Gubernatorial Forum at Gershman Y

— by John Oliver Mason

Candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania were asked questions as a community forum held in the Elaine C. Levitt Auditorium of the Gershman Y on Sunday, March 23, 2014. The participants were:

Governor Tom Corbett and Democratic candidate Tom Wolff were invited but did not attend.

Synopsis after the jump.
Introductions

Gloria Gilman, Chair of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and Co-Coordinator of the Philadelphia Council of MoveOn, greeted the audience, saying,    

The coalition’s goal is to help educate voters (about) the upcoming primary, to be held May 20th-remember that date-and to recognize the importance of the role the Governor (of Pennsylvania) plays in our lives. We came together to look at the issues upon which the governor has influence that effect the grassroots of this city. We’re posing questions on issues that really matter to us, in which the candidates have not necessarily committed to their positions, or where we think it might be possible to differentiate their perspectives.

Tracy Gordon, Deputy City Commissioner of Philadelphia, spoke of a new effort of the City Commissioners’ office (which oversees voting in the city) for assuring voter turnout in the May primary.  Gordon read a letter from City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who was in Harrisburg at the time:

While many Philadelphians vote in presidential elections, many fewer vote in midterm elections. This low turnout has far-reaching consequences. One in every eight registered voters in Pennsylvania (live in) Philadelphia. But candidates for statewide office spend less than one-eighth of their time campaigning in Philadelphia. They favor the counties with higher voter turnout, and who can blame them?

The result is statewide officials, such as governors, who don’t understand us or respond to our needs as well as they would if (voters) turned out to vote in large numbers…Every vote you cast is a vote not only for a candidate, but also for your neighborhood, and for your demographic group. Every vote you cast supports the work of local leaders who represent you. Every vote you cast  makes Philadelphia strong.

Gordon displayed a new handbook from Singer’s office for voters with questions about election procedures, and she directed voters to Singer’s office’s new website for more information. The book, said Gordon, explained how to vote by absentee ballot, how to write in a vote, and deadlines for registering to vote.

The moderators for the forum were Daniel Denvir, writer for Philadelphia City Paper, and Holly Otterbein, correspondent for WHYY-FM. “The gubernatorial election is in November,” started Denvir, “and there’s a lot at stake for our schools, the environment, and the welfare of our city’s people.” Otterbein described the format of the forum, saying, “We’re going to give each candidate one minute and thirty seconds to respond to each question.” The candidates gave brief introductory statements.

On Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act

On health insurance, Otterbein said that Pennsylvania has not expanded its Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act; Governor Corbett has asked for federal funds to pay for private coverage for residents.

Katie McGinty said,

You always have to look at a person’s track record… This is a governor who, as attorney general, fought tooth and nail to stop the availability of health care coverage. He’s not changed his stripes. This is a governor who has presided over ninety-seven thousand people being dropped from our health care and medical assistance rolls.

McGinty said the Corbett plan was a “voucher-izing” of  Medicaid, which means

there would be fewer people covered, it will cost more, and coverage will be less effective…We want to expand Medicaid, we want to say yes to the forty-billion dollars that should come to Pennsylvania as five hundred thousand people get that health care.

Allyson Schwartz said that the Medicaid plan the Corbett administration submitted to the federal government

creates obstacles, reduces benefits, and it hurts people who are on Medicaid or should be…As governor, one of the first things I would do is accept that Medicaid money…and we use it for our Pennsylvania residents.

Jack Wagner said,

I oppose Governor Corbett’s proposal, and I believe we need to (enroll) the five hundred thousand Pennsylvanians that need better health care…Even the very conservative governors across the country have adopted this proposal. It is federal tax dollars, that all of you have paid to the federal government, that will finance this proposal one hundred percent for several years…We are denying our own resources coming back to serve our own people.

Rob McCord called the governor’s health care proposal

immoral and inefficient… We’re depriving five hundred thousand people of coverage that’s already been paid for, with your taxpayer dollars…Medicaid is more efficient, not less efficient, than the short-term-oriented-profit-maximalizing firms in providing care to those who are currently not covered.

On Pennsylvania’s Ban of Abortion Coverage under the Affordable Care Act

The next health question was about the Pennsylvania’s ban on abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. McCord said,

We need to make private, personal health care decisions that women and men make private. I’m as profoundly pro-choice as anybody in the country.” McCord called it “absurd that we are subsidizing the consumption of Viagra, and making it difficult for women to make their own procreative choices.

McGinty said she opposed such restrictions, adding,

I would aggressively and determinedly to overturn it.” The Corbett administration would suggest, she added, “that this is about taxpayer-funded abortions…This is about whether individuals, and women in particular, have the right to shop for and choose  the health care that is best for them. This is about private companies offering that health care that women want to choose and select.

