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Philadelphia Community Corps Takes Recycling To a Whole New Level: A Whole Rowhouse

A while back I ran into Greg Trainor and Christian Regosch from Philadelphia Community Corps, a non-profit with a fairly unique mission:  to recycle entire rowhomes.  In most cases where you would normally call a demolition contractor, PCC can do the work instead and can recover the material worth keeping.  PCC prefers to use the term “deconstruction”, rather than demolition.

Why do this?  Philadelphia has a very busy rehab market.  Rehabs if you don’t know are developers who take existing rowhomes and update them with either fresh new interiors or repairing customized original interiors to make old homes look like the day they were first built.   We are the country’s largest rowhouse city and most Philadelphians still live in a row home; finding original parts like doors, original flooring, staircase banisters, cornices, windows and fixtures isn’t very easy.  PCC intends to fix this problem and also provide a new avenue for local employment at the same time.

When old shells are too far gone to save and the land is to be reclaimed for something else, often there is salvagible material from that old shell that would be a perfect fit for a rehabber or your DIY fixer-upper who is searching for original sconces, bathroom tile, doors, pre 1930′s light switches and the like.

At Philadelphia Community Corps their mission is to handle home demolitions in a smarter manner, by stripping homes of their most valuable components and warehousing them for installation on other homes both old and new.  PCC aims to become a preferred demolition contractor with area GCs as well as City-ordered demolitions.  By warehousing home parts from deconstruction, they can supply other firms like Philadelphia Salvage and anyonee who seeks to supply original and authentic building materials or source them in home restoration jobs.

If you’re a general contractor, developer or real-estate pro that needs to do a demo, I strongly suggest you give these folks a call before you go with your average “knock it down and bury it into a hole” kinda contractor.   PCC is not only a more sustainable outfit, but all their workers are local and they supply a badly-needed market that’s very unique to our city.  You can’t just get original 19th century cornices at Lowe’s.

The Philadelphia Community Corps is also looking for 9-15 new board members this summer as the organization is growing. Please contact greg@philadelphiacommunitycorps.org for more details or call Greg @ (201) 956-1275

Philadelphia Community Corps – Overview

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Where’s the #SchoolsNotPrisons Crowd? Asleep? NE Residents Circulate Petition Against Prison By the Sea

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Buried in Mayor Nutter‘s budget, beyond another property tax hike is a $5MM line item (no 3. in the picture above) slated for acquiring a property for a new prison.  As noted back in March in PhillyMag, the intention might be to replace the aging House of Corrections on State Road, but there’s no real committed plan for that.

You would think the constantly-outraged social justice Twitterati would have this as one of their top local issues right now, but instead they’ve checked out to lunch at McDonalds as of late for a $15/hr minimum wage in hopes to pressure franchises to jump the price of a Crispy Chicken Deluxe from $4.19 to a nice even $12.67.

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The land that’s up for discussion isn’t insignificant, either. 7777-R State Road (part of the highlighted area) is the desired area to build a replacement to the House of Corrections, an aging building that dates to the 19th Century (incorrectly marked as “Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility” on the map.  The HoC is due NE of the 4 block buildings that make up CFCF).

At one point this piece of land was a small shipping terminal with a rail and trucking facility on site.  A small three story customs building was also located here.  Companies as large as Hersey used this pier as late as the 1970s for taking freight, and the Commonwealth along with New Jersey has expended a great deal of investment in dredging the adjacent Delaware River so commercial traffic can proceed further up the Delaware, to Bristol.

The thought of yet another State Road prison, which already has the highest population concentration in Philadelphia–all incarcerated inmates–occupying more waterfront space has residents in the Northeast up in arms.  This petition is seeing circulation:

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The $7MM price tag is just to get a hold of the land from investors.  Rough estimates for a new facility climb higher than $400MM and would likely require a bond issue or some other financing gymnastics to pull off.   That’s not to say that upkeep of the existing HoC and the 1,300 inmates it holds is no small bill, either, but neither is building a home and support facility for over a thousand people.

One of the primary concerns though is that this project is being done in stages, possibly as a ruse to carve-up opposition to the prison expansion, some NE residents fear.   Before the Philadelphia City Planning Commission voted to reject the City Council acquisition bill, the argument was that there were no mention of prisons anywhere in the bill.   But as there has been no rumination about schools, housing, parks or commercial going into this space, and that it sits next to the NE prison complex, the conclusions that can be drawn are fairly easy.

