Philly Green Party

Archive for the ‘Initiatives’

GPOP joins Coalition of Essential Services03.14.09

The Green Party of Philadelphia City Committee has agreed to join the Coalition and work with other groups to urge the Mayor to retain funding for essential services during the budget crisis.

Just a month ago, the mayor and everyone else was talking about cutting essential services like the libraries.  Citizens turned out to the citizen’s forums, and said loud and clear that we’d rather raise taxes than cut services.  The Mayor listened… to an extent.

His proposed budget, which will officially be released on Thursday, March 19, was leaked to the public.  In it, there are still many service cuts.  And most of the tax raises are on regressive taxes like the sales tax and property tax, not the wage tax.

Now, we need to take it to the next level and push for PROgressive not REgressive taxes.

Read more to learn how you can help.

1.  Talk to your neighbors and get signatures on this petition.  We also have a flyer here that you can distribute to interested people.  It asks them to contact the Mayor and their City Councilperson.  Remember to contact us at gpop@gpop.org to turn in finished petitions.

2.  The next two Thursdays are very important.  This Thursday, the 19th, we want to turn people out for the Mayor’s budget address to protest his regressive tax policies and budget cuts.  Thursday the 26th, we will be meeting with city council to lobby for essential services.  There will be a training that morning at DC47, at 16th and Walnut, and then we’ll head over to city hall.  If you can make either event, email Mike Nance at nancejm@gmail.com.

3.  Call the mayor and city council!  Also remember to call the at-large council members.  Phone numbers are on the flyer.

Posted in 2009 City Budget, Active GPOP Items, Initiativeswith Comments Off

The City Budget Crisis and the Broader Economic Crisis – A Green Response02.11.09

The city of Philadelphia is currently experiencing a major budget crisis.  Philadelphians are also feeling the effects of the broader economic downturn in many other ways, including a rise in unemployment. The purpose of this paper is to lay out a Green agenda for responding to these two crises.

Budget Crisis, Round One:  The Libraries

On November 6, 2008, Mayor Nutter’s office released a document called the “City of Philadelphia’s Response to the Budget Crisis.” This document explained that the city is facing a one billion dollar budget shortfall over the next five years.  To balance the budget, the Mayor announced a number of cutbacks, most notably the intention to “close 11 libraries and eliminate Sunday hours at three regional libraries.” The eleven library branches are the Durham, Eastwick, Fishtown, Fumo Family, Haddington, Holmesburg, Kingsessing, Logan, Ogontz, Queen Memorial, and Wadsworth locations. This announcement encountered broad opposition and outrage from Philadelphians, especially in the affected neighborhoods.  The Coalition to Save the Libraries formed as a result, and held a number of protests at these branches in November and December, 2008.  As these protesters repeatedly emphasized, from the standpoint of the city’s needs and its budget, closing the libraries makes little sense.  It results in only $8 million dollars in savings, less than 10% of the 2009-10 budget shortfall estimated in the November document from the Mayor’s office.  But the cost in reduced services for children and local residents would be extremely heavy, as branch libraries serve as important community centers for after-school programs, job-seekers, and the city’s many low-income residents in need of internet access.  Local libraries are precisely the kind of community investment that pays economic dividends in the form of a better-educated populace.

The campaign to save the libraries culminated in a class-action lawsuit against the city on behalf of library patrons.  The suit argued that the Mayor is not legally permitted to close the libraries without City Council approval, since a city ordinance states that “No city-owned facility shall be closed . . . without specific approval . . . from City Council.” Judge Idee C. Fox ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Dec. 30, 2008, requiring that the eleven library branches remain open until the Council decides otherwise. In response, the library system has cut back hours at all branches. As of this writing, the Mayor has pledged to keep all library branches open with reduced hours until at least June 30, 2009. It is unclear what the fate of the libraries will be after that time.

Budget Crisis, Round Two:  New Cuts

Round One was a community victory – Philadelphians worked together to save their local libraries.  But it turns out that Round One was just a preview of bigger battles to come.  On Jan. 15, the Mayor announced a new estimate of the city’s five-year budget shortfall.  This new estimate added an additional one billion dollar shortfall to the one predicted in November 2008, meaning the city is short two billion dollars over the next five years.  The Mayor has asked each city department to create proposals for cutting 10%, 20%, and 30% of their annual operating budgets.

