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MANNES: Rising Crime Is a Referendum on Identity Politics

This piece first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

On November 20, 2022, FOX 29’s Steve Keeley reported that there were four homicides in just the last six weeks in the small Delaware County borough of Yeadon. As Keeley reported through his popular Twitter feed, that was more homicides than the entire four-plus year tenure of Yeadon Borough’s former Police Chief, Anthony “Chachi” Paparo. This is noteworthy because in February, Paparo was terminated by Yeadon’s Borough Council — an act Paparo alleges was done in order to replace him with an African American Police Chief, despite his having support from the Mayor, according to court filings in the federal discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Paparo and Lodge 27 of the Fraternal Order of Police in March.

Meanwhile, neighboring Philadelphia is facing another year of shocking violent crime. This comes three years after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney proclaimed that he would appoint an African American woman as police commissioner before a national search for the most qualified, experienced applicants was conducted. The result was the appointment of Danielle Outlaw, whose prior commands were as a Deputy Police Chief in Oakland and as Chief of the Portland Police Bureau. Oakland, which has 709 sworn members and Portland, with 795 sworn members, both saw an increase of crime during Outlaw’s tenure.

Philadelphia, with over 6,300 sworn members, is the nation’s fourth-largest police department, over nine times the size of Outlaw’s largest command. Since Kenney’s 2019 appointment of Outlaw, murders has shot up from 356 to 562 in 2021, with over 470 officially reported in 2022 so far, not counting over 103 “S-job” (suspicious deaths) which are likely to add to the official homicide tally at a later date. One must wonder if Kenney’s decision to restrict his search for commissioner within narrow gender and racial characteristics was prudent considering the life-and-death implications of the job.

In both Yeadon and Philadelphia, the harsh reality of murder rates raises questions as to the accountability of those charged with public safety – from both law enforcement executives and the elected politicians who oversee their appointment and the fair administration of justice. Traditionally, the appointment of police chiefs and commissioners was completely in the discretion of the Mayor or County Executive. As crime was always a major issue for which politicians were held accountable, these elected leaders historically ranked political optics behind track records when making appointments in this regard.

Outlaw’s last boss, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was quoted in a Philadelphia magazine piece on Outlaw saying “This position is inherently political, not in a partisan manner, but in the sense that it is under public scrutiny and maintaining public trust is done in a political environment. You have good instincts and judgment already, but learning more about political history and relationships in Portland is important to being successful in the position in the long term.” Ironically, Outlaw only served for two years as Portland’s police chief before leaving for Philadelphia. What’s more disturbing, as crime has emerged as a key issue in daily news coverage, is that there has been no public discussion of Outlaw’s effectiveness in her role, despite rising crime and scandals within her ranks.

Which brings us back to Yeadon. Last month, a federal judge denied the borough council’s motion to dismiss Paparo’s lawsuit against them. If the suit is successful, it will be one of the first to create case law on using identity politics, in this case race, to appoint and/or terminate a law enforcement executive.  The suit alleges the four individual defendants decided that Yeadon is “a black town,” and that that representation should be reflected with a black chief of police.

The suit claims Johnson called Yeadon Police Detective Ferdie Ingram on the morning of Jan. 3 to offer him the job, but he declined. Ingram allegedly told Johnson that he already had a police chief he supported. That support was also apparent in the community, the suit notes, with 1,100 people signing a Change.org petition aimed at keeping Paparo in the role. Paparo originally alleged four counts for violations of his equal employment and equal protection rights in a suit filed March 7, as well as a violation for failing to provide him with a fair and impartial due process hearing under the 14th Amendment.

He later added defamation, retaliation and false light claims following distribution of the flier titled “Ten Fast Facts Yeadon Residents Want to Know,” which he said was sent out to residents at taxpayer expense. The flier, attached as evidence to the amended complaint, notes that the same council members accused of racism in removing Paparo were actually the ones who hired him to begin with, over three other qualified Black candidates. Yeadon Mayor Rohan Hepkins appeared on the Dom Giordano radio show on November 21, 2022, as a defender of Chief Paparo, noting that he would like to see Council bring Paparo back in light of their recent spike in homicides.