Councilman Henon, whose district covers this area, has suspended City Council Bill 150406 although the legislation has not been actually withdrawn, meaning it can be put up for a vote between now and summer recess.

The concern over this project is at such a level though that verbal reassurances are not enough—petitions are still being circulated.  It also begs multiple questions:

  • Must the replacement prison be located here?  The Youth Study Center kiddie-jail is located elsewhere
  • Is this the best use for waterfront property?
  • Can a temporary prison be set-up somewhere else and the HoC demolished and rebuilt in-situ?
  • Will the HoC really be retired after replacement?  With what seems like a permanent shortage of prison beds, it would be reasonable to guess that the City will be very motivated to keep some or all of the HoC bed spaces after adding prison capacity.

And of course there’s all the social justice questions that #SchoolsNotPrisons activists would normally be asking right now but they aren’t because they’re too busy with something else.

 

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So Much for Saving Money with Charter Schools – Unionization Spreads, Charter Hires ‘Union Busters’

UPDATE: Added FOIA documents from ASPIRA which show how ASPIRA handled union elections at its Olney charter school.

From the desk of Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez

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John B. Stetson Charter school is a Renaissance Charter with below-average performance in West Kensington.   Faculty at the school have been trying to organize and according to MQS, the NLRB has had to directly step-in and suspend a unionization election due to “threats and intimidation”.

This comes on the heels of another ASPIRA-owned charter school in Olney organizing a union.

PDQ has obtained Freedom of Information Act documents from Sánchez’s office revealing how much ASPIRA was paying union busting consultants to fight against the organization efforts at its Olney location.

Olney FOIA Response

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Kenyatta Johnson Campaign Supporters Violate Election Law By Electioneering Inside Polling Station

Yesterday I made the rounds as an election poll watcher on behalf of the Republican City Committee.   There’s been documented cases of election shenanigans time and time again at Philadelphia polling places and for the last nine years it has been a priority for the RCC to keep an eye on the polling places as voters come to cast their ballots.

This month, four election workers at a polling station in Norris Square were arrested for manually keying in votes into a voting machine after the polls had closed.

Many polling stations follow the procedures in state law and from the City Commision, which are complicated.   Poll watchers are there to ensure that no campaign materials are present inside a polling station (other than voters wearing campaign garb who are actually in the process of voting), and they can inspect the signature book and the clerk’s book and monitor behavior of individuals inside the polling station to ensure that no “electioneering” is taking place–like barking campaign slogans at voters while they are behind the curtains of the polling machine or waiting for one.

Yesterday was very interesting.   The polling place at Ward 36, Division 3, which is at 20th and Federal in Point Breeze, is Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s polling station inside a fire company, directly across from OCF Cafe.   As Kenyatta Johnson cast his ballot and left the fire house, an enthusiastic supporter ran up to take selfies and pose in front of cameras:

Pay careful attention to the woman in the red shirt

Pay careful attention to the woman in the red shirt

The woman is wearing a bright red shirt.    Minutes earlier she was wearing a blue Ori Feibush campaign shirt over this red shirt.

While inside the polling station, while waiting for voters to finish examination before the poll workers so I could inspect the polling station records, I looked up and noticed this same woman, deep inside the polling station.

Here she puts the Ori Feibush shirt back on and is deep inside the polling station, charging her phone

Here she puts the Ori Feibush shirt back on and is deep inside the polling station, charging her phone

To prevent election judges for kicking a minority poll inspector (me) out holding up video recording equipment, I brought along some trusty videoglasses to film this.

In this photo (above), the election judge for 36-03 is the man standing on the right.  The Kenyatta Johnson supporter with the Ori shirt is to the left.   The poll workers are seated at a card table and off-camera to the right are the voting machines.   You have to walk within inches of the voting machines when a fire truck is parked inside the fire house to get to where this woman is standing.

I raised an objection to this immediately while I was filming her wearing a campaign shirt inside a polling station.   As she was wearing a shirt underneath, I told her she either needed to leave immediately or remove that shirt.

So….

She pulls the shirt off again

She pulls the shirt off again

Throughout the day, Kenyatta Johnson campaigners outside this polling station were coming and going within inches of the voting machines.   I returned to this station hours later and talked to a campaign volunteer only to see another woman, this time wearing a Kenyatta Johnson campaign shirt, enter the polling station and loiter directly in front of of the polling station workers.

