It’s another record for Philadelphia — the longest “Soul Train” line — officially noted by Mayor Michael Nutter on Wednesday when he accepted a certificate issued by the Guinness Book of World Records.
“We have a lot going on in Philadelphia,” Nutter said. “But, sometimes we just need to celebrate.”
The mayor, against the advice of all his advisors, he said, took part in the “Soul Train” line last February and noted that it was magical moment for participants.
“It was incredible,” he said. “It really felt like the whole city had come together for one unique moment.”
A crowd of 291 people took part in the “Soul Train” line on Feb. 13, 2012 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius, who died last year. Philadelphia’s record beat the previous record of 211 people set in by students and staff at Beverly Hills High School.
“We figured that was a number we could beat,” said Sheila Simmons, one of the event organizers present at Wednesday’s press conference.
She vowed — as did several others present — that Philly would fight to keep the record, which was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records last month.
“This record belongs in Philadelphia,” she said.
Mannwell Glenn, the man behind the record breaking idea, agreed.
“You can come after this record if you want — but we’re going to keep it,” he said.
More than 2,000 people showed up at the event last winter, many dressed in Afro wigs and bell bottoms to honor Cornelius, host of the long-running TV show “Soul Train.”
He was a music legend, as was the show’s theme song “TSOP” (The Sound of Philadelphia) which ran in the background during the press event.
TSOP was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who recorded it with MFSB, the Philadelphia International Records house band, with the Three Degrees singing the vocal parts in 1974. In just a few months the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
The 75-year-old Cornelius committed suicide on Feb. 1, 2012. He had been suffering from health problems, a difficult divorce, and had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor spousal battery charge in 2009.
The circumstances surrounding his death did nothing to change his legacy, said E. Steven Collins, one of the organizers of the “Soul Train” event.
“He was a great person,” Collins said, noting that in his final days Cornelius was in a great deal of physical pain.
The Gates Millennium Scholarship represents much more than just a scholarship. It allows its recipients to chase their wildest academic and scholastic dreams, no matter if those dreams lead them to the most prestigious universities in America, England or elsewhere.
And so it will be for this year’s crop of recipients — including two from Philadelphia — who last Tuesday were recognized by Mayor Michael Nutter in the mayor’s City Hall Reception Room for their hard work and dedication to education and service.
Jamil Caldwell, a senior in both the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School and the Freedom Schools’ alternative scholastic programming model, said he was “shocked and overwhelmed that my hard work has been rewarded,” through a statement released by Communities in Schools of Philadelphia, one of the facilitators of the Freedom School system. “Philadelphia Freedom Schools prepared me for the academic rigor and persistence that I needed when applying for the scholarship, as well as maintaining the grades and activities necessary to qualify.”
Caldwell joins fellow students Taleeah Allen-Wright, Roebuck Dredden, Shahrin Islam, Chyheim Jackson-Burgess, Marisa Miro, Sadiyah Sabree, Khalil Taylor, Bach Tong, Phong Vo, Yjaden Wood and Yun Zheng as the awardees hailing from Pennsylvanian school districts — the GMS went to only 1,000 seniors nationwide.
“Education continues to be the best pathway to opportunity, and we believe that college costs should not be an obstacle along that path,” said Jim Larimore, deputy director for student success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “That’s why scholarships like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and others are so important. Scholarships provide students who have the will to get a postsecondary education with a way to get one, thereby securing a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”
That Caldwell earned such a prestigious scholarship that will completely pay for his studies at Temple or at Barcelona’s European University — or any other school on the planet — reflects well on both MCSCS and Philadelphia Freedom Schools; the PFS program also produced other GMS awardees, as Shaneese Thompson received the scholarship in 2010 and Ewinka Romulus in 2011.
“We are immensely proud that for the past three years we have had three Gates Millennium Scholarship scholars within the program,” said Philadelphia Freedom Schools Director Bunmi Samuel. “I think [these scholarships] reflect well on the program, the support we give our students and knowing they have adults who want to see them do well.”
Philadelphia Freedom Schools promotes a unique academic model which focuses on community service and cultural reinforcement; Communities in Schools of Philadelphia serves as its lead agency.
