Archive: June, 2011
Advocates will testify against cuts to services for immigrant students and their families at Friday’s School Reform Commission (SRC) meeting.
40 of the District’s 98 Bilingual Counseling Assistants (BCAs) are being laid off, according to Len Rieser, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. In addition, School District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs tells City Paper that the number of ESOL/Bilingual Teachers is being reduced from 337 to 301. The full extent of the cuts affecting immigrant students and families, however, is not yet clear.
The School District of Philadelphia has a $629 million budget gap, thanks in part to a $270 million budget cut from the state (down from $292 million, thanks to friendly legislators). Republican Governor Tom Corbett's harshly austere budget cuts $900 million in education funding state-wide.
The BCA positions were created thanks to a court order resulting from a lawsuit filed in 1985 called YS v School District of Philadelphia, which forced the District to provide adequate translation services to students and families. Cuts to translations and intepretaton services risk breaking the law.
Rieser says that the District will be hiring 30 “Bilingual School Improvement Liaisons,” though neither he nor any other advocates contacted know what that means.
“The question,” says Rieser, “is now that this year’s set of staffing arrangements is getting drastically changed: will they be able to provide the services that families need and that are required? I don’t think they even know the answer to that right now.”
Two people in the Multilingual Family Support Office, including Director Ludy Soderman, will be laid off. Parents and activists are circulating a petition calling for her to be reinstated.
“It’s a shortsighted move on the School District’s part,” says Helen Gym, long-time activist and a founder of Parents United. “The District has been completely opaque about what it was planning to do.”
Zac Steele of the Latino advocacy group Juntos notes that non-English speakers are at a high risk of dropping out. And they are the future of this city.
“Philadelphia only gained population because of immigration,” says Steele. “We’re cutting the services for a large segment of the population.”
The SRC meets Friday June 30, 11 AM at the School District’s 400 N. Broad headquarters.
As reported by the Inquirer today, the Corbett administration pushed through the state Senate a last-minute measure that transfers what one Philadephia lawyer called "unprecdented" powers over state welfare requirements to the governor.
The move allows Corbett to, among other things, directly set the income level required to receive welfare benefits for hundreds of thousands of epople.
Community Legal Serivces Richard Weishaupt told the Inky:
"It is unprecedented that a state agency is given this kind of discretion without any checks and balances."
Is MLK Drive's hostility to pedestrians partly to blame for another car plowing into another bicyclist yesterday?
[Ongoing coverage of Philly's inevitable march to becoming a Biketopia]
As the Inquirer reported, a bicyclist was left in critical condition yesterday after a car hit him on Martin Luther King Drive (formerly West River Drive), which runs along the west bank of the Schuylkill River.
Reports the Inky:
The man, whose name was not released, was riding southbound on the sidewalk near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge about 7:40 p.m. when he attempted to cross the street and was hit by a northbound 2010 Toyota Camry, police said.
Note the phrase, "attempted to cross." Though technically a park road, MLK drive has become an effective highway through one of the most heavily-used portions of the most heavily-used part of Fairmount Park.
As we reported waaaaaaay back in 2009, the speed limit is 35 mph — but, as the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition's John Boyle found after spending a few hours there with a speed gun, virtually no one obeys the limit. Boyle found 100% of cars speeding.
The fact that the drive boasts only a few traffic lights (there is no light at the intersection which this bicyclist was trying to cross, says Boyle) and two hefty traffic lanes in each direction despite low traffic volume probably doesn't dissuade drivers from speeding, either.
In 2009, a different crash on that drive, involving a child, led the Bicycle Coalition to launch a "take back the drive" campaign. Since then, the city's told Coalition members that it's considering improvements but hasn't yet announced any.
Today, President Barack Obama is coming to Philly, where at least three groups are planning to greet him with a protest. Two of them are liberal — which is an interesting footnote in a larger story about how some liberals are growing more and more disillusioned with Obama, especially over issues like immigration, war and financial reform.
AIDS activists ACT UP Philly will be rallying against Obama, who is coming to Philly to fundraise, due to anticipated cuts in HIV/AIDS funding. (The group will also be protesting against Mayor Michael Nutter — who is expected to join Obama at a fundraiser at the Hyatt at the Bellevue — to demand funding for housing for people with AIDS.)
DREAM activists — who organize on behald of undocumented immigrant students — will rally for their own cause, as well to shake a fist at the federal government's Secure Communities program and its deportation of local Cambodians (whose experience was recently written about by City Paper).
And the Independence Hall Tea Party Association will be giving a finger to the "Obama economy," and possibly "showcase the unemployed" — which, they note on their Facebook page, is a "[lesson] learned from the left."
Should be interesting to see them side-by-side.
This month, the nonpartisan watchdog Committee of Seventy testified that the city should wait six months before enforcing its new lobbying law, which requires that lobbyists register with the city and sometimes file expense reports starting July 1.
The group wholeheartedly supports the new law — and still wants lobbyists to follow it in meantime — but believes that several “ambiguities” must be cleared up before the city issues penalties for breaking it.
Two organizations have joined Seventy in this complaint: the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Both groups argued before the Ethics Board that the new rules are unclear, and the Chamber of Commerce argued that the city shouldn’t implement the lobbying law at all for the next six months.
In the spirit of full disclosure that such a law promotes, it may be worth noting: The Chamber of Commerce is among the Committee of Seventy’s biggest donors. According to the nonprofit’s tax filings, Seventy received $50,000 in contributions from that group between 2008 and 2009. Local law firms, including Pepper Hamilton LLP and Morgan and Lewis & Bockius, are are also among Seventy’s bigger donors.
Is the Committee of Seventy speaking on behalf of these groups?
