Yet another senior (former) army officer has affirmed that City Council candidate David Oh did not misstate his military credentials, contrary to several news articles and attacks by accusers suggesting that Oh's campaign materials were misleading in saying that Oh was a Special Forces officer or a "Green Beret."
(Oh was designated a Special Forces officer while serving in the Maryland National Guard and was assigned a Green Beret; the term Green Beret, however, now refers to offices who complete rigorous specialized training to become "tabbed" or "qualified" Special Forces officers, which Oh was not)
Yesterday, a piece on this blog cited various members of local veterans groups defending David Oh's military record and stating that they felt the recent controversy over supposed misstatements by Oh were part of a political "smear campaign" to bring the candidate down.
Photo: Neal Santos
A few weeks ago, a certain flyer began to circulate Center City. On it was a picture of City Council At-Large candidate David Oh, as pictured on the cover of the Philadelphia Daily News. Above the picture of Oh on the flyer were the words "Special Forces Faker." Below and on the back of the flyer were various accusations that Oh has lied about his military career.
The flyer did not mention, however, who had printed it.
Commissioners Candidate Joe Duda demands "no recording of any kind," then "no applause" in heated debate with Al Schmidt
The first words out of City Commissioner Joe Duda's mouth last night were neither a greeting, question, nor the answer to a question posed to him.
Instead, Duda marched onstage at a Monday's City Commissioners candidates debate, sponsored by the the Committee of Seventy, League of Women Voters, and Philly.com, and made a demand to the crowd assembled:
"I was told there would be no cameras and no pictures taken," he said. "No recording of any kind allowed in the audience," he stated.
The sponsors have videotaped every one the dozen or so candidate forums they've held this year; the previous forum that night, for City Council At-Large candidates, had been videotaped; and a camera person was actively manning the camera for this one.
Nonetheless, they withdrew the camera. And with that, Philly lost one of the most interesting public debates we've had in a while.
Three candidates for City Commissioner were present - Democrat Stephanie Singer, who defeated 36-year-incumbent Marge Tartaglione; Al Schmidt, the republican insurgent; and longtime Republican incumbent Joe Duda. Schmidt and Duda are facing off in a tight race which carries tremendous importance to a group of Republicans trying to overthrow the Philly GOP's current establishment, led by its counsel, Mike Meehan.
And Schmidt had come to fight.
Politics in Election Oversight
Schmidt and Singer, both ward leaders, have pledged to resign that position if they become City Commissioners.
Schmidt called the fact that Duda and Tartaglione have remained ward leaders even as they hold positions managing elections a conflict of interest.
Schmidt: "Not only do you have City Commissioners advocating for certain candidates and running the election. but they're in their wards on election day, doing ward leader work on elections day, and they're paid $120,000 to run elections ... not to be ward leaders."
Duda's response: "I think the whole system, if you're going to change the whole system, fine — but right now, the rules are a certain way."
"Everything the commissioner just said is exactly what's wrong with the office — "
When applause broke out, Duda said: "No applause. I can get my people to start applauding."
Schmidt continued, "— a feeling that every fault of the office is the result of someone else: the Committee of Seventy nagging for improvements, reporters, others, really treated poorly by elected servants."
Duda: "How much time do you have to respond?"
When Seventy's Ellen Kaplan answered "30 seconds," Duda said, in reference to Schmidt's rebuttal, "Ok, well I think we're all out of that."
Handling of Elections
Schmidt: "Complaints don't really matter unless they're acted upon. In 2008, the problems that came into the Commissioners office were handled by ... Commissioner Tartaglione's daughter, Rene Tartaglione who has since had to resign because of multiple ethics violations related to elections activities."
Duda: "Bob Lee handled all that, he was the chief administrator. We get all the information, compile it, and turn it all over to the District Attorney and Attorney General."
Schmidt: "It's a fundamental mistake to think you need law enforcement authority to fix some of the problems. ... It's about exposing these problems when they occur."
Duda: "Well we do expose them."
(Singer rebutted that Commissioners have a lot of control over the relationship they have with the agencies that do have police powers and the Commissioners have a lot of moral force to encourage enforcement or not to encourage enforcement and there is room for huge improvement there.")
Encouraging Voter Participation
Singer: The City Commissioners office should be the place that makes it easy for people to build engagement and to built excitement around elections. We are ready for this, and this is one of the things I am just so looking forward to doing."
Schmidt: "Fundamentally it's about a term that would never be used to describe the current City Commissioners and that's 'pro-active' — making sure people know how to register, know where the polling places are and it's not left up to other groups to have to tell them. ... THe city commissioners have an obligation to be out registering voters.
Duda: "I do a pretty good job. I got 10,000 republicans where I am."
Schmidt: "It's not about Republicans and Democrats, that' the fundamental problem."
