Last week, COUNCILMAN KENYATTA JOHNSON sought the approval of City Council for his proposal that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority build affordable housing in Point Breeze. In order to execute Johnson’s plan, the City, through its power of eminent domain, will need to force private homeowners and developers to sell two-thirds of properties designated for the project. The City owns the rest. This is an abuse of the City’s power of eminent domain. Condemning properties, in this elephant’s opinion, should be reserved for projects that benefit a very large group of people, like needed highway additions.
Is Johnson really looking out for the working poor, or is he trying to stall the economic development of the neighborhood so that middle-class people, who may not be reliable votes for him, do not move into Point Breeze? Similar policies have been pursued by other politicians and have had unintended negative consequences referred to as the “Curley Effect”.
Boston MAYOR JAMES CURLEY pursued policies that encouraged the middle- and upper-class Anglo-Saxon Protestants to move out of the city because they did not vote for him, the way the poorer Irish did. The upshot was the tax base moved out of the city, leaving fewer funds for city services and, perhaps more importantly, government jobs for Curley’s constituents.
Similarly, building public housing in an increasingly attractive area will dampen real-estate values. This will not only take money out of the hands of middle-class homeowners and developers, but also from long-time and economically disadvantaged residents who could see real financial gain from the appreciation of their properties. Increasing subsidized housing in Point Breeze will slow down the development of housing and commercial space attractive to the middle class whose tax dollars are greatly needed by the City. The City owns abandoned and condemned properties in other areas of the city that would actually benefit from new subsidized housing.
Last Wednesday, local Republicans meet at Paddy Whacks for their monthly Happy Hour. Organizer DENISE FUREY decided the herd needed to focus on the positive and invited LINDA KERNS, the lawyer who orchestrated the Republicans’ election-day legal efforts, to speak. She discussed the major inroads PAGOP made into limiting voter fraud on election day. Primarily through the work of JOE DeFELICE and ANNIE HAVEY, PAGOP identified and received credentials for roughly 300 Minority Inspectors for polling places that have not seen Republican election-board workers in 50 years. On election day, there were numerous incidents where Judges of Election called the police to have the Republican election workers removed. Kerns had roughly 70 polling places where she had to send Republican attorneys to intervene and in some cases needed to have our Minority Inspectors seated by court order with the help of the city Sheriff.
The 300 Minority Inspectors recruited by the PAGOP were in large part African American. LEW HARRIS, leader of the 29th Ward, with help from Annie Havey, leader of the 40th Ward, has formed the Philadelphian Republicans of Color (PhillyROCs). The state-affiliated side of the party has actively recruited committee people and ward leaders in minority areas.
MIKE MEEHAN, who leads the traditional version of Republican City Committee, appointed three non-minority people from South Philadelphia to head wards in minority areas in North Philadelphia for his version of the Republican City Committee. In one case, the ward had a duly elected leader, VICKIE FREEMAN. In the 13th Ward, the ward leader had resigned, but there were a number of active committee people Meehan failed to contact, including the Ward Chairwoman LINDA DIGGS, who was more than willing to step up to be the ward leader.
Collectively, we elephants do need to improve our message to the African American community. We must begin by working with existing Black Republicans and treating them with respect as our equals.