Schwartz reminded the audience of her work in Congress

during the whole debate on the Affordable Care Act to make sure that women have access to the full range of reproductive health services that we need to use…Many of you know I am not new to this issue,

and she mentioned her work in establishing the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center in Philadelphia.

Wagner said,

I believe that a woman should have access to safe health care under the law…But I will be very frank with everyone, I’m a pro-life Democrat, I believe that a woman should have access to abortion for rape, incest, and (to save) the life of the mother.

On Restoring the State’s Social Safety Net

Daniel Denvir asked questions about taxes and economic issues. Denvir pointed out cuts to poor people in state cash assistance, and cuts by Congress in the Food Stamp program; he asked if elected governor, would they reinstate these programs, and what would they do to strengthen the state’s social safety net.

McGinty said this approach was “wrong headed, (and) as the leader of the Commonwealth you want to lift people up and give them the ability to prosper, and this has been the opposite direction.” She called the cuts in Food Stamps “terribly wrong, and I would have opposed them,” and the federal Food Stamp cuts came along with the governor cutting state food assistance, adding “those dollars need to be restored.” McGinty added that Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in states with a long-term unemployed population.; with “job training, apprenticeships, job assistance, I will invest in people.”

Schwartz spoke of her time in the Pennsylvania Senate when Governor Tom Ridge cut people from general assistance; “It’s been going on for a while,” she said, “and I opposed those cuts…it hurt a lot of people, and it made it harder for them to be successful.” Noting her work in the Senate to extend long-term unemployment, “To make sure people can get back on their feet,” Schwartz added, “we do need to make sure that people can support them selves and their families, and that they have support during tough times.”

Wagner said,

Food assistance is as basic and as important as any (other social) program…As Auditor-General I looked at a wide variety of programs within (the welfare system), and quite frankly fraud, waste and abuse exist. But we never found that in the food assistance program,” which he called “one in which we should strongly support. We can actually save money in certain programs if we do a good job managing it, and provide more of those resources that we save into food assistance.

McCord said, “Yes, of course, I will restore general assistance for those who need it…This is really personal for me,” and he recalled his mother attending college and graduate school, and said, “I never would have thought, looking back at that beginning, that she would ever suffer from economic insecurity, but she did, and that motivates me.” Noting that “good, hard-working people often touch the edge of poverty,” McCord said, “It’s important not to blame the victim.”  

The forum was organized by Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and the Philadelphia Council of MoveOn.org. Several groups in coalition co-sponsored the event, including the Jewish Labor Committee, AFSCME District Council 47, the AIDS Law Project, Americans for Democratic Action, the Arab-American Community Development Corporation, Ceasefire PA, Coalition of Labor Union Women Philadelphia Chapter, Bread and Roses Community Fund, Decarcerate PA, Education Voters of PA, Friends of Farmworkers, National Lawyers Guild, Liberty City Democratic Club, Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus, Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, PhillyCAM, and others. These sponsoring organizations submitted questions for the candidates to be asked.

Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania Endorses Daylin Leach


Official campaign video.

— by David S. Broida, William Epstein, Burt Siegel and Jill Zipin (steering committee of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania)

State Senator Daylin Leach is the candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district who best reflects democratic as well as Jewish values. Senator Leach’s long and unwavering record of support of women and families is well known, and he will continue to work to uphold and defend the civil rights of all people.

He supports increased funding for our public schools as he believes all children need and deserve a good education. He understands, as do we, that the path to economic prosperity lies in providing our children with the best education possible.

More after the jump.
Senator Leach also has championed a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million  undocumented immigrants who live in this country. Such a pathway is both a Jewish and American value and is good for the prosperity of our nation. He also is a passionate supporter of a strong and a secure Israel.

We believe that Senator Leach will be the  best advocate for the constituents of Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district. We are pleased to add our voice to those of the many others who look forward to his victory in the May 20 democratic primary.


Update: February 7, 2014 MoveOn Endorsement

Here’s what a few MoveOn members across Pennsylvania’s 13th district had to share about Daylin:

  • “Daylin Leach is a true progressive with exceptional people skills. His sense of fair play coupled with a great sense of humor will be able to build bridges and form much-needed alliances in Congress-without compromising his principles.”
    — Susan G., Lansdale, PA
  • “I know Daylin personally. While he’s often known for his wit, he is incredibly intelligent, a tireless advocate for progressive causes, and the type of person you would actually want in Congress.”
    — Tony H., Bridgeport, PA
  • “Daylin has been my PA state senator and he is a solid progressive voice and vote. He is also a fearless progressive leader in our area and a really good guy. Doesn’t hurt that he is really smart and funny, and comes from humble beginnings so he understands the life lived by most people.”
    — Mary Ann H., King of Prussia, PA
  • “Daylin Leach is one of the most forward progressive thinkers in Pennsylvania. As a leader in public education, the environment, women’s rights, LGBT equality, and tax fairness, Daylin is bold, unapologetic, and takes action. He has given us a light at the end of the apathetic tunnel-the antithesis of the do-nothing Congress of the past two years. I endorse Senator Leach and look forward to calling him Representative Leach in 2015.”
    — Eric E., King of Prussia, PA

Who Will Replace Rep. Allyson Schwartz in PA-13?

