Clockwise from top left: Michael Untermeyer for District Attorney Campaign; Annmarie Young; Citizens for Rich Negrin Campaign; Josh Pelta-Heller/Koala Photography; Krasner: Nick Kelsh; Zakiyah Caldwell; Erskine Isaac/Invision Photo; Map: Istockphoto
Early in February, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams called an impromptu news conference. He arrived a few minutes after 10 a.m. in a pinstriped shirt, looking like he’d suffered through a long night with nothing but his own thoughts and a cigar. “Good morning, everyone,” he sighed into the microphone. “I have made the very difficult decision not to seek reelection to a third term.”
Williams was facing a rocky campaign. The FBI has been investigating him since at least 2015, and he recently was hit with the biggest fine in the history of the city’s ethics board for taking $175,000 in gifts and not bothering to report them. In those final moments of his political career, Williams made a revealing choice. He spent most of his time at the podium attempting to define his legacy as a victory for progressives: During his seven years in office, he said, he stopped locking people up for smoking pot, increased felony conviction rates, and helped bring humanity to the city’s punitive criminal justice system. Read more »
Photo by Jeff Fusco
The most open forum in which to hear the unfiltered thoughts of black men in Philly is arguably the barbershop. No matter what our wealth, age, religion, and/or sexual orientation, the need for a fine hair cut is the factor that unites us all. Heated conversations on social issues and personal anecdotes flow freely during long waits for shape-ups and fades. The barbershop has even become an obligatory stop for politicians to stump for undecided votes — during any election season, one can expect buttons and placards to be left on seats.
Such was the case last week with Tariq El-Shabazz, the only black candidate running for district attorney. Someone at my barbershop in West Philly wearing one of his campaign buttons prompted a conversation about the highly contested race. Now, per the barbershop code, what was said in the shop stays in the shop — but let’s just say the conversation was heated and divided. Read more »
Illustration by Gluekit (protesters: iStock; City Hall: C. Smyth/Visit Philadlephia)
Something is happening in this city.
For years, many Philadelphians took democracy for granted. A pathetic 27 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2015 primary race. Only 89,000 people — out of the city’s roughly 1.2 million voting-age citizens — picked our current district attorney. The fact that voters don’t even have a choice in many City Council and state legislative races, thanks to one-party rule, has long been met with a shrug. Then came November 8th. Now, protests spontaneously break out in the streets and at the airport. Every Tuesday, a group founded by seven local women airs grievances outside Senator Pat Toomey’s Center City office. If that doesn’t convince you the wind may be blowing in a different direction, consider the fact that 800 people packed a downtown church in January to talk about gerrymandering. Gerrymandering! Read more »
Protesters on the Parkway, January 21, 2017.
Picture this: You just received a Facebook event invite to an epic Donald Trump protest in Philly (Women’s March, “Queer Rager,” Muslim travel ban airport demonstration, or V.P. Pence visit — pick one).
You either plan to take off work early or cancel your TV binge-watching — this is that much of a priority for you. You make sure you create a catchy sign that you believe will let people know precisely what issues you have with the president. Let’s just say you think he’s a bully who picks on marginalized people. Your sign reads: “Hey, Big Mean Orange Guy: Quit Bothering the Melting Pot on Aisle 1776.” (Witty, I know.) Read more »
Philadelphia City Hall | Photo by Jeff Fusco
On Wednesday, the city announced the 21 members of its first-ever Millennial Advisory Committee.
The committee, which will meet monthly, is tasked with advising the city on policies, programs, and actions that are “affecting millennials” – or, in other words, the policies, programs, and actions that are affecting Philadelphians. Millennials are, after all, now the largest generational group in the city. Read more »
State Rep. Kevin, left, and U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle. Photo by Chris Loupos
Brendan Boyle had only been on the campaign trail for a couple of months when his high-priced D.C. consultant told him he should quit.
It was the summer of 2013, and the baby-faced state representative from Northeast Philadelphia had decided to run for Congress. His reason, he says, was simple: The American dream was slipping away, and he wanted to help wrestle it back. So he hired a “fancy” adviser from the Beltway, as he now sneeringly describes him, and paid for a poll. “He told me there was good news and bad news.” Read more »
If nothing else, Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing right now: they aren’t happy with their respective parties.
In fact, even before the election, less than half of the nation’s Republicans and Democrats viewed their parties favorably, according to a Gallup Poll from May 2016. The poll found that only 44 percent of Democrats were pleased with their party (again, before the mess that was the 2016 Democratic National Convention and, you know, Election Day). Even fewer Republicans – 37 percent – were content with the GOP party, the poll found. Read more »
Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP
Another day, another insult from president-elect Donald Trump.
As you have no doubt heard, on the eve of MLK weekend Trump took to attacking the legacy of civil-rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis:
At this point, I’m not surprised by ad hominem Twitter rants fired off by our next president. I’m more stunned by the continual fake shock espoused by my liberal friends on social media. Every damn day, I see white progressives post “Trump has gone too far this time” or “I’m scared for this country” or “We are now entering a dangerous America.”
I sit there laughing — often hysterically — but this weekend I couldn’t take it anymore. Read more »
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office
In Philadelphia, Zane David Memeger is a feared man. During his six-year tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he helped end the decades-long political career of Congressman Chaka Fattah, put Ironworkers Union boss Joseph Dougherty behind bars for extortion, and cleaned house at the city’s ticket-fixing Traffic Court. He’s also successfully prosecuted terrorists, human traffickers, pill mill operators and international arms smugglers.
This month, Memeger will step down. We talked to him Friday about the incoming Trump administration, how to clean up the city’s political system, and whether there is truly justice for cops who commit crimes. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Read more »
Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah. Photos Jeff Fusco, Pa. House, Matt Rourke via AP
Philadelphia’s Democratic Party suffers from the same cancer as the national Democratic Party. Only it’s arguably much more advanced.
Think the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders behind closed doors? In Philadelphia, the Democratic City Committee paves the way for its preferred candidates out in the open, without any shame: Before the mayoral primary even started, Philly Democratic Party boss Bob Brady publicly threw his weight behind state Sen. Tony Williams. The party puts its thumb on the scales in Democratic primaries for the judiciary, City Council and General Assembly, too, and its endorsements matter even more in these races because so few people pay close attention to them.
Think the national Democratic Party turns a blind eye to corruption? Earlier this year, the Democratic City Committee endorsed Chaka Fattah for Congress after he was charged with using taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to pay back an illegal loan. How could the party do this, as its schools were starving and its constituents were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty? Oh, but it gets worse: This month, Philly Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta was reelected after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering at a mental health clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Imagine how selfish you have to be to run for office after admitting to bilking the most vulnerable among us — and imagine how little she’ll be able to get done for her constituents, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants, now that she’s the laughingstock of Harrisburg. The list goes on and on. Over the summer, the FBI raided the offices of Democratic Councilman Bobby Henon and subpoenaed Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign finance records. The feds are also reportedly investigating Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams.
Think the national Democrats are boring and not liberal enough? Let me introduce you to Katie McGinty, the uncharismatic Senate candidate who lost to Pat Toomey in an election that Democrats desperately needed to win in case of a Donald Trump upset. A lot has been made of the fact that McGinty, a moderate who supports fracking and is wishy-washy on sanctuary cities, received millions of dollars from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the primary. What has gotten much less attention is the fact that she was just as much a product of the Philadelphia Democratic Party as the DSCC. Everyone from Brady to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter to numerous City Council members backed her in the primary over Democrats John Fetterman and Joe Sestak, two anti-establishment figures who might have fared better in a year in which people were clearly crying out for change. Read more »