Public Forum: The case against privatizing the Postal Service

by Sharon Hale Jenkins

United_States_Postal_Service_TruckThe Republican dominated Congress is STILL trying to dismantle the United States Postal Service (USPS). Postmaster General, Patrick R. Donahue, is the second highest paid government employee after the President. Unfortunately Mr. Donahue, along with Republican leaders in Congress, is proposing a plan to install so-called ‘mail service’ counters in Staples.

Under this plan, Staple employees (counter cashiers) would act as ‘post office workers’. This latest proposal was introduced after the failed attempt to end Saturday mail delivery. This was just the latest in a series of attempts to privatize mail service, thus eliminating good paying government jobs.

If not yet installed in your neighborhood, look for street corners to have a collection of stacked tan mailboxes. These street corner mail boxes will replace door-to-door delivery AND the union workers who now deliver your mail. This is a blatant attempt to get rid of postal union workers who strongly
support the Democratic Party (with both money and manpower).

Once in place, NON-UNION workers (with lower wages) will deliver the mail to the stacked boxes and residents will have to come to the street corner to retrieve their mail. Think of it as having a Post Office box on the street corner.

For readers who are not aware, the almost decade long ‘attack’ against federal postal workers began in 2006, when Republican Representative Thomas Davis from the 3rd Congressional District of Va. sponsored U.S. House of Representatives Bill #6407 entitled Postal Accountability and Enhancement
Act (PAEA). The bill was introduced on December 7, 2006. It was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2006 and then by the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2006.

It was signed by then President George W. Bush on December 20, 2006. The swiftness with which this bill was passed and signed was the direct result of the Republican part losing control of both houses of Congress in the November, 2006 elections. The “lame duck” Republican Congress hurriedly passed
this bill before the “new” (Democratically controlled Congress) was officially sworn into office in January of 2007. The stated purpose of the bill was to reform the postal laws and improve the nation’s postal service.

The crux of the 2006 law is as follows: The USPS must make payments of $5.4 to 5.8 billion dollars into the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund EACH YEAR from 2007 to 2016 in order to prefund 75 years of estimated retiree health care costs. This requirement has forced the USPS to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something that NO OTHER GOVERNMENT OR PRIVATE CORPORATION is required to do.

In order to solve this problem, Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts has introduced bipartisan legislation (with 193 sponsors) that would allow the USPS to spend more of its OWN money to pay down its deficits, including 6.9 billion in pension and other over payments that
may total as much as $25 to $50 billion dollars. These are Postal Office funds, NOT taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, Congressional Republican leaders have been supporting alternative legislation proposed by Republican Representative Darrell Issa from California.

His proposal would lead to WIDESPREAD LAYOFFS designed to greatly weaken the postal workers’ union, all under the guise of defusing the postal financial ‘crisis’ that Congress itself created in 2006. There are several key facts and truths about the USPS that are not well known that must be shared and made more widely known.

His proposal would lead to WIDESPREAD LAYOFFS designed to greatly weaken the postal workers’ union, all under the guise of defusing the postal financial ‘crisis’ that Congress itself created in 2006.

There are several key facts and truths about the USPS that are not well known that must be shared and made more widely known.

TRUTH # 1——-The USPS is NOT taxpayer funded. Therefore, package delivery fees, and first class mail are the revenue sources for the United States Postal Service. Most people, when asked, point to the increased use of electronic communications such as email as the reason for the financial crisis facing the USPS. Nothing could be further from the truth. As explained earlier in this article the deficits of the
USPS are directly due to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement ACT (PAEA) passed in 2006.

TRUTH # 2 ——When UPS and FedEx are unable to deliver mail in rural or outlying areas, the USPS is required by law to provide delivery to these areas, And without cost.

TRUTH #3——Only the USPS delivers mail and packages to West Africa. I wasted a great deal of energy before I finally sent a package to a Peace Corp worker who was teaching in a remote village. The package was delivered to the nearest city which was still miles away, but again, the USPS was the only
delivery system that served West Africa.

