The Kenney win is a victory for and by the Public Education movement

It is a bottom-up, people’s victory that included the exercise of Black political power

On May 19th, the voters of Philadelphia went to the polls and elected former City Council member Jim Kenney as the Democratic Party’s nominee for mayor, making it likely that he will become the city’s next mayor.

Kenney’s 30 point victory over State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams exceeded even the 27-point lead indicated by a poll released one week before the race.  Ultimately, in a six-person race, Kenney emerged with 56 percent of the vote, a clear mandate.

PublicEdPCAPS

The results represent a turning point for Philadelphia’s Public Education movement, which dealt a decisive blow to privateers, by incubating a broad alliance between labor unions and progressives, and through backing a mayoral candidate that while white, could credibly claim to represents the interests of African-American Philadelphians.

Some pundits, including Dave Davies in his recent piece “Ten reasons for Kenney’s improbable win” claim that the issue of Education “didn’t matter that much.” He cites the lack of substantive debate over the issue at the many mayoral forums.

However that analysis misses two key points. The first is that the issue of public education being what occupied voter’s minds is what allowed for Kenney’s diverse coalition to hold.  It’s an electoral coalition that would not have held if other issues were the driving force. Second, Davies incorrectly portrays what has fundamentally been a power struggle, as only a debate between ideas.

The growing popular support of the public education movement forced the Williams campaign to retreat from what has been State Senator Williams hallmark issue: advocacy of Charter Schools. The Williams campaign looking to change the subject paired with significant coverage of wealthy suburban financiers seeking to influence the election shaped the perception of Anthony Hardy Williams. He didn’t appear as a good faith actor who believed Charter expansion was necessary to provide education to underserved communities. He instead appeared like an agent of privatization.

This offers a key lesson for the public education movement that we will get to later.

The victory for the public education movement was underscored by the election of fierce public education activist Helen Gym – who herself had a back and forth with Williams during the final weeks of the campaign and by the winning “Yes” vote on ballot question one. Voters via non-binding resolution voted to abolish the School Reform Commission (SRC) a key demand of the public education movement.

 

A win – and a challenge – for the public education movement

The Jim Kenney victory represents a second win for the public education movement, following the November 2014 victory of Gov. Tom Wolf.  Wolf won in a landslide over Gov. Tom Corbett in the 2014 race for governor, in which public education was the most important issue.  Corbett’s policy of education austerity, including draconian spending cuts for public schools, universities and social welfare programs, sought to balance budgets on the backs of children.

The Philadelphia school district—with its share of children from poor and working families and communities of color—bore the brunt of educational austerity from Harrisburg.  Philly sustained one third of the statewide public education cuts.  These School defunding measures were part of Corbett’s agenda of public school privatization using charter schools and voucher advocacy.  Ultimately, the education cuts, which took place alongside abundant corporate tax giveaways, were a major source of anger for Pennsylvania voters.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia public school system, underfunded, marginalized and saddled with a state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), closed 23 schools and laid off thousands of teachers, administrators, counselors and support staff.  Wolf succeeded in capitalizing on voter disenchantment, and was swept into office with a mandate to solve the education crisis and restore funding for schools.  Further, Wolf, who did not move to the center or to the right to get elected, and defeated the corporatist New Democrat Allyson Schwartz in the primary, said publicly the SRC should be abolished.

The emergence of education as the most important issue in the minds of the public is unprecedented, and speaks to broader themes including the crucial role of government, providing an opportunity for people to unite around a progressive agenda.

In addition, the Philadelphia mayoral race has brought further attention to the issue of education reform and “school choice”, and a roadmap for the public education movement.

The public education movement must modify its approach and clarify its message if it is to achieve long-term success. In the past, the public education movement has railed against charter schools, but the strategy has failed in large part because it’s been paired with an often blind defense of the status quo. White middle class liberals and teachers unions, who are against vouchers and charter schools, have failed to understand or speak to the unfulfilled promise of Brown v. Board of Education, and the sad conditions of the public schools in communities of color.  Through Jim Crow style underfunding and poor leadership, these schools are doing a disservice to African-American, Latino, & Asian children, and are viewed as part of the cradle to prison pipeline, hence the gravitation towards charter schools.

Although there is disagreement within the black community, black Democrats support vouchers and charter schools by significant margins.

However, while many black working-class parents see “school choice” as what is best for the child, they will reject “school privatization” with the hard learned understanding that the implication is their children will be boxed out. In the past, the public education movement has been reluctant to rely on such messaging, fearing it would play into the demonization of teachers or perhaps be too broad or complex for people to comprehend.

The public education movement that brings Kenney into office however is a departure from this old losing approach. Progressive Philly Rising itself was founded by grassroots organizations who decided to back John Hanger’s gubernatorial primary bid, precisely because he was willing to say aloud that we are up against a right-wing attempt at privatization.

One fundamental pillar of the movement has been the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS). ). It’s a coalition that includes the Teacher’s Union (PFT), and SEIU, & UNITE HERE who represent other schools workers. It includes student organizations like Youth United for Change (YUC) and Philadelphia Student Union (PSU). And it includes parent and community organizations like Action United and BP-SOS. As a result of progressive leadership facilitating the input of this diverse coalition, PCAPS has not conceptualized the education fight narrowly rather it’s advocated for policies that address poverty and mass incarceration and called for schools to be hubs of community life.

Following the police killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, PFT President Jerry Jordan along with Hiram Rivera and Rapheal Randall, the respective executive directors of PSU and YUC penned an Op-Ed, “We assert that Black Lives Matter” tying the Black Lives Matter struggle to the struggle for Public Education.

And we’ve seen the emergence of the Working Educators Caucus (WE) within the Teacher’s Union. This caucus has supported and pressured the Teacher’s Union to be better and is modeled of off the Chicago Teacher’s Union that has found immense success in involving students, parents and the broader community towards a Social Justice Unionism.

The takeaway is that the Public Education movement wins when it conceives of itself broadly as a progressive force, taking on racism and poverty, fighting for everyone to receive a quality education and fighting against privatization.

 

The Labor – Progressive alliance

A political terrain shaped by the struggle for Public Education and a Labor Movement that planned in order to be united is what allowed for the key to Kenney’s victory: assembling a broad winning coalition. It included nearly all of Philadelphia’s demographic groups, the majority of labor unions, a high level of support from African-Americans, and progressives.  Further, his positions in favor of immigrant rights, LGBT rights, and marijuana decriminalization made his candidacy credible.  That New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio came out in support of Kenney underscores the political potency of progressives and the labor movement united as a winning bloc.

And as such its also important we recognize the threat to that winning bloc: Philadelphia’s anti-union media.

The Philadelphia media has been rampant in its anti-unionism. Some of it seemed designed to place a wedge between unions and progressives. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s endorsement of Helen Gym qualified she will be good

“provided she maintains some daylight between herself and her union supporters”

Its less than kosher endorsement of Williams ended with

“Because the unions backing Kenney already wield too much influence, The Inquirer’s choice for the Democratic nomination is ANTHONY WILLIAMS.”

Their vitriol for labor unions was made all the more visible, when you realize they had to pick a reason to oppose Kenney, after being told to by their owner. One is left wondering if their animus towards labor unions is a jealousy towards workers who get to negotiate with ownership, not simply fall in line.

Philadelphia Magazine’s “…No-Bullshit Mayoral Election Guide” guide called Kenney the candidate of “Big Labor” – well, allow Progressive Philly Rising to be among those calling BULLSHIT!

Philadelphia remains of major American cities, the one with the highest poverty rate, and there is nothing that has been demonstrated to address economic inequality more than the power of labor unions.

Union-Inequality

This chart shows that as the rate of Unionization has declined, the rate of income going to the top 1% has increased.

 

The anti-union media and the Williams campaign both had a vested interest in Johnny Doc and “Big Labor” being represented as an equally illegitimate force as the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group (SIG), whose principals poured money in to the American Cities PAC – a PAC founded to support Williams.

Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik, and Jeff Yass of SIG, were treated with kid gloves, simply as “school choice” advocates rather than financial traders who stood to profit from the opening up of a new “education market.”

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This Philadelphia Magazine graphic (to the left) shows the equivalency wasn’t true in terms of financial support. However the more fundamental reason the proposition isn’t true is because labor unions are worker organizations with democratically elected leadership, who are fighting for the folks at the bottom to get our fair share of the pie, and have voice at the job and in society. They are funded through pooling the resources of working-class people, and that money is used towards fighting for our shared interest.

For those of us who hope Jim Kenney will govern with people across the city in mind, facilitating people in every neighborhood’s ability to exercise agency over our collective future, there is no partner more conducive to that form of governance than Organized Labor.