— by Ben Burrows

Three Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district:

debated at the Upper Dublin Township Building in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.

The remaining Democratic candidate former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies did not respond to five requests to participate in the forum.

The district is currently represented by Allyson Schwartz, who is now running for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania governor.

Since the congressional redistricting, the 13th district covers the Main Line suburbs, much of Montgomery County, and parts of Northeast Philadelphia. It is one of the five districts in Pennsylvania into which the Republican legislature packed as many democrats as possible in order to create Republican majorities in the other thirteen districts. Accordingly, the stakes in this democratic primary are very high as the general election is practically a foregone conclusion in this dark blue district which Allyson Schwartz carried in 2012 with 69% of the vote.

An audience of about 250 watched the forum organized by Montgomery County Democracy for America and the Area 6 Democratic Committee, and moderated by Philadelphia Daily News writer Will Bunch.

Jewish Population by Congressional District

Joshua Comenetz has broken down the American Jewish population by Congressional district.

Here are the local numbers:

District Representative Jews %
PA1 Robert Brady (D) 17,000 2.41%
PA2 Chaka Fattah (D) 36,000 5.10%
PA6 Jim Gerlach (R) 19,000 2.69%
PA7 Pat Meehan 36,000 5.10%
PA8 Mike Fitzpatrick (R) 44,000 6.24%
PA13 Allyson Schwartz (D) 63,000 8.93%
NJ1 Robert Andrews (D) 35,000 4.78%
DE John C. Carney, Jr. 15,100 1.68%

The estimate of the Jewish population in all Congressional Districts is 6,735,830, approximately 2.18% of the total U.S. population. This estimate is consistent with the 6.7 million Jewish persons reported in the 2013 Pew Research Center Portrait of Jewish Americans….

The American Jewish population is simultaneously more densely clustered geographically than the overall American population and very geographically diverse — at least a few Jews live in every one of the 436 CDs. Half of all American Jews live in just 37 CDs, and 93 CDs contain three-quarters of all Jews. In contrast, the 266 districts with the fewest Jews collectively have only 10% of the Jewish population. The most-Jewish district, New York’s 10th, has as many Jews (197,000) as the 170 least-Jewish CDs combined.

There are 13 CDs with 100,000 or more Jews, nine in New York and two each in California and Florida — the three states with the highest total Jewish populations. In general, the most-Jewish CDs are in the northeastern states, California, Florida, and a few other large urban areas such as Chicago and Atlanta. The least-Jewish CDs are mostly in the rural parts of southern states.

Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District has the most Jews in the state and is ranked 24th nationally while the 3rd, 5th and 9th District have only 1000 Jews.

Where is the Jewish vote the most decisive?

There are 27 Congressional Districts in which the Jewish population exceeded the margin of victory in the 2012 Congressional election. Heading the list is:

  • Illinois’ 10th Congressional District whose 76,500 Jews (10.73% of the population) is about 23 times the 3,326 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Brad Schneider defeated Republican incumbent Robert Dold.
  • Florida’s 32th Congressional District whose 32,000 Jews (4.60% of the population) is about 17 times the 1,904 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy defeated Republican incumbent Allen West.
  • New York’s 11th Congressional District whose 129,000 Jews (17.97% of the population) is about 12 times the 10,688 vote margin by which Republican incumbent Michael Grimm defeated Democratic challenger Mark Murphy.

Runners up are NY-9 (6.95x), AZ-2 (6.93x), MA-6 (6.12x), NY-18 (5.19x), CA-52 (5.08x), NY-3 (3.45x), CT-5 (3.35x), CO-6 (3.29x), UT-4 (3.26x), CA-26 (3.03x), NY-1 (2.95x), FL-22 (2.73x), NY-6 (2.03x) and IL-13 (2.00x).

Voters Don’t Decide Who Wins; Map Drawers Do

Top: Republicans control 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 Congressional Districts. Bottom: Alternative map, drawn by State Senator Daylin Leach, gives Democrats control of 13 districts.