“We have formal chapters in 15 high schools, but members in 63 schools that meet during the week,” Samuel said. “They also come out to our ‘Wednesday Academy’ at Benjamin Franklin High School and social actions on Saturday.
“But for Jamil, primarily, he’s still really shocked. It is amazing to see happen.”
Decrying a proposed citywide curfew as a modern-day incarnation of Jim Crow, fugitive slave laws and apartheid, opponents of the plan may have stalled it in City Council this week.
“It’s never a done deal until the vote is called,” said the bill’s primary sponsor, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who introduced it on Mayor Michael Nutter’s behalf. “We’re going to circle back, which is what you always do with a highly controversial bill, and secure the nine-plus votes that we need. Should I hear from Council colleagues that we need a re-look — we’re always open to making it a better bill.”
The bill categorizes teenagers into three groups and imposes a different curfew for each: those 13 or younger would need to be indoors by 8 p.m.; 14- and 15-year-olds have to be in by 9 p.m. and 16- and 17-year-olds would be required to be inside by 10 p.m., seven days a week during the school year. During the summer it would be extended by one hour for each category.
In addition, the proposal creates fines for parents whose children are caught violating curfew. Fines would range from $75 for a first offense to a maximum of $500. Parents would have 30 days to pay.
Brown admitted that a week was a long time in politics, and things could change before Council’s next meeting, when the issue is expected to come up for a vote.
“If [the opposition] gets to nine then of course I would never move the bill,” she said. “You never move the bill unless you have nine.”
The mayor’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the administration stands behind the plan and is urging its passage.
“The administration certainly hopes that council will see the wisdom of it,” he said.
Had the vote been held Thursday, Brown said, it would have passed, noting that she had nine votes. The bill failed to come to a vote this week because it had not been properly advertised. Brown declined to say who was standing behind the bill.
She spoke to reporters after eight speakers rose during council meeting to oppose the curfew. Most were African Americans, some affiliated with the Occupy Philadelphia movement camped out in Dilworth Plaza, who compared the measure to past oppression and urged council to reject the plan.
Among them was independent mayoral candidate Walli Diop Rahman, who blasted the proposal, which he said would hit Black youth the hardest.
“African youth in this city are being made scapegoats through this policy and essentially being blamed for an economic, social and political crisis that actually has been caused by this city’s administration and ruling elite,” Rahman said. “If the city were really interested in stopping violence and crime then it would first and foremost address the violence and violent policy coming straight from its own administration. I’m talking about the violence of the budget cuts, about schools, the violence of poverty, the violence of the public policy of police containment.”
He urged council to think carefully before they voted.
“As you consider this so-called solution, your first step should not be to create a curfew — which is not unlike Jim Crow in the South or apartheid in South Africa,” Rahman said.
He was not the only one to compare the plan to oppressive policies of the past.
“This bill doesn’t make sense,” said P.J. Ghose, a professor and social worker from the University of Pennsylvania. “It did not work in Detroit. It did not work in Compton. It did not work in Boston. It did not work in New York City. Do not create a law that creates a class of people and puts them under house arrest. Let’s make sure that we do not impose this type of racist, sexist policy on our city any more.”
If curfews worked, he said, they would be imposed on the “marauding” drunks coming out of Eagles and Phillies games and attending parties at the city’s universities.
“We know for a fact they destroy property and businesses way more than the kind of flash mobs that are being held out to be indicted by this bill,” he said. “This bill does not apply to the kids and teens living in Chestnut Hill. It does not apply to kids living in suburbia.”
Brown conceded that many of the opponents concerns were legitimate.
“For sure, it’s a law where the lines are fragile,” she admitted, adding that she had assurances from the administration that the law would be enforced uniformly across the city.
“It’s going to be universally applied,” Brown said. “It is not just in West Philadelphia or just University City … even in Chestnut Hill and West Mount Airy.”
McDonald echoed Brown, assuring opponents that it would applied evenly.
“It will be enforced uniformly throughout the city,” he said.
Brown noted the law would expire in two years and give city officials the chance to gauge whether it had worked.
