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HOWELL: To Stop Philadelphia Violence, Mentors Need to Step Up for Troubled Youth

Our city of Philadelphia is known to be called “Killadelphia,” a slang reference to the city of Brotherly Love due to its high murder rate. That is not a good name to be known by in our 2020 decade era. Our politicians have to do way more to change Philadelphia’s narrative and reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in America.

I agree with Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker’s 100-day action plan focusing on public safety, clean and green, housing, economic opportunity, education, and roundtables (business, faith-based, and intergovernmental). More specifically, hiring 300 additional foot and bike patrol officers to walk a beat in every neighborhood of the city, getting to know the community they’re sworn to protect and serve without any tolerance for misuse or abuse of their power.

But still, to this day, almost every day, a shooting is reported in our city of Philadelphia, and it is astounding that this still happens today compared to the 1990s to now. It is also not just Philadelphia. It is our surrounding Delaware Valley, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

The crime rate seems to be increasing due to what is being reported in the news media lately, such as juvenile thefts, drug possession, gun possession, and domestic violence. The drug epidemic, including opioids plus fentanyl, we as civilians in Pennsylvania are all witnessing is entirely out of control. Even our youth starting at such a young age with vapes and electronic cigarettes is disappointing. Smoking does not have to be the only way to relieve stress and try to escape reality.

More funds must be allocated to our police departments across southeastern Pennsylvania to provide more resources to stop this lawbreaking. Focusing on the youth, they need more attention than ever before. When youth are out on the streets committing crimes, shooting, robbing, and selling drugs, all they need is just more in-depth mentorship.

There are plenty of leaders who are of color who can be mentors to all these troubled youth. But the youth have to listen to them. Patience is the key. In this era we live in now, we are trying too hard to be competitive, and social media attention is ridiculous.

There are a lot of organizations out there that are already doing so, but more needs to be emphasized. More constructive solutions from all organizations providing youth mentors need to be established.

In my perspective, if you take guns out of homes, then the murder rate will go down substantially.

House Bill 777 will help significantly with gun violence. On January 17, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee approved putting the bill in place. The bill closes a loophole in state law to prohibit the production or sale of “ghost gun” components. Either sold separately or in kits that are easily accessed and assembled to make a gun, these parts lack serial numbers and are untraceable in future investigations. Ghost guns are a way for people who are not legally allowed to possess a firearm to evade detection and background checks. Our civilians have to stop this senseless violence crisis.

Making Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, and greenest big city in the nation, with economic opportunity for all, has not been nearly done yet. Many would agree, especially in our senior citizen age range, that nothing changed in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Technology has advanced through the years, but the crime rate is still rising.

Lastly, there needs to be more resources for mental health services. With all this gun violence going on, schools, jobs, and all religious establishments should offer more mental healthcare options because you never know what is going on with someone. There is a lot of divide in America nowadays due to most citizens’ political views. This anger has to stop, and only our police forces and politicians can do that.

It is a shame that generation after generation is experiencing crime and gun violence at such a high level. It is a continuous toxic cycle we are experiencing with crime, drugs, and gun violence, and it needs to be put to an end. But some of us still believe that some things will never change.

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GIORDANO: The Heart of the City

Widely different views of Philadelphia’s future came into focus last week.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker and District Attorney Larry Krasner held major press conferences with widely divergent approaches to fighting crime.

Parker announced that Pedro Rosario, a Philadelphia Police captain in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, was elevated to the rank of deputy commissioner, and his sole mission will be to police Kensington. This is a much-needed signal that Parker is going to bring a methodical and determined approach to the shame of Kensington. She said several times on my show that she has compassion for those addicted to drugs, but Kensington will not be an open-air drug market on her watch.

On the other hand, Krasner’s press conference was dedicated to his opposition to the new state law, Act 40. It requires the Pennsylvania attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor who would have the power to prosecute crimes that happen on SEPTA or in the general area of their stations. The intent is not to take away Krasner’s power to prosecute but to add a prosecutor who will enforce laws that Krasner ignores or does not fully charge. This bill had the support of many Democrats in Harrisburg and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Krasner and his supporters said this law suppresses democracy in Philadelphia, and they blamed former President Donald Trump’s influence on Republicans in Harrisburg. Krasner also claimed that his philosophy and methods still have overwhelming support in Philadelphia.