Top: Republicans control 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 Congressional Districts. Bottom: Alternative map, drawn by State Senator Daylin Leach, gives Democrats control of 13 districts.

As a democracy, we are proud of our electoral system: We assume that citizens, through their vote, wield the ultimate power over our government and determine who shall represent them.

However, this is not the case in reality. Rather, legislatures, through their redistricting authority, draw electoral maps specifically engineered to re-elect themselves and their colleagues.

In 2012, the majority of Pennsylvanians (50.24%) voted for Democratic candidates for Congress while 48.74% who voted for Republicans, and 1.02% who voted for other candidates.

However, Democratic candidates prevailed in only five of the 18 congressional districts: Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah in Philadelphia, Mike Doyle in Pittsburgh, Allyson Schwartz in the Philadelphia suburbs, and Matt Cartwright in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Was this simply a matter of luck?

Packing and Cracking

The district map was designed to pack as many democrats as possible into these five districts. Fattah, for example cruised to victory with 89.28% of the votes, versus 9.37% for Robert Mansfield and 1.35% for James Foster.

By forcing the Democratic voters to “waste” votes in districts where they are a super-majority, the Republican politicians are able to construct 13 districts with sensible Republican majorities.

Conversely, Democratic seats in other Democratic strongholds such as Harrisburg and the Pittsburgh suburbs were prevented by cracking those areas into pieces and diluting them with outlying areas that lean Republican.

In other words, voters do not choose the representatives who share their values; rather, the legislators wielding their pens choose the constituents whose support they can count on in the voting booth.

The rest of the article, and TED Talk by State Sen. Daylin Leach, follow the jump.
Since the redistricting process was controlled by Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, and the Republican majorities in the state House, State Senate and Legislative Reapportionment Commission, it is not surprising that the results are skewed in favor of the Republicans as far as mathematically and legally possible.

If Democrats Drew the Map

To illustrate how easily the results can be skewed in the opposite direction, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach drew a map, which shows Democratic majorities in 13 congressional districts, and Republican majorities in the remaining five districts.

In other words, if the map had been different, the congressional election could have been completely reversed — 13-5 instead of 5-13 — without a single Pennsylvanian changing his vote. What a farce our elections have become!

In fact, one could draw an even more skewed map, with more homogeneous districts, giving Democrats small majorities in every single district, and leaving the Republicans with no representation at all.

Could it be argued that the Republican-skewed map was dictated by the rules and the demographics, rather than by political interests?

Both Leach’s map and the actual map feature contiguous districts almost equal in population. However, Leach’s map has more “compact” districts, whereas the actual map has districts which meander across the state in search of pockets of Democrats or Republicans as the case may be.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania State Constitution requires legislative districts to avoid splitting counties, cities, towns, boroughs, townships and wards “unless absolutely necessary.” Some splitting is necessary, because Philadelphia is too large to fit inside single district. However, Leach’s map has three fewer splits than the  map adopted by the state assembly.

Our state’s congressional delegation should be truly representative of the makeup of our state, and the Pennsylvania State Constitution should be amended to enshrine this principle into law.

Gubernatorial Candidates Face-Off


Forum starts at 18:00. Please skip first 18 minutes of video.

On November 21, 2013 Philly Speaks Out held a forum at Temple University for gubernatorial candidates.  Candidates attending:

Pennsylvania Governor Jon Corbett was invited to join the forum but did not respond to the invitation. The forum was a non-partisan event, not a debate.

The moderator was Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church — a founding member of POWER, one of the sponsoring organizations.

More after the jump.
In addition to POWER the event was sponsored by:  1199C/AFSCME, 32BJ SEIU, AFSCME DC 47, Action United, Fight for Philly, PA Working Families, PASNAP, PCAPS, and SEIU Healthcare PA

I did not attend in person but watched the webcast of the event. These are my rough notes from the forum. They not intended as a transcript. As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions. Interested readers are encouraged to click on the candidates’ names above and visit their websites for further information on the candidates’ views and policies. A few personal observations are given at the end.

Rev. Mark Tyler introduced the candidates and instructed them to get right to the issues without taking time to thank the organizers. They had 3 minutes each to answer questions. (2 minutes for the final question.)

The forum covered four issues:

  1. Education.
  2. Retirement Security.
  3. Jobs.
  4. Health Care.

Each segment of the forum began with testimony from an audience member which was then framed with questions posed by the moderator Rev. Tyler. (See video.) The questions and candidate responses are outlined below.

