Saturday, May 30, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM
A girl writes on the sidewalk near North Ave and Pennsylvania Ave in Baltimore, Maryland May 1, 2015. (Reuters)

One thing I'll say about the ongoing controversy about policing and race in America is that -- as a sidebar to a lot of rancor and unpleasantness -- it's produced some interesting reading. By that, I mean journalists and thinkers (occasionally those two even overlap) are producing deep dives into the real problems of law and order in American cities, and what has actually worked. I hope that presumptive (I love that word) Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney -- when he's not chatting with George Norcross about the next generation of toll takers -- is reading these and think about how to take policing here beyond simply ending stop-and-frisk.

Mayor-presumed Kenney needs to look at policing in Cincinnati, a city that 15 years ago had the same kind of problems as Ferguson and Baltimore, culminating in a wave of unrest. Then it turned things around...buit it took years of hard work. Today, Cincinnati has far fewer complaints of police brutality, but it also has a lot less violent crime:

Looking back, the results of Cincinnati’s reform efforts are startling. Between 1999 and 2014, Cincinnati saw a 69 percent reduction in police use-of-force incidents, a 42 percent reduction in citizen complaints and a 56 percent reduction in citizen injuries during encounters with police, according to a report by Robin S. Engel and M. Murat Ozer of the Institute of Crime Science at the University of Cincinnati. Violent crimes dropped from a high of 4,137 in the year after the riots, to 2,352 last year.  Misdemeanor arrests dropped from 41,708 in 2000 to 17,913 last year.

Will Bunch @ 6:49 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 6:29 PM
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Burlington, Vt., where he formally announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for president. (AP Photo/Andy Duback)

You probably missed it. The TV news gave little if any news coverage to the presidential campaign announcement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ("Hey, we have 'serious' candidates like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz to deal with," I'm guessing they'd say) but the speech was definitely an organic barnburner live from Ben-and-Jerry-land. Sanders wasn't more than a minute or two into it when he belted out what should become his campaign motto:

Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that; "Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists."

Enough is enough...when it comes to yawning gap between the Super Rich and everybody else in America. It's not surprising to hear this from Sanders, the only democratic socialist (to my knowledge) in the 2016 race for the White House. But other candidates have adopted some variation on this mantra: Income inequality was the only issue that Hillary Clinton raised in her campaign announcement video and was the topic of recent speeches. Over on the GOP side, the 2012-runner-up-turned-longshot Rick Santorum has ditched the man-on-dog stuff in favor of calling for a higher minimum wage. But Sanders is hitting this the hardest, so far.

Will Bunch @ 6:29 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 4:04 PM
A general view shows the Philadelphia Energy Solutions petroleum refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 4, 2014. (Reuters)

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about air pollution issues at the massive Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia, and the growing fears felt by neighbors. They're probably not feeling any better about it today. PES just got dinged for violating air-pollution standards in a flare-up that spewed thick black smoke over the Schuylkill River landmark -- as reported in The Declaration -- even after officials at the refinery had assured residents there was no problem.

Oh, and then there was a new blaze at the site this weekend.

Oh, and another small fire today.

Will Bunch @ 4:04 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5:11 PM
Demonstrators by the hundreds march near McDonald's Corp. headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., in efforts to get a raise to $15 an hour and to form a union. This marks the second year that protests have been held ahead of the fast-food chain's annual meeting; in this case, it was the day before. The protesters were reported to have come from as far away as New York to wage what is called a fight for not just wages, but also for racial equality. (Bloomberg)

I couldn't have said this better myself (No, seriously, I couldn't have) -- the Charlotte Observer editorial page editor promised to celebrate Honesty Day by answering reader questions, so one reader in this mostly blood-red southern state wanted to know "why do you support such a liberal agenda?" Here's an excerpt:

We believe in consistency, so if you are going to drug-test recipients of public assistance, drug-test them all, including the corporate chieftains who are the biggest beneficiaries.

We believe that police officers should act professionally, under incredibly difficult circumstances, regardless of a suspect’s race.

