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Bellevue Bulletin 07/13/2018

Water Main Breaks, Minimum Wage, and the new Board of Education

Happy Friday everyone! We’re back with your weekly update!

By now you’ve probably heard about Philadelphia’s water main break last week, which has left some buildings still without power and the city working diligently to rectify the situation. Nearly 15 million gallons of water spilled from the nearby 48-inch main at Juniper and Sansom Streets, the day before July 4th. The main break initially knocked out power to hundreds on that side of Broad. John DiGiulio, Water Department spokesperson, has said that full cleanup and repairs are expected to take several months at the moment and that the department is continuing to work with businesses that are filing claims with the city, as well as working with the PPA to determine routes for businesses which needs goods supplied. Sansom Street from 13th to Broad and Juniper from Chestnut to Walnut will be closed for the foreseeable future while the crews are working the area. 

Governor Wolf signed an executive order late in June that raises the minimum wage for state employees to $12, and revealed plans to increase pay to $15 by 2024. The measure will immediately affect pay for employees under the governor’s jurisdiction, as well as employees of state contractors, those that lease property to the commonwealth, perform direct services to the commonwealth, or those who spend at least 20 percent of their working time on services related to the contract or lease through the commonwealth.  Under this order, the wage will increase by 50 cents each year until finally reaching $15/hour in 2024.

Philadelphia’s new Board of Education held its first meeting on Monday evening in front of a packed house of parents, students, and community advocates. Former SRC member Joyce Wilkerson was selected as president while Wayne Walker was chosen for VP. Both have extensive experience in nonprofit work and business and have said they are honored to have received their new positions on the board. During the meeting, the board also proposed a four-committee structure to organize responsibilities, which includes Finance and Facilities, Student Achievement and Support, Policy, and District Partnerships and Community Engagement. Mayor Kenney certainly seems excited about the board’s upcoming work, and said the meeting “established a strong foundation for the work ahead”. All of the Board of Education’s meetings will be open to the public as well as advertised on their webpage. And, they’re looking for a student rep!

Good news came from a Blue Cross Blue Shield report on Thursday, wherein it was noted that BCBS members are being prescribed fewer opioids in lower dosages, effectively dropping opioid prescriptions in the Philadelphia region by 32% between 2012 and 2017. This is more than the national average, which saw a 29% drop within the same time period. However, nearly 242, 000 BCBS members were still diagnosed with opioid-use disorder in 2017 alone, with 7.9 diagnoses per 1,000 members in the Philadelphia area alone contributing to that. Hopefully, the number of prescriptions continues to drop in the coming months and years.

Evidently, the protesters that followed Vice President Pence during his visit to Philadelphia last month didn’t scare him away, because the VP has booked another trip to the City of Brotherly Love to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Lou Barletta. Casey will run again for a third term, reports say, but officials are speculating that President Trump will also eventually campaign for Barletta during the race. During Pence’s last visit, he was met by protesters in Rittenhouse Square pushing back on the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which has since been eradicated, and all eligible young children have been reunited, though some under 5 still remain separated because of safety concerns or other issues. Protests have already been organized for Pence’s visit on July 23rd by groups like Refuse Fascism Philly, Philly UP, and the like.

That’s your biggest news for this week, folks! Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @PhillyAdvocates for more updates!

 

Bellevue Bulletin 06/28/2018

Pence, Protests, and Council's Final Session

It’s officially summer! Here’s your weekly update on the news in Philadelphia:

We’re starting off with some good news this week: three Philly area executives landed a spot on the 100-name list of Highest Rated CEOs from Glassdoor! Each year Glassdoor reveals the winners of its Employees’ Choice Awards, which recognizes leading CEOs across North America and parts of Europe. Based on real input from employees who provide anonymous feedback, the site then ranks 100 winners to make the list. From 14th in 2017 to 6th this year are Power Home Remodeling co-CEOs Corey Schiller and Asher Raphael. SAP CEO Bill McDermott ranked 33rd on the list. Click here to read more about the reviews that landed them their spots!

If you’ve been following the news this week, you’ve likely heard about the immigration policy that is allowing minors to be separated from their parents. On Wednesday, Vice President Pence visited Philadelphia to attend a fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association – and was greeted with roughly 1,000 protesters in Rittenhouse Square. On the Facebook page for the event, coordinating groups called on people attending to bring pairs of children’s shoes to be set down as a symbolic, silent protest against the separation of families. Neither the President nor Vice President has made any comments specifically about Philadelphia’s protest on Wednesday.

After 17 long years of governing the Philadelphia School District, the School Reform Commission held its final public meeting last night. In the midst of cheers and songs and signs, the commission will hit the gavel for the final time on June 30th, and the Philadelphia School District will be handed over to the new Board of Education appointed by the Mayor. According to Philly.com, “all of the SRC members offered a valedictory, reflecting on their service and thanking Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., teachers, and students.” And so the sun sets on the SRC after 6,019 days!

Kicking off a marathon of a stated meeting on Thursday, Councilman Curtis Jones presented a resolution honoring Smith Playground for 120 years of playtime! Councilman Green had a resolution recognizing Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and welcoming the 84th Grand Chapter Meeting to the City of Philadelphia in July 2019, and a resolution calling for Council to hold hearings regarding the threat of wasted plastics to the health, safety, and well-being of the City and residents of Philadelphia. Councilwoman Gym had a resolution authorizing the creation of a Youth Residential Placement Task Force, to make recommendations and provide guidance to safely reduce the number of Philadelphia youth in residential placements. After a very long meeting, Council closed out its final session of the summer and will return in September!