I would challenge that assertion. If Krasner still had that kind of support, then former City Councilperson and Krasner favorite Helen Gym would have beaten Parker in the Democratic primary for mayor. Instead, Parker won because people in many minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia wanted an all-out effort against lawlessness.

The arena where Parker and Krasner will first lock horns is over retail theft. It is clear that Krasner will not prosecute shoplifting under $500. It’s clear that even if the items stolen are over $500, Krasner will not do much about it. This policy has led, in some cases, to a lack of effective police response to these crimes and some businesses, such as Wawa, to either leave Philadelphia or scale back their presence.

Parker and newly-appointed Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bechtel are going to fully prosecute these crimes and periodically inform the public of arrests. They will challenge the Krasner narrative that the police are not doing their job. I believe this is a crime that infuriates people, and they want it to be a police priority.

The secret sauce for Parker on Kensington drug crimes and retail theft is community engagement. She and police officials will meet extensively with communities and will incorporate their ideas. She also will institute massive cleanup campaigns across the city.

Parker does not shy away from a fight.

However, it’s unlikely that Krasner will change his methods. He believes his policies are the best way to lead Philadelphia out of some of the worst poverty in the country. He still has great support in largely progressive neighborhoods that are somewhat insulated from the worst of crime. Some of his base is even excited by the grand experiment he is conducting.

Parker’s targeting of Kensington through engagement and enforcement is the model to use to diminish Krasner’s destructive capabilities. If she can make it work in Kensington, she can make it work anywhere.

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SOLOMON: New Philadelphia Mayor Sets Sights on Crime

In her first hours on the job, Cherelle Parker, the new mayor of Philadelphia, has outlined a platform that prioritizes addressing crime and improving law enforcement.

On Parker’s first day in office, she declared, in an executive order, a state of emergency on crime. Parker declared a citywide public safety emergency, directing the Police Department to develop comprehensive plans to address crime across the city.

This action is no surprise given Parker’s election platform, built on her commitment to tackling the pressing issue of crime and public safety.

This executive order calls for a report from the police commissioner within 30 days outlining a plan to reduce crime levels. The mayor’s supporters will undoubtedly view the executive action as highlighting her commitment to prioritizing public safety and firmly demonstrating her intent to tackle the challenges promptly and proactively.

Parker’s planned response to gun violence includes a focus on more policing and the reintroduction of stop-and-frisk. Before the election, Parker expressed the need for a high-quality law enforcement leader who could change the culture of the police department, emphasizing the importance of reform, empowering good officers, and standing up to the police union.

Parker has been supportive of law enforcement, indicating a willingness to consider controversial practices and change tactics.

The mayor’s platform is aimed at striking a balance between empowering the police to do their job and addressing the concerns of the community.

Through the declaration of a public safety emergency and the stress on the importance of comprehensive plans for crime prevention, Parker has indicated a prominent emphasis on law enforcement and community safety as central elements of her agenda. The executive order serves as a guide for her governance approach and initiates a sequence of measures designed to enhance public safety.

The best-case scenario is that the mayor’s emphasis on reducing crime and improving public safety would shift in the Philadelphia Police Department’s operational strategy toward a more proactive and community-oriented approach.

Civil rights groups have raised concerns about excessive policing and its effect on certain communities. The reintroduction of stop-and-frisk, a controversial practice known for its disproportionate effect on minority communities, has raised red flags.

After her election, Parker hinted at increasing police presence and potentially relaxing employment requirements. However, the potential of increasing police presence and relaxing employment requirements has sparked concerns about the risk of over-policing and the need to ensure that law enforcement practices are conducted to respect civil rights and avoid discriminatory outcomes.

Civil rights groups have historically emphasized the need for effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms to address police misconduct and ensure that law enforcement practices are in line with civil rights standards. Parker’s order is likely to amplify the concerns, emphasizing the need to balance public safety measures and safeguarding civil rights while promoting equitable and community-centered policing practices.

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Pittsburgh Is Top Ten for Job Seekers While Philly Can’t Make Top 100. Why?

The Eagles may fly, and the Steelers may stink, but when it comes to jobs, Pittsburgh is kicking Philly’s economic aspirations.