The election judge was exasperated.  ”They say they need to be able to use the bathroom, and I can’t kick them out,” he told me.

Pennsylvania law is crystal clear on this subject.   There is to be no campaign imagery of any kind inside a polling place, and that especially includes campaign volunteers (who are not voting or have already voted), from lollygagging around deep inside the polling place, wearing campaign garb.   The reason for this rule?  It is voter intimidation.

Campaigning at the polling station is limited to 10 feet away from the entrance into the building where a polling place is located.

After witnessing a third occurrence of this I called the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and sent them the same stills you’re seeing right now (I have the full video + audio).

Some of the Johnson supporters tried to get testy with me after I had to go in and demand another campaign volunteer remove herself after she re-entered this polling station.  She was standing within 2 inches of the curtains on the voting machine.

This was by no means a unique occurrence in the 36th Ward.  It’s tradition to electioneer at several polling stations in this district, as reported to me by voters who have been voting here for years.

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Philadelinquency Voter Guide – For PROFESSIONAL Voters Only

Voting machines being programmed [Newsworks/WHYY]

Voting machines being programmed [Newsworks/WHYY]

The Tuesday Primary is coming very, very soon and you’re probably inundated by now with ads, mailers, robocalls and the like.   We’re also going to have a very, VERY complicated ballot because of all those judges who played the coffee can of justice that are running.

As an anti-blight activist and also a candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia, I can give you some tips on being a “professional voter”.

Let’s start with all those judges and how you can be a smart voter to deal with them.

PICK ONE JUDGE AND ONLY ONE JUDGE

One of the worst things you can do as a voter is to push as many buttons as the machine will allow you to for any judicial race.   Direct elections for judges is a horrible way to pick judges.  For Common Pleas Court in the Democratic primary the first ballot choice, Scott DiClaudio, had his law license suspended for three months.  So of course the Democratic City Committee is endorsing him.

If you’re a registered Democrat you should take a look at who the Philadelphia Bar Association is recommending, and then Google from there.  On the Republican ticket, the GOP has endorsed judges Covey, George and Olson for the Supreme Court and the local Republican City Committee has endorsed the uncontested Republican judicial races.

What I suggest you do for each judicial race is to find only ONE judge you want to vote for and write their name down on a slip of paper or a Post-It note, put it in your purse or your wallet (or save it on your phone), and take that with you on Tuesday so you don’t forget who you selected.   Use Google to hunt for news articles about any judge on the ballot until you find one judge that is deserving of your vote.  Just the one.

Why should you just only vote for one judge when you can vote for 3 in the PA Supreme Court or as many as 12 in Common Pleas?   It’s because judicial candidates are expecting you to toss your undeserved votes their way.

Don’t reward a judge who hasn’t busted their hump to make themselves known to you.  And don’t just trust a mailer you got from a judge, go and Google them.  Pennsylvania is a state that is notorious for elevating some really shady people to the bench, and this randomness is why.

If you only cast a vote for ONE judge and ignore all the rest, you won’t be giving votes to someone who didn’t earn them and it has the effect of voting TWICE for your favorite judge.

When you limit yourself to one judge, you’re not elevating any of the other judges’ vote totals.   It’s the top vote-getters who win a bench seat, so it’s like betting on the horses:  you put your money on your winners.  Why would you spread money on judges you didn’t research?

Don’t let a judge you don’t know get closer to the finish line.

CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE

This is probably the most interesting race of all and it could spell doom to the City’s political machine, so listen-up.

This contest is interesting on both the Democratic and Republican races and there is a solid strategy for both:  avoid incumbents, even if you like them.

So, don’t push the buttons for:

  • Blondell Reynolds-Brown (D)
  • Wilson Goode Jr. (D)
  • Ed Nielson (D)
  • Bill Greenlee (D)
  • David Oh (R)
  • Denny O’Brien (R)

Why?   My buddy Matt Ruben has an excellent analysis on why this strategy is awesome.

The At-Large seats on City Council are supposed to represent Philadelphia’s interests as a whole city.  This has been ruined by councilmanic privilege where the other 10 council members who represent districts vote in lockstep with each other.

