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TIME FOR CHANGE

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Dear Neighbor,

 

We have an important Municipal and Special General Election on Tuesday, November 5. There is more information on candidates and the Ballot questions in the pages that follow.

 

Judge of the Superior Court: (VOTE FOR 2) See comments on following pages

#101. Amanda Green Hawkins

#102. Daniel D. McCaffery

 

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas:(YOU CAN VOTE FOR 7, but I only support 6)

#103. Jennifer Schultz    

#104. Anthony Kyriakakis  

#105. Joshua Roberts

#106. Tiffany Palmer  

#107. James Crumlish  

#108. Carmela Jacquinto

 

Judge of the Municipal Court (VOTE FOR 1)

#110. David H. Conroy

 

Mayor (VOTE FOR 1)

#111. Jim Kenney

 

City Commissioners (VOTE FOR 2)

#112. Omar Sabir

#113. Lisa Deeley

 

Register of Wills (VOTE FOR 1)

#114. Tracey Gordon

 

Sheriff (VOTE FOR 1)

#115. Rochelle Bilal

 

Council at Large (VOTE FOR 5) Information on following pages on all candidates, not just these.

#116. Helen Gym

#117. Allan Domb

#118. Isaiah Thomas

#119. Derek Green

#120. Katherine Gilmore Richardson

‚Äč

[There has been some disagreement on Margaret’s recommendations for Council at Large. I am including an argument that was one of the ones sent to me for voting for the Working Families candidates for City Council at Large. I am sharing this as additional input for your Election Day decisions.

— Laslo Boyd

“We have a unique opportunity of changing our City Council by adding two independent and progressive community leaders. We do it by voting for only 3 Democratic candidates at large, knowing that all 5 will be elected considering the enormous Democratic advantage in the city, and voting 2 independents. You will find the Working Families candidates all the way to the right of the ballot. Kendra Brooks, endorsed by the Inquirer, among other notable endorsements, is number 716, and Nicolas O'Rourke, a pastor of the United Church of Christ and organizer for P.O.W.E.R is number 717.”] 

 

District Council (2nd District) (VOTE FOR 1) See comments on following pages

#85. Kenyatta Johnson

 

Judicial Retentions:

Vote YES on all Judicial retentions.

 

Ballot Questions on the Right-hand side of the ballot: 

See comments on following pages.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment Crime Victims Rights: Vote NO

Proposed Charter Change: Vote YES

Proposed City Bond Question: Vote YES

 

Judge of the Superior Court (VOTE FOR 2)

This year, we have a chance to FLIP THE SUPERIOR COURT TO A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY so it is important we elect both Democrats.

 

 #101. Amanda Green-Hawkins. Union attorney; former Allegheny County Council member. Her practice has been concentrated in labor and employment law. Although rated Not recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, I am supporting her. I have never recommended voting for a non-recommended candidate before, but I am doing so this time for four reasons: 1) I think getting a Democratic majority on the Superior Court is crucial in these days of Trump (2) She supports reproductive rights and the  two Republican candidates do not. We need a strong advocate for reproductive rights in Pennsylvania. (3) She has been a labor lawyer and in these anti-union days, I think having a pro-labor judge on the Superior Court will help working people. (4) The Bar Evaluation indicates she has integrity, is hardworking, and has a judicial temperament.

In its evaluation the PA Bar Association wrote: “The candidate has been an attorney for the United Steel Workers (USW) since 2002. Prior to working at the USW, she served as a law clerk for Judge Laurence Lawson on the Superior Court of New Jersey. At the USW, the candidate has served as an assistant counsel and, most recently, as director of the Civil and Human Rights Division, where she has been charged with providing advice and counsel, overseeing training and compliance, and developing policy. She has successfully argued cases in both federal district and appellate courts. Her peers, mentors and supervisors credit the candidate with having a strong work ethic. The candidate supports underserved communities, acts with integrity and displays an appropriate demeanor. However, the commission finds the candidate has not had the experience and preparation necessary to take on the role of judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and, therefore, does not recommend her candidacy at this time.”  

So even though they do not recommend her, the commission praises her.

 

#102. Daniel D. McCaffery. Rated Highly Recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the only candidate for this office to be so rated.

On the PA Bar website, it was written, “The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism and good judicial temperament. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable with an admirable work ethic. His legal career has taken several paths. He served as an assistant district attorney for five years and then was in private practice for 16 years. The candidate has served as a common pleas court judge since 2014. He has a sound knowledge of legal principles, with his opinions and legal writings being well-reasoned. He also has extensive community involvement, including volunteering as a coach for the past 20 years. Because of his broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends this candidate.”

