The very first mention of Philadelphia in the national news for 2012 was not very encouraging. We actually made number one in a significant statistical category, but it’s nothing to write home about. Residents of the City of Brotherly Love murder each other more often than anyone else in America’s ten largest cities.
Heck, the mayor of Washington, D.C. is already bragging about losing the “murder capital” status to Philly, and using it to push his public safety agenda. When the numbers were announced last Friday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray called a press conference, where he crowed, “The days when the District was known as the nations ‘Murder Capital’ are long behind us, and the plans we are announcing today will enable our police to continue this progress.”
There were 324 homicides in Philadelphia last year, up from 306 in 2010. Sure, that’s down from 2007’s high water mark of 391, but 324 murders in one year is ridiculous no matter how you parse the numbers.
As if to drive that point home for the nonbelievers, already there were six murders in 2012, and we’re only a couple of days into the new year.
About 85 percent of those murdered were young Black men, almost the exact percentage of the murderers themselves. Simply put, young Philadelphians are so hopeless and filled with shortsighted desperation that they’ve engaged in what could well be the first case of self-inflicted genocide in human history.
Our young men are willfully doing what nearly a hundred years of Ku Klux Klan raids could not do — what the night riders, cross burners and skinheads have only dreamed of in their wildest fantasies: the slow, deliberate extermination of the Black race.
Think about it for a minute. For every murder, there are two Black men taken out of the picture: the victim, who was deprived of life itself, and the killer, who is then deprived of any chance at a productive life by rotting in prison for dozens of years. Two sets of children are deprived of their fathers. How many of those children will then grow up in poverty and despair, repeating the same cycle of victim/perpetrator for yet another generation?
Fortunately, these facts are not foreign to the powers that be. In his second inaugural speech Monday morning, Mayor Michael Nutter called the phenomenon of young Black boys murdering each other “the epidemic not sufficiently talked about.”
Nutter is brainstorming with city, state and federal law enforcement agencies to come up with a strategy for combating handgun violence. Handguns are the weapons of choice for urban killing, used in more than four out of five of last year’s 324 Philadelphia murders.
The devil, as always, is in the details.
Any solution will require an entire sea change, a paradigm shift on two fronts: first, laws must be changed or amended to specifically target people who have no business with guns.
Not as easy as it sounds, given that anywhere outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, you’ll be hard pressed to find even a handful of state legislators willing to talk about gun control. Our local leaders have tried for years to implement common sense controls in Philadelphia, only to be shouted down by the rural gun nuts that hate Philadelphia anyway, and don’t much care if Black folk shoot each other until the cows come home.
The second hurdle, sadly, is internal. There are those among us — decent, enlightened, aware Black people — who bristle immediately at any notion that part of the blame lies squarely on our kids and what influences them. This is a mistake, because burying our heads in the sand won’t help them. They need to understand that their future (and ours) lies in their hands, and that future is determined by whether they’re carrying a book — or carrying a gun.
Sure, you can blame the white man for manufacturing all those guns, and legislators for allowing the guns to proliferate in the Black community — but while that’s true, we have to admit, at least to ourselves, that it isn’t the whole story.
White men are not driving in from the suburbs to gun down our children every weekend in our communities. State legislators are not shooting up bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys and house parties in Black neighborhoods.
Our children are doing that. The mayor was right when he correctly identified it as an epidemic. And it’s up to us — all of us — to stop it.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Give a “cut-above” credit to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey for quietly traveling to barber shops in numerous neighborhoods around the city to talk with customers, engaging in conservations about community perceptions of police.
The Commissioner taking his time to listen — getting earfuls from folks sharing their complaints and kudos — is smart policing. This is the type of initiative needed to move the phrase “community partnership” from a politically popular cliché to an effective crime fighting practice.
Commissioner Ramsey and Mayor Nutter both know about and care about doing something about the biggest crime related problem confronting Philadelphia: the outrageous levels of murders.
The victims of those murders are disproportionately young Black males as are the perpetrators.
As Philadelphia Tribune City Editor Daryl Gale perceptively noted in a commentary last week, “young Philadelphians are so hopeless and filled with shortsighted desperation that they’ve engaged in what could well be the first case of self-inflicted genocide in human history.”
The 324 murders recorded in Philadelphia last year produced the unenviable distinction of ranking Philly as #1 in murder rates among America’s ten largest cities…more than New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.
And before the smoke of New Year’s Eve fireworks dissipated the smoke of gunfire besmirched the dawning of 2012 with another spate of homicides around Philly.