Duda: "You're not letting me finish! I'm saying to you that we have more Democrats than Republicans here. When we go out, we generate the Democrats get excited and they go out. And we have a great turnout. I try to encourage that through all the ward leaders in the city. It hasn't been easy, but we've been trying and I've been encouraging everybody."
Getting inside the walls of City Hall.
Remember that Hall Monitor post, a couple of weeks ago, about how Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was reputedly considering a run for City Council president — and responded to a direct question about it with four long, slow, somewhat-tortured "no's" that sure sounded like a "maybe?" Remember?
Well guess what: Last weekend, Jones announced to a crowd of politicos that he supports Councilman Darrell Clarke for Council Prez.
The final dying utterance of Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet — "O, o, o, o," in a certain lesser-known edition of the play — have long been the subject of existential intrigue and speculation: What mysteries, what revelations lie behind the dark impenetrable veil of those words? Scholars have long pondered the question.
Those scholars may, however, want to just give up and focus instead on a recent remark by 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.
Hall Monitor: A look at the swirling fight for the Council presidency behind the recent redistricting bill
Since City Council is not in session today, we bring you this special edition of Hall Monitor.
Two Thursdays ago, a funny little scene played out on the fourth floor of City Hall.
Before Philadelphia's City Council that day were two redistricting plans — one introduced by a working group appointed by Council President Anna Verna, the second proposed by Council members Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, who had not been part of the working group. Before the bills were brought up for a vote, Verna called for a two-hour recess. The break would, in fact, last more than four hours, during which time Council members, aides and a roving band of men in suits scurried between closed-door meetings and huddled in small blobs around various Council members.
At one point, Kenney, apparently frustrated with the pace of negotiations, leaned over to Councilman Darrell Clarke, who holds the title of majority whip ― a leadership position below that of Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco and president Verna, both of whom had disappeared into backroom negotiations.
"Are you de facto leadership?" Kenney asked Clarke, nodding to the dais from which Council's affairs are led, usually by the president.
"Are you de facto leadership right now?" Kenney repeated, adding ― joking, sort of ― "Let's just call a vote. Let's pass this thing."
Clarke glanced at the empty dais: "You're talking about some kinda of freaky stuff?" he asked.
City Council today passed (14-3) legislation proposed by Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller that prohibits most Philadelphia employers from asking about an applicant's cirminal history on job applications as well as asking about criminal history until after the applicant's first interview.
Among the members of the public tesifying in favor of the bill today was Michael Ta'Bon, the ex-offender who imprisoned himself in a home-made jail as a lesson for neighborhood kids. He also led a group of ex-offenders uninvited into a speech being given by Mayor Nutter to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to protest what he calls inadequate help for ex-offenders from the city.
Ta'Bon appeared with his son, wife, and what sure looked like a prison jumpsuit today.
"When ya'll knock that box off, you give me an opportunity to be a man, and to give my chld food and provide for my wife," he said. "I think a picture's worth a thousand words: this is the family of an ex-convict, for those who need to see it. It probably looks kind of like ya'lls. God bless you."
A resolution on tomorrow's City Council agenda, introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., calls for the Free Library to reconsider a "floating collection" policy it's considering.
Right now, if you borrow a book form Library A and return it to Library B, the book is re-delivered by truck to Library A.
Under the new proposal, the book would stay at Library B until checked out or requested via inter-library loan.
"The fewer times you’re moving a book or DVD around, the less cost it's going to be — and to a certain extent, from the administration's point of view, that makes sense," says Friends of the Free Library director Amy Dougherty.
The problem, as raised by individual branch Friends groups in a recent meeting, is that such a policy could scatter some of the individual libraries' special collections (the Independence Branch, for example, has the second-largest Gay & Lesbian collection in the country).
What's more, she points out, Friends groups have raised money to purchase books and A/V materials for their own branches — "It's kind of a slap in the face to the contribution they made to support their local branch."
Dougherty says she and other library advocates aren't necessarily against the policy outright, but want to work with the administration to find a way to code special collections and specially-purchased materials.
So yes, it snowed a lot last night, but donât you worry: City Council braved the cold and convened for its citizenry.
If youâre quizzed about todayâs meeting, youâll need to know about two main things: Marcellus Shale and DROP.
Resolution 100864 passed unanimously and it states that council agrees to adopt âthe report issued by Council's Joint Committees on Transportation and Public Utilities and the Environment on the economic and environmental impacts that hydraulic drilling of Marcellus Shale will have on Philadelphia and the surrounding region.â
That report can be found in its entirety here as a PDF and its basic conclusions can be found here in HTML format. The basic premise of the report is that hydraulic fracturing needs to be safe and until governing bodies like the EPA come to some conclusion about what that means and how that should be done, âThere must be no drilling, or projects related to gas drilling.â Fracking should also be taxed, etc.