First issue:  Education

Question:

  1. Reversing problems requires bold leadership and policy changes, “equitable” funding formula,
  2. increase revenue for public education and social services, cut corporate tax loopholes, drilling,
  3. charter school accountability,
  4. invest in schools not prisons, and
  5. abolish the School Reform Commission.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

Schwartz: Pleased to be here, not pleased that Corbett is absent. Not a surprise; he has been absent on our values. Pennsylvania has great resources yet Corbett has led us to 49th place in job creation.  We cannot be a great state without leadership, vision, and a commitment to the state.  I have high goals, high expectations, and have always found a way to move forward.  We have to start with public education.  My mother was an immigrant.  She arrived here alone at age 16, and was sent to Philadelphia because the city had great public schools.  She graduated from Girls High and went to Temple but could not afford to finish.  My sons went to Central High School, a public school in Philadelphia.  As governor I would make public education a priority.  I would support your agenda, abolish the School Reform Commission, rein in charters, fair funding, pre-school and full-day kindergarten.  Invest in public education; invest in the future.

Wolf: I am from York County.  How can we allow this (references tweet from parent about no school librarian) to happen.  Tom Corbett has taken education off the front burner, off the stove.  I love learning, and have a PhD from MIT.  Daughters got a great education in York County.  We are all in this together.  Public education is a shared enterprise.  As governor if we are going to have a bright future we must have great schools.  We need fair and equitable funding, tax shale, universal Pre-K, charter accountability, good education equals good jobs, connect higher education with worlds of work.  As an employer I understand we must have an educated workforce.

McCord:   The most important thing for me to highlight is education, not just as policy but it is personal.  Think of a single parent who has a job but a bad job, mistreated by her employer but wants a good future for her kids — that is my mom’s story.  She went through a bad divorce when I was four.  I went from being a slow reader to a scholarship at Harvard.  Some have a poverty of purpose.  This is the #1 reason I am running.  Tom Corbett took $1 billion from the schools.  We need to review the funding system, fully fund higher education, repair the 529 plan, fund community colleges, allow unions to provide associates degrees, fully fund early childhood education.  Yield for decades.

Hanger:  Nothing wrong with public education but the governor is trying to privatize it.  I will stop this cold.  I arrived in the US at age 12 from Ireland.  Public schools prepared me.  We must attack poverty to prepare people for education.  As a law graduate I worked with low income families.  Start with charters, not preparing poor kids, stealing money from public education.  We need to shut down poorly performing charters, including almost all cyber charters.  It is an attack on unions to attack public schools.  I will abolish the School Reform Commission.  We need fair funding.  The real problem is the governor trying to privatize public schools.

McGinty:  One morning in September I was having coffee, reading the paper and saw the beautiful face of 12 year old LaPortia.  She died from asthma attack on a day when the school nurse wasn’t there.  She was the same age as one of my kids. This is not the best for our kids. Problem to solve.  Our kids deserve better. Put the spotlight on what is working. Pennsylvania is 4th in reading, 8th in math. Taking a wrecking ball to public education is not right. Put a tax in place to restore money to public education, fair formula, English language learning, property tax, reform charters so no double dipping. Start early Head Start, pre-day, full day kindergarten, small classes. Let teachers teach and students learn.

Second issue:  Retirement security.

Question: Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the US.  There are fewer employer retirement plans.

  1. protecting pensions for public employees,
  2. retirement benefits available to all workers. California is offering plans all works can join. [blogger’s note, this is the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program] Working Families plan.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

McGinty: Yes I will support this. I am the 9th of 10 kids, dad was a Philadelphia police officer for 35 years. He died last year at 94, and never asked any of us for a penny. He had a pension.  No one gave him anything; he earned that pension. We must insist on these kinds of benefits, make retirement affordable, make health care affordable, can’t have property taxes go through the roof. The Commonwealth is not paying for public education, leaving it to be supported by property taxes.

Hanger: Anyone who has a pension has a legal guarantee that it will be paid. I will not let pension funds be raided. Many in the private sector are not organized or part of a union, and have no pension or retirement. As a legal services attorney I saw retired people living on social security. We need better jobs with higher income while working. Jobs don’t pay for bills today let alone retirement. Rich are getting a bigger piece; you are getting a smaller piece. Raise minimum wage, stand with unions, help people join unions, so we don’t have to choose between heat, food and medicine.

Schwartz: We need a Pennsylvania committed to hard work and achievement, that’s what built the great state we are. I hope to live to retire and reflect on a fulfilling job.  Retirement is under threat.  Pennsylvania does have one of the largest senior populations.  Social security and Medicare are under threat. In DC I have led the fight against privatizing social security.  Imagine if we invested in Wall Street in the recession. We have work to do and I will keep working towards that.  Need to meet our obligations to retirees.