Mayor Nutter, during his inauguration speech last week for his second term, described this murderous behavior among some (and certainly not all) young Black men as “a local and national epidemic not sufficiently talked about, much less tackled.”
Mayor Nutter went beyond the standard “we’re going to put more police on our streets — 120 new officers on foot patrol by summer this year” by promising to “continue to build partnerships with the community through community policing and Philly Rising.” Let’s hope that 2012 is truly the year for new commitment and new thinking in City Hall about engagement with “community” in crafting and implementing crime reduction strategies.
One of the biggest failings in Philadelphia regarding crime reduction is the failure of City Hall to effectively work with community groups that daily work in the trenches with those impacted by crime and those apart of destructive criminal behavior.
As one community activist noted during an interview last week, “There’s been a disconnect between police and community initiatives. The City has to work in partnership with communities. There are groups out there working on violence reduction that never get credit.”
While politicians and police officials talk about partnerships with communities you rarely see community groups included in press conferences where City Hall pats itself on the back by announcing reductions in murder rates and/or decreases in crime generally.
Community based violence reduction efforts already confront uphill battles on the front lines from those they are trying to impact who feel these efforts have little influence among the power-brokers in City Hall and Center City corporate suites that hold real sway over matters involving employment, education and criminal justice policies.
City Hall brushing aside these efforts — deliberately or inadvertently — reinforces the perception of powerlessness of those efforts in the minds of people those efforts are trying to reach. Community groups are getting ready to launch a new violence reduction initiative captioned “Live and Let Live” — phrasing that tactically addresses a prime trigger for much of the conflicts leading to fatal violence: arguments over perceptions of someone not “respecting” someone.
The Mayor, City Council, corporate and civic leaders need to back these kinds of community initiatives, not just with making the easy endorsements but with resources inclusive of providing money.
Mayor Nutter deserves credit for declaring during his inauguration speech his willingness to “extend a hand” to persons ready to “put guns down.” Nutter said, “We must show them that if you put the gun down we’ll work with you to put a book in your hands, to put some work and a job in your hands, to put a paycheck in your hands.”
To transform the mayor’s sincere rhetoric into reality City Hall has to stop shooting itself in the foot with counter-productive practices like the Police Department’s Stop-&-Frisk campaign and the sweet-heart Project Labor Agreement Nutter announced late last year for trade unions with a history of racial discrimination.
Stop-&-Frisk is infused with racial profiling mainly targeting Black and Latino males. This dragnet policing alienates people who the police need for cooperation in identifying criminals. Commissioner Ramsey bemoaned the lack of community cooperation in solving murders and the impact that has on lower rates of solving murders yet some of that lack of cooperation comes from adverse reactions to offensive policing.
As law professor Sherrilyn Ifill noted in a short essay posted recently on The Root there are “unintended consequences” from the Stop-&-Frisks in New York City that like Philadelphia overwhelmingly targets non-whites. “Fostering a relationship of hostility with the city’s Black and Latino male population is not only wrong; it’s also not smart policing,” Ifill wrote noting disincentives like discouraging providing police with crime solving tips.
Last June the Nutter Administration entered a legal settlement to reform Stop-&-Frisk yet months later the mayor committed city-funded construction jobs exclusively to discriminatory building trade unions, the types of jobs needed for that “hand-up” referenced in his inauguration speech.
The time is ripe for real engagement with communities.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Teen bullying cases have gotten a lot of press lately. Adults, apparently oblivious for years to the harassment and physical violence perpetrated by young people on one another, have jumped on the bandwagon — producing everything from public service announcements to school lesson plans highlighting the dangers of bullying.
From the poor kid hanging from a fence by his jacket last year in Upper Darby, courtesy of his classmates; to the little old lady harangued to the point of tears on a school bus in Greece, N.Y., images of teens behaving badly have captured the spotlight — which is a good thing.
But one particularly damaging form of bullying is unique to the African-American community — and one; generally speaking, we’d rather not talk about.
It’s the “acting white,” or “not Black enough” charge — heard from Black children (and some adults) in neighborhoods all over America. Worst of all, it is used not to mock supposedly “white” speech patterns, music, or style of dress, but to decry intelligence itself.
Our kids have somehow been taught to believe that striving for academic excellence — studying, getting good grades, even the ability to speak, read and write the language — is the sole purview of white folks, and that if you’re Black and trying to better yourself through education, you’re certainly not cool — or even worse, a sellout.
Let’s not just gloss over this. Think about it for a minute. If intelligence is uncool, and getting good grades or speaking English without mumbling undecipherable gibberish is acting white, what then, is genuine Blackness?
