Just in time for the Mummers New Year's Day march up South Broad Street, city leaders applauded the grand re-opening during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Broad Street Diner. The old Broad Street Diner was in operation at the Broad and Ellsworth Streets location from approximately 1964 until it closed in 2007. Before it closed, the diner was a Delaware Valley dining institution feeding generations of citizens and tourists. The diner and the former adjacent banquet hall was a vacant, dark eyesore along South Broad Street when it was closed down. After months of renovations, Michael’s Family Restaurants (which employs more than 900 employees throughout the region) has provided over 60 jobs at the new Broad Street Diner.
“It's back! The Broad Street Diner is back!” noted Nutter. “We were so sad to see it temporally go away back in 2007 after being such an institution right here in South Philadelphia. This is one of many new, or reopened, restaurants here in the city of Philadelphia. You know that Philadelphia has a national and international reputation for fine dining and art and culture—we are the number one city for arts an culture in the United States of America according to Travel & Leisure Magazine. For almost four years the building sat empty, and could have been a blighted building, but Michael (Petrogiannis) and his family chose to renovate this building, bring it back to life and put Philadelphians back to work. There are 65 employees right here at the Broad Street Diner; 65 folk with jobs at a time of great, great challenge.”
Michael’s Family Restaurants owns 11 restaurants and diners in Philadelphia and the suburbs, including the Melrose Diner, Tiffany Diner, Mayfair Diner, Country Club Restaurant, Michael’s Restaurant/Roosevelt Blvd. and La Veranda Restaurant. The Broad Street Diner has a brand new facade, a new marquee sign and a new handicapped accessible dining area inside.
“Michael saw this landmark and knew he had to purchase it and bring it back to its past glory,” said Philadelphia personality/philanthropist Maria Papadakis. “After months and months of renovations and millions of dollars of investment, the new Broad Street Diner is open and ready to serve Philadelphia for years to come.”
An estimated 50 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony held in the BSD parking lot as members of the Avalon String Band and a Ben Franklin impersonator entertained the crowd. The diner, which opened on Dec. 8, stayed open during the event and at least 30 people were inside the diner looking at the event through the windows.
“You know, living here in South Philly for 42 years, this was the place for ribs and after-parties,” recalled Lamont Anderson, a.k.a Monty G. “After midnight, everyone was coming down here getting our grub on at three o'clock in the morning. This is a great place, and I am so glad it re-opened—and yo, it's all good down here in South Philly.”
The Broad Street Diner, located 1135 South Broad St. (at Ellsworth Street), is a 24-hour establishment.
He touched the lives of thousands, and it was in his honor that hundreds gathered to say farewell to “a scholar with an African mission.” The funeral of Dr. Edward W. Robinson, Jr. was held Friday morning at the church in which he was born and raised, the A.M.E. Union Church, in the heart of North Philadelphia.
Just outside the church, a dozen drummers of all ages played in the midst of an oppressive heat wave. All morning, city dignitaries streamed through the church to pay respects to the educator and his family.
While his body laid in repose, images of Robinson in various stages of his life played in the background, as ushers carried baskets of fans and circulated through the aisles with bottles of cold water. The several hundred gathered fanned themselves endlessly as they comforted their hearts in the words offered by friends, colleagues and family members during the two-and-a-half hour service.
Robinson's casket, draped in a United States flag, was flanked by floral displays in the colors of the Pan-African flag — red, black and green — with one especially stunning arrangement forming the shape of the continent of Africa.
Proclamations were read from Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, State Senator Leanna Washington, and Congressman Chaka Fattah, along with resolutions from the Institute for the Preservation of Youth, the Paul Robeson House, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Chaney University Alumni Association and the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP. Also noted in the audience were music producer and educator Kenny Gamble, producer Bob Lott, activist Pam Africa, Judge Thomasina Tynes, Rep. Dwight Evans and Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams.
Remarks were offered from every branch of Robinson's life - from political to civic to personal. Speakers included Christine Thomas Wiggins, Founder of IMHOTEP Charter School; Ali and Helen Salahuddin, founders of the D'ZERT Club; Activist Michael Coard, Esq.; African-American scholar Dr. Molefi Kete Asante; Cody Anderson, former WDAS General manager and Dr. Mildred Johnson of Virginia State University, and Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia. “Dr. Robinson served his generation in an outstanding manner,” noted Goode. “The question is, who is going to serve this generation?”