 

Other candidates, both Republicans:

 

#201. Megan McCarthy King. Prosecutor focused on child abuse first in Lancaster County, now Chester County. Rated recommended by PA Bar Association. Endorsed by Firearms owners against Crime and Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association.

 

#202. Christylee Peck. Judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Cumberland County since 2011; former prosecutor in Cumberland and Lancaster counties.  Rated recommended by PA Bar Association.Endorsed by President Donald Trump, state Fraternal Order of Police, State Troopers Association, Firearms Owners Against Crime, PA Chamber of Commerce.

 

Judge of Court of Common Pleas (VOTE FOR 7)

These are not really contested since there are only 7 candidates for seven openings. There are no Republican candidates.

 

#103. Jennifer Schultz. Recommended by Philadelphia Bar Association. After clerking for a judge U.S, District court for two, years Schultz has worked for over 14 years at Community Legal Services in both Coatesville and Philadelphia. Her work has focused on bankruptcy, tenant/landlord issues, and mortgages. She stressed that while defendants in criminal cases are entitled to legal representation, there is no such protection for those involved in civil disputes. She noted that in most landlord-tenant conflicts, the landlord has a lawyer while the tenant does not. This is particularly striking for low-income tenants. She has stated, “I have a better understanding  than most judicial candidates about the economic struggles that lower income households face. This is a very real problem for Philadelphia, as a city that is routinely identified as one of the top ten cities with high levels of deep poverty. As a judge, I want to continue to advance the aims of the Civil Gideon project.”

 

#104. Anthony Kyriakakis, one of three candidates for Court of Common Pleas rated Highly Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.The son of Greek immigrants, Anthony was the first in his family to go to college. He was given a scholarship from his father’s union (the Teamsters) which enabled him to attend Yale University. After graduation with honors from Yale, he went on to Harvard Law School. His legal career has been extensive and varied. He clerked for Judge Fuentes of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, worked for three years at a law firm handling complex civil cases, and then worked for 8 years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, where he focused on fraud by corporations and executives, child exploitation, and violent crimes.

Since 2015 he has been an adjunct professor at both Penn and Temple Law Schools and in private practice as a defense attorney in the litigation department and White Collar Investigations Practice Group. He has also handled many pro bono cases for indigent clients and as a Child Advocate with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. In summary, he has extensive experience in both federal and state courts, in both civil and criminal litigation, and as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. He has worked to lower incarceration rates through President Obama’s Clemency Project, and as a teacher has focused on problems of unequal treatment in the criminal justice system on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and socioeconomic status.  

Finally, he has a strong commitment to community service, serving as a “Big Brother” for 9 years, volunteering as a Child Advocate in Family Court, and serving on the Board of the Center for Families and Relationships. 

 

#105. Joshua Roberts. Rated recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

 

#106. Tiffany Palmer Rated Highly Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association, one of only three candidates for Court of Common Pleas to receive this rating.

Tiffany Palmer has an extremely impressive record of over 20 years practice in civil litigation with an emphasis on civil rights for underserved populations. She began her law practice as a public interest lawyer, representing low income LGBTQ clients in family law cases, estate planning, real estate matters and probate matters. Since 2002 she has been in private practice (in a firm she co-owns and operates) where she continues to represent clients in a wide variety of family law matters, civil matters, family law related quasi criminal matters, and Orphans’ Court matters. She has extensive trial experience (over 300 cases) in multiple courts in many counties in Pennsylvania, as well as in New Jersey, the U.S District Court for Eastern Pa, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and many others.

In a particularly significant case she represented a Pennsylvania woman who wished to dissolve a Vermont civil union. The woman and her longtime same-sex partner, both residents of Pennsylvania, had lawfully joined in a Civil Union in Vermont in 2002, at a time in which Vermont was the only place in the United States where same-sex couples could obtain the legal marital status of a civil union. Five months after joining in a civil union, the couple separated. They wished to dissolve the union, but were unable to do so because Vermont required them to reside in Vermont for six months to do so and they could not leave their homes in Pennsylvania for six months. They then tried to obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, but a judge ruled that they couldn’t obtain a divorce because they were not married. Palmer appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and won the case. As a result of this case, the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to expand the definition of divorce to explicitly include the dissolution of a civil union.

On her Bar Questionnaire she wrote,“In my 20 years of law practice, I have represented a wide range of clients, many of whom have been vulnerable minorities. I have represented clients in deep poverty. LGBTQ people, people of color, clients who speak no English and require a foreign language interpreter, clients who have hearing loss and require sign language interpreters, clients with physical disabilities, clients with profound mental illness, incarcerated minors, adults lacking capacity, and clients experiencing severe trauma.  I have observed the ways in which these litigants interact with the Philadelphia court system, and heave mentally noted the ways in which our courts could have treated some of those litigants with greater respect or compassion.”