“There are mixed reviews about whether or not research supports the value of curfews,” she said. “That’s why we put in place a two-year provision. In two years the law will sunset. That will allow the administration time to capture the data and council members can have a chance to re-look at it and determine whether or not we want to continue.”
The bill is an important step toward changing behavior, McDonald said.
“We are going to be enforcing it, we are and we are going to continue,” he said. “We need to gradually, over time, change behaviors and expectations.”
Acting supt. Leroy Nunery describes 'Godfather' tactics
The long-awaited fact-finding report to Mayor Michael Nutter regarding Martin Luther King High School’s failed conversion to a charter school describes strong-arm tactics by former School Reform Commission Chairman Robert Archie Jr., and state Rep. Dwight Evans that were compared to something out of the “The Godfather,” according to acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery.
According to the report from Chief Integrity Officer Joan Markman, Mosaica was correctly chosen by the school’s advisory committee to take over and operate MLK as a charter. But Evans, who has a long relationship with Foundations, interceded and, according to the report, “working outside the School District of Philadelphia’s public process for matching MLK with an outside operator, mounted an intense lobbying effort to change the outcome of the match process to secure Foundations for the School District of Philadelphia’s contract to manage MLK.”
The report also says that Archie, who resigned from his post as chairman of the SRC on Monday, publicly recused himself from the process — specifically, the SRC vote to confirm the awarding of the five-year, $12 million contract to Mosaica — but worked feverishly behind the scenes to support Evans’ ongoing attempt to take away the contract.
Mosaica was awarded the contract on March 16, 2001 in a vote by the SRC. Mosaica had already received the support of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and the School Advisory Committee prior to the vote.
In perhaps the most damning bit of information in the 26-page report, Markman writes that Mosaica withdrew from the operation of MLK out of concern that the politically-connected Evans and Archie would frustrate the company’s ability to successfully operate MLK and jeopardize the company’s broader interests.
Reached by phone yesterday, Ackerman, who accepted a $905,000 buyout in August just months after receiving a vote of confidence from the SRC, said she had not read the report but after talking with Markman for hours “knew that the truth would be reported.”
“I lived what is in the report,” Ackerman said. “From what I have seen [the report] does exonerate my role in all of this. They tried to do everything to make me look like I didn’t have any integrity and that I had done something wrong.
“When she and I talked,” Ackerman, speaking of Markman, continued, “she told me that she was going to write the truth. I told her if she did that then it would be fine and that we could let the chips fall where they may, so I trust what is in that report.”
More than anything else, Ackerman feels the MLK fiasco doomed her tenure as schools chief.
“I think it is tragic, but I realized that it was the beginning of the end for me,” she said.
Ackerman did not want to disclose her present location, but she added that in her last few months as superintendent she was accompanied by an armed police officer.
“The last few months have been hell,” she said. “It is time for me to move past all of this. I hope now people will ask the right questions. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of questions that should be asked. There should be some kind of deeper inquiry into all of this.”
Archie disagrees with Ackerman’s recollections, and doesn’t feel the report is worth the paper it was written on.
“I am shocked and angered by the conclusions in the Markman report released today by Mayor Nutter’s office,” Archie said in a statement. “I emphatically reject the findings. They are not supported by facts, and are a reach to say the least. In some cases, they are pure fiction.”
Evans was equally angered over the report.
“I am stunned the city’s chief integrity officer would craft a document that characterizes me as a puppet master who has the ability to pull strings and make people dance,” Evans said. “That is simply not true. The report issued today, while written to suggest nefarious maneuvers, simply supports activities that have been well documented for months.”
Archie met personally with Markman. However, Evans, his aide Kim Turner, and Urban Affairs Coalition president and CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner, all named in the report, refused to meet with Markman, who interviewed more than 30 people.
In a phone call from Washington, D.C., John Porter, president of Mosaica’s Turnaround Partners, expressed relief that “the truth had finally been told,” but expressed remorse that Mosaica would not have the chance to operate MLK, which is now a Promise Academy.
“I would say my reaction is that I’m glad it’s completed and the facts were stated and made public,” said Porter, who represented Mosaica during the entire process. “I am saddened that we were unable to work with Martin Luther King High. We felt we had built a great relationship with the parents and the children.