The events leading up to Kenney’s appointment of Outlaw in 2019 present similar questions. Mere weeks after being heralded a hero in his handling of an hours-long hostage siege in where six police officers were shot, Richard Ross abruptly resigned as Philadelphia Police Commissioner. While the resignation came in the wake of a sexual harassment suit (Ross wasn’t the alleged harasser,) sources within the Philadelphia Police Department noted friction between Ross and Kenney, specifically over Ross’ unwillingness to fire officers for a social media scandal in where no specific department protocols were violated, and differences over the use of the bully pulpit regarding District Attorney Larry Krasner’s radical charging and bail policies.

As an interim appointee, Kenney tapped Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter as Police Commissioner. Coulter, a career Philadelphia police officer whose start patrolling the streets of Kensington was documented in a 1991 episode of the series “Cops”, was well regarded by the rank and file of the department. However, it was shortly in Coulter’s tenure that Kenney publicly declared his decision to hire an African American woman to lead the department, which narrowed a national field to only three clear choices – Outlaw, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, and Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall.

Shortly thereafter, Outlaw was appointed, leaving many to wonder if the choice had anything to do with both Hall and Best’s strong reputations for speaking truth to power over their elected managers, especially in response to politically based decisions over law enforcement and termination of officers.

Hopefully, the outcome of Chief Paparo’s lawsuit or simply through public scrutiny in the upcoming election year – we can help local politicians remember that public safety appointments are too vital for our society to make using identity politics.

Personally, growing up in New York through the “crack explosion,” I recall the historic appointment of Lee Brown. He was the first African American Police Chief in Houston, then became NYPD Commissioner, and then returned to Houston as their first black Mayor. There is nothing wrong with firsts, but with something as vital as assuring the public safety of a major American city – you also have to be the best.

This is why we have laws that govern race and gender discrimination in employment, because the hiring and firing of people based on race is not only hurtful for the employees in the organization – but may result in further victimization of an already at-risk community.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME

GIORDANO: What I’m Thankful For This Philly Thanksgiving

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I think back to an article I read by noted author Alex Haley. He was serving in the Coast Guard during World War II and on Thanksgiving Day it occurred to Haley that the day really was about giving thanks to those who had helped him the most. He proceeded to write the three most important people in his life, and he was amazed that in their return letters, the recipients were overjoyed.

I have used the Haley technique with several people in my life and works tremendously. However, I’ve also decided to write this open letter to the people in the Philadelphia area that I’m thankful for this year.

First, I want to thank Northeast Philadelphia state Rep. Martina White for her tireless work in protecting you and me by directing the successful impeachment process against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Martina had to do very detailed and relentless presentations over many months to her colleagues in Harrisburg in order to overcome their reluctance to challenge Krasner. Many colleagues acknowledged Krasner’s violations, but she gave them the will to move forward. Let her know you are thankful for this.

Martina’s doggedness might only be surpassed by Steve Keeley, a reporter for Fox 29. Steve’s Twitter is a running account of what is truly going on in the Philadelphia area. He is a one-man news department who is always at the center of the action. He has been particularly good at taking us inside the stores that are leaving Philadelphia or curtailing their hours due to crime.

I’m not just grateful this year for the people helping us against the worst that is happening in our area. I’m also grateful for John Middleton, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies. Middleton’s willingness to spend a ton of money and to help pursue great players personally led to one of the greatest sports rides of our lives. I broadcasted from the first Phillies block party for fans prior to their first home game against the Atlanta Braves and it was a magical day. I expect that next season the Phillies will continue to contend for a championship, but this year’s team will not be forgotten.

New Jersey state Sen. Ed Durr, who defeated former state Sen. Steve Sweeney and made national news was a true everyman story and he is doing great work in New Jersey. He gives me great hope that New Jersey will not remain under almost complete one-party rule that has made many people flee the state’s unbelievable taxation and regulation. Ed still drives a furniture truck and I think that connects him to life in New Jersey better than any politician.

If New Jersey is dominated by one-party rule, then Philadelphia is New Jersey on steroids. When the last Republican mayor of Philadelphia was born, Billy the Kid was still alive. If you’re a Democrat like state Rep. Amen Brown of West Philadelphia, it’s easy to just go along with the party and hope to advance through the ranks. Brown has chosen to break that mold and fight for his district, speaking out about Larry Krasner and taking on quality-of-life issues. I think he has a reasonable shot of being the next mayor of Philadelphia.

These are just some of the public people for whom I’m grateful. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to write for the Delaware Valley Journal.

And of course, I’m very grateful for all my listeners at Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.

I hope you’ll take Alex Haley’s advice and drop a note to the people you are thankful for.

