Fishtown-Neighbors-Association-Image-300uwSigh.  I’m tangentially involved in this controversy but I would rather much like not to be. Maybe there is a cautionary tale in here somewhere.  Entertainment value–for some, certainly.

For those of us old enough to remember television soap operas like Knotts Landing, Dallas, or All My Children with its twists and turns and characters telling each other lies and getting caught it was a big audience draw. Vacuuming the shag carpeting doing the house chores were for the commercials, mostly for tampons, and International Café.

All is fair in love and war, they say.   Or, in the case of Fishtown, there are a number of people who are outwardly friendly to varying degrees yet seethingly despise each other with the same varying amounts.

The kids have no idea what soaps in the 1980s were like, but we now have a soap opera on our hands.  A real life melodrama.   This comes in the form of a defamation lawsuit against the Fishtown Neighbors Association, one of two civic associations representing Fishtowners; the other being Fishtown ACTION, or FACT.

FNA vs. FACT

Before I get into the lawsuit itself, you’re going to understand it better if I explain the root of it all and that is this: Sugarhouse money.  Specifically, it is a $1MM annual community benefits agreement deal that was struck when Sugarhouse Casino opened its doors.

When the investors for Sugarhouse revealed their site location for the casino, one of the neighborhoods that became embroiled with controversy was Fishtown.   Specifically, the area of controversy was from Front Street to York Street from Girard Avenue to Frankford Avenue and nearby pockets.  The fear, uncertainty and doubt having a slots barn close to residential housing posed limitless concern.  The neighborhood split up into two camps, for and against.  The angst over the impending casino got really heated, with activists chaining themselves to fences, signs for and against going up in rowhouse windows to let neighbors know where one stood, the works.

The division eventually crept to the community organization level.   This led to the eventual bifurcation of Fishtown’s civically-minded, with the anti-casino camp mostly joined-up with FNA and more supportive members creating FACT.   Only FNA has Registered Community Organization recognition and holds all the community zoning meetings for Fishtown.

The animosity and fears of disaster over Sugarhouse have mostly faded, but some of that bad blood remains.   You can see it when you attend either of their meetings.  FNA is mostly the civic of millenialkin, FACT is mostly lifetime residents.  Only during FNA’s large zoning meetings do you ever get to see a more complete picture of the composition of Fishtown in one room.

About that Sugarhouse money

The Community Benefits Agreement the river wards have is an unusual type of development deal.   These agreements basically purchase neighborhood support in way of setting up some contributory fund or service to offset whatever a planned development project seems to impose on its neighbors.  Several RCOs in Philadelphia have active CBAs in place, some of them don’t even involve transfers of cash.  But Sugarhouse guarantees a nice large endless stream of cash.

So, who gets the cash?

The Penn Treaty Special Services District is the non-profit set up to hand out Sugarhouse’s money.  PTSSD has seen controversy once in the past.

This blog several years ago complained loud and bitterly that Sugarhouse cash was poised to be redirected to expand Finnegan’s Wake, a now-shuttered bar in Northern Liberties.  The proprietor, Mike Driscoll now a Pennsylvania legislator to Harrisburg had sought a cash grant from PTSSD in order to pay for planned upgrades of his bar as well as asking City Council to delete the street next to his establishment in order to expand his business outside.   After Philadelinquency challenged both Driscoll and PTSSD with how they planned to report the transaction to the Internal Revenue Service the plans were quickly scuttled.

New Lawsuit, Same Old Problems

PTSSD is still around and still happily accepts grant applications for funding, some of them are quite worthwhile.  There are other disbursements that some question.   The lawsuit specifically mentions prior disbursements to for-profit entities as a pattern that PTSSD has considered OK.   In fact it’s quite OK for private-owned beneficiary funds to do whatever they please with the cash, as PTSSD does.   When it comes to the IRS, for-profit entities must report such grants as income which may be taxable depending on the conditions and purposes for which it was given and used.

Enter Blush Hair Salon.   Salon Blush is a Fishtown business that wanted to take advantage of PTSSD for namesake improvements.

Because of the prior controversy that Philadelinquency raised over Finnegan’s Wake, the board of PTSSD insists that for-profit grant applicants first seek endorsement from the local registered community organization prior to filing the request.   When Blush’s application was sent to PTSSD without approval from FNA, it was rejected.   The applicant’s attorney and then-former acting president of the FNA, Jordan Rushie, either represented or assisted the applicant (or both) on behalf of FNA.   This is where things go south.

According to Rushie, word of Rushie’s involvement with Blush spread among some board members and its former present Neil Brecher who then became concerned.  The lawsuit alleges that current FNA president Jamie Ware instructed other board members and confidants that Rushie was acting illegally, and that he needed to be “excommunicated” as the complaint says, from the civic.

