POLS ON THE STREET: Boyle’s STABLE GENIUS Would Get Medical Exams for Prexy Hopefuls

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CONGRESSMAN Brendan Boyle.

BY JOE SHAHEELI
Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (D-Phila.) wants to vote for a STABLE GENIUS – his own, not President Donald Trump’s.

Boyle introduced the Standardizing Testing & Accountability Before Large Elections Giving Electors Necessary Information for Unobstructed Selection Act (STABLE GENIUS Act) on Jan. 8. It would require that all presidential candidates undergo a standardized medical examination and publically disclose its results before the election.

Specifically, Boyle’s legislation would require candidates that have won the presidential nomination of a political party to file a report with the Federal Election Commission, as such candidates must do for a host of other campaign-related requirements, certifying that he or she has undergone medical examination by the Secretary of the Navy and containing the results of the examination. All FEC filings are publicly available online.

“The President believes he is a ‘stable genius.’ I do not,” said the congressman. “President Trump’s reckless, erratic behavior has exposed a critical flaw in our existing election process,” he continued. “Before voting for the highest office in the land, Americans have a right to know whether an individual has the physical and mental fitness to serve as President of the United States. I believe we must also be proactive and do all we can to ensure a situation like this does not arise again.”

Boyle concluded, “My legislation provides a much-needed safeguard to ensure that future presidential candidates meet the basic standards of a proper, standardized medical examination, and that this information is available to the American public before voting for the office of the presidency.”

Krasner Slashes, for Good or Ill

Talk of the town has been incoming DA Larry Krasner’s sacking of numerous staffers in the DA’s Office within the first week of doing business. The exact number is still not clear even to DA employees, but it exceeds 30; and the human assumption is that it could be just the beginning, if it’s your job on the line. So the remaining DAO staff is on their toes, to say the least.

Radical anti-establishmentarian Krasner is operating much like radical anti-establishmentarian Trump did a year earlier: Both promised to kick the rascals out, and both are at least kicking lots of people out.

GASPAR, Melchior and Balthasar paid a call to State Rep. Angel Cruz, R, last Saturday in celebration of the Epiphany, known as “Día de los Reyes” in Spanish. It is customary for the Three Kings to bring gifts for children.

Krasner is within his rights – especially since he is charged with revamping his office’s culture. What is less clear right now, is whether he will do so with managerial grace and productivity. Running a shop is about more than talking about its values, although values matter.

Republicans struck fast, citing an ominous new statistic.

“Philadelphia closed-out the year with 317 homicides, 14% more than the previous year. Larry Krasner opened his tenure as Philadelphia’s next district attorney by firing homicide prosecutors, one of whom was scheduled to begin a trial on Monday,” Republican City Committee Chair Michael Meehan stated.

“It is unconscionable that within three days of assuming office, and in the midst of a significant increase in murders, that Krasner would begin his tenure by firing homicide prosecutors – one of which was scheduled to go to trial on Monday. What kind of representation are this victim and their family expected to receive?

“In what we might expect from a defense attorney who made a career out of suing the police, Krasner places victims on the back burner from day one. I know that to the victor goes the spoils, but in less than 96 hours, the fate of 5% of the office has been determined. No consideration was given to upcoming trials and the resulting effect on victims and survivors,” Meehan summed up.

Meehan’s critique won’t scare Democrats too much right now. The well-qualified Republican DA candidate in the November general election, Beth Grossman, took just 25% of the vote. But one-fourth of her votes were from non-Republicans. More Democratic voters will desert their ticket if violent crime gets out of hand.

If Philadelphia gets back in line with the rest of the nation, where murder is going out of style, Krasner will have no worries. But if the city’s homicides keep spiking in 2018, then other Democratic city candidates may suffer from association with him.

Striking back, the DA’s Office announced the appointment of Movita Johnson-Harrell, who will be joining DAO as interim supervisor of Victim Services. The Victim Services Unit is tasked with advocating on behalf of and providing services for all crime victims and witnesses in Philadelphia. Johnson-Harrell is intimately aware of the impact of crime, as she is both the mother and daughter of a homicide victim.

“I am thrilled and honored to join the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in this vital mission, and look forward to serving the people of Philadelphia in my new role,” Ms. Johnson-Harrell said.