The question is, why?

A new WalletHub data analysis ranked Pittsburgh as the eighth-best city in America for job seekers, while Philadelphia was far in the back of the pack at 142nd. It’s not just that Philly is trailing the Steel City. The Delaware Valley’s economic hub can’t keep up with Rochester, N.Y., Toledo, Ohio, or Jersey City, N.J.

Now that hurts.

America’s top city for jobseekers is Scottsdale, Ariz., followed by Tampa, Salt Lake City, and Columbia, Md.

“The stark contrast between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the 2024 job market rankings highlights the critical role of location in shaping employment prospects,” said Wallet Hub analyst Cassandra Happe. “With Pittsburgh securing an impressive 8th position and Philadelphia lagging at 142, the disparity underscores the multifaceted nature of job markets, encompassing factors such as job opportunities, employment growth, and socio-economic conditions.”

Allegheny Councilman Sam DeMarco III said some reasons for Pittsburgh’s favorability for job seekers are a higher unemployment rate of 3.7 to Philadelphia’s 3.5. There’s also a larger portion of aging residents in Pittsburgh, with 15.1 percent 65 or older compared to 14 percent in Philadelphia.

Allegheny County has also lost 12,000 residents in the last decade, DeMarco noted.

“We have a tight labor market,” said DeMarco. He noted a 2016 report on the Pittsburgh-area labor market showed those trends, saying more skilled employees are needed as Baby Boomers retire.

None of the Philadelphia city officials contacted by DVJournal would comment. Nor would the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps out of embarrassment?

Not all the news about Philly is bad, said Happe. “Philadelphia has a higher monthly average starting salary and industry variety” than Pittsburgh, she said.

However, “Pittsburgh excels in job opportunities, employment growth, lower unemployment rate, higher job security, higher median annual income, and slightly shorter work and commute time,” said Happe. “These factors contribute to the overall contrast in their rankings for the best cities for jobs in 2024.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Friday the total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in December, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent.

Employment continued growing in government, health care, social assistance, and construction, while transportation and warehousing lost jobs.

Ralph E. McKinney at Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business said he believes fields associated with personal services “will see the greatest growth.”

“The healthcare industry has a critical need for nurses, caregivers, and supportive specialists. Although AI can process information more quickly than human counterparts, there is a need for individuals to supervise and review analysis. Finally, occupations in the trades (e.g., electricians, plumbers, and welders) are expected to increase,” McKinney said.

WalletHub also ranked Pittsburgh high in its best and worst places to start a career. The Steel City came in at 10th place, with Atlanta as the best. Philadelphia came in at 121.

The website used data ranging from unemployment rates to median salaries to housing and transportation costs in its evaluation.

DeMarco noted Pittsburgh has all the advantages of city life, such as cultural amenities and top-notch medical facilities, with a much lower crime rate than Philadelphia. With 300,400 residents, there were 52 murders last year.   Philadelphia had 410 homicides with 1.5 million residents.

“Crime is nowhere near as bad as Philly,” said DeMarco.

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HOLTZMAN: Let’s Get Serious About Antisemitism, Philly

Philadelphia is a diverse city known as the birthplace of America. Despite these accolades, Philadelphia is unfortunately still not immune from the rising antisemitism that we’ve seen grow across the nation following the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel.

It’s time that we, as Philadelphians, face that fact head-on.

Less than a week after Hamas’s atrocities against Israeli civilians, the Philly Palestine Coalition released a statement that not only expressed solidarity with Hamas, but also asserted that “Israel is solely responsible” for the barbarity of October 7. Their embrace of victim-blaming would shock the conscience even if it were limited to Israelis – but it isn’t.

Recent protests organized by the Coalition in Center City made it clear that they hold American Jews just as responsible for Israeli military policy. Agitators vandalized a Jewish after-school center for children ages 5-12, and chanted accusations of genocide at an Israeli restaurant in what Governor Shapiro called “a blatant act of antisemitism”. Even the name of the protest, “Flood Philly for Gaza,” evoked Hamas’s name for its terrorist onslaught: “Al-Aqsa Flood”.

Many of the protesters were the same age as the Israeli civilians who were assaulted and murdered by Hamas on October 7. This did not seem to provoke empathy; in fact, Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford all belong to the Coalition.

