Archive: January, 2013
Today, at Broad and Walnut, reproductive-rights advocates will be rallying for a noontime "visibility event," one of many being held throughout the state. As noted in the current issue of City Paper, the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion, Roe v. Wade, doesn't bring much cause for celebration — or, as Time Magazine put it, abortion-rights activists have "been losing ever since."
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The AIDS advocacy group ACT UP Philadelphia disrupted a Liberty Bell speech by Gov. Tom Corbett today, according to activists. (It doesn't appear as though Corbett's visit was much publicized in advance. He is usually greeted by protesters whenever he visits the city.) The group is demanding that Corbett restore General Assistance cash welfare to the state's poor and disabled. In November, Project HOME told City Paper that they had seen an influx of people requiring shelter, food and services since Corbett and legislative Republicans cut the $205 per month benefit.
In March, CP profiled the city's recovery houses for recovering drug addicts, which heavily depended on General Assistance checks.
(UPDATE: The Penn Alexander line is no more, probably preventing a few cases of hypothermia along the way.)
Don't blame Robert Tucker; blame the system. Last year, the line for registration at Penn Alexander involved a nearly 24-hour wait outside West Philly's most sought-after neighborhood elementary school. Rumor was, this year, the line for Tuesday registration would be starting the Friday before. So, this morning, Tucker enlisted his mom (his wife is 37 weeks pregnant) to bring a chair out and start things off, hopefully ensuring a kindergarten slot for his daughter. By 2 p.m., nearly 70 parents (after a tense period of detente) had joined him.
Remember how thousands of Philadelphians had to cast provisional ballots on Election Day and no one could figure out why? The Pennsylvania Department of State has chimed in with its own analysis, based on a sample of 5,203 provisional ballot names sent over by the City Commissioners, who run Philly elections. It found that just 3 percent of those forced to vote provisionally should have been; the rest ought to have been able to vote on a machine.
They found that 5,125 of the names were in voter records. Of those, 157 were in regular poll books and 4,327 were in supplemental poll books, which the city generated; all of those people should have been able to vote using machines, not on provisional ballots. Another 564 voters should have been in the poll books but weren't, mostly because they were underage and the city apparently didn't use a necessary program to change them to active status. (Although the state does concede that there was one poor soul of the last name "Null" who apparently was excluded from the database for coding reasons.)
The memo from Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele concludes: "If Philadelphia had implemented the underage utility in our system, had the correct supplemental provisional ballot date range and the poll workers used both the regular poll books and supplemental poll books correctly, out of the 5,203 provisional ballot names we checked, they would have only had 155 provisional ballots cast. We stand ready to work with the City Commissioners to help them prevent similar issues from occurring in future elections."
Demonstrators from Public Citizen, Occupy Philly, PennPIRG and other groups who don't relish the idea of big money buying elections are at Love Park this afternoon (like, now) to mark the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. They join protesters around the country trying to generate momentum for a constitutional amendment, which would be required reverse the court ruling that prevented the government from limited political expenditures by corporations.
Steve Masters, who runs the lobbying firm Just Laws, says this is the kickoff for a broader advocacy effort to continue through the spring. "Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez is going to put a ballot question on the May primary in Philadelphia for citizens to support a constitutional amendment," he says. "And state Rep. Cherelle Parker will lead the effort in General Assembly to make Pennsylvania one of the states on record as wanting a constitutional amendment."
This week, Daniel Denvir wrote in detail about the turmoil at the Inquirer and Daily News, where the owners have threatened to "liquidate" their assets if they can't obtain $8 million in wage and benefit savings from the newsroom immediately. The Newspaper Guild contract was supposed to be good through October. But, there must be some bite behind that bark: Dan just got word that the union will come to the table tomorrow. Memo below:
After a productive meeting this morning, in which the company spoke to the status of other union negotiations and the dire financial situation it still faces, the Guild Executive Board agreed to begin early bargaining on a new contract. The first session will be tomorrow afternoon.
This decision was not made lightly and came with the following caveats:
1) The Guild's present contract remains in effect until a new agreement can be reached and ratified. If a new agreement cannot be reached or ratified, our existing contract stays in effect until it expires in October.
2) The period for members to consider buyouts or reduced work weeks has been extended through next Friday, Jan. 25. Your last day of work would be Feb. 1.
