POLS ON THE STREET: Virus May Change Pa. Politics Forever

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AS THE CITY rolled out plans to ensure free lunches and activities for children during the school closure, leaders inspected the takeout lunch delivery at Tilden Middle School in Elmwood: L-R, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Mayor Jim Kenney and Superintendent Dr. William Hite. Photo by Wendell Douglas

BY JOE SHAHEELI
Philadelphians wake up today in a new world.

City and State governments have drastically reduced their physical activities owing to the outbreak of coronavirus 19. Only vital street services remain in operation. All other offices are contactable chiefly by phone or internet. (Does that not make internet and cellular companies “essential”?)

Furthermore, governments are leaning hard on the private sector to do likewise by closing as many walk-in retail businesses as possible. Companies are encouraged to let employees work remotely and shoppers order online. For some this can work to a degree, for others not at all.

No one knows what the trajectory of this pandemic will look like even a week from now. Mayor Jim Kenney aptly called it “uncharted territory.” But we all know it’s going to hurt.

A GALA OPENING for the re-election campaign of State Sen. Larry Farnese was well attended at Broad & Mifflin Streets. Farnese is supported by, from L, Mike Boyle, Esq., 5th Ward leader; Bill Greenlee, 15th Ward leader; State Sen. Katie Muth; and Robert Brady, Party chairman. Photo courtesy of Bill Brady

Some interesting longterm effects of this crisis may prove beneficial, however. It will give most of Pennsylvania a crash course in working from home that will force hundreds of thousands to learn how to produce via internet what they were used to doing in shared personal settings.

Leading the way will be the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which will practice voting remotely this week in order to deal with coronavirus safely. But if the experiment works, lawmakers may learn how to spend less time on the tedious trail between Harrisburg and their home districts, thereby upping their efficiency. Let us cross our fingers.

Another idea whose time has come comes from State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast). He has proposed that the Commonwealth deal with the pandemic by using its newly enacted powers to mail out ballots to all registered voters, encouraging absentee-ballot voting by mail with a prepaid return envelope for the April 28 primary.

Counting would surely be a burden on county election boards and could delay reporting of results. But honestly, who cares? For most of our nation’s history, counting votes in large elections took days, not hours. It is more important to get the results right than fast.

The prepaid return envelopes would cost something. But so will gearing up the polling stations for physical voting in the age of coronavirus. Get used to this sort of spending.

PennPIRG, a broad-spectrum progressive policy-advocacy shop, came out for Boyle’s measure, writing, “The continued spread of the coronavirus disease poses a real threat to our democracy, as it may significantly reduce voter turnout in the spring primary and the general election in November. Boyle’s amendment would further encourage voters to use these options while coronavirus makes it unsafe to vote in person at polling locations.”

Campaigns Keep Running

People must still run for office despite coronavirus.

CAMPAIGNING for re-election means making an impression on dogs and their owners (not to mention cats). State Rep. Mary Isaacson appreciates pet owners who care for and rescue animals in distress. She was seen during a campaign walk through her district. Photo from Isaacson’s Facebook page

Bernie Sanders announced last Friday he was opening five new campaign offices across Pennsylvania. They will be in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Allentown.

“Pennsylvania voters have the power to move this movement forward, and we’re fighting for every vote over the next six weeks,” said Bernie 2020 Pennsylvania State Coordinator Brooke Adams. “We have seen a huge surge of momentum from Pennsylvanians to join this movement and get out the vote for Bernie.”

Sanders volunteers have already hosted nearly 1,400 events statewide.

In the 2nd Senatorial District, Nikil Saval decried the impact of coronavirus on hospitality workers. “On Friday, I was at the offices of UNITE HERE, where I learned that an overwhelming majority of their members – workers in the hotels, stadiums, and the airport – have been laid off. Mass layoffs are happening to workers across industries, across the state, many of whom have subsequently lost access to healthcare. I am therefore calling on our State to expand unemployment benefits,” he said.

In the 188th Legislative race, Rick Krajewski announced he would shift to phonebank campaigning. He also called for 30 days’ paid sick leave for all workers.

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