McCord: If retirement and pensions are the issue I’m your guy.  No one in Pennsylvania has spent more time studying this than I have. Proud defender of defined benefit plans.  Unions defend defined benefits, not just for members but for all. Proud of how often I have fought back against Tom Corbett.  Defined benefits are more efficient that 401k’s. Defined contribution associations say otherwise.  We need to embrace the plan in California. It is a “pay me now or pay me later” world.  We can imitate the 529 plan. Retirement is a woman’s issue — women are three times more likely to drop into poverty in retirement. [He mentioned a woman in relation to the California plan but I can’t get the spelling right to find the correct person]

Wolf: I’m an FDR Democrat. We do not have a pension problem. This is something we share. In my company I work to make sure employees [missed this]. Lottery is part of the Department of Revenue, $1 million goes to help the elderly. I worked to improve the lottery.  It went to property tax rebates, prescription drugs.  We need to protect public pensions. Overall compensation issue. If we want good public employees we must compete with the private sector. Health care. I have a 90 year old mom and 91 year old dad. We need to ensure all is done to see that all Pennsylvanians have retirement.

Third issue:  Jobs

Question: Good jobs, raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, like slaves asking Pharaoh for straw to make bricks. End payday lending. Guaranteed sick days. All people receiving tax money must pay workers (including subcontractors) a living wage.  Shift from corporate benefits to public education

McCord:  Everything in the governor’s race relates to jobs.  If we end defined benefits we lose as 90% of that money is spent in Pennsylvania.  Of course we need to increase the minimum wage, increases the wealth of the middle class, need sick days, that an efficient thing to do, protect prevailing wage.  We can trust safety and quality of well-trained Pennsylvania workers paid prevailing wage.  End payday loans.  Everything is about true economic security.  Reasonable wage.  Good benefits.  Protected workplace.

Schwartz:  If we want to build a prosperous economy in Pennsylvania, steel, railroads, hard work and innovations, new cures the envy of the world.  Unions spread wages to workers, building industry, prosperity, innovation.  Rebuild Pennsylvania economy, rebuild and re-grow middle class, cannot succeed without a middle class.  Increase minimum wage, fair pay for women, prevailing wages, sick leave, use carrot and stick.  If public money is given to corporations we must push them to pay fair wages and benefits.  Use all natural resource to benefit all, use money for education, grow economic opportunities across the state.

McGinty:  Jobs.  I’m here to apply for a job.  As Secretary of Environmental Protection I wanted to create new good jobs.  We need clean energy and environment.  Let’s bring these jobs.  We were #1 in bringing solar and wind jobs, good jobs, pay, benefits.   Choosing between the environment and jobs is a false choice, as is saying wanting a good job risks your current job.  To grow the economy we have to put money in people’s pockets.  Living wage.  Increase minimum wage, index it to inflation.  Right to organize.  Invest in the US.  Job training and skills development programs.  These were cut and we need to restore them.  Families need to be able to afford education.  Colleges need to keep costs under control.  Public projects – jobs going to Pennsylvanians.

Wolf:  I’ve created good jobs.  Only PhD forklift operator in York County.  Bought my company, build it into one of the biggest in its field in the country.  Distributed 20 – 30% annually in profits to employees.  Sick days, living wages.  First thing we have to do is invest in education.  We need an educated workforce.  Recognize we can compete, even in manufacturing.  We can compete on price and quality.

Hanger:  More jobs and better jobs need community organization.  If we want paid sick days we need to mobilize.  It begins with education, 20,000 educators lost their jobs.  Expand Medicaid.  We could have four billion going to our hospitals, good paying jobs.  Green energy.  Create solar and wind jobs.  I know how to create these jobs.  People have trouble getting a job because of unfair convictions.  We are arresting too many people for having a joint in their pocket.  We should legalize marijuana.  Stop arresting African American men at  five times the rate we arrest whites.  That’s how we get schools to jails.

Fourth Issue:  Health care

Question:

  1. Expansion of Medicaid,
  2. Invest in family health care and maternity care,
  3. Stop corporatization of health care,
  4. Ensure quality care, and
  5. Ensure long term care.

Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

Wolf:  This has become about politics and it shouldn’t be.  The governor is trying to destroy the president’s health care plan.  We absolutely need to expand Medicaid.  It is bad for the economy not to have universal health care.

McGinty:  Some issues are hard but when the federal government offers you $4 billion to give citizens health care the only answer is yes.   Increase availability and affordability yes.  All issues on human dignity.

Schwartz:  Hard to talk about health care in 2 minutes.     Personal to all of us.  The governor turned down opportunities, not federal money but our money.  Unacceptable.  Take the money and use it to benefit Pennsylvania.  We have great hospitals, medical schools and nurses.  If you doubt I can do this remember my work on CHIP which became a national mode.  Let’s get it done.

