Philadelphia Works, Inc., the city’s new workforce development organization, officially made its debut.
The new nonprofit organization represents the merger of the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation (PWDC) and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board (WIB).
The merger combines and connects the WIB’s research and data mission of establishing a strategic direction for the city’s public workforce development system with the administrative, fiscal and operational duties of the PWDC.
Mark Edwards, who served as president and CEO of the PWDC, will serve in the same role with Philadelphia Works. Meg Shope Koppel, who had been interim CEO of the PWIB, will be the vice president of research, policy and innovation in the new organization.
“Monday marks an exciting day for the workforce system in Philadelphia. This marks the culmination of two solid years of planning that we’ve been engaged in to reform the workforce system,” says Edwards.
“So now the workforce system is far more focused on the needs of employers. What we want employers to know is that if they have jobs available, they should come to the workforce system to work with us to help fill those jobs.”
Edwards encourages job seekers to utilize the services of Philadelphia Works.
“We are ready to make a connection between them and the jobs that are available through employers,” says Edwards.
“We have a streamlined governing structure, so we’re a lot easier to understand. It’s a lot easier to interact with us than it has been in the past.”
In June 2011, Mayor Michael Nutter announced his intention to reform the workforce development system following a commissioned report from the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW). CSW, in partnership with HR Consultants, recommended a more streamlined system with more transparency and more accountability.
“Philadelphia Works, Inc. represents another step we are taking to reform the workforce development system and create a source of ‘one-stop shopping’ for both employers and individuals looking for employment. The organization will be dedicated to helping Philadelphians get training and find employment,” said Nutter.
To help guide the nonprofit organization, a new slate of board officers has been elected. The mayor appoints the organization’s board which, by law, must have a majority of private sector employers.
Joseph A. Frick, vice chairman and managing partner at Diversified Search will serve as chairperson. David Donald, founder and CEO of PeopleShare, Inc., is the vice chairperson. Elizabeth Riley-Wasserman, senior vice president, human resources and organization development, Mercy Health System, will serve as secretary. Phillip S. Barnett, senior vice president and chief financial officer, PECO, is treasurer.
“We have taken major steps toward making the workforce system more efficient. This merger will enable Philadelphia Works to provide a more strategic approach to what employers and job seekers need,” Frick said in a release.
“We still have a challenging job ahead of us and we look forward to supporting workers and employers alike.”
A new operator, the Public Consulting Group (PCG), with its partner JobWorks, Inc., has been selected as the provider of adult and dislocated services at the five PA CareerLink centers in Philadelphia. Philadelphia Works not only has oversight responsibilities for PCG/JobWorks, but will partner with the provider to streamline employer services. This is the first time, since the implementation of the Workforce Investment Act in 2000, that the provider of workforce services was competitively bid.
Philadelphia Works also continues PWDC’s role of overseeing six EARN Centers, contracted to provide services to those receiving public assistance (TANF).
In total, Philadelphia Works oversees a $50 million budget for these services and attracts funding to innovate and improve the workforce system.
As part of the reorganization, PWDC and the WIB have combined offices and staff. The organization is located in the former PWDC offices at 1617 JFK Blvd.
For information visit www.philaworks.org.
There were few surprises on Tuesday, April 24 as voters chose their party’s candidates for the November election. Typically, in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, local Democratic primary winners typically go on to win office in November.
Though the primary included a number of high offices, ranging from president and U.S. senator to state representative and attorney general, the vast majority of registered voters stayed home.
Turnout was recorded at 17.3 percent — almost exactly where it was in last spring’s primary.
“People weren’t too much concerned about the races going on,” said political consultant Maurice Floyd, noting that the national seats got all the attention, but with Rick Santorum’s withdrawal, the contest took on less urgency. “It just didn’t measure up in terms of generating a turnout.”
In low turnout elections, the support of a core bloc of dedicated voters is what delivers.
“The winners organized and they had a solid base going for them,” said Floyd.
As an example, he pointed to a much watched race – the 197th District – where J.P. Miranda won over Jewel Williams, the daughter of Sheriff Jewell Williams.
Miranda won 40 percent of the vote with 2,977 votes. That compared to 38 percent for Jewel, which translated to 2,519 votes.
“The ward leaders and the street organizers, they were able to outmaneuver and out-organize her,” he said.
Jewel’s campaign in the North Philadelphia district raised eyebrows because she seemed to rely largely on possible voter confusion between her and her father, who held the seat until January when he resigned to assume the post of sheriff. Jewel campaigned little. Her campaign office was reportedly empty most days.
Miranda had a history of political involvement. He worked for Council President Darrell Clarke and state Sen. Shirley Kitchen. In addition, in 2004 he worked for the John Kerry campaign. He also worked with the administration of Mayor Michael Nutter as it worked to help federal officials with the U.S. Census.