That’s all the news for this week, folks. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t forget to follow us on twitter @PhillyAdvocates for news updates!

 

 

Bellevue Bulletin 06/01/2018

Big Budgets and New Dispensaries

Happy First Day of June! Here’s your weekly update:

The city has been working to find out where the money to support Philly’s struggling school district will come from: so far, it’s looking like Mayor Kenney’s plan to raise property taxes and increasing the real estate transfer tax is the winning solution. However, Councilwoman Cindy Bass has come up with another idea. Instead of increasing property tax, over the next five years, Councilwoman Bass wants to make cuts to the city’s budget, especially funding to the city’s prison system. Bass says she will be introducing her alternative when Council returns next week.

Philadelphia’s first medical marijuana dispensary is officially open in Fishtown. Restore Integrative Wellness opened at 11 AM on Wednesday, to a line of about 20 patients. Since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, nearly two dozen other medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in surrounding area, but Restore is the first to open within the city. This means that patients will no longer have to drive outside of Philadelphia to receive treatment. Like other dispensaries, Restore sells a variety of different supplies including concentrates, capsules, and vape pens from five of the state’s certified growers. Read more about Restore here.

There have been a number of lawsuits filed by state and local governments across the country against opioid manufacturers over the last few months. Bucks County officials have just announced that they too will be filing a lawsuit against three opioid distributors and 14 pharmaceutical companies. According to the news release from Bucks County officials, 232 people died of opioid overdoses in the county last year. Read more about the lawsuit here. 

Philadelphia City Council didn’t have a stated meeting this week, but they did cut the ribbon at the newly renovated LOVE Park! Follow them on Twitter @PHLCouncil to see the photos!

And, follow us on twitter @phillyadvocates for constant news updates! Have a great weekend!

 

 

Bellevue Bulletin 05/25/2018

House Seats and Fortune 500

Happy holiday weekend, everyone! We hope this Memorial Day will be great – and sunny!

Some unfortunate news for college students kicks off our update this week: The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is being forced to dig into its reserves to keep money flowing into a grant program for PA that helps college students in the coming fiscal year. The PHEAA warns though, that this could mean little to no money for the grant the following year. The PHEAA manages hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and commercial student loans, and much of it is pumped into the grant program. The group plans to cut its $100 million dollar contribution in half, which would mean more than 150,000 students will potentially lose out on hundreds of dollars. It’s not clear yet whether or not lawmakers will be able to make that money up.

In Harrisburg, PA State Representative Nick Miccarelli has had his seat in the state House chamber moved from seat 42, formerly only 10 seats away from Rep Toohil, to seat 111, all the way in the back of the chamber. He was also stripped of his committee assignments by House GOP leadership since the latest fallout of allegations of physical and sexual assault against him. It’s been said that House GOP Leadership has called for Miccarelli to resign, but so far has not pushed to expel him from the state House.

On Thursday, a PA Judge halted the construction of Sunoco’s two new pipeline projects, as well as the already existing Mariner East Pipeline 1, once again in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township. The Judge, Elizabeth Barnes, also granted an emergency petition by state Senator Andy Dinniman. Dinniman has argued that the pipelines are a risk to public safety within the township and has been granted his emergency petition that has stopped construction and operation of the pipelines until the PUC determines they are safe to continue using. Mariner East II has dealt with legal, environmental, and construction issues since it first began in 2017, and was shut down in March as well. There has been no word from Sunoco about whether or not the pipeline will be completed on time.

Now for some good news: twelve Philadelphia-area companies have made the Fortune 500 list for 2018! Companies that have made the list include Toll Brothers, Chemours, Burlington Stores, UGI, Campbell’s Soup, Crown Holdings, Universal Health Services, Lincoln National, DowDuPont, Aramark, Comcast, and AmerisourceBergen. To see the full list and all of the companies’ rankings, click here.

In Council this week, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown introduced a resolution urging Congress to respond to the Supreme Court ruling in Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis by passing legislation that guarantees the right of workers to pursue class action lawsuits in federal court. Councilman Derek Green introduced a resolution recognizing and honoring Lynn Fields Harris on the occasion of her retirement as Executive Director of Center in the Park, for her decades of service to the city of Philly and it’s older citizens. Councilman Domb introduced an ordinance amending Title 19 of the Philadelphia Code, under “Finance, Taxes, and Collections”, by adding a new Chapter entitled “Monthly Reconciliation Reporting. And finally, Councilwoman Gym has a resolution calling for Philadelphia Council hearings to explore the potential geographic score of the 10-year tax abatement.

That’s all for today folks! Have a great holiday weekend and don’t forget to follow us @PhillyAdvocates for more updates!

 

Bellevue Bulletin 05/18/2018

Primaries and Political Games

Happy Friday everyone! Here’s everything that’s happened during this rainy week:

As we all know, the primaries have come and gone this past week and as it turns out, there has been an increase in voter turnout. At eighteen percent, the state is three points higher than the last midterm primary in 2014, but still about a point lower than the average for past elections. About 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans turned out on Tuesday, a difference of nearly 7 percent — although a higher percentage of registered Republican voters participated (22 percent versus 19 percent of registered Democrats). (Emily Previti, WITF) Read more about the stats here. And look here for a rundown of who won and who lost in the race.