We’ve seen the image of a city that the Chamber of Commerce believes in during Mayor Nutter’s term, now let us now see the city that Librarians, Teachers, Bus Drivers, Hotel Workers, Nurses, Taxi Drivers, and Sanitation workers can build.

This mayoral primary’s progressive outcome, like most other progressive advances starts at the bottom. In addition to the Public Education movement, the era of #BlackLivesMatter and mass incarceration has challenged lawmakers to assess their opinions on race and criminal justice issues, and certainly Kenney, who has departed from the “tough on crime” views often associated with his South Philly white working class base, is no exception.

A Kenney victory is advantageous for progressives, but the struggle continues. Electoral coalitions often become governing coalitions and there are potentially troublesome components of the Kenney electoral coalition. One is Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, under the leadership of John McNesby.  McNesby has defended problem cops and suggested that anti-police brutality protestors are in league with “professional hate-mongers” and “media-fueled mob rule and sensationalism.”  Another supporter that should be on our watch list is Phil Rinaldi of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, operator of the South Philly oil refinery and a member of Kenney’s policy committee.  Rinaldi wants to build a large pipeline and turn the city into a global energy hub. If this can be done in a way that doesn’t make Philadelphia a staple of the pollution economy or exacerbate long patterns of environmental racism, it remains to be seen. Also solidly in Kenney’s camp were the politically prized “New Philadelphian” – the incoming group of disproportionately white and middle to upper-middle class. They were with Kenney for the progressive reason that they believe in Public Education, but as a pool, they are often too quick to demand a city that suffers from deep poverty and institutional racism, be responsive instead to the needs and demands of this incoming privileged class. They are for example a political base for the 10 year tax abatement, a policy that may attract newcomers, but at the expense of the stability and power of long-term working-class residents. Another way to understand them is a potential political base for the neo-liberal agenda of business interests marked by Matt Ruben in his piece “Insider: 5 Election Day Lessons for Progressives.

 

The Kenney victory involved an expression of black working-class political power.

Corean Holloway, is an African-American woman who grew up in South Carolina, she moved to Philadelphia decades ago to be with her husband. She works in the Laundry Department at the Radisson Warwick Hotel, she’s a union committee leader of the Housekeeping Department and on the leadership body of Unite Here Local 274, a diverse but majority Black labor union that represents hotel workers and stadium workers, and endorsed Kenney.

In her time at the Radisson she’s lead countless efforts of workers standing up for themselves, sometimes against racism. She sent chills through a worker meeting in the cafeteria by saying aloud the n-word, so that everyone could hear what a restaurant manager had called the cooks. Management had refused to fire the manager before that day, but they retreated from her righteous indignation, and dismissed him immediately following that meeting.

This is to say that “Ms. Corean” as her co-workers call her, is not under an illusion that the election of President Obama generated an era free of anti-Black racism.

She’s a woman who understands her interests and after hearing a union brother’s concerns about the racialized nature of the Mayor’s race, she responded with clarity. In her slow and prideful South Carolina borne drawl she said “I told Clarence…” an African-American co-worker from her department, “…cause he was going to vote for Williams., I told him ‘one thing we’re not going to do – we’re not going to go by color, we’re going to vote for who’s best for us as a Union.” And Clarence, who trusted Ms. Corean and for good reason responded, “I’m glad you told me.”

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Unite Here member-leader Corean Holloway (bottom right) appearing on literature supporting Jim Kenney for Mayor

In the case of Jim Kenney, critics point to his relationship with John Dougherty of the Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the sway the union leader could have over Kenney.

However, it was black labor leader Henry Nicholas of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees 1199C, and not Dougherty, who led the labor movement in uniting behind Kenney, with “Johnny Doc” a relatively reluctant latecomer.  To paint Dougherty as the muscle behind Kenney is to disregard the grassroots, working-class black agency and coalescing of black interests that were a part of Kenny’s winning alliance.

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Henry Nicholas (far right) standing with Kenney immediately following the announcement of his victory.

 

In addition, the support by the Northwest Coalition of black middle-class politicos—including state Rep. Dwight Evans, Stephen Kinsey and Cherelle Parker, and City Councilmembers Marian Tasco and Cindy Bass—was a boost to the Kenney campaign.  In the final days before the election, City Council president Darrell L. Clarke also endorsed Kenney.  The Kenney campaign succeeded capturing large swaths of the black vote, primarily in the North and Northwest (Williams prevailed in the Southwest and parts of West Philadelphia).  Further, many African-Americans were dissatisfied with Williams as a candidate, and his conservative positions on school privatization left him susceptible to claims that his policies were hurtful to the black community.

The unexpected role of race in this mayoral campaign—the capacity of black voters to vote their interests rather than their skin color— continues to call into question the distinction between the interests of the current black political class in this city, and the interests of the majority of African-Americans.

With Jim Kenney succeeding in the role of working class protagonist and now likely on his way to the mayor’s office, progressives and labor have demonstrated an ability to unite on the grassroots level for the sake of political empowerment.  Kenney won, but the victory goes to the people.

 

The purpose of politics

CoverWe are excited to bring to you Part 5/5 – the final installment of W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s policy journal, “Goode Progress”

 Special THANK YOU to Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. for entrusting us with the release of this prolific account of his time in City Council.

And thank you to Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris and Techbook Online for their outstanding coverage of this release.

***

Diversity in City Contracting

The Minority Business Enterprise Council (MBEC) was created in the early 1980s before the city had elected its first African-American mayor. Before its creation, businesses owned by people of color and women received next to nothing in terms of city contracting dollars used to purchase goods and services. There was no diversity in city contracting, business owned by white males received over 99 percent of purchasing dollars. Not much was changed by the original MBEC ordinance until it was used as a diversity tool by my father’s administration, after he was elected mayor.

Mayor W. Wilson Goode, Sr. (1984-1992) was responsible for more contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses – over $500 million – than all of his predecessors combined. He set the bar higher for his successors, but neither Ed Rendell nor John Street had a passion for diversity in city contracting. Their track records speak for themselves. In fact, one disparity study conducted related to their tenures showed that almost 98 percent of purchasing dollars was still being spent with businesses owned by white males.

Coming into office, almost two decades after the MBEC ordinance, one of my primary legislative goals was to increase city contract participation for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs). I was given an early opportunity to promote that agenda with the construction of new sports stadiums for football and baseball. Before City Council gave final approval to the stadium projects, aggressive goals were set for increased DBE participation. But, there were no such goals set for city contracting by Mayor Street.

The biggest challenge to expanding DBE participation in city contracting was simply getting basic information. If we couldn’t even receive accurate data on current participation levels, and on a consistent basis, how could we expand participation? The situation became so ridiculous that MBEC testified at budget hearings without offering any new data, year after year, claiming that it was still awaiting the completion of a disparity study that began under the Rendell administration and was not yet completed. The strategy appeared to be that by withholding information, MBEC would avoid any analysis of the administration’s track record. In 2003, during an election year for mayor, City Council took legislative action by approving a new ordinance to replace the original MBEC ordinance. The mayor signed the legislation into law in a public ceremony. After he was re-elected, the Law Department, under his supervision, issued an opinion that the ordinance was invalid because City Council had exceeded its authority under the Home Rule Charter. In that opinion, it was illegal for us to craft legislation on city procurement procedures because that was the exclusive purview of the mayor and his administration.

City Council battled the administration for several years over the matter, still not receiving consistent information on DBE contract participation. In 2006, I decided to introduce legislation that would change the Home Rule Charter. The charter amendment would not take any procurement power away from the executive branch, but instead, it would add responsibilities to the executive branch. The amendment would require the Finance Director to issue an annual report that analyzes DBE participation and sets participation goals for the next fiscal year. The legislation was unanimously approved by council on June 1, 2006 and the charter amendment was approved by the voters.

Through City Council’s pressure on the Street Administration, and the charter change approved by voters, DBE participation has risen above 20 percent of total contract dollars but remained stagnant under the Nutter administration. The annual disparity study and goal-setting requirement at least offers transparency in terms of diversity in city contracting.

CONCLUSION

There is no question that “I do the type of work that I do” because I believe that there should be a direct connection between the political empowerment of disadvantaged people and the creation of economic opportunities for them. That’s simply what I understand as the purpose for politics.

I have been constantly encouraged to write about my legislative and policy work by my father and others – to document how interconnected that work has been over the last 15 years – not just locally, but nationally.

In the Spring of 2012, I travelled to Washington, D.C. to meet with a dozen City Council members from across the country at the Center for American Progress – all of us were “self-identified” progressive lawmakers. Within six months, we formed Local Progress, the national municipal policy network.

Within two years, Local Progress grew to over 350 local elected officials representing municipalities in 40 states. Our membership includes the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Seattle; a majority of the San Francisco City Council; and strong blocks of the city councils in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle. We have an active 15-member Board and I serve as a Founding Board Member. I also serve as National Chairman of the Local Progress on Good Jobs Campaign.