Ellen Kaplan, Seventy’s vice president, strongly denies that the watchdog is speaking for its donors. She argues that the law’s recently-published ground rules have left many questions unanswered — like what lobbying is, exactly, and what it isn’t — and the city should clarify them before enforcing the law.
“Obviously, there are some members who contribute to this organization who want these answers,” she says. "But we don’t represent anybody’s views other than our own.”
The Ethics Board hasn't made any public announcements about whether it will delay enforcement of the law in response to these groups. But Ethics Board staff say that it could be considered at its next meeting, on July 20.
Meanwhile, an unrelated technical issue may put the lobbying law on hold: The Ethics Board has announced that the electronic system that lobbyists will be required to register on won't be ready by the original July 1 deadline, partly due to funding issues. They expect the system will be ready around July 18, though — but if it's not, the Ethics Board will not be able enforce the lobbying law.
Rick Santorum, of course, has a “Google problem” thanks to spreadingsantorum.com, a website created by sex columnist and gay-rights advocate Dan Savage defining “santorum” as “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” The former Pennsylvania senator’s biggest problem running for president, however, is that few Republicans know or care who he is.
“Improbable but not impossible” is how Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna puts Santorum’s chances. “But it borders on being impossible.” He needs a “breakthrough moment ... something that allows him to capture some attention. Something that makes people say, ‘This guy has something that nobody else has.’”
But what Santorum has right now is name recognition in all the wrong ways and with all the wrong people, landing him somewhere near the bottom of a pack that is 10 candidates deep and growing. A Gallup poll from earlier this month found that Santorum’s name recognition among Republican voters has actually gone down since March, from 46 percent to 44 percent. A recent Quinnipiac poll even shows Mitt Romney beating Santorum in Pennsylvania.
Santorum, who has compared homosexuality to bestiality (“man on dog,” thereby earning Savage’s contempt), is touting himself as the authentic “family values” guy in the race (pat on the back: seven kids, all home-schooled) and criticizes Romney for his past support of abortion rights.
One fan is Glenn Beck, who has praised Santorum for having “spine” and for being “ahead of the curve on the threat of radical Islam.” Beck even got so excited that he told Santorum, “I could kiss you in the mouth!”
A few people are reporting on Twitter that a flash mob-type group of kids were out Broad Street last night — and that at least a few bystanders were injured.
As of right now (mid-day Sunday) there's nothing on Philly.com about it, but @emilygee described on Twitter as many as 100 kids and wrote:
"I'm the only one who had to stay at the hospital but many of the dudes with us got pretty fucked up" and that "a bunch of girls from the mob protected me from the boys trying to hit me and take my purse while I was on the ground."
In a resolution yesterday, City Council decried the city's involvement in the federal Secure Communities program, which requires that Philadelphia police hand over the fingerprints of everyone they arrest to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI.
All 17 Councilpersons voted for the non-binding resolution, which urges the city to end the agreement when it is up for renewal on August 31. That decision will ultimately be up to the Nutter administration.
Though Secure Communities — used by other state and local police throughout the country — was billed by ICE as a way to rid the U.S. of criminals, a study recently showed that 61 percent of the immigrants deported from Philly with this program had no criminal record whatsoever. Meanwhile, 82 percent were either non-criminals or low-level offenders. Studies have revealed similar statistics throughout the country.
Supporters of Secure Communities argue that states and cities that are refusing to participate in the program — like New York and Massachusetts — are threatening the safety of their citizens. But critics argue that instead of fighting crime, Secure Communities has actually led to immigrants avoiding police when they are victims of crimes, witnesses or potential informants.
Councilman Jim Kenney told City Paper that he believes the program is "un-American." He continued, "They say they're rooting out the criminal elements, the terrorist elements, but really they're rooting out poor, innocent people."
This may be a bit "hyper local" for some of you, but in West Philly this kind of thing is Big News. Mariposa Food Co-op, a longtime (but) tiny staple of the Baltimore Ave/Cedar Park neighborhood, will begin consruction on its newer, larger facility at 49th and Baltimore next week.
To mark the occasion, Mayor Nutter and others will gather and stick a shovel into a vegan cake — something like that, anyway.
Says the press release:
The new store will offer an expanded selection of locally produced, organic and conventional products. The newly-renovated building will be spacious, wheelchair accessible and open seven days a week. At the new store, anyone will be able to shop regardless of membership.
Also (while we're on the W. Phila tip) CLARK PARK IS FINALLY OPEN AGAIN.
Summer, at last, can begin.
What happened to the 9 votes that supposedly had been gathered to pass the mayor's sweetened beverage tax? Was there a behind-the-scenes connection between the paid sick days bill and the passage of a hike in property tax? What was Councilman Bill Green up to last Thursday morning? And what is the strange force skewing politics in every direction (hint: it's the Council presidency).
Answers to those questions and many more in this week's Man Overboard!
- Ask A Man-About-Town
- Award Tour
- Bad Idea Factory
- Below the Curve
- Brian Hickey
- Budget Fuss
- City Council
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- CP Abroad
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- Day Tripper
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- Dubious Distinction
- End of Days
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- Get Lit
- Hall Monitor
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- Hello, Kitty
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- In Memoriam
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- MUST READ
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- Non Sequitur
- PA politics 2010
- Parking Wars
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- People Send Us This Stuff
- Philadelphia Police
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- philly madness
- President Obama
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- Tinfoil Hats Off
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- How 'Bout That Weather?
- it's always sunny in philadelphia
- get out
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- That's a cool stencil!
- Things We See
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- Feeling Guilty
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- Dear Paper Doll
- Do A Good Thing
- Film Fest Schism
- G20-20 Vision
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- Pearl Jam Week
- Stars of the Photostream
- Lower Merion Webcam-Gate
- The Cycle
- Equality Forum
- Bureaucrat of the Week