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Lawsuit Seeks to Prevent Double Voting in Philadelphia

An organization that defends election integrity says the City of Philadelphia isn’t doing enough to protect the election system from fraud, and it has gone to court to make its case.

Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE) has filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia’s city commissioners demanding that poll workers be trained to prevent duplicate votes from being counted. Every one of those ballots, the group argues, cancels a legitimate ballot cast by a law-abiding voter.

In a press release, RITE said the commissioners are “threatening to discontinue critical, commonsense, and legally required election integrity measures that safeguard against duplicate voting. According to a recent report, the justification for this shocking conduct is officials’ unjustified belief that identifying and eliminating duplicate votes somehow jeopardizes their ability to access state election administration funds. The commissioners, who were recently caught deceiving the public regarding the distribution of absentee/mail-in ballots, have ignored RITE’s repeated attempts to correct this misunderstanding of the law, threatening to conduct the 2022 election without these crucial security measures in place.”

The lawsuit asked the court to require the commissioners to conduct a basic audit of the ballots at the conclusion of the election, known as a poll book reconciliation. That matches absentee and mail-in ballots received against in-person votes.

“This simple process identified 40 such duplicate votes during the 2020 election in Philadelphia, and it is becoming increasingly important as absentee/mail-in voting grows more popular in the city and throughout the state,” the organization said. “The lawsuit also challenges Philadelphia’s inadequate training and checks at the polling place on Election Day, which, if done properly, would further reduce duplicate voting opportunities.”

Philadelphia election officials declined to respond to requests for comment.

“As reports of election abuses in Philadelphia continue to come to light, Pennsylvania voters deserve to know that local election officials are doing all that they are required to do to prevent and eliminate duplicate voting,” said Derek Lyons, RITE’s president, and CEO. “Just weeks before the election, however, officials appear determined to weaken crucial election integrity measures without any justification. Duplicate voting is antithetical to election integrity. RITE is proud to support Pennsylvania voters fighting against this flawed, dangerous, and illegal plan that would undermine the public’s trust and confidence in their elections.”

Joshua Voss, the attorney who filed the suit, said, “Election officials must protect the ballot box from duplicate voting that can occur when someone votes by mail and then later votes in person. Unfortunately, even as mail-in ballots have become more popular, Philadelphia officials have suggested they might weaken safeguards against double voting that have proven effective in the past. Our lawsuit seeks to defend the integrity of Philadelphia’s elections by ensuring that robust protections against double voting remain in place, as required by law.”

Albert Eisenberg, a Republican consultant with RedStateBlue, said that while he does not know the specific details of the lawsuit, “there absolutely needs to be more oversight on the absentee voting, drop-boxes, etc. in Philadelphia so people of all political backgrounds trust our elections. Open drop boxes with no supervision are a bad idea in a first-world democracy.”

Eisenberg added, “I believe (Senate candidate) Dr. Oz will be the first Republican in generations to get to 20 percent of the citywide vote in Philadelphia due to John Fetterman’s radicalism and a growing alienation among working Democrats toward their party’s main priorities, which are all related to social issues as life gets more expensive–and dangerous–for Philadelphians.”

Co-founded in 2022 by Steve Wynn, Karl Rove, and Bobby R. Burchfield, RITE is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rule of law in elections.

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GALLUCH: Safe Streets Require Leadership Changes

Imagine for a moment that you are done shopping and walking back to your car. You get there, hands full of shopping bags. You fumble for your keys to unlock your car. As you unlock it and get in, two men jump in with you. One gets in the front seat and the other in the back. The man in the backseat puts a gun to your head.

Now stop imagining. That happened last Monday night in the parking lot of a Target in Wayne to a teenage resident of Radnor Township at approximately 5:30 p.m. Fortunately he was not harmed. But the car was stolen and found running in West Philly. The perpetrators have yet to be apprehended.

Anyone can be a victim of crime in the Philadelphia area. Earlier this month on September 8th and September 11th, armed carjackings took place in Upper Darby, both targeting women. Furthermore, just last week three robberies occurred in Haverford between Thursday and Friday evening.

This all begs the question – what is being done? The answer: Nothing.

Nothing will be done as long as we continue to elect people like U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner who support defunding the police and openly admit they do not believe that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession is a viable strategy to reduce shootings.

