Pattye Benson

Community Matters


Nationwide Collective Bargaining Solidarity – Saturday, February 26

“Employers and employees alike have learned that in union there is strength, that a coordination of individual effort means an elimination of waste, a bettering of living conditions, and is in fact, the father of prosperity.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1929

For the past nine days, we have watched as teachers, students, nurses, state workers and others protested in Madison, Wisconsin. This week we understand that many of our own school district teachers showed their support for fellow teachers with the ‘wearing of red’. We now learn that this Saturday at noon, across the country, the protest and show of solidarity is going national. In cities from coast to coast, including every state capital, people will come together to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin.

Union leaders in Wisconsin agreed to Gov. Walker’s proposal to increase contributions to their health and retirement plans to help close a projected $3.6 billion budget gap. The move would cut the take-home pay of many union workers by about 7 percent. However, union leaders nationwide are incensed about Walker’s additional proposal to strip public employees of the collective bargaining power – the lifeblood of a union.

I received an email announcement from political action organization, about the ‘Rally to Save the American Dream’ offering details of Philadelphia’s planned solidarity rally at:

Love Park
Broad & JFK Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Saturday, February 26
12 Noon

The invitation asked for us “. . . to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin and for all the people of Pennsylvania to stand up as well. It is time we all speak out and demand an end to the attacks on worker’s rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share. We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans. Please join me at the rally and bring a friend!”

The announcement further suggested that if you believe in the middle class and the American Dream, you fight for collective bargaining rights. Declaring your support for the Wisconsin workers, attendees on Saturday are asked to show up wearing the Wisconsin Badger colors: red and white.

From Clarence Darrow in 1909, the words “With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the development of character in men.”

I think we can all agree — these are historic times in our country.

Religious Freedom or Child Abuse . . . You be the judge!

Risking a volatile outburst from some Community Matters readers, there is troubling news from the Philadelphia courts. I have been following this story from January 2009 and the case had its day in court yesterday. Although the verdict was guilty, I am far from satisfied by the sentencing. If you are not aware of this specific case, here is the background.

In January 2009, 2-year old Kent Schaible of the Rhawnhurst section of Philadelphia became sick. His parents, Herbert Schaible, 42 and Catherine Schaible, 41 are members of the First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park, which teaches healing through prayer. For 10 days, the couple remained in this Northeast home praying over their son, believing their son’s symptoms, including a sore throat, chest congestion, diarrhea and trouble swallowing and sleeping were signs of the flu or of a cold. The parents did not seek medical treatment for their son. Following the fundamental teachings of their church, they believe that the sick can be healed by praying to God, not by turning to doctors or medicine.

Kent died of bacterial pneumonia on January 24, 2009. When the Schaibles discovered that Kent was dead, they called the church’s pastor who came to the house. He joined the parents in prayer and then called a funeral director. The Philadelphia medical examiner ruled the death a homicide but noted that it could have been prevented with basic medical care. Herbert and Catherine Schaible were arrested in April 2009 and charged with involuntary manslaughter and related counts.

The trial began late last year and at one point Herbert read a statement to the jury, which included “We tried to fight the devil, but in the end the devil won” as part of their defense. I supported the Schaible’s conviction in December of involuntary manslaughter but was shocked by yesterday’s sentence. The sentence for the death of their 2-year old son was 10 years probation, as imposed by Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Temin!

Why no prison term for the couple? Temin decided against prison for the couple because they had no prior criminal record and they have seven other children, now ages 1 to 15, and they needed their parents. Temin says that she made it clear that the parents must get the children regular medical exams. Do we really think that is going to happen . . . ? Commenting on the sentence, Herbert’s attorney, Bobby Hoof, commented there is a clear message that “religious freedom is trumped by the safety of children.”

As an aside, Mr. Schaible teaches at the school that is attached to their church, the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church, of which they are members. Mrs. Schaible’s father is principal of this school. How can the Schaible’s support the doctrines of the church and school and have regular check-up and medical care? The church and school teachings believe that all medical treatment is a sin.

