Thanks State Rep. Cherelle Parker for blocking the City who has been requesting the power to place personal liens on tax deadbeats to get their bank accounts and wage checks in a last-ditch effort to chop away at that massive mountain of cash the City is owed to it. [WHYY Newsworks]

Rep. Cherelle Parker, who represents Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane [MyFoxPhilly]
Rep. Cherelle Parker, who represents Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane [MyFoxPhilly]
Nevermind that private parties have this power in the courts, and the Commonwealth already has this power against debtors of the state.

I haven’t heard a peep from Rep. Parker ever since her DUI conviction in Montgomery County, but her re-appearance in this news is certainly less than welcome.

Edison High

After all, it’s only your constituents’ kids and the AVI tax rate riding on this.  Too bad the judges that will listen to your appeal in Superior Court on your DUI conviction aren’t facing AVI tax hikes or have kids in the now-bankrupt SDP system.

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closed-for-business

Last year I mentioned that 2013 would be the Winter of Discontent in Philly.   As the heat rises and tempers flare, the coldness and anger boils over.

There’s AVI.  There’s the municipal unions going batshit crazy.  There’s IAFF22 which went loco, hired a new president to hit the reset button on negotiating a new contract in an era of stale budgets.

And of course, there’s that bugaboo in the room:  what remains of the Philadelphia School District.   It is still imploding.

As many recall back in April, the SRC worked out a school closure list that sent parents, teachers and administrators into naked fury. [TheNotebook]

Thursday night, members of the School Reform Commission met to approve what many parents have titled the Doomsday Budget.  And it’s a whopper.  Imagine cuts like:

  • Counseling
  • Libraries
  • Most (if not all) after school activity
  • Athletics
  • Textbooks
  • Art
  • Music
  • Trips

Cuts have already been made on services like translators and special needs, other than what the SDP is required by law to provide.  It’s pretty bleak.   As the SRC was taking the vote to adopt the FY2014 school budget, SRC board member Joe Dworetzky pondered whether SDP-run schools could really be considered schools anymore once all the services that go beyond teaching kids how to get their way through PSSA tests is removed.

The SRC also took the step of killing off former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s Promise Academies.  That program in the new SRC budget has been completely defunded.

ramos-gestures
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos

SRC Chair Pedro Ramos addressed the room prior to his vote, stating that it’s “Finance 101” to adopt a budget with the revenues that are known.  And since neither the City or the Commonwealth are delivering beyond what is known, the plan to adopt a budget that pushes Philadelphia public schools closer to one-room school houses is the most logical maneuver.

I guess you could argue that’s technically correct.  Last winter the SDP took out a $300 million dollar loan for 20 years that costs the SDP $22 million a year to pay back.   The loan only covered the funding gap for one single year.   The last review of the School District’s credit rating was that it was junk.  Luckily, at the time there happened to be investors dumb enough to buy most of the bonds issued.

Politically, this is the only option for the SRC.  Previous SDP superintendents happily embraced charter schools since Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the country to experiment with them, and now the faucet has turned into a water cannon, shooting kids out of their public school desks and throwing them into commercial education providers who have in-turn lobbied Harrisburg hard to expand the charter system.

As the FBI investigation of Chaka Fattah’s son Chip Jr. has been any indication, which was connected to a Philly lawyer who happens to be president of a company that has received millions of dollars from the SDP, money that leaves the School District isn’t really monitored all that much.   And neither are the charters themselves.  Either way, state pushers of for-profit education will continue to ensure the checks to charters and cybers and the politically-connected owners of the umbrella corps sitting over them don’t bounce.  And at the same time, the managed implosion of the SDP continues.

While the support system over public schools collapses, it solves a problem that no Democratic politician in Philadelphia would ever be willing to go on camera admitting to:  all the school district employee unions.   As the SDP shrinks, pink slips go out.   What’s your choice?   Apply for a job at one of the charters popping up like dirty mushrooms all over Philly’s neighborhoods, or pack your bags and try another city’s education system.

Unless charter employees self-organize, which will ultimately defeat the whole concept of charter schools being more economically efficient, your kids being taught by a low-paid teacher who ultimately answers to an investor is the new norm.

