Archive: February, 2011
|Photo | Angelo Fichera|
Celian B. Putnam showed up at 2200 Market Street at approximately 11:45 a.m. this morning to help prevent Saturday night killers.
Im concerned about ... getting some sensible statement out there, Putnam said. Its just the idea of these uncontrolled, unlicensed [guns].
Putnam was joined in front of Sen. Robert Caseys district office by representatives of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) Mayor Michael Nutter is a member and of CeaseFirePA, along with proponents of MAIG's national Fix Gun Checks Campaign. Her name appeared with more than 9,000 signatures from Pennsylvanians on a petition calling for a system that contains records of those prohibited from purchasing firearms and requires every gun buyer to be subjected to a background check. Currently, "occasional sellers" those who sell firearms at gun shows, via classified ads or on the Internet are not required to subject their buyers to such checks.
|Photo | Angelo Fichera|
At noon, the group gathered around Kurk Imhof (above, right), a field representative for Casey, to hand over the petition and request Caseys support. Phil Goldsmith, board president of CeaseFirePA, outlined the proposals in the document. "Let's remember cops are the ones in the line of fire," Goldsmith said. "I'm all in favor of putting more cops on the street, but lets protect them first."
A press event for the campaign was held just a few hours before the petition at City Hall. Mayor Nutter, who's one of 184 Pennsylvania mayors who belong to MAIG, joined local survivors and families affected by gun violence to promote the message.
|Photo | Angelo Fichera|
The campaigns two-month Fix Gun Checks Truck Tour was launched Wednesday. The mobile truck (pictured) is equipped with a digital counter on its side, tracking the number of Americans murdered by gun violence since the shootings in Tuscon, Ariz. last month. When the truck parked in front of Sen. Caseys office for the drop-off, the number rested at 1,393. By the time the 20-minute event concluded, it went up by one.
Yesterday, City Council's Committee on Housing and the Homeless, at the behest of Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, heard from the victims of slumlord Robert Coyle, the Kenzinger whose empire of low-value homes in Kensington and Port Richmond once numbered in the hundreds until Coyle defaulted on millions in mortgages he had borrowed from local banks.
He is also accused (accused, that is, by his former tenants more than a year since Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman broke the story, no charges have been filed) of enticing "buyers" of his properties with bogus "rent-to-own" agreements in some cases written, in others simply verbal. Coyle is now rumored to be living in New Jersey.
Last summer, City Paper investigated the mechanisms by which Coyle built his fortune, turning an inventory of run-down, in some cases barely habitable houses into millions of dollars including the role played by the local banks who loaned Coyle so much money, and who are now sitting on his vast inventory.
Among our findings were emails, included in a lawsuit filed against Coyle by Republic Bank, which suggested that the bank, while loaning him vast sums of money, was also trying to steer customers' title insurance business to Coyle's own title insurance company:
In a November 2007 e-mail, for example, Coyle's accountant asks about "the title business promised before and after the [June 29, 2007] closing." Then-President and Chief Operating Officer Louis DeCesare, who has since left the company, responds, "We have been very slow in new loan closings, but I think things will pick up soon." DeCesare adds: "I thought a good next step would be to have you and [Coyle's accountant] meet with ... me to make sure work starts coming your way."
In January 2008, in response to an e-mail from Coyle, Republic First Assistant Vice President Ramzi Dagher writes, "I am doing everything in my power to get you title work."
Another finding: the bank had valued the houses far above what they appeared to be worth.
Steve Culbertson, director of Housing for the nonprofit Impact Services, spoke to this point yesterday before Council: Impact Servies, he said, had secured money to help one tenant purchase one of the Coyle houses from the bank but the bank valued that property on its books at $80,000 though Culbertson says it's worth $20,000.
"My opinion is the banks are complicit in the activities of Mr. Coyle," Culbertson said. "They made a lot of money on these loans they took and put these loans on their books at very high values, based on Mr. Coyle's own appraisals."
Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez, in whose district many of the houses are, agreed: "I think the banks already made their money on these loans," she said.
As things stand, more than a hundred properties remain in limbo the banks have not been eager to sell them individually and advocates and the city are doing what they can to stop a mass sheriff's sale of the properties, an imminent possibility.
More than one month after a devastating fire at the Windermere Court Apartments, a small group of residents are still camping out on the sidewalks hoping to get their belongings. Now, they say, the building is beginning to melt.
CP went out and spoke with the group today. The unseasonably warm weather, they say, has begun to melt the ice that was, in part, holding together the structure in certain parts of the building. Former resident Theo Schall said the building is now even more dangerous for the demolition crew making trips inside attempting to gather peoples possessions.
The residents staking out the sidewalk are part of a group fighting for the buildings former residents. Theyre keeping track of the names of those who have been displaced, taking turns guarding the property from looting and, perhaps, an unexpected demolition and trying desperately to get the city, or anyone, to care about their plight. So far, they say, the citys response has been underwhelming.