Those soft-on-crime policies have enabled lawbreakers and made our communities and families less safe. Public safety is the good upon which all others rest. As congressman, combating violent crime will be one of my top priorities.

It starts with protecting and supporting our police, law enforcement, and first responders. Fully funding them and equipping them with the resources they need to serve the public should not be a partisan issue. Unlike Mary Gay Scanlon, I will always oppose defunding the police, irrespective of how it polls.

I oppose DA Larry Krasner’s failure to aggressively prosecute violent offenders. I disagree with his contention that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession will not reduce shootings.

Furthermore, I will never endorse policies like the elimination of cash bail, as DA Larry Krasner and Mary Gay Scanlon have, that will lead to rising crime. Second, it is imperative that we hold violent and repeat offenders accountable – the opposite of what DA Larry Krasner has done and Mary Gay Scanlon have demanded.

This year alone, Philadelphia is on pace for 3,000 illegal gun arrests. Those caught are less likely to be charged and those charged are less likely to be convicted than ever before. In 2021, there were over 2,300 incidents of gun violence, yet 61 percent of illegal firearms cases were dismissed by the district attorney’s office.

Third, I am committed to making the much-needed enhancements to our law enforcement community to be better equipped to process evidence and convict offenders.

One solution is mobile crime labs. Oftentimes, families in PA-05 are left waiting while evidence sits and while a loved one’s killer goes free. By bringing a forensics team to a crime scene, evidence is processed more quickly and there is a greater likelihood of tying an offender to the crime within an optimal 48-hour window. Speedy, accurate processing of evidence leads to more solved crimes and fewer violent offenders on the street.

In addition, the presence of mobile crime labs acts as a visible deterrent. Their physical presence in communities will make criminals think twice about committing crimes. A greater chance that someone is linked to a crime also acts as a deterrent – current backlogs give criminals the idea that they will never be convicted. Last, resources for youth intervention and mentorship programs are essential. Strengthening the relationships that law enforcement have with the community ensures that families will be safe and that the rule of law will be enforced in a just way. These relationships can be maintained without denigrating the men and women that keep our communities safe.

We can and must find ways to work together to make our streets safe again. It is time to stop emboldening criminals and start protecting innocent people. As long as violent and repeat offenders go without consequences, innocent people across PA-05 in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will continue to suffer. The crime and violence we are experiencing are simply not acceptable and stopping it will be a top priority of mine in Congress.

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FLOWERS: Shadow of Financier George Soros Looms Over Philadelphia

I just spent two weeks in Italy. Since travel writing is not my forte, I’ll leave it to Rick Steves and Stanley Tucci to cover the culture and history of my ancestral land. And while I had the serendipitous opportunity to observe what happens when a prime minister resigns, you’d be better off reading Politico for the ramifications of the upcoming Italian elections.

But there is something I feel comfortable discussing in this forum as a woman, a lawyer, an American citizen, and someone who has a deep appreciation for justice. It’s the idea that you can live in a large metropolitan city filled with people of different nationalities, ethnicities, and social classes and feel safe.

I am not talking about my hometown Philadelphia. There, you are as likely to see a bullet flying in front of your face as you are to glimpse a butterfly drifting from flower to flower. There is no way of hiding the obvious: The City of Brotherly Love is a cesspool of violence, administrative incompetence, official negligence, a betrayal of civic trust, and a dereliction of duty to those who are trapped within its geographical prison bars. I have spent 60 years in this place, give or take the periods I escaped to Europe, and it has never been as dangerous, as hostile, as bellicose, or as close to the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia as it is today. Enough sugar coating: Philadelphia is dying.

I’ve tried to convince myself that this isn’t the case and that there are still vestiges of the city I have loved for well over a half-century. I walk past the historical markers of my childhood and focus on the profound significance they have for our country, trying desperately to ignore the homeless person defecating in the street near the Liberty Bell, or the strung-out addict gazing at me through his oblivion from the corner of Betsey Ross’ house. And when I take public transportation, which I do rarely these days, I try and huddle in a corner so the feral, rabid kids who ride the rails with their face-covering hoodies don’t assault me, as one did last October.

Being in Italy was a revelation. I saw a city bigger than Philadelphia shine with the glow of three millennia of history, of art, of culture. And I immersed myself in an atmosphere that–while urban–did not make me tremble with the fear that some criminal was lurking in a dark, stone-paved alleyway.