Edison High, which was still in use until 2002, on fire.  It will now be imploded and turned into a Sav-A-Lot.
Edison High, which was still in use until 2002, on fire. It will now be demolished and turned into a Sav-A-Lot. [HiddenCity]
This Great Recession is the first time since the 1930s Depression that K-12 education has not been immune from cutbacks, and Philadelphia is the largest city in America slashing its public schools to the bone.   Fleeing for the suburbs isn’t an option this time around because counties have cut back as well or closed their open positions.  I’ve known plenty of folks in my lifetime who have walked away from corporate America to settle for the low-paid but pensioned world of teaching kids.  Schools were always hiring and always replacing turnover.  Even during the 70s.  Not anymore.

With the new SRC budget, the nuclear football now goes back into the hands of City Council who must settle the question once and for all whether or not AVI will be implemented this year, and in what way.  There are 3 meetings left in June before the City’s budget must be passed.

There’s an old Chinese proverb that seems more apropos than ever:  “May you live in interesting times.

SEPTA this afternoon pounded Twitter and Facebook with a fairly wordy mea culpa, apologizing with dripping regret over a Regional Rail outage during yesterday’s rush hour.  Sprinkled with introspective musings like…

In the age of Social Media, there are many who believe we should be able to instantaneously communicate detailed information explaining exactly what is going on and what impact it might have for that moment’s commute. It all comes down to a question of balance – quickly delivered bad or incomplete information or good information that has the benefit of a few minutes of investigation – which is more valuable to customers in the long run?

This isn’t the SEPTA most of us grew up with.

See… it wasn’t that long ago that SEPTA would not acknowledge publicly that it had a pee problem.  Paul Levy of the Center City District couldn’t help but not ignore it and struck a deal to take over cleaning underneath City Hall.

Since that historic moment, SEPTA has gotten less and less pee-tastic.  Dilworth Plaza, another urine-soaked public space, is also being remade by CCD.

Ever since Center City District started to butt into SEPTA’s affairs, SEPTA itself has started changing.   It has embraced social media big time.   Want to have a coffee klatch with SEPTA?  Follow @SEPTA_SOCIAL.

It’s not just SEPTA’s PR arm, either.  SEPTA’s transit police chief Thomas J. Nestel III  is on Twitter (he’s @TNestel3) all the time and just recently started trending over cheese sandwiches.  SEPTA heavy rail and transfer stations that are notorious for heavy drug trafficking, like Somerset, are now on a new SEPTA Police project to have units permanently camped at those stations.

The higher visibility of SEPTA PD has made a marked improvement.

Just repositioning officers is improving sales at legitimate Kensington businesses
Just repositioning officers is improving sales at legitimate Kensington businesses

SEPTA, I hardly even know you anymore.

Oh God… remember those stairs where the Italian Bistro was on Broad Street?  There’s an elevator there now that takes you to Walnut-Locust, but those were the worst pee stairs in the entire network.   Lately even the elevators have more days when there’s no pee than when there is, and now we can actually talk to you now without dismissive form letters and 5 day complaint turnaround times.

And today… this historic moment… you even engage in lengthy philosophical soliloquies on how best to inform riders of a major outage?  Aloud?   Years ago we tried to shun you and would put up being stuck in traffic rather than suffer going through your system.  Now you are trying to enter our lives, and our minds.  What’s next?  SEPTA comments on our Facebook wedding photo albums?

Our SEPTA has gotten a lot less Joe Pesci and it’s a little bit more Heather Locklear teaching yoga.   Well, it’s still Heather with pee stairs, but I’ll take it.

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Blight, vagrancy and decay affect you personally.  In your wallet.

Ahh, what is it about favored groups in Philadelphia that immediately allow them to stop paying the Real Estate Tax?

CityPaper’s Ryan Briggs has finished a review of charter schools, their buildings and landlords and it looks like they collectively owe the City a cool $762K in back tax.

For a business that gets contracts from the School District, which is guaranteed money by the way since there’s a whole whirlwind of politicos who will bend over backwards to make sure charters are cash flush even while the SDP itself implodes…

Sigh.

Within hours after PDQ broke the story of Universal Community Homes being smacked with an Act 135 petition to appoint a conservator over the building to save it from imminent collapse, Universal quickly filed an entry of appearance in the case.

OH HAI! R U SAVE BUILDINGS?

Earlier today, men could be seen coming and going out of the Royal’s front doors.  Are they contractors doing estimates for saving those walls?  Will they get that forest up on the roof removed?

And speaking of Universal noticing that it’s being sued, the Royal Theater itself just literally got noticed.  By Wally Zimolong, the attorney representing Juan Levy who is petitioning the court to appoint a conservator over the building.

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