However, this time around, and as a direct result of the community activism of Round One, the Mayor has taken a different approach to balancing the city budget.  Instead of unilaterally making budget cuts and then announcing his intentions, this time Nutter is seeking input in deciding what to cut.  Greens endorse this move away from unilateral decision-making and toward citizen participation.  It remains to be seen whether this process will truly be more democratic.  Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction.  This, and the existence of an already well-organized citizens group ready to take on future challenges, is the legacy of the Library protests.

Green Priorities for the New City Budget

1.  Most importantly, in a difficult time in which sacrifices must be made, the guiding principle behind our decisions should be:  Economic sacrifices should be made by those most able to bear them, instead of by those least able to resist them.  Around 25% of Philadelphians live at or below the federal poverty line.  These citizens can least afford cutbacks in the already fairly minimal services provided by the city.  Decisions on budget cuts should not harm these vulnerable individuals. For example, the City is currently giving away $25 million to help the Barnes Foundation relocate to the Parkway from Lower Merion.  Perhaps that project should be put on hold until better financial times.

2.  No tax cuts, including the planned wage tax reduction, and no more real estate tax

abatements.  According to a recent poll by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphians favor reduction of tax cuts over reduction of city services.  When asked about solving the budget crisis through either cutting services or suspending plans to reduce the wage tax, only 27% of Philadelphians favored the former plan, while 43% favored the latter plan.

3.  Seek out alternative revenue sources:  In balancing the city budget, the focus should be not so much on cutting services as on tapping into alternative state and federal revenue sources, doing a better job of collecting delinquent business and real estate taxes, etc.  And if the federal government is going to borrow one trillion dollars, some of that money should be available to the city of Philadelphia to balance our budget.

4. Make sure that the budget formation process is truly democratic.  Nothing in the process outlined by the Mayor’s office requires the Mayor to take into account the results of the public discussions.  Only continued pressure from the citizens of Philadelphia can ensure that.

5. Seek federal funds for valuable infrastructure expansion such as public transit, sewer enhancements, school repair, and green building renovations.  Currently, Mayor Nutter is asking for $125 million in federal stimulus funds to build a casino at Market East.   Instead, this money should be invested in infrastructure that will be a benefit to Philadelphians for years to come. In particular, Greens encourage the Mayor to fully fund the Philadelphia “Office of Sustainability,” whose goal according to the Mayor’s office is to “produce Philadelphia’s first Sustainability Framework by April 2009, which will lay out a detailed plan to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the U.S. by 2015. Many of these initiatives will lower future energy costs as well as lay the foundation for job and income growth in the emerging green economy.”

Philadelphia and the Broader Economic Crisis

The time is right for a real progressive sea change in American politics, but it is not clear whether President Obama, Governor Rendell, and Mayor Nutter are prepared to take advantage of the current political climate.  Here are some suggestions for a Green response to our current economic crisis.  This should be a time not just for belt-tightening, but for moving toward a significantly greener Philadelphia by:

1. Expanding and restructuring public transit

2. Expanding recycling initiatives

3. Offering local, state, or federal loans for making homes, businesses, and public buildings greener

4. Raising gas taxes to cover more of the real cost of driving, including roads, services, safety, and congestion.

Action

Here are the next steps for realizing this Green agenda in Philadelphia.

1.  A Green presence at budget forums. Here is the announcement from the Mayor’s office:

“The University of Pennsylvania Project for Civic Engagement has announced the dates and locations of four community workshops to gather citizen input for the City of Philadelphia’s 2010 budget process. Mayor Nutter announced at a press conference last week that city officials will participate in these workshops to examine with citizens the real budget alternatives that will be generated by city departments.