What, I ask you, could be more pernicious, more insidious, more damaging to the minds and souls of Black kids than the notion that if they’re smart, they’re not really Black? What could hurt them worse, long term, than the idea that if they study hard and try to get ahead in school, they’re somehow a traitor to their race?
I can’t think of a single thing. And to see and hear this mindset manifest itself through the words and actions of our young people is truly heartbreaking.
Consider 18-year-old African-American Logan West of Connecticut, the newly crowned Miss Teen USA 2012. The cause she has decided to champion, because for some unknown reason beauty queens must always champion a cause, is bullying. And the reason she chose this cause? You guessed it. She was teased, mocked, harassed, beaten, and even stabbed with umbrellas from middle school through high school for “not acting her skin color.”
A few years ago I hosted a weekly radio talk show on WURD 900 AM. One week my co-hosts and I invited outstanding Black academic scholars from several Philly high schools on the program. These were the kids who did all the right things — worked hard, earned straight A’s and college scholarship opportunities, and volunteered in their communities.
They each told a sad, harrowing tale of having to hide their intelligence from their peers. They didn’t raise their hand in class to answer a question, pretended not to know the answer when called upon, and hid their report cards from their classmates. They told stories of the anger and hostility heaped upon them by their peers for simply being smart, and of the beatings and harassment they faced for “acting white” — as though intelligence and academic achievement are reserved for white folks.
I remember that show vividly, mostly for the sad resignation in the faces and the voices of those young people. I also remember it for the calls we got after they left. Some callers, more than a few, in fact — all but called the kids liars, denying that any such twisted mindset was pervasive among our young people.
I noticed the same thing when reading the comments section accompanying the Logan West story online — Black folk, supposedly reasonable adults, writing to say Black kids don’t act that way, and West probably made the whole bullying story up for media attention.
She didn’t — and its time to get our heads out of the sand. That level of denial is not helpful — in fact, denying the mindset’s existence is part of the reason it’s been allowed to flourish.
Education is not the enemy — it is the one sure way up and out of poverty. The ability to read, write and speak English is not the sole domain of the white man — it is how Black people ace the interview and get the job.
Whoever convinced our young people otherwise — now, that’s the enemy.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Back when I was in the military, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” was pretty much required reading. Commanders quoted from the book freely and often, and everyone, down to us lowly deck swabbies, were supposed to understand its metaphors and hidden meanings.
An all-time favorite passage was, “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.”
Translation: A well-planned strategy of deployment, mapped out to the smallest detail, is as much a guarantor of success as a hastily formed plan is a guarantor of failure.
Every smart military commander knows this. Smart politicians know it too. In fact, you’ll often hear politicians quote Sun Tzu, although few of them seem to understand the practical modern day applications.
President Barack Obama understands.
In fact, I’m going to give the brother his just due. Obama is the smartest man in Washington, bar none. He just ran rings around the Republican leadership, beat them to a pulp at their own game, and left them confused and wondering what to do next. On the deficit, the GOP’s core issue and dog whistle talking point, Obama just pulled off what could be the greatest smackdown in congressional budget history.
Start putting the pieces together, and watch the man’s genius at work.
That bitter fight a few months ago over raising the debt ceiling triggered the formation of the debt supercommittee, six Republicans and six Democrats whose job would be to cut through the gridlock and figure out a way to cut $1.2 trillion from the national debt.
As you recall, the GOP threatened to hold the entire government hostage over the raising of the debt ceiling, a routine formality afforded without much debate to every president in modern history. In fact, those same Republicans had no objection to raising the ceiling under Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush seven times.
See, it all goes back to the GOP’s core strategy, as outlined more than two years ago by Sen. Mitch McConnell and others: to make sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president. Not to make America a better country, not to serve their constituents to the best of their abilities, but to do everything in their power to nullify Obama’s initiatives and policies, no matter how worthy or necessary.
Knowing that, Obama would have to know the supercommittee would crash and burn through their deadline this week without having accomplished a single thing. They were, predictably, handcuffed by the deadlock they willfully created.
So what happens, and how does that benefit the president?
Now, those spending cuts the GOP were dead set against go into effect automatically in January 2013, after next year’s elections for president, and for congress. That means large cuts to the defense budget, but no cuts at all to Medicare and Social Security, the Democrats’ bread and butter. And as a bonus, also in January 2013, the federal tax rate shifts back to the rates during the Clinton era, before Bush’s millionaire tax loopholes.