Hamas’s founding document lays out its vision for a Jew-free world, and its spokesmen have repeatedly issued calls for genocide, yet the Coalition refers to Israel as “a genocidal death machine… founded on blood and sustained through blood.”

As our Philadelphia neighbors, who cannot plead ignorance, cheered on antisemitic terrorism, how should we respond?

It cannot be with indifference, which Elie Wiesel called “the opposite of love”.

Makom Community, the vandalized Jewish after-school center, set an example with its response. Rather than ignoring the incident or shrinking into a defensive posture, they proudly covered the graffiti with a sign wishing passers-by a Happy Hanukkah and encouraging them to “let your light shine.”

Philadelphia’s annual Hanukkah celebration proceeded as scheduled, albeit with increased security.

A December 10 rally at Congregation Rodeph Shalom also showcased the power of solidarity and resilience. Speakers decried antisemitic incidents from campuses to downtown – but it was by no means a pessimistic event. Presenter after presenter emphasized the importance of positive, forward-thinking action.

Bipartisan legislators promised to support antisemitism education. Students applauded the dismissal of UPenn president Liz Magill after her failure to denounce calls to antisemitic genocide. Rabbi Eli Freedman punctuated the evening by asserting that the event’s message was one of hope and compassion, not hate or vengeance.

For Jews, the stakes of this moment go far beyond the vandalism that emerged from the Philly Palestine Coalition protests. As FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress, Jews make up only 2.4 percent of the US population, yet are the victims of about 60 percent of all religious-based hate crimes.

Jews have been persecuted for millennia, and we can’t pass this latest wave of hate off as an aberration that will subside on its own. Our response, both as a Philly community and as a nation, should mirror the responses above. Antisemitism must be clearly identified, condemned, and addressed with an eye toward the long term.

Accepting that whatever you may think of Israel’s government, Israel’s civilians did not deserve the violence they were subjected to is a necessary first step for anyone interested in building a diverse and welcoming community.

I look forward to a time when hate will not blind people to fundamental moral truths. Until then, happy holidays.


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In Wake of Philly Crime Spree, DelVal Legislators Want Increased Penalties for Rioting

Soon after a Philadelphia judge dismissed charges against the former cop who shot and killed Eddie Irizarry, some people said it was time to riot on social media. That message reached enough people to inspire break-ins at Apple, Foot Locker, and other stores across the city, resulting in 119 arrests as of Friday afternoon.

The call to what police have termed “criminal opportunists” also reached the city’s suburbs. Now, some lawmakers are taking action.

At a press conference Thursday, a group of state legislators from Bucks County announced a bill to increase the penalties for rioting.

“While recognizing that peaceful protests are one of our fundamental rights, the line between peaceful assembly and violent rioting has been crossed,” said Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bedminster).

The bill would “increase the felony grading for out-of-state individuals who aid and perpetuate violent rioting, as well as citizens who knowingly participate in assisting or recruiting rioters,” she said.

The bill includes rioters who assault or throw projectiles at police, law enforcement, and first responders and would face felony charges. Out-of-state actors who incite riots would also face felony charges. Pennsylvania residents who knowingly assist in coordinating or recruiting out-of-staters to cause a riot would also face felony charges.

“The events in Philadelphia this week are a clear example of why we need to increase the penalties for rioting,” said Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro). “A handful of agitators used the peaceful protests to burglarize stores and destroy property because they did not believe they would be arrested or face harsh penalties. We will be working together with Sen. Frank Farry to update the legislation to ensure it specifically targets these criminals, including the outsiders who encouraged this behavior.”

Some in the community are upset by suggestions that the rioters’ actions were somehow legitimized by anger over the judge’s ruling in the Irizarry shooting case. For example, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her response to the violence: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Armstrong insisted she “does not condone rioting, not one bit.” However, she added, “rioters didn’t break into those businesses just because they wanted the latest iPad or a pair of overpriced yoga pants. Sure, some vandals saw it as a chance to create mayhem, but some were out there that night because they are angry.”

Labs told reporters Thursday, “Rioting is not a solution. It’s a destructive act that harms our communities and endangers our law enforcement. Criminals have used lawful protests to engage in lawless behavior. The best way to stop this is to increase the penalties for those committed to destroying businesses and personal property.”

