BY JOE SHAHEELI
Philadelphia crossed a historic milestone when it recovered its own Board of Education, freed from State management as of July 1, 2018.
Few are mourning this change, on either side of City Line Avenue. With important exceptions, the City doesn’t trust the State to deliver and the State doesn’t trust the City to deliver. Each is chary of its resources – particularly Philadelphia, which is much more dynamic economically now than it was when the School Reform Commission was established in 2001. Today it is Philadelphia that is growing, while most of Keystone Red State is stagnating economically.
We welcome the return of local control to our city’s schools. But we should warn our new Board of Education members that they have stepped onto a firing range. We hope they have all been wise enough to purchase bullet-proof vests.
The new BOE is firmly a creation of Mayor Jim Kenney. His administration will rise and fall on it.
But all BOE members must have other lives. Theirs is an unpaid position.
Kenney strove to pack his board with humble people who have deep experience in Philly’s public schools. That’s an admirable experiment.
But remember one reason boards are often packed with the prosperous and powerful: These are the people who can afford the heat of unpaid public service.
We wish the incoming BOE members the best – and we hope their volunteer service, if not recognized, will at least go unpunished.
Councilwomen Jannie L. Blackwell (3rd Dist.), chair of the Committee on Education, and Blondell Reynolds Brown (at Large), vice chair of the committee, issued the following statement:
“We applaud the mayor for this monumental and necessary change for our most-vulnerable citizens – our children. We appreciate his commitment, dedication, and boldness to take ownership and responsibility of this new school board. We are most appreciative of the rich mix of the board.
“In this season of constant change and anticipated school-budget funding challenges, strategic efforts must be apparent for a seamless transition of governance. Additionally, it will be helpful for this new board to be exceedingly clear in articulating the one, two or three priorities in the first year.”
Ward Fights, Continued
Last week, we reported on signs of citywide ward fights. These usually come only once every four years, and now is the season mandated by statute.
We’re still researching many. Today, we have space for two reports, the 55th Ward in Mayfair and the 60th Ward in West Philly.
55th Ward Democratic Leader Bob Dellavella is respected for his skill at staying on good terms with all the Northeast’s touchy clans. Some indeed, have proposed him as an understudy to DCC Chair Bob Brady, who is similarly known for persuading warring tribes to smoke the peace pipe and band together.
But Dellavella has long coped with a dissident faction led by Dennis Kilderry, Jr., a state rep candidate in 2014. A new dustup is underway.
In the 60th Ward, Democratic Leader Greg Spearman has a problem with state rep candidate Wanda Logan and, it is rumored, Committeewoman Frenchie Williams (although this is not confirmed).
Petition challenges have been flying in both wards. Usually, these benefit the incumbents.
Republican Primary Is a Gift to Wolf
Pittsburgh health-care entrepreneur Paul Mango’s ferocious TV attack ad against the State Republican Party’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) left most state Republican operatives gasping. Mango presented himself as “farther-right than thou” compared to Wagner, no blushing liberal himself.
Mango drew a stinging rebuke from PAGOP. But he also won an endorsement from former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who is well regarded on the right.
Two problems for the GOP. One: The farther right its spring primary drags the winner, the more vulnerable will that candidate be in a general election that is shaping up as a “blue wave.” Furthermore, the more Mango and Wagner savage each other (both are private-sector millionaires), the more free oppo research their millions buy for incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is also independently wealthy – and sitting on an $11-million campaign fund already, with no primary opponent.
If 2018 were bidding to be a red year, we could see these Republican gentlemen spending this sort of money to become the next governor. But it is bidding to be a blue year. How many people want to spend how many millions to charge the machine guns? Republican money might be better spent defending congressional seats.
Evans Endorsements Betray Regional Weaknesses
In the new 2nd Congressional District, Congressman Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) is racking up endorsements by predictable establishment Democrats: Mayor Kenney, the United Ward Leaders of Color and the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, for instance.
But the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has thrown its weight behind Kevin Johnson, a former pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church who now heads Philadelphia OIC, a job-training agency of long standing. So there are two sides to this race.
Evans’ base has always been in North Philadelphia, but his new district is half West Philadelphia. Word has it Johnson has already chipped away one North Philly ward, the 11th, headed by Dwayne Lilley.
But his bigger opportunities lie in West Philadelphia, whose many long-established political clans owe nothing to Evans’ North Philly network. Word on the street is that all major West Philly clans have received probes from the Johnson camp. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd Dist.) rejected this tender and is four-square with Evans. But other West Philly pols are hedging their bets.
Lazer Gains Williams’ Backing
South Philadelphia congressional candidate Rich Lazer, a loyal paladin of Mayor Jim Kenney, has been endorsed by State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.), who opposed Kenney in the 2015 mayoral primary.
That matters because Williams’ district extends into Delaware County municipalities that Lazer would welcome support in. Lazer is one of two South Philadelphia candidates going for a seat that is mostly in Delco. Of the 12 Democrats still in the primary race, eight are from Delco.
Besides racking up endorsements from Philadelphia State Reps. Joanna McClinton (D-W. Phila.) and Maria Donatucci (D-S. Phila.), Lazer bagged 12 years from elected officials in Sharon Hill, Darby, Lansdowne, and Yeadon.
Ahmad Punches Big Numbers
Nina Ahmad, a former deputy mayor of Philadelphia and past president of Philadelphia NOW, announced that she has amassed over $600,000 cash on hand as of the Mar. 26 campaign finance reports. That total is more than twice her nearest rival and puts her in a strong position heading into the May 15 primary, in which she seeks the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
“We have been crisscrossing the state receiving tremendous support and I just can’t thank people enough for the trust and confidence they have put in me,” said Ahmad. “I’ve been fighting injustice and discrimination in Pennsylvania for 25 years, and I believe we need more truly progressive voices in government. That message is resonating all over Pennsylvania as we push for full and fair education funding and to make the oil and gas companies pay their fair share.”
Ahmad’s nearest competitor was incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, who filed $275,086 cash on hand, followed by John Fetterman with $141,229 and Kathi Cozzone with $9,851. available cash. Ray Sosa filed a negative cash balance and debt.
State Rep Race Roundup
In South Philly’s 184th Legislative District, Nick DiDonato, a former police detective, has made a blunt appeal to conservative Dems by saying that he supported Republican Beth Grossman for DA over leftwing Larry Krasner and that he will back the FOP in its disputes with the DA’s Office.
One of his opponents, Elizabeth Fiedler, has bagged an endorsement of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Education is a major plank in her platform.
In Lower North’s exciting 181st race, Kenneth Walker was booted from the ballot for allegations that he did not live in the district. He had been supported by Laborers’ District Council, but that support now swings to party-endorsed Malcolm Kenyatta. It’s still a four-way race, though.
In the Northeast’s 177th District, a myriad Dems are jousting to replace retiring Republican State Rep. John Taylor.
Maggie Borski, the daughter of former Congressman Bob Borski, was endorsed by Represent PA. This group supports progressive women who are running for seats in the Pennsylvania state legislature.