The couple could have received 5-10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and 3 ½ -7 years for endangering the welfare of a child. In handing down the probation sentence, Judge Temin said that if the Schaible’s violate the terms (which means seeking medical care and regular check-ups for their other children they will be sent to jail. What happens if their violation of medical treatment causes another death of a child? How can these people be allowed to retain custody of their children?

When it comes to religious beliefs, I support the rights of an individual. However, I draw the line when a religious belief causes harm or worse, . . . death. Maybe I am going out on a limb on this, but I view The Schaible’s actions as a form of religious child abuse. The fundamental teachings of their church, directs those that seek medical attention are to be shunned . . . so how is that this couple is going to remain members of the church, teach in the school and follow the terms of the sentence in the raising of their seven children? Not possible.

Here is an interesting thought . . . would the proposed school voucher plan work for parents wishing to send their children to the fundamental First Century Gospel Church School? Good possibility that this church school located in Juniata Park could be located close to one of the 144 low-performing public schools and therefore would qualify to receive a student with a voucher. Isn’t that a scary thought?

Happy Mother’s Day . . . Did you know the celebration has roots in Philadelphia?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Did you know that the celebration of Mother’s Day in the US has roots tied to Philadelphia? A little history behind today’s special Mother’s Day. Early on, “Mother’s Day” in the United States was mostly marked by women’s peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. There were several local celebrations in the 1870s and the 1880s, but none achieved resonance beyond the local level.

In 1886 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” whose purpose was “to unite families that had been divided during the Civil War”, and she wanted to expand it into annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Her daughter Anna Jarvis would continue her mother’s effort shortly later.

In its present form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Marie Jarvis, following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis on May 9, 1905, with the help of a Philadelphia merchant called John Wanamaker. Legend has it, Anna Jarvis, who was named after her mother, knelt before her mother’s gravesite in 1905 and pledged to her mother she would continue to honor mothers everywhere and would help establish an official Mother’s Day to honor both living and deceased mothers.

A small service was held in May 12, 1907 in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia where Anna’s mother had been teaching Sunday school. Anna Jarvis passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church – one flower for each mother in the congregation — as they celebrated the second anniversary of her mother’s death. The white carnations were her mother’s favorite flower. But the first “official” service was in May 10, 1908 in the same church, accompanied by a larger ceremony in the Wanamaker Auditorium in the Wanamaker’s store on Philadelphia. She then campaigned to establish Mother’s Day as a U.S. national holiday, and later as an international holiday.

In discussing the importance of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis said, “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit. A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother, and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of states followed quickly. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation, declaring the first national Mother’s Day; a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Continuing the Local Gun Discussion . . . Supreme Court to Weigh in on Chicago's Handgun Ban . . . Will High Court Uphold Federal Law Over State Law? What Does this Mean for Pennsylvania Gun Owners?

When I wrote Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer? a couple of days ago, I could never have forecasted the interest in the topic. Although admittedly surprised by many of the responses (50 comments on this topic!), I was fascinated by the strong opinions of many in this community. The ‘right to bear arms’ topic has opened up conversations (and debates) among family members and friends. I had intended to move on from this topic but I received several emails over the weekend encouraging further discussion. I feel strongly that we learn from each other by exchanging ideas and information. The evolution of Community Matters as a new informal communication channel can help to educate us, if we are willing to listen to each other. Although I would be the first one to encourage lively debate, I would ask that you be respectful with your comments.

Several people commented on the June 2008 Supreme Court decision which struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and declared that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense and other purposes. The Washington, D.C. lawsuit marked the first time that the highest court ruled that US citizens have a right to own guns for self-defense. The Second Amendment to the Constitution speaks of the right to bear arms in the context of a “well-regulated militia.”