She believes her own experience of hardship has helped make her more compassionate and understanding. As an LGBTQ young adult she was estranged from her family of origin for several years (including her last year of high school and her college years). She was without a support system or safety net. She wrote that she knows what it is to be one job loss away from homelessness.

Finally, she cites, among her many qualifications, her broad and extensive law practice of over 20 years, knowledge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the State and Local rules, experience in handling evidentiary issues, extensive experience drafting innumerable pleadings and motions, and ability to handle large-volume case loads effectively and efficiently.

 

#107. James Crumlish. Rated Highly Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association. Extensive experience in civil law.

 

#108. Carmela Jacquinto. Rated Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

 

#109. Crystal B. Powell. Rated Not Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association. She was not a candidate in the Primary Election of May 2019, but was appointed by Governor Wolf after the Primary to fill a vacancy on the Court and now must stand for election.

 

Judge of the Municipal Court. There is only one candidate on the ballot.

#110. David Conroy. Rated Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar.

 

Mayor (VOTE FOR 1)

 

#111. Jim Kenney I strongly support Jim Kenney for Mayor. I believe the Soda Tax, which he has championed, has been beneficial, not harmful. It has enabled the city to provide quality Pre-K to thousands of mostly low-income children. Under his leadership, Philadelphia has regained control of the School District of Philadelphia, has increased funding for public schools, given public school teachers their first pay raise in five years, and created 12 Community Schools to provide essential resources and support services in the neighborhoods they serve. He has been a fierce defender of immigrants, ending the city’s cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and defeated the Trump Administration’s attempt to deny federal funds to welcoming cities like Philadelphia that provide equal protection to all its citizens – regardless of their immigration status. He has raised the minimum wage to $15/hr for all City employees and contractors. He has maintained the city’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Under his leadership, Philadelphia’s local jail population has safely decreased by over 40% – effectively depopulating the City’s House of Correction. I believe he deserves our support to serve as Philadelphia’s Mayor for 4 more years.

 

#211. Billy Ciancaglini. Republican. A criminal defense attorney from South Philadelphia, he would end Sanctuary City status, fight both the soda tax and safe injection sites. He says, “On day one, 10 minutes after getting inaugurated – not 15 minutes, 10 minutes – I will have ICE in my office asking them what they need from me to help them do their jobs.”

 

The following offices have no contested races: 

This is why you need to vote in the Primary!! 

 

City Commissioners (3 candidates for three positions)

Register of Wills (One candidate for one position)

Sheriff (One candidate for one position)

 

Council at Large (VOTE for 5)

This is the most interesting municipal race.

Philadelphia’s city charter stipulates that Philadelphia City Council shall consist of 17 members, 10 of which represent districts, and 7 of which are At-large and represent the whole city. Of those 7 City council members at large, the city charter stipulates that two of them must be members of a minority or independent party. Since Philadelphia is very Democratic, the minority party has been Republican for many years. However the charter says only that two members of the city council must be from a minority or independent party. It does not say they must be Republican.

The Working Families Party is another minority party so they could hold those two seats, if elected. The stated goal of the Working Families Party is not to take city council seats from Democrats, but to take them from Republicans. However, since voters can only vote for 5 (five) candidates for City council at Large, you cannot vote for all five Democratic candidates AND one or more candidates of the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party strategy is based on the assumption that all five Democrats will win anyway and then the Working Families candidates can get the two minority seats. 

Each party can send five at-large candidates from the primary to the general election, the maximum seats any one party can hold. In the past, this has resulted in five seats for Democrats, but you will see five Republican competitors on the ballot, as well. In the past, the top two vote getters of the Republican candidates usually claim the remaining at-large seats reserved for minority party members. 

The strategy for these minority party candidates is an appeal to registered Democrat voters to donate two of their five total votes to unseat Republicans in Council.

 

The Democratic Candidates for City Council at Large are:

 

#116. Helen Gym. Everyone loves Helen Gym and for good reason! Gym is an effective leader who knows how to organize and win progressive change: passing the nation’s most expansive Fair Workweek law; restoring nurses, counselors, social workers and bilingual staff to our public schools; and winning millions of dollars to support youth programs and establishing a legal defense fund for tenants facing eviction.  She is committed to immigrant rights, securing housing as a human right, strengthening our public schools for our children and teachers, fighting for better wages and jobs; and demanding a justice system that works for every Philadelphian, and environmental justice. We can rely on her to engage in those fights, and, based on her amazing one-term track record, to be effective in all of them. A long-time activist, she has exhibited the dedication, energy and ability to be an outstanding advocate on Council for educational equity, economic opportunity, and environmental justice.(from Neighborhood Networks website endorsement). She does NOT support repealing the soda tax. She does support ending the 10 year tax abatement, and she does support ending councilmanic prerogative. Helen has worked with Working Families Candidate Kendra Brooks on education issues and  is supporting Kendra for City Council at Large.