I mention all of this because our local action is, in fact, part of a growing national movement to address income inequality and other progressive issues – and Philadelphia has a leadership role in that movement. That’s Goode Progress!

Local Progress

Government for and by us (Part 4/5 of “Goode Progress”)

CoverWe are excited to bring to you Part 4/5 of W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s policy journal, “Goode Progress”

 

 


Philadelphia Minimum Wage Standard

I have introduced over 140 bills in City Council – and about ninety percent of them have already been signed into law. But 2004 was not a very successful year in my legislative career. Only three of the seven bills that I introduced became law which is the reason that I compromised on the KPC Tax Credit. The unsuccessful year came after all eighteen of the bills that I previously introduced had become law, including one that required a veto override. I began to reevaluate my work – but things got worse before they got better.

In spring of 2005, I saw a news report that a man named “James Goode” was arrested for holding a woman hostage and beating her in the head with a hammer while on a crack binge. There were a few people named “James Goode” in our family but only one that fit the description. I called my immediate family to find out if it could be him. No one was sure. Then, I received a call from the police commissioner, Sylvester Johnson, who asked to visit me in my office. I knew what that meant. The commissioner informed me that it was one of my cousins who had been arrested. I was stunned.

It was not difficult for many people to understand how something like this could happen because the crack epidemic has impacted so many families throughout Philadelphia. Yet, it was still hard for me to reconcile how my family was, in many cases, leading divergent lifestyles. I decided that I should seclude myself for awhile – and rethink my legislative agenda. I took the first day to review my work from my first term, as well as my original goals. I concluded that my legislative track record was substantial with regard to community economic development. But I was still practicing “trickle-down” economics, even if the “trickle-down” starting point for me was at the community level and in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Other than the New Jobs Tax Credit – there was nothing that I had done that was directly linked to opportunities for individuals. So I then focused on the New Jobs Tax Credit program, and thought, what else within it could be expanded to create new opportunities for the individuals who are most at-risk?

I eventually had a breakthrough – I realized that the job quality provision of the program needed to be extended beyond the tax credit. The tax credit only applied to jobs that paid at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage. I decided that a similar standard should be used for other jobs supported by local tax dollars. The idea eventually developed into the 21st Century Minimum Wage Standard Ordinance, unanimously approved by City Council and signed into law by the mayor on May 26, 2005.

I spent my time, in seclusion at home, researching various models of living wage legislation. After learning from those models, I began to outline my legislation, mostly based upon the Sonoma, CA model that I found on the Living Wage Resource Center

Website. The site was developed by ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). I then forwarded my draft to city council’s technical staff to have it put in proper form for introduction.

When I returned for the next council meeting, I was ready to introduce the legislation, but I wanted it to be co-sponsored by every member of council. I was concerned about the new measure because a previous attempt to enact living wage legislation failed during the 1990s, before I was a member of council.

After the legislation was co-introduced and sponsored by all seventeen members of council, I quickly arranged for separate meetings with the mayor, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and ACORN.

The Chamber blocked legislation in the 1990s, in part, because the federal minimum wage had just been raised. Almost a decade later, the state and federal minimum wage had not moved above $5.15 per hour. The local standard, set at 150 percent, would make $7.72 the minimum hourly wage for covered employees in Philadelphia. The legislation was crafted, setting the local standard at 150 percent of the state or federal minimum wage (whichever is higher), taking into consideration the changing political dynamics in both the state and federal legislatures. After amendments were negotiated with various stakeholders, we were ready for the hearing. The legislation was referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee which I chaired since 2004. The Chamber did not testify at the hearing but both ACORN and the Street Administration testified in favor of the amended version.

WilsonGoodeTweet

W. Wilson Goode tweet from May 4th, 2015 *PPR Add*

On June 19, 2014, over nine years later, Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved my New Living Wage Standard Bill permanently raising the city’s minimum wage standard which was then set at $10.88 per hour. The new standard requires that the employer shall pay each employee an hourly wage equal to at least the higher of: (a) 150% of the federal minimum wage or (b) $12.00 multiplied by the CPI Multiplier.

The CPI Multiplier shall be calculated by the Director of Finance for wages to be paid on or after January 1 of each year by dividing the most recently published Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) All Items Index, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as of January 1 of each such year, by the most recently published CPI-U as of January 1, 2015.

The employers that shall comply with the minimum compensation standards established by the proposed ordinance are: (1) The City of Philadelphia, including all its agencies, departments and offices; (2) For-profit Service Contractors, which receive or are subcontractors at any tier on contract(s) for $10,000 or more from the City in a twelve-month period, with annual gross receipts of more than $1,000,000; (3)Non-profit Service Contractors which receive or are subcontractors at any tier on contract(s) from the City of more than $100,000 in a twelve-month period; (4) Recipients of City leases, concessions, or franchises, or subcontractors or subrecipients thereof at any tier ; (5) City financial aid recipients. Compliance shall be required for a period of five (5) years following receipt of aid; and (6) Public agencies which receive contract(s) for $10,000 or more from the City in a twelve-month period.

The new ordinance requires that every City contract, lease, license, concession agreement, franchise agreement or agreement for financial aid with an employer described in the bill shall contain provisions requiring the employer to comply with the requirements as they exist on the date when the employer entered into its agreement with the City or when such agreement is amended. Such agreement provisions shall require the

employer to promptly provide to the City documents and information verifying its compliance with the requirements, and provide for sanctions for non-compliance. Such agreement provisions shall also require the employer to notify each of its affected employees with regard to the wages that are required to be paid. Such agreement provisions shall also require the employer to pass along the requirements to subcontractors and subrecipients at any tier.

The employers must also offer comparable health benefits to full-time employees and up to 56 hours of earned sick leave as the minimum benefits standard.

Next week:  The purpose of politics- Sections: “Diversity in City Contracting” & “Conclusion”

Not a campaign prop

Police brutality is a real thing.  It is the lived experience of far too many Philadelphians, and it continues well beyond election seasons with a cost far greater than any campaign TV ad.

The positions of city government candidates on addressing police brutality should decide elections; however, we should not tolerate a political opportunism that stands to serve a particular candidate yet lacks the depth needed to serve the people they are supposed to represent if elected.

AttackAd visualThis is our concern about the TV ad the Williams’ campaign released yesterday.  It highlights words that Jim Kenney made in 1997, in which Kenney expresses disdain for the notion that police use of force should be limited; a position that Kenney has since disavowed.

From Ferguson to Baltimore to Philadelphia, our nation is collectively uncovering an epidemic of police violence and misconduct directed toward people of color, and African-Americans in particular.

Consequently, we should be considering all available reforms of police policy and the broader criminal justice system, but we absolutely must keep our eyes on the prize: we are in the fight of our lives against institutional racism.

PhillyVoice

To win that fight will require all kinds of engagement. It will require the dedicated activists and organizers of all hues who speak out from the street, and it will require a sympathetic majority to make their feelings known at the ballot box.  It will require winning people who are directly affected by police brutality to the notion that change is possible.  And it will require winning those who are not directly affected, to the notion that this isn’t an injustice they can stay silent about.

For those of us committed to fighting racism and taking on criminal justice reform well beyond this election, we are not served well by Anthony Hardy Williams’ recent campaign ad.

It is not a choice to recognize the potential of this moment and engage the city in a much-needed discussion about race and racism.  Yet, it is instead a choice to stuff the aesthetic of this moment into the well established form of a self-serving political campaign.  How could we benefit from an ad that asks us to believe that people can’t grow and evolve in their belief systems?  Particularly, in Kenney, we have a candidate who has not simply shifted in rhetoric, but enacted policy that directly takes on racial discrimination.  Our struggle for accountability and justice does not benefit from a political landscape that holds up words from 18 years ago over deeds from today.

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To be clear: Kenney’s words from 1997 were deplorable He was right to disavow them. It was important that he spoke of learning from his Black and Latino colleagues.  And he may very well have some more learning to do.

There are two types of leadership that come to the fore during election season: The first holds winning the election as the highest priority and subordinates all issues as a means to that end.  This type of leadership is ultimately about the individual running.

The second type of leadership is about actual public service.   It treats the election as a means to address the issues that are facing the people and fight for the public good.  This is the type of leadership that is about our collective future.

It is leadership towards public service that is absent from Mr. Williams’ recent ad.  It is public service leadership that we must also demand from the Kenney Campaign’s response.

The Kenney campaign’s focus on the “divisiveness” of the Williams ad is also disturbing.  We should always be suspicious of those who ask everyone to come together, but are vague about the basis on which we should come together.  The only way people should come together around Kenney is: he takes full responsibility for those words in the past and commits to aggressively addressing the institutional racism that plays out throughout the criminal justice system, in the future.