“I’m ecstatic,” Miranda said Wednesday. “North Philadelphia united against a lot of disgraceful acts by my opposition. People were very disgusted with some of things they were seeing.”
Miranda will now run against Steve Crum, the Republican, in the Nov. 6 election. Miranda is confident he’ll win.
“I’ve stayed on the pulse of the community,” he said, noting that his real focus will be on getting out the vote in November for himself, and for President Barack Obama.
In addition to choosing in the primary, voters in the 197th District had to select someone to serve for the remainder of Jewell’s term and decided on Gary Williams over former state senator and perennial candidate for mayor T. Milton Street.
From a party stand-point, perhaps the biggest was an upset was in race for state House in the 182nd Legislative District, which covers much of Center City. State Rep. Babette Josephs, who has held the seat since 1985 lost to newcomer Brian Sims, who will be the first openly gay member of the general assembly.
The vote was close, with Sims netting about 52 percent of the ballots to Josephs’ 48 percent.
Josephs was co-vice president of the city’s delegation in Harrisburg. She faced frequent challenges in recent years but managed to hang onto her seat.
That changed Tuesday evening.
According to preliminary results, Sims won with 3,661 votes. Josephs had 3,428.
“We set out from the very beginning to run the largest, cleanest, most involved campaign that we could,” Sims said in published reports. “We reached out to all four corners of this district for volunteers, for support, for help, and we were blessed to get it.”
Barring a write-in challenge from a Republican, which is extremely unlikely, Sims should take the seat in the fall.
That too was largely due to the loyalty of a bloc, Floyd said, noting that gay voters flocked to Sims rather than Josephs.
“They were the group that would normally put her over the top,” he said. “But, they basically went with the gay candidate.”
Another widely watched race was the 186th District, which was wide open, with three contenders seeking to fill the seat vacated by City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
Former Youth Commission won in a landslide victory – the widest margin seen in the city – with 76 percent of the district’s voters behind him.
“It’s just starting to sink in,” Harris said early Wednesday morning. “We put in a lot of hard work to get our message out to the community. The community has spoken loud and clear on the direction they want to go in. I’m just humbled and honored my community has that faith in me.”
With no Republican in the 186th race, Harris should sail through on Nov. 6.
Like Miranda, he said he plans on making sure voters hit the polls in November pushing the button for himself and for Obama.
Attorney Damon K. Roberts came in second with roughly 20 percent of the vote. He sought the seat before, and lost to Johnson. A third candidate, community activist Timothy Hannah came in third with about 5 percent of the vote.
Roberts’ biggest surprise of the evening was not his loss, but an incident that happened at around 10 p.m. at his Dickinson and South Broad streets headquarters. Roberts was forced to call police after he tried to pay staffers with checks rather than cash. When he ran out of checks, the crowd got ugly, and a melee started, forcing him to call police for his own protection.
He could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A police spokesperson said police arrived for a disturbance at 9:57 and remained on the scene until about 11 p.m. Poll volunteers were apparently promised $100 each, which Roberts was paying with the checks.
Voters in the 186th also participated in special election, choosing someone to fill out the remainder of Johnson’s term. They chose former state Rep. Harold James, who will return temporarily to his statehouse seat.
In most other races across the city, incumbents prevailed – including a contested three-person race in the Northwest section of the city where state Rep. Rosita Youngblood held on against Malik Boyd and Charisma Presley.
“People always underestimate Rosita,” Floyd said. “With her, there is not a lot of fanfare but she serves that district in a way that she’s entrenched.”
Youngblood got 47 percent of the vote compared to Presley’s 28 percent and Boyd’s 24 percent.
“Every time she’s run, she’s had a challenger or more - but ultimately she had been blessed again and again and again to come back and represent the people of the district,” said campaign spokeswoman Thera Martin-Milling.
In West Philadelphia, in a race that drew a lot of media attention and large political donations, challenger Fatimah Muhammad was still unable to beat incumbent Jim Roebuck.
“It didn’t matter,” Floyd said. “Roebuck has a solid core of supporters, and that’s what puts him over the top.”
Election results remain unofficial until the Pennsylvania State Department verifies them.
Nutter strongly emphasizes nothing has been finalized
In an attempt to “sound the market,” the city will, over the next year or so, take bids for the Philadelphia Gas Works, and then consider the possibility of selling the 175 year old city-owned gas supplier.
“A sale could – I want to emphasize the word could, I want to restate the word could – be a positive for the city,” said Mayor Michael Nutter at a press conference Monday afternoon at city hall.
To move forward, a sale would have to generate between $1.5 and $1.85 billion for the city. The majority would be used to cover PGW’s liabilities – approximately $1 billion in debt and about $500 million in other liabilities.
Nutter and his budget director outlined a number benefits to a potential sale.
Perhaps most importantly for residents, the sale could lower rates for PGW customers.