The City Charter intended these 7 At-Large council members to be a clique onto themselves to keep policy focused on the direction of the city.  But that’s not what happens. Because the math is in favor of the district council members and it is they who vote as a clique, an at-Large council member has to lobby their own district colleagues to get any legislation of their own going.

At-Large council members rarely push for any real change and they never challenge councilmanic privilege out of fear of having their own legislative efforts die.   At-Large council people are never elevated to City Council President and because they are so shut-out of power, many at-larges including former at-large councilman Jim Kenney hold daytime jobs.

Since you can make a selection of 5 people here, I recommend you find anywhere between 3 to 5 people to vote for who are not incumbents.  There will be many party-machine voters pushing incumbent buttons so the incumbents don’t really need your vote anyway.

You want reformist candidates to make it into City Council and you want incumbents biting their nails worried if they will keep their jobs.  This is how we kill off the political machine that has ruined Philadelphia.

On the Democratic side, I recommend that you cast votes for schools-activist Helen Gym,    Reading Terminal Market manager Paul Steinke and Southwest Philly activist Wilson Alexander.   Gym is the most vocal critic of the School Reform Commission, Steinke has  business acumen and Alexander would give important representation to oft-ignored Southwest Philadelphia.

On the Republican side, I highly recommend that you push all 5 buttons for: Matt Wolfe, Daniel Tinney, James Williams, Terry Tracey, and Al Taubenberger.

MAYOR

For the Democrats, the polling shows that Jim Kenney is gonna win by a massive margin, so the mayor’s race is pretty much in the bag.  It seems all those news articles that local reporters have been churning out have been for naught as the runner-up shot his campaign in the foot.   Many reporters in town are already laying up their body copy for the election results and skipping the final campaign push weekend.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this good summary of the Democratic slate of mayoral wanna-bees.  Philadelinquency of course loves protest voting, and if you’re a registered Democrat who is unhappy with the slate that the DCC gave you this year, perhaps you should go for the protest vote:  Milton Street.

The Republicans have selected Melissa Murray-Bailey, who is running unopposed and will be on the November ballot.  I encourage you as a voter to go over to her Facebook and ask her questions directly.   She’s one of the few candidates in the mayoral race who aren’t guarded by “handlers” separating you from the candidate.

Regardless of who becomes Mayor next year, City Council has been spending its last few years consolidating its power and it hasn’t been for good.   City Council impacts your life and your home more than anything else, so the Council elections are what you should be focusing a lot of attention on before Tuesday.

CITY COMMISSIONER

These are the people who oversee elections in Philadelphia.   This is a board of 3 people, one of them must be a Republican and the other two are Democrats.   Freshman Republican Al Schmidt is up for re-election and he’s earned a tremendous amount of respect from Republicans and Democrats for how he has managed the office.   Schmidt makes himself available to the public every day, taking questions from anyone about the voting process.

On the Democrat side of the ballot things are a bit more chaotic.   Both seats are considered vulnerable.   City Commissioner Stephanie Singer was kicked off the ballot because she did not get enough valid petition signatures to run, so that seat is open.  Fellow commissioner Anthony Clark has been called-out by the good-government group Committee of Seventy because he’s a regular no-show at work and didn’t even bother to vote.

Because Stephanie Singer’s seat is open and Anthony Clark has proven to not be capable of performing his duty, Philadelinquency highly-recommends that you select Tracey Gordon, a former deputy commissioner, to the office.  Gordon is a bruised veteran who stood up to the Democratic machine.  She had to fight to be seated as a committee person in Ward 40-B which made her an enemy of mayoral-wannabee Anthony Williams.   Williams later lodged complaints about Gordon for being politically active on her Facebook page to commissioner Singer, who then fired Gordon.

This is rather ironic since Singer herself takes plenty of political positions on social media. As this is an elected office, Gordon’s anti-blight activism for her ward in Southwest Philadelphia won’t get in the way of the office’s job, which is to make sure elections go smoothly.

I also recommend that you make a second vote in this race since there are two competitive seats here, and your second choice should either be Carol Jenkins or Lisa Deeley.

On the Republican side, Commissioner Schmidt is unopposed and deserves to be.

CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2

The most infamous City Council race is of course between Kenyatta Johnson and Ori Feibush.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kenyatta Johnson is more than happy with blight as some of his close friends seem to be keen on keeping blighted properties around, he’s got Ethics problems and he’s also a pathological liar.