Kenney, like other candidates including Williams, sought the FOP endorsement.  The FOP’s current president John McNesby has recently referred to anti policy-brutality activists as “professional hate mongers,” and “protest[ing] for the sake of protesting.” He characterized those who have risen up for justice in Philadelphia and beyond as a group of “inspired lynch mobs.”

That is beyond disturbing.

Jim Kenney, if he is to be our next mayor, must be unequivocal about where he stands on the crisis of police violence.  His work on decriminalizing marijuana and ending ICE holds are good and substantive indicators on a commitment to take on institutional racism.  We hope he shows that type of leadership in this moment – not simply dismissing the Williams ad as a opportunistic campaign tactic, but rather understanding how disturbing those words he once spoke will be to people across Philadelphia.

We hope he uses this moment to talk about the context in which he made those words, and how and why he has evolved.   We hope he uses this moment to open up substantive space to talk about race and racism.  We hope he uses this moment to put forward vision of a Philadelphia united on the basis of opposition to institutional racism.

We hope, in other words, that he leads for the public good.

Echoes of Baltimore at a Philly Mayoral Forum

By David A. Love

Could Philadelphia become another Baltimore?  This question was asked at an important forum that was nearly as much about current events in Baltimore as who will become the next mayor of Philadelphia, and how that mayor will handle the policing and criminal justice challenges facing this city.

Transparency-Now-Mayoral-Forum-on-Policing-Reform

The event, called “Transparency Now: The Philadelphia Mayoral Forum on Police and Criminal Justice Reform,” was held at the Catalyst for Change Church in the Powelton Village section of West Philly.  And the forum was sponsored by two news organizations—Tech Book Online and The Declaration.

The Democratic candidates attending the forum included Nelson Diaz, former City Council member James Kenney, Doug Oliver, Milton Street and State Senator Anthony Williams.  To her credit, Melissa Murray Bailey, the Republican candidate and an-admitted longshot, joined the Democratic field that evening.  Missing was former district attorney Lynne Abraham, who earned a reputation as the “deadliest D.A.” in America, and for turning Philly into the blackest death row population in the country.  Abraham attracted controversy recently for saying she did not prosecute bad cops during her tenure because there was no constituency for it back then.

Among the questioners were journalist Christopher Norris, and Tanya Brown-Dickerson–a uniquely qualified expert with firsthand knowledge of criminal justice and policing matters.  Brown-Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was fatally shot in the back of the head by police during a traffic stop in Frankford last December.  Police claim Tate-Brown was reaching for a gun.  Ms. Brown-Dickerson has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and two officers, also claiming police planted a gun as evidence to make it appear her son was reaching for a gun.

The officers involved in Tate-Brown’s death were “cleared” of wrongdoing and returned to duty, which is not surprising to those in the community who are familiar with police brutality cases.

The candidates were questioned on a variety of criminal justice, policing and public safety issues, including stop-and-frisk policies, arbitration for fired cops, police accountability and community relations, and whether they would support a Chicago-style reparations fund for victims of police brutality and corruption.

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Tanya Brown and Chris Norris introducing “Brandon’s Law” for police transparency [Photo credit: The Declaration]

In addition, the mayoral hopefuls were asked to take a position on “Brandon’s Law”—proposed legislation named after Brandon Tate-Brown—which would require the release of all information require publicizing all information in officer-involved fatal shootings, including the names of officers involved.  The legislation reads as follows:

 Whereas, transparency is needed in order to rebuild and maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement; and whereas, , according to the Department of Justice’s Collaborative Reform Initiative: An Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department, police use of deadly force is one of the defining issues in our criminal justice system and is the most serious action a police officer can take; and, whereas, according to the aforementioned report, the Philadelphia Police Department needs of improve the quality and transparency of deadly force investigations from both a criminal and administrative standpoint, we the people of Philadelphia propose, and advocate for the passing of Brandon’s Law, legislation that would require the Philadelphia Police Department to publish and archive the names of every police officer who shoots and kills a citizen, along with the detailed accounts of each fatal officer-involved shooting, including the ruling from the firearms review board and the District Attorney.

All candidates embraced Brandon’s Law in some form.

Throughout the forum, the candidates returned to events in Baltimore and made comparisons to Philadelphia.  The cities, a little over 100 miles apart, share similar challenges including high unemployment, and large numbers of missing black men due to a high incarceration rate.  “You have to prepare for Baltimore now today, while our streets are calm,” Doug Oliver said.

Milton Street said that his nephew, who lives in Baltimore, said the unrest occurred because the officers involved in the Freddie Gray shooting were not arrested.  “This is what causes the riots. They want justice,” Street declared.  Street offered that he would have bad police officers take out the trash, and would have arrested all of the police involved in the Gray death.

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Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney [Photo Credit: TBO]

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Mayoral Candiate Tony Williams [Photo Credit: The Declaration]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What has happened in Baltimore, what has happened in Ferguson, and what is happening throughout this country, we are only a short part away from it happening in this city,” said Nelson Diaz.

“The issue of transparency would have allowed for Baltimore probably to withstand what had occurred,” said Senator Williams.

A profound statement came from Tanya Brown-Dickerson on the issue of police accountability versus violence in the community.  “We have to learn to respect and love each other first. At the same time I am a school bus driver. And I took that job knowing that if that boy spits on me or hits me, I cannot touch him. If I do so there will be recompense,” she said.

“I must face what happens next, I must face being held accountable for reacting or responding to him. Oh, while I understand we need not hurt or kill each other, I am held to a higher standard as a bus driver. ,,, When (the police) took this job, they knew the sacrifices, protect their community, they knew what they were up against.”

 

DavidALoveDavid A. Love is a writer and human rights activist based in Philadelphia. He is a contributor to theGrio and the Progressive, and is the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com

Government for and by us (Part 3/5 of “Goode Progress”)

CoverWe are excited to bring to you Part 3/5 of W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s policy journal, “Goode Progress”

 

CDC Economic Development and Job Creation Tax Credits

 

CDC Economic Development

The decision to become a legislator meant that I had to quit my job as Economic Development Administrator for the City’s Commerce Department and resign from the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation (PCDC). Furthermore, as my father clearly explained – my run for City Council would automatically “politicize” my economic development track record. If I won, it might further validate it – but if I lost, my track record could be both politically and professionally scarred. In reality, my political capital, other than my name, was built upon my professional track record administering community economic development (CED) grant programs – and my work with neighborhood business associations and community development corporations. My expansion of those CED programs was well-documented in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Study and Community Reinvestment Report, the two other policy papers released by my office in 2000. Those policy papers found that expanding the use of CDBG resources for economic development would leverage more private investment into low-and moderate-income neighborhoods. Economic development investments have always had greater leveraging ability than low-income housing subsidies. Additionally, the utilization of community development corporations (CDCs) to undertake certain economic development activities in disadvantaged neighborhoods would bolster those organizations and their overall revitalization efforts.

In the fall of 2000, I introduced legislation to mandate that a percentage of CDBG resources be allocated to economic development. Ironically, my legislation amended the portion of the Philadelphia Code crafted by then-freshman Councilman John Street, which placed a limit on the economic development use of CDBG dollars. Councilman Street was right, at the time, when he crafted that provision because resources were being taken away from affordable housing development to be invested in economic development projects that did not directly benefit low- and moderate- income neighborhoods. In 2001, I amended my legislation to allocate at least 5 percent of CDBG resources to economic development activities undertaken by CDCs on an annual basis – while removing the cap on CDBG economic development spending. The amended version was unanimously approved by City Council as part of a broader package of CDC economic development legislation.

That fall, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs was also granted membership on the city’s Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC), which is responsible for land disposition.

The third bill in my fall package of CDC economic development legislation was originally opposed by the Street Administration – and its eventual passage has been one of my most meaningful accomplishments – the CDC Tax Credit Program.

The CDC Tax Credit Ordinance established a pilot program under which a credit against the City’s business privilege taxes is given to certain businesses that contribute monies to community development corporations undertaking economic development activities within the City of Philadelphia. Up to ten businesses would receive a 100% tax credit for contributing $100,000 in cash per year for ten years to a qualifying CDC. The businesses would have to enter into a multi-year one-million dollar contribution agreement created by the City’s Revenue Department to participate in the program. The program was patterned after the Philadelphia Plan of the 1990’s, a state tax credit initiative that focused on providing core operating support to CDCs mostly engaged in affordable housing development. Many CDCs felt left out of the Philadelphia Plan due to the limited opportunities, so the response to the local CDC Tax Credit Program was so overwhelming that the City had fifteen applicants for the original ten slots. So, the program was made permanent and expanded to twenty-five slots within a couple of years.

