Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sheriff-elect sues city after being detained by police.

Do you think that it's a conflict of interest for Williams to be suing the city he should be serving?  Furthermore, do you think that Williams identified himself as a former law enforcement officer when he interfered with officer safety procedures?  Don't say you weren't warned, Philly...with the sexual harassment claims and anecdotal evidence of unethical behavior in the state house, should Williams be the man to clean up our elected law enforcement agency? 

Read more by clicking here.

There's something unsaid here that needs to be looked at further by the voters of the city. An ex-cop in good standing usually carries a retired shield or ID and would never step in between an officer and a frisk (as they wouldn't want a fellow cop getting hurt). So why did Williams get between the cops and the suspects to the point where the officers detained him so they could investigate the situation?

Putting myself in this situation, it stinks.

A beat cop wouldn't be in that position, so a four-star law enforcement executive should never have been in the position to be detained in the first place.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Publically-Owned Space is NO Place for those who Preach Racism & Violence

Tonight, on the 30th anniversary of the murder of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, the National Constitution Center, which is federally subsidized and sits on National Parks Service land, has rented a room to a group that advocates the VIOLENT overthrow of the U.S. Constitution for the purposes of giving a convicted cop killer, Mumia Abu Jamal a forum to call in from his prison cell.
Not only is this yet another insult to widow Maureen Faulkner, but the fact that the staff at the NCC doesn't realize that it is not obligated to rent space to an organization that actively advocates for the overthrow of our society, shows you just how far we have fallen as a nation of laws and decency.  As many know, Mumia's supporters, as seen from the below link, stem from the National Black Panther Party, New Black Panthers, and MOVE; which advocate racism and are directly responsible for the murders of two Philadelphia Police Officers as well as the 2008 voter intimidation case.   
Please call Governor Corbett at (717) 783-1116 to tell him that, as a PA voter and taxpayer, you are OUTRAGED by this racist group being hosted on public space on the land that our forefathers used to build this great nation. 
Also, you can contact Ms. Ashley Berke of the National Constitution Center at (215) 409-6693 to ask her why they would rent this room to a group supporting cop-killers and racists.
A link to this offensive gathering can be found at:
www.freemumia.com
Join Cornel West, Immortal Technique, Vijay Prashad, Michelle Alexander, Ramona Africa, Mark Lamont Hill and many others on the 30th year of Mumia's wrongful imprisonment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

30 Years: Justice for P/O Daniel Faulkner

On December 9, 1981, young Police Officer Danny Faulkner was murdered in the line of duty by Mumia Abdul-Jamal.   Thirty years and multiple court appearances later, Abdul-Jamal's conviction still stands; yet his sentence has yet to have been carried out.  Mumia's cause has been championed by celebrities and activists from as far as California and France, yet those of us in Philadelphia are still angrily awaiting justice in the name of Officer Faulkner and the thousands of men and women from all racial backgrounds who take the low-paying, at many times thankless job of Police Officer in the city of Philadelphia. 

Thursday night, December 8, 2011 at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA; there will be a showing of Tigre Hill's critically acclaimed documentary "Barrel of a Gun" followed by a panel discussion hosted by WPHT radio's Michael Smerconish to discuss the Faulkner case and the many political and social issues associated with it over the last 30 years.  The discussion panel includes:


mas1 Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel DiscussionMichael Smerconish
Talk Show Host and Co-Author of Murdered By Mumia
maureen faulkner Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel DiscussionMaureen Faulkner
Widow of Daniel Faulkner and Co-Author of Murdered By Mumia
seth williams Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel DiscussionSeth Williams
Philadelphia District Attorney
joseph mcgill Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel DiscussionJoseph McGill
Attorney with the Lock Law Firm in Philadelphia, former Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia
96 hughburns Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel DiscussionHugh Burns
Chief Assistant District Attorney, Appeals Unit, District Attorney’s office, Philadelphia
tigre hill Michael Smerconish presents Tigre Hills <em>The Barrel Of A Gun</em> & Panel Discussion Tigre Hill
Documentary Filmmaker, Barrel Of A Gun


Tickets are just $20 and can be purchased by clicking here.  I will be in attendance because I believe this case represents a notable piece of Philadelphia history, yet the story has still not concluded. 

Please join us to mark the 30 year anniversary of Daniel Faulkner's murder; and to show the world that Philadelphians stand behind those who protect us.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When did public housing get so luxurious?

Question: Is it an effective use of space for PHA to build green, single family public housing with public funds?

As someone who works hard to afford my first single family home, which I bought just three years ago after renting apartments over my whole adult life - it bothers me to think that my tax dollars are going for single family homes with island kitchens and lawns when there are many more needy people who'd be happy (and warm) living in apartments that could have been built on the same space.

The idea with low-income housing is to give poor people a home while they work to improve their circumstances to the point where they can buy or rent a home of their own, that they can choose and modify to fit their needs and tastes - to participate in the American dream of home ownership.  Therefore, what does it say of a Public Housing Authority who builds homes that exceed the expectations of many non-section eight first-time home buyers?  If the public housing is better than what can be afforded otherwise, why would anyone leave public housing to open it up for the next needy family? 

Coming from New York, home of the high-rise housing project; I've seen many crime and public health problems involving public housing, but one has to recognize that a cluster of 10 to 20-floor apartment buildings puts a roof over far more heads than a cluster of 3-bedroom single family homes.  Isn't that the objective of public housing?

One has to wonder why our Public Housing Authority fails to see why that objective is so important when building properties with OUR MONEY. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

School District CFO owes over $8,000 in delinquent municipal taxes.

This story is as much an indictment on the SRC as the disfunctional, corrupt Philadelphia Sheriff's Office.  Is it any wonder that the School District lost $627M and the Sheriff's Office lost $56M?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ackerman files for unemployment?!