Farry called out one social media influencer by name for her role in promoting the violence in Philadelphia’s streets.

“We want to ensure that those who are actually rioting are caught and charged but also those who are organizing it,” Farry said. “If anyone has seen the video that’s gone national from social media influencer ‘Meatball,’ she was essentially organizing some of the looting that was going on in Philadelphia and directing those actions.

“We need to ensure the people who are organizing this chaos, destroying our businesses, scaring our citizens, putting our law enforcement in harm’s way and tying up their resources, serve a significant amount of time in jail for such crimes,” Farry said.

“Meatball,” aka Dayjia Blackwell, 21, was arrested Thursday on charges of conspiracy, burglary, and rioting for the crime spree she caught — and allegedly promoted — on her social media livestream.

“I regret it,” Blackwell told a local TV station after she was bailed out of jail. “I just prefer, you know, never loot again, stay out of trouble, never go to jail,”

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Philadelphia Ranks No. 4 for Rat Infestations

Given the ick factor, germiness and damage–such as chewing on electric wires–rats may be the most disgusting pests around. But they’ve lived alongside humans for eons and are not likely to become extinct any time soon.

According to a pest industry publication, “Pest Gnome,” Philadelphia ranks No. 4 among U.S. cities for vulnerability to rat infestation, behind No. 1 New York (no surprise), No. 2 Los Angeles, and No. 3 Jersey City.

Some reasons rats might converge on certain metropolises are dense population, restaurants per square mile (hey, a rodent’s gotta eat), number of exterminators, and dirt, the website said.

“Affectionately dubbed ‘Filthydelphia’ by its locals, Philadelphia (No. 4) still outshines 25 other cities in the cleanliness department. But don’t be too quick to cheer — the city’s Crowdedness (No. 8), combined with the restless fingers of concerned residents (No. 7 in rat-related Google searches), has trapped it in 4th place overall,” according to “Pest Gnome.”

They’ve appointed a “rat czar” to reduce their rat bonanza in New York but Philadelphia just has its health inspectors.

Last year, Philadelphia was ranked sixth in pest-control company Orkin’s annual “Rattiest Cities” list. That list had Chicago beating New York for the top rat honor.

But according to the U.S. Census, Philadelphia was the second-most rat-filled city, with 20 percent of homes reporting rodents, behind Boston with about 22 percent.

In February 2022, the City Council passed a bill to stop rats from fleeing to homes near construction sites by requiring owners of those properties to get rid of the rodents before demolition.

The law requires that for any demolition, full rehabilitation or new construction with excavation, the property owner must prepare a rodent control management plan for the site. This plan is submitted to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said James Garrow, communications director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

“Regarding restaurants, our inspection process looks for evidence and complaints about rat infestation and will note that on their inspection. Restaurant owners would be required to correct those situations and may be subject to closure or reinspection,” Garrow said.

So, could those city rats become country rodents spreading into the nearby collar counties?

“The Health Department says it hasn’t noticed any increase in rodent activity in Bucks,” said James O’Malley, Bucks County spokesman. Similarly, Megan Alt, a spokesperson for Montgomery County, said there have not been rat reports.

According to Matthew Rankin, a spokesman, the Delaware County Health Department receives just a few calls a year come in for rat complaints or infestations. The Delaware County Health Department has investigated one complaint about rats so far in 2023.

“DCHD educates and guides Delaware County residents and facilities when rats invade living or eating spaces. The guidance involves eliminating food, water, and shelter in the areas where rats are seen. Rats come into neighborhoods looking for food and shelter. When those two necessities are removed, rats will travel to another location to find them. Overgrown shrubs, bird feeders, pet waste, garbage that is not secured properly, and access holes to buildings from the outside can all attract rats,” Rankin said.

Also, “in some cases, when infestations become large and uncontrolled, DCHD will assist local municipalities in educating the community. This may include walking through a neighborhood to inform the community on what they can do to eliminate the food source, water source and harborage for rats and other rodents. Professional pest control services are recommended at the first sign of rats and rodents, especially for facilities that serve food,” he added.

Readers can visit How to Control Wild Rodent Infestations | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC for more information.