All workshops begin with registration at 6:00 pm. Registration is vital to the process of dividing participants into evenly sized, diverse working groups. The program will run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Here are the dates and sites:

Thursday, Feb. 12th – St. Dominic’s School, 8510 Frankford Ave. (Northeast)

Wednesday, Feb. 18th - Mastery Charter School, Pickett Campus, 5700 Wayne Ave (Germantown)

Thursday, Feb 19th – St. Monica’s Catholic School, 16th and Porter Streets. (South Philadelphia)

Monday, Feb. 23rd – Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54 TH Street (West Philadelphia)”

2. Join the Save the Libraries Coalition and work with existing efforts to resist unfair budget cuts.


Mayor’s statement, Jan. 15th, 2009: “With the country losing 524,000 jobs in December, bumping the unemployment rate to a 16-year high of 7.2 percent nationwide and 8 percent at least in the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphians are justifiably worried about the future and about the quality of their lives in our great city.”

Available at http://www.phila.gov/mayor/issues.html

P. 4 of “City of Philadelphia’s Response,” Mayor’s office, November 2008

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/38314784.html

“Lawyer threatens suit over library shutdowns,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Friday, Dec. 19th, 2008

http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2009/January2009/phillyclosingsoverruled.cfm; the Mayor’s office has appealed the decision, and the result is pending.

http://whyy.org/blogs/itsourcity/2009/01/08/reduced-philly-library-hours-could-start-this-month/

http://www.philly.com/community/pa/philadelphia/netimes/39096667.html

http://media.philly.com/documents/PEW+POLL.pdf

http://www.philly.com/dailynews/opinion/20090115_City_is_a_slots_laughingstock.html

Posted in 2009 City Budget, Initiatives, Local and Regional News, News, Press Releaseswith Comments Off

Lets Play War: How Militarism Is Marketed to Children10.02.06

ZNet Commentary
Let’s Play War: How Militarism is Marketed to Children
August 25, 2005
By Lucinda Marshall

My friend Loretta is hopping mad about the mail that her nine year old grandson is receiving. While military recruiters cannot ‘recruit’ children under seventeen years of age, there is nothing stopping them from waging a marketing campaign to win the hearts and minds of much younger children such as Loretta’s grandson. She tells me that he just received a mailing from the Marines labeled “Required Summer Reading” that offers him limited edition posters. As any parent well knows, anything labeled as ‘limited edition’ is irresistible to kids of that age.

Parents are becoming more aware of the presence of military recruiters in high schools because of the No Child Left Behind Act which requires schools to turn over contact information on students to the military unless the students request that their records not be shared. While this is an easy way for the military to obtain information on prospective recruits, it is only one of many ways in which the military can make a sales pitch to children.

Each branch of the military runs its own JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs. The Air Force alone runs 746 JROTC programs throughout the U.S. with plans start more this year. The programs enroll more than 100,000 students. According to the American Friends Service Committee, each program costs school districts an average of $76,000, effectively putting cash-strapped schools in the position of subsidizing the military. It is important to note that JROTC programs routinely bring weapons into schools (and teach children how to use them) and there are numerous reports of JROTC-related violence, including murder.

The programs claim that they are not geared towards recruiting, that their purpose is to teach leadership and discipline. But as former defense secretary William Cohen told Congress in 2000, JROTC is “one of the best recruiting devices we have.” (1)

When now Vice President Cheney served as Secretary of Defense, he summarized the purpose of the military quite accurately, “The reason to have a military is to be prepared to fight and win wars. That is our basic fundamental mission. The military is not a social welfare agency, it’s not a jobs program.” Yet recruiters and JROTC programs as well as television ads routinely hawk the educational and job benefits of joining the military.

What they do not tell prospective recruits is that 57% of military personnel receive no educational benefits and only 5% receive the maximum benefit. The military frequently boasts about the great job training it provides, but according to the Army Times, only 12% of male veterans and 6% of female veterans report using job skills learned in the military. According to the Veterans Administration, veterans earn less, make up 1/3 of homeless men and 20% of the nation’s prison population. (2)

The military’s presence in schools is not limited to high schools. The Middle School Cadet program at Lavizzo Elementary School in Chicago is one example. Youngsters wear uniforms and are taught how to carry guns, a skill distinctly at odds with the policies that virtually every school has banning weapons on school property. (3)

The Navy also offers a program geared at middle-schoolers, the Navy League Cadet Corp, designed for children ages 11-14, in addition to their Naval Sea Cadet Corp which is geared towards high schoolers. The Navy offers 300 such programs reaching 11,000 children.

