Opinion: Uber Discriminates Against Pregnant Women

Uber Pregnant


(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Hannah Sassaman.)

Today, I’m 38 weeks pregnant. While I’m mildly (to hugely) unprepared for the roller coaster I know will hit when labor starts, my little family of three is excited to grow. One resource I’ve considered tapping for our ride to the hospital — a resource that has entered the scene since my daughter was born — is Uber.

I labored with my daughter through Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Our neighbors’ leaf-stuffed gutters overflowed through our window casings, bringing the storm into my bedroom as I paced through my contractions. By the time we were ready to go to the hospital, the only bridge left open between my West Philly home and Center City — taking us to Pennsylvania Hospital, more than 40 blocks away — was Chestnut Street. My husband drove at less than 10 miles per hour through the eye of the storm, through quiet, wet, humid streets.

For this round, we’ve been seriously considering skipping the drive and using Uber to get to the hospital. Uber has a killer mobile app, and payments happen automatically. It’s easy to see why the business has been growing exponentially around the world.

But Uber has its own risks for me and other Philadelphians — including marked discrimination against people who use wheelchairs, people with service animals, and, now, pregnant women in labor. Read more »

Millennials Won — Mark Squilla’s “Promoters Bill” Is Dead

Mark Squilla

Councilman Mark Squilla | Photo courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

City Councilman Mark Squilla has decided to scrap his virally unpopular “Promoters Bill,” which came under fire last week from musicians, millennials and First Amendment advocates. The proposal would have required music venues to collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of performers for city police.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Squilla “had planned to amend the legislation, but decided it was too tainted by controversy” to carry on. “There’s been so much confusion and misinformation about the bill,” he told the newspaper, “that even if we struck that out, some people would show up to oppose it not understanding what they were opposing.”

Squilla says he’ll start from scratch on a new bill, this time while consulting the music industry. He insists that his goal all along was to ensure that every venue in the city paid an annual $100 licensing fee, including those that stream music from iPhones. Read more »

6 Times City Council Tried to Screw with Our Fun

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators' hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators’ hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

There’s nothing like a group of municipal lawmakers to ruin a good time, and Philadelphia’s City Council seems to be especially well versed in the art. Here are six ways that our elected officials have tried to mess with our leisure-time activity, starting in 2000 and rolling right through this week:

Thou Shall Not Rock and Roll

Sometimes, a terrible City Council idea goes away, never to be heard from again. And other times, it returns, like a hacking winter cough that you thought you shook a week ago. Such is the case with the Promoter’s Bill.

In 2010, Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee introduced Bill No. 100267, which sought to force promoters — whether they were promoting a DJ night at Silk City, a DIY concert in West Philly, a comedy night at Raven Lounge, or a touring artist at the TLA — to register with the city and to notify the police of each show no more than 30 days before the event. Every event. They also wanted promoters to tell the city how much they were paying the venues. After pretty much every person in the city under the age of 30 became outraged at this suggestion, the idea basically went away. Well, until this week.

Let us introduce you to our little friend: Bill 160016. Different number. Same stupid fucking idea, more or less. Earlier this week, word came that Councilman Mark Squilla wanted to require all promoters to apply for special licenses, and he also said that all performers should register their names and other personal information if they want the privilege of getting on stage here. Now that his idea has gone viral, he appears to be backtracking a bit, so who knows where this is going to end up? We can just see it now. Finally, the Led Zeppelin reunion happens, and before the band is allowed to play at Citizens Bank Park, Squilla asks, “But Mr. Page, what is your home address these days?” Read more »

What Comes After the SRC If It’s Abolished?

oh schools

Left, City Council Flickr. Right, Jeff Fusco.

When education advocates envision a possible replacement for the School Reform Commission, all kinds of ideas are on the table: How about an elected board? An appointed board? Who would do the appointing? How would charter schools be represented?

Councilman David Oh’s answer? Let’s try a little bit of everything. Read more »

Lawmakers Fight for Muslim Holidays to Be Recognized in Philly

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

A group of activists erupted in applause at City Hall Thursday when lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution calling on the city and school district to recognize two Muslim holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. “When we submitted this, the question that came from some good, well-intentioned people was, ‘Well, why now? And should we do this now?'” said Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who sponsored the legislation. “The best time to dispel myths, the best time to find good-spirited people, is in the height of controversy.”

The Philadelphia Eid Coalition has been fighting since last year to convince officials to observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The School District of Philadelphia currently closes schools on Christmas, Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and even Columbus Day, but not on those two Muslim holidays. The city government, meanwhile, does not officially recognize either Muslim or Jewish holy days.

