DA Watch (or As the Cookie Crumbles)

A lot of us in the blogging community were strong supporters of Seth Williams in his race against Lynne Abraham during last May’s primary. However, lest any of our readers think that our interest in the goings on at the DA’s office was limited to that one race, I thought I would highlight a few news items that serve as, unfortunately, more proof that our current DA’s office is not operating as well as its should be.

Click "read more" below to see the evidence.

How To Solve The Eagles' Conflict: Give Us A "T.O. Show"

Okay, I know that this isn't really about politics, but who can think about politics with all of the trouble brewing over at the Eagles Training Camp?

We all know about the drama that's been going down since T.O. fired his manager this off season and most of us probably already have opinions on whose fault this whole thing is, who is being more stubborn or stupid, etc. Most of us can see that the Eagles and T.O. have backed themselves into corners from which they cannot escape, and that's where this post comes in. I have an idea for how both sides can come out as winners, with the Eagles maintaining their stand on contract negotiations and with Owens getting the payday that he feels that he deserves (a contention I agree with).

My proposal is quite simple really:

Political Leaders Fellowship Program Application Deadline Approaching

The Center for Progressive Leadership is a relatively new nationwide non-profit which seeks to build a progressive farm team of leaders ready to ready to run for any office at the city, state and national level. This program has chosen PA as one of its key states and is seeking a diverse pool of applicants for its fellowship program. Check out their website here to learn more about the fellowship and to nominate yourself or others for a spot. The deadline for fellowship program applications is August 12th.

Click "read more" to see why I think this program is so valuable.

Seth Williams Fundraiser

Ray and I went to the Seth Williams fundraiser to retire his campaign debts last night. I thought I would quickly post my thoughts on it:

First, it was good to see the next DA of Philadelphia. He looks a little more rested than at the end of the campaign season. He still has "it," and is still an incredibly nice guy, and still clearly is running for DA in 2009, a real lifetime away.

Second, there were a few of the party big wigs in attendence, though generally they mostly seemed to sign up on the invitation, probably write a check or two, and then were not there. People who I did see were Jannie Blackwell, Mark Cohen, Sharif Street, and suburban Congressional candidate, Patrick Murphy, who will be taking on liberal blogosphere darling Ginny Schraeder in the primary.

Click read more to see the rest

Inquirer on Latoyia Figueroa and blogs

Richard Cranium, at the All Spin Zone, is reaching celebrity status. And, his efforts to get attention to the search for Latoyia Figueroa are producing real, tangible results, both from the media, and from the the Philly police. It is amazing.

The Inquirer had the story on their front page today, discussing the search for the woman, the new found media attention (including theirs), and the efforts of bloggers like Richard.

First, the media:

Late last week, Philadelphia police briefed reporters about the missing woman. But little coverage ensued.

So on Tuesday, Blair, thinking the case deserved more attention, dispatched a pointed e-mail to Nancy Grace, host of a nightly show on CNN Headline News. Grace's show has given constant coverage to the case of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager missing in Aruba.

The e-mail read: "Latoyia Figueroa is still missing after 8 days. And as tragic as the Natalee Holloway case might be, Natalee doesn't have a 7-year-old child wondering where she is, nor was Natalee... 5 months pregnant."

Blair also mentioned that the 24-year-old West Philadelphia woman was not white, did not have blond hair, and was not scheduled to get married last weekend - a reference to Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called runaway bride whose disappearance dominated media reports earlier this year.

After Blair posted the e-mail on his site, two things happened. He sent the message out to a number of other Web sites, several of which posted it, generating a lot of supportive comment. And the e-mail to Grace got noticed by a CNN producer, who was spurred into action.

The results were immediate and dramatic.

And, how it is being played out with Philly police:

Have you seen this woman?

I am posting Howard's entry from Philly future, in full, below. As you will see, Philly bloggers are uniting to try and bring attention to this missing Philly woman (non-white division.)

Latoyia FigueroaWhen the news of Latoyia Figueroa's disapperance first made it onto the Philly Future front page last week, she was a relatively anonymous missing person. Unfortunately, she is still both relatively anonymous and missing. That's the continuing sad truth of the matter.

The hopeful news is that, thanks to local bloggers like Richard at All Spin Zone, and those who've followed his lead, her name is starting to get out, and hopefully her face has a greater chance of being seen by someone who may be able to help find her. Richard's post on Latoyia has been picked up by Evan Derkacz at Alternet.

Click read more to see the rest.

Voting Against Pay Raise Earns You a Demotion

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.

I really want to stop writing about the pay raise fiasco, but this is unbelieveable:

Fifteen House Democrats who voted against the controversial legislative pay raise were stripped of their committee leadership positions in an unusual midterm shake-up that some members viewed as payback for their "no" votes.

In a letter to House Speaker John Perzel (R., Phila.) last week, House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese announced changes in 16 House committees. Committee assignments are routinely made at the beginning of a new session, not mid-session.

.....

"What Democratic leadership said to members was: If you vote for the pay raise you will get [$4,050], if you don't you won't," said Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), who voted against the pay raise and was demoted to secretary from his position as chairman of the subcommittee on energy.

Vitali said the move raises legal questions.

"They are using tax dollars to entice a legislator to vote one way or another," he said. "It's not about the money, it's about leadership acting within its legal authority. My gut feeling is they have exceeded it."

In all, 12 subcommittee chairmen and three committee vice chairmen who voted against the raise were removed or demoted to secretary. One was stripped of leadership in two subcommittees. Democratic lawmakers who voted for the pay hike were moved into the higher-ranking and higher-paid positions.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus. Wonderful.