“A private buyer was not likely to need a rate increase as soon as a city-owned PGW,” said budget director Rebecca Rhynhart. “And, probably the level of service would be maintained.”
Gas rates in Philadelphia have historically been high.
“The typical resident in Philadelphia pays significantly more for gas service than other customers in Pennsylvania,” Nutter said. “PGW has the unenviable distinction of generally leading the list of the highest cost of service in the state.”
City officials have debated the possibility of selling the gas works for decades, but in July 2010 the Nutter administration decided to take a concrete look at its options and retained financial advisors Lazard Freres & Co. to study the matter.
Nutter made the announcement on the same day that the city received a report from Lazard, which recommended that the city explore the possibility of selling the gas company.
In its market assessment, which cost $200,000, Lazard approached six possible buyers, all of whom would operate the company, not merely acquire it as an investment opportunity. They concluded that the changes of the city generating a profit were good.
“The ... value achieved in a strategic sale may well exceed the city’s estimate of its PGW-related liabilities,” said the report. “The proceeds from the divestiture could enable the city to exit its PGW ownership and operating requirements at little or not cost (and potentially at a profit).”
The mayor said the process, if the city finds the market favorable for a sale, could take as long as two years to complete. By his estimate, the city could retain a marketing firm within the next few months, accept possible bids for six months to a year after that. The approval of the Public Utilities Commission could take another year.
Nutter stressed the fact that the city was not rushing to sell PGW, saying that the administration would only approve a sale that included a number of conditions.
“We will only enter into any binding agreement to sell PGW after a formal bargaining process and only if the sale offer sees the value of PGW to the city,” he said.
Among the administration’s conditions: a rate freeze until 2016, any purchaser would be required to honor all existing employee contracts – which run until May 2015; that any buyer would guarantee that the company would maintain a headquarters in Philadelphia for at least three years, and retain a certain number of employees at that location.
The mayor declined to say what the minimum numbers set by the city might be.
“We’re not going to negotiate in public,” he said.
Any sale would also need the approval of city council.
Rhynhart said the sale could produce several benefits for the city.
A sale would remove what has often been a liability for the city general fund. In 2000, the city had to loan PGW $45 million, which it only recently repaid. In addition, the city has received only one scheduled annual payment of $18 million that it was supposed to be getting since 2004. That payment came last year, and is expected again this year due to an improvement in PGW’s finances.
In addition to removing financial obligations, the sale would generate property tax revenue. Since the gas company is city owned, its properties are tax-exempt - that would change after a sale.
Rhynhart said that trade-off could prove a benefit to the city.
“All of those factors need to be taken into consideration,” she said.
Founded in 1836, PGW is the largest and one of only four municipally owned gas companies among the 30 largest cities in the United States. It serves more than 514,000 customers.
Transit and city officials celebrated the $30 million rehab of two subway stations on the Broad Street Line Monday morning — holding a ribbon cutting at the Spring Garden Street station and marking similar renovations at the Girard Avenue station.
The ceremony marked the end of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s construction activities funded by federal stimulus funds — a total of 32 projects across the area over the last three years.
“These projects have created over 3,200 jobs, local jobs, in Philadelphia,” said SEPTA’s general manager, Joe Casey. “SEPTA is integral to the social and economic vitality of the city. We are proud to contribute to the transformation of the North Broad Street corridor.”
Renovations at Spring Garden and Girard were the largest two projects on SEPTA’s list. Both stations, each of which serves 10,000 passengers a day, date to the 1920s. Neither had been updated since their construction. Upgrades at the two stations generated 507 jobs, Casey said.
Among the new features: elevators, new cashiers’ booths, fare lines, turnstiles, stairs, improved lighting and reconstruction to pillars and concrete. In addition, each station was given electrical system upgrades and new fire alarm systems and fire control systems. Both also had public art installations put in place.
Elected officials hailed the improvements as a key to revitalizing the North Broad Street corridor — and the city as a whole.
“This is why our city is growing. This is why we are able to get people to jobs and to schools,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. “We’re enhancing Community College. We’re enhancing the opportunities right here on North Broad.”
Mayor Michael Nutter agreed.
“This is what infrastructure renewal is all about,” he said. “It’s about jobs, about putting people to work.”
The two newly revitalized stations represented just part of a slate of projects that SEPTA has done across the city. Other big ticket projects include the redesign of Dilworth Plaza and plans to improve the Wayne Junction station. Funding for the work came from the stimulus plan, which sent $191 million to Philadelphia. According to Fattah, the state received $18 billion in federal stimulus funding.
“When people talk about the stimulus act … for the naysayers, let them come to Broad and Spring Garden,” Fattah said.
Mayor sees ‘game-changer’ as major investment firm move to Philadelphia
Philadelphia will soon be home to a leading venture capital firm.
First Round Capital, led by venture investor Josh Kopelman, is moving its headquarters to the city.
