Columbus Day 2015

12 Oct



28 Sep

Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia is over. As I watched the Papal Mass on TV, I was struck by Archbishop Chaput’s call:

This is a city that would change its name to Francisville today.

Philly already has a Francisville.

Francisville Sign

The historically black neighborhood is located a short walk from the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul. On my way to the Festival of Families, I walked through Francisville. If the People’s Pope had visited his namesake, he would have seen how gentrification is unfolding in Philadelphia. Long-time black and Latino residents are being displaced.

As expected in the fourth most segregated city in the country, those moving in don’t look like those being pushed out.

4th Most Segregated City

In his homily at the private mass, the Holy Father asked:

What about you? What are you going to do?

That is indeed the question. What are city leaders going to do about the displacement of longtime residents by new residents who may not stick around when their ten-year tax abatement expires? By the way, the tax abatement only applies to new construction. So there’s a perverse incentive to demolish historic and cultural resources, including churches, murals and burial grounds.


Now that Pope Francis has left town, Mayor Michael Nutter should check himself. Rather than bask in the afterglow, he should do an after action report and explain why Philadelphia was transformed into a police state.

Security Sign v2

Days before Pope Francis even set foot in Philadelphia, the city was on lock down. City Hall, schools, libraries, courts, banks, stores, roads and bridges, train stations and Greyhound were closed.

Pope in Philly - Collage

Nutter talked a good game about showcasing the city while the world was watching. What the world saw was a ghost town patrolled by Philly police, the National Guard and other security forces. Rem Rieder of USA TODAY wrote:

It was still dark, of course, and it had the look of a war zone. There were barricades everywhere. There were security checkpoints. There were fences making some streets completely inaccessible. And everywhere there were police, and TSA agents, and all other flavors of law enforcement personnel.

Heckuva job, Mayor Nutter.

Philly Back-to-School Blues

8 Sep

It’s back to school in Philadelphia. Thousands of students are returning to schools where there are no nurses, librarians or guidance counselors. And under the leadership of School Superintendent William Hite, there has been a precipitous drop in students’ performance on state standardized tests.

While there’s no money for classrooms, Hite found $1.2 million to hire bureaucrats for his already bloated administrative staff. Only in Philadelphia would a position be created for a “turnaround” artist whose former employers told him to turn around and get out of town. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Eric Becoats resigned from his last two jobs “following accounts of his alleged misuse of public resources.”

Daily News Turnaround Boss Cover

City Council President Darrell Clarke has had enough. He sent a letter to Hite:

In a recent edition of the Philadelphia Daily News, it was brought to my attention that you have filled six senior level positions at the School District of Philadelphia. I am writing to request that you provide Council with detailed information concerning these positions, including a job description and the manner in which these individuals will contribute to life in the classroom.

Let me be clear about my concern with this announcement. As you may recall, during City Council’s consideration of the Mayor’s proposed fiscal year 2016 operating and capital budgets, you testified that you were seeking additional funding that would go directly to classroom support, including providing additional teachers to reduce class size and restoring counselors and nurse/health technicians. It is on the basis of your testimony that Council approved approximately $100 million in additional funding for the School District’s upcoming academic year.

Clarke added:

Given this background, I think it is important to understand how the hiring of these six individuals will enhance the educational experience of Philadelphia’s children.

It’s true that trouble doesn’t last always. However, that truism doesn’t apply to a school district whose superintendent inherited a fiscal hole and kept digging.


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