Rosa Parks

While not "Philly" in its specifics, the whole nation mourns today, as Rosa Parks has passed away. Millions of words will be written, in far more elegant and knowledgable ways that I can express, so I will not try. But, please, keep in mind one thing when you are watching a 60 second news clip about Ms. Parks, and the Civil Rights struggle: Parks was not simply a tired woman who decided to randomly make a stand. She was a civil-rights activist, who had been the secretary of the local NAACP for 12 years leading up to her refusal to move to the back of the bus. In fact, she had been kicked off a bus on numerous occasions for her failure to cooperate with Jim Crow. If you think the Montgomery bus boycott was some magical, spontaneous occurence, you are ignoring the hard work that Ms. Parks and so many others put in for years, to make things like the boycott possible. She was an activist, through and through.

Click "Read More" to see an especially relevant statement on her passing, and on her organizing.

Electing Unqualified Judges

The Daily News reports today that on election day, Philadelphia is virtually assured that three of eight judges that will be elected have been deemed unqualified by the bar association. Awesome.

The problem here is that there is no real obvious solution. The idea that we have potential judges each spring heading to the airport Sheraton with envelopes of money, going through some weird "pick-me!" gauntlet of ward leaders, is straight out of a teen movie prom scene, and seems a little obscene. How do you get rid of that? Appoint them?

If we appointed judges, we have two options: One, judges appointed by the Governor, likely with some kind of panel recommendations. No one screams about this idea now, because our Governor is Big Ed, but people forget that many Governors will not be Democrats, and most (as in, all but Ed) will not be from Philly. (And if you don't think Rendell would be appointing the connected, you are not paying attention. But at least they would likely be qualified, because of the vetting process by the panel.) But lets assume that Rendell, with help from a bar association panel, did a suitable job. What happens when there is a Republican governor? How/who where you think he would turn to find suitable GOP-ers to pick as Philly judges? John Perzel? Do we really want John Perzel to be in charge of Philly judicial selections? Or, do we want Republican partisans period, in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic?

The second option is for the mayor himself to appoint the judges. Also, an awful idea, whether that mayor is Ed Rendell, John Street, or me. Just way too many potential conflicts, and too many potential chits to be played.

Does that mean we stick with the current system? I hope not, because 40 percent of the judges we are likely to elect are unqualified for their jobs. But, I am not sure what the solution is.

Any ideas?

Lost Opportunities: Public Policy and Early Childhood Education

As I argued last week ( there are substantial benefits that accrue to individuals and society from investments in high quality early childhood education (ECE). In today’s post I focus on the impact that rapid growth in the demand for early childhood education in combination with persistent public underinvestment in this vital sector has had on the educational qualifications of the ECE workforce by extension the quality of ECE.

Much of ECE is delivered in center-based firms, private and public, profit and not for profit, located outside of the public school system. In center-based ECE in Pennsylvania the share of educators (teachers, aids, teaching assistants and administrators) with at least a college degree fell from 40 percent in mid 1980s to 27 percent today. The share of educators with high school education or less over the same period climbed from 34 percent to 43 percent. In part do to the high cost of center-based ECE (a result of public underinvestment), parents often place their children with home-based providers; people providing care in their home to children other than their own for pay. In Pennsylvania home-based ECE, 14 percent of providers had a college degree or more and over half had a high school degree or less.

Click Read More to See the Rest

Politically Motivated Libel Suits?

Over the past 18 months four libel suits have been filed against defeated political opponents of Councilman Frank DiCicco and state Senator Vincent Fumo.

Three of the plaintiffs work for Senator Fumo. The fourth is Councilman DiCicco himself. In two of the suits, the plaintiffs had the option of suing the Daily News, but chose to sue private individuals without the means to pay a large settlement instead.

In each case the lawyer representing the plaintiffs is Marc T. Sacchetta, a 31 year old law school classmate of Councilman DiCicco's son Christian.

There are a bunch of unanswered questions about these suits:

  • Why are these suits being filed?
  • Who is paying for all this suing?
  • Why are the little guys being targeted and potential defendants with deep pockets spared?
  • Why won't the plaintiffs discuss their suits publicly?