By banking on the GOP’s hatred of him, and by betting on their willingness to act against their own interests, he got what he wanted without much sacrifice on his part. Knowing their blind allegiance to a pinhead demagogue named Grover Norquist and a no-taxes-forever pledge he made them sign, Obama watched while the GOP members of the supercommittee backed themselves, and their party, into an uncomfortable corner.
They were now, like it or not, the party of the one percent. While they have always been the unflinching champions of greedy bankers and corporations, they were forced, maybe for the first time, to admit it in front of the nation.
By publicly defending the very thieves who sank our economy in the first place, and by demanding that the middle class, not the richest one percent of Americans, shoulder the burden of fixing that economy — the GOP has put themselves right where the president wants them — shooting blindly in every direction.
Couple that with the pitiful collection of dullards and maniacs they’ve decided are their best chance of beating Obama next fall, and you can see how the president must have seen this coming eight or ten moves ago, and like a chess grand master, skillfully maneuvered his opponent into a position of vulnerability.
He fooled the entire leadership of the Republican Party. They will never give him credit for it, but he made them all look foolish, and gave himself another leg up on his re-election campaign.
I’ll give him credit, though. Barack Obama is the smartest man in Washington.
Like most of you, I’ve been grinding my teeth at each new austerity measure enacted by our governor, Tom Corbett. The man is on a mission — an escalating series of reverse-Robin Hood maneuvers designed to take from the poor (and the elderly, and the school kids, and immigrants, and … well, everyone) and give the proceeds to his rich friends and contributors.
The mega-rich gas drillers raping our natural resources upstate at Marcellus Shale get a pass — no fees or taxes — while the state’s school systems go under and state colleges get by on far less than they need. The governor’s reasoning here is that if we don’t give away the store to the drillers, they’ll pick up their equipment and move to neighboring New York or West Virginia.
Marcellus Shale represents perhaps the largest pocket of natural gas anywhere in the country, and a cash cow for decades for those drillers, their investors and the peripheral businesses that stand to benefit. Other states with exploitable natural resources — Texas and Alaska come to mind — charge a pretty penny to those corporations for the privilege. Those states then use the windfall to pay for things like schools, roads, and maybe even the lowering of property taxes.
This is not a crushing burden on those companies. With the vast amounts of money to be made, those state taxes and fees amount to a small drop in a very large bucket. But here in Pennsylvania, not only do corporations eat free, Corbett has gleefully ignored the environmental and human costs, gutting regulations that would at least keep those corporations from poisoning our air and water for generations.
He’s cut off the money to public schools, made college an unreachable goal for thousands of Pennsylvania families, sat on his hands as Attorney General even with the full knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes at Penn State, and given us the new voter ID law, the most insidious violation of citizens’ basic rights and dignity since “Colored Only” water fountains.
For these, and a thousand other reasons, there’s only one recourse left for those of us who wish to live in a free commonwealth that lives up to our state constitution: Impeach Tom Corbett.
Yes, impeach him. Storm the castle with pitchforks and torches and throw the bum out on his ear.
Turns out, though, that I’m not the first to come up with this idea. Type “Impeach Corbett” into your favorite Web browser, and you’ll be as surprised as I was. Several petitions to oust Corbett can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Change.org and ipetitions.com. The Internet is bursting with Pennsylvania residents who’ve had the idea for months — some who started their petition drives not long after he took office.
Is success just a matter of the number of signatures collected? Frankly, no.
Unlike states whose constitutions allow for a popular recall vote, like the one mounted earlier this year in Wisconsin to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Pennsylvania depends upon its legislature, specifically the House, to present articles of impeachment.
Because of the Republican legislative majority, there’s probably little chance of getting articles of impeachment through the House, let alone an actual up or down vote. That fact, however, should not stop us from trying.
If enough Democrats in the House are courageous enough to take up the banner, it is possible that even the threat of impeachment will be enough to punish, harass and embarrass the governor into doing the right thing — especially since that embarrassment would come in the middle of an important election season.
Corbett has laid waste to the commonwealth’s constitution, the very document he swore to defend. He has time and again violated present law and common decency in his ongoing effort to make sure his cronies and contributors get fat while the rest of Pennsylvania starves to death.
So how about it, progressive House members? Will you continue to roll over, keeping silent while Corbett and his GOP minions shred your constituents’ state-guaranteed safety net, gut the education treasury in favor of school vouchers and poison our environment?
It will only take a few of you. Get your legislative aides to compile a list of Corbett’s most egregious constitutional violations, and they are myriad — and prepare the articles of impeachment.
