Tuesday is Election Day in Philly. For the Philadelphia School District, it’s Groundhog Dog. The school district is facing yet another budget crisis. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
The city charter requires the school district to adopt its budget by May 30, but funding from the city and state are a giant question mark at this point, leading to the possibility that the district might violate the charter and go past its deadline for the second straight year.
In a similar situation last year, the SRC [School Reform Commission] opted to wait until receiving assurances from Council on a sales tax extension and other measures before passing a budget in late June. Green predicted that Council and the mayor would agree on a short term fix to help close the district’s $85 million projected deficit while they wait on the state, but no one knows for sure.
According to a recent poll, education is the most important issue for Philly voters.
Still, City Council ain’t got time for education. They’ll deal with the school budget deficit when they get around to it. In the meantime, Council is scheduled to vote on a bill sponsored by Councilman Bobby Henon that would authorize the Commissioner of Public Property to spend up to $7.26 million to acquire the land to build a prison. The bill was introduced on April 30 and referred to the Committee on Public Property and Public Works, which Henon chairs. A Council rule was suspended to allow for a vote on the bill on Thursday.
Why the rush? The price tag for the proposed prison is between $300 million and $500 million. The proposed prison is just that – a proposal by lame-duck Mayor Michael Nutter.
The new mayor will have the final say on spending priorities. In response to Decarcerate PA’s mayoral candidate survey, Jim Kenney, the likely next mayor, said he will not move forward on Nutter’s plan to expand the Philadelphia Prison System. He supports a moratorium on the construction of new jails and detention centers.
Get this: Henon said he found the condition of the House of Correction “deplorable.” Has he taken a tour of our public schools? Students are trapped in 100-year-old buildings without librarians, school nurses, guidance counselors or air conditioning.
900AM-WURD host Solomon Jones has been sounding the alarm about the new prison. Jones was the keynote speaker at the school district’s Family Education Summit:
I’m trying to tell you about principles. The only thing that stands between our kids and that prison is us. City Council has its priorities. Our priorities are these kids.
They know where that $300 million is coming from, but they don’t know where the money is coming from to close the school district’s $85 million deficit. We must make sure their priorities line up with ours. … The bottom line: If you have $300 million for a prison, then you have $85 million for the schools. Take it from the Capital Budget if you have to, but do what you have to do to fund our schools. ... Vote on Tuesday, and then whoever doesn’t do what’s right by our schools, vote them out.
Doing what’s right means stopping Philly’s school to prison pipeline. City Council and the next mayor must be held accountable. To do so, we must turn Election Day into Accountability Day.
Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that -- Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s address before the 1st Berlin Jazz Festival. In his opening remarks, Dr. King reflected on the importance of jazz:
Jazz speaks for life. The blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
On Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, the Pennsylvania State Chapter National Action Network (PA NAN) will return to its roots and present the 3rd Annual Jazz for Justice Fundraiser.
I hope you will join us as we party for a cause and kick off PA NAN’s 2014 advocacy in action. Tickets are $20.00 and include live jazz (the Unity Band) and a fish platter.
Proceeds from the event will help fund PA NAN’s social justice initiatives, including voter protection and voter mobilization for the midterm election.
Tickets may be purchased on PA NAN’s secure website (please click this link).
In his State of the Urban League Address, NUL President Marc H. Morial observed:
Next month – on Aug. 28 – will be 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, organized in part by our own Whitney M. Young, Jr., and challenged this nation to live up to the founding ideals that were conceived in Philadelphia and engraved in that Liberty Bell.
The events, both good and bad, of 1963, awakened the conscience of this nation and sped up the wheels of progress. I mention these events, not to elicit tears or sadness, but to remind you of both the sacrifices and the progress that have been made over the past 50 years. These events directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Thank God, things ain’t what they used to be. As Morial noted:
Fifty years ago, 75% of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85% of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks enrolled, and five times as many blacks hold a college degree.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Urban League and The Memorial Foundation will convene Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream “to celebrate, renew our commitment, and equip young leaders to be drum majors into the future.”
Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A quick primer:
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) requires jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to receive preapproval from the Justice Department or a federal district court in D.C. for any voting change to ensure such changes do not discriminate against voters who are racial, ethnic or language minorities. In 2006, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of Congress reauthorized the VRA for 25 more years.
Those jurisdictions include the former confederate states of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. What’s at stake for these states is an issue as old as the Civil War: states’ rights. Stateline reports:
But in asking whether a key part of the federal law is constitutional, the court also will reopen a debate that long predates the measure’s enactment in 1965. It’s an argument that was at the heart of the U.S. Civil War, and one that has seen resurgence in recent years as Republicans around the country bristle at what they perceive as meddling from Washington.
That debate is the battle over states’ rights.
On its face, the challenge to the Voting Rights Act is about how state and local officials run elections. But states’ rights have underpinned much of the opposition to the law since it was first enacted, and Wednesday’s hearing will feature familiar arguments.
The issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires all or part of 16 states to get any changes to election law preapproved by either the Justice Department or a federal court. That requirement, based on findings of discrimination and racism years ago, applies to most every aspect of elections, from technical changes to the high-profile issue of photo ID requirements that recently spawned court battles for states such as Texas and South Carolina. The challenge was brought by Shelby County, Alabama, and argues that the act’s preclearance requirement is unconstitutional on its face, no matter how it’s employed.
Civil rights leaders, Members of Congress and voting rights activists from across the country will rally at the steps of the Supreme Court.
I would like to share an excerpt from my BlogHer post about the Republicans and their fixation on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice:
I have watched with bewilderment as Republicans ratchet up their attacks on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice.
To be sure, Congress should investigate what happened in Benghazi. After all, four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens who reportedly had expressed concern about the “security vacuum” around the consulate.