PA Congressmen Taking Money from Delay

Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard that Tom Delway, majority leader of the US House of Represenatives has been indicted for money laundering. Thanks to Left Independent, we see the PA Representatives who are taking money from Delay:

Charles Dent
Phil English
Michael Fitzpatrick
Jim Gerlach
Melissa Hart
Tim Murphy
Donald Sherwood
Bill Shuster
Curt Weldon

Maybe they should return the money, eh?

Mariano Talked Down from City Hall

As you've likely read, embattled City Councilman Rick Mariano was perched on top of City Hall this afternoon. Mariano has a federal indictment looming over his head and police treated the situation as though he might jump. He was apparently talked down by Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

While this site often has a sarcastic and flippent take on Philadelphia politics, there was nothing funny about the situation today. Politicians, no matter how much we might disagree with them, are still human beings. They can snap like anyone else. Our thoughts are with Councilman Mariano and his family. Whatever happens, I sincerly hope that he gets whatever help he needs.

The Man has a Point: Mayor Street on the Pay Raise Issue

Today's Daily News was full of political gems including Mayor Street's announcement that he will form a "compensation commission" to review the pay of current administrative employees and appointees. This is in and of itself an interesting issue and you can read the whole article by clicking here, but even better was this quote from the Mayor on the state legislative and judicial pay raise:

"When I complained bitterly that things that affect Philadelphia are done in the middle of the night without a lot of notice, people turn their heads," Street said. "The same people who are complaining now turned their heads when the Parking Authority legislation was done in the middle of the night. This is the way legislation happens in Harrisburg."

Yea, what about all of those other things? Does our city's progressive community only take its lead from the op-ed board at the DN and Inky or is it just John Baer whose charms we can’t resist?

There are plenty of even more egregious things than the pay raise that have gone down in Harrisburg in the past three years alone, where was all the furor then from Philadelphia progressives?

A Plea to Rick Mariano

I don't know if anyone has been following the saga of Rick Mariano, and the federal investigation into whether or not he accepted a bribe. But, it appears to be coming to a head, and according to the Daily News, he is about to be indicted.

One target of the investigation, Vincent DiPentino, testified yesterday before a federal grand jury and is now cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

His attorney, Mark Cedrone, confirmed yesterday that DiPentino had testified about "his relationship and business dealings with Councilman Mariano."

DiPentino did not initiate the financial transaction that caused his legal trouble, Cedrone said, but "fully expects" to be charged.

"Mr. DiPentino is now called upon to pay heavily for his acknowledged wrongdoing," Cedrone said. "He's prepared to accept responsibility for his wrongdoing."

DiPentino, a longtime friend of Mariano's and owner of a real-estate firm in Juniata Park, acted as middleman for a $10,900 check issued by another company in 2002 to pay off part of Mariano's credit-card debt.

Click Read More to see my personal plea to the Councilman.

The Future is Now: Florence Cohen Wants Husband's Seat

In an interview on WHYY radio today, David Cohen's daugher Sherrie Cohen announced that her mother, 88 year-old Florence, has asked to be allowed to fill the vacancy left by the passing of her husband.

Cohen died two weeks ago yesterday. According to the City Charter, the Council President has the option of calling a special election for a vacany or waiting until the next Councilmatic primary.

Council President Verna has not yet announced what it is she plans to do.

More to come...

Council Holds Memorial Service for Councilman Cohen: No Clues to the Future Offered

It was standing room only yesterday as the seats and aisles of City Council’s public gallery were filled with a who’s who of Philadelphia progressive political leaders, as well as the city’s political ruling class. I joined them in mourning the loss of Councilman David Cohen over two weeks ago. Also present was the amazing Cohen family including Cohen’s wife and partner in crime, Florence who worked in Council with her husband for over 16 years.

Mayor John F. Street and City Democratic Committee Chair and Congressman Bob Brady were among the many speakers, including half of City Council, who eulogized Councilman Cohen at a memorial service Monday. Progressive leaders like Pat Eiding of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Christie Balka, of the Bread and Roses Community Fund, and Stan Shapiro, of OnePhiladelphia and former head of City Council technical staff, were also on hand to honor Cohen.

Almost all of the day’s speakers spoke about Cohen’s incorruptibility and his dedication to public service on behalf of Philadelphia’s poor and working people. However, it was clear that many of the speakers were describing Cohen as one would describe a dinosaur: fascinating and powerful maybe, but ultimately, extinct.

