Archive for February, 2012

Harrisburg Elected Leaders Say Bankruptcy Inevitable

February 29, 2012

Opposition to Receiver’s Plan Grows as April 6 Deadline Looms

Next Opportunity: March 15 – Receiver Unkovic at Harrisburg Hope Panel

By Frank Pizzoli
Central Voice
Feb. 29, 2012, 4:58 p.m.
Opposition to court-appointed Harrisburg City Receiver David Unkovic’s fiscal recovery plan continues to grow. For three consecutive days public actions reflect mounting frustration.

First reported by Tara Leo Auchey of Today’s the Day, on Feb. 27 nearby municipalities asked for time before the court tomorrow in a scheduled hearing to plead its case that the plan is unfair to their jurisdictions. Tomorrow’s hearing is a step in the process requiring that Unkovic’s plan be approved by the court which must make a final decision, unless more extensions are sought, by April 6.

Yesterday, Debt Watch, a citizen’s organization, held a public forum on the plan, calling the receiver’s plan almost identical to the original plan put forth by the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development.

This afternoon Harrisburg elected officials said bankruptcy for the city is “inevitable” and called out what they see as deficiencies in the receiver’s 180-page plan.

City leaders
In the atrium of Harrisburg’s City Hall, a building some have suggested should be sold and leased back to the city as one of many steps needed to resolve the city’s $330 million fiscal doomsday, City Treasurer John Campbell, City Council President Wanda Williams, City Council member Eugenia Smith, and City Controller Dan Miller, this afternoon agreed “bankruptcy is inevitable”.

Miller, Campbell, and Williams have also formally asked the court for time during tomorrow’s hearing to express their concerns as elected public officials.

With today’s move, the elected leaders say they seek to combat the common perception that Harrisburg’s city leadership can’t work together. The three office holders head three of the four branches of city government.

In discussing the city’s fiscal situation, the options for its future and Unkovic’s proposal, the group‘s press advisory referred to Unkovic’s plan as not “fair and balanced and in the best interests” of the city.

City controller Miller pointed out what Unkovic said in his own report: “What is obvious is that the two main fiscal problems of the City – long term debt and a structural deficit – are in fact interrelated”. He criticized the plan for addressing long term debt but not the city’s growing structural deficit. The group’s material called the plan a “false choice” and states that the solution “requires a comprehensive recovery plan that really works”.

Further complicating the confusing situation is, Miller claims, a structural deficit – a number that grows like weeds as time goes on – that is larger than previously stated.

In a projected balance sheet prepared for today’s press conference, Miller projects that the city’s actual deficit by end of 2012 will be nearly $29 million, growing to $32 million by 2013. He says his numbers reflect all of the city’s fiscal obligations for both years. Yet, the receiver’s plan, Miller says, puts the sale of city assets “into high speed motion,” denying the city the revenue from them as part of a recovery plan but not adequately address the growing deficit.

He also said he thinks there has not been proper attention paid to formally looking into new sources of revenue should assets be sold, further hampering the city’s long term recovery.

Debt Watch
Last evening (Feb. 28) city-based watchdog group Debt Watch hosted about 40 people for an evening with Neil Grover and Bill Cluck moderated by Auchey. The community forum was held at Midtown Scholar Bookstore which has become a hub for meetings on the festering problem. Grover founded the organization in response to the city’s ongoing quagmire.

Although a member of The Harrisburg Authority, an entity that finds itself in the middle of an irksome fiscal imbroglio, Cluck spoke as an individual. THA has just completed a forensic audit of a series of financial transactions that is available on the authority’s web site www.hbgauthority.com.

The purpose of the public meeting was to compare Receiver Unkovic’s financial recovery plan to the original plan proffered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, a plan rejected by Harrisburg City Council a swell as the next plan produced by Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson.

Grover characterized the Receiver’s plan as reflecting what he thinks is an “unsolvable problem” as it currently appears. Cluck called the proposal “virtually identical” to all previous plans.

Municipalities challenge
In a tangible step signaling that leaders outside the city recognize that “regionalism” is a two-way street, 10 municipalities and agencies on Feb. 27 asked to intervene in the court’s March 1 hearing on Unkovic’s plan.

The entities are Susquehanna Township, Susquehanna Township Authority, Steelton Borough, Steelton Borough Authority, Lower Paxton Township, Lower Paxton Township Authority, Swatara Township, Swatara Township Authority, Paxtang Borough, and the Borough of Penbrook.