Since Meek Mill’s release, the prison system and its’ flaws have finally been getting some attention. Meek Mill has been a huge advocate for prison reform since being released earlier this month and was slated to visit the White House today to take part in a panel about prison reform. However, the 31-year-old rapper backed out of the summit and explained his decision via a statement, saying he didn’t want to the focus to be on himself and President Trump, and take away from creating a positive result from the discussions. The summit still happened, beginning at 10:45 AM at the White House and is rumored to have been attended by the President, Congress members, and activists. Read more here.

As always, where there’s a campaign there tends to be a little bit of drama. And in the words of Holly Otterbein, Staff Writer for Philly.Com, “To be involved in politics in this town, you need an iron stomach.” 27-year-old Malcolm Kenyatta ran for office for the first time this year and defeated four other Democratic candidates to capture his party’s nomination for the 181st District. But, Primary Day was not without issue – in the early morning, staff on Kenyatta’s team found homophobic fliers posted outside his office, a picture of Kenyatta and his first husband taken from Facebook, with crude remarks written next to the photo. Kenyatta’s response was this: “There are big issues to address: poverty, schools, and housing. People have no patience for the bigoted political games, and our resounding victory on Tuesday makes that clear.” Read the full story here.

In Council, Greenlee kicked off with a presentation on behalf of Council President Clarke honoring and recognizing Masterman Odyssey of the Mind for being named World Finalists in the Odyssey of the Mind International Competition! Way to go kids! Councilman Henon put forth a resolution recognizing May 20th to May 26th, 2018, as National Emergency Medical Services Week in Philadelphia. The resolution also honored Philadelphia’s Paramedic of the Year, David Reynolds, and Philadelphia EMT of the Year, Emily Serrano.
And that’s all the big news for this week folks! Make sure to follow us on Twitter @PhillyAdvocates for regular updates!

 

Bellevue Bulletin 05/11/2018

Volkswagen and Clean Energy

Happy Friday! Here is your weekly update:

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to criminal charges for selling cars that turned on emissions controls during testing but reduced them during normal driving. The International Council on Clean Transportation funded on-road testing and found that a VW put out as much as 35 times the allowable amount of toxic nitrogen oxide, which causes respiratory problems. The council alerted government regulators and now, VW is doling out billions in fines and settlements – and Pennsylvania found a way to capitalize on the situation. PA’s governor said on Thursday that the state will use the $118 million dollar settlement with VW to set up a program called Driving PA Forward, which will distribute grants and rebates that aim to boost air quality in the state. The goal is to replace older diesel engines with new technologies and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 27,700 tons.

Governor Wolf, in conjunction with the Legislative Black Caucus, rolled out a statewide grant plan to help reduce to threat of gun violence in Pennsylvania, totally $1.5 million. The grants, under the 2018 Gun Violence Reduction Initiative, are open to any and all municipalities in the state including townships, boroughs, and cities. The grant initiative, Wolf said, will help to support programs already underway.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is taking on a new project – $55 million has been allotted to an abandoned mine statewide cleanup initiative. The project will seek to treat polluted mine water, stabilize unsafe mines, and put out underground fires, treating the mines that were developed before modern environmental rules can to fruition in the 1970s. The money is coming from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund, a program part of the Department of Interior. It’s being funded by a fee on current coal production. The money comes from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund, a Department of Interior program. It’s funded by a fee on current coal production.

In Philadelphia Council, Councilmember Squilla put forth a resolution renaming South 13th Street, between Walnut and Locust Streets, as “Edie Windsor Way”. Council President Clarke joined in to introduce a resolution calling for a Philadelphia Historical Marker on the campus of Temple University, Edie Windsor’s alma mater. For those of you that don’t know, Edie Windsor is a Philadelphian who fought for LGBT rights and awareness! Councilman Oh introduced a resolution recognizing May 19th, 2018 as Armed Forces Day in the city of Philadelphia, as well as a resolution recognizing the U.S. Army for providing the safety and security of the nation since its creation in Philadelphia 243 years ago.

That’s all your news for this week folks! Follow us @PhillyAdvocates and check in for regular updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 05/04/2018

Michelle Obama, a $1 settlement, and Soda Tax

Here’s your update for the week:

If you didn’t already know, former First Lady Michelle Obama was here just a few days ago to speak to 8,000 Philly students getting ready to head off to college at the end of this year, in celebration of National College Signing Day. Mrs. Obama was joined by a few other big names, including Philly-native Bradley Cooper, Zendaya, Nick Cannon emceed, Kelly Rowland, QHere’suestlove, Robert DeNiro, Rebel Wilson, Karlie Kloss, and Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins, and more. Congrats to all the students heading off to pursue higher education, a military career, or attending a trade school – Philadelphia is proud of you!

The Mariner East Pipeline II is facing more trouble from the Department of Environmental Protection, including a new fine for $355,622 for drilling mud spills during construction. This fine is on top of the $12.6 million Sunoco was already fined by the DEP in February for violations of the Clean Streams Law. Currently, the pipeline has more than 50 notices for violations during construction, but, the pipeline is still set to be finished on time.

