Why Corbett might embrace Obamacare: Governor cagey on allegations of illegally kicking thousands off Medicaid
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to support the Affordable Care Act's controversial individual mandate to buy health insurance. But the justices also delivered conservative governors more wiggle room to opt out of the law's enormous expansion of healthcare for the poor, declaring it unconstitutional for the federal government to require states to participate in an expanded version of Medicaid as a condition of participating in the entire program.
Some conservative Republicans are vowing to reject that part of the law: Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly announced that their states would not participate. Yet there's a possibility that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett may quietly acquiesce. He's still deciding whether to accept Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which is set to provide health insurance to a huge chunk of currently ineligible poor people ― estimated at up to 682,880 Pennsylvanians―living under 133 percent of the federal poverty line.
“There is no decision on that, and we are still reviewing the law,” says Department of Public Welfare spokesperson Donna Morgan.
Conservative governors say their states cannot afford the increased cost to the state-federal program, which in Pennsylvania could be a hike of between 1.4 percent and 2.7 percent in state Medicaid spending. The federal government, however, will pick up most of the tab, starting at 100 percent in the first three years of implementation, through 2017, and gradually declining to 90 percent by 2020.
Paul Davies, former Inquirer deputy editorial page editor and current Philadelphia Magazine blogger, doesn't know what he's talking about. Or at least if he does, he's not letting on.
You see, Davies doesn't like my cover story on Jeremy Nowak's leadership of the William Penn Foundation. The story detailed a well-funded effort to bolster pro-charter-school organizations and defund education advocacy groups that have traditionally been critical of privatization. But instead of writing a thoughtful rebuttal with any sort of factual detail, Davies just lazily insults my reporting:
“City Paper,” Davies wrote, “wrote a breathless story last week that essentially inferred there was some secret right-wing conspiracy to overthrow public education and turn it into a bunch of privately run charter schools. Never mind, the story was lacking in details to support the thesis, and few critics would speak on the record."
Davies' column exemplifies a common establishment response to William Penn: A "breathless" gratitude to a moneyed foundation for bothering to care that Philadelphia exists — so infatuated as to lose sight of all critical consideration.
This week saw the Nutter administration defend the mayor's ban on outdoor meals in city parks in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of religious groups who claim that the ban violates their constitutional freedoms of speech and religious practice.
But hearings before Judge William Yohn focused, so far, less on the constitutionality of the rule than on its practical justification and application thus far, with Judge Yohn asking questions not about constitutional law but about how and whether the mayor's rule stands up to its own purported logic.
Nutter, for example, claimed that the rule sought to provide more "dignity" for those receiving meals; but Judge Yohn on Thursday questioned whether there was more "dignity" in waiting in line for food on City Hall's concrete apron than on the verdant parkway. The administration has claimed that moving people off the Parkway will allow it to better provide services for the homeless; but Yohn noted questioning by plaintiff's attorney Paul Messing that revealed that the city hadn't developed any plan to provide those services before the ban or in the months since.
But most interesting, maybe, was Mayor Nutter's defense of his ban as part of his plan to "end homelessness."
Follow Isaiah Thompson on Twitter.
A federal judge today issued a preliminary injunction barring the City of Philadelphia from enforcing a ban on the serving of outdoor meals in city parks — in the process, tearing apart the city's assertions that the ban is part of a larger plan to serve the homeless and that instituting it wouldn't result in an immediate loss of crucial services.
The ban, imposed as an administrative rule by Mayor Michael Nutter, would have effectively put an end (legally, anyway) to a 10-year-old tradition maintained by various groups, most of them religious, of serving meals to the homeless on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — the locus of recent efforts by the city improve its attractiveness to tourists and the new home of the relocated Barnes Foundation.
The rule, which had been preceded by only a few days by a different rule requiring new health permits to serve food, was billed by the mayor as a move toward greater “dignity” in providing meals for the homeless and hungry indoors — but was unaccompanied by any plan to do so other than the future formation of a task force to study the issue. The mayor also invited “feeders” to serve their meals on the apron of City Hall, adjacent to which a major renovation of City Hall's Dilworth Plaza is underway.
In May, that rule was challenged in a lawsuit by the Philadelphia civil-rights firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP, with attorney Paul Messing representing four religious groups who've been engaging in Parkway “feeding” for years, arguing that the rule violated their constitutional rights to religious practice and free speech.
Yesterday, Mayor Nutter held a press conference to discuss, among other things, the potentially deadly heat expected this weekend. The Daily News reports that there have been four heat-related deaths so far, and with 100-degree heat expected tomorrow, there unfortunately be more.
The mayor and city administration are urging residents to stay cool, check on elderly neighbors and relatives, and make use of city services – including city “cooling centers,” where residents can get out of the heat and enjoy some taxpayer-funded AC.
Thing is, the cooling center plan is less of a coordinated emergency plan than you might think.
In the sweltering heat of last Sunday, this reporter noticed (as reported in this week's print edition of City Paper) a tweet from the city reminding residents to stay out of the heat and offering a link to a list of “cooling centers.”