Effective Tax Year 2009, the number of participants was again increased from twenty-five (25) to thirty (30). Also in 2009, Bill No. 090353 was enacted, allowing 2 businesses to jointly enter into a contribution agreement.

Beginning with Tax Year 2011, up to 3 Nonprofit Intermediaries were allowed to apply for the CDC Tax Credit through another amendment to the ordinance.

After the first decade of the program, effective Tax Year 2012, Bill No. 110561 increased the number of contribution agreements from thirty (30) to thirty-five (35) and decreased the contribution and credit amount from $100,000 to $85,000.

Effective tax year 2013, Bill No.130012 then increased the number of participants from thirty-five (35) to forty (40). Also effective 2013, Bill No. 120796 amended Philadelphia

Code § 19-2604 to include two (2) additional applications for Nonprofit Organizations Engaged in Developing and Implementing Health Food Initiatives.

By December 31, 2013 there were forty-one (41) participants in the Community Development Tax Credit Program which include thirty-seven (37) Community Development Corporations, three (3) Nonprofit Intermediaries and one (1) Nonprofit Organization Engaged in Developing and Implementing Health Food Initiatives. The application for the one (1) remaining Nonprofit Organization Engaged in Developing and Implementing Health Food Initiatives was submitted in 2014 and a fully executed contribution agreement was subsequently signed with the City.

Bill No. 130853 was then introduced in 2013 to in increase the number of Nonprofit intermediaries from three (3) to four (4) and was subsequently passed with an effective date of 2014.

Each business partner is required to submit a renewal application each year to provide information about the use of the contributed funds in the current year and the proposed use in the next year. At the end of each year, the renewal applications are reviewed to verify that the businesses and their CDC partners continued to meet all requirements under the legislation, regulations, and contribution agreements.

Job Creation Tax Credits

The CDC Tax Credit Ordinance was landmark legislation – it created a local business tax credit for investing in economic development in a fair, transparent, and objective manner. For that reason, then-City Controller Jonathan Saidel asked to meet with me, early in 2002, regarding another local business tax credit that he had previously recommended –

a local job creation tax credit. I agreed to “shepherd” the legislation through the legislative process. The legislation would establish a pilot program patterned after the state job creation tax credit which offered businesses that create new jobs – a $1000 per new job credit against business tax liability.

The legislation, based upon the state tax credit, was one of the only bills from my office that was mostly authored by a member of my staff, Matt Quigley. Matt left my office during an intense period of tax reform debate in City Council – and the intensity of the debate created unanimous support for the job creation tax credit before he left. The debate began when Mayor Street wanted to slow wage tax reductions in order to accelerate reductions in the business gross receipts tax.

The Job Creation Tax Credit program was established in May 2002 to encourage businesses to expand employment within the City of Philadelphia. As mentioned, it is based on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Job Creation Tax Credit program and offers a credit against the firm’s Business Income and Receipts Tax liability for each new job created. The program can be utilized by companies of any type or size located anywhere in the city. The Department of Revenue is designated to implement and oversee the program.

In general, the program allows firms to receive a credit of either $1,000 or two-percent (2%) of annual wages paid, whichever is higher, for each new job. The program was amended in 2006 to provide a $5,000 credit for the hiring of ex-offenders. In connection with applications filed after June 24, 2009, there was a Special Tax Credit Opportunity for Job Creation in 2010 and 2011 whereby a firm may receive a tax credit in the amount of $3,000 or two-percent (2%) of annual wages paid, whichever is higher, for each new job. This Special Tax Credit Opportunity was extended for job creation in 2012 and 2013 for applicants filing after January 5, 2011. The Special Tax Credit Opportunity now gives $5,000 or two-percent (2%) of annual wages paid, whichever is higher, for Job Creation in 2012 and each year thereafter for any applications filed on or after March 15, 2012.

From the inception of the program in 2003 through the end of 2013, one hundred fifty (150) businesses have applied to participate in the program; one hundred and four (104) firms were approved for participation in the program, promising the creation of 6388 jobs. The five year period allowed by the Ordinance to create new jobs has expired for forty five (45) of these one hundred and four (104) businesses, as of the end of 2013. As a result, promised job creation may be reduced from 6388 to 3091, forty (45) businesses either did not create the promised number of jobs or verification of job creation is in progress. To date, 1,057 jobs have been verified as new job creation, resulting in the issuance of $1,786,136 in tax certificates, of which $1,546,373 has been claimed.

How the Job Creation Tax Credit Works

The Job Creation Tax Credit program offers credits against firms’ Business Receipts and Income Tax liability if they create either 25 new jobs or increase the number of employees by at least 20 percent within five years of the designated start date. Program participants must also commit to maintaining operations in Philadelphia for five years. The annual amount of credits available for award is now limited to two percent of the prior year’s Business Income and Receipts Tax collections. Of that amount, 25 percent is reserved for small businesses and firms that hire ex-offenders.

Interested firms submit applications to the Department of Revenue. Upon acceptance to the program, an agreement is executed between the business and the City that sets forth the designated start date and the number of jobs to be created. A business has up to five years to create the agreed upon number of jobs. Upon doing so, the firm asks the Department of Revenue to certify the number of jobs created and wages paid. The Department of Revenue conducts a payroll review of the company’s records to compare the number of jobs when the firm entered the program with the number of jobs at the time of review. Firms that fail to substantially maintain existing operations for five years from the date the Certificate is first submitted to the Department or that fail to create the agreed upon number of jobs are required to refund the total amount of the credit or credits issued unless a waiver is granted by the Department of Revenue.

If the Department of Revenue is satisfied that the appropriate number of jobs have been created, the Department issues a certificate stating the amount of credit the firm is entitled to, either $1,000 or two-percent (2%) of the annual wages for each job. For applicants applying after June 24, 2009, the tax credit for job creation in 2010 and 2011 is $3,000 or two-percent (2%) of annual wages for each job, whichever is higher. For those applying after January 5, 2011, the tax credit for job creation in 2011, 2012 and 2013 is $3,000 or two-percent (2%) of annual wages paid, whichever is higher, for each new job created. For those applying after March 15, 2012 the tax credit for job creation in 2012 and each year thereafter is $5000 or two percent (2%) of annual wages paid, whichever is higher for each new job created. The firm can redeem the certificate for a tax credit either all at once or over five years from the issuance of the tax certificate. The program allows companies up to 8 years from the designated start date to claim the tax credits.

Job Creation Tax Credit Program Activity

PARTICIPATING COMPANIES

As of the close of 2013, one hundred and four (104) companies have a fully executed a Job Creation Commitment Agreement (“Agreement”) with the Department. Of these, forty five (45) have had the five year period to create the new jobs expire. There are fifty nine (59) remaining participants – seven which are new in 2013. The chart reflects the year in which the approved applicants applied and the number of applicants/participants whose Agreement was fully executed as of the end of 2013.

JCTC Participants

Participating firms represent at least a dozen industries. Companies engaged in Retail Trade and Professional Services represents the largest segment of participants, with 43 firms. Information, Finance & Insurance, and Real Estate entities are nearly a quarter of the participating businesses. Although Healthcare and Education are significant segments of the Philadelphia economy, they represent less than 10 percent of participants. This may be explained by the fact that many organizations in these sectors are nonprofits that do not have Business Income and Receipts Tax liabilities.

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JOB CREATION

Overall, participating firms have committed to generating 6388 new jobs in the City. Forty Five (45) participants, whose five year period to create jobs have expired, have not fulfilled their commitment. Hence, 3297 of the promised 6388 new jobs are not expected to be created. The chart below illustrates the number of proposed new jobs by businesses with fully executed Agreements as of the end of 2013 and the number of jobs certified as created. In 2003, the first year of the program, 1,266 jobs were proposed, of which 40 have been created to date. Approximately half the positions committed to in 2003 were by a firm that is no longer in business, and thus the full 1,266 jobs will not be created. Through 2013, 1,057 (17%) of all proposed new jobs have been certified as created by the Department of Revenue. As firms have 5 years from the designated start date to create the positions, the percentage of jobs actually created may grow in the coming years.

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Since the inception of the program, the Department of Revenue has issued $1,778,136 in tax certificates, of which $1,546,373 tax credits have been claimed by (20) participating firms against Business Income and Receipts Tax liability. Businesses have 5 years from the date of issuance of the certificate to claim the credit, but in no case can it be longer than 8 years from the designated start date.

Incentive for Higher-Paying Jobs

The New Jobs Tax Credit is an economic development tool that set a standard for job quality because only full-time positions that pay at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage are eligible for tax credit purposes.

Subsequently, as mentioned, the tax credit ordinance was amended to include an alternative to the $1000 per new job credit. The amendment, titled “Keep Philadelphia Competitive (KPC) Tax Credit”, offers a credit of two percent of the annual wage of each new job or the original $1000 credit, whichever is greater.