The 10 challengers dispute an aspect of the plan that tethers them to the city regarding their sewage service fees through a city-operated water system owned by The Harrisburg Authority. In short, the group asserts past sewage fund transfer practices and the plan’s resolution to those practices puts them at an unfair disadvantage, the main point they hope to make at tomorrow’s court hearing.

Next Opportunity
The next opportunity for public comment on the receiver’s fiscal recovery plan is March 15, 6 p.m. at Midtown Scholar Bookstore when Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and Harrisburg Hope hosts Receiver Unkovic, Harrisburg’s Mayor Thompson, City Council Vice President Eugenia Smith. The intended format is that after moderator Kennedy-Shaffer asks a few questions, the public then is asked to step up to the microphone.

The March 15 public discussion is one of three Harrisburg Hope forums to be held at the bookstore, both at 6p.m. The next two forums are March 1 when four candidates for the 103rd State House seated held by longtime Rep. Ron Buxton address the public. Buxton is not seeking re-election and has been criticized for not playing a stronger role in protecting the city’s interests as the city’s fiscal dilemma’s unfolded.

This first state house debate features Harrisburg City Councilwoman Patty Kim, former Council President Gloria Martin-Roberts, former School Board President Roy Christ, and charter school administrator Karl Singleton.

March 8 is a Senate Candidates Forum featuring both Democrats and Republicans at an open candidates forum. Invited candidates for the 15th District Senate seat are Rob Teplitz, Alvin Taylor, Josh First, John McNally, and Bill Seeds. Sen. Jeff Piccola is not seeking re-election and is the legislative architect of legislation that has, among other things, eliminated until June 30, 2012 the ability of the city to petition the court for bankruptcy.

Advertisements

Equality Pennsylvania Celebrates Legacy of Bayard Rustin: March 11

February 27, 2012

Pennsylvania-born Bayard Rustin

Equality Pennsylvania celebrates the life and legacy of Bayard Rustin, whose 100th birthday would have been March 17, 2012. Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights. He was also a Pennsylvanian.

EVENT DETAILS: “I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters” Sunday, March 11, 5 p.m., The Midtown Scholar, 1302 North Third St., Harrisburg, PA 17102. Michael Long reads from and discusses his new book. “I Must Resist…” includes previously unpublished letters to Rev. Martin Luther King, Pres. John F. Kennedy, as well as FBI memoranda about Rustin.

Info: 717-236-1680 or visit http://www.midtownscholar.com

Rustin History
A West Chester native, Rustin was active in the state and across the nation in the struggle for human rights and economic justice for over 50 years. His extensive background in the theory, strategies, and tactics of nonviolent action proved invaluable in his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is credited as the architect of the 1963 March on Washington, and many other logistical feats that supported the Civil Rights Movement.

Despite these achievements, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Rustin’s biography is particularly important for LGBT Americans, highlighting the major contributions of a gay man to ending official segregation in America. Rustin stands at the confluence of the great struggles for civil, legal and human rights by African-Americans and lesbian and gay Americans. In a nation still torn by racial hatred and violence, bigotry against homosexuals, and extraordinary divides between rich and poor, his eloquent voice is needed today.

27th: Cheltenham Township Passes Non-discrimination Law

February 16, 2012

Will your municipality be the 28th?
By Frank Pizzoli

Adrian Shanker, Equality Pennsylvania president

By a six to one vote Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County Feb. 15 adopted a non-discrimination ordinance spearheaded by Area Residents for Equality and other community groups. The lone “no” vote was based on what Commissioner Charles McKeown cited as his “religious beliefs”.

Equality PA president Adrian Shanker told Central Voice the vote reflects what “residents want their township to be, a place where everyone is treated fairly.” Other groups joining the effort were the local NAACP chapter, a United Church of Christ congregation, and Reformed Congregation of Israel.

Except for a few individuals who testified during public comment time that they did not believe discrimination existed and therefore the ordinance was unnecessary, the measure drew community support.

Shanker said,” passing the ordinance makes it clear “discrimination against anyone, including LGBT people, is simply unwelcome” and that “discrimination is not a value of this community.” The measure applies to employment, housing, and public accommodation. The township is the 27th municipality in the state to pass such an ordinance, although the state’s three largest cities – Altoona, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport – do not.

