean, single purpose bill to address the same issues that were contained in the earlier, procedurally flawed statute.

“We believe that all members of our commonwealth deserve to be protected from acts of criminal conduct directed to them because of their ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity,” wrote JSPAN President Jeff Pasek. In his letter he urged Senator Williams and Representative Shapiro to take the lead to secure passage of the legislation.

JSPAN is a not-for-profit, progressive action agency. It deals with a broad range of public policy issues such as aging, bioethics, children and youth, Constitutional liberties, criminal justice, education, First Amendment rights, gun violence, Israel, reproductive rights, and separation of church and state.

"

So many of my favorite things (happy hour content!)

What can you do tonight that combines the following awesome things?

  • Summer camp
  • Empowering girls
  • Rock and roll
  • Public defenders
  • Drinking

Come to the benefit for Camp Sojourner, a camp that's committed to helping Philadelphia girls 'to be strong, confident leaders who reach for their own dreams and are committed to making a positive impact on the world around them'!

THURSDAY JULY 17 from 6 - 8 pm at the IRISH PUB (1123 Walnut Street). There will be food and drink specials and LIVE MUSIC. Famous public defenders Shawn Nolan, Vic Abreu, and Dave Zuckerman have agreed to play for us that evening. It's guaranteed to be a good time! $15 suggested donation again goes entirely towards camp needs.

And you can help even if you don't come tonight.

Camp is just three weeks away!!! Each $245 raised will allow us to send another girl to camp. Donating is easy:

On-line: www.girlsleadershipcamp.org Click DONATE to be directed to PayPal

Write checks to: "Girls' Leadership Camp/RHD" and send them to: Camp Sojourner, Girls' Leadership Camp / 801 S. 48th St. Philadelphia, PA 19143

Donate camp supplies: art materials; outdoor gear (sun block, bug lotion, rain gear, flashlights, batteries, tents); gently used clothing (for the camper who forgot her jacket, or her bathing suit, or her socks, etc.). E-mail me to arrange donation drop-off.

Loan camp supplies: camping gear (tents, sleeping pads, etc); instruments (drums, other percussion instruments, keyboard, etc.) We will be liable if there is any damage to your tent or instrument.

Contribute your time: If you want to help out in the final month, please let us know. It's all hands on deck at the camp office!

Such an awesome, awesome project.

Make your money matter: Bread and Roses hosts a "giving plan" workshop this Sunday!

Your charitable donations could pay for lots of little address labels to be sent out in the mail (hi otherwise wonderful Southern Poverty Law Center!), or it could really mean something to someone making change. Come get help figuring all this out!

Thought about giving, but don’t know where to start? Been giving for a while and want to be more effective? Wondering about things like how to make a bigger impact with your giving?

Then come hear about other young donors’ experiences in giving and create your own giving plan! This workshop is a great chance to learn more about social change philanthropy and pick up tons of tools and resources to help you jump-start your giving.

Bread & Roses Community Fund and Resource Generation will host a Social Justice Giving Workshop for young people who self-identify as wealthy and are dedicated to supporting social change work. The workshop will teach young people how to develop a strategic giving plan that matches their areas of interest and is a great opportunity to learn more about social justice philanthropy. Participants will also have an opportunity to hear from other young contributors. This event is open to all young people who wish to make their giving effective and impactful in the Delaware Valley.

The cost of the workshop is $45-$80 based on a sliding scale and includes a Giving Plan Booklet and lunch. Please note that this is a solicitation-free space. Contact Bread & Roses Community Fund if cost is a barrier to your participation.

To register online, click here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008
11:00am - 3:00pm
Bread & Roses Community Fund, 1500 Walnut Street, Suite 1305

I'll be in LA but don't stay home just cause of that!

Gerrymanders and the equally twisted state legislative process

I am not even going to attempt to comment, since I sat through a few discussions of gerrymandering and redistricting law in school and was utterly, immediately lost (not the fault of the smart and great Seth Kreimer and Nate Persily).