First Round is one of the most active early-stage venture capital firms in the country, having helped to fund and start more than 200 companies since it was founded in 2004. First Round will officially open its 10,000-square-foot facility at 40th and Locust streets on Sept. 19.
“The arrival of Josh Kopelman in Philadelphia is a game changer,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
“When one of America’s leading entrepreneurs and investors sees Philly as a place of ideas and innovation, a place where those ideas can be transformed into successful businesses and jobs, and feels the need to be part of it, he sends an incredibly powerful message about what is going on in our city.”
First Round Capital, currently headquartered in West Conshohocken, will initially employ approximately 10 people in the Philadelphia office. The facility will have space to host five startup companies including, initially, Uber Philadelphia, Curalate and Technically Philly. In addition, there will be space for 24 entrepreneurs to develop their concepts, and event space to host educational and community events.
Philadelphia’s thriving tech startup community was a draw for Kopelman.
“We’ve begun to see more really exciting companies get their start in Philadelphia, and more entrepreneurial activity at Philadelphia’s universities,” said Kopelman.
“For me this is more than just an office move. It’s a way for me to get more involved in helping local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, and I’m looking forward to playing a more active role in helping the current generation of Philadelphia entrepreneurs make their mark.”
Earlier this year, Kopelman was named as one of the top ten ‘angel investors’ in the United States by Newsweek magazine, and was ranked sixth on Forbes 2012 “Midas List” of the top 100 tech investors. He has been an active entrepreneur and investor for more than 20 years, co-founding the company, Infonautics Corporation, while still a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992.
Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for Economic Development, says First Round’s arrival sends a strong signal.
“Philadelphia is starting to establish itself as a player in the world of startups and innovation,” said Greenberger.
“We have no shortage of ideas in this city, due to the incredible talent emerging from our colleges and universities, but too often those ideas leave in search of early-stage funding. First Round Capital’s arrival in Philadelphia is a strong signal that this city, which has led this country in innovation since its founding, will continue to be a America’s home for ideas, entrepreneurship and business creation.”
When 22-year-old Zykia Sanders was shot to death in West Philadelphia last year, she became a victim of the undeclared urban war.
It is a war that has no political goals, seeks no strategic advantages of any kind and pushes no social agenda other than to make life miserable for the families of those unfortunate enough to have become a victim of it.
Recently, after a year in which the city saw 331 homicides, Mayor Michael Nutter said his administration would be announcing new crime fighting strategies to be initiated in 2013.
“What we see now at crime scenes is 20 to 30 shell casings, the number of head shots involved in homicides is up in the 10 percent range, the multiple shell casings number is up pretty significantly as well,” said Nutter in a published report. The mayor noted that a significant aspect of the problem is the issue of firepower — guns with a high rate of fire discharging round after round.
“You will hear from us very soon about additional efforts to deal with this issue from my perspective at the city, the state and the federal level in my capacity as head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors,” Nutter said.
Although the specifics of the Nutter administration’s plans haven’t been revealed yet, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said the announcement would be coming soon.
“The mayor spoke about the number of shooting incidents in which victims were shot in the head and often shot multiple times,” Gillison said. “Statistically, the number of shootings are down and the number of part one crimes are down — but we did an analysis and saw that more people were being killed as a result of more bullets being fired in these incidents — the number of people shot in the head was up 11 percent. That significantly increases the likelihood that the victim is going to be killed. This shows that firepower needs to be addressed, and we’ve been working on coming up with strategies that can be pursued. Look, Sandy Hook happened — but this administration has been dealing with the problem of gun violence in this city over the last five years we’ve been in office.”
Gillison said that the Philadelphia Police Department would be continuing its efforts of targeting specific neighborhoods throughout the city where incidents of gun violence are highest. Part of that targeting strategy is called GunStat, in which police work with assistant district attorneys to identify the city’s most violent offenders in a specific area, and keep them under close observation.
“If the suspect is arrested, we can request higher bail and stiffer penalties if a firearm is confiscated. We’re going to continue the targeting strategies and other tactics but the mayor has said that he wants more. President Obama has made a commitment to push for stronger gun laws, and I know he would like to announce something in his upcoming State of the Union Address. We’re committed to initiating new strategies in our city.”
In 2012, there were 331 murders in Philadelphia and Zykia Sanders was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time on November 17. Her accused killer, Amin Gibbs, 33, of the 6800 block of Dicks Avenue, allegedly shot Sanders outside West Park Apartments on the 4400 block of Holden Street. Investigators knew from the beginning that Sanders was not the intended target. Gibbs, who has a criminal history going back to 1997, has been charged with murder, conspiracy, weapons offenses and related charges. He was arrested less than a week after the killing.
