POLS ON THE STREET: ‘Hot Summer’ Could Fire Nov. Race in Philadelphia

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AS CONCERN spread across the city that an uptick in street violence may be a worrisome trend, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, R, assembled a cohort of clergy to pray for peace on the apron of City Hall last week. Photo by Wendell Douglas

BY JOE SHAHEELI
Just when it seemed – as the Democratic municipal primary election unfolded – that “tough on crime” was no longer a winning campaign slogan, there are increasing signs that street violence may re-emerge as a major political concern.

When Councilman David Oh (at Large) was stabbed in an attempted carjacking in front of his Southwest Philadelphia home, it dramatized a problem that has been welling up in other neighborhoods of late, afflicting many less-famous citizens.

There is fire behind this smoke. As of June 5, homicides in Philadelphia are up 20% over the previous period in 2016, standing at 132, the highest number since 2012. While these numbers are still far lower than the Notorious ’90s, they show a steady uptick in deaths that has been reported in other major cities. Homicides are a good proxy for overall shifts in crime rates because they are reliably reported and classified.

In Philadelphia, urban politicians are beginning to respond to this shift in the wind.

PHILADELPHIA Community Outreach Committee kicked off a longterm project to clear drug dealing out of the area of 41st & Parrish Streets in the Belmont section of W. Philadelphia. Activists include, L-R, Dave Pickens of Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee; Ishaq Shamai, founder of PCOC; and 6th Ward Leader Pete Wilson. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Last month, State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D-N. Phila.) decried “the explosion of lawlessness and violence in North Central Philadelphia within the last 30 days.” He cited eight shooting that left five dead. He was joined by representatives from the Father’s Day Committee, the Philadelphia Council of Clergy and the Southwest New Stop Program.

“No one person, no one agency can resolve this alone – this is going to require all of us becoming outraged at the devaluation of life in our community,” Thomas said.

Thomas, a senior legislator, proposed a 12-point intervention strategy. It involves complex interaction the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the School District, the district attorney, the Pennsylvania attorney general, the media, local nonprofit groups – and, most important of all, the general public.

Other local elected officials who represent violent hotspots, such as Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (D-2nd) and State Rep. Donna Bullock (D-N. Phila.), have been raising red flags over this issue.

Crime and the Krasner Vote

In Philadelphia, the normally sleepy November general election could take an odd twist if concern about street crime continues to mount.

Normally a shoo-in, with a 7-1 party majority, Democratic district attorney nominee Larry Krasner has already drawn national attention for the boldness of his primary victory. It was fueled in part by popular outrage in Black and progressive communities over instances of apparent police abuse; in part, also, by a massive donation from billionaire George Soros.

But if you’ve just been shot, who are you going to call – Black Lives Matter? Crime sprees tend to boost public support for greater police intervention. So a hot summer on the streets of high-crime neighborhoods may weaken the enthusiasm Democratic voters felt when it was springtime for Krasner, who has never prosecuted a case in his career, who has made a life’s work of fighting and beating unjust prosecutions, and who has bluntly criticized police job culture.

By fall, the Pennsylvania Republican Party will have decided how much to invest in the Philadelphia DA’s race. Already, its candidate, Beth Grossman, a seasoned former prosecutor who once ran the DA’s Office civil-assets forfeiture program, has come out swinging.

“One councilman stabbed, two adults and three kids killed,” she said. “What is at risk for our city goes beyond party politics. We need a district attorney with actual prosecutorial experience. Philadelphia’s safety should not be put at risk though a politicized social experiment. We need a district attorney who will hold criminals accountable for their actions.”

Krasner’s camp has been prudently silent on its views of police in the last week. Behind the scenes, Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.), the Democratic City Committee chair, has been working to build bridges between the DA nominee and the Fraternal Order of Police, whose leader, John McNesby, will always give a Democratic candidate a friendly ear.

But in the end, the gut feelings of officers on the beat will determine the FOP endorsement. It is on Krasner and the DCC now to craft a message that may keep the FOP neutral at least.

PARK WEST Town Center celebrated its 10th anniversary as W. Philadelphia’s premiere shopping nexus with a frolicsome affair. Turning out for the occasion were, L-R, State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., State Rep. Morgan Cephas, ShopRite owner Jeff Brown, Goldenberg Development’s Ellen Lissy Rosenberg, Park West’s James Burnett, and scholarship winners Jaylin Muse and Myra Brown. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Can Krasner Help Bartos?