I walked alone, at midnight, along the Tiber and felt no fear. I approached strangers to seek direction, free from the anxiety that grips me in my hometown when I sprint down Broad Street, or Samson, or Market, looking over my shoulder.

So there was particular irony in the fact that one of the first things that I read upon returning from Rome this week was a piece in The Wall Street Journal from George Soros explaining why he will continue to use his money to destroy my city and others. Of course, that’s not the way he put it. His exact words were, “I have supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform. I have done it transparently, and I have no intention of stopping.”

Those “prosecutors who support reform” are people like the recently recalled Chesa Boudin in San Francisco. They are like Alvin Bragg, a shameless provocateur in New York. They are like George Gascon, the arrogant prosecutor in LA. And they are, most importantly for those of us in the Delaware Valley, like Larry Krasner, who has presided over the greatest spike in homicide and violent crime in Philadelphia in over three decades.

I will not quote each of Soros’ lies in this column because his methods and machinations are well known to those of us suffering from the heavy effect of his wealth. He has purchased prosecutors who have brought mayhem and death to cities across the country and has tried to package it as “reform.”

What I will say is that his blatant, unapologetic support for people like Krasner who never met a criminal he didn’t like and who refuses to prosecute gun crimes while blaming Republicans for respecting the Second Amendment is proof positive that we are viewed as puppets in the vanity play written by Soros and his progressive colleagues, something akin to the dark Gotham of Batman lore.

If I could afford to move to Rome, I would. Soros has not yet cast his long shadow over my ancestral home.

But until that moment when I can live in a place where addicts are called addicts and not “patients” and criminals are treated as criminals and not “victims,” I will just have to continue speaking out against the destructive nihilism of a man who thinks he can buy the world, and remake it in his toxic image.

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House Select Committee on Restoring Law & Order Takes Shape

The violent crime plaguing Philadelphia appears to be spreading beyond the city limits. Now Pennsylvania House Republicans are taking action in response.

In Upper Darby, two men died of gunshot wounds while riding in a funeral procession when someone in another car opened fire. In Caln Township in Chester County, a drive-by shooter fired at a 20-year-old man, hitting him six times. And in Philadelphia, a group of teenagers beat a 73-year-old man to death with a traffic cone, a crime that made national headlines.

On Monday, House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) named the members of a newly-established Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. It will investigate the crime crisis. According to a statement, the committee will investigate whether local prosecutors are appropriately performing their duties in prosecuting violent crime and offenses, including illegal possession of firearms.

“This bipartisan group of lawmakers understands that what residents and visitors of Philadelphia are currently experiencing must change,” Cutler said. “I am confident these members will work together to find solutions and hold those in power accountable for allowing crime in Philadelphia to reach the levels they have today.”

Legislators from the Delaware Valley make up most of the committee’s members.

Cutler named these members to the Select Committee: Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster), chairman; Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks); Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland); Rep. Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia); Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia).

“A bipartisan majority of the House has charged the select committee with a serious responsibility. As chairman, I do not enter this work with any predetermined outcome in mind. The committee will review the facts and follow them wherever they lead,” said Lawrence.

House Resolution 216, adopted with bipartisan support, calls on the committee to investigate rising crime rates, enforcement and prosecution practices in the city, and the use of public funds to prosecute and benefit victims of crime.

The same committee is also eyeing the possibility of impeaching Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over mishandling the city’s rising crime rates. Last year there were 562 homicide victims in Philadelphia. So far this year, there have been 283, down 3 percent from 2021.

Reps. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) are glad that members were appointed so the committee can begin its investigations.

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have suffered from the prosecutorial negligence of a district attorney who refuses to fully prosecute crime,” White said. “Philadelphia is on track to surpass last year’s record homicide rate. The city is in crisis, and the crime is leaching into the suburbs and throughout the state. I have complete faith in those chosen to serve on this committee. They will listen to those who testify and let the facts take us to the truth.”

“We cannot forget that many lives have been lost and families crushed as a result of inaction and willful dereliction of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” said Kail, who introduced legislation to form the committee. “I believe those chosen to serve will take their jobs seriously and weigh the information they gather fairly.”

Some fear the new committee may be a lot of talk but little action.

“Any attempt to shine a spotlight on the violence and disorder in Philadelphia is a good thing.  Unfortunately, a House committee has no authority to fix anything in Philadelphia. The problems of Philadelphia were created in Philadelphia by Philadelphia, and the solutions must come from Philadelphia. This is strictly an issue of local governance (and incompetence),” said Tom Hogan, former Chester County district attorney.