To jump back a week or two: the two black men arrested at Starbucks have settled with a symbol $1, and have reached an agreement with both the city of Philadelphia and Starbucks. The city will be setting up at $20,000 program for young entrepreneurs, as Rashon Nelson and Dante Robinson, along with their attorney sat down to speak to ABC’s Good Morning America after making the announcement. Both men say they hope something positive will come out of the unfortunate, uncomfortable situation, and hope the program with the city will help Philadelphia public high school students learn about not just entrepreneurship, but subjects like taxes and financial literacy. They said they wish to expand the program beyond Philly in the future. (Via Philly.com)

If you’ve been following along with us, you know that Philadelphians for Fair Future has been working closely with Bellevue on both the pre-k and Rebuild programs. The Pennsylvania House Commerce Committee has voted to advance the bill to repeal the soda tax, and would generally prohibit local governments from imposing new taxes on food and drinks. What’s more, is that H.B. 2241 makes no provision for replacing the $80 million in annual Soda Tax Revenue. It’s crunch time! Help us in pledging your support to the tax by calling your local legislator.

In Philadelphia Council this week, Councilman David Oh has a resolution recognizing and celebrating the 2018 Philippine Independence Week from June 2nd to June 16th. Councilman Taubenberger introduced a resolution recognizing the Girl Scouts’ 106th birthday, and Councilman Domb brought forth a resolution proclaiming the week of May 6th through May 12th as Public Service Recognition Week in the City of Philadelphia. May 13th to May 20th will be celebrated as National Police Week in Philadelphia!

 

That’s all for now folks! Be sure to follow us @PhillyAdvocates for regular updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 04/27/2018

Listening Tour, #MeekIsFree, and the Cosby Verdict

Happy Friday! Here’s the verdict:

If you follow the news, you’ll already know that Bill Cosby’s retrial has finally come to a close and that the jury at a Montgomery County Courthouse has convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University basketball coach, Andrea Constand. Check out this interesting article related to Cosby and the #MeToo movement.

A few weeks ago we told you about Pennsylvania’s plan to replace all voting machines in the state with more up-to-date models. Well, the prototypes are here, and election administrators and the public got a chance to check them out this past week at the state Farm Show complex this week. Most current voting machines are totally electronic – these new machines would leave a paper trail, making it easier to count votes. The federal government is contributing $13.5 million for the upgrades, but the new tech is expected to retail anywhere between $100 million and $150 million. Philadelphia has already asked for an extension on the next-year-end deadline.

The new Philadelphia school board made their first stop on their citywide listening tour and got oriented with a few (many) questions from the community. The new board has a large task ahead of them: just 33 percent of students in the district can read at grade level, and only 19 percent meet state standards in math. Among the community’s requests were, “Add more art and music to schools. Better equip teachers to handle the challenges of children who live in deep poverty. Earn the public’s trust and improve community relations. Make sure kids have mentors, and job training, and access to robust after-school programs.” Read the full story here.

A week after a situation erupted at a Philadelphia Starbucks, it has been announced that Meek Mill has been released from prison after being arrested for a controversial parole violation. After his release became public, his good friend and the 76ers co-owner, Michael Rubin, along with comedian Kevin Heart, picked Meek up in a helicopter and transported him to the Sixers’ playoff game. He even got to ring the ceremonial bell before tip-off. As exciting as this is, new studies have shown that Pennsylvania’s parole rate is the highest in the nation – and it’s a problem that’s getting worse.

Philadelphia International Airport cut the ribbon this week on the newest USO Center in the Nation. “We project welcoming over 100,000 service members & their families annually at our center in Terminal E. We look forward to hosting the armed forces and their families who pass through our airport.”

In Council, Councilman Domb lead a presentation celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the and marking the month of April as Fair Housing Month in the City of Philadelphia. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson lead a presentation recognizing the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for its’ dedication to sisterhood and service, in celebration of the sorority’s 110th Anniversary. . leads a presentation proclaiming the week of April 27, 2018, to May 5, 2018, as the 8th Annual honoring the broad and vibrant Philadelphia technology community. has a resolution honoring the heroism of Captain Tammie Jo Shults, who successfully executed an emergency landing of Flight 1380 at on April 17, 2018, saving the lives of 148 people.

That’s it for this week! Be sure to follow us @PhillyAdvocates on Twitter and check back regularly for more updates!

 

Bellevue Bulletin 04/20/2018

Philadelphian's in TIME Magazine, and the Future of Bias Training

Happy Friday! Here’s your weekly recap:

Statewide, after Sunoco Pipeline 1 shutdown almost a month ago, Sunoco came back with a report that lacked any significant evidence that the pipeline was doing any damage. But, state officials aren’t too keen to get the pipeline up and running again. The pipeline was shut down in early March after a number of sinkholes opened in the surrounding area, and the state cited concerns about the geological condition of the land, due to Mariner East Pipeline II construction happening close by. As of right now, there’s no timeline for the pipeline to reopen.

At a recent monthly meeting, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics endorsed legislation that would bring a raft of critical changes to the city’s campaign finance laws and limits. Instead of annual campaign finance limits, the bill would allow a system of limits based on a four-year election cycle – it would also allow the increase of allowable contributions to $5,000 for individuals, and up to $20,000 for business and other organizations. Read here for more info on what the bill package includes.