Today's revelation that recently-terminated Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman filed for unemployment after receiving a $905,000 public-payout is yet another key example of why we need viable checks and balances to the corrupt system, currently run by Bob Brady and Mike Nutter, in which appointees like the SRC, PHA, Arlene Ackerman and Carl Greene are selected and terminated in this city!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupiers call Mayor Nutter's bluff.

A line was drawn.  Permits were issued.  The protesters refused to comply.  Yet our lame duck Mayor has failed to act in the best interest of our city - thinking politically and in the interest of preserving a legacy.  What will it take for our Mayor to enforce the laws of our city?

For more, click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OCCUPY PHILLY - Go home and spare our working class city the expense of your protests!


As someone whose marched and protested for tangible things, such as the preservation of the City University System in New York, a proper memorial for fallen law enforcement officers; I think that the lack of focus for the entire occupy movement serves to alienate those of us in the 99% who are busting their ass to succeed in society and create legitimate change by making a valid, salient argument. If you speak to 5 occupiers (as I’ve done in NY, DC, and Philly) and ask them what they are protesting for, you’ll get ...5 different answers. More disturbing is that the occupiers have no direct set of demands…as you can’t just “End Greed”. You have to demand conditions, policies, regulations, or concessions that will bring your demonstration to an end. As with our wars, you can’t demonstrate without an exit strategy.
Occupiers have none and should therefore stop being a drain on our nonexistent municipal resources.  Often you hear the occupiers compared to hippies.  The "hippies" that they are often compared to were protesting for civil rights, equal rights for women, and to end the war in Vietnam.  They had clear messages as to what they were asking for.  Furthermore, the hippies grew up to participate in the society they were protesting in, often becoming success stories (Ben and Jerry, et al).  The occupiers do not have a clear voice - and seem to be increasingly synonymous with the Anarchists arrested annually at WTO/IMF and Global Trade meetings worldwide.  They clearly have no respect for the law, property, or the thousands of working-class Americans that have had to live with them over the last couple of months.
In my opinion, it's time to go.  I work too hard to pay my increasing taxes to a municipality that can't afford to properly manage public safety or schools; so pardon me for having a problem with my tax dollars going to police overtime in the babysitting of folks who obviously don't have jobs or classes to attend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Miss The Battle for City Hall - WEDNESDAY, 10/19/11

Philadelphians for Ethical Leadership is proud to host the last bipartisan moderated debates of the 2011 election year!

Join us for a spirited evening of debates that will help you cast an INFORMED vote in the upcoming Muncicpal Elections!!

Food will be provided, Drink Specials to include $2 beers are available. 

 

Philadelphia Sheriff "finds" the missing $56M

Anyone else interested in who got the interest from these 13 accounts? Let's hope the feds hold someone criminally accountable for this gross dereliction of duty. For details, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reality Check: Ramsey and Nutter must admit there is a crime problem. Should they ask for support?

Reality Check: The embattled city of Flint, MI's officials are demanding National Guard support for a spike in violent crime in their city. So far, Flint has had 21 homicides this year. Philly has TWO weekends where there was over 21 shootings and 8 homicides this summer alone, and has had over 259 murders this year and we haven't heard a peep out of our council members or state reps on outside law enforcement support or intervention. WHY?

Anyway you cut it, the new assessment plan devised by Mayor Nutter is illegal, unethical, and immoral.

Do we need to lose more of our good, taxpaying citizens to the suburbs before someone voices opposition to our Mayor's city-killing idea, or will we end up like Washington, DC, a shell of a city that people work and use for the occasional night out while our suburbs reap the benefits of our property taxes?

For more, click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is it ethical for an unopposed candidate to hold a fundraiser?

As many of you know, we held a moderated 4-way democratic debate for 1st District City Council last April, where Democratic candidate Mark Squilla faced off with his competitors to become the unopposed candidate for City Council in the First District.  Since then, I have seen Mr. Squilla at multiple events and functions in Port Richmond, to include our clean-up of Stokely Playground last weekend,  However, today I received the below email from the Squilla campaign promoting a fundraiser for the "upcoming election". 

 "Dear Friends,

Please join me for a fundraiser in support of my campaign.   The details are
listed below.   With only four weeks until the general election, every day
becomes more exciting as I prepare to take office in January.  I recently won
the endorsements of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and  AFSCME District
Council 47.    I continue to campaign hard, meet as many people as possible and
spread my positive message throughout the district.  I hope you can stop by on 
October 30th.   The Eagles play at 8pm that night so the event will be a good
warmup to the game.   I hope to see everybody then.
Regards,
Mark

Sunday, October 30, 2011
2:00-6:00 PM

Shooting Stars Club
1931 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA

Platinum Host- $1000
Host-$500
Sponsor- $100
Friend- $35

Personal checks payable to
“Squilla for Council”
P.O. Box 37332 Philadelphia, PA 19148

No corporate checks. Contributions are not tax deductable according to
Pennsylvania Law.

RSVP to
squillaforcouncil@gmail.com or 267-290-8836"

This raises an interesting couple of ethics questions. 
  1. As there is no Republican or Independent candidates running in the 1st District, Mr. Squilla is running unopposed.  Why would he need a fundraiser then?
  2. How would the donations gleaned from this fundraiser be spent, since there is no need for continued campaigning?
As a resident of the first district, this event's timing has raised my curiosity. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Numbers UP, Arrows DOWN?!

In my discussions with local reporters on the rise in crime and fear gripping Philadelphia's neighborhoods; I often refer to the crime statistics page on the Philadelphia Police website.  While the web experience of the PPD, a pleasant byproduct of a civilian communications director and a civilian Chief Administrative Officer, is nice - it does have an interesting discrepancy that leaves many city residents distrustful in the way statistics are recorded and disseminated within the Philadelphia Police Department.
As you can see, the homicide rate is consistently rising over the last two years, yet there is a conspicuous down arrow next to it describing an 18% decline.  The old adage in crime analysis is that you can't make a body disappear, and as you can see below, the FBI Uniformed Crime Report shows that many other categories of crime are up as well. 
So my natural question to the Nutter and Ramsey administrations is: "How stupid do you think the public is?"  We see the flash mobs.  We see the murders.  We feel the fear that crime is seeping into all neighborhoods, whether you live in North Philly or Center City, Kensington or Port Richmond. 