Crime is certainly front of mind for voters in the Philadelphia area. Could this committee have an impact on November’s elections?

Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said most voters are thinking of their pocketbooks.

“At the moment, voters are most concerned about economic matters, particularly inflation, although I think the issue of crime can be an effective tool for Republicans to use to paint a general picture that the current administration isn’t doing a good job and to feed the narrative that things are going badly in the state and nation,” said Yost. “I also wonder whether the recent Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of states to regulate guns might actually create a problem for Republicans on this issue given the large number of suburban voters who support more gun regulation.”

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KENYATTA: It’s Quitting Time for Mayor Jim Kenney

As a lifelong Philadelphia resident, I know being mayor is hard.

In a city as big and diverse as Philadelphia, which is grappling with a gun violence crisis that hasn’t abated, a chronically underfunded school district, a dumping and trash nightmare, and staggering levels of deep poverty underpin it all. These issues make the job even more challenging. You will get no argument from me there.

But at this moment, this city and its 1.6 million residents deserve a mayor who hasn’t given up. We need a mayor who wants to lead and believes in this city’s future–not one counting his days until the clock tolls on his administration.

The worst-kept secret in politics is that Jim Kenney is tired of being mayor. At a recent presser following the shocking July 4th Parkway shooting, he said the quiet part out loud. “…I’ll be happy when I’m not mayor, so I can enjoy stuff.”

As I watched him and heard those remarks, I thought, “Why wait?” Mayor Jim Kenney should resign — now.

The city is reeling from yet another shooting – this time of two police officers, followed by a massive stampede after the shots rang out. The last thing we need is a Ben Simmons attitude in City Hall.

I say this with no personal animosity. I know behind that painted scowl, Jim Kenney is a good man. However, this city needs a real leader now, and we can’t afford to wait until the next election in sixteen months.

Philadelphia has some massive challenges. But to paraphrase a former president: there is nothing wrong with this city that can’t be fixed by what’s right with it.

For every tragic murder, an activist or an organization tries to stop the cycle of violence and help grieving families. For every pile of trash illegally dumped, there are folks like Terry Haigler and block captains hosting clean-ups and demanding change. For every school that must close early because there is no breathable air cool enough and free enough from lead, asbestos, and mold, there is a host of student leaders, parents, and “friends of” civic groups trying to make an impact.

We need a mayor who feels our pain but believes in our possibilities.  Because without that leadership, people are killed, children struggle and families give up on the city and move away.

Philadelphia is the city of big ideas–huge, history-shaping ideas. The experiment in democracy was debated, and our republic was born here at Independence Hall. We are home to our nation’s first hospital, university, zoo, public library, art museum, and volunteer fire company, among other achievements. We need a mayor who reminds us of those facts, who lifts us up with hope and encouragement. We need a mayor that inspires us to unleash our possibilities.

We need a mayor who wants the damn job.

For the sake of our city and our people, Jim Kenney should clock out and let someone who cares finish his term. In 2023, the people of Philadelphia must find the leader we need from a field of candidates that will be as diverse and talented as our city.

Dear Future Mayor — we need you.

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Philadelphia Lowers Commuter Wage Taxes Slightly, Increases Police Budget

Philadelphians and suburbanites are getting a taste of tax relief after Philadelphia passed a $5.8 billion spending plan last week that went into effect July 1.

The deal, hailed by Councilman Allan Domb as “truly monumental,” is about $500 million more than last year’s spending plan, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

It includes $30 million in additional allocations for the police department as part of Mayor Jim Kenney’s push to get the city’s record crime surge under control.”

The budget also contains modest tax relief for nearly 1.6 million city residents and thousands of others who commute to Philadelphia for work.

Lawmakers cut city wage and business taxes by small margins. The wage tax, a controversial issue among residents and commuters alike, dropped from 3.83 percent to 3.79 percent for city residents and from 3.448 percent to 3.44 percent for people working in Philadelphia but living outside city limits, officials confirmed.

The business income and receipts tax was also lowered modestly, from 6.2 percent to 5.99 percent, which Domb said is the first time since 1988 that figure is under 6 percent.

Domb, who pushed forward a bill last year that would have reduced the city wage tax by 2 percent over 15 years, played a key role in negotiations that led to the reductions. He said the city must consider the interests of commuters who make up about 40 percent of the city’s working base.

