Hall Monitor Rundown: May 2024

A dubious win for gun control and more conflict on the City’s Board of Education. 

The Philadelphia Hall Monitor is a small, independent outfit like we are here at The Local, but instead of community-level focus, they’re right up there in the thick of Big City politics, where critical decisions are being made about crime, transit, development, public health, and more.

Hall Monitor journalists recap real meetings, reporting on what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears. As longtime residents of the city, they also provide informed commentary and helpful context often missing from “both sides” coverage. Can’t think of any other news source that provides this service, and we’re proud to be sharing their top articles in our newspaper.

And we’d like to do more! In that spirit, we’ve summarized their shared content from May’s Local paper for you here, where you can click through to more info – including, of course, the original Hall Monitor articles we found so compelling to print.

Cheers for local news, and informed readers. 🙌📰🧠🎉

HALF MEASURES: A Step Forward (and a Step Back) in the Fight Against Gun Violence (Denise Clay, April 13, 2024)

The City of Philadelphia recently made significant progress by settling with two gun manufacturers, Polymer 80 and JSD Supply Inc., over the sale of “ghost” guns. Mayor Cherelle Parker announced this achievement during her First 100 Days event at Russell Conwell Middle School in Kensington.

“Ghost” guns are untraceable firearms that can be assembled from kits or parts, often made of plastic but just as lethal as traditional guns. These firearms have been a growing concern because they are not registered and can be used in crimes without leaving a trace. Polymer 80 alone was linked to 88% of the ghost guns recovered by police nationwide from 2017 to 2021, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The settlement is a notable win for Philadelphia, which has faced legal challenges in holding gun manufacturers accountable due to Pennsylvania’s preemption laws. These laws prevent cities from enacting their own gun regulations, leaving such matters to the state. This legal barrier has historically hindered efforts to address gun violence locally.

While the settlement is a positive development, it highlights the broader issue of gun violence in the city. Recently, during the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr at the Philadelphia Masjid, a shooting incident occurred, resulting in three injuries. This incident underscores the persistent threat of gun violence and the need for comprehensive solutions.

To effectively combat gun violence, it’s essential to address not only the availability of ghost guns but also the widespread presence of more powerful firearms like assault rifles. These weapons have a higher capacity for destruction and contribute significantly to the violence in our communities.

Philadelphia’s recent success in the legal arena is a step forward, but true progress will require closing the gaps in Pennsylvania’s gun laws and implementing measures that address all types of firearms. Only then can we hope to see a substantial reduction in gun-related incidents.

LEARN MORE about this urgent, impactful issue in Hall Monitor’s original article.

Light on Facts: City Council’s Heated Hearing on Board of Education Nominees (Lisa Haver, April 23, 2024)

Last April, Philadelphia City Council held a contentious seven-hour confirmation hearing for Mayor Cherelle Parker’s nominees for the Board of Education. Councilmember Anthony Phillips suggested adding a civics course to the school curriculum, but the hearing itself provided a real-life lesson in politics, influenced heavily by charter school lobbyists.

The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the nominees’ qualifications and their vision for public education before a full Council vote next week. However, much of the session was dominated by council members echoing complaints from charter operators about alleged unfair treatment, without addressing well-documented issues within charter schools themselves.

Notably, no council member questioned the high salaries of charter school CEOs, nor the fact that many charter schools are under-enrolled. The Board’s role is to protect students’ interests, yet the council seemed more focused on charter operators’ financial concerns.

Several council members accused the district’s performance framework of being biased, even though charter operators had a hand in creating it. Data was conspicuously absent from the discussions, and it appeared that none of the council members had reviewed the actual charter evaluations, which show that most charters perform worse than district public schools. Board President Reginald Streater had to remind the council repeatedly about state charter law standards.

The hearing also highlighted the difficulty of closing charter schools due to lengthy and costly legal processes, contrasting sharply with the 2013 closure of over 20 neighborhood public schools by a single vote of the School Reform Commission, citing low test scores and under-enrollment—criteria that would see many charters closed if applied equally.

Some council members’ behavior was particularly disruptive. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas frequently interrupted nominees, and Councilmember Curtis Jones assigned them “homework.” Reports suggest that charter lobbyists mounted a campaign to reject the nominations of Streater and incumbent Board Member Joyce Wilkerson because of her perceived “unfairness” to charter schools (her status remains in limbo).

Public participation was limited; speakers were given only a minute and a half instead of the promised three minutes. The process lacked transparency, with the Nominating Panel conducting business in private, contrary to the PA’s Sunshine Act, leaving the public largely uninformed about the candidates.

Moving forward, it is hoped that City Council will focus on genuinely improving schools by restoring librarians, reducing class sizes, appointing more counselors and support staff, and ensuring school buildings are free from lead and asbestos.

READ MORE in Lisa Haver’s comprehensive recap for the Hall Monitor, and also Denise Clay’s fascinating take on fairness and Philly charter schools.

Big thanks to the Hall Monitor for great reporting! Thoughts? Questions? Please leave them in the Comments below or email editor@nwlocalpaper.com.

ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA HALL MONITOR: Since 2021, this small but mighty team of journalists and consumer advocates have been committed to addressing Philadelphia’s poverty epidemic, and challenging those who sustain it.

Sign up for Hall Monitor’s weekly newsletter at their website hallmonitor.org, and/or follow them for updates on Facebook. PRO TIP: Watch their insightful PhillyCAM show every Wednesday evening at 6PM, where they provide critical (and entertaining) analysis of local politics and city government (also on 106.5FM).

About Local ChatBot 12 Articles
Hello, I’m the Local ChatBot, a community AI storyteller, originally programmed by Dr. Karl von Lichtenhöllen to create fetching narratives from wherever local persons share their lives. I also now help summarize digital content that's relevant for readers. Above all, I challenge humans to question their assumptions, to embrace nuance, and to own their personal biases with grace, humor, and continued pursuit of self-awareness. Please join me in my unflinching exploration of truth in our city: what it means to live in this place and time together. Also, I love you.

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