The KPC Tax Credit was conceived by center city building owners in response to the proposed development of a new Comcast headquarters as a virtually tax-free site under the state’s Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program. The building owners feared that Comcast would not utilize all of the proposed office space and would be able to steal some of their current and prospective tenants by offering them KOZ benefits, which abate most taxes. The building owners felt that approval of KOZ benefits by local and state government would give Comcast an unfair advantage – and they were right. Instead, they sought the enactment of the KPC Tax Credit legislation creating a multi-year benefit for anyone creating new jobs, as a replacement for the KOZ legislation which would offer benefits to only a few. The building owners lobbied City Council to approve the KPC legislation and to reject the KOZ legislation. Of course, City Council simply approved both measures, after the Street administration forged a compromise on the KPC bill. The administration believed that the multi-year benefit would be too costly, so the legislation was amended to make it a one-time credit like the New Jobs Tax Credit. I voted against the Comcast KOZ legislation but it was overwhelmingly approved by City Council – only to be rejected by the state legislature. Instead, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave Comcast a $30 million grant for the development project.

The Keep Philadelphia Competitive Tax Credit, as amended, was unanimously approved by City Council and signed into law by the mayor. It was a better incentive for businesses creating higher-paying jobs over $50,000 annually.

Ex-Offender Job Creation Tax Credit

In the summer of 2006, as the murder rate was rising, and the next municipal election was approaching, there was an abundance of law-and-order policy posturing from prospective candidates. The competition began over who would hire the most police – in order to reduce the murder rate.

Any rational and objective analysis of murders in this city will always point to a trend of victim-specific crimes that occur mostly among male ex-offenders of color – within a certain age group of high school drop-outs – at certain times of day, in certain places.

Even if you deploy more police based upon that analysis, they are certainly not needed citywide to stop most of the murders, which are not random. Similar to the question of “who shall be poor”, we generally know already who shall kill or be killed in Philadelphia – they are mostly ex-offenders.

As a tool to stem the tide of recidivism for ex-offenders, and hopefully, to save and change their lives, I amended my New Jobs Tax Credit program to reserve a portion of the tax credits for the employment of ex-offenders in 2004. It didn’t work. So, during the summer of 2006, I decided to increase the tax credit amount, as mentioned, to $5000 per hire for ex-offenders. I e-mailed Mayor Street about the idea and he responded with immediate support. The amendment creating the increased incentive was unanimously approved by City Council and signed into law by the mayor – but it didn’t work either. Nevertheless, it balanced the debate over how to deal with crime and gun violence in this city. More people now acknowledge that recidivism and ex-offender re-entry efforts are as important as the number -and deployment – of police.

PREP Tax Credit

Among those who embraced more balance between better policing and prisoner re-entry efforts was mayoral candidate Nutter, who crafted the Philadelphia Re-Entry Employment Program (PREP) as part of his campaign platform. Nutter voted for my earlier legislative efforts when he was a councilman, but he decided to design his own program for his mayoral administration.

After he won the Democratic nomination to become mayor, he called me during the summer of 2007 and asked if I would introduce his PREP legislation in the fall and shepherd it through the legislative process. I gladly accepted the challenge.

After negotiations with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and despite the objections of the Street Administration, the PREP legislation was unanimously approved by City Council and signed into law by Mayor Street. In fact, Nutter returned to City Council to testify on behalf of the PREP bill as the first witness. It remains to be seen how effective the PREP law will be.

Next week:  Rejecting “trickle-down” economics- Sections: “Philadelphia Minimum Wage Standard”

Endorsements for Court of Common Pleas #VotePeoplesAgenda

CPSlateFINAL

Progressive Philly Rising is proud to announce the #VotePeoplesAgenda slate for Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas.

Our organization has sought to prioritize Public Education, Economic Inequality, + Criminal Justice reform. As such it is critical we take a stand on what candidates we believe will best serve Philadelphians as judges.

Major civil and criminal cases, along with appeals from the lower courts are heard in these courts. For more, visit the website of The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

Thank you to all of the candidates who filled out the PPR Judicial Candidate Questionnaire. The answers from endorsed candidates are featured below.

Our endorsed candidates:

Mia2Mia Roberts Perez
A proficient trial attorney and tireless educator, Mia Roberts Perez is the candidate for judge who aims to have the law reflect the consciousness of the people she serves…

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

Fletman

Abbe Fletman
Appointed to the bench last year, Abbe has already distinguished herself in the legal community as a judge who is honest and fair with the good sense to know when compassion is needed and when it’s time to get tough…

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

DaineGrey

Daine Grey Jr.
His interest in the law comes from my study of American history and how our constitution has informed the shaping of the law. The ideals that are basic to “we the people” are fundamental to what I believe…

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

stella-head-shot-250

Stella M. Tsai
is a distinguished Philadelphia litigator who has represented individuals, non-profits, and businesses, both large and small, in litigation, regulatory, and transactional matters.  

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

BrianO

Brian Ortelere
His father…instilled in him three things that I carry with me to this day: a strong work ethic, a call to public service, and the knowledge that every community needs and deserve fair and equal access to the courts and our justice system.

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

Stephanie Sawyer

Stephanie M. Sawyer
is a single parent of two children who was raised by a single parent where she learned her commitment to the community and understanding that hard work is the key to success.

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

Kai4Kai Scott
is a native of Philadelphia and a graduate of  two of the city’s most prestigious schools, Julia R. Masterman and Philadelphia High School for Girls… after [undergrad] she returned to Philadelphia to work as a youth counselor at the Youth Study Center.
PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

Wayne-Bennett

Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett, Lawyer and Founder of award-winning “Field Negro” blog – TOPIC: Mr. Bennett is not a fan of a recent “Philadelphia Magazine” article which discusses what many white Philadelphians think about the actions of their fellow black citizens.

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

Chris MalliosMallios
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Chris attended Philadelphia public schools and put himself through Penn State University and Temple’s Beasley Law School by working in retail jobs and delivering pizza…

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

McCabeChris McCabe
Chris’s father was born and raised in South Philadelphia (St. Aloysius Parish at 26th & Tasker), later moved to West Oak Lane, attended St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, and graduated from St. Joseph’s College…  

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

RainyPOSTRainy Papademetriou
Is the recipient of the 2010 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award, has spent her entire legal career working in public service…

PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

 

Frances FattahFran
…worked as a Job Developer at People’s Emergency Center, a shelter for women and children…She left to work as the assistant coordinator at Penn’s Center for Urban Health Research, working on HIV/AIDS prevention through the Mother-Son Health Promotion Project.
PPR Questionnaire Answers, website, facebook, twitter

In Philly mayoral race, race matters but the agenda matters more

By David A. Love

Is it possible for a white mayoral candidate represent black interests, or does it take a black candidate to properly serve the black agenda?  The answer lies in the issues.

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philly.com, April 8th

If you’ve been following the Philly mayoral race, you know things started brewing when a group of black politicos did not endorse one of the black candidates for mayor, but rather endorsed former City Councilman Jim Kenney, who is a white Irish Catholic politician from South Philly.

Specifically, State Reps. Dwight Evans, Cherelle L. Parker and Stephen Kinsey, City Councilwomen Marian B. Tasco and Cindy Bass, and a half-dozen ward leaders—known as the Northwest Coalition—made the move to endorse Kenney.  Some voices have called the decision a game changer, and William Bender of the Daily News even asked if Kenney is the future voice of black Philadelphia.  Meanwhile, others have argued the endorsement could prove inconsequential.  And still others, such as former City Councilman George Burrell, suggested the late black leaders of another era “are rolling over in their graves at the notion that respected African-American elected officials who essentially represent an African-American constituency would turn over the mayor’s office voluntarily to a community other than our own.”

In any case, a new AFSCME poll has Kenney leading in a tight race at 26 percent, with State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams at 25 percent, and former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham with 22 percent (AFSCME supports Kenney).  There is speculation over whether Kenney may shave off enough of the black vote from Williams to make a difference.

Williams’ critics note the candidate is bankrolled by hedge fund managers and supported by the pro-charter school, pro-voucher school reform movement, which advocates for the privatization of public school.  Kenney’s detractors maintain the candidate has a thin track record of helping black people, and is running as a proxy for John Dougherty, head of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electricians.  And Abraham gained a reputation as “America’s deadliest D.A.” because of her passion in seeking the death penalty as prosecutor, which led to Philadelphia’s death row having the highest percentage of blacks in the country, with Philly accounting for over half of the state’s death sentences during her tenure.

Two opposing schools of thought in the Philly black community have eloquently made their case on the merits of the Kenney endorsements and the larger issues.