Philadelphia Police Department statistics show that Gibbs is not an anomaly, but part of a consistent dynamic that fuels deadly violence in the city. Sanders was not the intended target when she was killed — and statistically most of the murder victims in Philadelphia are young, Black males who are killed by other young, Black males in the same 18 to 34 age range. Statistics provided by the Philadelphia Police Department show that in 2012 from January to March, 84 percent of all murder offenders had at least one prior arrest before they were arrested for homicide. Twenty-eight of the 42 offenders with prior arrests were arrested for a violent crime before they were arrested for homicide, including juveniles.
“Much of the violence is sparked by arguments over nonsense,” lamented Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “The slightest thing can end up leading to someone’s death. If two guys get into a fistfight, the loser goes and gets a gun and shoots and kills the winner — so when you win, you lose. That’s the way it is. The most violent district is the 22nd. The 25th would be the second and the 24th is the third. The 12th District is also pretty rough, but the 22nd is where we have most of our problems. Some of these guys are getting out of jail and they return to their neighborhood and try to re-establish themselves. The neighborhood has changed; there are different players and they’re not letting anyone re-establish anything; so you get a shooting.”
The Urban Youth Racing School — the locally-based initiative founded in 1998 by sports marketer Anthony Martin and supported by NASCAR and Sprint — has teamed with the U.S. Navy NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) to improve the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) levels for urban, college-bound students.
The two parties have created the Urban STEM Academy Center of Excellence, a state-of-the-art building and related programs designed to answer President Barack Obama’s call that America refocus on STEM advancement, especially among high school and college students.
The two entities will hold a joint program presentation in Saturday, September 8 at 11 a.m. at the Marine Barracks and Parade Grounds on Broad Street in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
According to the racing school, the new USA Center for Excellence will engage students in STEM-related careers and pipelines them into college programs for degrees in STEM fields. The center will also collaborate with various government agencies, schools, churches and various groups of other stakeholders in crafting and growing the initiative.
United States Navy NAVSEA Commander Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy will join Integrated Systems Director Jimmy D. Smith in making keynote addresses during the presentation. Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady and State Senator LeAnna Washington are scheduled to appear.
Coupled with Obama’s recent executive order focusing on education among African-American youth and the fact that only 1.3 percent of high school minority graduates go on to earn STEM-related degrees, the importance of such an initiative is paramount.
Aside from this new initiative, the Urban Youth Racing School offers four other distinct programs: The Build-A-Dream program, which exposes grade-school students to STEM-related programs in an automobile industry setting; Naval Engine Design, geared toward students with an interest in a naval career; Driver Team Development, which serves as the next step for graduates of the Build-A-Dream program, and the advanced, year-long Driver Team Development program, for students who also complete the Build-A-Dream program and show a passion for a career in motor sports.
“When there’s a big job to be done, it’s hard to think of a better partner than the United States Navy. We are very excited to be working with Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy and Integrated Warfare Systems Director Jimmy D. Smith on the Urban STEM Academy initiative,” said Martin, who also serves as executive director of the racing school. “Our missions are so compellingly synergistic. The inner-city youth we have been training and mentoring are precisely the recruits the US Navy needs to step up as current active personnel are concluding their careers in the service.”
As the new executive director of the city’s Youth Commission, Jamira Burley hopes to engage both young people and adults in a conversation about the future of Philadelphia’s youth — bridging a generation gap that seems to be growing, to make the city and the lives of its young people better.
“There is no longer a village raising a child. A lot of young people in Philadelphia are raising themselves. Adults nowadays don’t realize the plight of young people,” Burley said. “They think they’re doing enough, but they’re not doing it the right way, so there are no results. There are a lot of genuine adults out there who care about youth but, unfortunately, they don’t know how to engage them.”
Keeping kids engaged is crucial to their success, she said.
“When people realize they’re being heard, they’re more likely to stay engaged,” she said.
Burley refuses to speak in sound bites and says others of her generation won’t be influenced by words — only by actions.
“This generation is not keen on catch phrases. They’re not swayed by words — they’re swayed by actions,” she said, noting that many adults talk but don’t follow through, particularly community leaders.
“They are so content with where they are that they’re afraid to let someone come behind them. Most people need to realize that when you empower a young person it doesn’t take anything from you,” she said. “You have to train the next generation of leaders; otherwise who is going to lead when you’re gone?”
Her advice to adults is “take a step back and listen, and consider how [young persons’] experiences impact the way they view the world.”
Burley started her new job as the executive director of the city’s Youth Commission on May 14.
The 23-year-old has taken all that a rough and tumble city like Philadelphia could throw at her and managed to overcome it.
“She is a role model in her family and throughout the community. I am confident that she will represent the values and priorities of Philadelphia’s young people,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.
The eleventh of 16 siblings, she grew up in Germantown and attended schools all over the city before graduating from Overbrook in 2007. Burley admits that for most of her time in school she was a poor student. Dyslexia made learning to read difficult. In the fourth grade she was reading at a first grade level. And, though he managed to improve, she entered her freshman year of high schools with F’s.