Johnson-Harrell founded the CHARLES (Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering) Foundation in 2011 after losing her 18-year-old son, Charles Andre Johnson, to gun violence. She also suffered the loss of her father, cousin, and only brother to homicide.

“I know that this moment of transition in the DAO has been confusing for some victims and their families,” said Johnson-Harrell. “I want to ensure them that our unit is open for business and that we are here to make sure that you have whatever information you need. Please, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.”

Johnson-Harrell, a West Philadelphian social worker with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, has run for state representative.

“Her wealth of knowledge, depth of experience and enthusiasm will be crucial to our office’s critical mission of delivering services to witnesses of and those traumatized by crime,” Krasner said.

Translation: Johnson-Harrell was hired to dispel the perception that Krasner, in being pro-defendant, is not by definition anti-victim. A significant professional challenge, in which we wish Johnson-Harrell well.

Judge Maria McLaughlin, C, poses with a small part of her family at her robing ceremony at the Union League. At her right is her husband, Jon Saidel, Esq., former City Controller of Philadelphia. Photo by Joe Stivala

While on the campaign trail, part of Krasner’s sales pitch for radically upending Philadelphia’s criminal justice system was the promise of attracting national talent.

“If we are to judge by what’s happened in other jurisdictions, the office will become a tremendous magnet for new talent,” Krasner told the Intercept last year. “There are a ton of people who are either coming out of law school or who are mid-career who would love to work in a truly progressive DA’s office.”

Sources inside the DAO say Krasner will soon announce one of his first high-profile hires: former Dallas County conviction integrity unit chief Patricia Cummings.

Cummings left the Dallas CIU – which reviews old cases for wrongful convictions – last year and will now reportedly head up the Philly DAO’s similarly focused conviction-review unit. She is often cited for her work on the Michael Morton case – Morton, sentenced to life for a Texas homicide in the 1980s, was exonerated by new DNA evidence in 2011.

A prosecutor in that case was jailed and disbarred in 2013, while the revelations prompted the passage of the “Michael Morton Act,” requiring the disclosure to defense attorneys of all police reports and witness statements beyond simply those that show guilt.

Krasner has trotted out new interim administration figures, most notably new homicide unit boss Anthony Voci, Jr. – a onetime Philly ADA-turned defense attorney. Krasner also announced that Mike Lee, a defense attorney known for operating expungement clinics, will serve as interim head of the legislative unit. Former Schnader Harrison attorney Nancy Winkelman will act as interim supervisor of the department’s law division, which handles appeals as well as civil and federal litigation.

Voci’s hiring bumps ADA Brian Zarallo out of the top spot in the department’s homicide squad. Sources say Zarallo, who was among those rumored to be the Friday hit list of dismissed staffers, will instead be moved to oversee a revitalized major trials unit. That unit had been phased out under former DA Seth Williams.

Rumors continued to swirl within the office that more employees will soon be asked to resign or reapply for their jobs at a lower salary. The DAO has declined to comment on ongoing personnel changes.

FORMER Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad hit the campaign trail at Philly for Change’s monthly meetup at Tattooed Mom’s op South Street in her bid for the Democratic 1st Congressional District primary, along with her Campaign Manager Mike Szustak.

Brady Opponents Still Rolling out

The announcement by convicted former Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary, a West Philadelphian, that he will challenge Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.) in the spring primary, is the sort of opposition an incumbent dreams of facing.

Singletary was taken down by prosecutors for taking money to expunge traffic tickets. Perhaps that did not seem out of line in the climate of Traffic Court’s dying days, before Municipal Court took it over; and we lack the legal expertise to judge whether it was right or wrong.

But the fact Singletary promised motorcycle riders he would forgive their tickets if they voted for him was over the top. And the 1st Congressional District probably does not have enough motorcycle riders to swing this election.

Another minister, Fishtown resident Michele Lawrence, has registered a website, MicheleForCongress.com.

A graver threat to the incumbent is former Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad. Brady’s district includes Asian American neighborhoods where Ahmad is well connected.

In her latest campaign report, Ahmad is claiming $564,000 in donations. This is serious money.

Update on the 177th Free-for-All

Sean Kilkenny, a Democratic candidate in the 177th Legislative District, saw a strong turnout at his first fundraiser despite wintry weather, claiming 200 supporters at the Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 hall.