TRUTH #4—–Did you know that the USPS is the nation’s SECOND largest employer after Walmart? It is the largest employer of the DISABLED. The USPS has moved more people into the middle class (specifically AFRICAN AMERICANS) Than any other employer of VETERANS. God help us if large
quantities of medicine ever have to be delivered to areas were quarantined. What other organization has door-to door delivery system in place.

Hopefully, the information supplied in this article will inspire all concerned citizens to come out and VOTE in the crucial Congressional elections this coming November!

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The Enigmatic Donn T Takes Center Stage At Artsfest 2014

with Manuel McDonnell Smith

Donn T pic 1 2014Celebrating another year of “friends across cultures”, the West Park Arts Fest returns to West Fairmount Park on June 14, 2014. This year, the festival promises to be even bigger and better including a main stage performance from the emerging musical fusion artist Donn T. She recently met with the Parkside Journal, to talk life, musical inspiration, and offers an exclusive preview of her “homecoming show”:

PJ: Donn T, thanks for taking a break from your busy schedule, to talk with the Journal, and headline this year’s beloved Arts Fest. How are you feeling about taking the main stage in West Fairmount Park this summer?

DT: Music has helped me travel the world. I’ve spent significant time in London, Paris, Stockholm, and South America. I’ve lived on both coasts of the U.S.A. (L.A. and N.Y.C.) and right square in the middle of the country, Chicago, but Philadelphia is my hometown. It’s home base. I grew up on 52nd & Osage, went to Lea Junior High on 47th Street. One of my favorite memories as a kid involves family picnics in Parkside. Playing West Park Arts Fest is like coming home. Philly is the place where music began for me.

PJ: We’ll get out of the way early that you’re the sister of the fabulously funky Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Your father is Lee Andrews of the 50’s “doo wop” group “Lee Andrews and The Hearts”, and you’re a grandchild of Beechie Thompson of “The Dixie Hummingbirds.”, also known as the founders of Gospel Music.

But beyond the family brilliance, is there another artist that has particularly inspired your music?

DT: The late Phoebe Snow and specifically the album Second Childhood inspired me. She was a bit more underground than Roberta Flack and Nina Simone (who I also admire). Fact is, Phoebe was not easily defined; she was a soul and blues artist, a Jewish woman with an Afro who wore glasses and looked very much like a schoolteacher, but she sang, and wrote poetically about the underbelly of life.

The music industry didn’t know what to do with her. As a lyricist, she was layered and brilliant.

PJ: Your description of Snow, sounds a lot like your style, layered and brilliant. So in terms of the music store aisles, which genre fits your sound best?

DT: My parents were musicians who had Phoebe’s album Second Childhood in their record stacks. When I first heard the album as a kid, something in me shifted. It woke me in a way I hadn’t been prior. Like Phoebe Snow, I don’t fit squarely into one genre. My debut albut “Kaleidoscopic” was a soulful house style. My upcoming album, “Flight of the Donn T” is a soulful alternative, with jazz, pop, and EDM elements throughout. I blend quite a bit together, and at the end of the day, strive to make undeniably good music. That’s what I’m reaching for.

PJ: Your upcoming show on the main stage at the Arts Fest, is another large scale performance for you this year. Tell me, before you take the microphone, what is the feeling you hope the audience walks away with after the show?

DT: When an audience experiences my music, I am hoping it alters them, impacts them in some way. I want them to feel engaged. I am by no means a cookie cutter performer. So, if by watching me on stage someone else is inspired to embrace what makes them unique and like no one else, that would make me feel happy. I certainly have high expectations for what art might accomplish. But I have also been affected by others’ “live” performances in exactly the ways I am describing. Plain and simple, music heals.

PJ: Wow, healing. Sounds like that’s a joint cause shared by the Arts Fest team, and you personally.

