SEPTA Watch

Philly Progressive Links

We are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to link up various parts of the Philly progressive blog world, in some sort of systematic way. Before we get there though, there are a few sites that I would encourage you to checkout and bookmark, if you haven't.

First, the Media Mobilizing Project has a series of blogs, including from immigrant rights group Juntos, from the Philly Student Union, from progressive Philly Labor, and more. Individually, each site has quite a bit of good stuff. For example, check out this video from Our City, Our Voices, the blog from Juntos, titled "Por Nuestros Hijos, Padres Inmigrantes Organizados/For Our Children, Immigrant Parents Organizing". It talks to a number of immigrant parents about their efforts to organize around their children's schools in South Philly.

Second, and also on the education side, is the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. Len Rieser, of the Education Law Center, explores the lack of input that went into picking the new members of the School Reform Commission (SRC), and whether or not that is still appropriate:

The three people whose appointments to the SRC were unveiled last week are, by all accounts, excellent choices. But why was there absolutely zero public input into the selection process?

The answer is simple. In 2001, then-Secretary of Education Charles Zogby declared Philadelphia to be a District in Distress – sort of like the damsel-in-distress of medieval tales, or the lady tied to the railroad tracks in old westerns. Under Act 88 of 2001, this declaration turned us into the object of a rescue operation, to be carried out by a commission (the SRC) appointed by the state and city. Since rescuers seldom consult with the victim about exactly how s/he would like to be saved, it’s not surprising that Act 88 allowed (and continues to allow) for peremptory, closed-door decision-making along the lines of what we saw last week.

But it’s 7 ½ years later, and time to ask whether rescue mode still makes sense.

State law allowed Secretary Zogby to designate a district as distressed if it was defaulting on its finances, failing to operate for the full school year, out of compliance with state laws, or in some other way doing seriously bad things. While Philly may have met some of these criteria in 2001, it's unclear that any apply now (although, like a number of other districts in this state, we certainly still have big problems).

And third, is SEPTA Watch. In fact, SEPTA Watch is the one blog that I have delivered to me by email, because it is short, to the point, and does something that I think most effective blogs of that sort do: It calls out obviously stupid things as stupid. For example, why is there so much trash at 30th Street? Or, why does the only transit expansion we get go to service casinos, and not say, the Navy Yard or something else?

What Philly-Centric sites are you reading?

News and Notes

1) When we started our Open Records Request fax bank, I thought that 50 people asking for passwords would be enough to send a clear message, and force the City Commissioners' to come up with a commonsense solution to keeping election returns password protected. Instead, it got over 250, from Hallwatch's email, to mentions on Philebrity, the Clog, Clout, It's our City, and elsewhere.

So, 250 people requested to have the same access to election results as connected politicians. There is an easy solution, too: just set up something to spit out the data. How come I think it will not be so simple?

2) There is a story in the Inquirer today about the 10,000 men effort, which has so far not come close to living up to its goals. There is a lot to take away from it, but for people interested in progressive politics and organizing, this piece is instructive:

Outwardly, the organization appears to have stalled. It opened an office at 1501 Christian St. in a property owned by Kenny Gamble, the entertainment mogul and one of the organization's high-profile founders. But with no paid staff, the headquarters is open only by appointment, Bond said.

And the 10,000 Men Web site (www.10000menphilly.com) has not been updated in months. It still headlines an April 5 Community Action Fair to encourage volunteerism, the organization's biggest public event since its inaugural rally.

Lets say 10,000 men were really going to volunteer, for a mix of street patrols and mentorship/ community service. How can that happen without full time organizers? The answer is that barring a miracle, it cannot. And even here, where this is organizing about street violence that directly impacts people's lives in this City.

So, if you/we are instead trying to motivate people for your host of other progressive issues- all of which may be important, but most of which will have less direct tangible effects than violence, how can it be done without actually paying people to do it? Long-term, it cannot.

If we as progressives want change, we have to figure out how to pay for it.

3) I should have added a link to it a while ago, but, if you are not reading SEPTA Watch, you should be.

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