Capture

It seems like such a stark, bland little statistic.    This number presently represents Detroit’s poverty rate, but the significance of it really doesn’t sink in until you visit Detroit.  Or, if you’re not that adventurous, to at least hunt down some Detroit blogs so you can get a bit closer from the safety of your computer screen to what that reality is like.

GoobingDetroit is an amazing find that shows how rapidly things change on the ground by comparing Google and Bing images of Detroit’s streets to show how they change.   Here’s one small example:

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I bring up Detroit straight away because it’s the first U.S. city, a formerly-major city anyway, to throw in the towel and file for bankruptcy.  Detroit failed.

Refreshed statistics on where Philadelphia sits in the poverty rankings has come out and made headlines lately.   Basically the story has not changed and Philadelphia continues to hold the No. 1 position of the top 10 cities of the United States as being the poorest.

Our poverty rate?

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More interesting though out of the top ten cities is the one that had the biggest decrease in poverty:  Houston.   Jobs are bountiful all around the Houston metro and it has finally overcome the largest in-migration of Hurricane Katrina refugees who have permanently relocated to Southeastern Texas.   Houston is the 4th largest city to Philadelphia’s spot at No. 5 with a population of 2.1 million people and is the energy capital of the United States.

Houston’s poverty rate?

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That’s right, there’s only a four percentage point difference between Houston’s poverty rate and ours.   Does that mean that Philadelphia’s poverty problem is not that bad?

No.

Minneapolis, a city that’s often seen as successful has a 22.6% poverty rate, higher than Houston.

Poverty and income inequality are subjects which draw heavily on relative comparisons.   Philadelphia is without-a-doubt the worst in the poverty category, and while we have an official poverty rate that is really not that different from other big cities in the U.S. that we like to think of as successful we still have one very strong comparison that makes us look way too much like Detroit:

The total number of jobs in Philadelphia.

In fact… our job growth rate based on the number of actual positions filled by active workers follows closely to Detroit and resembles nothing like cities experiencing gentrification-fueled skyrocketing rents:

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Source: Philadelphia Jobs Growth Coalition

So wait.   How can we have Detroit’s jobs rate but at the same time we have people buying new houses in Philly and Fishtown becoming a hipster mecca?

The suburbs.

Surrounding Philadelphia is a Life Saver®-shaped donut of reverse-commutable suburbs where most job-expansion in the Philly metro region has gone.  We are also an unusual city for having a huge amount of suburbia.  Adding the suburban population brings our metro population to over 6 million people.  This includes another significantly-sized city, Wilmington, DE, one of the country’s largest consumer-credit back-office hubs.

Estimates are all over the place, but given how many white-collar jobs actually exist in the city it is estimated that nearly half of all Philadelphians who are at work today and reading this Philadelinquency article right now are doing it from a suburban office somewhere.

In just Montgomery County alone, Pew Charitable Trusts calculated that 68,986 Philadelphians leave the city to work in Montgomery County each day.

Reverse commuters bring in a huge haul.    The City of Philadelphia heavily relies on the Wage Tax to pay its bills.  Over 1/3 of the City’s revenue comes from the Wage Tax alone.

Without the suburban jobs providing a helping hand, Philadelphia would actually be exactly like Detroit in almost every single way.   Since our suburban economy has a vast wealth of various jobs in varied industries, enough to satiate local residents in the collar counties but also expand to sizes beyond what small local populations can support with the aid of reverse-commuting city-dwellers, this symbiotic relationship between Philly and its constellation of suburbs has kept Philadelphia economically afloat.

The Abyss

Even with all those suburban jobs we still maintain a higher average poverty level and that reason rests on the back of our failing public school system that can’t educate most of the City’s indigenous residents to a degree that they can make it into the regional job market; never-mind the jobs available in the city.   Non-skilled work in Philadelphia is very hard to come by because city employment has been stagnant since 1980.  Prior to 1970 it was quite easy to finish high school and find unskilled work in a factory that paid decent wages.  By 1980 this became impossible.

Neighborhoods like Kensington which were filled with unskilled and semi-skilled working homeowners rapidly depleted of workers whose incomes evaporated.   By the late 1970s under Mayor Rizzo Philadelphia’s budget was starting to feel the economic pain.   City Council with Rizzo’s blessing proposed jacking the Wage Tax to a shockingly-high 5% and this prompted the largest mass-exodus of residents at the fastest rate in Philadelphia’s decline.