Mosaica, located in Atlanta, operates the Birney Preparatory School here. Asked if he felt the fallout from the MLK situation might dissuade Mosaica from pursuing other schools in the city, he said no.
“What I will say is that I am very, very disappointed,” Porter said. “Having said that, no, this will not deter us from continuing to try to establish a relationship with the school district. They are fine people. That’s all I’m willing to say about that matter.”
Foundations, with Evans’ help, has secured contracts with the West Oak Lane Charter School, MLK and the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology.
John Henderson, executive director of communications with the New Jersey-based company, said the entire process had been flawed from the beginning. He said that many events were not reported in the Markman report by the media, and he indicated that he saw inaccuracies in the report.
“Everything we have done at King for the last seven years was designed to improve the quality of education for the children. That has been our commitment during this entire ordeal. Overall, the most disturbing aspect of this entire situation is that it has taken the focus off of the students and their families.”
Henderson said Foundations will continue to maintain its relationship with Evans. However, he was not very familiar with Archie’s relationship to the company.
“It’s no secret that we have had a long relationship with Dwight in that neighborhood,” Henderson said. “In terms of Mr. Archie being an advocate for us, I would say that the relationship has been much more casual.”
The Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, also known as POWER, drew hundreds from Northwest Philadelphia to the standing room only crowd of 2,000 recently for its inaugural founding convention recently.
Congregations came from Mount Airy, West Oak Lane and Germantown to the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in South Philadelphia. The event, which had the high energy of a political rally, was held on Sunday.
The showing from Northwest Philadelphia was evident. Some 80 parishioners from the St. Raymond of Penafort Church filled the front right section of the sanctuary. Another busload came from the St. Therese of the Child Jesus Church on the other side of Stenton Avenue in Mount Airy. Dozens were seated front and center from St. Benedict’s Church in West Oak Lane as well as from the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown.
Additionally, representatives came from the Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Roxborough, another busload from the Woodcrest United Church of Christ, a group from the St. Martin-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, the Second Baptist Church of Germantown, Masjidullah, Inc. located on upper Ogontz Avenue, and others from the newer Chestnut Hill United Church.
“I think this is great,” said James Collins of Mount Airy, a member of St. Raymond’s Church. “I think that if we can all work together we can get some things done.”
“I am very excited about the future of our city with POWER,” said Binta Diallo of Mount Airy, a registered nurse and another St. Raymond’s parishioner. “I think that if that they can demand jobs for all who want to work. I’m just enthused that this is a group in a position to take action. I hope that they will have a positive impact on the city.”
Many declarations were made at the POWER convention. Councilman Bill Green said that now that City Council “has banned the box” to assist ex-offenders secure employment he is up for the challenge of eliminating credit checks as part of the pre-employment process. This received thunderous applause and scattered standing ovations.
Mayor Michael Nutter when answering a question about job creation in Philadelphia opted to quote directly from the Biblical passage of Ephesians 6:10–12 where he said that the struggle “is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness with the evil spirits.” He, too, received a rousing standing ovation.
“It’s time for the people to stand up and demand our fair share because some who are blocking it are evil,” said Bianca Warren of Germantown. “I agree with Mayor Nutter that this is a high energy crowd because we are fired up. We are going to hold him accountable and all the others.”
POWER is funded by the Philadelphia foundation, the William Penn Foundation, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, the Bread and Roses Community Funds, the Allen Hilles Fund, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Presbyterian USA Community Organizing Fund and its 44 charter member churches. It is an affiliate of the PICO National Network. The group will hold its Northwest Cluster meeting at the Woodcrest Church, 8105 Thouron Ave. on Thursday, Oct. 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —In a Democratic National Convention that featured memorable speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton, the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, spoke to the American people Thursday night about his first-term accomplishments, and urged voters to elect him to a second term on November 6.
The threat of rain, thunder and lightning during an outdoor speech was the reason the Democratic National Committee and the Obama for America campaign decided to move the speech from the 73,000-seat Bank of America stadium into the smaller 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two days of events were held.