If you've read the recent 2011 Progress Report and 5-year plan published by Commissioner Ramsey on crime prevention, it does little to realistically tackle our massive crime problem and execute proven solutions used to curb crime when this epidemic last presented itself, during the American "crack explosion" twenty years ago.  The report makes heavy mention to street arrests and the redeployment of uniformed officers to "needy" districts and Patrol Service Areas (PSAs) with higher reported crime.   There is no mention of working with other struggling law enforcement agencies like the Sheriff's Office or Prisons Department, despite proven results in cities like Los Angeles and New York in where the Sheriff and Corrections Departments have the best regional gang intelligence units helping the police with valuable investigative resources.  What about increasing task force participation with agencies like the US Marshals (Philly has the largest fugitive problem in the Northeast US), ICE/HSI/HIDTA (to combat illegal smuggling, drugs, and human trafficking), and the ATFE (to combat the trafficking of illegal guns as opposed to attacking the rights of legal gun owners)?  

The point of this blog is to raise questions in what appears to be a disingenuous effort to find real solutions to public safety in Philadelphia.  Many citizens have come to accept the appearance of safety and security as opposed to real safety and security.  Case in point - TSA.  The American TSA hires low-paid, unarmed individuals to put travellers through a slow and costly screening process, as opposed to the Israeli counterpart who uses armed personnel, better standoff distances, and working technologies (such as the American-made handheld liquid composition scanners) to insure that their airports and airline is safe, despite their inherent threats.  Locally, leaders like Nutter and Ramsey want to serve two masters.  They want things to appear safe and they want the stats to go down, but they don't want to take the ugly, necessary steps to make that happen.  Furthermore, this is not the first time Ramsey has put the appearance of public safety in front of actual public safety; as in D.C. he would deploy investigative and special operations staff back into patrol so that people can see more uniformed police in the streets - going as far as having all patrol cars operate their #1 flashing lights when in service (even though that is like a beacon for criminals to hide while the radio car passes) - even though the majority of arrests made by patrol officers carries a much lighter charge than that made through a full-field criminal investigation. 

Citizens of Philadelphia should hold Mayor Nutter to his original campaign promises of four years ago - and demand real public safety.  The road to restoring control of the city from the criminals to the taxpaying citizens is not a pretty, politically correct one.  As was seen through the Bratton/Giuliani years in New York, when crime was dropped drastically through the "broken windows" method of policing; public safety doesn't come without significant scrutiny from special interest groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits...but what price can be placed upon a citizenry and tourists that feel safe enough to venture out and invest in the city? 

Either way, we need to send the message to Mayor Nutter that conflicting messages on the police website and a 3-1-1 system that marginally works while hemorrhaging money from an already stressed city budget are not what we need to feel safe...we need some good, old-fashioned police work to be done from a Mayor and a Commissioner that do more than make speeches and release resources - they put their money where their mouth is.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What will it take for our leaders to get a (much needed) wake-up call?

If you've been following the news, there is considerable conversation on whether or not Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's controversial property tax assessment plan is legal.  Many of the pundits on Inside Story debated the minutiae of the plan and it's legality; but not the ethical or moral implications of the plan. 

To sum it up, a cash-strapped city has turned to a Mayor who devised a plan to increase revenue by sending assessment-teams to homes that have recent improvements (most likely based on permit applications) to increase their property tax rates.  Mind you, this is not based on sales or neighborhood comps, but individual assessments.  What it means for you and me is higher property taxes for the few of us left in the city who care enough about their property to keep it up, despite what your neighbors may or may not be paying.  To my readers in my native New York or Los Angeles, this may not seem that offensive - but please put it in context.  Within the last two years, the tale of fiscal corruption has been unwoven in the public eye - from our elected leaders participating in the controversial DROP retirement benefit in the same year that we announced seriously underfunded pension liabilities, our elected clerk of quarter sessions announced that she failed to collect roughly $1.5 Billion in bail revenue throughout her career, our elected Sheriff is under federal investigation for "misplacing" $53 Million in auction receipts (in addition to placing a politically-inspired moratorium on foreclosure sales), and our former Schools Superintendent had drummed up a $627 Million deficit in her short tenure here.  To answer these recent challenges, Mayor Nutter has already announced the second consecutive property tax increase to "pay for our children's future".

Mayor Nutter and his nepotism-laden City Council, being charged with keeping the city running despite a sea of red ink, are reaching for the low-hanging fruit...taxpayers.  The problem: it is conservatively estimated that over a third of Philadelphia residents are delinquent in state and city taxes and fees, a majority of which include property taxes (even under a rate that is relatively low in comparison to surrounding areas).  While our local academics argue the legality of Mayor Nutter's new plan, the job announcements for Assessment Clerks are posted on the city's website; painting an extremely grim picture for America's 5th largest city.

What the myopic Mayor and City Council fail to realize is that Philadelphians are already "Taxed to the Max" with increasing property tax rates, sales tax, business use tax, and the infamous Wage Tax.  While Philadelphia's property tax rate is lower than our neighbors in the suburbs, New York and New Jersey; it is balanced out by a myriad of other taxes and fees that have demonstrated a flight of businesses and jobs from the city (as was recently seen by Cigna's vacating their Center City headquarters).  To say that our elected leaders are out of touch is a gross understatement, because any working Philadelphian is forced to weigh the cost vs. benefit of residing in the City of Brotherly Love.  For the purposes of offering a wake-up call to our Mayor, please allow me to list some of them below:

                                   Philadelphia                                                     Suburbs

Property Tax:            $700-2500                                                       $3000-8000

                                   Rising Crime                                                      Low Crime
                                   Struggling, violent schools                                  Smaller, successful school districts
                                   Crumbling infrastructure                                     Quiet neighborhoods
                                   Flash mobs                                                        Lawns
                                   Wage tax + State tax                                         Wage tax applied to state tax (refunded in DE)
                                   Corrupt, machine government                            Smaller, more accountable government

So the golden question is, why would anyone stay in Philadelphia when there is no cost and convenience benefit to living here as opposed to commuting?  Why would families expose their children to an inferior education, not to mention the barbarism and racial violence of the Philadelphia School system when their taxes will be raised to the same rates as the functional, suburban schools?  Why would someone risk their lives with the senseless violence spreading through our streets when peaceful suburbs will be the SAME PRICE

If you think we have experienced flight and blight in the past - see what happens when you triple a home owner's property tax. 