Hanger:  Wrong for people in our state not to have health care.  It is a human right.  Yes to Medicaid expansion but not enough.  We need single payer health care.  My wife is a physician, trained in Philadelphia, and opened a community practice.  We need to include mental health treatment and addiction treatment.  My son committed suicide at age 23 from depression.

McCord:  Human rights, social justice, human dignity, also about efficiency.  Ridiculous not to take Medicaid expansion.  Your movement is fighting a company town program.  [missed something here].  Use new technology, associates degrees, cut costs, seniors able to stay in their homes.  Repair middle class.

Personal observations:  The candidates were very gracious.  In my opinion far too much time was taken up with announcements from the sponsoring organizations and individual comments [“testimonies”] from the audience.  There were a few hecklers in the crowd and at one point two people got onstage with a banner offering their views on a political issue.  The forum stopped for a few minutes while they were escorted off stage.  Of the candidates Rob McCord was the only one to step away from the podium.  Each time he got up to answer the questions he would take the microphone and stand next to it instead of behind it.  He is clearly an experienced and enthusiastic speaker.

Forward: Philly Federation Faces Crisis as Schwartz Abruptly Leaves

The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis broke an important story on the abrupt resignation of Ira Schwartz, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Continuity Elusive at Top of Nation’s No. 6 Community
Ira Schwartz, departed abruptly in early May, marking the fourth time the federation has lost its top professional leader since the early 1990s. That’s unusual among big-city federations, where successful executives often last decades….

Philadelphia’s federation announced Schwartz’s departure late on May 3, a Friday afternoon. A statement and story published in the federation-owned Jewish Exponent disclosed no details about why Schwartz was leaving, saying only that the separation was effective immediately.

Community Leaders Arrive at Outsider Art Exhibition Opening

Sen. Constance Williams (left), Museum chair of the board, happily greeted Mary Hurtig (center) & Judge Phyllis Beck (right)

— article and all photos by Bonnie Squires, Society Editor

The Philadelphia Museum of Art held the opening reception for the Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection exhibit, but a lot of “insiders” were there. The Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz fabulous collection of self-taught artists attracted lawyers, politicians, corporate leaders and art-lovers. The Bonovitzes have pledged the collection as a gift to the art museum, making this one of the pre-eminent outsider art collections in the country. More than two dozen artists, from painters to carvers to ceramicists, are represented in the exhibition, and 200 pieces are on display. The Bonovitzes have spent thirty years collecting pieces of outsider art and Black folk art.

More photos after the jump.


Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who recently announced her intention to run for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party nomination for governor,and her husband Dr. David Schwartz were among the first to arrive


Joe Boardman, Esq., was happy to see the Hon. Joan Specter


Dr. Beverly Emanuel (left) with friends Charlotte (center) and Carroll Weingarten (right) were impressed with the collection and the hundreds of art-lovers who attended the reception


Comcast is a major sponsor of the exhibit, and Brian Roberts (left) was on hand to greet collector Sheldon Bonovitz

Among the hundreds of friends of the Bonovitzes and the art museum were Carole Saline and her husband Paul Rothblatt

American Jews Support Gun Law Reform

Since last week’s massacre in Connecticut, Jewish politicians and organizations have showed their support of reform in gun laws.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the co-chairman of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. Following the event the coalition has launched the Demand A Plan campaign:

Our efforts cannot bring back the 20 innocent children murdered in Newtown, CT — or the 34 people murdered with guns every day in America. But we can prevent future tragedies by passing common sense legislation that will:

  1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America.
  2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for “straw purchasers.”

Demand that your members of Congress and the president support these legislative priorities.

More after the jump.

Over 300,000 Americans have already signed the campaign’s petition, and the coalition itself has over 750 mayors as members.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has announced on her website that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons on the first day of the new congress.

“Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition-feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds? These weapons are not for hunting deer — they’re for hunting people”.

Additionally, over 10,000 Americans have signed a Jewish Council for Public Affairs petition to make access to guns and mental health care a national priority.

“There has been an immediate emotional reaction across the entire country of shock, horror, and deep sadness. But this was not an isolated event. In the past few months, we have seen shootings at malls, theaters, and places of workshop; each one followed by a return to complacency and status quo,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The grotesque shooting at Newtown and the massive outpouring of support for this petition mark a tonal shift in our country where the need for a comprehensive approach to guns and mental health care are urgent priorities we can no continue to ignore. The thousands of signers are the beginning of a national and sustained effort to make sure future tragedies like this are unimaginable.”