According to “Pest Gnome,” rats are most likely to bother people in the fall and winter when they come into houses for warmth and food. So,  heads up! Prime rat season is coming soon.

Philadelphia rats can be reported to the Philadelphia Department of Health: (215) 685-9000.

If there’s a rat in a food establishment, call (215) 685-7495.

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DelVal Dems Block Bill to Bring Wage Taxes Back to Commuter Communities

A proposal to send some of Philadelphia’s city wage tax back to the suburban cities and towns where commuters live has made it through the GOP-controlled state Senate. Now its fate is in the hands of Delaware Valley Democrats, who could cross the aisle and pass the law, but are currently sitting on the sidelines.

Philadelphia currently takes 3.44 percent of wages from everyone who works in Philadelphia – regardless of where they live. That includes people whose company is in Philadelphia but who work remotely, often at home in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

Even commuters who have stopped commuting have the tax automatically taken out of their paychecks.

“Because residents who live in surrounding municipalities but work in Philadelphia pay all of their local income tax to the city rather a portion to their home municipality, the tax burden is greater for non-Philadelphia workers of those municipalities,” said Sen. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne).

Philadelphia is the only Pennsylvania city with a wage tax that doesn’t remit it back to out-of-town communities.

That was one reason why the Senate approved SB 671. also known as the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Farry. His bill would return 1 percent of the 3.44 percent to workers’ home cities and townships if they have an earned income tax.

“Why should Philadelphia be treated differently?” Farry told DVJournal. “When COVID struck, and the governor and the mayor made work-from-home orders, residents still had to pay the tax. It made no sense because they weren’t working in Philadelphia.”

Farry sees it as a double taxation issue. He said communities have to make up the tax money that Philadelphia withholds from them due to the City Wage Tax. According to Farry, Bensalem loses $2.5 million in tax dollars because of the more than 5,000 residents who work in Philadelphia.

“Everybody has to make up for that shortfall. And for the residents that live in Bensalem but work in [Philadelphia], they’re still paying the tax. They just don’t get any of the benefit of it back in their home community,” Farry said.

Philadelphia officials aren’t exactly known for showing brotherly love toward out-of-town community governments or residents on the wage tax issue. As DVJournal has previously reported, Philadelphia’s vague guidelines during the pandemic made it difficult for some workers to tell if they were exempt from the tax or not. It is also up to workers to apply for a tax refund.

That has rankled mayors and township managers outside Philadelphia.

“While every other municipality in the commonwealth must reimburse earned income tax revenues collected from non-residents to the home municipalities of those non-residents, Philadelphia is alone in its ability to keep for itself, both the earned income tax of its residents and all of the non-residents who work in the city,” said Bensalem Mayor Joseph DeGirolamo in May when the Commuter Tax Fairness Act originally passed.

“[W]ithout having to remit any portion or percentage of those non-resident revenues back to the home municipality of those non-residents.”

The bill is currently stuck in the House, where Democrats took control with a one-vote majority last year. With the partisan balance currently tied at 101-101, it would only take a single House Democrat to cross the aisle to give the legislation a majority in the House.

However, Democrats representing the Philadelphia suburbs appear to be following the lead of House leadership and are declining to back the bill.

DVJournal reached out to Democrats in the Delaware Valley delegation and asked if they would support the wage tax bill in the House. Reps. Tim Brennan (D-Doylestown), Tina Davis (D-Levittown), John Galloway (D-Levittown), Steven Malagari (D-Lansdale), and Brian Monroe (D-Warminster) all declined to answer.

Tax reform groups believe the Senate made the right decision by passing the bill and hope the Democratic-controlled House will follow suit. “Blue cities have been relying on bailout dollars and taxes from people who don’t live within their borders and sometimes never set foot there,” said Douglas Kellogg, state projects director at Americans for Tax Reform.

“The Commuter Tax Fairness Act is a simple, more sensible division of tax revenue, but it could have a major impact as a wakeup call to Philadelphia leaders to stop over-relying on funds from taxpayers who don’t live there and start fixing the issues that are driving tens of thousands of residents to flee. “

Farry said he would keep pushing until his bill passes.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere, so it will keep being brought up,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot from the business community about it. They have concerns with the way the city acts as well in terms of processes and taxation and whatnot…I wouldn’t want to be a House member in the majority and not have this issue come up to be addressed for the residents of my community.”