However - the simple solution hasn't even been suggested, mostly because the city has no idea how to reform a corrupt and mismanaged Sheriff's Office:

Instead of hiring Assessment Clerks to take more and more money from the few good citizens who actually pay their taxes - double the Sheriff's force and put them in the street to perform civil law enforcement duties, to include property seizures for delinquent taxes and bail revenue. 

Two things are certain in life: Death and Taxes.  So why does our Mayor and Council forward the idea that some pay and others do not have to.  As a taxpayer, let me be clear - I will not allow any assessment clerks into my home until I can be assured that everyone is paying their fair share.  Otherwise, we're just assuring that good citizens will leave the city, Mayor Nutter's pool of incoming revenue will become more shallow, and the poor will have no opportunities to improve their circumstances. 

Wake up, Mayor Nutter.  Your plan can literally destroy the city within 20 years. When looking at it from a global, historical perspective, how else do you think this can turn out?

If you don't believe me...just look at the District of Columbia; which has never recovered from the flight of business and the middle class from the city to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.  In 1974, when the home rule act took effect - it took only 10-15 years to turn DC into the murder capital of the nation. 

As a homeowner, I do not want to see that play out here!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Philadelphia: COLLECT FROM EVERYBODY OR NOBODY AT ALL (Fair is fair).


If Philly wants to have good schools, safe streets, and working citizens; EVERYONE has to pay their fair share. Furthermore, our elected officials; especially the Sheriff, City Council, and Mayor needs to stop playing politics and send a well-trained force of deputies into our neighborhoods to COLLECT what is owed - before asking the few of us who play by the rules for more taxes and fees.  Read the following and comment on what you think about it below.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nobody acted when Dr. Ackerman committed contract fraud, failed to address a trend of hate crimes within the school district, or managed the District into a $629M budget chasm (leading to our latest annual tax increase)...because the test scores were rising.

What is that was due to cheating and collusion between faculty and students

This WILL be discussed at the Citywide Forum on Public Integrity - this Wednesday, 6:30PM at the Free Library (1901 Vine St).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We have ONE WEEK left to show up in force and start taking a stand against Public Corruption

In the last three weeks, our city announced a plan to raise your property taxes for the third year in a row to make up for stunning acts of abuse and waste at the School District, City Council voted to retain the wasteful DROP fund (despite the voter uproar), and PHA may settle yet another one of Carl Greene's sexual harassment lawsuits (that were responsible for a federal takeover of PHA) for $500,000.

WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR TO CONTINUE IF WE WANT PHILADELPHIA TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE AS A WORLD-CLASS CITY!
It is VITAL to come out to next week's Citywide Forum on Public Integrity in FORCE to show the public watchdogs on stage and the members of the media in attendance that the citizens of Philadelphia WILL NOT BE SILENT VICTIMS TO the pervasive CULTURE OF CORRUPTION that has existed in Philadelphia for upwards of a century.

We simply cannot afford it any longer.

Please tell everyone you know - friends, family, neighborhood watch, religious groups, political groups, neighbors, etc. to join us at the forum to TAKE A STAND!


As the flyer describes, this will be the 1st time ever that non-political members of the Federal, State, and Local watchdog agencies will be on a panel explaining how public corruption is investigated, by whom, and how it is best reported. Then they will take questions from the audience.

Just look at the three panelists:

Harvey Rice, who was the state Safe Schools Advocate (until it was nixed by the budget) - who is now Deputy City Controller (auditing the missing money at the Sheriff's Office and School District, etc.),

Pat Blessington, a former municipal prosecutor who led the State Attorney General's Public Corruption Unit - who just got brought over by District Attorney Williams to set up a City Anti Corruption unit within the District Attorney's Office,  
...and last but not least - John Roberts, the FBI agent who was part of bringing down Vince Fumo and put the bug in Mayor John Street's Office.
Many of us here in Philly kind of except corruption as a way of life. I put the guys together to show us how we can put a huge dent in it, especially by organizing the community in a way that acts a a watchdog for the elected and senior appointed leaders we employ.   My only problem of late is that everyone tells me citizens don't want to come to a meeting in the summer, or when there's no election talk. That's what the thieves in City Hall are expecting. I want to prove them all wrong and show them that we the people do care by coming out in force!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Should the citizens of Philadelphia suffer annual tax increases and business-killing policies when it's clear that municipal government is completely inept and in need of immediate replacement!

The story is told by Troy Graham in yesterday's "Heard in the Hall" entry on Philly.com.  I've added the article below as it's an important chapter in our city's strggle against waste, fraud, and abuse:

Heard in City Hall: Butkovitz finds 'weaknesses' in annual city financial report
Posted:  07/14/2011 11:14 AM
By Troy Graham @troyjgraham on Twitter
Controller Alan Butkovitz today identified seven areas that could impact the city's ability to properly report its finances.

This stuff is slightly technical for the financial layman, which Heard in the Hall should be considered, so below is the full release from Butkovitz's office. Enjoy.

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released the findings from his audit of the City's Fiscal Year 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) that included seven separate conditions resulting in a material weakness over the City’s ability to properly report its finances.