 

#117. Allan Domb. First elected to City Council in 2015, Domb focused on holding the city government accountable, collecting delinquent property taxes, and investing in our children and public school system. Allan has also made it a priority to develop Philadelphia into a place where local entrepreneurs can thrive and where there are growth opportunities for all. He has pushed for a more careful oversight of city funds. including passing legislation to establish independent audits and property appraisals. He also renewed efforts to collect delinquent taxes that out-of-town landlords owe to the city and passed legislation to streamline all aspects of city government to make it more efficient. Every year, Allan donates his City Council salary to the School District of Philadelphia. He has advocated for making  financial literacy and technology training, including coding, the cornerstone of public education in Philadelphia. So far, Allan has paid for 122 public school teachers to take financial literacy courses at the Federal Reserve Bank so that they can teach financial literacy to our students, and he has sponsored coding programs in 25 Philadelphia public schools. Allan believes in second chances  and giving returning citizens the opportunities they meed to thrive. In 2018, Allan began sponsoring and paying for a financial literacy course for returning citizens, and Allan has offered to pay for financial literacy courses for every citizen returning from the city’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in 2019. Allan is also paying $35,000 for the first-ever prison coding and tech class program, taught by Sylvester Mobley of Coded by Kids. Allan and the program hope to have fifteen returning citizens in the first class trained in technology and coding so that these citizens can obtain good-paying jobs in the tech world.

 

#118. Isaiah Thomas. This is Thomas’ third run for City Council. His platform focuses on fixing the schools, job growth and a “youth agenda” for engaging kids and keeping them out of trouble.

 

#119. Derek Green. Endorsed by Neighborhood Networks, which wrote “Green is the leading small and community-based business advocate on City Council. An innovative thinker in this domain, he is interested in trying new and promising policies in this field that make him an irreplaceable force for those important interests. In particular, he has championed two policies that make him stand out. First is the promotion of worker and community-based co-ops. Green found scarce dollars in the City budget to fund a project that provides technical assistance to co-op start-ups all around the City. And, recognizing that co-ops and other community and minority owned businesses have an overwhelming need for affordable credit, Green has been working for three years to get the City to create a Philadelphia Public bank that would take Philadelphia’s credit dependence  away from the moguls of Wall Street and replace them with an institution that puts Philadelphia first.  Green’s record is also noteworthy for seeking to bring real democracy to our imperfect one, by promoting public financing of elections for Mayor and City Council.” Supports the soda tax, sanctuary city, reforming tax abatements, term limits and bicycle lanes.

 

#120. Katherine Gilmore Richardson. Before the May Primary, the Philadelphia Inquirer endorsed Richardson, saying, “Lifelong city resident Katherine Gilmore Richardson, 35, of Wynnefield, says she has mastered the complexities of the legislative process and of constituent services — not just because of her master’s degree in public administration, but as an 11-year staff member for retiring councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. She’s worried about the future of the city’s so-called “middle” neighborhoods and the fact that the redeveloping city is “leaving some people behind." Her work ethic suggests she would remain focused on finding solutions.”

 

Republican candidates: 

#216. Dan Tinney. A building trades union-backed steamfitter and GOP Ward Leader of the 66th Ward in Northeast Philadelphia, he was the largest Republican vote getter in the May 2019 Primary. He opposes Sanctuary cities, the soda tax, safe injection sites and supports the 10-year tax abatement and charter schools. He does support more bike lanes.

 

#217. Al Taubenberger. Incumbent. Against soda tax, supports Rep. Martina White’s proposed legislation to protect the identity of police officers who are involved in a shooting or violent confrontation. He opposes the soda tax, Sanctuary city, supervised injection sites. 

 

#218. Matt Wolfe. A lawyer from West Philadelphia and a former deputy attorney general, he opposes Sanctuary City, the soda tax, and safe injection sites. He supports term limits and wants to end councilmanic prerogative. Thinks we need more bike lanes.

 

#219. Bill Heeney. GOP Ward leader of 62nd Ward. He opposes Sanctuary City, soda tax, safe injection sites.  Thinks we have enough bike lanes. 

 

#220. David Oh. Incumbent. He has angered fellow Republicans for his demand that the Philadelphia Parking Authority be audited, and has angered liberals and others recently for posting a news item from a conservative website opposed to “tax-payer” funded gender confirmation surgery. He also opposes Sanctuary City, the soda tax, term limits, charter schools, and thinks we have enough bike lanes. 