“My mom never went to high school, so sometimes bringing home homework was difficult,” Burley said.
Life at home was difficult.
Her father, who left the city to return to his native Virginia when Burley was a child, was in and out of jail. So was her mother and several of her brothers.
“My earliest memory in childhood was 5 years old, being in a courtroom watching two of my brothers being sentenced for murder. They were 15 and 16 at the time,” she said. “Watching that and my other brothers and both my parents go down that road made me realize in my neighborhood people kill or get killed — and you start to live the lifestyle that is projected in your neighborhood.”
The 2005 killing of another of her brothers forced Burley to re-evaluate some of the choices she’d made. By the time she graduated high school, a rarity in her family, she’d turned her life around.
She credits a string of mentors with helping her.
“At every segment of my life, I’ve come across someone who’s willing to take me under their wing,” she said.
It’s hard to say exactly how they influenced her. Some helped her iron out her reading skills, others assisted with college applications and the paperwork needed to get the $50,000 in scholarships Burley received when she enrolled at Temple University.
Others were just there.
“I started to realize that there was a life different from what I grew up with. There were people who were doing amazing work; people who looked like me — people who came from the same neighborhood I came from. So, for me it was just being exposed to those realities and life outside my zip code, my four block radius,” she said. “When you’re exposed to so much more, the idea of your possibilities and what you can do changes and expands.”
Before her horizons started to expand, she couldn’t see any further than the end of the block. It limited her entire outlook.
“If you’re used to people who only do drugs or get arrested that’s what you think is possible for you,” she said.
It’s a situation faced by many of the city’s 600,000 young people and one Burley hopes to change.
“A lot of it has to do with changing a young person’s perspective,” she said. “If you have a young person who doesn’t think they’re going to live past the age of 25, or much past 21, they don’t care much for the next person’s life. How do you make them think they have a future? That’s the biggest challenge.”
Burley is a perfect example of what can be achieved.
In May, she graduated with a dual bachelor’s degree in international business and legal studies.
Already, she’s thinking about going back to school for a degree in public policy.
“I actually want to work developing policy around youth development issues,” she said.
Asked if she’s optimistic about the city’s youth, Burley pauses.
“I’m very optimistic because young people are resilient. They will go through some of the worst experiences that people can go through and can’t even imagine and they are resilient,” she said, adding: “It’s really sad that young people don’t have the luxury of being optimistic … I know what I’ve done.”
The new director comes to the job with the blessing of her predecessor state Representative-elect Jordan Harris.
“I believe Jamira has what it takes,” he said. “With the issues of youth violence, education and unemployment and other facing our city’s young people, the Youth Commission is more important than ever.”
The Youth Commission is a panel of 21 young Philadelphians between the ages of 12 and 23 appointed by the mayor and City Council. There are currently seven vacant seats on the commission so Burley’s immediate task is to try and fill those vacancies. Commissioners offer recommendations and advice to the mayor and City Council on legislation and policies that affect youth and young adults.
Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Some of our locally elected Black officials may sell out their constituents for a much higher price. Still the same, they have a price and construction unions have made a science of finding out just what that price may be. How can a sector of a major industry be so racist and discriminatory but yet have the congeniality, loyalty and cooperation of elected officials who owe their offices to Black folks? Black folks, who construction unions have so rigidly blocked from employment opportunities, and Black businesses which construction unions will seek to kill on sight. Let’s look at this gigantic contradiction.
President Lyndon B. Johnson established workforce affirmative action with Executive Order 11246 in 1965 as an enforcement tool to the recently signed Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Labor has the responsibility of monitoring and enforcing this law. It requires employers to send in detailed employment reports on the ethnicity and gender of people on their current payroll lists. It also tallies the hours worked by these employees. From these reports one can gather how many Blacks, Hispanics, etc. as well as males and females are working at a particular company. The USDOL also has the responsibility of certifying construction unions. Thus, it also can easily report on the racial demographics of a particular union hall and the utilization of those workers.
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are agreements between an owner, such as a city, county, state, etc. and a coalition of construction unions (all trades). Excluded out of contracting will be nonunion shops or nonunion shops that refuse to abide by the local union rules. As a result there will be very little Black, Hispanic, etc. work utilization. About 98 percent of all Black-owned construction companies are nonunion. Obviously, if you find a working PLA you will find virtually none of us.
The city of Philadelphia along with the Philadelphia School System agreed to Project Labor Agreements a few years ago. The exercise was a total disaster in terms of diversity and it eventually ended as a result of public outrage. Remember, Philadelphia is more 55 than percent Black and more than 10 percent Hispanic. Why on earth was the city agreeing to a PLA? It’s the power of the construction union lobby and the knowledge of what “price” to offer campaign coffers. During this horror the Black community of this city paid greatly. Definitely, the unemployment rate, crime rate, despair rate and any other terrible rate you can think of was accelerated.