Obama for America campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds told the Tribune an estimated 65,000 people from all around the nation were expected to see Obama speak at Bank of America stadium, and another 19,000 people had standby tickets.
In an effort to please the thousands of potential voters who were disappointed they could not see Obama speak in person in Charlotte, the president participated in a conference call Thursday before his speech to thank supporters. Obama supporters around the nation, including thousands in Charlotte who had tickets, saw the speech at watch parties or in their hotel rooms.
Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Jim Burn said Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are key to Obama’s chances of winning the election. He said in order to win, the state party must continue to stress the president’s record over the past three and a half years of job creation (including 29 straight months of national job growth) and saving the country from the possible worst fiscal collapse since the Great Depression.
“African-American voters are as important to Pennsylvania turnout and the success of President Obama as any of our bases,” Burn said. “Sure he (Obama) has a lot of work to do. Every campaign is like a snowflake — there are no two identical campaigns. Most Pennsylvanians, and most Americans, have already made up their minds about who they’re voting for. It’s all about the ground game now, and all about voter turnout. There is nothing in this Republican ticket that is conducive to African-American voters voting for it.”
The delegates to the convention from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are leaving Charlotte fired up about the final weeks of this year’s campaign and ready to go do everything possible to re-elect President Obama and homegrown Vice President Joe Biden, a Delaware senator and Pennsylvania native. Biden also gave a speech accepting his vice-presidential nomination right before the president’s speech.
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, the wife of Philadelphia State Sen. Vincent Hughes, attended the convention with her husband. She says she cannot fathom that any African-American would vote for Romney over Obama.
“Don’t look at me with your Black self and ask, ‘Why should I support the brother?,’” Ralph said. “Stop that foolishness about sitting this thing out. If you’re confused about who to vote for, vote for Barack Obama. What are you going to do? Give your vote to Mitt Romney by voting for nobody? That is madness.”
“Brothers and sisters in the beauty shops and the barber shops know when the okie doke is being played on them,” Sen. Hughes added. “ They know what’s up. We just have to act now like we got some sense and send the message out. When the president says ‘Do you have my back?, we need to stand up and say “yea brother, we’ve got you back and we’re going to stand with you and we’re not going to stand for this foolishness.’”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who delivered a speech yesterday, said a Romney administration would be a disaster for the nation.
“To Mitt Romney, education is a luxury,” Nutter said in prepared remarks. “ As governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed universal pre-K. In his first year, K-12 schools saw drastic cuts that lead to teacher layoffs. He failed his students. Whose values do you want in the Oval Office? I know who Philly wants, who Pennsylvania wants, and who you want — President Barack Obama.”
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, a delegate to this year’s convention, said now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are over, it is a two-month sprint to Election Day to convince Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians to vote for Obama and Biden.
“I think the public will understand that he (Obama) needs the next four years to complete his agenda,” Tasco said. “From day one, the Republicans made up their minds they weren’t going to do anything to help the president succeed. They don’t want him, and it is personal. I just have to say it — I just think it is outright racism.”
Right before she crossed the street at the corner of 12th and Walnut streets, President Judge Thomasine Tynes of the Philadelphia Traffic Court made sure she looked both ways on the one-way street and began to walk.
And that’s when the trouble started.
A bicyclist riding the wrong way on one of the one-way streets plowed into the judge, knocking her to the ground a little over five years ago. She didn’t see him coming, but she felt the bruises from the encounter for days to come.
“The force threw me into the street,” said Tynes, shaking her head at the memory. “If a car was coming I would have gotten killed. Meanwhile, he didn’t stop to see if I was OK or anything. In fact, he looked at me like I was at fault. He got up and just rode away.”
Had there been a rule requiring the registration of bicycles — of which the judge is an advocate — Tynes could have taken the rider’s information and reported him for his violation. As it was, she was just left to nurse her wounds and be grateful that there was no Mack truck bearing down on her that day.
These days the head of the traffic court hopes to change things in the city. She is not opposed to people riding bikes and getting in their exercise, but she does believe that city riders should be forced to register their bicycles and be more accountable for the way they ride, for their safety and the safety of others.
