According to city health statistics, nearly seven in 10 new HIV/AIDS infections are contracted by African Americans, with the 19143 zip code, in the 8th Senatorial Dist., one of the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS in the city.
To raise awareness about the importance of learning more about this disease, State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-W. Phila.), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., will host a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event today at 5 p.m. at Kingsessing Recreation Center, 4901 Kingsessing Avenue. Information, confidential testing and free pizza will be provided to participants.
The facts around HIV/AIDS and African Americans still aren’t permeating the African American community, despite the fact Blacks in the United States make up 44% of the nation’s HIV cases, while only being 14% of the total US population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report close to one in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV in his lifetime; for Black women, it’s one in 32. For Black women locally, heterosexual contact remains the lead cause of infection; for Black men, both heterosexual and male-to-male sexual contact are lead causes of infection.
“This horrific disease stands to decimate the African American community, but it doesn’t have to, not if we take charge by getting involved, getting educated and getting tested,” said Williams. “That’s what this event is about. We cannot let fear or stigma stop us from knowing our status and acting proactively with that knowledge.
“Knowledge is power, so come out and empower yourself,” he added. “Get the information you need about HIV/AIDS. Get tested – it’s free. And bring a friend. You just might save a life – yours.”
TARTAGLIONE BLASTS PRIVATIZED LIQUOR
State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington) blasted Gov. Tom Corbett’s plans for Pennsylvania liquor stores, stating, “It’s obvious there is little support in the General Assembly for the Governor’s strange agenda and holding school funding hostage reveals a sad desperation.
“After gutting staffing for unemployment call centers, Gov. Corbett’s plans for selling off liquor stores and handing the lottery to a foreign company would push the number of family sustaining jobs he wants to eliminate or ship overseas to more than 5,000.
“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want Pennsylvania children to get a first-class education and they’re willing to work to find a stable, sound revenue plan for the future. They’re not going to fall for a liquor-for-schools scheme. Both the lottery and the liquor store systems are returning significant revenue to the state, while providing jobs that keep families out of the social service safety net and provide substantial local tax revenue.
“These are the type of jobs that Pennsylvania public policy should be fostering and encouraging, rather than eliminating or shipping overseas.
“While Pennsylvania’s job-creation ranking has plummeted and its unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, the administration has busied itself by tinkering with the parts of state government that are functioning well.
“Making it a little easier and a little cheaper to purchase alcohol is an odd priority to hold while our cities struggle to put enough police on the street to make people feel safe, while a million citizens have no access to health care and while urban and rural schools wonder how they’re going to make ends meet.
“Gov. Corbett should be making jobs, health care and education easier to get not booze.”
REP. WATERS SPONSORS INFORMATIONAL WORKSHOPS
State Rep. Ron Waters (D-W. Phila.) has scheduled five workshops throughout his 191st Legislative Dist. covering energy, housing, tax and expungement topics.
Weatherization will be the topic tonight at Turner MS Cafeteria, 59th & Baltimore Avenue, from 6 to 8 p.m. and again at the same time on Feb. 26 at the Roach Post, 6400 Paschall Avenue.
What is entailed in trying to get a criminal record expunged will be discussed at a workshop at Myers Recreation, 58th & Kingsessing Avenue.
Housing Forums on foreclosures and other topics will be held Monday, Mar. 4 at Christian Compassion CDC, 62nd & Cedar, and on Mar. 28 at 1st Genesis Baptist Church, 6901 Kingsessing Avenue. Both run from 6 to 8 p.m.
His Mobile Office will work with constituents on Property Tax/Rent Rebates from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Mar. 6 and 7 at Walnut Park Plaza.
KITCHEN BILL WOULD STOP SCHOOL CLOSINGS
As students, teachers and families alike struggle with the School District of Philadelphia’s hasty plans to close or merger dozens of public schools across the city, State Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-N. Phila.)has proposed legislation which would suspend the School Reform Commission’s authority to close or merge schools until 2014.
Under SB 341, the suspension will last until Jun. 30, 2014 to permit the school district to investigate changes in various areas and permit the School District and the General Assembly to consider financial reform.
“The superintendent’s plan came as a shock to many families and school district employees across the city. Now, families are scrambling to figure out how their children will safely get to their new schools, and teachers and staff are worried about their jobs,” said Kitchen. “Many of these schools are in close-knit communities where families and staff alike care deeply about the education of our children, and it’s shameful that they were blindsided by the closures.”