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This tax hike was so unpopular in-fact that Philadelphians were furious enough to launch a recall petition to get rid of Frank Rizzo.

While the recall election would have likely resulted in Rizzo’s downfall and over 250,000 Philadelphians indicated that they would vote to have him ejected from the mayor’s office, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a 1-vote majority sided with Rizzo, saying that a recall election was not possible under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

K&A (Kensington Ave at Allegheny Avenue, 1970)
K&A (Kensington Ave at Allegheny Avenue, 1970)

But as we can see right now with the new fancy restaurants and all the New Philadelphians moving into town we avoided Detroit’s fate.   The suburban donut that surrounds Philly has certainly helped in a big way that most locals do not appreciate.   The suburban jobs market has prevented a full-on Detroit happening to Philadelphia, so long as there are city residents sticking it out in Philadelphia and making that long commute.

In Michigan, nobody moves to Detroit to reverse-commute to Dearborn.

But any city, even Philadelphia, has a breaking point.   If Detroit’s 38% poverty rate signifies a failed city where there is just so much poverty that the city could never hope to collect enough revenue to keep itself going, much less pay the bills, Philadelphia’s 26% poverty rate shows we get a C- or even a D, and we’re truly standing too close to the abyss.  There is a number between 26% and 38% where things become so far gone that a city’s population could never hope to work together economically to make it function.

That number, and my guess that it’s a poverty rate approaching 29-30%, the local population could never be taxed enough to make good on the city’s bills.   It would never matter how high you raise taxes or how many more taxes you invent, you will press out more taxpayers and leave behind a poor audience that’s exempt or unable to take on that burden.   You could tax wealth until the cows come home.  Once the wealth has decamped to a safe refuge, you are left with nothing else to tax.   As Detroit faced auto factory closings it reacted immediately with tax hikes, prompting more of its population to flee.  It could never augment its punitive tax policy with a carrot to replace the economic activity that left, much less convince workers who were able to flee to stay.

At that moment the Law of Diminishing Returns took hold and there was nothing left to stop the exodus.

A Pragmatic Approach to Poverty

As the middle class move out of a city the poverty statistic will immediately jump as there are less middle class people around to dilute the statistic.

Conversely, gentrification causes poverty numbers to dilute if the in-migration of wage earners moving in outstrips the in-migration of poor people and new poverty created by job-loss.

Like it or not, you need middle class and upper-income earners in your city if you want to be able to pay for municipal-funded assistance programs for the poor and also pay for the basic necessities a municipal government must provide its population.  Grant money from higher rungs of government is fickle, as Detroit knew and we know.   Big cities must always rely on local funding first and outside grants as a bonus.

You can only hold a middle class audience with a vibrant jobs market, which we sort-of have if you love podcasts and driving on the Schuylkill. To truly grow it you need boundless commercial growth, which Philadelphia certainly does not have.  At all.

Moreover, our attitude towards middle-income earners needs to shift.   Instead of looking at these people as the most horrible things ever out to rape society, we should instead be looking at creative-classers who have been moving into Philadelphia as little fracking wells… resources that produce and spend money here, but they also act as a Band-Aid for taxpayers that Philly has lost and they certainly should be taxed in ways that are constructive.

Shifting Philadelphia’s tax burden back to real estate and relying a lot less on a local income tax would do a lot to shift suburban attitudes about living and working in Philly.  After all, the Wage Tax is one of the biggest gripes suburbanites have about Philly in the first place.  Suburbanites who never venture into Philadelphia at all immediately point to the 75-year old income tax, the first local income tax in the country, as a reason to stay away.

The indigenous poor sitting in the poverty line and below will definitely benefit with a City that is far more flush with cash provided local pols make smarter decisions on aid programs.   With the rampant municipal corruption we currently have, I don’t think we can really count on a City that has plenty of money to spend on social aid to spend most of it effectively; but that’s the case we have now with a City budget that is stretched thin.

But even if the poor aren’t being helped by the City at all when fortunes get better, the local economic picture with more open job positions is a far more effective tool to dampen indigenous poverty, provided that our arcane school system is also reformed along with that shift.

To date, tax reforms and school reforms has had little positive progress in Philadelphia, and this is the root of our poverty.

We only need to move the poverty needle down 4% to match New York City, our most economically vibrant nearby neighbor.

Four percent.   Why do our local leaders think this is impossible?