“Suppose you hurt somebody on a bike?” Tynes asks. “What do they do? Do you just ride away? Right now that’s the case. Or what if you knock off someone’s side-view mirror and keep going? Who pays for that? There just aren’t enough penalties.”
In Pennsylvania, bikes are considered vehicles and as a result are governed by the same rules as automobiles. They are not allowed to run red lights. If they are in the street and stopped at a red light, they are not allowed to make a right turn if a sign forbids it.
Chestnut Hill cyclist Howard Hochheiser rides four times a week and logs between 100 and 200 miles on his bike. He thinks that registering riders is a waste of time — something that will be very hard to enforce. But he sees riders violating rules all the time.
“I am in favor of more enforcement,” Hochheiser says. “We as cyclists often get on drivers who don’t follow the law, but we don’t reciprocate. If you have four riders riding abreast on the West River Drive and the bike lane is designed to have riders in single file, then yes, that is a problem. It is a two-way street and we have to abide by the rules.”
Registration hasn’t had much success across the country. Detroit once charged riders $55 to register bikes, but that was repealed in 2008. Houston also went the registration route. However, only about 10 bikes per month registered and it was more of a hassle than anything else. Both Washington and Los Angles have also successfully repealed bike registration laws.
In Los Angles it cost just $3 to register a bike. However, riders said they were being unjustly harassed and complained that nothing was done when bikes were stolen before the requirement was repealed.
Tynes knows full well the dangers associated with bike riders. She tells a story of one lawyer in her courtroom whose client had been injured on a bike. He had no identification on him, and as a result, he was in a hospital room for two days and no one knew who he was. Eventually his family filed a missing person’s report and they identified him that way.
Tynes has written letters to Mayor Michael Nutter about the issue. She says it is just as much about enforcement as it is about safety and being able to identify the riders. She suggested that the registration be no more than a one-time fee of about $20.
“I don’t want riders to think that I’m against you guys; I’m not,” Tynes says. “I am saying that [riders] need to be responsible like everyone else on the road. It is better for everyone involved.”
Well before the election results were finalized – but apparently with President Barack Obama’s re-election within sight – Mayor Michael Nutter joined state Democratic heavyweights Congressman Chaka Fattah and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in celebrating Pennsylvania’s strong voter turnout and the state once again carrying Obama.
The Pennsylvania for Obama campaign held the post-poll election night celebration at the Warwick Hotel on Rittenhouse Square, and was organized as a way for the statewide re-election campaign to thank the volunteers, campaign committee workers and local Obama coalition members for their unwavering support.
“Four more years!” an exhuberantFattah repeated amid the din of an enthusiastic crowd, pointing out that Obama’s record warranted his re-election, his winning of Pennsylvania and the electoral votes that go with it. “We want to thank each and every person in the state of Pennsylvania, and particularly in the Philadelphia region, here in Philly and Montgomery County, Delaware and Bucks. Our president has done an extraordinary job, and clearly because of the success here in Pennsylvania and what we see of his success across the country, our president is going to have four more years to continue to do that work.”
Fattah had reason outside of Obama’s re-election to celebrate, as Fattah won his own re-election bid after cruising to a victory over Republican challenger Robert Mansfield Jr. Schwartz, like Fattah, also won her re-election bid, outpointing Republican Joe Rooney.
“I want to thank each and every one of you, because tonight is a great victory for Pennsylvania. It shows Pennsylvania bleeds deeper blue than anyone expected,” Schwartz said, after being introduced by Fattah, who praised Schwartz for her efforts on the health care law. “A lot of you did what we asked, knocking on doors. [Voters] understood what was at stake in this country, and they were determined to vote.
“They didn’t care how long they had to wait, and they didn’t care how hard the state made it to come out and vote,” Schwartz continued. “They were going to stand there and vote. Pennsylvania did a great job today.”
Nutter, who serves as president of the United States Conference of Mayors, and has stumped nationwide for Obama, praised Fattah as the “Education Congressman” and Schwartz as the “Healthcare Congresswoman” before turning his remarks to Obama’s re-election.