But there wasn't exactly a list -- instead, there was an interactive map which (after performing not the easiest installation of additional flash software in order to be able to view it) showed cooling centers around the city.
It turns out many, if not most, are branches of the Free Library – and that makes sense: why not use the existing infrastructure of libraries, already distributed in neighborhoods around the city, to deliver an emergency service?
Only that emergency service doesn't appear to be being delivered on an emergency basis -- that is, the libraries aren't actually open that many extra hours at all.
Last Sunday, for example – despite the fact that the city's Health Commissioner had declared an excessive heat warning, and that the city was tweeting about its cooling centers – none of the city's branch libraries were, in fact, open (three regional libraries were, as well as the Central library, for part of the day). Only one library, Lucien B. Blackwell, had extra hours on Saturday.
And it turns out that the City's Office of Emergency Management, housed in the Managing Director's Office and which oversees the city's response to emergencies like extreme weather, doesn't actually oversee cooling center hours – or even, apparently, keep track of them.
Joan Przybylowicz, of the MDO, said her office didn’t know whether cooling centers had been open last weekend and explained in general terms that cooling centers “may open” during an excessive-heat warning, and the city “may request that the Free Library extend hours,” but that it’s up to the Free Library and its branches to figure that out.
The MDO, she explained, “doesn’t have the ability to manage a list that would change every day. ... We don’t keep track of which libraries or older adult centers extend their hours for every excessive heat warning.”
So it's up to the Free Library, not the Office of Emergency Management, to coordinate an emergency response – and it's on them to pay for it, too: Przbylowicz confirmed that the funds for extra hours come straight out of the budget of the Free Library, not the MDO. The Free Library, of course, has seen its budget dramatically cut under Mayor Nutter and has been operating on reduced hours for years.
Meanwhile, CP checked the Free Library's blog – the only place that has up-to-date info on cooling center hours we could find – to see what was planned for tomorrow's hundred-degree heat.
Right now, the site says one (1) library will be open extra hours on Saturday. Nothing is listed for Sunday – again.
Photo by Jesse Kudler, used with permission
Well, the title pretty much sums up what this reporter knows at the moment, but ...
More than twenty Occupy movement members were arrested tonight, during an ongoing nearly-weeklong Occupy National Gathering here in Philadelphia.
(Read all about it on the #natgat Twitter tag)
According to various accounts posted online, as well as the first-person account of an Occupier with whom Naked City spoke, those arrested had participated in a smaller march following the closing of Franklin Square, where most of the gathering's activities have been centered.
A large number of police — more police than marchers, by one account — followed the group and arrested them en masse, on Race Street near 12th or 13th. Several accounts pin the number at 27, but we can't confirm that (we've called Police Public Affairs but haven't heard back yet).
A group of Occupiers is now waiting outside Police HQ ("The Roundhouse") for the release of those arrested. According to a few accounts, the arrestees were charged with summary offenses.
The event will continue through Independence Day; you can catch live streaming of it here.
Follow Isaiah Thompson on Twitter.
In this week's cover story, I write about “cowboy” develoment around Temple Univeristy, where a booming residential student population has created a demand for housing that's made the area one of the most quickly developing in the city.
There are a lot of issues surrounding that development, not least among them how it will affect the longstanding African-American community in the neighborhood and who, exactly, is keeping an eye on how the neighborhood does develop. There exists no strong community organization representing the entire area, which means decisions on matters like zoning variances applications for vacant land go almost unnoticed.
In the increasingly tense problem of student behavior causing problems for longtime residents, Temple University has so far largely stayed on the sidelines – though the university recently voiced its support for the creation of a Neighborhood Improvement District, revealing in the process that it had been meeting for some time with the Temple Area Property Association, a group of Temple-area landlords who have pushed for the NID.
As I point out in my piece, Temple has a potential interest in allowing, if not promoting, the private development of off-campus student housing; it allows the university to outsource, for free, both the construction itself of student housing and the responsibility for the impact of that housing on the rest of the community.
Meanwhile, much of the development that is going on is sloppy, if not outright illegal, with developers cutting corners, breaking rules, and sometimes failing to post basic work permits. Above a just a few pictures snapped while walking around the area.
5th District Councilman and Council President Darrell Clarke says that the city's L&I department is simply overwhelmed by the task of enforcement (L&I told City Paper that it was stepping up enforcement in the area, but it's not clear why that's only happening now).
Whatever the case, finding violations of the city's building codes near Temple is as easy as, well, taking a walk.
Oh no they didn't. Last week in Harrisburg: Budget, school takeovers, fracking, surveillance state. PA generosity equals one Wawa “sub” for Romney and $1.65 billion for Shell oil.
“Oh no they didn't” is Daniel Denvir's weekly blog post on last week's moments in state politics. Philadelphians know precious little about the legislature or governor, though capitol lawmakers have enormous power over our schools, the care of our poor, and whether or not you can access a safe abortion. Are you an advocate, concerned citizen, legislator or aide with something to say? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for tips or comments. Follow him on Twitter @DanielDenvir.
Budget negotiations continue. Democrats cut out—at least for now.