This is an enhanced version of the Representative from Butler County
This is an enhanced version of the Representative from Butler County [Cred: Josh Kruger altering Metcalfe’s official portrait with Perfect365)
I cannot stand State Representative Daryl Metcalfe.  He’s a craptastic embarrassment to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  I’m not even talking about Republicans, because most Republicans cannot stand him either and just put on smiles for him whenever he shows up at a cocktail event.

He has worked very hard for many years to be the most homophobic legislator in our state.  When others appear to outshine his bigotry, this threatens Metlcafe.  The representative of rural Butler County, PA will sense the challenge and he will quickly attempt to fashion some sort of response to outbigot any fellow bigot.

Metcalfe’s behavior certainly is a reflection of Butler County residents.  They eat his shit up, and apparently they are terrified these days of someone speaking a foreign language (we can all guess which language that is).  No, it’s not Pennsylvania Dutch.

It’s Spanish.  So it comes as no surprise that Daryl Metcalfe is looking to ban all other languages except English.

In government.

I purposely created that weird sentence break just now to show you some of the same trickery that often comes with the English Only movement.  If they’re up for deception and misrepresentation, I’m certainly up for the challenge.

English-only movements are something new to Pennsylvania.   I grew up in Texas where that old hat has been around for at least a century.   Texas as you may know is one of the most Spanish-speaking states in the U.S. as well as California and Florida.  It’s also a very gun-toting state, very conservative and super-rural.

But Texas without Spanish would make Texas not-Texas.   The name of the very state itself is a Mexican-derived word (Spanish: Tejas) from “techas“, or “friends”, referring to the Native-Americans who lived there.

In fact, even in 2015, Spanish continues to hold the record in Texas as the longest-spoken language.  It’s woven deep into the fabric of the state’s built environment.   The 1% richest Texans all live in carefully-planned communities on streets with Spanish-derived names while most barrio districts have numbered streets and lettered avenues.

You’d think Native American languages would win this category for the longest-lived language, but native Comanche is extinct.  Spanish Texas dates to the 1500s when two colonies were established in Nacogdoches and in San Antonio.   San Antonio is the 6th largest U.S. City.   Puro San Antonio hable Español.  Go to El Paso and you’ll hear a lot less English.   Oh, people do speak English at work and at Wal-Mart and on the air base, but that’s about where it ends.  One of Mexico’s largest cities is on the other side of the river in the valley between two mountain ranges.   You could go the rest of your life without ever speaking a word of English there and do just fine.  Many generations of people have.   The world didn’t end, either.  Nobody would consider a place like El Paso to be big adopters of English-only, because Texans aren’t that stupid.  Neither are Mexicans.  Neither are Mexican-Americans.

Two of the Republican candidates for President have some command of Spanish.  Jeb Bush is thus-far one of the more fluent Spanish speakers of the Bush family and is able to do sit-down interviews on Univision.

The United States as a whole is considered the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country, with approximately 50 million speakers.

The population of Spain is only 47 million people.   Mexico is the world’s largest Spanish-speaking nation, at 120 million speakers.  50 million is a lot of Spanish-speaking people.

And don’t just assume that if someone can speak Spanish then they’re not American.  Espanglés or the blending of Spanish and English common in bilingual cultures like Texas is part of the culture of the Southwest United States and is prevalent deep within the Hispanic community.   Blended Anglo-Hispanic families have been common in the Southwest for years and dramatically accelerated after the Chicano Movement.

Like it or not, the United States has been a country that has spoken Spanish for hundreds of years and it will continue to speak Spanish for a thousand more.

Lest we also not forget Puerto Rico, which bigots like Daryl Metcalfe keep thinking is a foreign country and not a part of the United States.   Puerto Rico is a United States territory, anyone who is born in Puerto Rico is a native-born American citizen with full birthright citizenship, and no… you do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico.   Taking a flight to San Juan is like boarding a flight to Los Angeles or to San Antonio.  It’s all America.

Except that you will arrive in San Juan a lot sooner than you can get to LA from here.

And when you call customer service on the phone, your English speaker is likely to be talking to you from a call center in a foreign country.  When you Press 2 for a Spanish-speaking operator, you’re always going to get a red-blooded American on the phone who’s bilingual.

One of the best start-up employment jobs for first-timers in San Antonio, Texas is at West Telemarketing where many companies like QVC, American Express and others redirect customers who “marque dos para Español.”  Who knew?