DT: Children and the arts is an issue dear to my heart. When a child develops creativity early on, they learn to view life through a broad spectrum and to explore the possibilities. Even if the child will later go on to pursue a science or math major, an arts background gives a child a foundation for creative problem solving.

Additionally, I recently launched my own indie label “Dtone Victorious” with distribution through RED/MRI. Necessity was the mother of invention in this case, as major labels found me enigmatic. To them, that’s considered a bad thing. Undeterred, I decided to create my own platform. Since I don’t know any African American women label owners, the move felt groundbreaking for me. I am figuring it out as I go along. Because I am a woman, empowerment for women and young girls is a cause that also moves me. I am passionate about wanting to provide a platform for women artists (and artists in general) that allows for the unique in the music industry.

TEST

PJ: We are so excited to see you on stage, but we know people will be ready to hear even more of you after the big show. How can we do that?

DT: The first single from “Flight of the Donn T album will drop in September. The full length album comes out in January 2015. Also this year, I am a skit songwriter for “Inside Amy Shumer” on Comedy Central. For those who enjoy something more soul stirring, you might join me on Sunday at church from the congregation, enjoying my musical-beast of a husband Jake, as he plays guitar with a worship team comprised of Pharrell’s drummer, Jill Scott’s keyboarist, and a host of powerhouse players. They all inspire, and I draw from them in creating my music.

PJ: Thank you very much for taking the time and I look forward to seeing you on stage.

 

Fairmount Park Update

By Andrew P. Goodman, Penn Praxis

FairmountParkReport_vision_v11_ExecSummary_MAPONLY-2014This report is to let citizens know that the “Community Vision for East and West Fairmount Park” planning process wrapped up last month and presented its final report to the public at Smith Playground on the evening of Tuesday, May 13. The whole team — Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, PennPraxis and the Commission on Parks and Recreation – is so grateful for the Parkside Journal for helping us spread the word about our public input meetings in Fall 2013.

For those who attended our meeting at Discovery Charter School, thank you so much for your feedback and we hope you are pleased with the results and what they could bring to the community.

This article is a summary of the recommendations, but if you would like more detail, please check out our website at http://www.planphilly.com/eastandwestpark or email us at praxis@design.upenn.edu.

The vision, entitled “The New Fairmount Park,” is the culmination of a year-long research, engagement and planning process that aims to give all Philadelphians easier access to East and West Fairmount Park —ensuring that it will thrive for generations to come.

East and West Park is the heart of our park system, and its health is a reflection of our health. Seven million people use the park each year, and 1.1 million people receive water from the park, while neighborhoods from Parkside to Brewerytown struggle every day with issues of park access.

We based the recommendations in this vision on input from over 1,000 citizens, with particular emphasis on park users and residents from nearby communities. An 86-organization Advisory Group of park and community leaders provided leadership and guidance throughout the process.

The map above summarizes our key long-term and transformative recommendations, which include:

• Make it easy for citizens to get to, into and through the park
• Create opportunities for citizens to enjoy nature and water

• Offer new ways to use the park
• Give pedestrians and cyclists priority over motorists

• Engage citizens in the long-term care and support of the park.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 2.35.12 PM

The project team placed its most detailed analysis on five neighborhood focus areas, one of which is in East Parkside and another in West Parkside. Recommendations for this section of the park include:

• Pending a park-wide traffic study, de-pave or remove 41st Street and South Concourse Drive within the park to give pedestrian access priority into West Fairmount Park.

• Design the edge along Parkside Avenue with spaces that neighbors will use: as a linear rain garden for Parkside Avenue’s stormwater runoff, but also as a series of actively programmed spaces for the adjacent community that could offer athletic courts, picnic areas, shade structures, community band stands, orchards and playgrounds.

Work with the Fairmount Park Conservancy to build the “Parkside Edge” project, the focal point of which is a new play space between Kelly Pool and School of the Future to provide new recreation opportunities for nearby youth of all ages.

