Hot on the heels of success from his campaign video likening Philly to the Libyan dictatorship — which made it onto the Drudge Report — GOP mayoral candidate John Featherman has released another ad.
In this one, he yet again pokes fun at the city's political machine — in particular, the allegedly cozy relationship between leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties — as well as his opponent Karen Brown. For folks in the 8th Council District, you might want to tune in: Germantown Settlement is mentioned.
Feel like the Philadelphia Parking Authority is a patronage-stuffed joke? There's a town hall meeting just for you, tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Berean Institute (19th Street and Girard Avenue). Check the press release:
Do you have problems with the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA)? Do you feel its policies are unjust? If so, you may want to participate in a citywide Town Hall Meeting that will discuss the agency and its policies. Sponsored by community activist Lawrence Clark and the People's Choice Movement Coalition, a group of concerned citizens, the meeting will be held Saturday, October 16 from 11:00AM to 1:00PM at Berean Institute, 19th & Girard Avenue.
People who feel they have been treated unfairly will have a chance to air their grievances through testimony that will be used to document the authority's alleged misdeeds. Each person testifying will have three (3) minutes and must provide written testimony. Those who don't get to testify due to time constraints can also provide written testimony to be included in the documentation. Legal counsel will be on hand to discuss Act 22, the law that turned control of the agency over to state. A representative from the PPA has also been invited to participate.
Clark and the group expressed their extreme displeasure with the policies of the PPA at a protest demonstration in front of the agency's Filbert Street office in March and called for an investigation into the practices of the agency.
They are also calling for a 60-Day Moratorium that would allow individuals to establish financial hardship, halt the auction of vehicles and impose a freeze on hiring and the awarding of contracts.
âWe feel that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has become unjust, revenue driven and a political bureaucracy,â explained Clark. âThe PPA is like an out of control beast has been buffaloing drivers in the city. There is no compassion in its policies, especially during these hard economic times. These policies are in fact, driving people away from business districts in the city. Why should people shop here when they can go to suburban malls and not worry about getting ticketed or towed? It gives the city a negative image. Look at how the city is portrayed in the TV show âParking Wars.â PPA enforcement personnel are like vultures waiting to swoop on unsuspecting prey!â
|Courtesy of Pam Zimmerman|
Remember Park(ing) Day, that whimsical time of year when bikers, architecture students, nonprofit workers, urban planners and other assorted car critics take over parking spots around the city in order to reveal what a world with a few less automobiles might be like?
I wrote about it in 2008, when it first took place in Philly:
The first Park(ing) Day took place in San Francisco in 2005. People were encouraged to claim a parking space, and cover it with bikes, grass or anything that wasn't a car, and pay the meter. The point was to legally demonstrate that automobiles dominate too much public land, and that it should be redistributed to parks, bike lanes and vegetation.
"In most cities, 70 percent of outdoor space is devoted to cars. But what makes a city great culture, diversity, walkability has nothing to do with a car," says Pam Zimmerman, the organizer of Park(ing) Day in Philly.
Zimmerman just e-mailed The Clog to let us know that Park(ing) Day will happen again, on Sept. 17, with takeovers in Center City, North Philly, Southwest Philly, Germantown, Northern Liberties and University City. Here's a list of the participants so far:â¢ Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
â¢ Community Design Collaborative
â¢ Philadelphia City Planning Commission
â¢ Philadelphia Water Department
â¢ Pennsylvania Planning Association â Southeast Chapter
â¢ Germantown Community Connection
â¢ City Lights Network / Southwest CDC (Southwest Philadelphia)
â¢ Planning Collective
â¢ Arch Street Methodist Church
â¢ University of Pennsylvania â Penn Design
â¢ University of Pennsylvania â Urban Transit Group
â¢ Southwest Community Development Corporation / City Lights
â¢ SMP Architects
â¢ Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects
â¢ PostGreen Development
â¢ Interface Studio
â¢ âFree Books Parkâ in Northern Liberties
|After being told he was owed money, then turned over to I.C.E., handcuffed,
and detained at PPA headquarters, Oliver was let go. 23 drivers were charged.
Today, taxi drivers, supporters, and clergy members gathered at PPA headquarters in a "prayer vigil" for taxi drivers detained and/or charged with being here illegally after being netted in a sting set up by the PPA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Last week, the Daily News reported that PPA officials, in collaboration with ICE, sent notes to 26 taxi cab drivers (cabs are governed by the PPA), telling them they were owed credit card payments, and should come by PPA headquarters to collect.
In fact, the notes were bogus: the drivers were greeted at the door and, they say, ushered into another room where they were handcuffed and detained by ICE officials.
Here's an account from Oliver (he preferred not to give his last name), one of the three men released without any charges, with whom I spoke today:
PPA sent us a letter saying they're holding some money if you come over and pick it up. I have the letter in my car! When I got there, there was a lady who asked me for my ID, I gave it to her, she checked the list, and said ok, this man will escort you inside to get your check. When I came in , they push me to the wall and say, "Police! Police!" I said, "What have I done? What have I done? What is the problem?" They didn't answer. They just took me to a warehouse in the back, where I saw the other drivers, handcuffed, sitting on the floor. I saw one of the immigration officials and I said 'I am a citizen! I've been a citizen for seven years my passport is outside in the car.' They said, 'Really?' They went out and brought it back and they said 'We're sorry - we're very very sorry - we made a mistake."