When my old Dell computer used to break I would always press the option for Spanish.   The Spanish helpdesk was in Texas.  The English helpdesk Dell had was in Bangalore.  But don’t tell any xenophobes this… I’d rather have them continue to wait 20 minutes in queue and not clog up my direct route to get hold of a human.

Metcalfe’s bill bans printing of government forms in any other language except English–because you know how Pennsylvania’s government loves to print our tax forms in Swahili and they’re always out of the English version.  Pah-leeez.

Another clause in Metcalfe’s bill also bans any government communication, including advertisements in other language unless there’s an English version produced.

According to that clause, a public service ad written in Spanish telling water bill customers that they can speak to the Water Department, in Spanish, has to be accompanied by an ad written in English telling Spanish-speaking water customers, in English, that they can call the Water Department and talk to them in Spanish.

Got that?   Saving money, y’all!

Metcalfe needs to just go besame culo.   There’s only viente-dos vatos sponsoring Metcalfe’s bill right now, which means that pendejo will never get this bill to become law.

Viva la ‘Mericuh!

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Tonight is the first of several debates for Republican candidate Melissa Murray-Bailey against the Democratic nominee for mayor Jim Kenney.  The showdown which is to take place at the Center City Doubletree is sponsored by United Way.  Sorry, registration is booked solid–you can’t get in, but have no fear, there’s three more coming up.

None of the missives that I’ve heard about Melissa so far have had anything to do with substance, mostly style, and many negative off the cuff reviews of her from local Dems seem carefully crafted to approach the line of misogyny.  Other comments I’ve heard in person (not really fit to print here) blow past that line completely.

Melissa presents a quandary:  ‘How do I criticize her without sounding like the world’s worst person, since it’s obvious I don’t know much about her?’   The only substantive attack thus far has been Holly Otterbein’s piece in PhillyMag criticizing Melissa’s voting record.   But Otterbein’s treatise on how it’s so critical that one should be voting isn’t backed up well by Otterbein’s own voting history.

But it’s not like that story is in any way comparable to someone like Anthony Clark, the Democratic City Commissioner who doesn’t turn up for work and never votes–and he ran for office to get a job that’s supposed to champion voting.  Otterbein herself didn’t vote in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, missing at least four primaries, two general elections and a special election.   Hell, I have gaps in my own record.  I was out of the United States for a couple of primaries and elections doing my day job.  Early voting is very difficult in PA whereas in Texas I would vote weeks ahead of the election every year.  If you’re able-bodied and have to leave the city the night before election day, you’re basically fucked since you need the approval of a judge to get the dispensation of a special voting ballot–provided you contact that judge during banker’s hours.

But I do remember one election I nearly missed.  I was in Nazareth Hospital getting my hemorrhaged appendix ripped out the eve of another general election, but I did manage to vote.   After spending two nights in the hospital to be sure I was clean of infection, and with the support of a cane, I hobbled to Ethan Allen Elementary School in Mayfair just in time to vote for President Barack Obama in 2008.

That’s right, Obama.    Both Melissa and I shared something in common–we were both Democrats, until recently.

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Republican Mayoral Candidate Melissa Murray-Bailey (center), Republican Ward Leader Adam Lang (left), Pennsylvania Competes spokesperson Dashiell Sears (right) at GayBINGO Philly

Melissa switched her party affiliation for the same reason that I switched mine.  Branded as the ‘sick man of Philly’, the Republican Party gets the finger pointed at by Democrats who in turn shy away and cow after yet another name gets added to the long list of pols indicted, charged, pled guilty, investigated or resigned.

Democrat pol operative Jay McCalla spent some time lamenting how Republicans are not competitive, or do not compete, in Philly politics.  What results is that the Democratic City Committee feels no pressure to put forward good candidates who can survive the test of a general election.    Primary elections are very short affairs, lasting only four months for most people.   That’s really not enough time for the public to gauge who they are voting for and primary races are ultimately set-up by party bosses and committee people, not the general public.

McCalla is absolutely correct that without party competition, we as a city suffer.   With such a low registration and with a huge number of Republican committeepeople seats open which can be taken by anybody, it means anyone can take the helm in the Philadelphia Republican Party.   It could be co-opted by Marxist-Leninist socialists for that matter.   It’s like a big ballroom with the buffet laid out but only a few people at the dining table.