“The government is recognizing how important suburbanites are to the economy of Philadelphia. Suburbs don’t exist without the ‘urb,’” Domb told DVJournal. “We have to be strong so the suburbs are strong. When we’re strong, the suburbs are strong. And when the suburbs are strong, it helps the city.”

The wage tax reduction means residents making between $50,000 to $100,000 a year will see between roughly $25 to $50 more in take-home pay this year, according to Axios and city officials.

Savings for non-residents amounts to even less, at about $4 annually for those making $50,000.

The wage tax is the city’s biggest revenue generator, at about $2 billion for the last fiscal year, officials said. About $700 million of that amount comes from people like Daniel Ceisler, an attorney at Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky in Philadelphia’s downtown district who commutes from Bristol Township.

Ceisler is one of the few people who doesn’t really gripe about the city wage tax, which reduces his paychecks by about $100.

Commuters effectively are being double-billed by the city and their own municipalities, Ceisler said. There are also people who live in the city but work in places like New York, with its own separate wage tax, meaning those people shell out for both.

Philadelphia’s website lays out scenarios when nonresidents are exempt from paying the wage tax if employers require them to “perform a job” outside of Philadelphia.

Those living outside the city but voluntarily working from home are not immune from the tax.

However insignificant to his bottom line, Ceisler said the reduction was “better than nothing,” especially if it makes Philadelphia safer.

“I don’t want anyone to think that I’m the only one in the world who loves paying taxes, but the city needs it now more than ever,” Ceisler said. “I see a city that’s struggling in a lot of ways.”

Like many who live or work in the city, he said a historic crime wave that hit the city during the pandemic has made him and others feel less at ease walking the streets.

“The shift you’re seeing (is) more crime and more brazen crime, particularly in areas where you didn’t use to see it,” Ceisler said. “There’s no part of the city that’s immune to violent crime.”

Under this year’s spending plan, the police department saw its annual budget boosted by about $30 million, to about $800 million, a figure the Inquirer reported is the most of any city agency.

The increase comes two years after the police budget was frozen following widespread civil unrest and protests that broke out across the country over police brutality following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Since then, the city has invested more than $150 million into anti-violence programs.

Kenney proposed about $23 million more for police to cover union-based salary increases and upgrades for office technology. The city council added another $6.2  million on top of that, according to The Inquirer.

About $5 million was set aside for the city’s forensic lab and $250,000 for recruitment amid a nationwide shortage of police recruits.

The money is needed as not every one of the city’s 6,300 sworn officers is equipped with a cell phone, a potential public safety hazard, Domb said.

“That’s pretty basic,” said Domb, who is exploring running for mayor with the Democratic primary less than a year away. “No one will argue that the No. 1 issue in the city is public safety. I am heartbroken over what’s going on. I know we can do better.”

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FLOWERS: Philly’s Mayor Looks Forward to Leaving Mess He Created

Everyone has those days when you wake up, look at the ceiling, and want to stay in bed until the moon rises in the evening sky. Most of us, however, are not the chief executives of major American cities, like the Hon. James Kenney, mayor of the city where America was born. Philadelphia’s leader has very publicly, albeit poignantly, made clear his desire to slump back into a private life he never actually had.

For most of his 60-plus years on this earth, Kenney has been in the public eye or on the public dole. He started his political life as an assistant to former state Sen. Vince Fumo, who essentially made his career possible. Patronage from the powerful Fumo helped Kenney snag a seat on Philadelphia City Council, where he remained for 23 years, from 1992 until 2015, when he resigned to run for mayor. He won that bid and is now well into his second term. He will wave a fond farewell (and being from Philly, likely a middle finger) in January 2024.

But over the weekend, he revealed to a reporter that he would prefer to be making his swan song much sooner. Commenting on the July 4th shooting of two police officers near the Art Museum during the holiday festivities, Kenney stated that “I don’t enjoy the Fourth of July, I don’t enjoy the Democratic National Convention, I didn’t enjoy the NFL Draft-I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time. So I’ll be happy when I’m not here – when I’m not mayor, and I can enjoy some stuff.”

I am quite sure he did not grasp the tone-deafness of the phrase “and I can enjoy some stuff” hours after two police officers had been shot and were recovering in the hospital. Jim Kenney is many things, but he is not a cruel man. It’s likely he is so frustrated with the fruits of his own incompetence (and the actual malfeasance of others, like his District Attorney Larry Krasner) that he doesn’t realize how bad he looks when he ventures, infrequently, before the glare of the cameras.