A member of the Operative Plasterers’ & Cement Masons’ Local 592, Kilkenny is in with the Building Trades Council and is expected soon to earn the backing of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

The Kilkenny campaign hopes to raise $300,000, enough to open a campaign office and to get the candidate’s message on television and via multiple mailings. He’s already been knocking doors.

Kilkenny is a Father Judge grad who lives in his lifelong home. He’s a 64th Ward committeeman, a St. Matthew CYO coach and a member of Ancient Order of Hibernians Local 39 and the Mayfair Civic Association.

Kilkenny describes himself as a “working-class guy” whose first job was as a busboy at Tony’s Place, when he was in 8th grade.

Kilkenny’s platform includes opposition to right-to-work and paycheck-protection bills. He wants to help young people who have student-loan debt. He favors a higher minimum wage and additional funding to hire police officers. He would fight the opioid epidemic and care for Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Brian Sims (D-S. Phila.) has endorsed Maggie Borski for the Democratic nomination in the 177th.

In a Facebook post, he called on 2018 to be the “Year of the Woman.”

Borski said she looks forward to working with Sims, a fellow graduate of Bloomsburg University. “I am honored to have Rep. Sims’ endorsement,” she said. “He is absolutely right that women are underrepresented in the General Assembly.”

We’ll see how far Sims’ influence travels in the 177th District primary. Total voters may not exceed 4,000. So the winner need not be the most-popular kid in the community; he or she may just head a clique that bothered to turn out to vote.

Democracy, it’s called.

While none of Center City Sims’ constituents live in the 177th, his financial backers, many with LGBTQ affiliations, have economic weight. Diving into a ferocious state rep race like this, financing could help.

Can Sims boost Borski in this way? His own reelection campaign may be under less pressure now that a prime rival, Ben Waxman, has taken the job of press secretary for Larry Krasner.

ON THE EVENING of Jan. 4, as a snowstorm pummeled Philadelphia, State Rep. Jared Solomon organized 50 volunteers from the World Mission Society Church of God to shovel the sidewalks for 100 elderly and disabled residents of the Northeast. Lawmakers are tasked primarily with making laws, secondarily with blocking laws; sometimes, though, they can actually clear the way.

12th Ward Contest Brews in Germantown

Jeff Templeton, 12th Ward committeeman, is running for Democratic ward leader. He has a mission – and he has a tool.

“I know that the 12th Ward doesn’t have a good reputation,” Templeton said. “In fact, it has a pretty negative one. I want to change that perception.”

Befitting the internet era, Templeton has created what may be a first: an entire website dedicated to a ward committee. Visit www.12thward.org to see what it looks like.

The purpose of this website is to provide transparency and a resource for committee people and their constituents.

The website will list ward executive staff along with their pictures. “I want to open up our ward meetings to the public,” Templeton said.

In addition, he averred, “People will get things they can use on it.” They will be able to print out their own absentee ballot. They can learn how to register to vote and where to vote, how to volunteer for election-day work. Candidates can use it to arrange a meeting in the ward. It will include a calendar of important dates as well as Democratic City Committee bylaws.

Davidson Honors Nichols on MLK Day

State Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware) will host a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15. Its star: Philadelphia Judge Carolyn Nichols, who is advancing to Superior Court – a big win for Philadelphia.

It’ll be at the Archer-Epler VFW Post 979, 6736 Marshall Road in Upper Darby. The event is open to the public but people must pre-register by calling Davidson’s office to secure their seat. There will be no tickets distributed at the door.

Look forward to a scrumptious brunch and the establishment of the first “Judge Carolyn H. Nichols Drum Major for Justice” award.

Nichols has deep family connections to Delaware County and is the highest-ranking Black female justice ever elected to the Pennsylvania bench.

As King was a champion of social justice and a fierce believer in inclusion, Davidson seeks to establish an event that honors diverse voices and activists in Delaware County.

“Our goal is to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and acknowledge the local civil rights heroes within our own community,” Davidson said. “This event serves as a perfect opportunity for us to come together as neighbors and to celebrate the rich diversity in our community. Economic and social justice today has sparked movements on a level that we have not seen since MLK’s day from #MeToo to #BLM to #DACA to the Women’s March movements, we are seeing a new level of passion around civic engagement and activism which has led to better and healthier communities in the past and could again in the future. That is what this country is all about. That is what the legacy of Dr. King is all about. I hope folks can join us in celebrating that.”

For more information, call Davidson’s office at (610) 259-7016.

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