It’s been an eventful week in Philadelphia after two men were arrested at Starbucks for alleged trespassing. If you’ve been following the story (how could you miss it?) you’ll know that the media and the community have been all over it. Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner Richard Ross has since released an apology to the two men for how the situation was handled. In addition, Starbucks is shutting down 8,000 of their shops next month for an afternoon of bias training. Read more about what the Commissioner Ross said here.

On a much lighter note: two Philadelphians have been honored on the prestigious Time Magazine’s List of the World’s 100 Most Influential People. Penn Medicine’s Dr. Carl June, who had earlier made Philadelphia’s list of influential people, was alongside Philly native Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck. Two truly remarkable men from our own City of Brotherly Love! Read more about what landed them their spots here.

In Council, Councilman David Oh introduced a resolution proclaiming the week of April 27th to May 5th as the 8th Annual Philly Tech Week and honoring the broad and vibrant technology community in Philadelphia. Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown introduced a resolution calling for Council to hold hearings on the effectiveness of implicit bias and racial equity training for employees in Philly. And as always, Council is recognizing April 22nd as Earth Day! Check out what’s going on with Council any time of the day here on their twitter!

That’s all for this week. Check back next week for a new update, and in the meantime, follow us @PhillyAdvocates for constant updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 04/13/2018

PA Tech, Cosby, and More Maps

Happy Friday the 13th! Here’s your news for the week:

On Friday, Andrea Constand took the witness stand to testify again Bill Cosby in his retrial in Norristown, PA at the Montgomery County Courthouse. Constand is a former Temple University sports director and one of almost 60 women to accuse Cosby of sexual assault. The retrial scheduled for Friday is a continuation of the first trial, which ended in a hung jury last June. The case remains pretty up in the air, with both the defense and the prosecution set on undermining each other. Cosby continues to deny all allegations against him. Read the full story here.

Prior to the 2020 Presidential election, Pennsylvania has until December 31st, 2019 to find and implement new voting machines that will keep a paper trail, as per the Department of State’s announcement. Congress’ recently passed budget mandates $13.5 million in federal funding towards Pennsylvania’s technological advances. Ideally, the new machines will be in place by November’s 2019 general election.

In Harrisburg, the redistricting bill is being gutted and replaced yet again. After Rep. Steve Samuelson (D-Northampton) announced a discharge resolution to kick his redistricting bill out of the House State Government Committee, Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and 14 other House Republicans voted to completely rewrite HB 722 via amendment. (City and State PA.)

In Philadelphia Council, Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown led a resolution honoring Iyana Vanzant’s life and contributions to the field of spirituality. Councilwoman Sanchez led a presentation honoring Philadelphia Children’s Alliance and Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services for their commitment to bring healing and justice to victims of child sexual abuse and declaring April 2018 to be Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Resolutions and bills introduced were as follows: Councilman Green calling for hearings regarding the use of THC screenings for people on probation or parole in Philadelphia and Councilman Domb calling for hearings regarding growing the city’s tax base by analyzing current housing trends, population growth and the city’s labor pool as well as the real estate market in order to explore policy solutions.

That’s all for this week! Follow us @PhillyAdvocates on twitter for more news!

 

Bellevue Bulletin 04/06/2018

A Big Win for Villanova and Philadelphia Schools

The governor is back again spearheading efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Governor Wolf went back on Wednesday to his state disaster declaration, originally enacted in January and set to expire April 10th, and has extended it another three months. The Wolf administration, with the new extension, will be able to further continue their efforts on 13 different policies designed to combat the crisis.

Sunoco Pipeline announced on Thursday that is has offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would lead to the arrest of the vandals that attacked construction equipment along the route of Sunoco’s current pipeline project, Mariner East 2. The destruction happened in West Whiteland Township, Chester County on April 2nd and 3rd, and caused significant damage to pieces of equipment, according to the company. It’s no secret that the pipeline is a controversial subject in Pennsylvania, among citizens and environmental activists alike. The investigation is ongoing and the company continues to search for the vandals.

In Philadelphia news, Mayor Kenney announced on Wednesday his new 9-member board of education that will take over the $3.2 billion organization. Within the new board, the Mayor chose six women and three men, including two previous members of the SRC. Most of his choices were educators and Philadelphian’s with social services backgrounds. Named to the board were Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Christopher McKinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker, and Joyce Wilkerson.

In addition to celebrating Villanova’s win on Thursday, City Council of Philadelphia showed up blue for Autism Awareness Month!

This week in City Hall, Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown has a resolution celebrating WOAR Philadelphia and its 2018 Wear Teal Day to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Councilman Jones presented a resolution honoring Alicia Conquest, Karen Epps, Heather LaPera, Peter Matranga, and Rebecca Yacker for being awarded the 2018 Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Public Teachers.

That’s all for this week. Check back regularly and follow us on twitter @PhillyAdvocates for more updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 03/31/2018

The Environment and a Verdict

Happy Friday everyone! Here’s your update for the week:

In Harrisburg, an environmental group is criticizing the state of Pennsylvania for our many, many Clean Water Act violations. PA is among the states with the most waterways in the country, which gives pollutants even more room to work – and do damage. The group is pushing to hold companies responsible for sending pollutants into the state’s waterways without a permit. More here!

In other environmental news; a North Philadelphia church caught fire early Thursday afternoon, causing delays on both the Broad Street Line and the Ridge Spur. Service has since resumed, but it did make a nightmare out of the usual rush-hour commute.