“We talked about it, and then we voted about it. And I think we had some voting in Philadelphia and some voting in Pennsylvania,” Nutter said. “At least for tonight, blue represents joy, happiness and excitement.
“They talked about voter ID and suppression,” Nutter continued, “Voter ID or no voter ID, suppression or no suppression, folks said, ‘we’re going to vote, we’re going to vote strong, we’re going to vote hard, and you can’t stop this freight train here in Philadelphia.’”
Nutter said, through his travels as an Obama surrogate, that the only way to win an election is through a grassroots effort that includes going from door to door, going to polling places and having a sharp and effective ground game. Nutter also spoke glowingly of Obama’s record.
“Obama has worked hard, and he worked for us, and then we went out and worked for him,” Nutter said. “He brought us economic recovery, brought back the auto industry, gave us healthcare, ended one of the wars and is ending the other one, Osama bin Laden is dead and gone, al-Qaeda is on the run and he doubled the amount of Pell Grants for young people to go to college. You can now stay on your parent’s healthcare until you’re 26.”
The enthusiasm continued unabated as television screens flashed the smiling face of the 44th president. For his supporters at the Warwick Hotel, his victory was theirs, too.
Mayor pledges continued focus on safety, education in second term
A victorious Mayor Michael Nutter urged city residents to work with him to continue the “Philadelphia renaissance,” started in his first term, as he prepared for his newly won second term.
“We’re not done yet,” he told an enthusiastic crowd gathered Tuesday night at the Radisson Warwick Hotel ballroom. “This is the time to look forward to the next four, 10, 25 years … But I can’t do it without you.”
The mayor appeared just before 10 p.m. to give his victory speech. Though relatively early, it was already apparent that he had easily won over two other challengers on the ballot.
In unofficial results, Nutter captured almost 75 percent of the vote. Republican challenger Karen Brown got 21.7 percent and the third candidate on the ballot, Wali “Diop” Rahman, garnered 3.6 percent.
The early victory was hastened by the city’s use of computers to electronically count the vote — only the second election in which they’ve been used. By 8:45 p.m. websites and networks across the city were declaring Nutter the winner. Hundreds, including U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah, state Sen. Anthony Williams and Councilman Jim Kenney, packed the ballroom to congratulate Nutter.
The mayor reminded residents of the achievements of first term: a 14 percent reduction in shootings, a 15 percent dip in violent crime, a 20 percent drop in murders, graduation rates over 60 percent and nine years of test score gains.
“I believe that we have now set Philadelphia on a new path,” he said. “We’ve redefined our future and we are beginning — beginning — to realize our true potential of this historic, remarkable city.”
But, rather than look back, he chose to focus on the future.
“Let there be no mistake, this is just the beginning,” he said. “We have much more work to do. Tonight is not a time for satisfaction, but of impatient restlessness, a sense of urgency, of boldness. Tonight is a time to push forward.”
He outlined the priorities of his new term.
They included a continued focus on public safety — especially illegal gun use.
“You can now actually rent a gun,” he said. “Do your cowardly act and then return it. That’s insane … We’re not done until the penalty for being caught with one of those illegal weapons is so devastating that you would think twice about even touching a gun.”
He vowed to battle poverty, which he said affects one in four Philadelphians.
“We must redouble our efforts to continue to attract businesses and jobs to Philadelphia,” he said, linking that to better education. “We cannot grow. We cannot compete. We cannot prosper if we don’t focus like a laser beam on creating a learning environment to allow each child, boys and girls, to reach their learning potential.”
In city council races, all of the Democratic at-large incumbents retained their seats. They were, in order of number of votes: Bill Green, Kenney, Blondell Reynolds Brown, W. Wilson Goode Jr. and Bill Greenlee.
On the Republican side, preliminary numbers showed David Oh winning one of two minority seats with state Rep. Dennis O’Brien, former speaker of the House capturing the other.
Only about 140 votes separated Oh from his nearest competitor, Al Taubenberger, and a recount was underway at Tribune press time. It could be weeks until results are certified.