• Improve 40th, 41st, 42nd, Belmont Avenue, 50th and 52nd Streets south of the park as key links for neighborhood residents to access West Fairmount Park.

Give Black Road a sidewalk on its north side and a crossing at MLK Drive so neighbors can safely walk to the riverfront.

• Build a signature pedestrian-only bridge to connect East and West Fairmount Park across the Schuylkill River.

• Restore the “Moses” Fountain to become a park gateway that celebrates East and West Fairmount Park’s mission to protect and celebrate public water.

• Improve Centennial Lake as a habitat reserve, and turn a portion of it into a fishing pond with supporting amenities.

• Add traffic lights at Parkside Avenue’s intersections with 49th and 50th Streets, to slow traffic and allow for a safer pedestrian connection to West Fairmount Park.

• Restore the entire course of Lansdowne Creek and build a trail alongside it to provide a safe and beautiful slice of nature for Parkside residents that links citizens to some of the most gorgeous moments in the park.

Thank you again for all your time and patience as we all work for the future of our beautiful Park.

 

Could This Be the New Vision For Leidy Avenue?

by Michael E. Burch

A shot of the front of the Leidy School taken on November 28, 2013.
A shot of the front of the Leidy School taken on November 28, 2013.

It has been one year since Leidy school closed its doors for good as a public school. Leidy had a fifty year lifespan in the Parkside community but last June it lost that life when Leidy became one of 24 schools forced to close by the School Reform Commission. The closing of a neighborhood public school is painful to all involved (including teachers, students, parents and the community as a whole). Leidy is closed and that’s a fact, but what happens now? One result of the closing means that the community is left with a large vacant building in our neighborhood. Vacant schools can quickly become eyesores, and dangerous places. The situation is the same in every community this happens to. The question cries out: whado you do with these old buildings? In the best case scenario you sell these building to interested parties, and hopefully they can start a new life of service. However, it can often take years to find interested and responsible buyers.

In Leidy’s case, however, there is at least one young developer who has an idea, not for the school building but for the land area Leidy currently sits upon. Mr. German Yakubov is a young developer who along with his brother formed Haverford Square Properties a small property investment company working primarily in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.

The Yakubov brothers began buying, rehabbing and then renting properties to university students along Haverford Avenue. In fact many of their properties still lie in Mantua. After working and going to college in University City the brothers have become very familiar with West Philadelphia, particularly Mantua and University City. Looking to expand their business and grow into a new community Mr. Yakubov was advised to take a look at the Parkside neighborhood.

A rendering of one developers' vision for the Leidy School Property
A rendering of one developers’ vision for the Leidy School Property

His company has already purchased land in our area with the intention to build new homes and stores for residents. Mr. Yakubov has real hopes for continued development in our area, but his real ambitions are directed toward Leidy School or to be more accurate the land it sits on. His company
envisions a triangular shaped, four or five story, mixed use building structure.

The building will have retail space on the first floor levels, and one, two, and possibly three bedroom apartments above. This new building would use the entire perimeter of the Leidy school footprint.

According to Mr. Yakubov “The retail space would be filled with stores that support local residents such as restaurants, barber shops, frozen yogurt shops, or coffee shops; something that complements the residents in the community and the people who live above the retail space. “The proposed structure would have an open courtyard at its center where people could meet after dining, or having coffee at one of the restaurants on the first floor. German Yakubov’s hope is that his building will attract new residents to the area, as well as appeal to current residents. He seeks to attract people who visit the area, but don’t live here. People who visit the Zoo, Please Touch Museum, The Mann Music Center, The Shufuso Japanese House and the other events and
attractions that take place in our area. These individuals visit our area but never cross Parkside Avenue.

Mr. Yakubov;s question is “why not live here in Parkside?” German Yakubov’s hope is that his building will attract new residents to the area, as well as appeal to current residents. He seeks to attract people who visit the area, but don’t live here. People who visit the Zoo, Please Touch Museum, The Mann Music Center, The Shufuso Japanese House and the other events and attractions that take place in our area. These individuals visit our area but never cross Parkside Avenue. Mr. Yakubov;s question is “why not live here in Parkside?”