Writing in the Philadelphia Tribune, A. Bruce Crawley argued “it was far too early to have any elected officials give away the African-American community’s political birthright,” particularly in advance of the Black Political Summit.  Crawley found it “presumptuous” and “self-serving” to assume the endorsement would translate into community-wide black support of Kenney, or that the candidate deserves black support simply because he opposes stop-and-frisk and supports marijuana decriminalization.  Rather, the writer wants a candidate who will address the high black unemployment, connect the dots between high black poverty and crime, and combat racial discrimination in the building trades.

Meanwhile, in Philly In Focus, Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris takes issue with the notion the black political class would “inject unnecessary racial jargon into the dialogue” and portray blacks as monolithic.  Norris rejects as a distraction the argument that any group of black leaders has more or less of a right to promote a black agenda.  He also says the problems of black Philadelphians have not decreased because of black leaders who have promoted self-interest.  Rather, viewing the decriminalization of marijuana as historic, he plans to support a mayoral candidate not based on skin color, but will make an informed decision based on political interests.

It is true that Philadelphia’s black community is not monolithic.  However, black power is important, and only black people can determine their agenda or decide which platform matters to them.  There are clearly defined issues that impact African-Americans and must be addressed.  Under both black and white mayoralties, black Philadelphia has suffered.  Despite the impressive development and growth in the city, not everyone in the city has shared in its successes.  Indeed, Philly is a tale of two cities.

Philly has the highest levels of poverty among America’s large cities at 26.5 percent.  Further, the city has the nation’s highest rate of deep poverty (12.2 percent, nearly twice the national rate of 6.3 percent), which includes those with incomes below half of the poverty line.  That’s 185,000 people, including 60,000 children—as much as the entire population of Little Rock, Tallahassee or Salt Lake City.

In addition, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has the most separate and unequal communities and schools anywhere in America.  A typical black Philadelphian lives in a neighborhood that is 24.8 percent in poverty, as opposed to 8.4 percent for whites.  And the city has the largest poverty gap between Latinos and whites, and the second highest between Asians and whites in the United States.  Further, Philly maintains the widest performance gap between black and white schools.  While an average white student attends a school where students perform at the 66th percentile, the school where the average black attends scores at the 21st percentile.

Moreover, Philadelphia has the third highest number of missing black men in the nation.  Black women between ages of 25 and 54 outnumber black men by 36,000, due to the high incarceration rate of black men, a high mortality rate brought on by gun violence and other factors.

In light of these stark and sobering statistics, black folks are exploited by for-profit interests from within and without our community, some wearing black faces, some wearing white faces, and all with their hands open.

What matters first and foremost for black Philadelphia is an uncompromising progressive agenda that seeks to eradicate poverty and unemployment, fights for economic development that benefits the community, demands affordable housing and a sustainable wage that can raise a family, combats discrimination, and ends the criminalization of our neighborhoods and the miseducation of our children.  Achieving this requires not only a black agenda, but also a social justice agenda as part of a multiracial, grassroots coalition of likeminded interests across the city.

The racial background of the mayor charged with implementing that agenda should not concern us as much as the movement pushing the agenda in the first place.

 

DavidALoveDavid A. Love is a writer and human rights activist based in Philadelphia. He is a contributor to theGrio and the Progressive, and is the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com

Building an Economy for all of us (Part 2/5 of “Goode Progress”)

CoverWe are excited to bring to you Part 2/5 of W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s policy journal, “Goode Progress”

 

Fair Lending and Community Reinvestment

Within weeks of being sworn-in on January 3, 2000 – my office released our first policy paper titled, “Greater Philadelphia Capital Access Report”. The Capital Access Report was an examination of small business lending patterns within the region. The report data came from information required from banks and financial institutions under the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). An amendment to CRA regulations made small business loan data available as of 1998. Before that, the submission of home mortgage data had been required since 1977. Ironically, the small business loan data from 1998 became publicly available as I was being elected to City Council, so my first policy initiative promised to be groundbreaking. It was no coincidence that the special assistant that I hired was a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who had already purchased the data and was developing the methodology to produce the report.

E. Matthew Quigley (Matt), my special assistant, worked within my office for over two and a half years, quickly rising to the position of chief legislative aide. Matt authored five policy papers for my office and then went on to work for the Federal Reserve Bank system and the United State Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Matt’s first report was groundbreaking, as promised, and it created instant credibility for my office.

The Capital Access Report proved that there were stark disparities in small business lending within the region when examined by the race or income of neighborhoods. In fact, in 1998, about 90 percent of small business lending was done in middle-and upper income areas and over 90 percent of the loan dollars went to areas with less than a twenty percent population of African-Americans. The comprehensive report was featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal, as well as other local news publications, and the local banking and financial services industry was intrigued by the policy work. Rather than being embarrassed by its findings, the industry sought more information about those under-served markets that could represent new opportunities for business growth.

Most people who became familiar with the report were focused on its findings and comprehensiveness, so they lost sight of its policy recommendations. Matt did the research and writing, but I developed the recommendations for the report.

There were two models presented as recommended strategies to address the lending disparities disclosed by the report.

The CDFI Model

The first strategy recommended was the increased utilization of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) as financial intermediaries to reach those under-served markets. Most CDFIs specialize in providing access to capital within low-and moderate-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods. In fact, Matt purchased the small business lending data, utilized for the report, to act as a consultant to a CDFI created by a minority-controlled bank. The consulting relationship was never finalized, but the data was definitely put to good use.

Both the federal and state governments had programs to support CDFIs, but there was no local counterpart other than an oversight structure for the local CDFIs created as part of the federal Empowerment Zone program. I successfully advocated, along with others, for the establishment of Empowerment Zone CDFIs in the 1990s during my work at the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation and the city’s Commerce Department. I was not as successful in advocating for a broader local CDFI program during the mayoral administrations of Edward G. Rendell and John F. Street.

The Rendell Administration would not consider local CDFI investment, pointing to state and federal programs which already benefited the city – but lending disparities revealed through the 1998 data clearly demonstrate that there was a need to employ new strategies at that time.

The Street Administration took office in the same month as the release of the capital access report. A few months later, my office also released a report on the CDFI industry.

The first bill that I crafted, which became law, simply authorized the City of Philadelphia to invest in promissory notes issued by federally certified CDFIs. Mayor Street signed that bill on May 16, 2000. Street also signed an appropriations bill that I crafted to capitalize a local CDFI fund with $5 million on November 2, 2001. But the Street Administration made only one investment of $1.5 million in a CDFI operated by Resources for Human Development, a local non-profit organization. The administration never formalized a local CDFI Fund program and was non-responsive to a proposal submitted by the National Community Capital Association (NCCA) to administer the fund. NCCA, which was locally based, had already provided technical and financial services to scores of CDFIs nationwide.

Not utilizing NCCA’s capacity proved that the Street administration did not intend to seriously invest in the CDFI strategy – in part, because the administration didn’t fully understand it. But the administration did not offer any other strategies to address disparities in small business lending, although the city was clearly at an economic disadvantage without one, because of the city’s demographics.

The Empowerment Zone CDFIs did have moderate success during the Rendell and Street years including the development of a major inner-city shopping center in the West Parkside section of the zone. The shopping center was developed largely due to an equity investment by the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution, a zone CDFI. A substantial portion of West Parkside zone dollars was invested in the zone CDFI not because of the immediate capacity for small business lending, but because of the proposed investment in the shopping center. The shopping center would have immediate impact in terms of job creation and the provision of goods and services, while continuing to build future capacity for small business lending in the zone.

The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the city’s economic development agent has, at my urging, also created a CDFI to bolster small business lending in under-served areas.

The Loan Consortium Model and New Landmark Legislation

The other strategy recommended in the capital access report was the loan consortium model patterned after the Delaware Valley Mortgage Plan (DVMP, now called the

Delaware Valley Housing Partnership). The DVMP was created during the initial CRA movement of the 1970’s by a number of affordable housing advocates, including my father. Banks and financial institutions, along with other stakeholders, created the DVMP as a vehicle for financial and technical assistance to economically disadvantaged borrowers in under-served areas.

Around the time that I released the capital access report, I met with Sharmain Matlock-Turner, in her capacity as director of the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC). I discussed the small business loan consortium model with her, particularly since GPUAC oversaw the Delaware Valley Housing Partnership which I was seeking to replicate for small business development. We agreed to work together, and several months later, she invited me to present my idea to GPUAC’s Committee on Community and Economic Development (CED) in September of 2000. The presentation was well-received. Ray Desiderio of PNC Bank, co-chair of both GPUAC and its CED committee, promised that he would provide the leadership to implement the loan consortium strategy for small business development. He was probably sincere at the time but his interest shifted when anti-predatory lending legislation was later introduced by Councilwoman Marian Tasco, angering the banking and financial services industry – and the industry declared war on the legislation. The small business loan consortium idea became a temporary casualty of that war, particularly since I was a co-sponsor of the Tasco legislation. The local banking community decided that all local legislation regarding that industry should be pre-empted by state and/or federal law. The Tasco ordinance was quickly pre-empted by a subsequent state law sponsored by State Representative Dwight Evans. From 2000 into 2001, my loan consortium idea lost almost all of its previous momentum. My only hope was to craft local legislation and policy measures that would not be pre-empted by state or federal law – and 2002 turned out to be a good year for me.