Two more School Reform Commission members have resigned their seats this past week, letting us know that Kenney’s plan to take back local control of Philadelphia schools and form a new board is well underway. The commission will completely cease to exist on June 30th of this year, just in time for summer break. The new nine-member panel will be chosen and appointed by Mayor Kenney by April 5th, to manage Philadelphia School District’s $3 million budget and almost 205,000 students.

In May of 2017, our very own Councilman David Oh was stabbed during an attempted robbery outside his home after parking his SUV. The stabbing resulted in a slashed rib and elbow. Upon being shown photos of various persons in the Police Department files, Councilman Oh was sure that Shawn Yarbray was his attacker. Once the police tracked Yarbray down, he was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and related counts. However, after spending 10 months in jail, the jury on Thursday proclaimed Yarbray “not guilty”. Read more here.

In other news, Joe Biden is coming to the City of Brotherly Love this spring to be Temple University’s annual celebrity speaker. The bad news: the event is only open to Temple students. But keep an eye out for the former Vice President around town!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @PhillyAdvocates for more updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 03/23/2018

Special Election Results and No Deficits

The results are in for Pennsylvania’s special election! Saccone conceded the 18th district special election to his opponent, Conor Lamb, in a phone call on March 21st. Lamb wrote on Twitter: “Just got off the phone with my opponent, @RickSaccone4PA, who congratulated me & graciously conceded last Tuesday’s election. I congratulate Mr. Saccone for a close, hard-fought race & wish him the best. Ready to be sworn in & get to work for the people of .”

In Harrisburg, a pack of seven different bills all addressing domestic violence are passing through the Senate. To read more about the specific bills being passed, click here.

Good news for Philadelphia school districts: For the first time in years, Superintendent William Hites’ team has proposed a new long-term budget – with no planned deficits. After City Halls proposed cash injection, Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson’s annual lump sum budget presentation projected five consecutive years of positive funds. (WHYY) The district’s new projections do account for Kenney’s proposed tax hike, that would bring in nearly $1 billion for the district over the next five years. If Kenney’s measure gets approved, the Philadelphia school district might be in the clear for the next couple years!

The population in Philadelphia is on the rise for the 11th year straight! According to the Census Bureau’s numbers, released on Thursday, Philadelphia’s total population has risen by 6,000 between 2016 and 2017. But get this – that number comes from an imbalance of birth and death rates, as more people moved out of Philly than moved in last year. Read the full story here.

In City Council, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown lead a fantastic presentation honoring and recognizing the career of Monica Malpass, on the occasion of her 30-year anniversary as a journalist for 6ABC. Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced a resolution honoring and recognizing the life and work of Rio de Janiero City Councillor, Marielle Franco, who was tragically assassinated along with her driver last week. On a lighter note, Councilwoman Gym also presented a resolution declaring March 31st, 2018 as Transgender Day of Visibility in the city of Philadelphia.

That’s all for news this week, folks. Be sure to check back regularly for more news and to follow us on Twitter @PhillyAdvocates for more!

Bellevue Bulletin 03/16/2018

School Safety, the Prison Population, and a PFA

Amid a special election, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are rumbling with all kinds of news. Here’s your update:

Conflict is unfolding in the House of Representatives, after Republican representative Tarah Toohil filed for a temporary restraining order against fellow lawmaker Nick Maccarelli, claiming that he threatened to kill her, and suffered through a cycle of abuse during and after their relationship in 2012. The temporary restraining order has been lengthened to a protection from abuse order, effectively a restraining order, for three years – barring Miccarelli from the state Capitol building when Toohil is present. The order also required Miccarelli to give up his guns and will be unable to reobtain them while the order stands. Miccarelli, who is newly married, called Toohil’s claims against him “completely false and…solely the vengeful words of a former lover with an agenda.” Sounds like a perfect example of why workplace romance is a no-go.

Statewide, Governor Wolf has taken steps to implement a task force to seek a way to improve school safety. Wolf’s administration will hold six meetings over the course of the next year to gather public input from parents, teachers, nurses, and students. In the wake of the Parkland School tragedy, lawmakers like Wolf are racing to find solutions to not only gun control, but safety issues that plague our schools. Wolf said that the meetings will seek answers to addressing students healthcare needs, safety, and staff and teachers’ responses to incidents. Perhaps this is a first step in improving Pennsylvania’s school safety issues.

In Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced new policies regarding mass incarceration. His new policies are aimed at reducing the severity and length of sentencing in Philadelphia, to ultimately drive down the city’s prison population. The new policy will require prosecutors in Krasner’s office to state on the record the costs and benefits of the sentences being recommended, to ensure that every dollar being spent on an individuals incarceration is worth it – and won’t be better spent going elsewhere. Could this be a step in helping the prison pipeline that plagues the city? Read more here.

Philadelphia’s City Council held an exciting stated meeting this Thursday: Councilman Derek Green lead a presentation honoring and recognizing the historic Montier Family of Philadelphia, recognizing their historic significance and their contributions to the Philadelphia region as a whole. Councilman Bobby Henon lead a resolution honoring Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M. as the Grand Marshall of the 248th Annual Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Sister Mary Scullion is the child of Irish immigrants and a devout Roman Catholic sister and activist. In 2009, she was named as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”. The resolution was followed by a beautiful performance from two Irish step dancers from a local school.