Make your colleagues across the aisle defend the indefensible, while hitching their careers and political futures to a callous, partisan hatchet man. Make Corbett look the old folks and school children in the eye while he cuts their throats.
Even if we fail to ultimately impeach him, it will be an effort well spent.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
This week, the entire country is in heavy mourning, a spontaneous outpouring of grief we haven’t seen on a national scale since Sept. 11, 2001. Twenty small children in Connecticut, who right now should be watching “Sesame Street” and drawing pictures for display on the family refrigerator, are dead – murdered by a young man with a damaged mind and an empty soul.
The tragedy has, in turn, sparked a renewed national debate on gun control. Well, so far it hasn’t been much of a debate, since the vast majority of pro-gun lawmakers have gone into hiding. A few, like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, have publicly called for their fellow firearms enthusiasts to accept reasonable measures to prevent future massacres.
It was also the subject of one of our great newsroom discussions, passionately led by crime reporter Larry Miller, whose story on the subject can be read here. But we here at the Tribune have been railing about gun control for years. We have watched the rising body count in our communities, followed the cases as they wind their way through the justice system, and documented the pain felt by those families left behind.
But what really got to me this week – and, I’ll admit, has shaken me to my core – is the startling realization that I find myself in complete agreement with – of all people – Rush Limbaugh. (Even typing that sentence just now made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.)
Here’s what Limbaugh said on his show Tuesday: “You guys ever been to Chicago? Do you know what happens in Chicago every night? What happens in Chicago in a week dwarfs what happened in Connecticut. Just nobody’s reporting it. There’s no cameras up there. You don’t see it.”
I could have dismissed this statement as an aberration, that like a broken clock, even Limbaugh will be right on occasion. The racist, sexist, bottom-feeding blowhard will surely follow that up with his usual stupidity, I thought.
Then it got worse. The man actually started telling the truth, and making sense.
“Have you ever heard any politician go on an anti-gun rant when you’ve heard about urban violence? Does it ever happen? I wonder why that is? Why is it the anti-gun people never use violence in urban neighborhoods as an example of why we have to get rid of guns?” he asked.
Then, the kicker. He concluded: “There are more than 41 murders a month in Chicago. The lion’s share of them are taking place in poor Black neighborhoods. I don’t hear… any of the anti-gun media raise a stink about guns in those places. I wonder why that is. There has to be a reason.”
There was no denying it then. Rush had cut to the heart of the matter with logic and reason, and I was forced to nod my head in full agreement, even finishing the thought for him.
Because I know the reason the nightly murders in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Oakland, in Detroit, and here in Philadelphia don’t rise to the level of a national tragedy. So do you. I just never thought Rush Limbaugh would be the guy to say out loud what everyone knows in their hearts.
It’s this: in the minds of far too many Americans, and for a number of very ugly reasons, the lives of those children in Chicago, Oakland and Philadelphia aren’t worth as much as the lives of the children in Newtown, Conn. They simply are not of equal value.
Some might call it an unfair comparison. They’ll argue the majority of urban victims – and shooters, for that matter –- have criminal records, and often the motive behind those shootings is crime-related. The little angels in Connecticut, on the other hand, were not gangbangers or drug dealers, but innocents slaughtered by a madman.
The comparison, however, holds up under scrutiny. There are plenty of non-combatant victims of urban violence every day – innocent bystanders, kids caught in a playground crossfire, or just some poor guy waiting for a bus - and there is no national outcry on their behalf.
To be fair, local legislators here and in cities around the country have been clamoring for firearms restrictions for many years. Their pleas inevitably fall on deaf ears, their efforts stymied by lawmakers in rural and suburban districts who represent a pro-gun constituency, and who couldn’t care less if cities become shooting galleries, as long as “those people” are the ones being shot.
If this tragedy raises those recalcitrant legislators’ level of awareness, then perhaps some good can come out of this nightmare after all.
And I can go back to hating Rush Limbaugh.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.
No matter which of the four remaining doofuses (or is that doofii?) survives the spring primaries to emerge as President Barack Obama’s GOP opponent in November, my vote is going to Obama.
Not because we share a political party, or even because we share a skin tone, but because he is simply the best man for the job. Better than that, Barack Hussein Obama is the coolest guy ever to walk planet Earth. Cooler than the Rat Pack. Even cooler than Steve McQueen, if that’s possible.