“A great soul has passed this way,” said Asante. “A great man has lived among us.”
The amazing life that Robinson had lived and shared with those closest to him was obvious in the various titles accorded him: father, grandfather, great-grand-father, great-great grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, and most importantly, husband.
Robinson's widow Harriet eschewed the podium, instead choosing to stand next to the casket as she recited a poem while holding the arm of her beloved husband of 41 years. “I wanted you for life, you and me in the wind. I never thought there would come a time that our story would end. ... Maybe all I need to know and if I listen to my heart, I'll hear your laughter once more. And so I’ve got to say I'm just glad you came my way. It's not easy to say goodbye.”
Shipyard signs $400M contract with ExxonMobil
A Houston-based affiliate of ExxonMobil and the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard signed a $400 million contract for two oil tankers on Monday, sealing a pact expected to create more than 600 local jobs.
The additional jobs will push the total number of jobs at the shipyard to over 1,000, officials said, trumpeting the project for the jobs it would generate.
“This will take our numbers back up to more than 1,000 highly skilled, highly competent craftsmen and women who work on these new ships,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “What a spectacular achievement right here in Philadelphia. It’s a spectacular achievement that we’re still making ships here in the Navy Yard. It will only continue. It will only grow.”
The event drew a number of the state’s most prominent politicians to the shipyard for a ceremonial contract signing between SeaRiver Maritime and Acker in front a hulking segment of a ship — not one of the tankers — already under construction.
They all echoed Nutter, extolling the project as something that set a pattern for future growth.
“An investment here, in the people of Philadelphia, in this shipyard, is an investment on behalf of all Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Tom Corbett. “Because anywhere that Pennsylvanians succeed all Pennsylvanians succeed.”
One of the first acts of Corbett’s administration was providing the shipyard with $42 million in state funds.
Asked by reporters why he approved the funds at a time when the state was facing a deficit of more than $1 billion, Corbett answered that he viewed the move as an investment that would pay dividends for the state.
“We’re going to get it back through the employment here,” he said, meaning that ultimately the tax revenue generated by employees and the yard itself would cover the state’s investment.
“If Philadelphia grows Pennsylvania grows,” he said. “It is the job of government to help business create jobs for all of you, and that’s what we were working for.”
All of the jobs created through the construction of the two ships will be union jobs. According to Kristian Rokke, CEO of Acker, contracts were recently ratified with 11 unions involved in ship construction, allowing the shipyard to move forward.
“These people are highly skilled and motivated,” Rokke said. “They give me the confidence to say, “We are going to build these vessels to high standards. We’re going to deliver them on time and on budget.”
The latest incarnation of the shipyard, now the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, opened in 2000, reinvigorating the stagnant facility. Prior to that, the shipyard, then the Naval Shipyard, employed roughly 7,000 people when it closed in 1995, raising doubts as to the future of what was once one of the busiest shipyards on the east coast.
Construction of the two ships is expected to begin in mid-2012 with SeaRiver Maritime taking delivery of both vessels in 2014. When completed, the two ships — Liberty class tankers, each 820 feet long, 115,000 tons — will be used to transport crude oil from Alaska to ports along the West Coast. Each double-hulled tanker will be able to carry 34 million gallons of crude. Both ships will be equipped with state of the art navigation equipment, oil mist and gas detection systems, and cleaner burning engines.
They will be the 17th and 18th ships built in Philadelphia by Aker.
“When these ships set sail they will sustain jobs in Alaska and in ports of call along the west coast,” said Andy Swiger, senior vice president from ExxonMobil. “And they will support good jobs at refineries and plants across America.”
Philadelphians great and small are reacting with great passion to the crisis facing the School District of Philadelphia — and that’s good.
Because, let’s be honest, a substantial share of what’s wrong with the District exists because taxpayers and stakeholders have been far too apathetic for far too long.
We sat idly by while district officials swept in and then out of town, taking with them suitcases full of taxpayer money. We looked the other way when highly paid consultants were awarded millions in district contracts; and we stood by idly while an entity established for the educational benefit of Philadelphia’s children re-established itself for the financial benefit of Philadelphia’s politically-connected adults.
But now, the well has run dry. The district is facing a financial shortfall next year somewhere north of $200 million, despite having instituted sweeping financial reform measures and deep cuts to personnel and programs.
Those cuts, and the district’s recently proposed blueprint for financial turnaround, have come under fire from several sides.