At least one statewide candidate, Jeff Bartos, hopes to unseat US Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) by tying Larry Krasner around his opponent’s neck.

Bartos, a health-care businessman who describes himself as a “conservative outsider,” has unleashed a video that castigates Casey for allegedly “supporting” Krasner (Casey has steered clear of this municipal brawl). Bartos ticks off Krasner’s “liberal” flaws – “a radical, backed by George Soros’ millions … sued cops 75 times, but never prosecuted a criminal …supports letting criminals go free if they can’t make bail.”

Unclear how many votes Bartos expects to win from Philly Republicans. But their statewide impact is much bigger than their citywide impact in primary elections. Bartos might pick up 10,000 votes by making a special pitch to the Philadelphia market.

But that is less important than a deft early grab at a symbol precious to Pennsylvania Republican politics: Philadelphia-bashing. Whacking the urban demons of Southeastern Pennsylvania never lost a vote from the rest of the state’s Republicans.

But Bartos is, in fact, from the Southeast. A Reading native, he is now a Montgomery County-based real-estate magnate who should be able to fund much of his own campaign.

Bartos has been building a team, lately adding Ted Christian, whom he said “has a long history of outstanding work for conservative movements, and has made waves in the political realm with his determined efforts. I am looking forward to working with Ted to continue building our grassroots movement.”
Christian most recently served as Pennsylvania state director for the Trump campaign and helped turn Pennsylvania red for the first time since 1988. Previously, Christian served in various conservative campaigns, with roles throughout the years including Pennsylvania state director for McCain-Palin 2008, executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee and a stint with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Christian joins the Bartos campaign team that includes Jeff Roe of Axiom Strategies, Larry Weitzner of Jamestown Associates and Chris Wilson and Brian Phillips of WPA Intelligence.

Pa. Democrats Stick to Paris

In these times, when Tweeting has become news – even the primary source of news from some elected officials – Keystone State Democrats responded with their own Tweets to the news the USA had pulled out of the universal Paris Accord on climate change.

GOV. TOM WOLF greets Rodney Prescott, material-control specialist at Philly Shipyard, a 16-year employee. The governor was touring the shipyard to study its apprenticeship program.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s city was singled out by President Donald Trump in his speech explaining his decision as preferring “Pittsburgh over Paris.” That was a soft lob into Peduto’s court, who smashed back the following Tweet: “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and our future.”

Congressman Bob Brady told the internet, “The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the #ParisClimateDeal is simply irresponsible.”

Congressman Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) cut to four words: “Climate Change Is Real.”

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella gave President Donald Trump’s move a deeper dissection.

“This decision is a stunningly foolish choice, and sells out hard-working Pennsylvanians. Climate change is an environmental catastrophe that will ultimately cost Pennsylvania taxpayers,” Torsella advised.

“The decision is short-sighted. As American business leaders have recognized, the transition to a sustainable-energy future presents one of the best business opportunities in generations. Smart investments in high-growth fields like sustainability and renewable energy can yield positive returns and create high-paying jobs that can support middle-class families.

“At Treasury, we have already begun embracing that future through the Pennsylvania Sustainable Energy Finance Program, which promotes, and makes prudent investments in important projects that bring strong financial returns to taxpayers – and support jobs and fight climate change.

“State and local governments can lead where the federal government won’t. We in Pennsylvania have always been leaders. In the face of this foolish decision, we should embrace the real economic opportunities for Pennsylvania families in reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy efficiency and encouraging renewable energy.”

In April, the treasurer joined 35 communities in southeastern Pennsylvania announcing an energy-saving LED streetlight project using an innovative intergovernmental cooperative process in concert with the PennSEF program.

