The Changing Streets of Cedar Park

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Photo courtesy of JJ Tiziou | www.jjtiziou.net

Monica Allison moved to West Philadelphia’s Cedar Park in 1997, buying a gorgeous red brick Victorian town house for $67,000. She’d been renting closer to the University of Pennsylvania, but her neighbors repeatedly called the police on her teenage son when he was home alone, just hanging out around the house. Allison, who is African-American, had to rush home from her job as an insurance underwriter time and again to find him handcuffed on the couch.

Even today, as the country’s increasing diversity makes racial isolation less common, Cedar Park is a rarity because of its longstanding mixture of black and white households. When Allison moved there, it had been roughly evenly comprised of black and white households since at least 1970, although the white population continued to slowly decline. That remained true even as the neighborhoods to the west, north and south of Cedar Park became more than 95 percent black. But by the end of the 1990s, Cedar Park’s white population plummeted to 27.9 percent as crime spiked and several high-profile murders racked the neighborhood. Read more »

Is Josh Shapiro the Guy to Clean Up Kathleen Kane’s Scandal-Ravaged Office?

Josh Shapiro | Photo by Matt Rourke

Josh Shapiro | Photo by Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania Democrats have been excited about Josh Shapiro for over a decade. The 42-year-old Montgomery County career politician has put his stamp on every institution he’s been elected to, and won attention from press and fellow politicians alike. Now he is running to remake the scandal-plagued, post-Kathleen Kane attorney general’s office, despite never having worked a trial.

In next week’s primary, both of Shapiro’s opponents have resumes tailor-made for an attorney general’s race and never miss an opportunity to remind voters that they have the prosecutorial experience Shapiro lacks. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli see the office as it has always been: a means of pursuing guns, drugs and the occasional corrupt politician. They are well-equipped for it, having served as district attorney for more than 40 years between them.

But in 2016, perhaps decades of experience during the tough-on-crime era doesn’t have the cachet that it used to, at least in a Democratic primary. As Black Lives Matter ekes out concessions and Clinton-era policy becomes the bête noire of everyone to the left of John Kasich, maybe Pennsylvania voters are ready for something new. Shapiro’s campaign website features an ambitious agenda, covering everything from fracking to wage theft. On the stump, Shapiro — who is nearly always dressed in a conservative blue suit and rimless glasses — energetically reiterates his desire to take on “the status quo” and “the special interests.” His message is polished, and he’s clearly been taking notes on New York’s bank-busting attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, who promised more from the office than a parade of high-profile mug shots.

“It has always been abundantly clear to me that the office could be doing so much more,” says Shapiro in an interview with Philadelphia magazine. “It could be a force for progressive change. About 40 percent of our nation’s AGs weren’t prosecutors before they ran for the office. We’ve never taken that approach. But I really believe the people of Pennsylvania deserve someone with a vision far broader in terms of protecting their rights.” Read more »

Donald Trump Is Frank Rizzo, Reborn

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Rocco DiSipio is a small-business owner in a working-class neighborhood where times aren’t quite as good as they once were. He isn’t used to being interviewed by reporters, but it’s primary season, and journalists want to know what the man-on-the-street thinks of the brash conservative candidate who seems to do everything wrong — and keeps winning anyway.

“This election has some racism,” admits DiSipio, acknowledging that his candidate can be blunt, or worse. His pick doesn’t have the typical qualifications, either, but for DiSipio, that’s part of the appeal. “He’s going to stand behind his word if it kills him. He can flunk at it, but you can’t say he won’t try.” Read more »