Most recently, Susquehanna Township (Dauphin County), Jenkintown Borough and Whitemarsh Township, both in Montgomery County, passed protective ordinances, preceded by Bethlehem. The complete list includes: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie (County), Allegheny (County), Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster (City), Harrisburg, York, State College, Easton, Newton Borough, Swarthmore, Lower Merion Township, West Chester, New Hope, Landsdown, Doylestown, Conshohocken, Haverford, Springfield Township, and Montgomery County.

Over the past year, Equality PA has combined efforts with locally-based advocates to pass ordinances in nine municipalities. With a goal of 25 ordinances passed by 2012, the statewide advocate organization is ahead of its goal.

“We are really just doing what state legislators have told us to do all along on non-discrimination,” Equality PA executive director Ted Martin told Central Voice in previous stories. “Pass local ordinances and that will build grassroots pressure on us to act they say. So we have made passing ordinances a top priority and we wanted 25 on the books by 2012,” he said.

Central Voice Gets “Warholized”

February 11, 2012

From left: James Warhola, Madalen Warhola, Ray Costello, Debra Miller honoring the 25th anniversary of James' and Madalen's uncle Andy Warhol.

Feb. 22, 1987 Andy Warhol died. Da Vinci Art Alliance, Philadelphia’s oldest artist association paid tribute last month on the 25th anniversary of his death with a multi-media exhibition by 36 member artists, a memorial catalogue, and a panel discussion exploring the impact and influence of Andy Warhol. Fleisher Art Memorial also participated in the event partially sponsored by a grant from Campbell’s Soup Company, and a donation from Matt and Brenda Lyons.

“Warholized: 15 Minutes and 25 Years,” a panel discussion filled the facility to capacity with an appearance by artists James and Madalen Warhola (Andy’s nephew and niece), and moderated by Art Historian and noted Warhol scholar Dr. Debra Miller.

Da Vinci Art Alliance is a non-profit artists’ organization located in South Philadelphia. The organization was founded in 1931 to serve the needs of professional artists and artisans in the Delaware Valley. Da Vinci currently has over 150 members and is supported through membership dues, gallery rentals, sales commissions, grants, and donations. It holds exhibitions of members’ and non-members’ artwork as well as special events, workshops, performances, poetry readings, and lectures, and publishes a quarterly newsletter for its members.

Miller currently teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ, and at Hussian School of Art, Philadelphia, where she serves as Chair of the General Education Department. She was named a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council for 2008-09 and 2010-11, lecturing throughout the state on Andy Warhol. With grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Kress Foundation, and American Philosophical Society, she authored the fully illustrated catalogue Artists of the Warhol Circle Then and Now, an exhibition she curated, and which traveled the world for seven years), the first monograph on Factory photographer Billy Name (Billy Name: Stills from the Warhol Films), and contributions to Gerard Malanga, Screen Tests Portraits Nudes 1964-1996. She is a staff writer for http://www.STAGEpartners.org (based in Wilmington, DE), a contributing writer for http://www.theartblog.org (Philadelphia), and the Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice.

For James Warhola a large influence during his childhood was his artistic family, especially his famous uncle, Pop artist Andy Warhol. From an early age of watching his uncle illustrate shoes, James wanted to be an illustrator. He established himself as a highly sought after talent, illustrating over 300 book covers for the most popular writers of the day. Two celebrated covers are Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and William Gibson’s first cyperpunk classic, Neuromancer. In 1980, the editors at Mad Magazine commissioned him for their paperbacks. He’s been a regular contributor of the magazine ever since. His autobiographical story, Uncle Andy’s, been featured nationally on NPR’s Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air. James Warhola splits his time between the Hudson Valley of New York and Baltimore, Maryland. He presently teaches courses on painting techniques for illustrators, oil painting, and water-base painting for the Illustration Department of the Maryland Institute College of Art.

As the niece of Andy Warhol, Madalen Warhola was born into a virtual dynasty of artists. Along with the inspiration from her famous uncle and his Pop Art silkscreening process, Madalen now runs the family silkscreening business, Warhola Designs. She was also trained in the folk art of their ancestral Slovakia by her grandmother Julia (Andy’s mother). The detailed, painstaking technique of creating “pysanki” (eggs decorated with encaustic) stirs Madalen’s fond memories of her childhood, the ethnic heritage of her family, and loving times spent with her late uncle and grandmother. She created and maintains the Warhola family website at http://www.warhola.com, and, along with other relatives, is developing the Warhola Family Museum in the house where Andy grew up in Pittsburgh.

Breaking: Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional by 9th Circuit Panel

February 7, 2012

February 7, 2012
By Jacob Combs and Adam Bink
Prop8TrialTracker.com

Prop8TrialTracker.com reports that Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court’s opinion in Perry v. Brown. Proposition 8 is the 2008 voter-enacted ban on marriage equality in California.