STATE SEN. Anthony Williams, L, visited the facility of a S.W. Philadelphia company, Carbonator Rental Services, which specializes in delivering sodas and juices, carbonation and dispensing systems to small restaurants and bars throughout the city. This family-owned firm, now headed by Andy Pincus, R, reports its customers have been hard hit by the high cost of the Sweetened Drinks Tax. Pincus displayed a 5-gallon syrup package that he said he can no longer make money off. Deliveries are down, Pincus stated. Williams talked with one of Carbonator’s employees, who are at risk of being laid off as a result of the tax. Williams has extensive private-sector experience in the beverage industry. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Joe DeFelice on at HUD

The former chair of the Republican City Committee, Joe DeFelice, has been officially confirmed as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator for Housing & Urban Development. The region encompasses five states and the District of Columbia.

“I look forward to advancing HUD’s mission across the Mid-Atlantic region by helping underserved neighborhoods become thriving communities, expanding homeownership opportunities for credit-worthy citizens, and helping eradicate homelessness – especially for our veterans,” DeFelice said.

DeFelice cut his teeth in community development by volunteering for community organizations in his Mayfair neighborhood. He is active in the Friends of the Free Library and teaches at LaSalle and Widener Universities.

His appointment should be good news for Philadelphia as it faces momentous changes – and potentially cutbacks – in President Donald Trump’s proposed HUD budget.

Young’s Loss Is Mourned

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (D-5th) released this statement on the passing of Ahmeenah Young, former president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center:

“Ahmeenah Young was a remarkable woman whose vibrant legacy and generous heart can be seen all around Philadelphia. I feel grateful to have known her and join people across the region in mourning her loss.

“Ahmeenah’s lasting impact on Philadelphia’s hospitality sector as a trailblazing leader and mentor to women and persons of color cannot be overstated. Indeed, my sadness is only matched by gratitude and awe for her many achievements and generosity of spirit to those coming up behind her.

“Ahmeenah Young quite simply epitomized black excellence. Philadelphia has lost a shining star, and my heartfelt condolences go to her children, grandchildren,
Young had a long and varied career in public and community service – with the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, the Philadelphia Eagles Oversight Committee for Affirmative Action, the African American Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia International Airport Advisory Committee, Hahnemann University Hospital, Temple University School of Hospitality & Tourism, and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Film Workers Like Credits

Amid rumors the Pennsylvania Film Production Tax Credit may be imperiled in the state budget negotiations, a host of workers rallied at the Rocky statue last Saturday to lobby for its preservation.

The $60-million tax break, which benefits national productions that do at least 60% of their work in the state, was instituted under Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004. A General Assembly study in 2009 credited it with spurring 4,000 jobs statewide, concentrated in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Other states offer competing tax packages.

But the tax credit often draws sour glances from budget-balancing legislators – particularly from Midstate conservatives, who favor to subsidize different industries. Thus there is often a wave of concern among film and video workers in early June to make a strong showing for its continuation.

Speakers included Councilman David Oh (at Large), who chairs City Council’s Committee on Global Opportunities & the Creative/Innovative Economy; his colleague Mark Squilla (1st); State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-W. Phila.); and State Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery).

City Representative Sheila Hess and Greater Philadelphia Film Office Executive Director Sharon Pinkenson also attended. Lending their weight to the effort were representatives of local producers as well as hotels (film crews are prodigious consumers of short-term living accommodations). And, of course, local actors, directors and crew members were there in number.

Labor spokespersons carried the banners of SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters Local 817 and IATSE Local 52.

Beech Leader Is Honored

Christine Brown, director of Beech Community Services, was recently honored for dedicating 25 years of civic leadership to North Philadelphia.

The recognition took place during the Alston-Beech Foundation biennial meeting and luncheon of the Consortium of Cecil B. Moore, where more than $20,000 was awarded to local nonprofits who have shown considerable efforts to revitalize the Cecil B. Moore community.

Brown’s background in non-profit explains her passion for helping people. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with a variety of community groups to help them obtain funding that improves the North Central Philadelphia community. Her community-advocacy efforts have been recognized nationally and she continues to set the standard in building stronger relationships with the stakeholders to create change.

Brown’s community events, like the annual “Jazz on the Ave” Music Fest has attracted visitors from across the country and continue to bring neighbors together and instill a sense of community pride and knowledge of their history.

“Christine’s tireless contribution to Beech and the community we serve has played a major role as we work to improve North Central Philadelphia,” stated Dr. Kenneth Scott, president of Beech Cos. “She believes in the people we serve and their ability to contribute positively to their community.”

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