Signing up new Republican voters in the 16th Ward
Signing up new Republican voters in the 16th Ward

That means that most of the negative stereotypes endemic to Republicans aren’t part of most of us because many of those folks don’t live in Philadelphia.   Without them, the Philly GOP has the pleasure of being open-minded to diversity, to LGBT issues, to thinking about the city’s future in a structured way and to call out corruption in the other party.

Without competition though, Democratic voters in Philadelphia get hoodwinked nearly every year by dealmaking.

For instance, you probably have no idea how Sheriff Jewell Williams came to be our Sheriff, do you?

Jewell Williams’ elevation to Sheriff was an interesting example of what local party committees do for primaries.   City Council president Darrell Clarke once had a young staffer by the name of J.P. Miranda who wanted to get his feet wet in politics.   Jewell Williams at the time was the state representative in North Philadelphia/West Kensington, the area where Miranda lived.

Within the deep recesses of the Democratic City Committee Jewell Williams is not very well-liked and has an incompetence streak about him.  But while he was a legislator in Harrisburg he would respond and vote correctly whichever way party whips told him to vote that day.  He was a ‘yes, minister’ type of state representative, the loyal party aficionado who regularly receives marching orders via e-mail and delivers the requisite party votes in House chambers, but rarely ever delivered floor speeches to defend his district, write any substantive bills in Harrisburg relevant to any issue, or do much of anything except collect his salary.

Sensing that Williams was vulnerable and armed with the clout and full backing of Darrell Clarke, Miranda successfully trounced Jewell Williams in his re-election primary.  At the same time, the Sheriff’s Office was undergoing a scandal and multiple employees had pled guilty in Federal Court for wire fraud and then-Sheriff John Green looked to be next in line to face indictment.  Sensing that his career would end soon, he cashed his DROP payment and hit the retirement button which would protect his pension from from criminal prosecution [Green was never indicted].

An opening was now available for the job and Jewell Williams had just lost his job as a Harrisburg legislator.  To reward Williams for his good behavior, the Democratic City Committee and its chairman, Congressman Bob Brady cut a deal and gave Williams the party hack an endorsement nod.   Voting was merely just a formality for local Democrats.

J.P. Miranda has since resigned resigned and pled guilty to putting a ghost employee on his state payroll.  Ahh, corruption.  Gotta love it.

And that is how Sheriff Jewell Williams came to be.

This time for the mayoral race we have a party hack Kenney vs. a Center City businesswoman who was a long-time Democrat, sits center-left in the political spectrum, a Gen X’er and looks and sounds more progressive than Kenney ever did while he was repping the building trades on City Council.

Then there’s Kenney’s LGBT record.  This year our local papers heralded him as the savior of the LGBT community–as if he was at the Stonewall riots and brought about all this social acceptance of gay and lesbians that we have today.   His long part-time tenure as an At-Large council member left him with little clout but a mouthpiece and for quite a number of local controversies he stayed mute.   For instance, when blood was spilled at the GoldTex apartment building undergoing renovations to return a towering windowless abandoned factory plaguing part of the city’s skyline, this is how Kenney reacted:

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The facts on the ground were that the Philadelphia Police Department was ignoring direct phone calls by owners Matthew and Michael Pestronk and security guards to 9-1-1.

The Pestronk brothers resorted to laying an intense grid of security cameras around the construction site and posted the fights, the nails thrown into the street and the physical assaults, then ultimately began suing the trades directly and petitioning the court for stay-away orders.  The physical and legal fights brought some life back into IBEW98 business manager “Johnny Doc” John Dougherty, who silently condoned the violence.  It was only after every news outlet in town began repeating the best-of video clips and the ink poured that mediation was called in.  Dougherty attempted to fight back with a glossy media campaign of his own, which no one but journalists and rank and file building trades members bothered to watch.

Building trades election volunteers stand behind T. Milton Street with Jim Kenney and Kevin Dougherty fatheads
Building trades election volunteers stand behind T. Milton Street with Jim Kenney and Kevin Dougherty fatheads

Kenney would not have made it this far without Doc.  Johnny Doc has been on a buying-spree the last five election cycles ensuring that any Democrat in Philly who wants to run for dog-catcher on-up will not make it to office without his support, including the Mayor’s job.

For being such a progressive, as Kenney has been christened, the GoldTex episode is a clear indicator how Kenney is likely to take the difficult task of negotiating the city’s labor contracts weighed against the City’s budget and how Kenney’s logic is deeply rooted in 1970’s Philadelphia.