Here’s a guy who mercilessly ridiculed Donald Trump at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner — and I mean he lit into ol’ Helmet Hair with such ferocity that the loudmouthed television host immediately abandoned his wild talk about securing the Republican nomination — then calmly went back to the situation room and ordered the Navy SEALs to put two slugs in Osama bin Laden’s head.
This same guy stood before Congress and the nation for an hour and five minutes Tuesday night and delivered one of the most passionate, well-written State of the Union speeches I have ever heard. Meanwhile, what he knew, and we didn’t — was that he had ordered that same SEAL team to storm a compound in Somalia where American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, have been held hostage since they were kidnapped at gunpoint by Somali pirates in October.
The SEALs safely rescued the pair, and killed all nine of their captors — all while their commander-in-chief nonchalantly laid out his case for a lasting economy and an end to obstructionist partisan bickering.
That is too cool for words. We should replace the tune they always play when the president enters the room, “Hail to the Chief,” with Isaac Hayes’ theme from “Shaft.”
(I can almost hear it now. “You see this cat Obama was a baaaaad… shut yo’ mouth.”)
The only clue he left, and purely accidentally, was when microphones picked up his congratulations to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he entered the House chamber. Obama pointed his index finger in a “You da man” gesture at a smiling Panetta and said, “Good job tonight. Good job.” Enterprising reporters descended on the Pentagon to find out what the president meant, and were then told about the rescue operation.
The State of the Union speech itself was a classic, on par with Bill Clinton’s historic final speech to Congress — and almost as long. Obama covered a lot of ground — from jump-starting the economy, to green energy, to the widening gap between the haves and the have nots — with the ease and deftness of a master orator.
To be fair, even for Democrats, there are many reasons to question Obama’s policies, especially when it comes to capitulating to GOP demands in the name of compromise. The Republicans have proven time and again that their only goal is to bring down his administration, and aren’t interested in anything that doesn’t help them accomplish that goal. Yet he continues to seek the high road, to reach across the aisle in search of common ground — and to vainly attempt diplomacy and negotiation with people who can’t spell or define either word. I suppose you could argue that those are good qualities, but I have to admit it’s starting to get on my nerves.
The time has come, Mr. President, to fully implement your most progressive, liberal agenda — intact and undiminished — and let them cry about it later. That is exactly what the Republicans do when they gain power, and how they get things done. Sign the executive orders limiting greenhouse gases, and double our investment in alternative energy sources like wind and solar. Take care of veterans and seniors, and hold corporations and greedy bankers accountable for driving us off the cliff in the first place.
This president has more than earned a shot at a second term. He has proven himself the smartest, most visionary and forward thinking president we could ask for, and stands head and shoulders above the illiterate boob who last held the office. He’s got more family values than Newt Gingrich ever had, more compassion for the middle class than Rick Santorum could ever muster; could never be the entitled elitist Mitt Romney is, and unlike Ron Paul, is completely sane.
At next year’s State of the Union, the entire audience should stand and sing his new theme song in one gravelly, funky voice, “Who’s the cat who won’t cop out, when there’s danger all about? Damn right.”
Can you dig it?
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
With all that’s been going on in our fair city lately, you may have forgotten that there’s a major election less than six weeks away. I think this time around the incumbents prefer it that way.
The School District of Philadelphia, and the School Reform Commission that runs it, have squandered whatever public goodwill they still had. School superintendent Dr. Arlene Ackerman got her nearly million-dollar payout, and instead of going away quietly, has lobbed incendiary grenades at everyone she feels is responsible for her ouster.
Most people would be lounging in a beach chair, sipping on some fruity rum drink with a tiny umbrella in it and toasting their good fortune, but not Ackerman.
She has implicated SRC chair Bob Archie, Mayor Michael Nutter and state Rep. Dwight Evans, among others, as major players in this shameful fiasco that just won’t go away. If she’s telling the truth, those three guys are guilty of serious ethical breaches and violations of the public trust, if not outright crimes.
Archie, partner at Duane Morris, one of the city’s top law firms, has been a power broker in this town for many, many years. While the general public may have just learned of him since his appointment to the SRC, the movers and shakers have long known Archie, and his reputation for getting deals done.
The problem is, the School District is not a private law firm, and deals made on their behalf are public deals using public monies, secret agendas and closed door meetings have no place in a public entity, even though we all know that in Philly, that’s generally how things work.
But Archie turned in his resignation from the SRC early this week, leaving the School District’s governing body with just two members. (SRC member Johnny Irizarry, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, quit the same day as Archie.) Mayor Nutter quickly appointed old friend and former employee Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor of Rutgers University, to fill one of the empty slots, but the damage is done, and the District is almost completely rudderless, at least for now.