Schools Superintendent William Hite’s plan calls for closing 22 elementary-school, four middle-school and 11 high-school buildings, as well as moving or merging several other schools. The SRC is expected to vote on the plan in March, according to the school district. Eight schools in the Senator’s district are scheduled to close.
COUNCILMAN GREEN’S BILL SEEKS BUDGET ANSWERS
Philadelphia taxpayers deserve to know where their money is being spent and how effective are the city programs they fund, states Councilman Bill Green, and that was the goal of a hearing held last Friday by City Council’s Finance Committee, which he chaired.
Last November, voters approved a ballot question authorizing Council to require the Finance Director to provide “information about the cost of performing specific functions, the effectiveness of such functions, and the costs versus benefits of proposed expenditures as part of the City’s budget.” The additional information, part of a national shift towards so-called “program-based budgeting,” aims to identify efficiencies and gauge effectiveness of government programs.
“There’s a general feeling in the country that there’s got to be a better way [to budget],” Gary Van Landingham, director of the Results First Initiative at the Pew Center on the States, testified. “The challenge is people have a very hard time identifying where we’re not spending money wisely.”
Friday’s hearing concerned Councilman Green’s bill (Council 120109) introduced last February which would make the ballot question’s requirements into law. The bill would direct the Finance Director to submit “complete program-based budgeting data for each function for which appropriations are made in the proposed budget, including both cost and performance data, with a goal of moving towards a zero-based budgeting approach” beginning with the submission of the 2016 budget. A pilot of the program-based approach would be launched in 2015.
Councilman Green authored a policy paper on program-based budgeting during his 2007 campaign for Council.
“We spend a lot of money in the City’s budget, but we don’t have consistent ways to measure if those dollars are well spent,” Councilman Green said. “This was part of the Mayor’s transition report when he was elected, I agreed with him then as I do now, and I’m excited to see the final Nutter Administration budgets move to program based budgeting.”
Department budgets currently contain line items which show what each dollar will be spent on: salaries, benefits, office supplies, travel, utilities, equipment, etc. The Program Budget shows what each dollar will accomplish, generally in the way of a measurable result achieved (such as a reduction in accidents, an improvement in health, an increase in customer satisfaction, etc.), or in the way of an activity performed (such as process a grant application, inspect a worksite, review a compliance activity, etc.).
“Program budgeting is a tool that can align an agency’s goals, strategies and budget.” Deputy Police Commissioner Nola Joyce said in submitted testimony. “It can help focus the agency, executives and legislators on policy priorities and not on past patterns as reflected in a line item budget.”
The bill is under consideration by City Council.
BISHOP DESIGNATES FEB. TO CHILD-ABUSE AWARENESS
The State House has adopted a resolution introduced by State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop (D-W. Phila.) designating February 2013 as “Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.
“There are two reasons that I have introduced this resolution … one of them is to let victims know we are very sorry for the pain that you had to endure as a child sexual abuse victim,” Bishop said. “I want victims to know that you do have big brothers and big sisters in this legislature and we are trying our best to protect you.
“Secondly, our message to abusers of child sexual abuse is this: The party is over and you will be exposed and apprehended as the days go by. We are watching you. Sexual misconduct against children is vile and horrifying.”
McGEEHAN WINS RECORDS FIGHT AGAINST P.H.A.
A mostly favorable ruling by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records represents a qualified success in State Rep. Michael P. McGeehan’s (D-Northeast) ongoing efforts to pry public information from the Philadelphia Housing Authority, according to the veteran Philadelphia Democratic lawmaker.
After PHA failed to comply with his initial request for information related to its landlords, McGeehan appealed to the OOR, which issued a final determination largely in his favor. OOR ruled McGeehan was entitled to two of the three items he requested: a list of landlords and the amounts of PHA money they’ve received in the past two years, and a list of landlords who have sought to participate in the PHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.
“For reasons only it knows, the PHA chose to fight me on what the Office of Open Records has determined are in fact public records,” McGeehan said. “I sincerely hope PHA now complies with my request, instead of digging in its heels and taking the next step by appealing this decision to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. That will only drag things out further.”
McGeehan said such a move would constitute additional waste of taxpayers’ money, and would not be in keeping with the spirit of reform and transparency PHA seeks to embrace as the scandal-plagued agency works to remold its tattered public image.
“This is all about transparency and accountability,” McGeehan said. “I seek this information in the name of public service, so we can all acquire a better understanding of how PHA operates, how it spends tax dollars, and who receives them.”
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