This letter was sent today to Representative Babette Josephs from JSPAN, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network. (I guess technically in my name, since myself and Adam Bonin just joined up--following Alex U-A--I think at least in part to try to dip the average age below sixty.)

Dear Chairwoman Josephs:

Several Bills to reform our redistricting process are locked in the House State Government Committee which you chair. When you canceled the scheduled vote on redistricting bills, you wrote The Philadelphia Inquirer that the proposed changes would not be reform - and you claimed that you are "willing to examine alternative proposals" - but meantime, you have fated us to another round of gerrymandered districts that will last for at least ten years, from the 2010 census until the 2020 census.

The proposals before you to put a professional staff at the Legislative Reference Bureau in charge of an open, public process beats the present method hands down. Today four partisan politicians, the majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate, and a chairman they appoint, do the redistricting. The courts give only a cursory look to assure that the districts match up in population, while citizens have no power whatever in the process. History teaches us that the system is rigged to ensure that incumbents of both parties get re-elected in districts drawn to produce that result.

In addition to the bill in your Committee that was signed by 92 legislators, there are several other redistricting bills pending which you are not bringing to a vote. And there are model redistricting systems in several other States that have been proven in practice.

Why are you sending us back to square one? Why do we have to start over in your Committee, rebuilding a consensus for reform that has already expressed itself quite clearly to more than 90 of your fellow legislators? Has this process all been just a sham to give the appearance that reform was possible?

Very truly yours,
/s/
JEFFREY L. PASEK, on behalf of JSPAN

cc: Philadelphia Inquirer
Members of the State Legislature

AWESOME

Back up top because I guess I am really dumb and did not get that this is June 11th, uh, this Wednesday. --JLK

Dorky + cool, what could be better?

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers... and now it has come to Philadelphia!

A ton of my favorite people and organizations are going to be running their mouths for five minutes. Blake Jennelle, former high school quiz teammate of mine and former CLS paralegal buddy of Dan's, and now progressive internet-start-up whiz. Kristen Thompson, once of cutie-pants band Tsunami and now the future of music. People from the Food Trust, iSepta, the 100k House... It's like the city of my dreams, but at Johnny Brenda's, so with beer and good clams.

Organized by Geoff DiMasi & Alex Gilbert of P'unk Avenue, the Junto, Vanja Buvac & Far McKon of The Hacktory, and Make:Philly. And here's the link to the info. Johnny Brenda's. 1201 N. Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125. June 11, 2008, Doors open 6PM, talks start 7PM. FREE.

And now for something completely different: a potentially awesome Ramsey update

He's looking at steps to make the police force fully hospitable to out gay and lesbian officers and is planning a specialized unit to serve the city's LGBT community. There's a long article in the Inquirer today by Gail Shister.

"My goal is to create an environment where officers don't feel intimidated in any way," Ramsey said in a recent interview. "If they want to acknowledge [their sexuality], they should feel comfortable doing it." ....

Over the next two to three years, Ramsey hopes to have all police employees take gay-sensitivity training. Currently, only new recruits do.

The commissioner insists there is zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination in his department of 6,700. He also acknowledges that unless the culture changes, gay men and lesbians will continue to be reluctant to become police officers.

"What people do in their personal lives is not important. . . . I just want good cops," Ramsey said.

And on the idea of a special unit:

Ramsey is considering launching a full-time unit dedicated to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Modeled on the pioneering, award-winning detachment he created in Washington in 2000, it would include two or three officers and a base in Center City's "gayborhood," roughly bounded by 11th, Broad, Chestnut and Pine Streets.

Many say such a unit would improve the under-reporting of hate crimes and domestic disturbances by the city's LGBT residents.

"They don't have faith that the police will do something," Ramsey says. "We want to make sure they feel comfortable telling us about any issue that needs to be addressed. . . . We need to be very sensitive to that."

Ramsey is also considering new liaison units for Asians and Hispanics.