What’s even more hilarious here is that some progressive Democrats who have taken a wholesale rejection of Anthony Hardy Williams for mayor are muted about Johnson, who is a protégé of Williams.  They even share campaign cash funneled through bupkis non-profit PACs, notably the one run by Johnson’s wife: Sky Community Partners.

Just as Williams lodges complaints that mayoral front-runner Jim Kenney is an answer-boy for the electrician union’s business manager Johnny Doc,  the same situation exists between Williams and Johnson.

The answer should be obvious.  Feibush has already been transforming blighted areas of Philly without a City Council seat.   He’s more than capable and will be far more effective and beneficial to Philadelphia if he’s serving on City Council.

There is no Republican running in this race.

CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 7

While neighbors in Maria Quiñones-Sánchez‘s district may have their reservations and Kensington ward politics is a creature-feature unto itself, on this race the strategy is “go with what you know.”

MQS, as the neighbors and I call her by her initials, has never been supported by the City Democratic Committee.  That’s partly because there’s always a ward brawl going on with 4 and sometimes as many as 7 different factions trying to vie for total control over Kensington.   State Representative Angel Cruz floated Manny Morales as a candidate who has some very interesting views that are probably more compatible with Pennsyltucky than the poorest district in Philadelphia.

I’m sure Morales could beat anti-gay state rep Daryl Metcalfe at his own game in Butler County.  Someone is always electable somewhere.

The fact is is that MQS has been revising and changing the city’s property management regulations, including adopting recommendations first posited by Philadelinquency.  Her district is filled with blight but her district is seeing economic redevelopment and with far less noise than elsewhere in Philadelphia.   She has also managed to stay clean above the fray of Kensington’s nasty in-fighting.   If you take a look at some of the people who have been trying to get power in West Kensington and Juanita and look at their histories, you’ll realize that MQS is a far better option than any alternative.

There is no Republican running in this race.

REGISTER OF WILLS AND SHERIFF

These are two uncontested races on both the Democratic and Republican slates.   The Register of Wills is a public records office responsible for certifying marriages, births, deaths and creation of estates.   The Sheriff is responsible for transporting prisoners, carrying out orders of the court for writs and warrants and protecting the court buildings.

In both races on the Democratic side you’re dealing with lifetime incumbent pols who were basically rewarded with a nomination from the Democratic City Committee political machine for years of good faithful service—to the machine.  On the Republican side you have two candidates who are in politics for the first time:  Ross Feinberg and Christopher Sawyer.   Sawyer is the owner of Philadelinquency.

So, if you’re registered Democratic, you should take a pen with you to the polls or ask a poll worker for a pen and try out the write-in feature on the polling machine.

For Register of Wills, push the WRITE-IN button on the voting machine, push the red button at the top, and write “ROSS FEINBERG” and close the shutter.

For Sheriff, push the WRITE-IN button on the voting machine, push the red button at the top, and write “CHRISTOPHER SAWYER” and close the shutter.

This video will show you how to use the write-in feature on the voting machine:

For Republicans, the choice is easy.  Push the buttons for Register of Wills and Sheriff.

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Here is an explanation of the questions you’re going to be asked at the bottom of the machine.

Questions 1 and 4 will do virtually nothing if you answer either way to them.

Question 2 will create a “commission for women” made up of 27 unpaid members who will produce reports that go back to the Mayor and City Council to recommend policy changes for women’s equality.  City Council nor the Mayor have to take any action with the reports they receive.

Question 3 is far more important and has to do with changing City government to support non-English languages.   Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese are the next most popular languages spoken in Philadelphia after English.  While hiring translation services costs money, it does give non-English speakers easier access to local government.   Immigration into Philadelphia is on the rise for resident aliens on the path to citizenship and many newly-minted citizens often bring family members legally into the United States who have poor English skills who will encounter difficulty interacting with our government.

While there are certainly xenophobic aspects to adding foreign-language support, nobody questions the support and access for blind and deaf citizens who have similar barriers to government.   U.S. states in the Southwest like Texas and New Mexico already have laws and statutes on the books providing Spanish access.   For Texas to be one of the most conservative states in the union yet Texans are used to seeing billboards, radio, TV and commercial businesses speaking Spanish everywhere–it hasn’t changed the politics of Texas, and neither will it do that here.

I offer no recommendation on questions 1, 2 and 4 and I highly-recommend you answer YES to question 3.

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