Extinction may be the goal for some members of the city's ruling class, but it's not an option for progressives. So, now that Cohen is gone, what’s next for City Council and progressives?

Click “read more” below to find out.

Philadelphia’s Children Need More High Quality Early Childhood Education

In a landmark study of the effects of high quality early childhood education (ECE) the Perry Preschool study identified a group of low-income African-American children assessed to be at risk of failure in school and randomly assigned them into a control group that did not receive preschool and a treatment group that received high quality preschool at age 3 and 4. These two groups were then tracked through age 40. The study found that 60 percent of the kids receiving high quality preschool earned $20,000 or more by age 40 compared to just 40 percent of the control group. While 55 percent of the control group had been arrested five or more times by age 40, this was true for just 36 percent of the kids receiving high quality preschool (read more about the Perry Preschool study by clicking here).

Click Read More to See The Rest

Supporting Project HOME

I had a mattress, which stunk, two milk crates of belongings, an old boom box, and some clothes to my name. There was no place to keep my private things, if I had any that is. My step father had thrown me out. And this was the only place I knew to go. I was 16 turning 17.
-Karl Martino, founder of Philly Future, on being homeless on Philadelphia.

Project HOME is the city's premier organization aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness. The organization, and its executive director, Sister Mary Scullion, is one of the main reasons that other cities are starting to look to Philadelphia on how to end homelessness. And, it is probably not going out on too far of a limb to say that Mayor Street could not have and would not have been able to propose a plan to completely end homelessness in Philadelphia if it were not for the work of Sister Mary and Project HOME.

To that end, I wanted to let everyone know about a fundraiser that I am going to, on October 27th, and hope I can encourage at least a few others to come as well: A group billing itself as "The Young Friends of Project HOME" are organizing a benefit for the wonderful organization, next week, Thursday, October 27, 5:30pm to 8:00pm. The tickets are not cheap- $40 dollars if you buy them in advance- but, I am going to go, and support a wonderful group, that has had an integral part in changing the debate on homelessness in Philadelphia. I hope to see a few of you there, as well.

And, please read the rest of Karl's post at Philly Future.

Media Watch: Why Does Inside Story Cater to the Right Wing?

I am more soliciting answers here, but, for the second time in the last month or so, I randomly came acrosss Inside Story on Channel 6. For those who haven't seen it, Inside Story is trying to be a local version of any of the right v. left, current event "news" shows, and is hosted by Monica Melpass. And, for the second time, I was surprised that out of the four local talking heads that were featured, 3 were clearly conservatives.

Does this make a whole lot of sense? In a City like Philly, you are effectively acting like the conservative viewpoint is the dominant view of the locals? In Philadelphia? Really?

Has anyone else seen the show? Was the 3 to 1 balance the same? Seems pretty weird...

We are all connected

In talking about SEPTA, one thing that many of us are trying to get across, is that the health of all City workers is related; and if the TWU is forced to give massive healthcare concessions, other union and non-union workers will be forced to follow, with the result a workforce of people with less and less adequate healthcare.

Today, in the Daily News, Will Bunch continues to paint the big picture of why these struggles are so important. He looks at Delphi, a spin-off of General Motors, that is now insisting that it must slash worker salaries from $27 and hour to as low as $10, and discusses the ripple effect this could have all the way to Philadelphia:

"What this does is it sends a shudder of fear and anxiety through the local ranks," said Art Shostack, a futurist and sociology professor at Drexel University who closely follows labor issues. That's because even though the city has little economic activity directly linked to automaking, "everything is connected" and other industrial workers will face similar pressures

Click read more to see more...

Lois Murphy: Soon to be Congresswoman

Tonight I participated in a conference call with Lois Murphy, terrific soon-to-be Congresswoman from the Philly burbs. The call, which took about an hour, was really cool and informative. This is the second time I have spoken with Lois, once at Drinking Liberally and once on the conference call tonight. Each time, I have been extremely impressed with Lois. In 2004, Lois lost by less than anyone else in the entire country. Of the myriad pickup opportunities in the country, Lois’s potential seat is probably the best.

Why? Read on, gentle reader, read on.

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