 

Libertarian Candidate:

#316. Maj Toure. The founder of Black Guns Matter, which “educates people in urban communities on their Second Amendment rights and responsibilities through firearms training and education,” according to his website. He also says on his website: “I have my own signature line of AR-15, it’s called the Solutionary Rifle.”

 

A Better Council Party Candidate:

#416. Sherrie Cohen says, “I am running for Philadelphia City Council At Large to fight for the collective liberation of all poor and working class people.“ She dropped out of the primary in May to “heal the LGBT community” after a judge had removed her from the ballot. Then she decided to run again as A Better Council Party candidate.

 

Independent Party Candidates:

#516. Joe Cox, Bike messenger, protester, and pizza give-away king. Supporter of Sanders in 2016, Antifa protester in 2017. Cox first gained notoriety in Philadelphia thanks to PMA Bike Ride, the name he gave to his free pizza efforts. (PMA stands for “Positive Mental Attitude.”) He rides around the city giving pizza away to the homeless, to kids, and just to strangers on the street, an idea he got after learning about the Slices for the Homeless pay it forward program at Rosa’s Fresh Pizza on 11th Street. He is also known for having a lot of dogs, which he says are all service animals and would join him in City Hall if elected. “I’ve been to every single Council session since I announced,” Cox said and added,“That’s more than three or four incumbents.” Whether you like him or not, you have to give him credit for a good line there.

 

#517. Clarc King. I can find out nothing about this candidate

 

Term Limits Party Candidate

#616. Steve Cherniavsky. The only thing I can say about him is he supports term limits.

 

Working Families Candidates:

The Working Families website says,”Together, we’re going to put an end to Republican Party power in Philadelphia — by replacing Republicans with these grassroots Working Families Party champions who will permanently transform the political landscape.”  This sounds like a good idea, but is it? Will it help Philadelphia?

Some think it won’t.

Democrats are justifiably angry at Republicans in the legislature in Harrisburg who have underfunded public schools in Philadelphia. However, will getting rid of Republicans in City Council help increase funding for Philadelphia schools? I don’t really see how that is the case, since City Council does not control the state money nor do the Republicans in City Council have much clout. It might be argued that Republicans in the legislature will be less inclined to fund Philadelphia schools if Philadelphia City Council’s avowed program is to get rid of Republicans.

Another issue is raised by Ernest Owens, in an October 1, 2019 opinion piece in Philadelphia Magazine,  “ Are these Working Families Party candidates actually independents who want to challenge both parties, or just Democrats in disguise trying to co-opt City Council?”  He suggests they may be “cowardly Democrats who wouldn’t run in their own primary.” The Democratic Primary in May 2019 had a huge field of many outstanding candidates, many of whom did not win. Those losing candidates fought long and hard, but are not on the ballot. Some would argue that the Working Families Party candidates are really Democratic candidates who skipped the Primary and still got on the ballot.

On the other hand, many argue that this is a good way to get two more progressives votes on City Council.  The two Working Families Party candidates have strong progressive platforms. They support affordable housing, full funding for public schools, ending the 10-year tax abatement, the right to unionize, a living wage, and a Philadelphia Green New Deal. The Republican candidates, in general, do not. Would two more progressive votes on City Council help? It probably would not help getting more funding from Harrisburg for city schools, but it could make a difference in other ways.

Let’s talk about Climate Change. An article entitled  “What Can a City Do About Climate Change?” in the November 2019 issue of Philadelphia Magazine, outlined a number of ways Philadelphia could “turn a crisis into an opportunity.” These include charging people to drive in the city and giving the money to improve Septa, getting ready for thousands of climate migrants, making the tax abatement green, and planting more trees in low-income neighborhoods, and “Strong-arming the blown-out South Philly refinery into becoming a green energy complex.” The Republicans in City Council are not likely to support these ideas, while

the Working Families Party candidates would.

Both Working Familes Party candidates are endorsed by the ConservationVoters of PA. The candidates are:

 

#716. Kendra Brooks. Kendra has a compelling personal story. As a young single mother working to take care of her children in a low wage job, she realized education was the means to provide a better future for her children. She started at Community College of Philadelphia, while working as a nursing assistant, and then went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Therapeutic Recreation from Temple, and an MBA in Management from Eastern. Afterwards she worked with children with disabilities at Easter Seals, but was laid off after 17 years in 2014 when Governor Corbett cut spending on education. Since then she has focused on campaigns to return schools to local control. In her campaign for city council, she has stressed affordable housing, good schools in every zip code, the right to unionize. a living wage, and a Philadelphia Green New Deal. She has garnered some major endorsements, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, City Council member Helen Gym, State Representatives Chris Rabb, Brian Sims, Movita Johnson-Harrell, Malcolm Kenyatta and many unions. She has also raised a lot of money, more than any other third party candidate in Philadelphia ever.