A material weakness is determined to exist when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the process used to prepare a financial report will not prevent or detect and correct mistakes in the report on a timely basis.

“Our Office is required by auditing standards to report material weaknesses so that management can take corrective action and ensure investors  and bond rating agencies of timely, accurate, and reliable financial information for making informed decisions,” said Butkovitz.

The seven conditions contained in the material weakness include the following:
  • continued staff turnover and reductions in the city's Finance Office, compromising the process necessary for preparing an accurate CAFR;
  • poor procedures to ensure accurate reporting of city receivables;
  • lack of procedures for preparing the deposits and investments footnote, which led to numerous misclassified or omitted deposit and investment accounts;
  • insufficient procedures to make certain the City’s Water Fund is accurately reported;
  • failure to obtain timely financial statements from component units included in the CAFR;
  • inadequate accountability over departmental custodial accounts; and
  • failure to automate the year-end closing process for the city's Aviation Fund to decrease the risk for financial statement errors.
According to Butkovitz, over the past decade, the Accounting Bureau’s staff size has been reduced from 64 positions in fiscal year 2000 to 45 in fiscal year 2010, which is a 30 percent reduction.

“As a result, top managers are now being forced to prepare significant sections of the CAFR, eliminating their independent review of CAFR work that would normally be performed by subordinates -- and in turn reviewed by them in their supervisory role,” said Butkovitz. “Consequently there was, and still remains, an increased risk of errors in financial reporting.”

“During the course of this audit my staff found $1.1 billion in errors which were ultimately corrected by the City,” said Butkovitz. “While I understand the budget constraints facing all city departments, it is imperative for the Finance Office to have the appropriate number of staff to ensure that the financial statements and information presented are accurate.”

Along with the material weakness, another finding included the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) ongoing failure to submit quarterly reports of expenditures for reimbursements within the required 45 days of the end of reach quarter. For all of fiscal 2010, DHS had been consistently late in submission of the reports.

“With the city experiencing fiscal constraints, timely reporting of Act 148 reimbursement invoices would have improved the city’s cash flows,” said Butkovitz. “I strongly urge DHS to comply with Act 148 and submit their reports for reimbursement within the mandated 45 days.”

The Controller’s other concerns from the audit report include:
  • The city’s lack of a comprehensive capital asset system.
  • Inadequate inventory procedures for all city real property.
  • Continuing concerns with the operation of the Basis 2 Water Billing System.
  • The failure to revise the city’s Standard Accounting Procedures (SAP) to reflect various automated processing applications and practices currently in use.
  • Non-compliance with Act 148 reporting requirements.
Read it directly from the source, here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Can a Test Security scandal be the last straw for the Ackerman Administration?

For those of you in the Philadelphia area, the School District has been in the news considerably as of late.  First, Superintendant Ackerman's salary was made public, as she made a base of $348K and over $40K in bonuses last year.  Then she was caught cancelling a legitimate bid process after an award to then give the contract (no-bid) to a friend's firm.  When challenged by State Representatives (the Philadelphia Schools are state-controlled as the School Board was disbanded in 2002), she made a very public racial argument about it.  Then, the news of a $600M budget deficit surfaced at the School District, prompting many voters to demand the firings of the Superintendant and her whole administration.  However, when citizen's groups demanded her head, the Mayor and City Council defended her.

Why? 

Rising test scores.

Well, it seems that the recent trend of rising test scores at the Philadelphia School District may have been linked to what has been recently investigated in Atlanta, a widespread cheating ring.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Commissioner Ramsey – Bring us the Programs that WORK

Being a former member of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC), I have quite a bit of insight into policing strategies and management styles that were horribly deficient in accomplishing the most vital task of a municipal police force; which is to make the community safer.  Upon my recruitment to the MPDC, I was (as were my fellow officers) filled with a great deal hope and positivity toward the appointment of our new Chief, Charles H. Ramsey; a tough-talking Chicago cop who brought us all into Constitution Hall to tell us how we were about to become a real, functional department – finally rooting out the mismanagement and malaise of the Marion Barry years.  Shortly afterwards, scout car beats were changed to Patrol Service Areas – cutting a much wider swath of area for patrol units to cover.  Detectives were decentralized, attempting to maximize deployment by taking them out of specialized investigative functions and dropping them into a pool of investigators answerable to geography as opposed to type of crime.  Furthermore, to compensate for low recruitment, Chief Ramsey started the “Mobile Force” and “Redeployment” programs, which forced detectives and officers assigned to specialized units to rotate back into patrol for two weeks at a time. 

As you may imagine, recruitment standards for the Department were quite low during the Mayoral career of Marion Barry (1979-90 and 1995-99, now a Councilman for Ward 8).  This translated into extremely poor quality paperwork and testimony by many of the officers recruited locally during this time (many of whom were products of the DC Public Schools, which boast only 36-39% proficiency in math and reading), many of whom had over ten years of service at the time Ramsey took the helm of the Department; and thus had been promoted to Sergeant and above.  Ramsey’s response was to mandate that all arrest paperwork be signed by the Watch Commander (one per district per shift), causing two consequences; a queue of officers off the street awaiting paperwork review and a Watch Commander who was not able to respond to incidents in the field requiring supervision.   Furthermore, Ramsey didn’t have faith in his choices for command staff, appointing civilian directors, such as Steve Gaffigan (a former DOJ employee who had Ramsey stay with him at his DC home while he was interviewing and was later fired in DC for a myriad of harassment and mismanagement claims) and Nola Joyce (who Ramsey has brought to Philly for a 6-digit job as Chief Administrative Officer).

The result of these changes in Ramsey’s eight years as Metropolitan Police Chief?  After an abysmal homicide clearance rate, the Detectives were re-centralized.  Crime surged, prompting Ramsey to declare extended “crime emergencies” which enabled him to do away with union contract protections, suspend days off, and force officers to work mandatory overtime for which they were only granted compensatory time (not pay); much of which they were unable to use due to caps on leave balances.  