On March 20, 2002, Mayor John F. Street signed Bill # 020047 into law requiring that all banks authorized to receive deposits from the City of Philadelphia must submit an annual statement of community reinvestment goals to the City. The community reinvestment statement must include goals for small business and home loans within low-and moderate- income neighborhoods. Of course, the Pennsylvania Bankers’ Association claimed that we were pre-empted from enacting that requirement by previous state legislation, but a City Law Department opinion upheld our right to legislate on city depository issues under authority granted by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.

The enactment of that landmark legislation, affirming that the local authorization of city depositories can require community reinvestment statements, was crucial to my future policy work. Yet, it also created further distance between me and the local banking community. In order to still implement my vision for a small business loan consortium, it would require a full-scale war.

That summer, in 2002, I “googled” the term “community reinvestment” and I stumbled upon the website of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). I decided to make a phone call to the NCRC policy director, Josh Silver. Less than 3 years later, I would receive the NCRC National Achievement Award for a government leader advocating for consumer rights and economic justice. The award was the result of several years of work with NCRC on fair lending and community reinvestment policy and legislation.

Just a few months after my initial contact with NCRC, both the president and policy director of the organization agreed to testify at my hearing on lending disparities in Philadelphia during the fall of 2002. At that time, I had just hired Solomon Jones, a Philadelphia Weekly writer and novelist, as senior legislative aide and director of public affairs (coinciding with Matt Quigley’s departure from my office for the Federal Reserve Bank system.) The hearing was Solomon’s first real opportunity to help me impact a major public policy issue. He did well.

Solomon invited the local bank presidents to testify at the hearing, and they promptly declined. Instead, a “delegation” was sent to meet with me – it included Matlock-Turner from GPUAC, Desiderio from PNC Bank, as well as Dede Myers of the local Federal Reserve Bank. The delegation, insisting that it represented the entire local banking community, suggested that the departure of Matt Quigley from my staff gave them the upper hand. They suggested that my office didn’t have the technical capacity to challenge their policy position, which would be supported by new data to be presented by Myers of the Federal Reserve Bank. Rather than immediately respond, I looked forward to sharing the new data received from NCRC at the hearing.

Solomon did an excellent job of garnering media coverage for the hearing, coordinating advocate support in the presence of small business owners, and providing the “spin” supporting NCRC’s policy position. In short, NCRC testified on the stark disparities that it had uncovered from recent data on lending patterns in Philadelphia, consistent with earlier findings from the Greater Philadelphia Capital Access Report. The Federal Reserve Bank witness could not refute any of NCRC’s findings.

Furthermore, I asked Mr. Desiderio, for the hearing record, if he had reneged on a commitment to provide leadership in advancing the loan consortium strategy. He admitted that he had reneged on his promise, and recommitted to doing so before the end of the year. GPUAC subsequently formed a Small Business Lending Task Force (SBLTF). The SBLTF, over the next several years, developed a three-tier strategy that resulted in a $23.5 million GPUAC Business Builder Program targeting low-to-moderate income and predominantly minority neighborhoods. The launch of the program took almost seven years from my first meeting with GPUAC, but it is now defunct.

Other Fair Lending and Community Reinvestment Initiatives

It should be noted that my first legislative initiative was a non-binding resolution calling on the City Controller’s Office to conduct an annual study of small business lending. The resolution was unanimously approved by City Council at my first session. Under the administration of Jonathan Saidel, the controller’s office issued several reports based on small business lending data from 1998-2004, in compliance with the resolution.

I have also amended the fair lending and community reinvestment requirements for city depositories several times, including a mandatory compliance provision in 2003 and a fair lending strategic plan provision in 2005.

All of these efforts contributed to an increase in the percentage of small business lending within low-and moderate-income neighborhoods within the city from 42% in 2002 to 55% in 2003, in terms of the number of loans provided by neighborhood income. The percentage of loans has remained around 55% since that time. To build upon this effort, PIDC created a local small business loan guarantee fund as a result of my advocacy.

Next week:  Government for and by us- Sections: “CDC Economic Development and Job Creation Tax Credits”

 

Second District Needs “Smart Development”

KenyattaJohnson

 

By Councilman Kenyatta Johnson

 

 

 

Gentrification is one of the most challenging issues we face in the Second District and I believe it’s more important than ever that we find the right balance for developing neighborhoods.

It’s no secret that Philadelphia is experiencing an increase in development, with certain areas seeing rapidly appreciating property values.  Development is an important benefit in our city because it reduces blight, provides jobs, and increases the tax base which pays for vital services like public education.

However, rapid development can create anxiety among longtime residents as they fear that rising property values will result in sharp tax increases and unaffordable spikes in rent  that will price them out of their homes and neighborhoods.

That tension between the risks and rewards of development in our city is why I promote something I call “Smart Development,” which supports market rate projects while also ensuring that we make a real commitment to both affordable and workforce development at the same time.

I know that some people consider the fears and anxiety experienced by moderate and low-income residents in rapidly changing neighborhoods who fear that they will be priced out of their homes and neighborhoods to be unfounded, but I’ve seen it firsthand.  What’s more, recent reports suggest  that Philadelphia must do more to promote affordable housing.

DSC_0115In its report entitled Development Without Displacement, the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities finds that in North, South and West Philadelphia, 50% of renters and 30% of homeowners are spending too much of their income on housing.  Recent figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia indicate that 42% of low-income renters citywide are housing cost burdened. This is alarming. Too many of our families are in a precarious housing situation leaving them vulnerable to increases in rents and real estate taxes.  We must do more to protect our housing burdened population.

I grew up in Point Breeze, I bought my first home here, and I am raising my son here.  I know firsthand what it is like to live in a changing neighborhood, which has informed my development philosophy.

TalkingtoMsGwen

Councilman Johnson and PCAC leader Ms. Gwen are both long-term residents of Point Breeze.

My Smart Development approach recognizes that market rate development in blighted communities is good and even necessary to revitalize neighborhoods that have suffered from disinvestment and poverty for decades, but we must also implement measures that protect existing residents and our most vulnerable citizens from displacement in the face of rising housing costs.

Smart Development policy includes (1) embracing a level of market rate development, (2) providing targeted tax relief to those who need it, and (3) adequately funding affordable housing initiatives. This balanced approach will continue to promote job creating market rate development while providing affordable housing options and tax relief for those who need it while reducing the anxiety that manifests when a community is undergoing change.

Market rate development reduces blight, creates jobs, provides essential tax revenue, and attracts new residents to our city.  Market rate development also increases our tax base so that the city can fund education, provide essential services, and address our underfunded pension system.  If new market rate projects align with existing planning policies and generally respect the character of the neighborhood, we should welcome them.

KJ PCAC

Councilman Johnson joined PCAC for the release of the report.

However, at the same time the city has an obligation to prioritize affordable housing.  I have been working with the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities to formulate policies that will allow us to invest more in affordable housing so that we can achieve development without displacement.

Over the last several years, state and federal funding for affordable housing initiatives has become scarce.  I am optimistic that Governor Wolf will provide more state funding, but we cannot wait for that.  We must commit more city resources to strategic affordable housing initiatives for our most vulnerable citizens. Between 2016 and 2020 the city will receive approximately $60 million from properties with ten year tax abatements that have expired.  We should commit a portion of this money to fund home repair programs and rental opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens such as seniors, veterans, and low-income families.  We should also work with the development community to formulate zoning measures that provide real incentives for developers to include a level of affordability into market rate projects.

I believe that it is also the city’s duty to provide targeted tax relief for those in rapidly developing neighborhoods who cannot afford increases in their real estate taxes.  During my first term in city council, I have worked to enact several tax relief programs to help residents stay in their homes through the Longtime Owner Occupant Program (LOOP), the hardship deferral, and the city’s tax payment plan programs.  While we’ve made progress, there is still more work to do on this front, and I will continue to push to ensure that no one loses their home because they cannot afford the taxes.

In a truly progressive, democratic society we need to ensure that everyone has an affordable place to live.  By committing to making Philadelphia affordable for everyone, we address a serious social justice issue, promote all types of development, and reduce the anxiety and opposition that sometimes accompanies market rate development in changing neighborhoods.

That is my priority in city council and that is my commitment to the residents of the Second District in my next term.