I don’t know how he’s managed to do it, but so far Nutter seems untouched by this whole stinking mess. After all, the mayor appoints two SRC members, and he certainly played a large role in Ackerman’s departure — the hideous details of which have yet to come to light.
Speaking of which, isn’t this the same mayor who campaigned four years ago on clean government and an end to municipal corruption? Isn’t this the guy who promised us transparency, integrity and accountability in City Hall? Now he’s lobbying local rich folks for Ackerman’s buyout money and keeping it hush-hush, and if Ackerman’s accusations are to be believed, he’s turning a blind eye to corruption by sitting on a report which would blow the lid off the Martin Luther King charter school scandal, and was not averse to holding 5-year-olds ransom by threatening the end of all-day kindergarten simply to advance his political agenda.
Now, it seems to me that a man — especially an incumbent mayor up for re-election in a few short weeks — would vigorously, publicly and immediately defend himself against such vile accusations.
His opponent in November is Democrat-turned-Republican Karen Brown, who has been making some noise herself lately by demanding a number of debates with Nutter before Election Day. Nutter’s people have agreed to only one public forum, which in all honesty makes more sense for them. You don’t give an unknown opponent the opportunity to compete on your level if you’re the incumbent — especially when you’re favored to win by a landslide.
But it does leave a cloud hanging over the election in many ways.
What if the GOP had put up a serious, well-developed candidate in this race? Would Nutter’s confidence level be as high, especially considering the huge pile of hypocrisy and bad faith that has shown up on his doorstep lately?
Nutter will certainly win, and probably by the predicted margin, but when he does his first phone call of thanks should be placed to Vito Canuso and Mike Meehan, the city’s GOP leadership.
By randomly plucking Brown from obscurity rather than grooming, preparing and financing a genuine alternative candidate, Canuso and Meehan have virtually assured Nutter’s re-election at a time when a little healthy competition could have at least raised the level of discourse.
I have the uneasy feeling that we’re about to get exactly what we deserve.
Philadelphia City Council passed a bill on Thursday guaranteed to make more than a few of my neighbors angry.
The bill, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, would allow the city, by means of eminent domain, to seize 43 properties abandoned or blighted properties in Point Breeze, 17 of those properties privately owned, to ensure a mix of affordable housing in the booming neighborhood.
I live in Point Breeze, and Johnson is my Councilman. I’ll give him this – he’s about as visible and accessible a representative as you could ask for. I see the guy all the time. He’s talking to neighbors, sweeping up the trash, and conducting walking tours for fellow politicians. He has his finger on the pulse of the community, and on this bill, he’s been listening to what they tell him.
First, let’s talk about the underlying cause of the consternation over Johnson’s bill, and that angst can be summed up in one ugly word – gentrification.
A predominantly Black neighborhood for generations, Point Breeze in recent years has seen an upsurge in young, white hipsters moving in. For that, you can’t really blame the hipsters. Their parents abandoned Black neighborhoods in the ’60s, and now they’re lured back by the inexpensive housing market and the neighborhood’s proximity to Center City nightlife.
Developers see that happening, and pounce on every property they can get their hands on. Some they transform into expensive single-family homes, some they convert to apartments, and some they allow to lie fallow, waiting for the financing to redevelop.
Meanwhile, longtime residents, who for years put up with feeling abandoned by city government, are now at the center of the action, and fear the increased development will drive up property values, which could tax them out of the community they love.
It’s not an unfounded fear – the pattern has been repeated in cities all over the country, where grandmothers who’ve owned their homes for decades must move out because they can no longer afford the property tax increases that come with gentrification. I have a friend in San Francisco who calls gentrification “The Negro Removal Plan” because it has dramatically reduced the size and density of Black neighborhoods there.
As a consequence, Johnson’s bill is seen by some as a line in the sand – protecting longtime residents from greedy developers. It is seen by others as an impediment to progress – standing in the way of legitimate business and chasing money out of the city.
Developers see money – and they should. That’s what they do, and they shouldn’t be faulted for their one-dimensional thinking. Those properties you couldn’t give away a few years ago are being sold today at a king’s ransom. They don’t see the residents as salt-of-the-earth neighbors, they don’t see the properties as hearth and home – they see people standing between them and their profits.
And last, but never least, there’s the growing racial animosity involved whenever the word gentrification comes up.