Will Bunch @ 5:11 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 5:54 PM
Helen Gym looks at election results with Antione Little of Philadelphia at the Belgian Cafe. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON/Staff Photographer)

Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode lost Tuesday night. OK, that's literally true, in that at-large city councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and ex-councilman Frank Rizzo, son of the late mayor and police commissioner, both were defeated in the Democratic primary. But it's even more profoundly true in the metaphorical sense: That the 20th-Century politics embodied by their fathers, iconic Philadelphia mayors of 1970s and 1980s, has finally gone the way of pay phones, 8-tracks and rabbit-ear antennas.

For forty-plus years, Philly politics has slalomed between the slippery poles of knee-jerk law-and-order and rigid racial-identity politics. That created a city that remained firmly Democratic -- yet was rarely progressive. And you don't have to go back to the era when MTV showed music videos -- just remember where City Hall was at just a couple of years ago.

It was the city's current chief executive, Mayor Nutter, who ran on a platform of stopping-and-frisking young men in urban neighborhoods, who vetoed -- after heavy lobbying by Comcast and the Chamber of Commerce -- mandatory sick leave for city workers, and who resisted calls for a higher living wage in city contracting. Up at 440 Broad Street, the School Reform Commission was working stealthily with a large philanthropy to draft plans that would close traditional neighborhood schools and speed the advance of charter schools.

Will Bunch, Daily News Staff Writer @ 5:54 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 7:23 PM
President Barack Obama in Marine One on May 18, 2015. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

For a lame duck, President Obama had a pretty busy Monday. For one thing, he went on Twitter -- and this time, it counts. Then, unlike most of us, he went to Camden. He had a good cause -- to celebrate how officials there have reduced crime though community policing. So what better place to announce at least a preliminary step to demilitarize your local police force. The order that Obama signed today before heading to New Jersey states that the feds will no longer be providing Officer Friendly with tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers and bayonets, and there'll be tougher restrictions on certain kinds of riot gear.

I was even more impressed by what the president has to say in Camden:

"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there's an occupying force as opposed to a force that's part of the community," he said to applause. "We're going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments."

Will Bunch @ 7:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2015, 8:19 PM
This image released by AMC shows, from left, John Slattery as Roger Sterling, Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell, Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris and Kevin Rahm as Ted Chaough, in a scene from the final season of "Mad Men." The series finale airs on Sunday. (Justina Mintz/AMC via AP)

In a television show that depicts a lawnmower severing a key executive's foot in a busy Madison Avenue office and a forlorn co-worker delivering one of the key female employees his severed nipple in a box -- and dozens of other memorable moments in more than 80 hours of densely layered drama -- there is one key scene that truly defines the ethos of "Mad Men."

It comes at unlikely juncture, midway through the second season. At the end of 1960, the rising secretary-turned-copy-writer Peggy Olson has seen her journey at the Sterling Cooper agency all but thwarted by a childbirth that wasn't just unwanted but unforeseen, triggering a breakdown -- making Peggy an extreme case even among the show's united states of denial. Her boss, Don Draper, is the only co-worker to visit Peg during her long recovery in the psych ward -- empathy tinged with the knowledge of finding a kindred spirit. Don's buried past -- he isn't even Don Draper but a Korean War vet and identity thief named Dick Whitman -- dwarf Peggy's new secret, and so his hospital bedside pep talk is layered with irony.

"Get out of here and move forward," Don says. "This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."

Will Bunch @ 8:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2015, 5:42 PM
Jim Kenney listens to Darryl Clarke speak at a press conference to announce City Council President Darryl Clarke's endorsement of Jim Kenney for mayor in North Philadelphia on Thursday, May 14, 2015. ( STEPHANIE AARONSON / Staff Photographer )

At the start of this year, most "shrewd" political observers never thought Jim Kenney would give up his relatively safe City Council seat (and the paycheck that comes with it) to run for mayor. When there were rumblings that he might change his mind, I asked here, "Kenney Do It?" Today, he's on the brink:

IS THE 2015 Philadelphia mayor's race effectively over?

An independent poll released yesterday contains a staggering amount of good news for former City Councilman Jim Kenney - he's leading the pack by a whopping 27 points - and a mountain of migraine-inducing numbers for state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

Will Bunch @ 5:42 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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