Lately, it seems he has simply chosen to hide behind the doors of his office or the layers of Gen X and Gen Z “assistants” who have taken over his social media to tweet inane, feel-good comments about everything from rainbows during Pride Month to how fabulously he tried to erase the legacy of his most illustrious predecessor, Frank Rizzo. (Note to Kenney: Removing a statue does not remove stature).

But to those who actually heard the mayor say he wanted out of this job, it was a slap in the face. We, who are forced to live with the consequences of his acts and omissions, do not have the luxury of retiring from this city. True, we can choose to move elsewhere and abandon the place that provided generations of our families with joy and warm memories. Still, not everyone can afford to switch ZIP codes as easily as Jim Kenney slips out of state to Maryland crab shacks.

Of course, Kenney doesn’t take any responsibility for the mess he has made of the city. His fingers are pointed elsewhere, at the Republicans who have absolutely no control in the city, and who are not currently in charge of either Congress or the White House. Right before mentioning that he wanted to retire, he made this observation about the weekend:

“The weather was beautiful, the concert was beautiful, but we live in America and we have the Second Amendment, and we have the Supreme Court of the United States telling everybody they can carry a gun wherever they want.”

So, it’s not the district attorney refusing to prosecute gun crimes in the city. It’s the Founders and the inconvenient Second Amendment. And it’s not the thugs shooting at police officers and terrorizing civilians. It’s that ‘Republican’ U.S. Supreme Court misinterpreting the aforesaid inconvenient Second Amendment.

Given the fact that Jim Kenney has such an inability to admit that so many of the problems in the city are directly attributable to his lack of leadership, it actually might be a good idea for him to get an AARP subscription and buy a timeshare in Florida (if he could stand living in a state with a competent chief executive)

Now let’s see if we can convince Krasner to do the same.

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PA House GOP Committee to Investigate Progressive DA Krasner

Pennsylvania Republican House members are stepping up their impeachment process against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a resolution creating the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. The resolution, announced by Rep. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) as part of the ongoing effort to impeach Krasne, now goes to the full House for consideration.

It comes after Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) invited crime victims to come to the capital and tell their stories. Several family members spoke passionately about their loved ones who were murdered in the city, and about their dissatisfaction with the district attorney.

White also blasted Krasner over the city’s crime rate. Violent crime in Philadelphia has increased dramatically since he took office in 2018. Krasner, a progressive Democrat, has espoused an approach that includes dropping gun charges against some defendants and not prosecuting minor crimes. The number of shooting incidents in Philadelphia is up over 7 percent, and the number of shooting victims is up almost 5 percent over last year.

“Since the beginning of the effort to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, we have heard from countless Pennsylvanians, business owners, and families who are fed up with the absolute lawlessness in Philadelphia,” Kail said.

“While DA Krasner has been transparent in his willful dereliction of duty to enforce the law and should be removed from office, it is imperative the House takes a comprehensive approach to holding Philadelphia officials accountable with a full airing of the facts, a comprehensive record, and vetted recommendations as we move forward to ensure state law is respected and enforced in our largest city,” he said.

According to the resolution, the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order will consist of five members selected by the Speaker of the House—three Republicans and two Democrats—and have subpoena power.

Those members will be appointed after the resolution passes, officials said.

The committee will examine the effect Krasner’s alleged failure to enforce criminal laws in Philadelphia, how state public safety funding for Philadelphia has been used, and whether victims’ rights are properly protected, officials said.

In addition to impeachment and other methods of removal from office, the committee is also empowered to recommend potential legislative or policy changes that could ensure public safety is guaranteed.

“The problem of unchecked crime and violence in Philadelphia is a statewide concern requiring strong and deliberate state action,” Kail added.

“The investigative Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order will take a deep dive into this issue and offer real remedies to ensure local officials like Larry Krasner are held accountable for their refusal to enforce state law and our cities are once again safe,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Krasner did not respond to a request for comment. However, Krasner’s defenders, including Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), noted Philadelphia voters have elected him twice.

“We can’t go backwards,” Kenyatta said on Facebook. “We have a DA who cares about justice, safety, and accountability. We can’t elect someone who would take us the other way. I’m proud to support Larry Krasner for DA because he’s unabashedly led the charge (to) reform a broken system by building a big winning coalition.”

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