In turn the suit alleges that FNA made lightening-quick edits to its by-rules to purposely exclude the possibility of Rushie from ever returning to any position on the board of Fishtown Neighbors Association.   The edits to the by-rules also raise the requirements for board membership to a level that most Fishtowners today would be precluded from ever seeking to participate on the civic’s own board.

Which, to say, that’s not really that an unusual situation.  I can rattle off two dozen civic organizations, registered and otherwise, who are made of up cliques of people who will never permit any fresh blood to participate; thus the organization is doomed to die when that clique does.

Defamation and Excommunication

But that’s not really what the lawsuit is seeking to mend.   During the squabbling over whether Rushie representing Blush on behalf of Fishtown Neighbors, on behalf of a Fishtown business, to a grant-making organization that exists mainly for the benefit of those who live in or close to Fishtown–lots of speaking past one another took place, private emails were exchanged, feelings were hurt and suspicions drawn.

And from the suit…

78. The FNA bylaws have not been amended since 2004.

79. Ware amended the FNA bylaws to exclude (1) anyone who had attended less than 5 FNA meetings; and (2) any former director who resigned prior to their term for one year. See http://www.fishtown.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/ FNA-bylaws-as-approved-at-Oct-1-member-meeting.pdf

80. Ware’s amendments to the FNA bylaws not only excluded Rushie fom returning to the FNA Board of Directors, but also exclude approximately 95% (if not more) of all Fishtown residents.

Rushie mentioning that he cannot return to the FNA board indicates that he wants to be on the board, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

Like a soap opera.

So Chris, Is This Lawsuit Bullshit?

The complaint that’s been filed in Common Pleas Court rests on statements that aren’t quoted in the complaint.   The court filing seeks to open up those who are being sued to reveal their communications so Rushie can cite those defamatory statements against Ware.  No one knows exactly what Jamie Ware actually said or did except those she spoke or e-mailed with, and that’s the reason for all the other John Does also added to the complaint.

So, basically, no one knows unless e-mails come out.

There is one claim on Rushie’s lawsuit that seems utterly preposterous, and it’s one additional charge (that’s nearly always present in defamation lawsuits), this:

99. Ware’s interference with Ralph’s relationship with PTSSD was malicious and wrongful, and was done with the unjustifiable purpose of damaging Ralph’s relationship with the PTSSD.

100. Due to Ware’s actions, the PTSSD refuses to meet with her regarding a potential grant for Salon Blush.

The thing with this claim is that PTSSD by its own rules values its relationship and trust over FNA’s decision-making over that of Salon Blush who was seeking grant-funding.  PTSSD had to have known the drama blow-up going on at FNA, but it sided with Ware and the FNA, not Blush, and it wasn’t willing to waive a requirement of its rules and entertain Blush’s grant application while FNA was sorting itself out over whether Rushie acted “illegally”.  Further, it’s a grant that can still be denied at any time, or less money could be granted than was asked.  At no point was there a true commitment made to engage with Salon Blush, so FNA wasn’t interfering in any business transaction that was in progress; and it’s FNA’s discretion whether it wants to originate an application or not.

Conflict of Interest?

Jordan Rushie is one of the attorneys who represents Philadelinquency.  He still does.  He was also my campaign manager when I ran for Sheriff of Philadelphia.  He’s also a personal friend.   I’ve spoken to him several times before this complaint surfaced, what he stood to gain and lose by filing such a suit.  I took no concerted position either way on Rushie’s claims.   Most of the FNA board members current and former are wondering if they will be added as defendants.

Rushie is also a defamation attorney and an accomplished one.  He’s also lobbied (along with me) to Pennsylvania legislators in Harrisburg to get SLAPP protections passed for all Pennsylvanians, a cause he is actually still working on.  Whoever represents the plaintiff(s) here will have something worse than a vexatious litigant on their hands, they have a defamation lawyer who takes work on both the defense and the plaintiff side who has a deep skill-set in Pennsylvania and Federal defamation case history and knows every judge who hears these cases on the Common Pleas Court and in Federal court and how they react to content found in filings.   It’s not a fun prospect.

Rushie has also represented FNA before as a defense attorney, including one nasty frivolous litigation against the FNA which I cannot cite here because the person is so litigious that he, OR SHE, will likely sue me if I mention his or her name. [Seriously this person is that awful].

Could This Be the End of FNA?

We haven’t really seen an RCO go down the tubes like this since Old City Civic Association.  This lawsuit could be a turning point for FNA, and likely for the worse.

My feelings on this are simple.   There are basically no vacant lots left in Fishtown, save a couple hard-scrabble spots left in the neighborhood.   Development has come to a crawl with the absence of available plots left to build on.   FNA launched in an earlier time back when Fishtown’s direction wasn’t up or down and still in doubt.