Another tool the military uses is to send military recruiting trucks to visit U.S. high schools. The trucks use high tech media and eye-catching graphics to whet students interest. The Army describes its Special Operations Van this way,

“The SOF incorporates several exhibits. One can experience the excitement of flying a helicopter, test your skills and landing accuracy in the Airborne parachute simulator, or improve your driving or marksmanship (sic) in the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) system.”

While the military claims that vehicles like this are for educational purposes, their own regulations indicate otherwise, stating that the vehicles are to be sent to schools that recruiters are trying to target, and that recruiters must stay with the trucks while they are open to the public. The purpose of the trucks is to “Ensure that exhibits create a favorable image of the Army and current Army enlistment opportunities.” (Section 1-5.a.) (4) (5)

The Department of Defense has been quick to understand that video games are an excellent marketing tool. On the America’s Army website, you can play all manner of war games, although as Sheldon Rampton points out in his article “War is Fun as Hell”, the games are a, “sanitized, Tom Clancy version of war.”

Not only that, but the website sexes up their offerings, providing what Rampton aptly describes as a “babes-and-bullets fantasy”, by employing a group of young attractive female gamers known as the Frag Girls to market the games. (6)

As one woman gamer describes it,

“Lord knows you wouldn’t want someone that was a real gamer and a wife and mother. What would the drooling masses have to drool over? Certainly it wouldn’t be a young attractive SINGLE female that they might think they had a chance with right?” (7)

And just to make sure there is no doubt as to what a Frag Girl is, they have their very own website which offers these illuminating definitions:

“frag /frag/ n. & v. · n. 1 number of kills. 2 a fragmentation grenade. · v. 1 to eliminate other players in multiplayer shooters (fragging).

rag·doll physics {buzzword} /ragdol fiziks/ n. 1 a program allowing videogame characters to react with realistic body and skeletal physics.

frag·doll /fragdol/ n. 1 a female gamer with the skills to dominate in multiplayer shooters. 2 a lady with the sass to use the laws of physics to her incontestable advantage.”

As concerned as many parents, schools and communities are about the impact of No Child Left Behind, the Pentagon’s recent announcement that it intends to assemble a much more comprehensive database is far more worrisome. According to the Pentagon, the database will contain some 30 million records of data about youth ages 16-25. The data kept will include name, gender, address, birthday, email address, ethnicity, phone number, education records including graduation dates, grade point averages education level and military test scores. Parents, educators and privacy rights activists have raised a number of objections to the planned database, pointing out that it violates the Privacy Act and the DoD’s own regulations about the collection of information on citizens.

Misleading advertising is always reprehensible. But when we allow our military to target children, leading them to believe that war is a game and fighting is fun, one has to wonder if the next logical step is camouflage diapers? (8)

nullNotes:

(1) “Air Force Plans To Invade: 48 High Schools Set to Start AF JROTC”. Based on research by Peacework intern Jamie Munro and materials on JROTC from the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and the American Friends Service Committee Youth and Militarism Program. Compiled by Sam Diener.

(2) “Why Question the Military’s JROTC Program?”, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

(3) “The Children’s Crusade” by Jennifer Wedekind, In These Times, June 3, 2005.

(4) “US Army Makes Surprise Claim: We’re Endangering US High Schools”,

Peacework Co-Editor Sam Diener previously served on the staff of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors. Bill Sweet, an AFSC and GI Rights Hotline volunteer, contributed research to this article.

(5) “Army’s New Special Operations Van Invading US Schools”, American Friends Service Committee.

(6) “War is Fun as Hell” by Sheldon Rampton, Alternet, August 2, 2005.

(7) “The Fragtastic FragDolls” by Danielle “Sachant” Vanderlip.

(8) There are several excellent organizations that offer more information about military recruiting and marketing to youngsters. They include:

American Friends Service Committee.

Center on Conscience and War (NISBCO).

Leave My Child Alone (has downloadable forms to opt out of having a child’s contact information given to the military and to opt out of the new Pentagon database).

Posted in Active GPOP Items, Initiatives, OPT-OUTwith Comments Off

Opt Out Signup Form09.06.05

Please visit http://www.gpop.org/programs/optout.php to sign up for a school and time slot.