According to ICE spokesman Mark Medvesky, the operation was the result of a perceived vulnerability: taxi drivers have "access to parts of the airport that the general public does not have."
ICE, he says, approached PPA and asked to review drivers' records, ultimately coming up with the 26-person list. The 23 charged with being here illegally can challenge their deportations in immigration court.
The sting raises a few questions:
- After an extensive review of some 5,000 records, ICE only found 26 people of interest, and charged even fewer: was the .04% percent rate enough to justify such a search or such an elaborate sting? Was ICE expecting to find more than it did?
- If taxi drivers pose a threat to airport security why perform such a search now? And why aren't similar stings being conducted in other cities (spokesman Medvesky affirmed that they aren't).
- Was the method of arrest sending bogus notices to cab drivers and bringing them to PPA headquarters (not a federal facility, that is, but that of their employer) appropriate?
- Is the timing of this sting political? Medvesky says no, pointing out the operation was in the works before the city canceled its collaborative arrangement between police and ICE officials.
Ron Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, suggests that the timing had more to do with PPA's recent losing court battle against the Taxi Workers' Alliance. The PPA, he suggests, is trying to curry favor with Harrisburg at a time when the agency finds itself suddenly without teeth.
|Courtesy of Media Mobilizing Project|
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked with the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to bring in local cabbies with the promise of getting them their owed credit-card payments. It was all a ploy, of course, and 23 taxi drivers got arrested and their names were placed on a deportation list.
Cabbies are currently holding a prayer vigil over the recent crackdown until 2 p.m., at PPA's offices. And they're asking an interesting question: Was this retribution from the PPA for a recent lawsuit?
Shocking: PPA officials fixed tickets for their buds.
So finds an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, concluding that hearing examiners at the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA) have been improperly dismissing parking tickets for friends and family. Among the six government workers on the chopping block was former Finance Deputy Director Clorise Wynn, who resigned just before the Inspector General Amy L. Kurland released her report (she insisted one had nothing to do with the other, and we totally believe her).
Harsh words from the OIG:
The investigation shows how crucial good management is to any department. Clorise Wynn created a workplace that was devoid of clear rules, isolated line staff, and left gaps in supervision that compromised the integrity of her department. This left Wynns staff to learn office practices from her example alone, which provided a lesson only in what not to do.
In addition to failing to implement a no-ticket-fixing-for-my-people policy, the report alleges that Wynn dismissed hundreds of parking tickets for friends and 35 (!) for her daughter. Others found at fault in the OIG ticket-fixing probe include former BBA supervisor Joanna Schofield, hearing examiners Yvette Garcia and Denean Hardy, and the PPAs Reginald Bass-Reid and Robin Bass.
Heres another interesting tidbit: Its only been five years since the last ticket-fixing scam blew up in the city. And who might you think was responsible for cracking the case the last time around?
From the Daily News:
As a federal prosecutor before she became inspector general, [IG Amy] Kurland brought criminal charges against the former director of the BAA, Joseph F. Hoffman Jr., for taking $4,000 in payoffs to throw out $40,000 in parking tickets for taxi kingpin Michael Etemad.
Well thank you, inspector.
Full text of the OIG report recommendations can be found here: http://www.phila.gov/oig/news.html.
|Credit: Media Mobilizing Project|
|After two years of facing charges, Blount's name is cleared.|
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
How many seas must a white dove sail?
How many times must the leader of Philadelphia's taxi drivers union clear himself of the same charges before the PPA will deign to even meet with him?
Who knows although you'd think we'd have an answer to the last question, after Taxi Workers Alliance president Ron Blount was acquitted in PPA court yesterday on two-year-old charges of assaulting a passenger.
In September, 2008, the newly elected Blount was hit with a felony charge - one that had been thrown out and then re-instated of allegedly attacking and choking passenger Megan Saunders after she tried to pay with a credit card.
Last October, after a year of facing that charge, Blount was acquitted by a jury in Common Pleas court.
At the time, the Phialdelphia Parking Authority, which oversees the taxi industry and which has had an acrimonious relationship with Blount from the time he was elected to lead the TWA didn't hesitate to use the charges as a talking point against him. As I reported in my profile of Blount and the TWA in September '08:
The morning after Blount was elected during the time when he faced only misdemeanor charges the Metro quoted PPA taxi division chief James Ney, saying he was "quite concerned with the president they've elected, who has outstanding charges against him ... We're wondering why the drivers would elect someone like that."
When Blount was fully acquitted by a Common Pleas court in October, the PPA pursued its own case against him in yes, it exists PPA's own administrative court, where PPA judges (whose salaries are paid by the PPA) have the power to impose fines, revoke cab licenses, etc.
In the two years since his original criminal charges, the PPA has declined to meet with Blount citing, since last October, the administrative case against him.
Yesterday, Blount appeared before a PPA judge to defend himself, again, against charges filed by Saunders who, she revealed on the stand, had been driven to court yetserday by the PPA.
The judge found Blount innocent of everything except failing to take a credit card a violation for which he may have to pay a $250 fine.
So: is the PPA, after Blount's two acquittals, ready at last to meet with him?
Absolutely kind of. The PPA will meet with him, Jim Ney, director of the taxi and limo divsion of the PPA, told the Metro today . . . "but thats not going to happen until we see the actual opinion."
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