Farry thinks that a lot of central Pennsylvania politicians don’t realize that some of their constituents pay Philadelphia’s wage tax. too. “Apparently, a lot of people from central Pennsylvania jump on Amtrak out there and come into the city. So, [a legislator] was finding out from her home communities [that they] aren’t getting their fair share back.”

The Pennsylvania House is scheduled to reconvene on September 26.

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Former Prosecutors Weigh-In on Mass Shooting in Philly

The 4th of July is a celebration of our country’s founding, a joyous summer holiday. Yet in Philadelphia, it was marred by a gunman who killed five people and wounded others– including two children– the evening before the holiday.

Days later, DelVal residents are still reeling from the senseless act of violence, although there is some comfort that a suspect, Kimbrady Carriker, 40, was arrested and is being held without bail.

At a press conference Wednesday, progressive Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner blamed the state’s gun laws for the carnage.

“Finally, I just want to say this: it is disgusting, the lack of proper gun legislation that we have in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Krasner said. “It is disgusting that you can go to New Jersey and find a whole list of reasonable gun regulation that we don’t have, that you can go to Delaware, and there’s almost as long a list of reasonable gun legislation that we don’t have,”

The DVJournal asked some former prosecutors for their thoughts.

Former U.S. Attorney William McSwain said, “The appalling violence that we’ve seen in Philadelphia – including the mass shooting this past Monday – will stop only once our city leaders, especially the DA and the mayor, stop pretending that anybody other than the criminal is responsible for a heinous criminal act. It is not the fault of the state legislature for not enacting the DA’s and the Mayor’s preferred progressive policies.

“It is not the fault of society. There is never, ever any justification for walking up to somebody and shooting them in the head. What we need in Philadelphia is deterrence and serious punishment for crime. Crime will be deterred only when there are serious consequences for it. By consistently making excuses for criminals, our city leaders have led us down a destructive path. This is rooted in fantasy. Our city deserves better,” McSwain said.

Bruce L. Castor Jr., former Montgomery County DA, now a plaintiff’s attorney, said, “I represent the 13-year-old boy shot in the lower legs (allegedly by Carriker).  From a civil perspective, we are evaluating the conflicting statements concerning whether the killer was a transsexual.  I am interested to know if this is a person transitioning, whether he was properly evaluated for mental health side-effects to the procedure, and correctly counseled concerning the effects transition therapy might affect him and his thinking.”

“From a criminal perspective, it appears the police and DA have charged him such that the death penalty ought to apply–though I am aware that is no longer in vogue since the days when I did those cases,” Castor added.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat,  has stated that he will not sign warrants to enforce the death penalty.

Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford) called the shooting “an absolute tragedy.”

“The answer of the district attorney, along with the mayor, was to go to the camera and blame Harrisburg for not having passed enough gun reforms. In answer to that the Democrats this week ran a bill that would have taxed every single purchase of a firearm and taxed every single application for a concealed carry permit to pay for street lighting in Philadelphia…Their answer to people being murdered in Philadelphia with firearms is to tax law abiding citizens who are doing nothing wrong, not even living in Philadelphia, to pay for more street lights in Philadelphia.”

Williams offered and amendment to that bill to fund a gun violence tax force with the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute gun crimes and the U.S. Attorney’s office to the DA’s office “and actually go after criminals.”

“If you want to fight back you’re going to have to carry the fight to the streets by way of prosecution,” said Williams.  Williams served as chief prosecutor for the largest base in the Marine Corps. He also served as deputy legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He later served as a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice and was also a prosecutor for the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Joe McGettigan,  who has served as first assistant DA for Delaware County and Philadelphia, as well as chief deputy in the Attorney General’s Office, also pointed to a too-liberal justice system.

“Of course, this tragic event,  committed by an obvious lunatic, will bring a hue and cry from the usual political actors. They will denounce ‘mass shootings’ and ‘gun violence’ and call for more ‘common sense’ gun laws, etc., apparently blithely unaware that most laws, common sense or otherwise, are not a great impediment to the lunatic fringe or those who profit from commerce with them,” said McGettigan.