Tonight, parents and interested stakeholders will join such diverse groups as Occupy Philly, ACTION United and the Service Employees International Union at Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia for the second in a series of school district-themed community meetings sponsored by local churches. The first meeting, held at Enon Baptist Church, drew a crowd of more than 2,500 residents who gave School Reform Commission representatives a lesson in civic discourse by strenuously objecting to a school reform plan which they say weakens our schools — and public education.
Local 32BJ, the blue-collar union that represents nearly 3,000 bus drivers, janitors and other Philadelphia school employees, is planning a large rally tomorrow in Center City to protest mass layoffs and what they see as attempts to privatize public education. All of those employees have already received layoff notices, effective at the end of the school year.
Several legislators have begun to push forward an alternative plan, one that counters Mayor Michael Nutter’s goal of using funds from property reassessments to restore $94 million to the school district’s budget. Calling the mayor’s plan nothing more than a back-door tax hike, they plan to use other methods, such as adjusting the city’s wage tax for non-residents, to add the needed boost to district coffers.
The reorganization blueprint, opponents argue, is long on cuts and belt-tightening measures, but short on any actual benefit to students. Drastic cuts to art, music, sports, and after-school and extracurricular activities may boost the bottom line, they say, but deprive students of a fully rounded educational experience.
It has been too long since Philadelphians were fired up over a single issue, and we’re glad it’s this one. Few things are as vital to our city’s future as the state of public education, and if it takes a crisis to bring people together to unite for our youth, then at least that crisis has a silver lining.
Chronic absenteeism — one of the major, yet under-discussed problems plaguing public education — won the attention of more than a dozen mayors who supported a proclamation and call to action during the recently concluded Conference of Mayors.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter – recently promoted as the organization’s president – also co-signed the resolution, authored by Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Angel Taveras. The resolution includes significant portions of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan, which calls for greater neighborhood accountability, and the strengthening of New York’s grade-level reading program.
Bloomberg created the Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy Task Force in 2010, and the program is now running in 50 New York City public schools. Bloomberg’s strategy included the sharing of early-warning data throughout the stakeholder network; school personalization geared toward 4,000 of the most at-risk students; the cultural reinforcement of the merits of attending school on a regular basis; data-driven accountability for teachers and school administrators, and a better in-school healthcare system.
“Kids who are chronically absent are more likely to drop out of school or become involved in juvenile crime — outcomes we will not accept,” Bloomberg said in statement released by the conference. “In New York, we’ve made great gains in reducing chronic absenteeism, and know there is more work to do here and across the country.
“The resolution from the US Conference of Mayors makes this issue the priority it needs to be so that our students are in school every day.”
Nutter, Bloomberg and Taveras were joined by former NBA player and Sacramento, Ca. Mayor Kevin Johnson, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland, Ca. Mayor Jean Quan, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Pembroke Pines, Fla. Mayor Frank Ortis and West Sacramento, Ca. Mayor Christopher Cabaldon in supporting the measure.
“For our cities to close the achievement gap and reduce dropout rates, we must get a handle on chronic absenteeism at every letter,” Taveras said in a statement released by the conference. “No matter how much we improve our schools, it won’t matter if kids are not in their seats to benefit. Ending chronic absenteeism requires all hands on deck.”
According to education officials, when a student misses 10 percent of the school year in all three categories – excused, unexcused and disciplinary – that student is considered to be truant; Nationally, one out of ten – an even ten percent – of all kindergarteners miss at least one month of school per school year; a recent Johns Hopkins University/Get Schooled Foundation report painted an even bleaker picture, noting that as many as 7.5 million students nationwide miss about a month of school every year.
Locally, the numbers are harder to pin down, but several reports show that 2,500 School District of Philadelphia students are absent on any given school day.
The resolution calls for the mayors to adopt three broad measures upon return to their respective cities. They are to raise public awareness about truancy and the dire consequences of acute absenteeism, encourage stakeholder engagement and generate excitement with parents to get their children to attend school on a regular basis, and finally, encourage schools to publish chronic absenteeism data, along with average daily attendance figures.
While a tough sell, especially given the other mitigating factors confronting school district throughout the country, educators believe this to be a crucial and necessary step.
“The mayors’ decision to champion chronic absence will ensure that more cities monitor this important data point and use it to guide action,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and also serves as senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “This is a problem we can solve when we begin to look at the right data.”