Kenney doesn’t really care where money comes from.  He is going to answer ‘yes’ to any demand, even if it puts the city at grave financial risk.

With that mindset at the helm, City Council’s increasing power may come at loggerheads with Kenney as mayor and it provides an opportunity for real estate developer Allan Domb to elevate his new-found stature on City Council as a voice of reason.

How that shift of power from the mayor’s office to City Council will take place is simple. Labor contracts must still get the blessing of PICA, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, a bipartisan board selected by Harrisburg which holds a special tool it has never had to use: the power to reject the City of Philadelphia’s budget, which in turn can send union contracts back to the drawing board.  If our unions ever bring out the ratmobile against Kenney, it will hit his psyche pretty hard.  PICA could at any moment lay conditions upon which it will approve a budget.   Inking a contract is one thing, but authorizing the budget and the checks to go out to workers is another.  Without both, the unions do not get a deal.

And as the last two mayors ultimately learned in their jobs, it will be at this moment that a future mayor will realize how little power the mayor’s office actually holds.

Kenney certainly doesn’t want to be the next Mayor Bozo.

[Credit: NBC10]
[Credit: NBC10]
The next mayor will also face situations where a subsidized development pits the wants and wishes of the building trades against local concerns among residents.  Labor ultimately wants to see their members employed regardless if the spending is wise or not and residents be-damned [remember casinos?].   A progressive mayor in the form of Melissa Murray-Bailey would tread delicately and be far more cautious in that controversy and either kill such a project or reshape it to be a smarter project.  Jim Kenney’s DNA is structured to ignore sensible planning and instead find the quickest path to inking a deal.  Men (and they’re mostly men) he has known his whole life will be lobbying him hard on issues like this.

But maybe Kenney realizes his shortcomings and knows that governing Philadelphia like we still live in the late 1970’s is not going to work and behind closed doors Kenney is being reprogrammed right now by up-and-coming progressives in a desperate hope that something more fashionable than what Mayor Nutter turned out to be becomes possible.  “Progressive Rehab“, I call it.  That’s what the progs are at least hoping, anyway.   They’ve already made Kenney love bicycles.

So progressives… you might as well start taking your best swipes at Melissa Murray-Bailey now during these four debates while you still have a chance.

You should at least deign to know what opportunity you’re going to pass up for the four-year lease you’ve already signed.

 

Christopher Sawyer is the owner of Philadelinquency and is running as a candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia.

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The House of Correction is one of Pennsylvania's oldest continuously operating prisons
The House of Correction is one of Pennsylvania’s oldest continuously operating prisons

Republican Councilman-At-Large David Oh expressed his irritation at an earlier post on Philadelinquency stemming from an interview on AM talk radio station 990 WURD.

In that interview, Oh had indicated a strong preference for replacing the House of Correction, a city prison facility which houses over 1,500 men.

However in an exchange with me on Facebook, Oh has stipulated that he will not vote for a House of Corrections project until these conditions are met:

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Oh insisted that the radio station had replayed an old interview on the air from before a bill to authorize the purchase of 7777-R State Road was due to be put to City Council for a second reading, which is a final vote to pass or reject a bill.   At the last minute, Councilman Bobby Henon, the sponsor of the legislation, withdrew the bill when he determined that Council support for buying the land in Holmesburg was tepid.

The land the City intends to purchase as a site to build a replacement to the House of Correction is roughly the size of Lincoln Financial Field and includes waterfront access to the Delaware River.

Residents in Holmesburg have expressed opposition to the plans for fear it will outmode a decade’s worth of work trying to build a public access waterfront along the Delaware including an extension of Penneypack Park to the river’s edge.   The present prison complex along State Road sits several hundred yards away from the waterline and a public grotto has been constructed between Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and the river’s edge.

This remains the only general-access public park along the Delaware River for tens of thousands of Lower Northeast residents.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission earlier this year rejected the idea of purchasing 7777–R State Road solely for use as a prison facility along the waterfront.   Likewise, various groups critical of mass incarceration have questioned the land acquisition bill since it did not include any commitment to deactivate the House of Correction so that it could not be used as a prison facility and the proposed replacement prison facility did not specify a proposed bed count.

It is expected that a bill to authorize the purchase of 7777-R State Road will be reintroduced into City Council during this legislative session.

All four At-Large contenders in the November 3rd At-Large City Council race have come out against the House of Correction project.

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