Furthermore, Ramsey became known for ordering unlawful terminations for aggressive, young police officers – many of which were for minor (30-or less day) suspend-able complaints.  He leaked private car-to-car computer transmissions to the Washington Post, which led to an “email scandal” where over 40 officers were fired, then reinstated with back pay over 3 to 5 years later for violations to the union contract. 

I, myself was unlawfully terminated by Ramsey for sending an email to an officer’s email list about a CityPaper article where the reporter made unsubstantiated claims of corruption against a reputable vice officer, to have the termination later reversed by both federal arbitrators and DC’s own public employee relations board.  Did I wait for the department to reinstate me, nope, I ended up getting a higher paying job with the Department of Homeland Security where I was using my mind, not my body to accomplish my duties.  Instead of doing what was right and reinstating me as ordered, I was arrested for a trumped-up firearms charge when I called the MPDC after breaking up a fight at a DC nightclub.  Still determined to not let a good man be kept down, I have since had my own public safety consulting firm, been a technical advisor for film and TV projects, done homeland security technology integration for the City of Los Angeles, Columbus, OH, and Southeast Pennsylvania Counterterrorism Task Force, and worked hard in a position where I investigate acts of certification fraud in the healthcare community.  The law for which I was arrested for has since been overturned, twice, by the US Supreme Court and I was reinstated to MPDC in 2007, just in time to clear my name. 

Little public discussion has been held regarding Ramsey’s zeal in firing good police officers, many of whom need proper supervision, to appear like he’s “tough on police abuse” while costing the city millions in legal damages. 

So while it’s obvious that I have a chip on my shoulder with Commissioner Ramsey and the MPDC, I do have to give credit where credit is due.  The Metropolitan Police Department has the finest Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) in the nation.  Their method of training, certifying, and equipping officers assigned to each district in the city in how to effectively engage in mass arrests, infiltrate roving bands, break up unlawful demonstrations, and use less-lethal force (OC, CS gas, Riot Batons, Shields, etc.) has been adopted by agencies throughout the world.  Ramsey, himself, regularly joined CDU platoons on the frontlines of demonstrations and special events, touting its effectiveness.


So why has Ramsey continued to bring failed concepts to Philadelphia like the PSA concept, but hasn’t used the CDU model to respond to the flash-mob epidemic?  Maybe it’s because he was personally sued for ordering illegal mass arrests of globalization protesters in
Pershing Square
in 2002?  Maybe because many of Mayor Nutter’s supporters would not approve of Philadelphia Police in riot gear, rounding up juvenile flash mobs with assistance from bean bag guns, gas, and OC-spray fire extinguishers. 

Nobody can tell, as we are not party to Ramsey’s discussions with Nutter; but what is clear to many Philadelphians is that many of the programs brought with Ramsey are not making Philadelphia safer, but the one concept that many departments have travelled to DC to adopt; isn’t being used to stop the flash mobs that are terrorizing the city.   Either way, many of us are wondering if he was worth an additional $60,000 raise for staying in Philadelphia, when it's been reported that he was out of the running in Chicago at the time when Nutter granted him that raise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being tough on crime – the carrot and the stick

George Santayana once wrote “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.  For any of those who can remember the savage violence and disrespect for life that was rampant in America’s urban environments during the “crack explosion” twenty years ago, it seems like history is once again repeating itself.  Since last weekend, 33 people were shot over in Philadelphia alone, confirming two things:

1.      The “bad” old days are back in Philadelphia, and

2.      Our leaders clearly have no idea how to stop the madness.

 

Why? Because our national desire to be on the progressive front of social interaction is clashing with our natural instincts as free persons.  If you study the sometimes unimaginable spike in criminality that permeated America in the late-1980’s and early-1990’s, the invention and spread of crack cocaine wasn’t the only culprit to be cited as to the source of this epidemic.  With the sudden end of the cold war, the military-industrial complex was in a free fall, causing a recession.  While nowhere near the recession we’ve toiled through over the last three years, it was enough to create a feeling of instability in the minds of many Americans.  Like twenty years prior (the 1970’s), many middle-class Americans were fleeing the high crimes and rising taxes of the cities, and taking their businesses to the suburbs.  This is evident with the skylines and corporate complexes that rose in places like Jersey City, Reston (VA), Columbia (MD), etc.  What was left in the city was a generation of urban youth being raised by young, uneducated single parents with little family structure and adult supervision.  Add that poor upbringing to a constant barrage of thug culture – from peers to movies and music and it didn’t take much for these urban youths to accept that drugs, murder, and crime were a part of life. 

So many of you who are reading this may be wondering how we were able to get this explosion in crime under control.

Hint: It wasn’t done “nicely

 

During his campaign, Giuliani promised to focus the police department on shutting down petty crimes and nuisances as a way of restoring the quality of life, saying “It's the street tax paid to drunks and panhandlers. It's the squeegee men shaking down the motorist waiting at a light. It's the trash storms, the swirling mass of garbage left by peddlers and panhandlers, and open-air drug bazaars on unclean streets”.

The cap was put on after a trend was set in New York City.  After finally getting fed up with the lukewarm inaction of Mayor David Dinkins, whose murder rate peaked at 2,605 in 1990, the voters of New York elected a federal prosecutor named Rudolph W. Giuliani, the first Republican mayor of New York since Fiorello LaGuardia in (1934-1945).  Giuliani possessed a characteristic that made his career true: that no politician can truly be effective and do their job while pleasing all of their constituents. In other words, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. 

Upon his election to Mayor, Giuliani appointed an intelligent former Boston Police Commissioner and NYC Transit Police Chief, Bill Bratton to run the New York City Police Department.  Bratton voiced his faith in the rank and file – not micromanaging them.  He merged the NYPD with the Transit and Housing police departments to eliminate redundancy and create an undeniable force of over 39,000 sworn officers and promoted a quirky Transit Police Lieutenant named Jack Maple, who revolutionized policing by creating the COMPSTAT crime analysis system.  COMPSTAT held precinct commanders accountable for their crime rates and traced patterns of criminal incidents, encouraging proactive deployment and interventional police work from plain clothed street crime, anti-crime, and conditions units to make felony arrests of hardened criminals.      