Advocates in favor of strict policies regulating Marcellus Shale drilling say the report and its conclusions need time to sink in for Philadelphians. A bunch of them showed up at council this morning and Iris Marie Bloom was one of them. During public comments, she -- and a host of other like-minded speakers -- spoke about being in favor of resolution 100864, but she took her message one step further: She wants council to take the new resolution to the Delaware River Basic Commission and encourage them to move a March 16th deadline for public comment on fracking regulations for the Delaware River basin to September. She also asks that the commission hold a meeting in Philadelphia.
"[S]tand up and fight for our watershed," she said to council, "and make sure the DRBC allows Philadelphia's voices to be directly heard."
The DRBC's meetings are currently scheduled for:
* Feb. 22 â Honesdale High School Auditorium, 459 Terrace Street, Honesdale, Pa.
* Feb. 22 â Liberty High School Auditorium, 125 Buckley Street, Liberty, N.Y.
* Feb. 24 â Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, N.J.
More on that here.
When is DROP not an issue in Philadelphia city politics? Well, the answer to that was technically supposed to be today (DROP wasn't on the agenda). But that didnât stop Fred Fisher, a retired City Hall employee, from offering his perturbed opinion to council during public comments.
Almost immediately after he began speaking, however, City Council President Anna C. Verna asked him to table it for another time. Fisher got pissed:
âI walked up here in the snow because I wanted to speak,â he said before reinforcing his belief that public employees should not be allowed to double up on retirement and salary benefits. Verna in effect said, Yes, Iâm with you on this (and, for that matter, so is CP), but seriously, not today. Fisher relented and stepped away from the podium but then threw his written speech toward his seat and shouted, âI am a tea party member and we will be voting against you guys come November!â
Which got him a clap or two.
Turns out, he wasnât the only one thinking DROP. Â Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced a bill this morning that would allow city employees who have enrolled in the DROP program to opt out â which they canât do, currently. Read more here.
...and while we're on the topic of public comments.
Public comments during city council meetings are a good thing. But anyone who wants to speak should remember that council expects you to 1) keep your comments to around three minutes and 2) remember that comments are limited to âthe bills or resolutions that are on Councilâs Calendar â¦ for possible action at that dayâs Council session, even if those items are not actually called up for a vote." This consists of "any items on the 'Final Passage' and 'Second Reading and Final Passage' sections of the [c]alendar.â
The three-minute rule was bludgeoned today during a few occasions when advocates against widespread Marcellus Shale drilling spoke. What happened in each of these occasions â and in one particularly â was that after three minutes passed, a noise that sounded like a wake-up alarm went off. Then about 30 seconds later, a horn-type noise went off â like the electronic sound that goes off between class periods in high school (saying, in code: âSeriously, stop talkingâ). Then councilor Verna interrupted the speaker, saying something like, âPlease come to some kind of conclusion because your time has been up.â The speaker would respond something like, âUh, ok,â and then keep talking for another minute or so. It wasnât malicious â the ignoring of the three-minute rule â but it really served to take the focus off the message and place it on the point that the speakers had declined to limit their speeches to three minutes. Something to keep in mind if you're planning to speak your truth to city council.
Secondly, it appears council is really trying to make sure that people donât get off topic. So when a South Philly business owner stood at the podium this morning to complain about a relatively new tax he was unaware of and obviously didnât like at all, Verna just straight up told him to take his comments elsewhere because, she said, "I just have no idea what you're talking about." This really pissed the guy way off.
âIf you donât come to look into my problem, itâs your problem,â he said. Which kinda sounded like a threat. Then â much like Fisher â he turned around and yelled something. But this businessman said nothing about the Tea Party. Instead, he yelled: âYouâre a disgrace!â to, I guess, everyone. He wasnât exactly escorted out by police, but two police officers followed him out of the room closely and Iâm sure most in the crowd thought that was just fine. The guy seemed seriously upset. And as a result, I'm not sure anyone on council gave much consideration to what he was upset about; they just knew he was upset. Not great for the guy's politics, one would think. But who knows.
Here are the other bills and resolutions passed unanimously by council today (copied directly from the agenda):
* Resolution 100877
INTRODUCED BY: Councilmember Blackwell
Resolution recognizing Vivian T. Miller for a Career of Service to the Citizens of Philadelphia in her Roles as Community Organizer, Ward Leader and Philadelphia Clerk of Quarter Sessions.