Legislative Republicans continue their negotiations with Gov. Tom Corbett over the budget, due June 30: Corbett wants big cuts to education and programs for the poor and disabled, GOP legislators want fewer.
It's been a long week for the Actual value Initiative.
Yesterday, as you've probably gleaned by now from today's daily coverage (Daily News here, Inquirer here), City Council prepared to delay the implementation of AVI, over the mayor's objections, for another year.
As I'm sure you'll read in tomorrow's papers, the decision was a serious blow to Mayor Nutter, who has seen several big-ticket legislative items thwarted at the last second in Council — among them two attempts to impose a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Instead of implementing AVI, according to the agreement within Council, the city would tax based on the current assessments at close-to-present levels, with a tax hike of 3.59% to raise money for the Philadelphia School District.
The problem is that those current assessments are wrong — and that means that tens of thousands of Philadelphians are going to be essentially cheated out of a fair tax for another year, while tens of thousands more will get one more year's exemption from paying what they should be.
That has political implications, but also legal (and therefore financial) ones: the city now faces the prospect of lawsuits by those whose assessments are wrong, though it's not clear how successful such lawsuits might be.
What's more, those opposed to the shift to AVI, or who seek special exemptions, have one extra year to organize and lobby Council for breaks — breaks which, however deserved or not, everyone else will have to shoulder.
And they'll be much better prepared to do so: Nutter had proposed passing AVI before residents got their first property tax bills showing their new assessments, which should be completed by this September.
Of course, it was the very fact that those assessments aren't complete that lead Council to quash AVI this time, especially as the city's estimates for the total city-wide property value shrunk, causing the expected tax rate to increase.
Oh no they didn't. Last week in Harrisburg: SRC debacle, payday loans, booze. And Corbett won't stop coming.
“Oh no they didn't” is Daniel Denvir's new weekly blog post on last week's moments in state politics. Philadelphians know precious little about the legislature or governor, though capitol lawmakers have enormous power over our schools, the care of our poor, and whether or not you can access a safe abortion. Are you an advocate, concerned citizen, legislator or aide with something to say? Email email@example.com for tips or comments. Follow him on Twitter @DanielDenvir.
SRC goes around Philly legislators, lobbies Republicans for more power to crush unions
The state-controlled School Reform Commission, which has run Philadelphia schools since 2001, continues to receive loads of criticism for its plan to dismantle the city's public school system and potentially privatize its management, while possibly outsourcing all blue-collar work and securing major concessions from teachers. (Whew! see “Who's Killing Philly Public Schools?” for details)
“The SRC,” writes Inquirer education reporter Kristen Graham, “has long maintained in public that never-used powers written into the 2001 state takeover legislation gave it sufficient authority to impose terms on unions.”
- Ask A Man-About-Town
- Award Tour
- Bad Idea Factory
- Below the Curve
- Brian Hickey
- Budget Fuss
- City Council
- City Hall
- CP Abroad
- CP in the Community
- Criminal Justice System
- Day Tripper
- Death and Taxes
- Delaware River
- Dubious Distinction
- End of Days
- Film Fest
- Financial Meltdown
- Free Library
- Gay Stuff
- Get Lit
- Hall Monitor
- Health Care
- Hello, Kitty
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Marcellus Shale
- MUST READ
- Mysterious Mysteries
- Non Sequitur
- PA politics 2010
- Parking Wars
- Parks and Recreation
- People Send Us This Stuff
- Philadelphia Police
- Philadelphia Union
- Philly From Scratch
- philly madness
- President Obama
- Print Edition
- Readers Write
- Real Estate
- Rock Bottom
- Screwing Philly
- So Lush
- Sporting Life
- Sports Complex
- State Politicians
- State Politics
- Street Art
- Stuff We Like
- Taxi Drivers
- Tech Fetish
- The Budget Crisis
- The City Paper
- The CLOG
- The Human Condition
- The Mayor
- The Phightin Phils
- The World
- Things that make you go hm
- Tinfoil Hats Off
- Under the Table
- Under the Tables
- Urban Development
- Urban Planning
- urban wildlife
- Video Poker
- We Call Shenanigans
- Web Junk
- Weekend Omnibus
- White House
- What We've Found
- Women's Issues
- Flyered Up!
- How 'Bout That Weather?
- it's always sunny in philadelphia
- get out
- 10-track mind
- Bruce Being Bruce
- Gigantic Surprises
- Hello Canary
- Hello Puppy
- get lost
- Inside The Fishbowl
- Library Closings
- Local Support
- Night Moves
- Skeeze Police
- State Politicians Screwing Philly
- That's a cool stencil!
- Things We See
- This Week
- This Week in Oates
- University City
- What we don't heart
- what we heart
- Feeling Guilty
- Broke in Philly
- Dear Paper Doll
- Do A Good Thing
- Film Fest Schism
- G20-20 Vision
- Great American Heroes
- Pearl Jam Week
- Stars of the Photostream
- Lower Merion Webcam-Gate
- The Cycle
- Equality Forum
- Bureaucrat of the Week