 

#717. Nicholas O’Rourke. Rev. Nicolas O’Rourke is the Pastor (Supply) of the Living Water United Church of Christ in Oxford Circle and a Community Organizer for P.O.W.E.R, an interfaith organization committed to building communities of opportunity that work for all. The P.O.W.E.R. stands for Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild. It represents over 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania. On POWER’s website with staff bios, it says O’Rourke “considers himself a “sacred activist” and contends for the rights of people with the "guidance of God.”

 

DISTRICT COUNCIL (2nd District) (VOTE FOR 1) This is deeply troubling.

#121. Kenyatta Johnson: As I write this letter on Sunday October 27, the front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer is about the FBI probe of Councilman Johnson as well as his wife, Dawn Chavous. The FBI investigation is centered on a project to redevelop the old Royal Theater on South Street. What follows is a short version of the story. In 2000, Universal Companies, a South Philadelphia non-profit founded by Kenny Gamble, bought the property for $250,000 and promised to restore it to its glory days as an entertainment destination for the black community of Philadelphia. This did not happen, in spite of receiving half a million dollars from the city, state and the feds.

In 2014, Universal had a change of heart. It began seeking approval to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed use complex featuring 45 apartments above 7,000 square feet of ground level retail space. Johnson introduced a a bill that allowed a change of density in the site’s zoning restrictions, which would allow such a project to go forward. The bill passed 6 weeks later, allowing Universal to go forward. Johnson’s wife, Dawn Chavous, who has made her living as a consultant to politicians, businesses and non-profits, was working as a consultant for Universal at that time. Universal did not go forward with its plan and instead, a year later, sold the property for $3.7 million to a developer, which was 15 times the price they had originally paid for the property.

In addition, Chavous worked as a consultant to StudentsFirst, which has an affiliated PAC, which donated $22,000 to her husband’s campaign.

Johnson and his wife have denied any wrongdoing and the investigation is still secret, but the investigation appears to be far reaching and involves Universal Companies, the work of his wife as an education consultant, campaign adviser and charter-school advocate, and bargain-rate sales of city-owned land. There are as yet no indictments or trial so of course nothing has been proved. Nevertheless, it is, at the very least, disturbing.  

In my May voter letter, I wrote the following:“Kenyatta Johnson’s tenure in City Council since 2011 has been both transformative and troubled. On labor rights, he has been a brave ally. Thanks to his leadership and UniteHere!, workers at Philadelphia’s stadiums have maintained some of the better contracts in the city; at the airport, he supported the unionization of over a thousand workers, in the teeth of fierce lobbying from the airlines. He was a staunchly reliable vote on Fair Workweek and raising the minimum wage for municipal contractors. These policies have benefited working people, primarily working people of color, across the city. Still, gentrification in his district has been fierce, and despite his vote in favor of the tax on new construction to fund the housing trust fund, Johnson’s leadership on this score has been mixed. Recent revelations that he helped in turning city land over to a preferred developer are part of a larger lack of honesty regarding development politics in his district.”

From the Reclaim website: Johnson supports the soda tax, reforming the tax abatement, sanctuary cities,  and more bike lanes.

Margaret’s updated comments:  This is deeply disturbing and disappointing.

 

#122. Michael Bradley. Republican. I could find out very little about Mr. Bradley except that he is a Grays Ferry resident, a 12-year army veteran, a father of 5, and, according to him, an active civic leader. Bradley’s Council bid is notably low budget. Around the time of the May primary, his campaign account had a total of $30.

 

Judicial Retentions for Superior Court: Vote Yes or No

The Pennsylvania Bar Association has recommended a YES vote on both candidates,

Anne E. Lazarus: YES          Judy Olson:YES

 

Judicial Retentions for Judges on Commonwealth Court; Vote Yes or No

The Pennsylvania Bar Association has recommended a YES vote on both candidates.

Kevin Brobson: Vote Yes             Patricia McCullough: Vote Yes

 

Judicial Retention on Court of Common Pleas: Vote Yes or No

The Philadelphia Bar Association has recommended a YES vote for retention for all the Judges.

