#StopTheFOP Twitch Stream
On November 18, Lilac hosted a watch party on Twitch for a hearing held by the Philadelphia City Council on the Philadelphia Police Department’s contracts with the city. We worked with #StopTheFOP organizers to produce a public event to help people understand why this contract is so important.
The #StopTheFOP coalition was formed to organize around the upcoming police contract negotiations between the City of Philadelphia and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The FOP represents the officers of the Philadelphia Police Department in contract negotiations and arbitration. The current agreement does not serve the people of Philadelphia. For starters, arbitrators have the power to reinstate officers fired with cause. This makes it difficult to fire officers who grossly abuse their power. Additionally, disciplinary records are rarely made public, and are removed after 2 years. Journalists have successfully filed Right To Know requests for some disciplinary records but these requests are not simple. (Read more about the #StopTheFOP and the stream here)
- Lilac General Meeting: Online on Sunday, December 27th at 2:00 PM. Check the Facebook event for details on how to join.
- Philly Bail Fund Call-a-thons: Every other Thursday from 6:00 - 7:30 PM. The next one is on Wednesday, December 23rd to avoid conflict with the holidays!
- 1-on-1 Workshop: Saturday, January 16th at 1:00 PM
Local News Summaries and Links
- In the wake of an increase in COVID-19 cases in its four county prisons, the City ordered a system-wide shelter-in-place order on Saturday, Dec. 5. Inmates are not allowed to outside of their cells except to shower or contact family or attorneys remotely. During the week ending Dec 11, 228 out of 4,300 prisoners had tested positive. In this context, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund has helped to bring home 325 people since the start of the epidemic, while saying that prisons have become “death traps for people who can’t pay for their freedom.”
- Pennsylvanians will miss out on $108 million dollars in mortgage and rental relief funds, according to a report by Spotlight PA. Despite receiving $169 million in requests for assistance from renters across the state, two housing programs failed to distribute the majority of $175 million in federal CARES Act funds. Advocates blame strict requirements and a complicated application process for the shortfall. The remaining funds that were left undistributed after the November 30th deadline will be returned to state agencies like the Department of Corrections and State Police.
- City Council unanimously passed the Black Workers Matter Economic Recovery Package. The package of three bills, supported by hospitality workers union Unite Here, contains protections for Philadelphia’s hospitality workers who are “overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly female,” The bills require that certain workers be reinstated based on seniority, protects some workers from being replaced if a new contractor takes over services at their workplace, and protects hotel workers whose workplace is sold or goes through foreclosed.
- The Pennsylvania Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides assistance to non-traditional workers who are out of work because of COVID, has been plagued by delays and other problems for recipients. Community Legal Services contends that thousands, especially low income Pennsylvanians, have had their payments illegally frozen in fraud prevention efforts. For the estimated 500,000 people who have been able to collect, the benefits are slated to expire on December 26th. Wolf’s administration has promised to expand food assistance if the program runs out, but officials acknowledge that many will “struggle to pay for basic human necessities, like food, housing and medication.”
- One day after World AIDS Day, LILAC members joined other Philadelphia activists in a protest outside of Biden’s transition headquarters. The protest highlighted the importance of accessible housing in preventing deaths due to both HIV and COVID. Just two weeks later, the city announced plans to evict about 200 individuals at high-risk of COVID complications from temporary housing in two hotels, plans that have been delayed by severe weather. For others facing eviction, City Council has voted to extend Philadelphia’s eviction diversion program through March 31, 2021. The program requires landlords to seek mediation before taking legal action against tenants for unpaid rent.
- A cluster of overdoses among restaurant workers, including three deaths, have stemmed from batches of cocaine laced with fentanyl. Health experts believe that the fentanyl was accidentally mixed with the other drugs and that patients did not know the highly potent opioid was present. This has led medical workers to call for increased availability of fentanyl test strips and the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Anyone wishing to obtain naloxone can find more information on the city’s health department website. Fentanyl test strips, while technically illegal despite being recommended by the city’s health department, can be ordered online.
- While Mayor Kenney has released a list of nine potential candidates to fill three openings on the Philadelphia School Board, Our City Our Schools Coalition, the Philadelphia Black Student Alliance and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have alleged the Mayor’s selection process has lacked transparency and violated the state’s Sunshine Act. A growing number of students have also called to have student representatives on the Board to have the right to vote even though the student representatives on the Board say their main priority is getting mental services to students during the pandemic.
- SEPTA had intended to increase fares as of January 1, but has put off the increase until July because of the pandemic. City Council also passed a bill to place a six month moratorium on non-chain restaurants evictions. The Philadelphia Water Department will extend its water shutoff moratorium through April 2021. The City will also delay implementation of its reduction in the real estate tax abatement until 2022.
- Carlos Vega, a career homicide prosecutor, has announced he will run for District Attorney against Larry Krasner in Philadelphia’s May 2021 primary, citing the rise in murders in the city as a primary concern. Krasner, the current D.A., has brought charges against rogue policemen, and rankled self-described law-and-order advocates such as FOP head John McNesby.
- Sankofa Community Farm, which grows 15,000 pounds of produce a year at Bartram’s Garden, has begun a home garden program that enables anyone with a yard in Southwest Philadelphia to have a raised bed built on their land. According to co-director Chris Bolden-Newsome, “We are providing space for African-descended people to rebuild their relationships to the land. That’s what separates us from other urban agriculture spaces in the city. That is our priority.”
- Check out famed Philadelphia architect Denise Scott Brown’s historic photographs of South Street in the 1960s. While you are at it, look at this selection of amateur tourist photographs of Philadelphia from 1981.
- The Federal Reserve has created the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MLF lends money to state and local governments. The Lilac Education Working Group is working on a campaign to get MLF funds for the Philadelphia School District (PSD). PSD needs at least $4.5 billion to totally repair its dangerous and toxic infrastructure. The buildings of PSD need ventilation system overhauls, repairs to windows, heating and cooling systems, and remediation of health hazards like asbestos. MLF funds would mean liquidity for Philadelphia schools to make these necessary repairs and updates.