Legislation to Counter Union Tactics Goes to Gov. Tom Wolf for Signature

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill this week that, if signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, will likely have an impact on organized labor in Philadelphia. House Bill 874 (see below), introduced by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin County), would amend the state’s Crimes Code, which immunizes union members against prosecution for certain criminal actions taken during a labor dispute. In theory, this ensures the rights of workers to protest unfair labor practices. But what happens if those workers go too far? In a House Memoranda, Marsico pointed to the example of Philadelphia’s Ironworkers, a number of whom were indicted for arson, assault and racketeering. “In each case,” Marsico wrote, “the grand jury found evidence of intimidation and threats toward the property owners and non-union workers which preceded the later acts of violence, all protected by these loopholes in the Crimes Code.”

Currently, the Crimes Code sections on stalking, harassment and threat to use weapons of mass destruction do not apply “to conduct by a party to a labor dispute.” The definition of a “labor dispute” is laid out in Pennsylvania’s Labor Anti-Injunction Act: Read more »

So, There Was a Blimp on the Loose in Pennsylvania

JLENS aerostat. Photo | Dept. of Defense.

Photo of a JLENS aerostat, not the one that got loose over Pennsylvania today, via the Dept. of Defense.

“It is now floating freely somewhere over Pennsylvania.”

That was CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, talking about the Runaway Blimp on CNN, after the military JLENS aerostat came untethered from its moorings at Aberdeen Proving Ground this afternoon. The rather adorable bulbous aircraft — which looks more like a distorted incarnation of the Pillsbury Dough Boy than a threatening military vehicle — “is just sort of flying around right now,” said Blitzer, looking vaguely alarmed. APG posted a message to its Facebook page that said: “Anyone who sees the aerostat is advised to contact 911 immediately …” Twitter was predictably rapt. Read more »

Daily Pennsylvanian: Revoke Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degree


The image the DP used for its editorial. Note the Temple sweatshirt.

While other universities across the country have revoked Bill Cosby’s honorary degrees in the wake of the accusations against him, the University of Pennsylvania, which gave him a degree in 1990, remains mum. Now the Daily Pennsylvanian has put out a clear call for the university to act, arguing that though Cosby denies the allegations and has not been convicted of a crime, “he is no longer deserving of the honor.” Further, the editorial notes, “The University is not a court. It does not require legal precedence or jurisdiction in order to take a stand against someone or something that does not uphold its core values.”

The editorial connects the university’s non-action on Cosby to the larger problem of sexual assault on college campuses, and the message it sends to student victims: Read more »

People in PA Are Uncommonly Interested in Being a Slice of Bacon for Halloween


Over at the real estate website Estately, Ryan Nickum has done a Google Trends excavation to reveal which Halloween costume search terms are used more often in which state. The results for Pennsylvania are precisely as satisfying as you’d expect them to be.

“These are just the costume searches that people in Pennsylvania search for more than people in other states,” says Nickum. “It doesn’t represent the most common costume search for the state.” (Oh, whatever with your fancy parsing. That’s no fun.)

Below, behold the scores for each Pennsylvania search based on Google Trends’ somewhat baffling (to me, anyway) algorithm, which they explain this way: “Each data point is divided by the total searches of the geography and time range it represents, to compare relative popularity. The resulting numbers are then scaled to a range of 0 to 100.”

“One hundred is the max,” Nickum notes, so those results with 100 are more popular those those with lower numbers. (These terms represent searches from the last 11 years, incidentally. Last year we were all about the Slender Man costume, which is like the opposite of Bacon Man.) It speaks well of our state that we don’t have “slutty pumpkin” like Illinois. Or does it?

Read more »

Contractor Convicted in Building Collapse Case

A Salvation Army Thrift store is demolished in the aftermath of a building collapse, Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, the building under demolition collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store, killing six people and injuring 14, including one who was pulled from the debris nearly 13 hours later.

A Salvation Army Thrift store is demolished in the aftermath of a building collapse, Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, the building under demolition collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store, killing six people and injuring 14, including one who was pulled from the debris nearly 13 hours later.

This post has been updated to include quotes from District Attorney Seth Williams, Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan, and Robert J. Mongeluzzi.

The Common Pleas Court jury considering the case of Griffin Campell  the contractor hired to demolish the building next to the Salvation Army thrift store on 22nd and Market — may have agreed, at least in part, with what his defense attorneys contended: that he was more of a pawn than a bad actor when it came to the building collapse in June 2013.

Campbell was on trial for six counts of third-degree murder, but has been convicted of six counts of involuntary manslaughter instead, according to media reports, which means he will not go to prison for life. The jury also convicted Campbell on 13 counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, one count of Causing a Catastrophe and one count of Aggravated Assault, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He will be sentenced in January. Read more »

What Would You Do If You Found a Bag of Human Ashes?