That’s the latest and greatest here in Philadelphia. Follow us on Twitter at @PhillyAdvocates for more updates!

Bellevue Bulletin 03/09/2018

Primaries and Pipelines

In the wake of a huge winter storm that had everyone hunkering down for more school cancellations, here’s the news in Pennsylvania:

As far as the primary’s go, three Republicans filed this past week to challenge Governor Wolf, incidentally the only Democrat to file. Laura Ellsworth, Paul Mango, and Scott Wagner are all up to take their chances against Wolf with overwhelming support on Wagner and Ellsworth’s parts. Wagner currently holds the State Republican Party’s backing with 17,618 signatures from 63 counties on his file, including 42 counties with over 100 signatures. Ellsworth filed with 4,500 signatures, including over 17 counties with over 100 signatures. Mango filed with 27 counties having over 100 signatures, and Governor Wolf filed 40,000 signatures from all 67 counties, including 40 more with over 100 signatures. Candidates are required to file with 10 counties with over 100 signatures, and their deadline to file is March 13th.

For the Senate primary, Republicans Lou Barletta, Jim Christiana, and Joe Vodvarka have all filed for nomination for the U.S. Senate primary, while Democratic Senator Bob Casey filed for his third term in the Senate. Here are the numbers: Barletta filed over 15,500 signatures and is endorsed by the state GOP, with over 100 signatures across 38 counties. Jim Christiana filed 3,100 signatures from 28 counties, and Casey’s campaign claims to have filed over 21,000 signatures from 67 counties and 43 counties with over 100 signatures. Vodvarka’s campaign has yet to release any data.

In Harrisburg, lawmakers are racing to find a better solution to how the state pays its’ police officers. Most of the funding as of right now comes from the commonwealth’s Motor License Fund, which is used to pay for roads and bridges – and state police. Motor License money is allowed to be routed to the state police since it falls under the logic that its constitutional purpose is the safety of public roads and bridges. State police spend roughly $600 million dollars on municipal law enforcement per year – which is around half of their entire budget. So, what could be the solution? Read more here.

After President Trump’s announcement in January that the administration would allow states to impose Medicaid work requirements, three states have already had measures approved. Pennsylvania is not currently one of the eight states looking to impose requirements, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lawmakers pressuring each other into attempting it. Both GOP-controlled chambers in PA passed a bill last year to require able-bodied recipients of Medicaid to prove that they’re looking for work – but that’s as far as they’ve gotten. Could PA be the next state to impose work requirements? Read more about it here.

Statewide: Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission ordered a temporary shutdown of the Mariner East Pipeline I on Wednesday – not to be confused with its’ sister pipeline, Mariner East II. The panel argued in a petition that the pipeline was being exposed by the appearance of sinkholes near the construction of Mariner East II, thus compromising the safety of the public. Sunoco is currently running an inspection tool in the pipeline, but we’ll have to wait 10-14 days for the team to submit their findings on the geological conditions of the Pipeline and the land surrounding it.

On Monday, Senators Pat Toomey and Chris Coons said that they would introduce a bill that requires federal authorities to notify states when a felon or a fugitive attempts to buy a firearm but fails the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Toomey and Coons claim that this legislation will be a commonsense way to keep people illegally trying to buy guns on the state law enforcement’s radar, while still being able to ensure citizen’s Second Amendment Rights. Could it work? Read more here.

In Philadelphia City Council, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker introduced and passed a bill mandating all City employees to go through a mandatory sexual harassment course. This is an awesome step by Philly to work at ending sexual harassment in the workplace. Councilman David Oh had a resolution honoring and recognizing Second Street Irish Society for their contributions to the diverse cultural fabric of Philadelphia, and Councilman Curtis Jones presented a resolution honoring and recognizing Jordan Floyd for her role as Principal of AMY Middle School, and for receiving the 2018 Lindback Foundation Distinguished Principal Leadership Award.

That’s the news for today! Follow us @Phillyadvocates on Twitter for more daily updates.

Bellevue Bulletin 03/01/2018

Function, Funds, and Fun

Lawmakers are racking up millions – literally – in charges as the Pennsylvania House and Senate race to find a stalemate on congressional redistricting. Overall, the state branches have reported funneling $3.5 million, the bulk of which was spent redrawing the district map after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. When asked why so many outside lawyers were being brought into the case, a spokesman from the House GOP, Steve Miskin, responded: “You’re dealing with a very specialized area of law, and frankly no one here – in the Capitol complex – has that expertise. And so the Map-A-Palooza continues, and so does the state’s spending. Read more here. 

In Philadelphia, Farah Jiminez resigned her seat on the School Reform Commission board, to spend more time on her day-job – CEO of the education nonprofit, Philadelphia Education Fund. Governor Wolf said that he would allow Jiminez’s seat to remain vacant, given that the SRC will be disbanding for good in a matter of months. More regarding Philadelphia’s school district: In his announcement proclaiming to take back local control of schools, Mayor Kenney also promised to cover the school district’s nearly $1 billion deficit. On Thursday during his annual budget address, Kenney asked that lawmakers raise property taxes and increase real estate transfer tax, with the hope these will function as a tool to raise that $1 billion. For more information on the annual budget, look here. 