Jones, who practices Islam, says it is more important than ever to make Muslim people feel included in Philadelphia.

“Young people needed to know that they’re welcome in this building and in this city,” he said, “so that nobody can come along and lead them astray to some anti-American kind of environment.” Read more »

Insider: Like Wall Street Bankers, Philly Pols Get a Golden Parachute

Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. Photo | City Council Flickr

Former Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. | Photo courtesy of City Council Flickr

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

How many Sherlock Holmes mysteries have we read where, at the end, our sophisticated sleuth declares that the murder weapon was hidden in plain sight? The lesson is: Never fail to connect the dots that are evident.

These little clumps of wisdom, and more, slowly swooped through my mind as I read that City Council President Darrell Clarke had hired W. Wilson Goode, Jr. as a senior policy advisor. You’ll recall that Goode had walked the dimly lit halls of City Council since 2000. But he lost his bid for yet another term last year, and faced the cold, cruel prospect of life outside the Council Bubble.

Goode was a respected, progressive legislator who passed more than 140 bills in his career, but the idea of him — or any politician — making a permanent living on the public payroll is upsetting. It suggests the self-dealing chicanery of former Council members Marian Tasco and the late Joan Krajewski, both of whom faked their own retirements in order to collect huge pension payouts. Read more »

Philadelphia Recognizes Columbus Day, But Not Any Muslim Holidays

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. in City Council’s chambers. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

If you’re a city employee who wants to celebrate the Muslim holidays, you currently have to decide whether to use a personal or vacation day to take off work. Unlike Christmas, Good Friday or even Columbus Day, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha aren’t recognized by the city.

City Councilman Curtis Jones is hoping to change that. On Thursday, he will introduce a bill that would ask to make Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha official municipal holidays. A group known as the Philadelphia Eid Coalition has been petitioning since last year to have the holidays observed.

“It’s a fairness issue,” said Michael Rashid, former CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas and organizer of Philadelphia Eid Coalition. “There is a substantial Muslim population in Philadelphia and they feel marginalized.” Read more »

Darrell Clarke’s Power Is Now Growing Beyond City Limits

sharpiro clarke

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro and Council President Darrell Clarke | Photos by Bradley C. Bower/AP and via Clarke’s Facebook page

City Council President Darrell Clarke’s growing political muscle is now manifesting itself on a wider stage: state politics. Today, he became one of the first officials to publicly endorse Montco Democrat Josh Shapiro’s run for Pennsylvania attorney general.

The endorsement came in a mid-morning press release in which both Clarke  and Shapiro emphasized a shared commitment to criminal justice reform. “I look forward to working with Attorney General Shapiro to reform Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system, saving taxpayers billions of dollars and ensuring that low-level offenders have a chance to turn their lives around and become productive citizens,” Clarke said in the prepared statement. Read more »

Is Jim Kenney Setting a Low Bar for Philly?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

A few hours before a gunman laid an ambush on a 33-year-old policeman late Thursday night, aggressively thrusting Jim Kenney into his first major crisis, I visited the brand-new mayor in his second-floor office in City Hall.

He was leafing through a stack of papers, his legs propped up on a chair and a pair of glasses resting snugly on his nose. “I’m reading about violent school incidents,” he said calmly. “They’re down 6 percent.”

Then he leapt up and energetically showed me the paintings and photographs plastered on his walls, all of which fit him perfectly. There’s a print of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” He says it makes him think of “prison reentry, of bringing people back to life.” There’s an illustration of Pope Francis, a nod to his Catholic upbringing as well as, it turns out, his tight bond with the city’s LGBT community. “That was a gift from Mark Segal,” he says, referring to the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. There’s a framed stamp in commemoration of Irish immigrants. “It just reminds me of where I came from, which is not here,” he says. “So many people in this country forget that’s the case.”

In that moment, Kenney was all those things that his fans say he is: warm, compassionate, a man who cares deeply about oppressed people. But when he looked around him and took it all in, he seemed ever-so-slightly uncomfortable. “It’s a big room,” he said, “a big room.”  Read more »

Helen Gym Draws National Attention in New Role


Helen Gym, the longtime education activist, is drawing national attention this week: She joined City Council as an at-large member on Monday, the first Asian-American woman elected to that body.

NBCNews.com featured an interview with Gym on its “Asian America” site Monday, highlighting her new role and interviewing her about her history of activism. If she continues to receive national attention — she was honored by the White House in 2014, and received support from the American Federation of Teachers during the City Council race — that could help her raise campaign funds in the future.

Some highlights from the NBC article: Read more »

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