To accommodate more members, the Guild's general meeting will take place Tues., Jan. 22, at 6:30 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at 11th and Arch streets. For members who can't wait around, Bill Ross and members of the executive board will be at the Hilton starting at 5 pm to answer questions and take nominations for Guild officers.
Howard Gensler, Acting President
Bill Ross, Executive Director
Executive Board, TNG/CWA 38010
Last night, a couple hundred people crowded into Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row to hear the Parks and Recreation Commission grill Temple University over its plan to build its own boathouse on city parkland, on Kelly Drive south of Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Almost everyone agreed that it was a great idea; the disagreement was over how it should be implemented, since a recently enacted law requires Temple to offer a substitute parcel of parkland to replace what it wants to build on. Temple wants to sidestep that requirement by putting down money to improve the site, build a retaining wall and help restore the condemned East Park Canoe House nearby.
Here's why all the back and forth was probably irrelevant: Councilman Curtis Jones, in whose district the parcel lies, sent an envoy, chief of staff Al Spivey, to the meeting. And Spivey was crystal clear: "We will use the weight of our office to make sure this comes to fruition," he said. "Whatever you [park commissioners] need to do to make this happen, I compel you to think about it."
Tonight, at 6 p.m. at Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row, Philly's Parks and Recreation Commission will hear comment from the public on a proposal by Temple University to build it's own boathouse by the Schuylkill River near Kelly Drive. As we previously noted, the plan is controversial since it's the first test of a city law requiring anyone who wants to take city parkland to provide a similar parcel of land elsewhere as a substitute. Some say it doesn't bode well that the very first applicant for parkland is trying to bypass that provision, by offering funding instead to cover upgrades to the park.
Temple, in its proposal, essentially named its own price for the land, offering to spend $1.5 million to help renovate the East Park Canoe House and to improve nearby infrastructure. It argued that no appropriate substitute land exists, since the city law requires the land to be "of at least equal value, size, and park or recreational usefulness as the land to be transferred or converted." However, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, an advocacy group, says there are several such parcels that could and should be considered as substitute land — and that those include plots the city is already looking to acquire to build its waterfront trail network. As a result, says the Parks Alliance's Lauren Bornfriend the proposal "should be sent back. It should not go any further."
"The Alliance would have been happy to share this information with Temple if Temple had met with the Alliance to discuss the proposed transfer or conversion, an issue addressed in greater detail in comment 3, below. The Commission should require Temple to evaluate these and other parcels," the Alliance added in a statement.
When it comes to weather, breaking records isn't something to celebrate, necessarily. Which is too bad, since Pennsylania saw lots of them last year, including 24 heat records and 40 precipitation records, according to data compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Nationwide, we saw 3,527 monthly weather records in 2012, even more than in 2011, making it the hottest year on record. Pennsylvania wasn't one of the top-10 states in terms of records broken, though, and didn't have any Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disasters last year. Environmental groups across the state are launching a "100 Days of Climate Action" intiative — whether it can break through Beltway politics, though, is another matter.
A weekly series of foul-mouthed investigations into empty lots, dead-ass proposals and other design phenomena in Philadelphia. Find more stories like this at Philaphilia.blogspot.com.
3601 Market St. -- Ever wonder why the University City Science Center can't seem to fill up all its space in the 47 years since it opened? Well, it would all be filled in right now if this project right here got built. The World Forum for Science and Human Affairs wasn't just any hotel/conference center complex. It was designed to make West Philadelphia be a science and humanity crossroads for the WORLD.
In 1973, after spending two decades getting off the ground, the University City Science Center finally started turning out a surplus. The original plan for the center always was meant to include a hotel/conference component for all the smart motherfuckers who worked there to have more contact with other genius-brains across the world. Now that there was this surplus, it was time to get the ball rolling on getting the motherfucker built. In August of 1973, Chairman of the Board Paul Cupp announced that a brand-new science-related megaplex would be built on Market Street between 36th and 38th that would host the greatest minds of the world during Philadelphia's upcoming bicentennial events in 1976. The architect was to be the Great Satan of Philadelphia architecture, the firm of Mitchell/Giurgola.
A very early model of the World Forum, before it was even called that. This photo of the model is the only surviving rendering of the project. Pic from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project.
This double-block-long juggernaut would have a 700-room hotel, meeting rooms of all sizes, restaurants, retail, parking garages, and to top it all off, facilities for instant translation of foreign languages. The place would also include the most modern telecommunications and computer-related equipment 1973 had to offer (to put that into context, the Ethernet method of network connection had just been invented four months earlier).