Bratton took the leash off a very large dog and sent them out to make quality of life arrests, with a zero-tolerance mentality that had many minor criminals coming off the streets to discover that many of them were fugitives from justice for other, more major crimes.  Giuliani appointed a decorated former narcotics detective and Passaic County Deputy Sheriff, Bernard Kerik as his Corrections Commissioner, to reform the NYC Jails system and create the city’s invaluable gang intelligence unit.  He also had appointed a more professional Sheriff, who reported to the Commissioner of Finance and aggressively pursued scofflaws and those whose debt to the city brought disrepair to neighborhood buildings and communities.  The police work continued on many fronts, citizen complaints roze, many minority communities felt marginalized, and there was tremendous backlash surrounding controversial uses of force, such as the accidental shooting of Amadou Dialo, an illegal African immigrant who ran from police then, when cornered in a dark alley, reached into his pocket for a black wallet resulting in his accidental shooting.  However, the Bratton/Giuliani objective was reached, crime was dropped over 30%, to it’s lowest level since the 1960s.   

Despite being responsible for this drop, Giuliani was demonized by many New Yorkers, especially the arts and education communities for his lack of empathy for the residents in many of the crime ridden areas being heavily policed.  However, when it came time to be reelected, Giuliani did so handily – wiping out long-time liberal Boro President Ruth Messenger and racial activist Al Sharpton.

COMPSTAT and the “Broken Windows” theory was duplicated throughout the United States, and the federal government gave support to local law enforcement agencies with grants, task forces, and enhanced penalties.  While it’s arguable that the many quality of life contributors to the explosion in crime (drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.) just “went inside” and off the streets, it can’t be argued that the horrible normality of violent crime that many of us became accustomed to in the late-80’s and early-90’s subsided for many years. 

Until the surge of violence that started reoccurring in recent years.  Many politicians refused to come to grips with the return of “hard times”, but Philadelphians couldn’t ignore the writing on the wall with the murders of six police officers in unrelated incidents in only 18 months.  Then, despite a new “interpretation” of crime statistics by the administration of Commissioner Charles Ramsey, crime is steadily surging to it’s point in 2007, when Mayor Mike Nutter was elected on a platform of reform and crime control.    

So can the type of strategy used to clean up New York in the 90’s be used again?  Probably not.

See, while Rudy was crusading against crime in the name of the forgotten middle-class, newly elected Bill Clinton legitimized what his former opponent characterized "a movement [that would] declare certain topics 'off-limits,' certain expressions 'off-limits', even certain gestures 'off-limits'" – which became the liberal concept of Political Correctness, which was quickly adopted by the legal community and legitimized through a universal fear of litigation.  The basis of zero-tolerance crime control strategies lies within the simple public belief that criminals are bad.  If we characterize criminals as “socially challenged”, then we (as a society) find it hard to initiate sweeping, heavy-handed enforcement actions and prosecutions toward them.  While violent crime, flash mobs, and many other incidents can be attributed to a decline in the traditional family structure (fathers not taking responsibility, parents too young, community values that empathize with the criminal element), failing educational structure, and overwhelmed social services; much of the buck has stopped at the feet of law enforcement agencies who, through the politicalization of the position of police executives – which has changed the traditional roles of law enforcement officers.  The new conceptualization of the police officer/social worker had two unpredicted consequences;  

1.      This softer approach to law enforcement was manpower intensive.  Police executives used the “appearance” of law enforcement to make people feel safer, as they would see multiple patrolmen (marked cars, foot, and/or bicycle officers) on the street.  However, the perception of public safety and true public safety are two different concepts.  If the emphasis of policing is placed on patrol, where crimes are either stopped in progress or responded to, then the manpower, training, and long-term investments for specialized aspects of policing; such as investigations and intelligence is not there.

2.      With the new prevalence of Citizen Complaint Review Boards, Independent Police Monitors, and Consent Degrees/Memorandums of Understanding with the US Department of Justice – policing is a far less physical endeavor.  Add a sentencing leniency due to prison overcrowding and sociological considerations; and there is far less fear for the criminal justice system then there use to be.

So for many of us who want our current leadership (Nutter and Ramsey) to simply “take the leash off the dog” and perform zero tolerance policing in Philadelphia; you may be disappointed to see that neither Ramsey nor Nutter are capable of having the intestinal fortitude necessary to alienate half their constituency to save the other half (and the reputation and future development of the city).  If you don’t believe me, just watch the media coverage of last weekend’s violence:

Mayor Michael Nutter said he’s had enough, saying on camera Monday, “It’s just crazy-ass, ignorant people doing stupid things. The incident at the bar is just insane.”
The mayor added, “You just can’t have this kind of insanity going on. So, if you know something – as we say, if you see something, say something.”
Commissioner Charles Ramsey said "You have to take a look at what's going on in many of our communities. Its a very serious problem we have to address."

Notice you didn’t hear either leader speak as to what they intended to do about the disturbing trend of rising crime, shootings, and flash-mobs plaguing Philadelphia this week?  In comparison see how definitivly Rudy Giuliani was in defending the NYPD following the the Dialo verdict:

“If police officers act in the line of duty to protect a community against violent criminals and drug dealers, then that the community should stand up and support them when police officers’ lives are put in jeopardy.”

Where is the call for increased police enforcement, a summer curfew for juveniles, a stepped up enforcement of quality of life issues in Philadelphia; and a call to support the police and report crimes in the community before they become shootings or flash mobs?  You don’t see it here.  Why? Because the Mayor, Police Commissioner, and a great deal of city council are beholden to special interests and voters who empathize with the kids in these flash mobs, drug users, and criminals – not the taxpayers being victimized or the residents packing up and moving to the suburbs.