If things progress the way Haverford Properties envisions, they will have tenants who may be recent college graduates, professionals from University of Pennsylvania, Drexel or even Saint Joseph’s. During my conversations with Mr. Yakubuv he enthusiastically points out all the selling points of our area, easy access in and out, close proximity to City Line Avenue, and equally close to Center City or University City, and we have a new shopping center also. Parkside meets all of the requirements to attract new residents. The proposed plan is bold but with any plan there are problems. If the above shown building is built where is the parking space for the added people? What will the traffic patterns be like during peak driving times? How will current residents fair during such a transition? German has been paying close attention to community residents, and we hope this type of attention will continue throughout the construction process and beyond.

Like any development in our area this is just a proposed plan right now. Mr. Yakubov has not been awarded the project from the city. There are many more community meetings to be held; and I’m sure major discussions with Councilwoman Blackwell’s office before any such project would be allowed to
progress.

It’s our understanding that there are least two individuals interested in the Leidy space. Mr. Yakubuv has been the most direct in meeting with community residents, and this project will stir moreneeded development in the area.

It should be noted that on May 6th. 2014 Leidy school was placed on the available school sale list from the City of Philadelphia and given a price tag of 2.3 million dollars. Haverford properties has placed a bid in for the property.

If all goes as the Yakubuv brothers would like, and they do get to purchase the Leidy space, and they get the necessary funding, he sees this as a two year project from breaking ground to finished project.

What do you think of this project, is this something our community wants? Send you comments to The Parkside Journal at: parksidejournal@yahoo.com

Eastern State Penitentiary: History in our Neighborhood

by Sean Kelley

You may know Eastern State Penitentiary as the prison with the haunted house. But we’re also a historic site offering daytime tours every day, engaging the public in the history of this fascinating building, and, more and more, tackling issues in today’s criminal justice system.

Over 142 years, Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) held 75,000 inmates in 980 cells, originally designed around a strict solitary confinement rehabilitation approach that fell out of favor by the early 20th century. Revolutionary for its time, ESP’s radial design was copied by hundreds of prisons worldwide. (It’s also noted for having indoor plumbing and central heat before the White House.) The penitentiary’s vaulted, sky-lit cells held hard-boiled criminals such as famous bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and gangster “Scarface” Al Capone – although fine furniture and a radio made Capone’s stay relatively luxurious.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.42.02 PMEastern State was closed in 1971 and sat abandoned for over 20 years. Now in a state of semi-ruin, the facility is open for tours every day, year-round. An audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi guides visitors through crumbling cellblocks, past empty guard towers, and into Death Row and the underground punishment cells. A series of short, interactive experiences also allows visitors to unlock a cell, open the massive front gate, learn to play Bocce, and more.

We are currently launching new programs to explore issues facing today’s criminal justice system. (America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, by far.) This year, nationally recognized penologists and educators will speak at Eastern State about race, poverty, and justice in the system. These discussions, called The Searchlight Series, will take place the first Tuesday of every month, are free and open to the public.

We value your opinion as we continue to grow. Please visit us for a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, or for one of our Searchlight Series discussions, and share your honest thoughts with us afterwards. We want to hear from you about how we can make the story of American prisons today meaningful.

Public Forum: Is it Really Black History? Or, is it AMERICA’S HISTORY?

by Sharon Hale Jenkins

I came to know what is now known as Black History Month in my last year of high school in 1972. Its’ origins can be traced back to the pioneering work of Dr. Cater G. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago. His efforts to gain more recognition for the contributions people of color had made to American history led to the establishment of Negro History Week during the 1920’s.

By the 1970’s, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month. Since the mid-1970’s, every American president (Democratic and Republican) has issued proclamations endorsing the concept of Black History Month. While attending college in the 1970’s during the “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” period, I had many conflicting feelings about why the “Black” experience was (from my viewpoint) taught ‘separately’ from “American” history.

