The silence is deafening–our broken politics and the schools

Under tremendous financial pressure that is the result of recession and drastic cutbacks in funding from Harrisburg, the SRC is about to blow up our school system. The SRC plan reshuffles the chairs on the Titanic but as far as I can see does little to stop the ship from sinking. They Mayor tells us we have no choice (and by the way, support my property tax proposal.) And so far, not one politician in this city, not one member of Council, not one State Representative or State Senator has made a public statement about this devastating news. Why not?

Will Mayor Nutter lead a movement to save our schools?

Michael Nutter talked a great deal about education during his reelection campaign. His inaugural speech focused on education. He said he wanted to take on responsibility for the schools. But today the SRC announced that the School District in Philadelphia is going to be drastically downsized. Many schools will be closed. More students will attend charter schools. In a school system that has already suffered devastating cutbacks, even if some of these changes make for a more efficient use of resources, the overall consequences for our kids cannot be good. None of the suggested administrative changes deal with the fundamental problem–we don’t have the resources to provide our kids with the minimal requirements of a decent education. We don’t have money for enough quality teachers, teacher training, school books, and counselors. And the financial problem we face comes from Harrisburg and Governor Corbett’s relentless attack on school funding. That has me … Continue reading

Steve Coleman and Five Elements in Philly

I saw Steve Coleman and  Five Elements last night at Johnny Brenda’s. It was an extraordinary performance by Coleman along with Jonathan Finlayson trumpet; Miles Okazaki, guitar; an Damion Reid, drums. I hadn’t seen Coleman perform live in five or six years at his last performance with a larger group at the Painted Bride.  

About that “sex offender vs kids” flier

I’ve been a little perplexed about that odd mailer that the Brian Sims campaign has circulated, accusing Babette Josephs of siding with “sex offenders” instead of “Philadelphia’s Children,” partly because I’ve never thought much about those laws and partly because it struck me as a strange issue to raise. So I’ve been doing a little research on the subject. And what I’ve found is disappointing, both with regard to Brian’s policy views and his political acumen. The only clue to the vote of Babette’s that Brian is criticizing is a citation of a 2006 Daily News article which does not mention any legislation at all. Instead, it quotes Lynn Abraham attacking Babette for such a vote while endorsing her opponent in the Democratic primary that year. So it is entirely unclear from the flier what vote the Sims campaign is criticizing and so far, I haven’t been able track down … Continue reading

Send Tim Holden packing on Tuesday

Voters in the 17th Congressional District in Pennsylvania have an opportunity to do something really important, not just for themselves, but for the entire country: defeat Congressman Tim Holden. who represents the Republican wing of the Democratic party.   It is obviously important to the 17th District to have a member of Congress who actually support their interests, not those of the corporate rich. And it’s important to the Democratic Party and the country as a whole to rid ourselves of members of Congress who fail to do the minimal in standing up for the ideals of our party. Defeating such members will send a critical message throughout the Democratic Caucus: Democratic members of Congress are accountable to us. And, as I explain below, defeating Tim Holden will remove from office a whining, gutless, dishonest example of the American politician at his worst.

Lighten up–and Keep Fighting–with Babette Josephs in the 182nd

I had my say about the 182nd State House race a few weeks so ago and hadn’t planned on writing anything else. But the recent controversy over a mailer sent out by the Josephs campaign—and even more a piece written in response to it by Tom Ferrick—led me to think a bit more about what we progressives should want in a Democratic State Representative at this point in our history. There really isn’t much to say about the controversy over the flier except that everyone ought to lighten up. The Sims camp says that it is unfair because it accuses Brian of holding right wing views he does not hold. But anyone familiar with the issues, or rather non-issues, of the campaign, and who has any sense of humor at all would recognize that the flier is put forward tongue in cheek. Everyone knows that there are no real issue … Continue reading

Cohen and Josephs for State Representative

There are some difficult State Representative races for progressives in the city this year. In two of them, long time advocates of progressive causes, Babette Josephs in the 182nd  and Mark Cohen in the 202nd, are in races with younger and ambitious challengers, Brian Sims and Numa St. Louis. How do you choose between candidates who have no differences on issues? There are few if any differences on policy between the incumbents and the challengers. Babette and Mark simply have the best voting records in Harrisburg. (When I ran my own race as a challenger and was looking to find questionable votes taken by my opponent, Rosita Youngblood, I quickly compared her votes to those of Cohen and Josephs. There were many differences and, in each case, Cohen and Josephs had taken the progressive view.) So when there are no issue differences, how do you make up your mind in … Continue reading

Stacie Ritter, Obamacare, and Me

This is a story mostly about what Obamacare means to my colleague and friend Stacie Ritter. But is not just a story about a woman whose family has and will continue to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. It’s also about how the struggle for health care for her family has changed Stacie and made her into one of the most important health care activists in Pennsylvania and in the country as a whole. And it’s also a story about me, because in my four years of work as a health care activist and as Director of Health Care for American Now in Pennsylvania no one has inspired me more than Stacie. Meeting Stacie Ritter I met Stacie almost by chance in early September 2009. She was scheduled to speak in support of health care reform in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at an event organized by the premier labor and progressive radio … Continue reading