We need to let the Philadelphia Police do what they do best – STOP CRIME.  In New York, the following non-crime incident was on the NYPD 10-codes:

10-51           Roving band (specify direction of travel & number in group)
Philadelphia needs to start suppressing these “mobs” and using stop & frisk to intervene when large groups are congregating on corners and walking down streets, let them know the police are out there and if any of them are carrying weapons, illicit substances, underage alcohol, or have warrants – MAKE ARRESTS.
It’s time to get away from soft political rhetoric and save our streets before more lives are lost. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RCC and PPA Notaries implicated in voter fraud - so what ae YOU going to do?

According to today's Daily News "Heard in the Hall" Blog - Notaries connected to the Canuso/Meehan RCC, implicated in allegations of fraud in last year's elections for Republican committemen have permanently surrendered their notary licenses after an investigation by the state of Pennsylvania.
It's TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE!

PLEASE SIGN HERE!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corbett picks a Democratic former School Board member as his SRC replacement

Isn't he one of the guys that led the District to the point of a state takeover in the first place? In light of the budget fiasco, we (taxpayers) were expecting a hatchet-man, not an inside-man!

Read more here!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mayor Nutter Addresses the City in a Plea for School District Funding

Tonight at 7pm, Mayor Nutter came on TV to make a heartfelt plea to save our schools by supporting the soda tax. Note that he made no mention of the numerous instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of Arlene Ackerman that have heavily contributed to their massive budget shortfall.
If Mayor Nutter wants another tax hike, he needs to show us that we aren't flushing our hard earned money down a toilet of racism, violence, and corruption. You want my money, Mr. Mayor? Start with a clean sweep of the entire Ackerman administration at School District Headquarters. Replace her with a leader like Michelle Rhee (DC) who doesn't cater to identity politics, and place the school district under the jurisdiction of and open an investigation by the Inspector General.
Until such steps are taken, I strongly encourage any resident with common sense to go to council chambers at 9AM and SPEAK OUT against new taxes and fees in support of waste, fraud and abuse. If you can't make it, call your councilman and State Representative (you can get their number from the Committee of Seventy's Website at seventy.org)!!
Mark my words, citizens, this corruption will stand unless we make our voices known.  The primary was not the last word - we can vote in 5 new Republican at-large members to send a clear message to City Hall.
Do not let Philadelphia go down the same path of taxation and business alienation that was previously taken by Detroit, DC, and Baltimore City.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When will the Ackerman fiasco end?

Today, Good Day Philadelphia broadcast a clip of Dr. Arlene Ackerman talking to a fellow panelist at the SRC meeting with the microphone on.   It is clear that she misses her patronage job at Columbia University and dislikes the responsibility of teaching Philadelphia's children.  Either way, this clip is the 3rd gaffe this week; making me wonder why she could still be employed after racial statements, no-bid contracts, a budget crisis, and an IRS investigation.

SRC and Mayor Nutter - It's time to show her the door.

See the clip here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Capozzi's challenge affirms claims of voter fraud

Today, Daily News reporter Chris Brennan reported that Barbra Capozzi (D - South Philly) is challenging her close loss in the 2nd District City Council primary election to State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson.  Capozzi asserts that "widespread irregularities" in the 2nd District race "compromised the election so severely that the results cannot be trusted to reflect the will of the Democratic voters."  At the center of Ms. Capozzi's the claim is a Philadelphia City Commission employee who unlawfully instructed poll workers in some parts of the district to cover up or remove the name of attorney Damon Roberts, who withdrew from the race just before election day but too late to have his name removed from the ballot.  Roberts collected 319 votes, which were not counted.  Capozzi claims he would have collected thousands more votes if his name were not covered in some polling places.  The challenge also asserts a racial backroom political deal between Kenyatta Johnson, Roberts and third-place candidateTracey Gordon.  Capozzi's challenge claims that Rep. Johnson repeatedly urged Roberts to drop out to make "a concerted effort to secure his spot on the ballot as the only black candidate in the race".

The Second District population is approximately 49 percent African American and 35 White.  This challenge shows the kind of back-room dealing that manipulates the free electorate, and makes it hard for non-machine candidates to succeed in the primary system. 

Philadelphians for Ethical Leadership and Philly Decline were both reporting similar, non-racial activity within the Republican Mayoral Primary, where a backroom deal between RCC Chairman Vito Canuso and General Counsel Mike Meehan put Karen Brown, an unqualified former schoolteacher and former city administrative employee in the race for Mayor, challenging candidate John Featherman who had been a declared candidate since June, 2010.  Ms. Brown edged Mr. Featherman in the primary by a mere 57 votes, all of which came from the last 4% of counting; amid multiple reports of irregularities involving RCC Committeemen and Parking Authority employees who were told to switch their shifts so they could work at polling places for Brown.

Also reported heavily in the Philadelphia media was another backdoor meeting between Congressmen Bob Brady, Councilman Frank DiCicco, and IBEW local 98 head John Dougherty to "anoint" Mark Squila as the next 1st District City Councilman.  Despite heavy competition from Vern Anastasio, Mark grace, and Jeff Hornstien; Mr. Squila won in a landslide...partially because of the scores of IBEW electricians who, instead of working on training or building activities, mobilized at polling places throughout Philadelphia. 

The moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen, is that the outrageously low voter turnout seen in the last municipal election was a sign of just how disenchanted voters are with the electoral process.  Many people who appear at meetings and debates have expressed a belief that the system is "fixed" and that honest candidates have no chance of beating the machine with an endless stream of money and manpower.

The election of Al Schmidt and Stephanie Singer will help to stop the kinds of irregularities mentioned in the Capozzi challenge, but will fall short of addressing the imbalance of a political machine that runs the city on a 6:1 ratio, and voters that cast ballots based on what their union, minister, or employer tell them...as opposed to doing what's right for the city they reside in.