Following the devastating Parkland school shooting, Cherry Hill Township officials stated that armed police officers will be posted full-time outside district schools for the time being. Visitors will also need to make appointments and bring photo identification with them before entering any school building. Mayor Chuck Cahn of Cherry Hill stated that there would be seven to ten armed officers would be deployed to the district’s schools, and would remain until the end of the school year in June. The question is: will other schools follow suit?

In City Council this week, Councilmember Curtis Jones proposed a resolution calling on the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association to revise their rules on religious head coverings for student-athletes, as well as a resolution calling for Council to examine the development of an extreme risk protection order program regarding the removal of firearms. Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown offered up a resolution recognizing and honoring the 2018 Small Business Week Celebration in Philadelphia.

The winter storm stopped Septa in its tracks this Friday, reducing regional rail lines and bus routes to little to no service, due to fallen trees – but that doesn’t mean we’re not ready to march into March! In honor of International Women’s Month, check out these places to go in Philadelphia to support and celebrate your local strong women!

That’s all for news today, folks. Follow us on Twitter @phillyadvocates for even more updates on what goes on here in Pennsylvania.

 

Bellevue Bulletin 02/23/2018

Map It Out

The gun control battle has – literally – appeared at Pat Toomey’s door this week on Tuesday, February 20th. Nearly 100 people gathered outside of the Senator’s office in Old City Philadelphia, chanting and waving signs. State Representative Brian Sims of Philadelphia was a featured speaker during the event, which was held to “ask Toomey to uphold his campaign promises to support and promote common sense gun legislation in the U.S. Senate”. 11 bills have since been introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers in response to the shooting.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Parking Authority havs proposed adding a 50-cent surcharge on every taxi, Lyft, and Uber ride in the city. PPA claims that two-thirds of the revenue collected from the fee would go to the city’s School District. It’s unclear yet how drivers are going to react to all that. Read more here.

The cartography continues in Harrisburg this week as Republicans threaten to sue to keep the PA Supreme Court’s congressional district map from being implemented. After Governor Tom Wolf and the General Assembly failed to agree on a map prior to the Court’s deadline on Monday, the Court went ahead and released its’ own map. After the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled the previous map unconstitutionally gerrymandered, we hope we won’t be having this problem again anytime soon. Read about how this could affect your district here. And if you’re looking for a little humor (and a picture of the new map), check out these tweets.

In Philadelphia, City Council passed a resolution honoring and recognizing Angelo Cataldi of Sports Radio for his 30th year on the air, introduced by Councilmember Taubenberger. Councilwoman Cindy Bass led a resolution to recognize Philadelphia’s living legends – George Albert Beach, Joey Temple, Rita R. Smith-Wade-El, and Valeria Bullock in honor of Black History Month. Other resolutions included: recognizing February as Career and Technical Education (CTE) month in the city of Philadelphia, and honoring and recognizing the Community College of Philadelphia and its Office of Diversity and Equity for the creation of their Diversity Certificate Program.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @phillyadvocates for even more updates on what passes for news here in Pennsylvania.

Bellevue Bulletin 02/12/2018

Rising Up

After a week wrought with tragedy, tensions in the country rise as politicians and citizens alike debate a potential solution to instances like the one we saw at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The loudest voices in the effort for gun control, however, are coming not from the legislators, but the brave students who survived the attack. These students are calling for action, hoping that the country’s legislators are listening.

The week’s news in Pennsylvania includes a lot of cartography: Ahead of the Supreme Court’s deadline, Governor Tom Wolf must approve a new redistricting map. Legislators from both parties have already eagerly submitted their mock-ups, which splits counties and towns to their preference. Now Pennsylvania will have to wait and see what the Supreme Court and Governor Wolf will decide. Read more here.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies in Philadelphia are battling lawsuits from city officials, and they’re about to have another big name on their case: District Attorney Larry Krasner has filed his own lawsuit to combat the scourge of opioids plaguing the city. Officials are working to tame – and prevent – the beast that is the opioid crisis sweeping the city. Krasner and the rest of the city are in talks about creating “safe injection sites”, which will serve as supervised rehab facilities. Councilwoman Cindy Bass put in her two-cents with a five-point plan that you can read here.

Black History Month is in full swing and students around the city are responding to it with art and lots of excitement. A few rec center in West Philly hosted a series of workshops followed by a special screening of Black Panther, where the children will wear the costumes they created. See the photos here.

 

This week in Philadelphia City Council, Councilman Taubenberger lead a resolution honoring and recognizing the Boy Scouts on their 108th anniversary, and Councilwoman Gym headed a presentation honoring the efforts of professional caregivers and first responders, declaring February 15th, 2018 as Caregivers and First Responders’ Day in Philadelphia. Other resolutions passed included one from our Councilman Kenyatta Johnson to honor our Eagles in their victory, honoring Philadelphia’s law enforcement for their work during the victory parade, and a resolution from Councilwoman Gym has a resolution declaring 2/19/2018, as Day of Remembrance in honor of the 120,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II, as a result of Executive Order 9066.

The #FreeMeekMill has reached Pyeong Chang, where a Slovenian snowboarder showed his support by flashing the back of his board to the camera, where #FreeMeekMill was written. At the Eagle’s victory parade, many showed their support with chants and signs that we handed out.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @phillyadvocates for even more updates on the news here in Philadelphia and the rest of PA.