Independence Blue Cross has launched a $10 million foundation geared toward transforming health care in the Philadelphia region.
The IBC Foundation targets three areas: caring for the community’s most vulnerable; leading innovative approaches to health care and developing the health-care workforce of the future with an intense focus on nursing education.
“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we announce the launch of the IBC Foundation,” said IBC president and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty.
“Building upon our deep commitment to our community, the foundation is poised to build healthier communities and spur innovation. By caring for the most vulnerable people in our community, enhancing the quality of health care for all and supporting groundbreaking innovations in health care, the foundation will help drive change in health care in our region for generations to come.”
The foundation’s creation was announced Thursday afternoon during the launch of IBC’s Nursing For Tomorrow Forum held at WHYY headquarters on Independence Mall.
Lorina Marshall Blake, IBC vice president of community affairs, will head the foundation.
The new foundation will focus on caring for the most vulnerable in the Philadelphia region by helping the uninsured get quality health care and supporting seniors and their caregivers. The newly created Blue Safety Net will provide $2 million in grants in 2011 to private nonprofit clinics that care for the uninsured and underinsured.
IBC announced foundation grants totaling $1 million to 15 clinics serving 70,000 patients in all five counties in the region.
The foundation’s second area of impact is directed at enhancing health-care delivery and will focus on developing the health-care workforce needed for the future. This work will concentrate on strengthening the region’s nursing workforce through a new $1.5 million initiative called Nurses For Tomorrow.
Nurses for Tomorrow will improve the quality of care in the region by increasing the supply of nurses and nurse educators through $1 million in scholarships awarded through 27 undergraduate nursing programs and 12 graduate nursing programs in the Philadelphia region. The Nurses for Tomorrow initiative will support the creation of three fellowships over the next two years to drive innovation in nursing education. The initiative will also establish continued education for nursing deans, nurse educators and administrators and support the development of a web-based resource for all area nursing schools.
“We are very excited about this new foundation and expanding our partnership with IBC ever further,” said Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, who joined IBC officials for the foundation’s launch.
“What can’t be overlooked is that IBC is not only continuing to support nursing education through scholarships, but again is leading the way in a manner no one else has thought to do.”
The foundation is launching a new Innovation Grant program that will provide $1 million to support projects and research that significantly advance the practice and delivery of health care. The foundation’s first Innovation Grant was awarded to the National Nursing Centers Consortium to enable area nonprofit clinics to use electronic medical records to provide more efficient and safer patient care.
The foundation’s website is now accepting applications for Innovation Grants at www.ibxfoundation.org.
Hilferty was joined at the foundation launch by Mayor Michael Nutter and Drexel University President John Fry, who highlighted IBC’s long partnership with Drexel.
The task force charged with studying the city’s options for feeding the homeless laid out its recommendations in a report issued this week, and Mayor Michael Nutter said his administration is prepared to put them in place.
“Our commitment is to implement these recommendations, to deal with the core areas that have been identified, and to move the city forward and to take every one of our most vulnerable citizens with us,” Nutter said.
The 59-page report, released Wednesday afternoon, laid out five recommendations.
It urged the city to: establish consensus and capacity as it moved to deal with hunger; increase food access and options for the homeless; expand infrastructure, and help private providers feed more people and increase access to indoor feeding spaces for providers and the homeless.
The list of recommendations was intended to provide a comprehensive approach to a problem city officials described as complex — and which involved more than just hunger.
Noting that on average 200 people a day — and sometimes as many as 300 people — rely on meals provided by charitable organizations, Arthur Evans, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services who chaired the task force, said the problem is not limited to capacity.
“We have enough physical capacity in the city today to address that number,” he said. “But one of the reasons we’ve tried to lay out the core issues is, we don’t believe the solution is simply to add capacity. If that were the issue, I think the city would have resolved the issue a long time ago.”
Homelessness and hunger are often related to much larger economic and health issues, he said.
As a first step the mayor said he would name a point person within the administration to coordinate the effort — a joint initiative between the city and private entities that feed the homeless.
“I’m going to read the report, talk about it more, understand the recommendations, and then I’m going to focus my time on trying to identify who that is, where they’ll be situated and how we better address these issues at the highest level of government,” he said.
Because he received the report less than an hour before its public release, Nutter said it was too early to discuss specifically how his administration would move to handle the recommendations.
The mayor declined to be drawn into a discussion of an ongoing lawsuit between the city and several groups that feed the homeless, saying his priority this week was digesting the new report and moving to make the homeless get the help they need.