Teaching Peace in Philadelphia

The Daily News reported today that by this fall, the Paul Vallas driven efforts to have smaller high schools will be in full swing. According to the article, eight smaller schools will be opening this fall, with about a quarter of Philly students atttending a school with 800 students or less.

The move is designed to reduce overcrowding while offering students a broader array of course offerings. Schools CEO Paul Vallas said this week that the decision to make schools smaller is, to date, his second-most important reform behind the implementation of a standardized curriculum.

"It's all about expanding choice," he said. "The one thing I have mandated is that [the smaller schools] all have to be college-preparatory schools. The children who graduate from these schools have to be prepared for college."

First of all, statements like that last one are why I like Paul Vallas. I know many people have legitimate issues with him, and other YPP writers may not be fond of him, but, maybe it is just me, but he seems to oooze an attitude that says "kiss my ass, Philly kids will succeed." And, that really appeals to me on some level.

I am no expert on education policy, so take this with a grain of salt... But, I think the drive for smaller schools is a good thing. As someone said on here earlier, it makes it easy to keep track of kids, makes it harder for kids to get lost in the shuffle, etc. Can we have very good big schools? Of course. We can also have very good huge apartment buildings. But that doesn't mean it was good to build huge public housing towers. I think small schools are a step in the right direction.

One small themed school in particular caught my eye:

The Never-Ending Story

No, not the fantasy movie of my childhood, it is the

other never ending story, the PA legislature's pay raise.

Let's see who is pissed off:

1) Newspaper columnists.

2) Ordinary Citizens.

3) And... Governor Rendell's own cabinet member. Guess she didn't get the memo.

It turns out, that Estelle Richman, who runs the Department of Public Welfare, and is generally one of the real "good eggs" of State (and formerly Philly) Government, is "pretty upset" over the raises, as well.

Read more to see the rest...

Unions to Boycott AFL-CIO Convention

Four of the country's largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they plan to boycott the AFL-CIO convention, which begins today in Chicago. The conflict is one of the biggest in labor's history, stemming from differing opinions on the best strategy for rebuilding the strength of organized labor. The split will have broad implications for both local and national politics.

Formed in 1955 as a merger between the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO represents over 13 million workers. Locally, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO has 120 affiliates who represent a combined total of over 100,000 workers. The unions who appear ready to pull out include the Service Employee International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE-HERE. Together, these unions represent nearly 40% of the total AFL-CIO membership.

Lynne Abraham Reportedly Disbands Narcotics Unit

Our old friend is at again. Take a look at this email I got today from a Townwatch watch leader on the PhillyBlocks listserv. In the email he states that Abraham made a decision to disband the Narcotics unit.

You also may remember from the '05 Democratic Primary for DA that Abraham promised to implement "vertical prosecution," basing the work of the DA's office on geography, to more effectivly deal with crime. Abraham only began talking about this change in the DA's office after her primary opponent, Seth Williams, started to talk about community-based prosecution. The email below hints that Abraham may have backed off this promise too. It seems like there may be a bigger story here...

Check out the whole email by clicking "read more":

Academic Bill of Rights

It looks like the Conservative proponents of the Academic Bill of Rights had a victory in Pennsylvania. This from Inside Higher Ed:

But on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution creating a special committee that is charged with investigating — at public colleges in the state — how faculty members are hired and promoted, whether students are fairly evaluated, and whether students have the right to express their views without fear of being punished for them.

The language in the resolution closely follows that of the Academic Bill of Rights, which has been pushed nationwide by David Horowitz, a former 60s radical who is now a conservative activist.

Let’s be honest, not all professors are fair, and some use their position as a pedestal on which to indoctrinate the youth of America. Whether they are wrong or right, we have to make sure that students have the opportunity to freely express their ideas. If only it were about fairness. We all know that this is just another attempt by people like Horowitz to push a Conservative agenda in our higher educational institutions. Fairness is one thing, but they want to be able to not teach the theory of evolution and allow people to teach revisionist history when it comes to the Holocaust. That cannot stand. I also think that the teachers need to come up with some alternative plan. If we say that we are for fairness, then we have to mean it. We can’t just be against things, because then we look like obstructionists.

Michael Berube had some interesting comments on his blog about this. He quotes frequent Young Philly Politics reader Representative Cohen, who lead the fight against the bill:

If you were Mayor...

A question for our readers, contributors, etc:

Let's say you were the Mayor of Philadelphia, or the Governor of PA. If you had one executive order that you could use to create any law or policy that you want, what would it be? Would it address a specific focus like education or the environment? Would you instead try and do something related to how Government functions?

You are the Mayor. What would you do?

Budget Projections and Honesty

I got an interesting email from Brett Mandel and Philadelphia Forward yesterday. It said that, like all other years, as fiscal year 2005 comes to an end, it is apparent that the City underestimated Tax Revenue, by a significant sum. How much? 177 million dollars from their projections a year ago. But, "hey, that was a year ago, so, who knows how they thought the economy was going to do." However, they also made projections last month, and they were off by the smaller, but not insignificant 77 million dollars. That is not chump change.

Why does that bother me? Check out the extended entry.

Philly Corruption Trial: Corey Kemp Gets Ten Years

Wow:

A federal judge sentenced former City Treasurer Corey Kemp to 10 years in prison today, saying he "engaged in a corruption scheme that damaged the citizens and the image of Philadelphia."

"You not only cheated the city," U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson told Kemp, "you cheated the state, the federal government and your church. It is very discouraging because you had so much promise. You have only yourself to blame."

Ten years is a long time. Clearly the judge wanted to make a statement here, and make one he did. That said, there are two quotes, one from the judge, and one from Kemp's lawyer that seem particularly important:

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