Posted in OPT-OUTwith Comments Off

Opt Out campaign jumps to life09.04.05

The Opt Out campaign jumps to life next week.  The Green Party has 20,000 Opt Out forms printed ready to distribute to you.  Jasmine and I will be trying to call you this weekend.  As soon as you can either reply to this email with your availability for a phone call, and your time over the next two weeks to be at a high school from 7:30-8:15 A.M. for several mornings, or call me (215.747.7246 or cell 215.518.2257) or Jasmine (215.370.7276).  We would like to speak with you personally so that we can arrange to have the appropriate number of forms delivered or picked up Sunday or Monday.

We have many more volunteers for whom we have only phone numbers.  A majority of high schools are going to be covered.  We have a schedule up on the Web page (www.gpop.org/programs/optout.php), so you can see for yourself and/or sign up.

For those of you have not indicated a preference, we can decide which school you can do when we talk.

Posted in OPT-OUTwith Comments Off

Opt-Out forms for Students and Parents08.08.05

The Philly Green Party Is Organizing the OPT OUT Action Outside the Philly High Schools. Many of us have signed up for a particular location/school/days we will come out. Hope you will too.

Essentially we are asking folks to help pass out the Opt Out forms to high school students before school during the first 10 days of school. No Child Left Behind requires School Districts to turn over personal information about all high school juniors and seniors to the military for purposes of recruiting. Students have to “opt out” of this process.

These are the forms necessary if you want to opt-out of the government taking the student’s information. This form must be filled out every year, and submitted to the school. These are the generic forms for handing out to other organizations and anti-war efforts

Posted in OPT-OUTwith Comments Off

Attention Parents and Students07.16.05

ATTENTION: Students in high school and middle school and their parents: You’re probably aware that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires regular achievement tests to make sure that your education is progressing according to federal standards. But what you may not know is that Section 9528 of NCLB requires school administrators to give the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all high school juniors and seniors to U.S. military recruiters.

As of this writing, nearly 2,000 American soldiers have died in the Iraq war and thousands more have been wounded and maimed; tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed. American officials admit that this war will probably go on for years. Recruitment quotas aren’t being met, though the military needs to sign up thousands of new soldiers every month. The shortage of troops is currently so severe that soldiers are not released when their tours of duty are over, and the military has been issuing “stop loss” orders to keep them in Iraq. The government has been increasing its rec ruitment efforts in schools, pulling out all the stops by promising financial aid for college, cash bonuses, and job placements, while downplaying the conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the blatant lies the President used to start the war.

Section 9528 of NCLB requires the reporting of children’s personal information to military recruiters in order to continue prosecuting this unjust and illegal war. Once this personal information is turned over, recruiters will pursue students rele ntlessly, at school and at home, calling at all hours, disrupting students� personal and academic lives, and making incredible promises. Some have threatened potential recruits with arrest for declining to sign up.

But you can legally opt out of having your personal information given to military recruiters! Section 9528 of NCLB allow s students over 18 and parents of students under 18 to sign an Opt Out form that prevents your school from releasing your personal information. This form must be signed at the beginning of each school year when academic enrollment information is finalized at each school, and before it is released to the government. We�re alerting parents of middle school students about the Opt Out forms because the war is expected to go on for years, and children who are now in middle school will soon be eligible for recruitment.

The Green Party of Philadelphia, in cooperation with other local peace and anti-war groups, w ill station people outside each Philadelphia high school this fall with Opt Out forms for students to sign themselves or to take home to their parents. The Green Party of Philadelphia supports our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by calling for their immediate return home. The President can�t continue this war if you don�t sign up to go fight it. Rec ruitment numbers are down because the American people realize that this war is morally wrong and was founded on lies. The trillions of dollars being spent on the war should be spent on true welfare reform, a real minimum wage, healthcare for all Americans, and public transit.

See www.gpop.org for more information or call (215)243- 7103 to become involved in GPOP�s anti-recruitment effo rts. We need volunteers at high school doors in September (handing out the Opt O ut forms is legally protected free speech). Or call us for your Opt Out form and we will mail you one.

Posted in OPT-OUTwith Comments Off

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