In the district races, machine candidates largely carried the day. Mark Squilla carried the First District. He will replace Councilman Frank DiCicco who is retiring at the end of the year. In the Second District, state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson will take over Council President Anna Verna’s seat when she retires in January. Union officials Bobby Henon carried the Sixth District, replacing Councilwoman Joan Krajewski. In the Eighth District, represented by Donna Reed Miller, who is leaving at the end of the year, Cindy Bass won.
All of the incumbent district council members kept their seats.
Finally, city commissioner’s chosen were: Democrats Stephanie Singer and Anthony Clark and Republican Al Schmidt.
State Rep. Jewell Williams won the sheriff’s office with the backing of 76 percent of voters.
Democratic incumbent Ronald Donatucci kept his title as register of wills.
Frustrated at the political gridlock in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday released a report that members hope can be used to re-focus national attention on the need for spending on infrastructure, transportation and education.
“It must be the mission of this bipartisan organization to make sure that the priorities of cities are addressed by both presidential candidates through the course of this upcoming election and beyond,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, president of the conference which was meeting in Philadelphia this week. We want to remind both presidential candidates, the Congress and Washington in general that when you invest in cities, you invest in America.”
The report, a 116-page document titled U.S. Metro Economies, compiled by the consulting firm IHS Global Insight, provided a detailed statistical snapshot of the nation’s cities and predicted modest economic growth for the remainder of the year.
Short-term projections in the report anticipated a 1.4 percent increase in employment in metropolitan areas by the end of 2012, and a 2 percent growth in city’s share of gross domestic product. In addition, the report anticipated that over the next 30 years, cities will grow 32 percent, adding 84 million to the nation’s population centers.
For that growth to happen smoothly the nation needs to invest, concluded the report. However, over the last several years, investment has fallen. Public spending on infrastructure in the United States has fallen to 2.4 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the report.
Nutter noted that infrastructure spending had been at 3 percent of the GDP not long ago, saying, “It’s going in the wrong direction.”
“We need to make smart investments today to ensure that we will continue to grow in the future,” Nutter said. “The nation’s mayors are calling for investments that will not only create jobs today but that will pay dividends for decades to come.”
Speaking to the Tribune after the press conference, Nutter said the report would be used as a launch pad for a massive lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., urging the federal government to invest directly with cities. Officials were already working on a draft of a condensed report that will prioritize the mayors’ concerns. It is expected in the fall, Nutter said. It will also be used in discussions with various state governors.
A lack of investment will cost more in the future, said Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif.
“Underinvestment in infrastructure, there is going to be costs in the long term that are going to impact everything else that we do,” he said.
Perhaps more important than the report was the obvious frustration of mayors from cities, large and small, felt with the country’s political leaders, particularly Congress.
“We need Congress to do their job, so Americans can get a job,” Nutter said.
Others were even more outspoken.
“We’re done asking the federal government for help,” said Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “We’re going to take action and tell the federal government our cities need help. And, we’re going to lead the way. We want action. We’re going to go to the Hill and say we want to put our people to work.”
Using House Speaker John Boehner as an example, Mayor Donald Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio, said the partisan divide, fueled by the tea party, has paralyzed Congress.
“He treats us like crap,” Plusquellic yelled at one point during the press conference.
After the meeting, he explained that traditionally, Congressional and administration leaders from the cabinet level down have taken the time to meet personally with the mayors of large cities in their states but that Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has not.
“He used to be a pretty good guy,” Plusquellic said. “It used to be Democrats and Republicans working together. We have this partisanship now.”
Plusquellic said he’s met with Boehner’s staff but not the Speaker, but if he could sit down with Boehner he’d urge him to remember the old days.
“Sitting down and talking to people works,” Plusquellic said. “He treats all of the mayors and the leaders of this country like crap.”
“It’s symptomatic of what’s going on with Congress. If you’re not going to listen to 90 percent of the country … in November we’ll see if 90 percent of the country listens to you,” said John Dickert, mayor of Racine, Wis.
Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz., explained that the frustration has been building for years.
“Every mayor in the room has been through the fire over the last three or four years. Every mayor in the room has had to make decisions we didn’t like,” said Smith. “Our frustration boils over because at both the state and national level we don’t see our legislators taking the same approach. It’s frustrating.”