Photograph by Liz Spikol

Photograph by Liz Spikol

*The names of this person and those related to him as well as identifying details of his death have been changed.

The day I found Charles started out pretty much like any other — well, except that I was doing a park cleanup and I never do park cleanups. It’s not that I don’t care about parks. I do. But I don’t have the social acumen for group activities that compel small talk, especially when that small talk might be about recycling. At the last park cleanup I attended, for example, I worked mostly alone, and came across a dead rabbit.

It was perfectly preserved. Lying on its side, eyes open, ears erect, it almost appeared to be mid-stride. Its fur was damp from the dew that day, its fluffy body marred only by a small red aperture where a BB pellet might have entered. Its body was entirely surrounded by fall leaves — the colors were sumptuous. I sat with it for a while, feeling sad and regretful and overwhelmingly sorry for a whole mess of things that had nothing to do with this tiny rabbit’s existence. When one of the other cleanup attendees asked what I was doing, I yelled back, “I found a dead bunny!” She seemed to think it was strange that this would delay me, and I was reminded again of how different I am from other people, the normal folks who go to a cleanup and pick up trash without crashing into existential crises. I felt tragic for the rest of the day, but made small talk, and more small talk, while the vision of that rabbit stayed in my mind like a lingering camera flash.

But do I love parks? You bet I love parks. So I did another cleanup for LOVE Your Park Week, and that’s how I found Charles. Read more »

After the Pope: So What Now, Philadelphia?

cleaning up

Cleaning up. Photo | Liz Spikol

After the Mass ended on Sunday and the pope and the dignitaries filed out, I stayed behind to watch the stage being dismantled. There was a huge crew of event staff who were speedily folding and stacking the hundreds of white chairs; they were moving so quickly, it was like watching a local, operational version of Koyaanisqatsi. It occurred to me that I’d never seen Philadelphia people move so fast, but then, this whole weekend seemed to bring out the best in everyone. In fact, when I went to the front of the stage to see where the Pope had been sitting, I felt overwhelmed with pride — and relief. I gazed up at the word PHILADELPHIA in huge gold letters and said, out loud, “We did it.” Then I looked around to make sure no one heard me. I’ve spent years perfecting the art of appearing sane.

Many people have wondered if this weekend will change the city in any permanent way. That’s a tall order for a hidebound place. Read more »

WATCH: Time Lapse Video of the Crowd Before the Papal Mass

Philly Mag’s Liz Spikol is credentialed for the pope’s Parkway Mass. Part of being credentialed for the events around the papal visit means you get shuttled from the media center at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to the events. This is a greatly condensed video of the crowds along that route:

Follow @lspikol on Twitter.

Ask Liz: How Much Should I Tip Parking Attendants?

Left: Shutterstock. Right: John Paulding’s Over the Top; photograph by Claudia Gavin

Left: Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock. Right: John Paulding’s Over the Top; photograph by Claudia Gavin

It used to be acceptable, when you parked your car in an indoor lot downtown, to tip the driver a dollar for retrieving it. But sometimes I get the fish-eye when I tip, which makes me wonder: Should I be tipping $2 these days? Or $5? — Too Cheap (?) in Center City

Read more »

10 Reasons Philadelphia Is a Better Version of Itself Right Now

Photo | Bradley Maule

Photo | Bradley Maule

Follow Philadelphia magazine’s live coverage of Pope Francis’s historic visit all weekend long.

Someone I follow on Instagram posted a photo of a beach and palm trees and ocean with the hashtag #notinphilly. Normally when I see posts from such climes, I feel like punching my own face with frustration. Why am I not also on a Caribbean beach drinking whatever sweet alcohol that person is surely drinking? Why am I, instead, smothered in sweat on the platform of Suburban Station, checking my phone while someone with 40 plastic bags overflows onto my lap?

But today I looked at that Instagram photo and felt like I was the lucky one. This weekend I’m uncommonly glad to be right where I am, in the City of Brotherly Love. Why? For one thing, I can really feel the brotherly love right now. For another, the city is the absolute best version of itself today. Here’s how.

1. It’s quiet

I sat on the steps of the Academy of Music today for a few minutes on my way down Broad Street, and I was stunned by what I heard — all the sounds of the city that are normally obscured by traffic. I heard the tap-tap-tap of an old man’s wooden cane against the sidewalk. I heard the soft thwack of rubber on concrete as he climbed the steps in his sneakers. I heard the jangle of shopping cart wheels, the snap of flags in the wind, even the rustle of leaves when a breeze passed through the trees around me. So this is what the city sounds like without cars, I thought. Such a different soundtrack. Read more »

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