Many of my new white neighbors are distrustful, and let’s be honest – afraid – of their recently chosen environment. You can tell. While some of the new neighbors go out of their way to speak and be friendly, others walk past silently with their heads down, avoiding eye contact. They make no effort to engage, and that causes some resentment among folks who see it as either aloof or disrespectful.
There are stories floating around about some new residents’ refusal to clean up their dogs’ droppings, or who move six or eight people into a house – all of whom own cars – leaving longtime residents to park wherever they can, often blocks away. Then there are the usual neighborhood complaints – noise, trash, whatever – that are instantly multiplied and escalated when race is involved.
The sad part is that if money could be removed from the equation, there’s a chance both sides could come together to form a compromise, if not an actual community. But you can’t remove money as a factor, because money is where the issue begins and ends.
I understand the developers’ desire to reap the financial rewards of investing in a neighborhood forgotten by their real estate colleagues. But I also understand the social and human ramifications of using financial status as a wedge – slowly marginalizing the poor and disregarding them as essential to the fabric of a community.
It is a dilemma as old as the Constitution, and as American as apple pie. The problem is, most of us have come to understand that when an issue comes down to people versus profit, there’s always a clear winner.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.
By refusing to block Pennsylvania’s callous and draconian voter ID law, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson has left the door open to voter suppression tactics that haven’t been used since the 1960s, when white southerners were finally shamed into doing the right thing after a horrified America watched footage of the police dogs and fire hoses used to keep Blacks and other undesirables away from the polls.
Progressives immediately went on a public relations rampage, vowing to fight on through appeals and every available legal avenue until some jurist with a conscience and sense of right and wrong nips this thing in the bud.
I hope they win on appeal, and not just because those most adversely affected by the law are minorities — but because the law is anti-American, and flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, the document held above all others by the hypocrites who authored the voter ID law in the first place.
What could be more anti-American, more constitutionally incorrect, than the notion that some citizens’ votes count more than others? That by keeping certain people away from the polls, you somehow end up with a free and fair election? It’s galling and ridiculous, and frankly I’m ashamed we have to have this fight almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act.
Those facts notwithstanding, and despite my continued belief that President Obama will be re-elected in November by a sizable margin, I can’t help but wonder how much effect all this will have on the election in practical terms. Just read the newspapers. Voter ID laws, voter purges and similar machinations are taking place all over the country, not just here in Pennsylvania.
Is it possible that GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was actually onto something when he guaranteed a partisan crowd in June that, “Voter ID will allow Gov. Romney to win the state in November”?
I’ve tried not to think about that, just as I’ve convinced myself that in the end, all this won’t matter when Obama stands on the podium in triumph on election night.
But what if the worst should happen?
What if the concerned organizations and valiant lawyers on the front lines of the voter ID battle lose their appeals, and the law is in full effect on Election Day? Worse, what if Turzai is right, and key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida (coincidentally, those states specifically targeted by the GOP’s suppression strategists) fall into Romney’s hands?
And even worse than that, what if winning those key states is just enough to put Plastic Man over the top, and we’re faced with four years of watching people who own dressage horses and offshore accounts snatch food from the mouths of babies and senior citizens?
I know. Too horrible to contemplate, but in the name of pragmatism, we should at least consider the possibility, however remote — and what we’d do about it. I don’t have a doomsday scenario strategy mapped out, but I’m pretty sure how I’d handle a Romney presidency. It is remarkably similar to how the Republicans have handled President Obama these past three years.
First, taking my cues from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the knuckle-draggers, I’d never, ever call him President Romney. Just Romney, or better yet, just Willard.
Second, I would never miss an opportunity to bring up the racist past of the Mormon Church. I’d quote Mormon founders and leaders who taught until 1978 that my Black skin is a curse, and I am therefore unworthy of the blessings of God, or entrance to white heaven. (If you think this is a nasty, unfair swipe at the man’s religious beliefs, you should take up your appeal with my complaint officer, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.)
Third, I would spend a great deal of time and effort writing catchy sayings for bumper stickers and T-shirts. Mitt and Ryan – Always Lyin’, Need Healthcare? Just Die Already, and Utah is for Haters spring immediately to mind. Think I’m being unfair again? Check out the anti-Obama signs and bumper stickers at a tea party rally, then get back to me.
Finally, I would use this column to berate, harass and ridicule the Romney administration at every turn — rewriting history to suit my own purposes, and making up “facts” as I go along. I would do this every single week, without regard to relevance or context. There are too many examples to list here, but check out Ann Coulter or Cal Thomas if you have an objection.
If the other shoe indeed drops, I hope it’s a size 14. I know just where to put it.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.