“The court matter is the court matter,” he said. “I’m not over in court. I’m focusing my time and effort in the streets of this city. I don’t want to get distracted on that particular matter.”
Homeless advocates sued the city to overturn Nutter’s executive order, issued in March, that banned large-scale feeding of the homeless outside. Violators faced fines of up to $150. Earlier this month, federal Judge William Yohn Jr., issued a temporary ruling against the order, allowing the continued serving of outdoor meals until he could issue a final ruling in the case.
In the wake of the dispute that led to the suit, Nutter seated the task force to find ways to feed the homeless that might placate both sides.
In addition to Evans, it included members Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who has spearheaded opposition to the ban; Salomon Vazquez of Connect Church; Bill McMillan with Sunday Breakfast Mission; Bill Golderer, Broad Street Ministry; Adam Bruckner, Philly Restart; Bill Clark, Philabudance; Jay Lewis Felton, Mt Airy C.O.G.I.C.; Joseph Rogers, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP); Joye Presson, Office of Supportive Housing; Mary Horstmann, Mayor’s Office; and Bia Viera, Philadelphia Foundation.
In approving the School District of Philadelphia fiscal year 2012–2013 budget, the School Reform Commission may have closed a bumpy chapter in its history — and potentially created new dramas as well.
SRC members voted unanimously to approve the budget. The budget details operating revenues of $2.33 billion, operating expenditures of $2.55 billion and the use of $43 million in reserves.
In other words, the adopted school budget for next year confirms Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen’s findings that the school district will face a budget deficit of $218 million.
The budget also assumes it will receive $94.5 million from the city’s controversial Actual Value Initiative. City Council has held a series of debates in regard to the merits of AVI, and no decision has been made yet on if the district gets those funds.
“The greatest uncertainty is the $94.5 million. We have acknowledged that we have it in the budget at $94.5 million,” Knudsen said in a meeting preceding last Thursday’s public budget announcement. “And we hope that we receive that amount from City Council. So yes, there was a lot of uncertainty, but at this point in time, you put a pen in hand and stake in ground and say these are the conditions we know about, these are the factors we know about … so what we have had, I think, is a very complete, concise presentation of a complicated enterprise.”
According to the budget, school district revenues represent 81 percent of the budgeted revenues for the next fiscal year, and that the district actually expects revenue to increase by 3.8 percent; but AVI looms large over the entire budget, with numerous references made to the new tax structure.
“The most important single change in revenues in the $94.5 million increase in real estate tax revenues proposed by Mayor Nutter as a result of capturing the growth in property values through the Actual Value Initiative,” read the budgetary explanation. “Pursuant to Mayor Nutter’s proposed five-year financial plan, an additional $94.5 million in value will be captured based on new, more accurate assessments.”
School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said that, politically, it would be a “catastrophe” if City Council couldn’t make the AVI funds a reality, but believes Council will do the right thing when it comes time.
“I believe ultimately, City Council will recognize, and I believe already recognizes, how critical it is for the school district to get the $94 million,” Ramos said, noting that SRC officials have taken transparency to a new level by posting each individual school’s budget online. “What the consequences are of the $94 million; our intention isn’t to make any threats or projections or get ahead of it, because we think each of these school budgets is a compelling case in itself that will resonate with council members, and I believe they will ultimately deliver on the mayor’s proposal.”
Ramos and Knudsen both said the district can finance the expected $218 million gap, but wouldn’t be able to do so without the AVI funds. The budget also highlights the shrink in grants and funding the city — and thus, the school district — has endured over the past several years, including lost revenue from a recent State Tax Equalization Board ruling and the slashing of public education funding in Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget.
“At this point, we have shown what we have in terms of revenues, and that means we will finance that amount of money,” Knudsen said, referring to the district’s plans on filling next year’s budget gap. “We will sell bonds to do that; this is not a course of action any one of us wants to take, but in this circumstance, we have little choice.
“We are effectively maxing out our credit cards,” Knudsen continued. “We have the capacity to raise around that amount of money, but we don’t have the capacity to go much beyond that, I believe.”
According the budget, the school district is also bracing for a huge reduction in Title I revenues. Title I is a federal grant given to school districts throughout the country, and although the amount Philadelphia’s school district will receive hasn’t been determined, SRC officials expect it to be drastically lower than what the district is accustomed to receiving.