He added, “And mass shootings make up a fraction of deaths by shooting. Now some serious incarceration for those who illegally traffic in guns or who use them, even juveniles, well, that might help. But fear of being accused of calling for mass incarceration, or worse, prevents those sorts of commonsense measures from being implemented.

“Perhaps the lengthy separation of the criminally violent from their innocent prey might help the situation, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for the enlightenment of the progressives. Until that unlikely awakening, prepare for more violence, followed by more rhetoric,” he said.

“Good luck, and protect yourself at all times,” McGettigan warned.

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Progressive Canvassing for Helen Gym Shot by Fellow Canvasser in Philly

A quiet neighborhood in East Germantown was the scene of a homicide Monday when, shortly after 4 p.m., a canvasser for OnePA political PAC shot and killed another canvasser who worked for the same organization. The group was canvassing for progressive candidates, including former city council member Helen Gym.

Canvassers, who can be paid or volunteers, pass out literature for candidates or causes door-to-door. Sometimes they also ask for signatures on petitions.

No charges have been brought against the 22-year-old who fired the shot that killed Eddie Brokenbaugh, 46, said Officer Tonya Little, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department.

The younger man, whose name was not released because he was not charged, told police he fired his weapon in self-defense after Brokenbaugh pulled a gun on him.

The shooter was licensed to carry a weapon and waited at the scene for police to arrive. Brokenbaugh’s gun was illegal.

The two apparently had a long-standing beef, officials said.

While far-left mayoral candidate Helen Gym said the workers were not part of her campaign, they were canvassing on her behalf through OnePA.

“I was devastated to hear about the tragic death of a canvasser today,” Gym posted on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the victim’s family, the OnePA community, and everyone impacted by this irrevocable loss. Though the canvasser was not part of our campaign, this loss is deeply felt by all of us.”

OnePA tweeted: “Today, a One PA team member tragically lost their life. We are heartbroken, and our condolences and sympathy are with their family. We are mourning this senseless loss and continuing to gather the facts and investigate what happened.”

While Gym says the canvasser was not working for her campaign, OnePA has a pinned tweet about Gym reading: “In just 9 days, we get to make HERSTORY by getting @HelenGymPHL elected as #Phillys100thMayor. Helen believes in restoring the village back to our city. It takes a village to continue to care for and support each other; it also takes a village to ..”

OnePA’s co-director had worked for Gym when she served on the city council, according to media reports.

@BigTrialBlog posted a picture of Brokenbough posing with Gym and other campaign workers on Twitter, saying, “‘Not part of our campaign:’ Here’s Helen Gym posing with campaign workers, including Eddie Brokenbough, the ex-felon who was packing an illegal gun when he was shot dead by another campaign worker.”

Helen Gym with campaign workers, including Eddie Brokenbough

Gym has claimed that if elected, she would declare a state of emergency and focus all city departments on community safety. She wants to convene a task force with city, state, and federal officials to combat illegal guns, improve 911 response times and prioritize mental health services.

“Helen Gym is putting her gun control plans into action, but perhaps a little too close to home,” said Albert Eisenberg with BlueState/Red. 

The Gym campaign did not respond when asked to comment.

Sage Cruz, co-executive director of One PA said, “Philadelphia’s ban the box law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history during the application process, and One PA complies with that law. We’re not going to dredge through the past of a man who has died while there is an active investigation underway. We are processing the loss of a loved member of our community who is no longer here and are asking that people give our community and his family space to grieve and give investigators a chance to do their work.

“Both individuals involved in this tragedy were paid temporary canvassers who had worked with our organization previously, the older man from 2021 and the younger from 2022,” she added.

OnePA responded to DVJournal’s requests for comment.

However, judging by the lawn signs, the canvassers did not seem to have made many inroads on the Church Lane block before their deadly encounter.

Several residents where the shooting occurred had signs for another candidate, Charelle Parker. A placard for Gym was affixed to a light pole near a corner bodega.

Two young men inside the bodega declined to comment.

“I think it’s crazy, for what it’s worth,” said one man, who did not want to share his name. “Nobody’s life is worth a disagreement.” That man had lived at his Church Lane house for 50 years. “I’m glad I wasn’t home (when the shooting happened),” he said.

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