Daniel Anders  Vote YES             Robert Coleman  Vote YES

Richard J. Gordon  Vote YES       Karen Shreeves-Johns  VoteYES

Donna M. Woelpper Vote YES       Ida Chen  Vote YES

Roxanne E. Covington  Vote YES   Glynnis D. Hill  VoteYES

Diane R. Thomson Vote YES   Sheila Woods-Skipper  VoteYES

 

Judicial Retentions on Municipal Court

The Philadelphia Bar Association recommends a YES vote on all Judges.

Martin S. Coleman  voteYES       Jacquelyn Frazier-Hyde vote YES

Henry Lewandowski vote YES       Wendy Lynn Pew Vote YES

T. Francis Shields Vote YES

 

QUESTIONS

 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Vote NO

Crime Victims Rights (The so-called Marsy’s Law):

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to grant certain rights to crime victims, including to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; considering their safety in bail proceedings; timely notice and opportunity to take part in public proceedings; reasonable protection from the accused; right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused; restitution and return of property; proceedings free from delay; and to be informed of these rights, so they can enforce them?

From the October 30, 2019  Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial: While its intention is correct and victim’s rights — already enshrined in Pennsylvania law — should be respected, Marsy’s Law is the wrong solution. The law imposes a massive burden on the courts and has the potential to infringe on the rights of the accused. The American Civil Liberties of Pennsylvania, which opposes that law, sued and asked the court to remove the question from the ballot. Any court decision is likely to be appealed. If the question remains on the ballot, we recommend that you vote NO.

From Committee of Seventy: The proposed constitutional amendment includes more than a dozen rights including restitution, the right to be notified of proceedings involving the accused, and “reasonable protection” from the accused. The language has been adapted from “Marsy’s Law” – a model “bill of rights” for crime victims that that has been promoted nationally by Henry Nicholas, whose sister Marsy was murdered in 1983. It was passed unanimously by the Pennsylvania Senate, and by the General Assembly by 190-8.

MARGARET’S COMMENTS: WHY I OPPOSE IT

There are 2 main reason that I oppose the bill:

It asks voters to vote yes or no on an amendment that actually has 15 separate constitutional rights. You can see the list from Ballotpedia at the end of this section. Although I support some of these rights, I do not support all, and a vote YES is a vote for all. Having the Pennsylvania Constitution changed in this way is illegal as the Constitution of Pennsylvania stipulates that any change in the constitution must give voters the right to vote on each amendment separately, not a group.

2) I oppose this law because I do not support any reduction of the rights of defendants to due process and a fair trial. The amendment would dramatically curtail due process. Basic due process protections do not exist to protect guilty criminals from punishment; they exist to protect the innocent from arrest and imprisonment.  Of particular concern is that under Marsy’s Law, a victim doesn’t have to respond to any request for discovery—i.e. fact-finding in a case—from a defendant or a defendant’s lawyer. But the constitution says a defendant is entitled to compulsory process to get witnesses for their defense. 

This country has 2.3 million people in jail and prisons.  We need to find ways to put fewer people in prison, not more. I believe Marsy’s Law will increase mass incarceration.

It is opposed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, American Civil Liberties Union, The League of Women Voters and the PA Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers  for the following reasons, with which I concur.

From the ACLU Website: Innocent until proven guilty is a hallmark of the American justice system.  This principle, perhaps more than any other, ensures that people are given fair trials and that there is no presumption of guilt.  That is why the burden of proof-to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt-lies with the state and not with the accused.  Identifying victims and allowing their interests to be heard before a jury returns a verdict contaminates the deliberation process and runs counter to the idea that all Americans are “innocent until proven guilty.” The amendment would dramatically curtail due process.  Basic due process protections do not exist to protect guilty criminals from punishment; they exist to protect the innocent from arrest and imprisonment.  Key to due process is the ability to receive an impartial trial.  One can easily imagine the miscarriage of justice in a trial where the defendant is innocent but the victim begs the jury to return a guilty verdict. The reason spate of innocent people wrongfully convicted being released from prison is proof positive that mistakes are made and the wrong people are sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. 

From PA Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers: This attempt at balancing the rights of the accused and the victim, especially in the face of the government’s vast resources and prosecutorial power, runs contrary to the reason why the Bill of Rights was enshrined in the Constitution – namely, to protect the accused, particularly those who are marginalized and unpopular, from government overreach. The state provides constitutional rights to the accused in criminal proceedings because the state is attempting to deprive the accused – not the victim – of life, liberty, and property.

From ACLU “It’s an omnibus bill that amends three different articles, eight different sections, and one schedule to the Pennsylvania Constitution,” attorney Steven Bizar said. “[It] requires the voters of Pennsylvania to take a single ballot question, yes or no, rather than affording them the right to vote separately on each amendment.”The ACLU’s argument is based on Article XI of the Pennsylvania constitution, which covers constitutional amendments. The article says that if the legislature wants to submit two or more amendments to the constitution, those changes “shall be voted upon separately” in the subsequent referendum.