The quote from Ramsey is particularly heartening: it shows an awareness of the depth and extent of the problems caused by a police force that has not historically dealt well with gay crime victims or suspects (ranging from direct abuse to corrosive insensitivity).

The ethics and efficacy of stop-and-frisk, part 837981743: DC edition

I'm rushing around trying (and, um, failing) to raise money for Dan to hopefully get to the Olympics without having to declare personal bankruptcy (if you can even do that any more), so I am sorry, I am putting this up with little commentary.

This came in through the National Lawyers Guild list I am on, and as we continue to think collectively about what kind of policing works and still respects the people being policed, I think it is good to keep an eye on what we can learn from elsewhere.

The Washington Post, the Examiner, and other local news outlets reported today that the MPD [DC Metropolitan Police Department] has designated the Trinidad area of NE as a Neighborhood Safety Zone, a designation that will last 10 days. The police have the authority to set up checkpoints going in and out of the neighborhood and ask for identification for anyone attempting to enter. The police will ask for identification and turn away those non-residents not entering for "legitimate" reasons. Some media coverage indicated an enhanced ability/willingness to search vehicles and arrest those who "resist" police activities falling under the initiative.

You can read more about it here and here is the Mayor's Press release.

This initiative is appalling and likely unconstitutional, despite the Mayor's insistence to the contrary. The initiative will restrict freedom of movement for low-income minority residents of our city, and the checkpoints themselves invite racial profiling. Initiatives of this type attempted in other cities have failed to effectively and sustainably reduce gang violence. Finally, given the skyrocketing property values in the Trinidad neighborhood (an average increase of around 14% annually over the last decade), we must explore connections between this initiative and the larger trends of gentrification and displacement in DC.

The Mayor's press release talked about the Neighborhood Safety Zone strategy as ongoing, so it is critical to expose the constitutional and human rights implications of it in its first trial run so that the city government does not blindly repeat or expand it.

There's a plan to put law student and lawyer observers on the street at the checkpoints. And there's community organizing going on among residents. If anyone's in DC and interested, I am happy to forward you contact information to get involved.

"Ripped from the headlines" - The nonstop drama of campaign finance law

Against the backdrop of Local 98's constitutional lawsuit to overturn the city and state's campaign finance disclosure requirements (oral arguments on the motion to dismiss were heard in federal court last week) and ongoing wrestling over enforcement (see, e.g., Tommy St. Hill's 'stolen' laptop), this Thursday the American Consitution Society and Cozen O'Connor's Adam Bonin are hosting a talk on the future of campaign finance reform.

Can Campaign Finance Reform Actually Work?

"Post-Watergate reforms of the federal campaign finance system appear to be threatened by increasingly expensive campaigns and the usage of independent organizations, like 527's. Here in Philadelphia, we have just gone through our first Mayoral election governed by campaign finance limits. What system will actually work to reduce the influence of amassed wealth on the political process, is reform even necessary, or do we need to rethink federal and state campaign finance systems from scratch?"

We are joined by two guests with unique perspectives on this topic. In over thirty years of practice, Robert Bauer has represented national party committees, candidates, political committees, individuals, federal officeholders, corporations, trade associations and tax-exempt groups on various issues of campaign finance law, including serving as counsel to two presidential candidates. Through his work on The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia's principal political reform organization, Zack Stalberg has worked to make government more efficient, fair and transparent by promoting reforms to demand ethical conduct of public officials and promote governmental efficiency.

Featuring:
Robert Bauer, Partner and Firmwide Chair, Political Law Practice, Perkins Coie LLP
Zack Stalberg, President and CEO, The Committee of Seventy

Date: Thursday, June 5, 2008
Time: 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Cozen O'Connor, 1900 Market Street

There is no cost to attend this event. CLE credit availability pending (1.0 hrs). Cost of CLE credit will be $25. Contact: Adam Bonin, abonin@cozen.com.

I'm going, because I am a dork. And because I really want to but have never met Zack Stalberg. And because it's good to learn about campaign finance law before the current Supreme Court makes it a historical memory.

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