Lilac Philly

The Monthly News: August: Fund Our Schools!

By Lilac Newsletter Team, Aug. 19, 2020

We open this edition of the newsletter with a call to help the sister of long-time friend of Lilac, Karl Blumenthal. Lore Elizabeth Blumenthal was arrested in the early morning of June 15, 2020, on charges of arson during the recent uprising. Lore is a care worker in Philadelphia and provides crucial aid and support to many of our most vulnerable; especially now, care workers like Lore are more important to our society than we can know or quantify.

You may have read of the incomprehensible lengths that the FBI went to to track down Lore from a photo taken during the first days of the protests. Her arrest and subsequent detention without bail are tactics meant to silence and suppress protests like those we have seen around the country. Lore has been singled out by law enforcement to send a message to other protestors all over the country that you can be detained, your home raided, and your life shattered whenever the police decide you pose enough of a threat. In these times of struggle we ask that you donate to Lore’s fundraiser, administered by her brother Karl.

Thank you. Stay safe, stay strong.

Fund Our Schools!

School is set to start at the beginning of September, but classes will be online at least through November 17th. However, it’s not clear how schools will be able to afford to open safely. Years of neoliberal policy including the 10 year tax abatement have left schools dependent on risky financial instruments and have crippled the education budget. Between 2012 - 2013, 30 schools were closed. Last year, 11 schools were temporarily shut down because of asbestos, lead, and mold. There’s no plan in sight for finding the money to fix $4.5 billion in infrastructure deficiencies.

With COVID procedures making everything more expensive, it doesn’t seem feasible to open up and keep everyone safe, but our children still need education! Lilac has been fighting to make sure that all students have internet so they can attend their classes. Some of our members have also been proposing technical solutions for how to get the funding our schools need.

LILAC encourages members to form working groups on issues the organization is not currently organizing around. All it takes is five people and a vote at a General Meeting and you can form such a group. As of now, LILAC doesn't have a working group for education. But it should! If you're interested in forming an Education Working Group in LILAC, whose initial project will address school funding, email Dave Backer at david.backer@gmail.com.

The November Election: Untangling the Web of Laws, Regulations, and Challenges

The current postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has taken measures to ensure mail delivery is slowed down, and mail-in ballots in particular, do not reach election offices in a timely fashion. They expect there to be so many ballots mailed at once that both the Post Office and those counting the ballots will be overwhelmed.The system for counting them could break down. Millions of mail-in votes could be ruled invalid because the Postal Service delivered them late. As of now, the President is refusing to negotiate a stimulus bill that would fund the post office, with the hope that many mail-in ballots will be disqualified… (read the full article here)

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Local News Summaries and Links

  • Twenty-two people were murdered in Philadelphia over the weekend of August 7 - August 10. Large cities nationwide have been seeing a similar surge in homicides. In response, City Council convened hearings with the Special Committee on Gun Violence to investigate the problem. “Experts” are not sure what is causing the rise, but they think that unemployment among adults, no school for the young, forced togetherness at home, and financial hardship might have a role in this epidemic of violence.
  • The City of Philadelphia is investigating but has not yet reckoned with the police tear gassing of an African American neighborhood in West Philadelphia during the George Floyd protests on May 31. Mayor Kenney, who authorized the attacks, has since maintained that he regret[s] the use of tear gas. In the wake of accusations that Penn’s police force was present during the attack, students at Penn and Drexel have marched to demand that these private police forces be disbanded. Black students at Penn also say that Penn’s police engage in racial profiling.
  • Philadelphia residents are suing PPD over the use of violence against non-violent protestors and uninvolved city residents during the Black Lives Matter protests. Most of the legal action taken by the 140-plus individuals are in regards to the extended use of excessive force and widespread tear gassing on 52nd St. on May 31, and the tear gassing and entrapment of protesters on I-676 on June 1. Lawyers have advised their clients to avoid any contact with the PPD during the course of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, other citizens have refused to file complaints to the PPD for lack of trust, even suspicion that their complaints may be used against them.
  • Trump’s Postmaster general Louis DeJoy and the federal government are gutting the USPS. Routine mail delivery operations are being severely disrupted as mailboxes are pulled off the streets, and the shutdown of a mail sorter in West Philadelphia has wrought chaos in an already overloaded post office. Overtime benefits have been stripped, post-office hours are being cut, and staff are being encouraged to leave mail behind. President Trump has admitted to sabotaging the USPS in an effort to prevent mail-in ballots in the upcoming November election.
  • Siobhan Reardon, the director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, has resigned following a storm of criticism in the wake of an open letter from Concerned Black Workers about the blatant racism they face on the job and cancellation of speaking events by many black authors.
  • Mayor Kenney and Gov. Wolf have called for Rodney Muhammad to step down after he shared an anti-semitic tweet. Muhammad, President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP, minister of Mosque No. 12 in North Philadelphia, and former worker for Kenny’s campaign, has not explicitly apologized.
  • Using SEPTA is reasonably coronavirus safe because SEPTA’s vehicles have high-frequency ventilation systems that exchange the air circulating within the bus, train car or trolley frequently. The interior air of buses changes every 2 to 2 ½ minutes and regional rail and trolley cars every 2 to 3 minutes. Around the world, public transportation appears, as far as is known, to be low risk for coronavirus transmission.
  • Only 52% of Philadelphians had responded to the US Census as of early August, while 66% of people from Pennsylvania as a whole had. Across the river in Camden, the response rate is 46% compared to the 65% participation rate in the state of New Jersey as a whole. Since the Census count will be concluded a month earlier than usual, census experts expect people in Black and Latinx communities will be dramatically undercounted, leading—in Pennsylvania—to a loss of about $21,000 in federal funds per year for the decade for every person not counted.
  • The Black Star Film Festival, Philadelphia’s showcase for films by black, brown and indigenous filmmakers, will begin August 19th and continue until August 26th. Formerly housed at International House, the festival’s new home is the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This year all screenings will be online.

Solidarity,
The Lilac Newsletter Group