From the League of WomenVoters of PA: Opposed to law because:

1.      The amendment would override state law, eliminating judges' abilities to weigh the rights of victims and defendants.

2.      The amendment would alter nine provisions of the constitution without submitting each constitutional change separately as a ballot question as required by the PA Supreme Court.

3.      Victims are already protected by the PA Crime Victims Act of 1998. 

4.      Victims could refuse to be interviewed or to turn over pertinent evidence or testimony.

5.      Passage would create additional costs and needs on law enforcement, courts and government officials. 

From Ballotopedia; The measure would provide victims of crime with 15 specific constitutional rights, including:

a right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim's safety, dignity, and privacy; 

proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt and final conclusion of the case; 

have the safety of the victim and victim's family considered when setting the bail amount and release conditions for the accused; 

reasonable and timely notice of public proceedings involving the criminal conduct; 

be present at public proceedings involving the criminal conduct; 

be heard at proceedings where a right of the victim is implicated, including release, sentencing, and parole proceedings; 

receive notice of any pretrial disposition of the case, with the exception of grand jury proceedings; 

provide information to be considered before the parole of the offender; 

reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on the behalf of the accused; 

reasonable notice of the release or escape of the accused; 

refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused; 

full and timely restitution from the person or entity convicted; 

the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence; 

confer with the government's attorney; and

be informed of all rights granted by the amendment.

 

Proposed City Bond Question

Vote YES

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ($185,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?

From Committee of Seventy: This Bond question, if approved by the voters, would authorize the City to borrow $185,000,000 for capital purposes, which means, that the funding would be used to purchase or maintain something with long-term value. This could include, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, streets and other infrastructure.

Local and state governments typically issue bonds for major projects or purchases which will have a useful life that extends multiple years and when there is not sufficient cash on hand – not unlike when an individual seeks a home mortgage or auto loan. Those taxpayers who will be paying the interest and principal on the bond over the years will also, generally, be the same taxpayers who enjoy the benefit of the long-term investment. On the other hand, an increase in the City’s indebtedness also increases the portion for the budget that goes to debt service instead of other City services.

The funds from this bond issue would be used by the City for Transit ($4.8m); Streets and Sanitation ($45.6m); Municipal Buildings ($88m); Parks, Recreation and Museums ($25.9m); and Economic and Community Development ($20.7m), as specified in Bill  190431, approved by City Council on June 20, 2019. City Council would have authority, by ordinance, to change the intended allocation of these proceeds.

 

Proposed Charter Change Question

Vote YES

Bill No. 190290. Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise City procurement procedures by increasing the sealed bidding threshold; by providing for procurement from local businesses; and by providing for Procurement Department regulations?

From Committee of Seventy:

If Philadelphia voters approve this amendment to the Home Rule Charter, the threshold for formal bidding on certain City contracts will be raised from $34,000 to $100,000 for local businesses and $75,000 for others. Contract opportunities above this threshold go through a more extensive, sealed-bidding process and are awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” Contracts below this threshold are processed as “small order purchases” in which City agencies issue quotes for various goods or services, ranging from food concessions to IT support to janitorial services.

Philadelphia’s current threshold of $34,000 is higher than Pennsylvania government ($20,600) but significantly lower than other major cities. San Diego and Portland run among the highest at $150,000, while Chicago and New York City are at $100,000 (same as the federal government), and Baltimore, Boston and Washington, D.C come in at $50,000.

The proposed change is part of the City’s Local Business Purchasing Initiative to make small, local businesses more competitive by relieving them of extensive paperwork for relatively small contracts. The efforts are further intended to increase contracting opportunities, in particular, for firms owned by ethnic minorities, women and disabled persons (those certified as M/W/DSBE), and to return a larger portion of City procurement spending to the local economy -- $0.50 for every dollar spent, by one estimate. More than 800 contracts under $100,000 and worth a total of $15 million were awarded in FY 2018.

This proposal was introduced by Council member Derek Green and passed unanimously in June with backing from the Kenney administration and Sustainable Business Network.

The Committee of Seventy also supports this proposed Charter amendment, given our mission for ethical and effective government. City and state ethics laws guarding against fraud and abuse would continue to apply, but clear rules and robust training – both for procurement administrators and vendors – remain critical to ensure the integrity of the process and that it yields the intended results. Overall, this proposal should bring Philadelphia in line with other major cities and procurement best practices, increasing efficiency in small-contracting processes while promising to benefit M/W/DSBE businesses and keeping more tax dollars in the City.

Margaret Harris’s Election Day Recommendations

ChangePA © 2019

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