And since the district has to decrease Title I spending (due to the anticipated funding reduction), the budget claims that certain areas will be targeted, including kindergarten and Head Start programs without Title I grants, the district will also be forced to eliminate supplementary counselors and eliminate almost the entire lineup for summer programs. As is, the district only funds summertime credit recovery classes for seniors only.
The district’s budget also dispelled long-held public notions that the SRC is attempting to isolate charter schools and decrease the funding they receive. While the district’s five-year reorganization plan calls for an overall reduction of $149 million to charter school funding, its budget for 2012–2013 calls for a $44.2 million increase in charter school funding. However, the school district, in utilizing a formula from the state, will actually decrease the per-pupil payments for children in both regular and special education classes.
“The charter school per student amount is calculated using the previous year’s budget data,” read the budgetary explanation. “Thus, because the district-operated schools made severe cuts in fiscal year 2011–2012, in fiscal year 2012–2013, charter schools’ per student payments will be significantly lower.”
The school district’s budget also examined and expanded on the rising cost of labor and the attached benefits. According to the district, while the overall number of school district employees has actually decreased over the past three years, benefit and pension pay-ins have steadily risen.
The contracts for the five unions that represent school district employees — including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which is the largest with more than 10,000 members — is up in August of next year, and while the SRC plans on an open and honest negotiation with the PFT, it is also cognizant of the current bargaining environment.
“You can’t say you’re just about education or just about the kids, when adults refuse to do more or give something up,” Ramos said, noting that this approved budget contains no concessions for unions. “We all share the circumstances in which the district finds itself. At some point, labor will realize there is no silver bullet nor magic out there, and that we both have to work together to increase revenue over the long term, and provide more stable and predictable funding, like AVI, and manage expenses to what we can afford.
“Right now, we’re spending money we don’t have.”
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials laid to rest another murdered Philadelphia police officer Monday.
Officer Moses Walker Jr., was eulogized by Mayor Michael Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and others during a tearful, dignified, and at times, angry going home ceremony held at Deliverance Evangelistic Church. During his remarks, Mayor Michael Nutter used the words of the popular John Lennon song, “Imagine,” to segue into his more caustic remarks regarding the violence that dominates in some communities in the city.
“I like the Ray Charles version best,” Nutter said. “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one. Imagine a peaceful Philadelphia, where people take responsibility for themselves, their families and their neighbors. I want you to imagine a safer city; we can have one. A city where children can play in the streets, working people go to work, seniors enjoy their lives. We can make that happen.
“I’m angry, I’m very angry that someone would kill Moses Walker. I’m very angry about this. I want to thank our citizens and our men and women in law enforcement that helped track down these killers, because that’s what they do. Whether it’s Moses Walker or any of the other people who are shot, stabbed, robbed or beaten up, we track down those responsible and we catch them. We catch almost all of them; I don’t know why people do this — it’s pretty stupid.
“But I read the Good Book; it tells me, ‘Vengeance is mine saith the Lord’ but while these two are in custody here on this earth, their butts are mine. I’m sick of the ignorance and I’m sick of the violence, sick of the deaths and disruption. I’m sick of it! I’ve had enough!”
Moses Walker entered the Philadelphia Police Academy in March 1993. In August of that year, he was assigned to foot patrol in Center City. After walking the beat in Center City for several months, he was assigned to the 23rd District on March 31, 1994. Moses found a home patrolling the streets of North Central for the next 18 years. By all accounts he was known by both his fellow officers and the residents he served as a courteous, polite and humble man. He was shot to death early Saturday morning, Aug. 18.
Walker was an active member of the Deliverance Evangelist Church and served as a deacon. He was known as an optimistic man. He is the 10th Philadelphia Police officer to die in the line of duty since Officer Gary Skerski was shot to death on May 8, 2008. Officers William Barclay, Charles Cassidy, Stephen Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Patrick McDonald, Timothy Simpson, John Pawlowski, and most recently, Brian Lorenzo, all fell in the line of duty.
Officer Moses Walker was killed just a few blocks from the station house. He was a 19-year veteran of the force — just a year away from retirement.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he had met Walker on several occasions before his death. He always had something positive to say, Ramsey said.
