Many people, including me, didn’t believe it was possible for us to start a new budget cycle while the old one was still unsettled, but that’s the sorry tale in Harrisburg.
Gov. Tom Wolf will deliver his second budget address this morning before a joint session of the House and Senate in the House chamber. Like he asked last year – and has continually and rightfully asked since then – he will seek more money for education.
And he is also expected to talk again about the need for new revenue.
Something has got to give.
There is no question that our schools need more money to effectively educate our kids. There simply is no way around that. School districts throughout Pennsylvania have only received half of the 2015-16 allotments from Harrisburg – from a budget bill that failed to properly fund them in the first place. Many schools have incurred millions of dollars in interest expenses for the hundreds of millions they have had to borrow to make up for this current budget fiasco.
There will be drastic budget and program cuts if things don’t change in Harrisburg. That’s not the Pennsylvania you and millions of other Pennsylvanians imagine or deserve, and it’s not the Pennsylvania I want to see.
You can watch the governor’s address here: governor.pa.gov/live Later in the day, visit http://www.pasenate.com/budget-responses for my response and the reactions of fellow Democratic Senators.
ISIS in Philly Response
News that a city police officer in Cobbs Creek was shot by an assailant who allegedly supported ISIS raised the level of concern in our community so we will be held an emergency community meeting Jan. 14 at Bryant School.
We met hundreds of people at the gathering, which was done in partnership with Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Rep. Joanna McClinton.
We talked about neighborhood safety and mental health issues, and our police officers reminded us what we need to do to be a safer community.
Senior law enforcement personnel, representatives from the Philly District Attorney’s office, plus Muslim and Christian faith leaders also participated.
The police districts host monthly Captain Town Hall meetings with the community to talk about neighborhood community safety issues. Please attend to get those questions and concerns addressed:
- 1st PPD meets the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6 pm at the 1st police station in South Phila at 2301 S. 24th St
- 12th PPD meets the 1st Tuesday of each month at 7 pm, at the 12th police station in Southwest Phila at 6448 Woodland Ave
- 17th PPD meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 5:30 pm, at the 17th police station in South Phila at S.20th & Federal Sts
- 18th PPD meets the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6 pm at the 18th police station in West Phila at 5510 Pine St
2nd Chance Just Ahead
My staff and I have been working with Rep. Joanna McClinton and others to help people clear their names of certain legal charges that were never tried or have been on their public records too long.
We call them expungement clinics and plan to hold another one Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Branch Library (details are later in this newsletter).
Because of this definite need, I wanted to carve an important section of this newsletter to praise Rep. Jordan Harris for getting a Senate bill to the governor’s desk that will help to begin closing certain legal chapters for people.
The change to our state criminal laws, under Senate Bill 166, would allow a person convicted of a third-degree misdemeanor or a second-degree misdemeanor – if at least 10 years have passed since they completed their sentence – to request the opportunity to appear before a judge and request an order for limited access to their criminal record.
Criminal justice and government agencies would not be subject to the order for limited access, and they still would be able to see a person’s entire criminal record information.
We’ll still hold expungement clinics to help people move forward with their lives – and get the jobs and homes they deservedly need, but I wanted to publicly say how proud I am of the work Rep. Harris did to make sure SB 166 finally reached the governor’s desk for his signature.
Black History Month
This is a special time of the year because it reminds everyone of the great contributions African-Americans have made to Pennsylvania and our country since the beginning.
And there have been so many black Philadelphians who have made a wonderful difference. People like:
- Marian Anderson. Born in Philly Feb. 27, 1897, Anderson was an opera singer, and she was refused entry to the Philadelphia Music Academy on racial grounds. In 1955 she made her debut in opera at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and was the first black singer for the Metropolitan Opera of New York.
- Octavius Catto. A professor at the Institute for Colored Youth (Cheyney University), Catto was shot defending the black vote during riots in 1871. He was also famous for desegregating the streetcars, and organizing a black baseball team: the Pythians.
It’s also not just people we celebrate and remember this month. Organizations and efforts have also played a vital role.
- Mother Bethel Church, founded in 1794 by Richard Allen, a former slave, at 6th and Lombard Street in Philadelphia. Mother Bethel was the first Methodist church in the North to be organized by African-Americans.
- Johnson House. The Johnson House Historic Site, a Center for Civil and Social Advocacy, is a historic house museum that represents what everyday people have done and can do to make a difference in their community and beyond. The example of partnership—between Africans seeking freedom and the abolitionist Johnson family—serves as a catalyst to inspire, uplift and empower current and future generations.
Watch my Black History Month moments videos coming later this week on my social media and website, honoring the Eden Cemetery and the Odunde Festival.
Higher education is still a strong path forward. Paying for it can be an obstacle. But it can be done and scholarships can help. Here are some good ones I think you should investigate and submit an application:
Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship: Besides financial scholarships, the Jackie Robinson Foundation provides mentoring, leadership development opportunities, and internships for scholars. Only for minority high school students in the United States.
Steve Harvey/ Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Scholarship Program: Under the umbrella of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, this scholarship opportunity also delivers once-in-a-lifetime apprenticeship experiences for African-American youth looking to pave the way for their futures.
Ron Brown Scholar Program for African Americans: Provides scholarship awards to African-American high school seniors who are excelling in their academics, exhibiting exceptional leadership potential, and actively serving in community service activities.
Frito-Lay “Create to Celebrate” Black History Month Art Contest: Applicants have to submit an original piece of art created in any medium (video, song, photo, sculpture, painting, etc) that celebrates African American achievement. The art submission must be made online.
Buick Achievers Scholarship Program: Awards scholarships to students who excel in the classroom and give back to their communities. Special consideration is given to students who are female, minorities, first-generation college students, military veterans and military dependents.
Tom Joyner Foundation "Full Ride" Scholarship: Awards a full scholarship to one student to attend a historically black college and university. The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors with high academic records.
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation/ General Mills Health Scholarship Program: Open to undergraduate and graduate students who plan to major in health-related studies. Academic achievement, leadership qualities and service to the community are required. Preference will be given to African-American students.
Calling all Local Businesses
Register as a vendor for the upcoming DNC
opportunity to offer your services by becoming part of the vendor directory to help convention planners find suppliers and services for their needs locally. As of this week, more than 1,700 businesses and suppliers have registered to be part of the directory, nearly 50 percent of which are based in the Philadelphia region and 31 percent of which are from underrepresented groups. The goal of the DNC planning committee is to ensure that people and businesses from all sectors of our community - including minorities, women- get the opportunity to participate and offer their services.
Go to their website and sign up!