- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Something new in the DA race
Yesterday at City Hall, Seth Williams unveiled a policy paper that really makes me proud to support him. You can read it here.
In it, he pledges to use the DA's office to protect consumers against fraud and predatory business practices. He'd use a underutilized tool, the state Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (or "CPL"), which gives the DA the power to levy fines and penalties and ultimately shut down abusive businesses. Potentially, the DA can wield the same regulatory power as the state Attorney General.
This is a big deal. People in neighborhoods all over Philadelphia are victimized by scams and frauds, and only particularly large or widespread problems get the attention of the US Attorney or the State Attorney general, who must deal with severe resource constraints. But the DA is right here, already in these neighborhoods, and the CPL will allow them to quickly respond to problems with relatively low administrative costs (it's a civil tool with a lower burden of proof than a standard criminal fraud prosecution).
The plan also will build important ties between the DA, the community, other branches of government, and nonprofit legal services. There's a legacy of conflict from Lynn Abraham's tenure, which this plan will help wash away.
And since one of the most intractable problems in dealing with crime in Philadelphia is the lack of trust between many communities and law enforcement, this plan can start helping bridge that mistrust. That's crucial.
Mostly I am proud of the vision this plan reflects: justice isn't just retribution, justice is a process. The first line of the plan states,
"There is a clear and compelling link between financial stresses individuals face and crimes that are committed. If the City of Philadelphia is going to reduce crime -- and not just increase arrests and convictions -- it must do more to address the victimization of its residents by abusive business practices that can lead to crime, but ultimately weaken our community."
This is progressive thinking. It's thinking that acknowledges root causes, and sets out to do something about them. It's a vision of the DA's power that is constructive and not merely reactive. And I think it shows a very important humility that has been lacking from the DA for years now: dealing with crime is a difficult process of trying to piece together neighborhoods that are broken. It's a little bit of what Obama invoked in that now-old speech:
For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
And I'm glad there is some of that sensibility being brought into this election.