The Jewish Women International organization applauded yesterday president Barack Obama’s announcement of gun violence task force:

“JWI strongly supports the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden in reforming our nation’s gun laws in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We applaud the creation of an interagency task force to address gun violence and urge Members of Congress to enact tough restrictions on guns, most urgently banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. JWI also believes that Congress must improve the quality and accessibility of our nation’s mental health services. As an organization that has worked to address the devastating effects of gun violence and domestic violence for decades, we applaud the Administration’s efforts and urge thoughtful and decisive action from all levels of government.”

In a speech in the House of Representatives, Rep. Alysson Schwartz (D-PA) stated:

We have seen far too many moments of violence and loss. This loss is too devastating to ignore. I believe that even in this time of deep sadness and grief, we must resolve to end such violence. We must do better to understand and treat mental illness. And we must come together to move our nation towards common sense, responsible gun laws. Laws that recognize the responsibility of gun-ownership, and ensure safety and security in our homes, schools, communities, and public spaces.

Stark Contrast for Jews Between Democratic, Republican Conventions

The National Jewish Democratic Coalition welcomed delegates to the Democratic National Convention at their mobile headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA13) stopped by NJDC’s mobile headquarters and explained why she supports Obama/Biden 2012.


PA State Representative Brian Sims.


Equality Pennsylvania’s President Adrian Shanker.

— by David A. Harris, President of NJDC

The Democratic and Republican conventions held over the last two weeks will continue to make it clear to the vast majority of Jewish voters that the Democratic Party is the one party that champions their values. If the stark contrast between the Democratic Party’s platform-which commits to expanding civil rights, pursuing social justice, and working toward peace and security for Israel-and the “antisocial, anti-science, anti-reason” Republican platform is not enough to remind Jews of the immense stakes ahead in this election, the sights and speeches of the two conventions certainly will.

The Republican Party kicked off its convention by allowing its speakers to trash the President, Vice President, and fellow Democrats-often with language and jokes ranging from corny to disrespectful-on a variety of domestic issues that put the policy gaps between the GOP and most Jews on full display. Pledges to repeal Obamacare, pursue anti-choice and anti-marriage equality policies, and to support dangerous cuts to essential social services advocated in the Romney-Ryan budget-like ending Medicare as we know it-were the standard talking points from the seemingly endless stream of negative and divisive speeches delivered from the podium. When the “severely conservative” Mitt Romney and GOP “young gun” Paul Ryan took the stage for their headlining speeches, they kept up with the flow established by the previous speakers and delivered mendacious (per repeated objective analyses) speeches full of policy positions out of step with most Jews. Romney even belittled the idea of healing the world – the very heart of tikkun olam.

But if the policy differences between most Jews and the GOP weren’t enough, Romney and his Republican Party allowed two very Israel-challenged individuals to play significant roles in the convention. Romney personally selected Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu to officially nominate him for president. And after NJDC and others sounded every alarm bell imaginable that anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was becoming a legitimate force within the GOP, the Republican Party honored him with a video tribute that completely ignored his dreadful foreign policy positions. The GOP then gave his son Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)-who shares many of the same extreme foreign and domestic positions-a prime speaking slot.

More after the jump.

The Democratic National Convention will be different. The Democratic Party has historically been the home of most American Jews-and the 2012 convention will help affirm this. One needs only to look to the records of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to understand why the majority of Jews will pull the lever for Democrats this November.

President Obama and his party passed a historic health insurance reform bill that has expanded-and will continue to expand-access to affordable health insurance for millions of Americans. The Democratic Party has fought against Republican obstruction to protect women’s rights, whether on matters of choice, contraception, domestic violence protections, or equal pay. The President has led on advancing equal rights for all by voicing support for marriage equality and working to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

President Obama has been Israel’s most important advocate on the international stage and has provided the Jewish state with unprecedented amounts of security aid-including $275 million in supplemental aid for missile defense programs that protect Israeli cities like Sderot from terrorist rocket fire, and an overall total of more than twice as much funding for missile defense programs as the prior administration. He is leading the global coalition to responsibly sanction Iran over its pursuit of nuclear weapons. His leadership has resulted in the largest and most significant sanctions regimen in history to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The President also ordered the raid that brought justice to Osama Bin Laden and firmly communicated to those seeking to harm America and its citizens that this President will not hesitate to use force to protect our country or its interests.

The multitude of policy positions and values shared by the Democratic Party and American Jews will be on full display in Charlotte, which simply cannot be said for the Republican convention. American Jews will listen when President Obama delivers his speech under the stadium lights, and will hear a President who has worked hand-in-hand with the Jewish community in the pursuit of social justice and security for Israel. For many American Jews, the Democratic Convention will be their point of entry to the 2012 campaign-and what they see will remind them why they overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in 2008 and will do so again in 2012.

Reprinted courtesy of the Washington Jewish Week.