POLS ON THE STREET: One AG Takes on Another

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COMMITTEE of Seventy hosted a panel discussion featuring two illustrious out-of-state governors: Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican John Kasich of Ohio. Among attendees at the affairs were, L-R, State Sen. Anthony Williams, Melissa Heller and Philadelphia Regional Port Authority Chairman Jerry Sweeney. Photo by Wendell Douglas

BY JOE SHAHEELI
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro does not shrink from the national spotlight. Last week, he took on his counterpart in the nation’s capital, Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed to replace U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general is unlawful, it ignores vacancy succession statutes, and it violates Congress’ controlling statutory designation of the Deputy Attorney General as the Acting Attorney General,” Shapiro announced.

“Yesterday, I led a coalition of 15 State attorneys general to file an amicus brief seeking to stop Whitaker from exercising the authority of the United States attorney general.”

“The U.S. Attorney General takes many actions that fundamentally affect the lives of Pennsylvania residents, and my office works closely with the Department of Justice on a daily basis. Therefore, Pennsylvania and the other states joining the brief have a compelling interest in the Justice Department’s ability to work effectively and consistently under the rule of law.

AT U.S. SEN. Bob Casey’s reception during the Pennsylvania Society weekend in New York City were, L-R, State Rep. Donna Bullock, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Salvation Army head. For complete PA Society photocoverage, see this week’s Photogallery on our website. Photo by Bonnie Squires

“All actions taken by an Acting Attorney General who is legally ineligible to serve could be vulnerable to challenge, which creates grave risks for Pennsylvanians and our justice system.”

Shapiro’s legal action will surely have to prevail in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Trump has strong backing. But it may do better in federal appellate courts and may also serve to paralyze Whitaker temporarily.

It’s hard to say who will prevail in the end. But we are safe in saying that Shapiro’s legal reputation is higher than Whitaker’s.

Lowery Brown Gets off Lightly

State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.) did relatively well when she was sentenced for corruption last week. She was given probation and ordered to repay the $4,000 in bribes she took from an informant who was working with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

PHILADELPHIA AFL-CIO held its annual holiday party at the Sheraton City Center Hotel on Tuesday. Councilwoman Helen Gym shared a moment with AFL-CIO Philadelphia Council President Pat Eiding.

Lowery Brown has said she will appeal. But this outcome was not so bad for her. She may lose a State pension and health benefits. But she has established a worthy track record of constituent service in her hardscrabble district and will be free to seek employment based on that record.

GOP: to Commission or not to Commission?

Gov. Tom Wolf’s timely announcement to appoint a bipartisan commission on redistricting reform puts Harrisburg Democrats in a tight spot.

If they participate in the commission, they will likely find that most Pennsylvanians, even many Republicans, don’t like the idea of gerrymandering and would prefer a system with at least a stab at fairness. And gerrymandering is an art their current General Assembly leadership is invested in.

TEAMMATES from Local 98 at the luncheon were Jack O’Neill and Councilman Bobby Henon.

But if they don’t participate, then their Democratic colleagues have announced they surely will. And it shouldn’t be hard for Wolf to find some Republican surrogates to sit in the place of actual party leadership.

The wiser course would be for the State GOP to grit their teeth and join in, hoping to shape the eventual narrative in their favor.

Kay Kyungsun Yu Goes for Judgeship

Attorney Kay Kyungsun Yu came out in public to pursue a goal she has been pursuing in public for many months: to win a judgeship in the 2019 Democratic primary.

KAY KYUNGSUN YU

“My story is similar to that of so many Philadelphia families,” Yu wrote in her announcement, “one of resilience, courage, and perseverance. Since receiving deportation notices for my family in middle school, I have understood the power of the law to shape all of our lives. Through navigating the immigration system, I found the fuel to not only serve as my own advocate but also help others find their own voices because I know that we are all at our best when we feel empowered, valued, and connected.

“Now more than ever, Philadelphia needs diverse representation, and I would be honored to serve as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s first Korean American judge. If elected, I pledge to listen intently, consider wisely, and decide fairly – all in pursuit of equal access to justice for all.”

We prefer to downplay ethnicity in this newspaper because all Americans are or should be equal in political rights regardless of their ethnicity.

But Yu is one more sign of the emerging political importance of Philadelphia’s Korean American community. It actually dates back 100 years, thanks to Quaker involvement in the concerns of Koreans, who were being brutally colonized by the Japanese Empire at that time.

Today, Korean American Philadelphians matter politically. They have two City Council members out of 17. It is inevitable that one of their lawyers will someday wind up on the bench.

Black Clergy Decries Harm from Soda Tax

Nearly two years after the city’s sugary beverage tax went into effect, 20 members of Philadelphia’s Black clergy are calling for its repeal over concerns that the revenue-generator is regressive and disproportionately taxing African Americans and the poor.

“I don’t see how the tax, as it is constructed, can really effectively do what it is intending to do. We think it needs to be repealed and reconceptualized,” said the Rev. Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity.

The Philadelphia pastor said the 1.5-cent-an-ounce levy on sugary beverages, including diet soda, was having unintended consequences by saddling people of color, the poor and senior citizens with higher grocery bills, while dips in soda sales were hurting small neighborhood business owners.

“The way that it has worked out is that it seems to be hurting more than it’s helping,” Broadnax said.

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