Let’s fast forward to today. Why are Black Americans continuing to accept the fact that their story (which is the very foundation of ALL of America’s stories), remains separate in the telling of this country’s history? In the future, the telling of America’s history should start with renaming Black History Month as AMERICA’S HISTORY: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.

Afterthoughts:

Because I am not a supporter of Black History Month, it is not unusual when I forget February is the month for Celebration. While TV viewing I am surprised and often impressed with the consistent number the African American actors being portrayed in Fortune 500 commercials. The Hallmark card commercial with the family cooking and eating together, having family card game time and the very touching family TV time when the wife hands her husband a card and they lean in to kiss when the children express their “ill.”

It is then I realize, this is all for Black History Month……..

There are the many movies with significant meaningful stories of African Americans being shown just in honor of Black History Month. Why not show these movies period?

Heart Disease and Nutrition: What You Eat Can Save Your Life

by Dr Albert Hicks III, a Senior Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and in most of the developed world. Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and hypertension also disproportionally affect African Americans and other minority groups in the US. In my Cardiology practice, patients frequently ask what lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their chance of developing heart disease. For years I would tout the mantra of increasing exercise, quitting smoking, taking the right medications, and healthy eating.

The first three suggestions were easy to sell since the evidence supporting them was so robust. Exercise training has been shown to reduce deaths in people with heart failure and in folks that just had a heart attack. Cigarettes accelerate atherosclerosis and increase cardiovascular deaths, while quitting substantially reduces the risk of death. There are numerous medications such as Aspirin and Statins, that have been shown to reduce mortality in folks with heart disease. The last point regarding a healthy diet has been notoriously difficult to define.

What exactly does ‘eating healthy’ mean? Is it eating exclusively fruits and vegetables? Does it mean a diet high in protein and fat like the Atkins diet? Are carbohydrates a staple in a healthy diet? Or perhaps a diet very low in carbohydrates is healthy?

Unfortunately, at some point all of these diets were in vogue within the medical community. They were recommendations that made common sense. But when studied on a population level, none of these diets demonstrated an improvement in heart disease outcome. Because of the lack of clear cardiac benefit of any particular diet, many fad diets flooded the market. It is no wonder why my patients never know what types of foods they should eat to be healthy. But finally that has all changed.

A Gift from the Mediterranean
For years there has been discussion in the medical community regarding the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The diet represents foods traditionally found in the Mediterranean part of the World, particularly Greece and southern Italy.

But variations of the diet are found in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Bulkan region. Scientists observed that people who live in these parts of the world suffered from significantly less chronic diseases and had higher life expectancies than their Western counterparts.

What foods comprise the Mediterranean Diet
The following foods are staples in the Mediterranean Diet:
• VEGETABLES
• Fruits
• Cereals, Pasta, Bread
• Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
• OLIVE OIL
• Moderate fish, poultry
• Small amounts of red meat
• Moderate dairy (GREEK YOGURT, cheese)
• Moderate consumption of wine w/ meals

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.28.59 PMThe foods in should be grown and produced locally. Quality of food is heavily stressed over the quantity. Fresh foods are essential to the diet. Lastly, the creators of the diet stress that food should be savored, and enjoyed.
In April 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a ground- breaking dietary study that has transformed my practice. The study examined the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease. The researchers followed over 7400 people who were at high risk of developing heart disease but were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. The participants were then assigned to assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil; a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a Control diet that was low in dietary fat. They followed folks for five years.

The results of the study showed that in people at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events including heart attack, stroke, and death.

This study finally validates a diet that can save lives and reduces the chances of developing heart disease. I now recommend the Mediterranean diet to all of my patients, friends, and family. Additionally I challenge them to change their eating culture: eating as a family, experimenting with new foods, and eating for longer periods of time to truly enjoy the experience.

I challenge anyone that is reading this article to try this diet out. It just one day may save your life.

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.