So it comes as a great surprise that Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed a new executive order to “re-establish project labor agreements for the bidding process.” Insanity has been compared to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The mayor is not insane. But he states, “This new PLA policy will aim to ensure stability, efficiency, quality and diversity for every major public works project in the city. These contracts will also have provisions to ensure that city residents, minorities and women are included in all of the city’s major construction projects.” We just can’t believe that and certainly anyone of such intelligence knows it deep, down inside also. Blacks in Philadelphia have just entered new and more dangerous economic ground.
The Mayor, City Council or anyone else of authority could simply ask the regional Department of Labor office to provide a detailed report on the ethnic and gender demographics of the local union halls. By viewing this inventory of workforce one could easily determine that the overwhelming majority of these crafts cannot possibly meet the goals of 32 percent minority workforce and 50 percent city residents. You can’t make “5” out of “2.” Why are they trying to sell this falsehood? The activists of Philadelphia should track this and make those responsible to “bleed” politically. The majority of the population of a large American city has just been sold-out once again.
Watch the increase in murder, robberies, car-jackings and poverty caused by the unemployment this is going to cause. There will be a terrible social and economic price for the local citizens to pay because of this. All this, for the love of money — oops! I meant to say unions.
They will come up with “pre-apprentice programs,” “third party monitoring,” “oversight committees” and “public outreach,” and other such public relations gimmicks to distract the public from this atrocity. Remember, construction unions have had 46 years (1965–2011) to adequately integrate. They aren’t going to do it now. Why should we play with fire without expecting to get burned? Construction union-only projects are racist, and none of us should entertain the evil concept. — (NNPA)
It was billed as “The Philadelphia Story,” but the narrative took a different turn.
To be sure, Philadelphia state senators Vincent Hughes and Anthony Hardy Williams did turn up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for a discussion of “Natural Gas and Public Opinion” in a workshop at the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s recent conference, “Shale Gas Insight 2012.”
But although the Coalition’s stated intention in bringing its second annual conference here was to acquaint Philadelphians with how the Marcellus energy boom benefits the whole state, much of the “Philadelphia Story” conversation centered on the efforts of a senator from the other end of the Commonwealth, Tim Solobay, to convince Philadelphia’s legislative delegation to support Gov. Tom Corbett’s bill authorizing “local impact fees” to support counties where drillers are working the booming energy development reshaping Appalachia’s economy.
The fees, since authorized by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, produced $197 million for the Commonwealth by early September, and are expected to top $206 million by year’s end. Portions of the state’s share of that money are to be distributed to municipalities across the Commonwealth, including Philadelphia.
Workshop moderator Solobay, whose 46th District spreads over parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland counties and all of Greene County, had invited Hughes and Williams out to see for themselves what life was like in the poorer communities of Southwest Pennsylvania as the natural-gas boom ramped up. For the Philadelphians, that was an eye-opener. New approaches to hydraulic fracturing — “fracking” in common parlance — have brought accelerating development of Marcellus Shale resources, taking Pennsylvania from the bottom rank of natural-gas-producing states to near the top, second only to Texas, by the end of 2011.
Learning on the front lines
“I started out largely hearing about ‘fracking’ through documentaries and news reports,” Williams said. “I was not persuaded so much by Governor Corbett as by the real-life stories of people living in the ‘wasteland’ of Western Pennsylvania. I looked at the poverty in those communities and the jobs being produced, and that, more than anything else, persuaded me to support the impact fee.
“I voted ‘Yes,’ and got pilloried on billboards,” Williams said. But looking at what he saw — especially the rapid economic developments in communities that had been desperate pockets of unemployment and poverty — Williams was convinced it was the right thing to do.
“This, I think frankly, is one of Pennsylvania’s defining moments,” Williams said. “I think the news here (in Philadelphia) is dominated by narrow-band communications from people who think solar energy is the alternative energy source. But we are a Northeastern city.” He understood the environmentalists’ concerns about fracking and the potential of spills contaminating water supplies, Williams said, but in his mind, those dangers are “no different from the consequences of coal.
“To lead the country to miss this size of an opportunity,” Williams said, “is frankly irresponsible. This source of energy will have a positive effect. The benefits outweigh the negatives.”
Environment not neglected
“This is not an industry that’s looking for public relations nightmares,” Solobay said. The pipeline rights of way, and the well-pads they (gas producers) develop are creating wildlife habitat” as part of the developments, Solobay said. “This industry is probably more friendly to the environment than the people protesting realize.”
Perusal of the Shale Gas Insight Conference program booklet reveals that not only the Coalition’s daylong pre-conference meetings, but 15 workshops and presentations — half of all the regular conference sessions — were focused on environmental protection, safety, and regulatory concerns. One telling revelation was that, although shale formations are being drilled and fracked in many states, beginning with Texas’ Barnett Shale in 1985 and continuing with the Haynesville Shale spread across several Southwestern states, Pennsylvania is the only state where the gas producers are using special treatment plants to clean up the chemically treated fracking fluid once it flows back up the well bore, and re-using it to frack new wells.