The recent postponement follows a 48-hour halt on demolition, requested by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, in response to a resident rally. According to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the owners of the building do hold a permit for demolition. L & I told CP that the demolition itself is the owners responsibility.
Amidst the Marcellus Shale discussions in City Council (and here on the Clog), one Pennsylvania resident went behind the scenes of the fracking industry to create an expose nominated for an 2011 Academy Award.
Josh Foxs documentary Gasland is an in-depth look at the gas drilling industry and hydraulic fracturing occurring throughout the country. The Marcellus Shale that lies beneath your feet is being drilled for gas and causing major issues that Fox calls absurd and astonishing. See what else Fox says in a CP interview with the write/director. This film has already won Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this years Oscars on Feb. 27.
Gasland is available to watch on HBO through next year, but for those of us without premium channels we can catch it at a free screening this Saturday, Feb. 19 at CCP.
In conjunction with CCPs Law and Society week, this Saturdays day-long program, Natural Gas in Pennsylvania, will feature two free screenings of Gasland at 9 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. The first screening will be followed by a speech by City Councilman Curtis Jones. The second will conclude with a Q&A with Protecting Our Waters founder, Iris Marie Bloom. Screenings and discussions will be held in room C2-5 of the Center for Business and Industry Building at 18th and Callowhill.
The demolition of the Windermere Court building, the West Philadelphia apartment complex that erupted in a massive blaze a month ago, may be postponed indefinitely, according to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who helped former Windermere residents get a 48-hour extension on the site's demolition, originally scheduled for Monday, after residents protested being unable to retrieve pets and possessions from the building.e
Blackwell told CP today that the property owners will need to re-file for demolition. She explained that this process may take a while because the case will need to go through the court all over again.
CP contacted the Department of Licenses and Inspections, which oversees demolitions, for confirmation, but has not yet gotten a response.
An attorney representing 20-year-old George Spain had gone through an exhaustive final argument: Spain was up for murder one in courtroom 707 of the Criminal Justice Center on Monday afternoon. The sentence could land him in prison for the rest of his life and his attorney, Dennis Cogan, had explained the case in clear and uncertain terms:
Reginald James, Jr., 19, was shot and killed around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2009 as he fled two assailants near a dark street corner in Germantown. Later than night, James girlfriend identified Spain and another man to police. They were taken into custody. The other man was released, however and two new suspects came under scrutiny after Spain supposedly told police what had really happened.
According to Cogan, Spain said two men -- Tyreese Copper and his father, Gregory Anderson (known as Little Ty and Big Ty) -- had targeted James Jr. because he had stolen a lockbox from them.
The Commonwealth wanted the jury to believe, Cogan said, that Spain had known about the planned murder, conspired to execute it, and then snitched to police to avoid implicating himself. This would make Spain liable for murder as an accomplice.
Cogan dismissed these notions outright and a host of others in just over an hour: Without Spain, Cogan said, the police had no case. He sets it right! Cogan said.
After the defense rested, it was John Doyles turn. Representing the District Attorneys office, he said Spain had been blowing up Little Tys cell phone in the minutes leading up to the murder. Spain knew the plan, he worked with Big Ty and Little Ty to corner James Jr., and Spain should be sent to prison for life.
Doyle rested and then Judge Stephen R. Geroff outlined the jurys options: convicting Spain of murder one would land the 20-year-old in prison for life. Murder three would earn him a maximum of 40 years in prison. And if the jury found Spain not guilty, well, he would be sent home. Its now up to the jury.
After less than two hours, the courts clerk announces that the jury has come to a verdict. Family members here to support both Spain and the deceased James Jr. fill the courtroom. Eight officers from the sheriffs department enter to keep things as calm as possible, standing on the courtrooms edge with their revolvers tucked away, their walkie-talkies off and their hands folded stalwartly in front of their belt buckles. The room is quiet; theres almost no sound but for occasional whispering and rustling clothes. The judge enters. The clerk asks that no one react to the verdict once its read. There are bated breaths and pregnant sighs. The jury enters one at a time and they sit. Another pause. The clerk reads the first count:
On murder in the first degree, how do you find the defendant, George Spain?
The jury foreman looks at the courtroom and demurs.
Not guilty your honor, he says. The courtroom stirs.
Murder in the third degree?
Not guilty your honor.
And on the conspiracy charge?
Not guilty your honor.
The room does, in fact, react. There are cries of joy and sadness from both sides of the room. Police officers, who testified for the prosecution and are now sitting in plainclothes in the front row of the court gallery, sit with arms crossed, visibly angry. They refuse to comment. A woman related to James Jr., who asks not to be identified, says the verdict just aint fair before breaking into tears.