FNA is also not really inclusionary.   That’s not really FNA’s fault but just a FACT of life since the forming of FACT (heh, sorry… bad Fishtown pun only Fishtowners will get).   No one wants to see the FNA behaving badly, and I’m sure it denies all of what’s in this complaint—but Fishtown doesn’t need to be divided anymore.   If anything, the lifer-quotient at FNA is still embarrassingly low and it’s contributory to some of the oldhead/newbie strife that still plagues the land south of York Street.

In other words, it’s probably time for the FNA and FACT to become one entity, with FACT taking responsibility for the board and the younger set that is part of FNA to incorporate their enthusiasm for the neighborhood into one organization that’s a lot simpler and gets along a lot better and gets shit done without all the fuss and cliquishness.

Until everyone in Fishtown realizes that this is what needs to get done, we’re going to be treated to a comeback of the TV soap operas.  Hopefully it’s only on for one season and gets canceled.

#philadelphia #nosavesies

A photo posted by David (@crust.life) on

Hmm.

   § 2706.  Terroristic threats.
        (a)  Offense defined.--A person commits the crime of
     terroristic threats if the person communicates, either directly
     or indirectly, a threat to:
            (1)  commit any crime of violence with intent to
        terrorize another;
            (2)  cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly or
        facility of public transportation; or
            (3)  otherwise cause serious public inconvenience, or
        cause terror or serious public inconvenience with reckless
        disregard of the risk of causing such terror or
        inconvenience.

Yeah.

EDIT: Looks like someone on Instagram fesses up to making this sign:

2016-01-25_14-32-23

2016-01-25_14-33-56

#NOSAVESIES, ASSHOLE.

2016-01-22_09-31-03

Yo.  Ready to start calling 911 on the parking savers people put out after a snowstorm to save their parking spots?   PDQ is.    As this Drake knock-off vid from Phila. Police Dept. shows, it’s just not gonna work dealing with your savesies neighbors over it.    Parking saver culture totally depends on residents’ fear of having their face or property destroyed if they challenge someone for colonializing the public right of way.

The only cure?   Police.

(BTW, how awesome is it that the Phila. Police Dept. dissed Meek Mill, here?  Since the cops have arrested him before.)

My own block I live on never puts the cones out, but the house before the one I live in now an entire plastic playground set complete with ladder and slide would get put outside.   During an ’09 snowstorm I spent two hours digging out a neighbor’s car who needed to get to Nazareth Hospital for an emergency appointment.   Sweated all the way through my layers down to my jacket.   No sooner did I strip off to take a scalding hot shower, out the bedroom window Miss Queen of Conquering Other People’s Shoveling Jobs comes out of her house, Newport in hand, lugging the plastic lawn chairs out to “reserve” my handiwork so she could nab it when her kids finished digging out her SUV marooned behind the house under 4 ½ feet of snowdrift.

Cut to the end:   After the altercation with her was over, I launched her lawn chairs onto the roof of her house.   They didn’t come down until a hard rainstorm finally blew them off her roof and into her backyard.     This was in Mayfair where everyone has a garage and a spot behind their homes as well as the street spots.

As I am 1,000% certain the Internet will be awash in a tsunami of pictures of abandoned furniture sitting out in the snow this weekend—please park some of your photos here.

DISQUS comments are open at the bottom, you can paste your photos into the comments and the moderation filters have been lifted!

And screw you Mayfair parking saver-lady.

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Oh HELL NO.

Commissioner Anthony Clark files petitions at City Hall on the filing deadline for petitions on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. ( STEPHANIE AARONSON / Staff Photographer )

 

You’ve probably wondered who this guy is that’s on the masthead of Philadelinquency.  It’s Anthony Clark, the guy in charge of elections in Philadelphia.    He’s one of three people, called city commissioners, who run the City Commission–the folks who run those voting machines you never visit.  Clark is the chairman of this organization.

Anthony Clark runs elections but doesn't ever vote [Signe Wilkinson]
Anthony Clark runs elections but doesn’t ever vote [Signe Wilkinson]

By now you probably know that the reason why I’ve put Clark up on display on PDQ is because of his work ethic.  He never shows up at work, he has no work cell phone, no work computer, his office is full of dust bunnies from lack of occupying his elected position.

Mind you, I was the FIRST to ever write about this and put it out for public consumption.   This has been going on much longer than this year.  Clark was a no-show during most of his last term in office.   The tip-off about Clark being AWOL came from several City Hall employees that I know well.  Three years ago.   The papers decided to start writing about Clark after he secured his recent re-election.  Meh.

And he’s also going to cash out on a massive DROP payment.