Talking, but not listening
The protesters outside the Convention Center, arguing with arriving conference attendees about potential harm to Pennsylvania’s drinking water supplies, but with no representatives listening to the presentations inside, missed out on their opportunity for a full-bore discussion of whether the energy companies’ efforts actually were as well worked-out as the environmentalists would like.
State Sen. Hughes agreed with his western Pennsylvania colleague.
“We’ve got to move forward, helping people understand what shale gas means,” Hughes said. Getting the impact fee bill passed “was a pretty tumultuous process, especially here in Southeast Pennsylvania.
“Solobay said, ‘I want you to come out here and just see what this thing is all about’,” Hughes said. “I took him up on it — he did not believe I had jeans and work boots, but I did. Solobay put together a program so we could see up close — to the executives and the people on the ground. We shared and dialogued, and it opened my eyes in a number of different ways,” Hughes said. At dinner one night, people there asked, ‘why is there this contention?’ People in Southwest Pennsylvania experience this industry in their lives. In Southeast Pennsylvania, people don’t get a chance to touch it.”
Effects seen in utility rates
Solobay, for his part, noted that natural gas prices have fallen because of the Marcellus Shale development, producing a 48 percent decline in PGW rates. The availability of so much fuel, Solobay said, was cutting the cost of electric power across the state as well as cutting gas bills.
State Sen. Hughes said his experiences in the western part of the state had made him want to become more knowledgeable about the new energy boom.
“Not until you have that on-the-ground experience (do) you come to see what it means,” he said. We have to have an engaged conversation, and a thoughtful conversation,” Hughes said. “We (Southeast Pennsylvania) are 50 percent of the state’s economy,” he told Solobay. “You can’t ignore us. There’s always going to be a back-and-forth conversation about environmental issues, but the idea of getting people engaged is important.
“Southeast Pennsylvania has to be part of the enterprise, and not just users of the product.”
Not enough local leaders
That point might have been more easily made if more of Philadelphia’s community and government leaders been involved in the shale conference. Gov. Corbett spoke to a packed opening session at Shale Insight 2012, the second conference the gas producers have held in Philadelphia, but his audience was almost entirely made up of well drillers and pipeline builders, contractor companies of various kinds — some 300 counted on the exhibit floor — and representatives of law firms, investor groups and their business associates.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spoke before another opening session, on the second day of the shale gas conference, but was not involved in its major workshop sessions. Ditto for Philadelphia’s City Council members, many of whom continue to express concern about the risks inherent in the use of chemically treated water — in large amounts — to “frack” underground rock formations to free up natural gas for harvesting. Their distrust has not been addressed.
Growth expected here as well
Several conference speakers, including Corbett, pointed to the Carlyle Group’s rescue of Sunoco’s South Philadelphia refinery, with its plans for a new, Marcellus Shale-gas-fired, 100-megawatt co-generator, new equipment to refine natural gas into petrochemical feedstocks, plastics and synthetic fibers, etc., as well as upgraded oil refining equipment to boost the refinery’s output of low-sulfur diesel fuel, which it exports to other countries.
That development, as well as the recently announced plans to bring 100-car trainloads of Utica Shale petroleum from Eastern Ohio to the Sunoco refinery and shale oil from Colorado and North Dakota also, will re-energize Philadelphia’s chemical manufacturing base. With more trainloads of North American oil headed for Delta Airline’s Trainer, Pa., refinery — and with still other trainloads of natural gas already rolling to Marcus Hook for processing and export to Caribbean countries and a “Mariner East” pipeline set to boost the flow by 2015 — that means this energy boom is as likely to prompt new economic and jobs growth in the Delaware River communities of Southeast Pennsylvania, as it is in the Commonwealth’s southwestern corner.
In other words, people in Philadelphia — and all along the Delaware river as well — are set to see expanding effects from the economic activity flowing out of the drill fields in Southwest Pennsylvania: refinery activity, re-invigorated manufacturing activities because of lower energy and feedstock costs, new port developments and increased river traffic, gushing out of the exploitation of the deep shale hydrocarbon reservoirs almost as fast as the hydrocarbon substances themselves pour out. In turn, that suggests Philadelphians can likely expect shares of the rampant jobs growth the Shale Coalition sees happening mostly in Appalachia — 200,000 new jobs by the state Labor Department’s most widely cited estimate — as well as increased contracting opportunities for small businesses here, just as is happening in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
That message was almost lost in the background noise, as the energy companies and their stock-market boosters celebrated another boom year in an energy development that, as state Sen. Williams said, has produced “a defining moment for Pennsylvania.”