Top 5 Live-WURD Tuesday November 3
1. Philly schools to borrow $250 million just to stay open
Two weeks ago, the School Reform Commission warned that without a state budget it would be forced to borrow hundreds of millions just to keep schools open through the end of December. On Monday, it did just that, authorizing the borrowing of $250 million and shifting $40 million from its capital funds to pay for everyday costs.
In all, if the Philadelphia School District needs to use all the funds now allowed, the state budget stalemate will cost the Philadelphia School District $2.5 million in interest and fees.
As the state budget stalemate dragged into its fifth month, SRC officials underscored their dismay with what one called a seeming failure of lawmakers to do their basic jobs. Philadelphia is among dozens of districts statewide that have had to borrow to make ends meet in the absence of state budget.
2. Dwight Evans says he’ll challenge U.S. Rep. Fattah in ’16
State Rep. Dwight Evans says he will challenge embattled U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in next spring’s primary. Fattah, now seeking a 12th term in Congress while under federal indictment, took Evans’ news in stride Monday, saying he looks forward to the race and still feels confident about his chances of reelection.
Evans’ decision sets up a clash between two politicians, each with over three decades in elected office. Both are powers in the city’s African American community. Evans, in his 18th two-year term representing the state House’s 203rd District, said he won’t seek another term in Harrisburg – and will focus instead on the 2nd Congressional District, which covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
“I can’t change the reality of what is occurring,” Evans, 61, said of Fattah’s indictment in July on charges including racketeering and bank fraud. “That will speak for itself.”
“My focus is on doing the job,” said Fattah, 58. “The city should rejoice in the opportunity to hear about my record and for voters to decide whether they want me to continue to represent them.” Fattah declined to comment on Evans.
3. No high court discipline for judge who exchanged offensive emails
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin’s emails were “juvenile and repugnant” and offensive to women and minorities, but any discipline for his conduct should be left to the Judicial Conduct Board, a special counsel to the high court has concluded.
The special counsel’s 25-page report, however, left unanswered a key question: whether two previous reviews of the justice’s messages had failed to flag the offensive content – and why.
The report released Monday found that Eakin, using a personal email account, exchanged messages containing crude jokes between 2008 and mid-2014 that “would be offensive to women, African-Americans, immigrants and other groups.”
But the matter does not warrant immediate action by the high court, according to the report by the Pittsburgh law firm of Joseph A. Del Sole, which was hired last month to investigate the justice’s emails and report back with its findings.
4. Big Layoffs to Hit Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com
Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, will lay off 46 members of the Newspaper Guild. Last Friday, new publisher Terry Egger said job reductions would be part of a restructuring that includes the merging of the three newsrooms.
“The company has informed the Guild of its intent to lay off 46 Guild members effective Dec. 4,” guild officials said in an email to members. “Company officials rejected the Guild’s request to meet today to find out which departments and individuals will be affected, and has requested a meeting Wednesday morning, so everyone can be left hanging for an astonishing two additional days.”
The guild currently has 436 members employed at PMN. The guild represents journalists, ad sales people, and other support staffers at the company. The contract signed by PMN and the guild over the summer gives the company the right to exempt from “last hired, first fired” seniority requirements up to 25 percent of employees in a group targeted for layoffs — provided those employees “are deemed to be essential to the Company’s operations.”
5. Jury and racial bias debate comes to the Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering claims from black death row inmate Timothy Tyrone Foster that prosecutors may have unlawfully excluded African-Americans from serving on the jury that convicted him nearly 30 years ago.
Foster, then 19, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the murder of an elderly white woman. Prosecutors urged jurors to use the death sentence to “deter other people out there in the projects.” Through an open records request, Foster’s lawyers obtained notes indicating that prosecutors may have illegally considered race as it struck every potential black juror.
The allegation that race discrimination persists in jury selection comes nearly 30 years after the Supreme Court reaffirmed that jurors cannot be struck because of race. Foster was convicted for the strangulation murder of Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old retired elementary school teacher.
“The prosecutors in this case came to court on the morning of jury selection determined to strike all the black prospective jurors,” one of Foster’s lawyers said. “Blacks were taken out of the picture here, they were taken and dealt with separately … We have an arsenal of smoking guns in this case.”
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Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com and morning host on 900 am WURD radio. Click here to learn more about Solomon