In addition, the appeals panel ruled that the proponents of Prop. 8 did have standing to pursue their appeal of Judge Walker’s decision striking down the marriage ban, and upheld District Court Judge Ware’s decision denying a stay to throw out Walker’s ruling because he is gay. The ruling on constitutionality was divided on an 2-1 vote, with Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Hawkins voting to strike Prop 8 down, and Judge N. Randy Smith voting to uphold the ban. The ruling regarding standing and the motion to throw out Judge Walker’s decision was a unanimous 3-0 vote.

In his August 4, 2010, decision, which the 9th Circuit upheld today, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8 as unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. In his opinion, Judge Walker presented 80 findings of fact regarding same-sex marriage, which included discussions about the immutability of sexual orientation, the ability of same-sex couples to be good parents, and the inequality of providing LGBT couples with civil unions as opposed to full marriages. These findings of fact are highly significant, because while appellate courts can overturn a lower court’s decision based on its findings of law, they usually defer to those courts’ findings of fact. Today’s ruling affirms Judge Walker’s findings of fact, meaning that they can but used in the future in other trial cases in the 9th Circuit that deal with LGBT rights.

Today’s ruling is also significant because the 9th Circuit ruled that District Court Judge James Ware, who took over the Perry case when Judge Walker retired, was correct in denying a motion filed by Prop 8′s proponents to overturn Judge Walker’s decision on the grounds that he failed to disclose that he himself was in a long-term relationship with a man (which he did announce publicly after the decision was released). In a December 8 hearing on the motion to overturn Judge Walker’s decision, the 9th Circuit panel seemed deeply skeptical that Judge Walker’s ruling should be thrown out because of his orientation and relationship status. The 9th Circuit’s decision today is an important victory for the assumption of impartiality that our judicial system is based on, and demonstrates that LGBT judges are just as fit to preside over cases pertaining to LGBT rights as are their heterosexual counterparts.

What comes next?

The first issue on everyone’s minds is whether same-sex couples can wed immediately if Prop 8 is struck down. The answer is that it depends on whether a stay is issued in the case. After Judge Walker issued his decision, a stay on his ruling was also issued that kept Prop 8 in effect as a law until such time that another court struck it down, meaning California’s same-sex couples have not been able to wed since his ruling. If the 9th Circuit panel or another court body issues a stay, same-sex couples cannot wed. Many legal observers expect a stay if Prop 8 is struck down, however it’s not entirely certain.

The other issue on everyone’s mind is, what comes next in terms of appeals? The losing side could appeal the decision in one of two ways. First, they could request what is called an en banc hearing. In most appellate courts, this involves the decision by a panel of judges (in this case, the 3-judge panel reviewing the Perry v. Brown case) being reviewed by all the judges on the appeals court. In the 9th Circuit, however (by far the largest appellate court in the country), an en banc hearing involves 11 of the court’s judges. In order for this review to occur, a majority of all active judges in the 9th Circuit must vote to rehear it. Many legal observers believe it is unlikely the court would allow an en banc hearing. The losing party could then appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has discretion over which cases it decides to hear, and hears arguments in only about 1% of all petitions filed for certiorari (judicial review) each term, so there is no guarantee it would take up an appeal of Perry. If four Supreme Court Justices agree to hear the case, the Supreme Court will review the case.

Komen Decision Had No Effect Locally on Planned Parenthood

February 3, 2012

Sept. 27, 2011, when wmoen's organizations brought their message to the state capital.

When nationally-known breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation abruptly cut ties with Planned Parenthood centers across the country, and within three days reversed that decision, Central Voice asked Planned Parenthood of Central Pennsylvania about local repercussions had their original decision been implemented. Komen cited a recently adopted policy of not provide funds to organizations under government investigation as is Planned Parenthood Federation of America when last October an investigation of the national organization was initiated by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. That policy has been amended to exclude the type of investigation underway.

“Planned Parenthood of Central Pennsylvania does not receive funds from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. So this decision would not have affected our patients directly,” according to Suellen Craig, president, PPCP. As part of the investigation Craig’s colleague, Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has been asked for information on 83 affiliates and accounting information covering a decade. The goal of the request is to determine if taxpayer money was being used to fund abortions. Craig told Central Voice “We have no idea what will happen in the future, since Komen was bullied by political groups into this decision.” Now we know.