And on the other side of the room where Spains family now begins to exit there are tears of jubilation. Donald Smith, Spains uncle, has tears rolling down his face when he says, justice has finally been done today.
But has it?
The unfortunate thing about all this is that someone is dead, says attorney Gary Silver, who worked with Cogans team on this case. And not only are the guys who committed this murder still out there, but you had Spain sitting behind bars for two years waiting for trial.
It feels like everyone loses, he says.
UPDATE: Tyreese Copper is, in fact, in lock up and is being prosecuted for murder; his trial is set for September (see this PDF of his docket sheet). His father, however, has not yet been arrested for this crime.
It's Our Money reporter Ben Waxman has a provacative column over at philly.com today, in which he argues that Nutter great achievement thus far is that he maintained the status quo in the face of potential economic disaster for the city.
It's not the most exciting argument to make for a mayor's success but maybe that's why nobody else has really been making it. Waxman essentially argues that those who say Mayor Nutter's accomplishments haven't added up to much are overlooking the fact that simply keeping the city running at more or less where it was before the crash of 2008 is itself a major accomplishment and that Nutter deserves credit for making that happen.
... The fact that many in the city don't recognize Nutter's accomplishment doesn't mean that he hasn't succeeded. It's just that Nutter's success has been less about what he's done and more about what he has avoided. During an economic crisis, preserving services isn't easy.
Those who wanted Nutter to hack and slash government and restructure the city's taxes and purge City Hall of inefficiency will disagree they'd rather see the mayor use the bad economy to leverage drastic changes. But that's easier said than done.
I donât know about you, but this photo has my eyes glued to my computer screen. It's probably the explosion and the the raining paper, but, either way, I can't help but wish I was in Chinatown when this was going down.
But just because the Chinese New Year is over, doesnât mean you canât go out and shoot an awesome photo like "lucindalunacy" did.
Once you do, visit City Paperâs Flickr group, login to your Yahoo! account, and post it to our page.
By posting to our Flickr page, you agree to let us publish your photo on the Photostream and, possibly, in the the print editionâs Photostream column. Send âem our way!
HALL MONITOR: City-wide "Computer Day," residents speak on Council ethics, and a silent protest against Southwest Philly prison
City Council met this morning and adjourned without making much headway into their proposed agenda.
Three resolutions on final passage were adopted:
110061: Councilmember Jannie Blackwell introduced a resolution to call for public hearings regarding the use of city Health and Social Service Agencies in conjunction with school district nurse and guidance counselor resources in public schools.
110062: Councilmember Bill Green introduced a resolution declaring Feb. 15 as Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) Day in the city. This day is set to honor UPenn and their invention of the first general-purpose electronic computer in the world on Feb. 14, 1946.
110064: Councilmember Frank Rizzo introduced the resolution to recognize USPS worker and City Hall letter carrier, Leonard Thomas, on his retirement.
Aside from the lack of passed bills and resolutions, there were two speakers from the public. Both Fred Fisher and Sandra Stewart went to the podium to discuss resolution 100128, an ordinance to amend the "Standards of Conduct and Ethics" section of the Philadelphia Code. The changes to this section will establish standards regarding political activities of city officers and employees, and provide penalties for violations.
Fisher took the podium quoting a recent Supreme Court ruling against City Council for violation of the Sunshine laws, previously not recognized by the Council. These laws were adopted by the Council last year.
Stewart also referred to the ethics ordinance on the floor. "This bill is long overdue," she said. "Philadelphia is the number one city with the longest running City Council members." She implored Council to start a discussion about limiting councilmember terms in office.
All of this Council business was conducted this morning in front of an audience of silent protesters. Southwest Philly residents (nearly 30) brought signs and stood behind Council to spread their messages of disapproval of the city's plan to build a prison in the neighborhood.
|Courtesy of City Kitties|
Last month, a massive fire engulfed the Windermere Court Apartments, leaving many residents suddenly homeless. But humans weren't the only ones to suffer in the inferno â kitties, too, have been put in harm's way. According to cat activists in West Philadelphia, some cats are still alive and trapped in the building, which will soon be demolished.
"Despite obvious signs of life inside, no one took action â not the owners, not L&I, not the fire marshal, not the insurance investigators who all had access to the building," said Eli R. Green, from City Kitties, in an e-mail. "Just two days after this disaster, fire fighters said there was nothing more they could do and no possibility that cats could have survived."
According to City Kitties, a West Philly cat rescue, the city won't let the cat activists in, citing that the doors are sealed and that's that. "Meanwhile, the owners are moving forward with demolition, knowing full well that there are still pets inside!" said Green.
So the cat activists are holding a rally this Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m., across from the Windemere Court Apartments at 48th and Walnut streets, to put pressure on the city to save the animals. Perhaps these kitties have nine lives yet!
- 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