The King of the Philly Democrats, Congressman Bob Brady [philly.com]
The King of the Philly Democrats, Congressman Bob Brady [philly.com]

When the local media started going agog over how someone who is elected, and re-elected manages to do this and not do his job, it’s been all in good fun writing articles about this absurdity.   Who endorsed this dude?   Why did Philadelphians re-elect him in droves?

The Philadelphia Citizen joined in…

The Daily News’ Wendy Ruderman recently wrote a story entirely about her efforts to simply see Clark at his office. He never showed or returned her calls. When asked why the machine would support such a derelict for reelection, Bob Brady responded, “He’s a Democrat.”

Translation:  ‘Shut the fuck up and stop asking me dumb questions.  He’s first on the ballot, he’s a Democrat.  That’s all that matters now go vote for him.’

Mayor Jim Kenney didn’t say a word about Clark during the actual election. But on May 27, 2015 Kenney wrote a $1,500 campaign contribution over to Friends of Anthony Clark.  Mayor Michael Nutter criticized Clark after the Democratic primary was over, but Nutter recommended Clark on his own sample ward ballot that was handed out to Democratic voters before he went inside the polling station.

NutterBallot
Look carefully. Circled on Michael Nutter’s sample ward ballot is Anthony Clark.

 

Jimmy Tayoun‘s newspaper the Public Record was far more happier to see former city commissioner Stephanie Singer go.  I’m sure Brady joined in that relief.

But now Bob Brady is aghast at Clark’s work habits and from Claudia Vargas’s interview:

But if Brady knew Clark had a history of not being at work, why did the party endorse him last year?

“He said, ‘I’m going to show up, I’m going to be a good boy’ – same thing he said last night. I don’t believe him,” Brady said.

Hey Bob, can you see my rolling eyes cresting across York Street?

Clark is an embarrassment to Bob Brady for one simple reason:   he personifies the mindlessness of the Democratic City Committee which he runs.  Through Brady’s local party committee and its official endorsements come make-or-break voting results for most politicians running for office in Philadelphia.   Anthony Clark appeared on every sample ward ballot given out by DCC ward leaders, most of them put his name highlighted in red as their favorite pick or they deleted the names of the other candidates that weren’t supported.

It was these sample ballots that caused most Philly Democrats to push Clark’s button on the voting machine.   Other candidates like Will Mega and Tracey Gordon and Carol Jenkins were available, and certainly were much better choices who wouldn’t be giving you headline-grief right now.  There were SIX Democrats who ran in the primary for the two city commissioner board seats.  [The third city commissioner board seat is reserved for Republicans in the city charter.]

But no.  You had to endorse Clark because he was listed first on the ballot… and who gives a shit anyway, right Bob?   To the local party, local registered Democrats are all just a bunch of mindless automatons on these dumbshit low-line ballot races, right Bob?  And that is why endorsements are like picking the horses at an off-track betting house and not really saying much about personal conviction to ideals, attachment to ideology, or even belief in getting the job done, as Anthony Clark clearly demonstrates to everyone.

Al-Schmidt
Don’t worry, Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt is here to prevent unmitigated disaster

 

Here’s the best bit:  when Stephanie Singer was head of the city commissioner’s office and writing Facebook screeds during her work hours, Clark and commissioner Al Schmidt, the third city commissioner, staged a coup and voted Singer off the chairmanship island.   Clark became chairman and Schmidt vice-chair of the three-member board.   Since then the City Commissioner’s office has been run de-facto by Al Schmidt, a Republican.

Schmidt decided to retain Clark as chairman of the three member commission.  Why?   Isn’t it obvious?   Since Clark doesn’t show up to work this makes Philly’s voting system basically in charge of Republicans.  Schmidt isn’t stupid.

Moreover, Schmidt is doing an excellent job and going above what his office is charged with doing–making sure that elections run smoothly.   He helped get four voting clerks in Kensington arrested and charged with voter fraud.  He puts out cool statistics every month analyzing Philly’s voter data.   And most Democrats running for office who need help with filing paperwork and getting their act together or need voter data call a Republican for assistance.

The only Philly Democrats around who have anything bad to say about Schmidt’s work-ethic are certified lunatics.

Well, to Philly Democrats who are upset at all this:  tough.   The Republican City Committee is laughing so, SO HARD, at this right now.   Al Schmidt is going to stand his ground and keep Clark as commissioner.   Clark will continue to not show up at work because that’s what he does.

You voted for this.  This is what you wanted.

And this is what you deserve.

Thank the Congressman for the First Congressional District, the leader of the local Democratic Party, for his shitty endorsement.   The City Commissioners office is in no danger.  Lisa Deeley was just installed who got the backing of Johnny Doc, and Schmidt with his knowledge and experience is there to count on to run things well and demonstrate that the few Republicans who do exist have no problem working in a heavily-Democratic environment.