“Officer Walker was a faithful minister, son, brother and police officer — one that was taken from us far too soon,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “He finished his tour of duty in the 22nd District as the turnkey, as we call it. That’s the person charged with the safety of people taken into our custody. Not everyone in our custody is happy to be there, and it takes a great deal of patience and skill — and Moses had that. During the vigil on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, two young men came up — who had recently been in custody at the 22nd District, and they were paying their respects because he respected them. I don’t have the answers as to why Moses Walker was killed. None of it makes sense to me. What does make sense to me are the men and women of law enforcement you see here today. In spite of the fact that it never seems to end, they know they make a difference. “
Police officer Moses Walker Jr. was buried at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Delaware County.
With 2012 having barely begun, Philadelphia homicide detectives are working on 31 new murder cases — a 10 percent increase from last year — and law enforcement officials are also concerned about the rising number of non-fatal shootings in the city. Some of those cases have been solved, others are waiting for more evidence to arrest suspects, and several of the new cases require reluctant witnesses to step up with information.
That’s not an easy thing to do in a city where thugs have easy access to illegal guns and use them indiscriminately.
Many of those concerns were expressed during a press conference on Thursday, when Mayor Michael Nutter announced expanded crime fighting efforts; this plan oriented around greater prevention and earlier intervention, more assistance on the federal level, and major rewards for information leading to the arrests and convictions of suspects wanted for any homicide committed in the city.
“There are a series of concrete measures we will be taking to make Philadelphia safer, and the kind of city we all want it to be,” Nutter said during a press conference at Strawberry Mansion High School. “There are three words that will be the context of what I’m talking about, prevention, intervention and collaboration. We have to send a message to every punk, every criminal and every person carrying an illegal weapon in this city. Got a gun? Go to jail. No more slaps on the wrists, no more falling through the cracks, no more walking away and thinking nothing is going to happen. Sections 6106 and 6108 of the Pennsylvania Crime Code provides that carrying an illegal firearm on public property or on the streets is either a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony that results in sentences of five to seven years.
“Unfortunately in Philly this is not the case. Many of these defendants get probation. We need to protect our citizens, those who come forward and give us the information we need to solve crimes. So we will be doubling the funding of our witness assistance program to protect witnesses from that hateful ‘don’t snitch’ mentality.
“Also, as of today there is a standing reward for any information leading to the arrests and convictions of suspects wanted for murder, wanted for any homicide in the city. To every criminal out there, I just put a $20,000 bounty on your head. We’re coming for you, we will find you and people will give up that information.”
The mayor’s remarks follow an extraordinarily violent week in Philadelphia, where 8 people have been killed and several others wounded in gun violence. The mayor also said that there is a standing reward of $500 for the recovery of any illegal handgun. Police department statistics show that almost all of the homicides in Philadelphia are committed by individuals with police records carrying illegal firearms.
“We are pleased to see the mayor announcing decisive new action to crack down on the proliferation of illegal guns in the city,” said CeaseFirePA Board President Dan Muroff. “The proposals laid out today are a significant step in the right direction — and another example of cities desperately trying to take measures to stem the scourge of gun violence. Yesterday, the Violence Prevention Center in Washington D.C., issued a report identifying Pennsylvania as the state with the third highest rate of African-American homicide in the nation. It comes as no surprise that 85 percent of those homicides are committed with illegal firearms.”
Another major aspect of the amped-up crime fighting strategy involves a successful tactical initiative the police engaged in during 2009 and 2010 called Operation Pressure Point. Nuisance bars were closed and wanted fugitives were captured. Beginning in the spring and through the fall, teams of local, state and federal law enforcement officers will be hitting the streets again, hitting the criminals where it hurts
“Beginning in April and extending to October, Operation Pressure Point will be active again. It’s like this; active criminals, we know who you are and we’re going to find you,” Nutter said. “We’re coming for you.”
One of the homicides police are now investigating happened on Wednesday afternoon just after 2:30 p.m. in the 5600 block of Arch Street. The victim, identified as Rashan Mickens, 24, of the 7600 block of Brockton Road in Overbrook Park was pronounced dead at 3:00 p.m. at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. So far, no arrests have been made. Mickens was found inside a 2005 brown Jeep Cherokee with a gunshot wound to the stomach.
“We’ve spent several months identifying those areas of the city where there is the greatest concentration of gun violence, not just homicides, but robberies and other crimes committed with a gun,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “We’re not talking about infringing on Second Amendment rights, we’re not talking about law-abiding citizens who have legal permits to carry or legally own firearms. We’re going after the straw purchasers and illegal gun traffickers. We’re going after some people and groups who are so violent that we may need to go federal.”