* Resolution 100878
INTRODUCED BY: Councilmember Tasco for Councilmember Council President
Verna City of Philadelphia -1 -
CITY COUNCIL Calendar for Thursday, January 27, 2011
Resolution approving the redevelopment contract and disposition supplement of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia for the redevelopment and urban renewal of a portion of the Point Breeze Urban Renewal Area, designated as Parcel Nos. 103 and 104 and also sometimes identified by house addresses and street addresses for Parcel No. 103 as 1626-1636 Federal street and for Parcel No. 104 as 1218-1228 South Seventeenth street; authorizing the Redevelopment Authority to execute the redevelopment contract with Community Ventures and to take such action as may be necessary to effectuate the redevelopment contract and disposition supplement.
* Resolution 100879
INTRODUCED BY: Councilmember Miller
Resolution authorizing the Commissioner of Public Property to execute and deliver to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia, without consideration, deeds conveying conditional fee simple title to certain City-owned lots or pieces of ground with the buildings and improvements thereon, situate in the Seventeenth Ward of the City of Philadelphia, pursuant to Chapter 16-400 of The Philadelphia Code and authorizing the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia to dispose of such properties for rehabilitation and/or improvement in accordance with the terms of Chapter 16-400 of The Philadelphia Code.
* Resolution 100880
INTRODUCED BY: Councilmembers Sanchez and DiCicco
Resolution authorizing Council's committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and Homelessness to hold hearings on the consequences of mass foreclosure in the Kensington and Port Richmond neighborhoods of rental properties owned by Landvest, LLP and related companies associated with Robert N. Coyle, Sr.
* Resolution 100079
INTRODUCED BY: Councilmember Jones
An Ordinance amending Title 14 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled "Zoning and Planning," by adding a new Section 14-1640, entitled "Ridge Avenue Special District Controls," under certain terms and conditions.
Everything else was tabled until a later date.
Hall Monitor: DiCicco jumps into the public fray and more: Electronic billboards, bald eagles, public testimony, tow trucks
It's Thursday, and that means it's time for our City Council roundup.
Public Comment DiCicco jumps in:
This week marked the second in which public testimony is allowed as part of Council's weekly meeting the result of a court decision determining that Council's previous meeting format, in which testimony was not allowed, violated the state's Sunshine Act regarding government openness and transparency.Members of the public may now spend up to 3 minutes commenting on agenda items.
That still doesn't cut it, says attorney Darrell Zaslow, who appeared for the second week in a row before Council to urge the body to hear testimony on any issues, whether they're on the agenda or not.
"I believe you are in violation yet of the Sunshine Act," Zaslow told the body.
Another interesting twist came when Bob Caruso stood to testify against a planned development near the riverfront in Old City, which he characterized as a nightclub, and upon which a controversial electronic billboard is proposed to be placed.
So far, Council members have been reluctant to engage with those who testify in them meetings probably out time concerns, and perhaps also not wishing to be dragged into a debate during the session.
But Councilman Frank DiCicco, in whose district the development is being built, couldn't resist:
"I certainly don't want to get into a debate with the folks here to testify, but ... what is the procedure, because I do have a question for the last witness."
And with that, DiCicco helped set what may prove important precedent. The witness was called back to the microphone, and DiCicco engaged with him, emphasizing that the development is not a nightclub:
"I will not let my fifteen years of hard work in Old City be destroyed by one project, which I think is a much-needed project," he said.
Bald Eagles(100776): A rare bald eagle's nest has been identified in Pennypack park. A bill was reported out of committee today that would place parts of the park under special protection.
The Billboard (no vote): Many members of the public testified against the placing of a giant electronic billboard on the aforementioned Old Development, which would face drivers coming across the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Opponents (mostly neighbors) voiced concern over the sign's appearance, effect on neighborhood aesthetics, pollution footprint (they emit CO2, it turns out), and effect on drivers.
AAA spokesman (and Philadelphia taxpayer) Rick Remington testified that "such a sign would pose a hazard to motorists as they weave their way through heavy traffic and tight turns trying to enter the city. For those leaving the city, a safety hazard would be posed as flashing lights suddenly appear in their review mirror."
"Many of you no doubt are aware of the increased attention on distracted driving ... these electronic billboards are another form of distraction which diverts motorists from the job at hand."
Tow Trucks (100536 no vote): Tow truck drivers and company owners appeared to voice their continued opposition to the bill, which would place tow truck dispatch authority under the PPA. Today we heard an interesting take on the mater from Gary (I didn't catch his last name, but will try to supply it) an ex-convict who opposes a provision in the bill that requires the PPA to deny a license to anyone convicted of aggravated assault on an official or convicted of various crimes related to vehicles.
"I'm 46 it's kinda late to be looking for a new career. ... Everybody shouldn't have to pay the price, because I work hard."
"They never mention the good stuff we do," he added: "Help people, take people home, take people to hospitals, get up at 3 o'clock in the morning. Them companies should be dealt with like individuals, because lot of good people including myself are going to be hurt."
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