Over the weekend, we were out to dinner with friends at Majolica in Phoenixville (highly recommend!) and spent much of the evening discussing the Second Amendment law, the new federal park gun legislation and many comments and opinion that were shared on this blog.

There is a new Second Amendment Supreme Court case which will look at the handgun law in the city of Chicago. The Supreme Court argument starting tomorrow will decide whether the Second Amendment — like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights — applies to states as well as the federal government. It’s widely believed they will say it does.

This new Second Amendment Supreme Court lawsuit was filed by an elderly, African-American Chicago resident who said he wants to defend himself. Otis McDonald, 76, is suing the city over its gun ban, says he keeps a 20-guage shotgun at home to protect himself from the neighborhood gangs. But even if the court strikes down handgun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, that are at issue in the argument to be heard Tuesday, it could signal that less severe rules or limits on guns are permissible. An interesting aside to this latest lawsuit is that Chicago is President Obama’s hometown. The US Supreme Court justices will be deciding whether the Second Amendment right of every US citizen to possess arms for self-defense should apply to local as well as federal laws. The latest high court lawsuit will look at Chicago’s 1982 ban on handguns; determining whether federal decisions should apply to local law.

On the eve of this latest Second Amendment case, I was interested in understanding what the Pennsylvania State laws were in regard to gun ownership, age, restrictions, etc. Although I claimed to be naive on the subject of local gun ownership in my last post, I researched Pennsylvania’s current legislation. The following is offered to those who are also uninformed on the subject of owning firearms in Pennsylvania. I don’t recall anyone mentioning the ‘open carry’ policy.

Would you rather people have their guns out in the open, or concealed? Do you think that the open display of weapons would help (or hurt) possible incidents of violence? I am curious how the police feel about the ‘open carry’ policy . . . wonder if they would rather know that a person is armed?

Owning Firearms in Pennsylvania

  1. Do I have to register my firearms in Pennsylvania?
    No, in fact in Pennsylvania it is actually illegal for any government or police agency to keep a registry of firearms per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms). If you legally possess and bring your firearms into Pennsylvania or come into possession of the firearms legally, no further action is required.It should be noted however that all transfers of handguns in Pennsylvania are required to go through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and as such the Pennsylvania State Police keep a “Sales Database” of all handguns purchased within the Commonwealth. While almost any casual observer can see that this database clearly violates the spirit of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Pennsylvania State Police that because the database is not a complete record of all handgun ownership (as people bringing handguns into the state do not have to register them), it does not.
  2. How old must one be to possess a firearm? Per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.1 (Possession of firearm by minor), the minimum age to possess a firearm is 18 with two exceptions:
    1. The minor is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or an adult acting with the expressed consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian and involved in lawful activity.
    2. The minor is lawfully involved in hunting or trapping activities.

Is open carry legal in PA?

Answer: Yes, with some restrictions.

Anyone whom can legally own a firearm in the commonwealth can openly carry, on foot, with the exception of court facilities, federal buildings, motor vehicles and cities of the first class (Philadelphia) While Pennsylvania has a specific law that requires a License To Carry Firearms for the concealed carry of a firearm, and the carry of firearms in vehicles, the law is silent on the legality of openly carrying a firearm in other situations; which if I understand the law makes it de-facto legal. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6108: Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia

  • No person shall carry a firearm, rifle or shotgun at any time upon the public streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class unless:

(1) such person is licensed to carry a firearm; or

(2) such person is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) of this title (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license).

Philadelphia's 'Retire-for-a-Day' Pension Perk!

How’s This for a Government Loophole?

Talk about perks of government . . . I can not believe this loophole in Philadelphia’s local government. Ever heard of Philadelphia’s DROP program – that is the Deferred Retirement Option Program. DROP is a pension program that does not distinguish between Philadelphia city workers and elected officials. This means that there is nothing legally wrong with Philadelphia City Council members enrolling in the retirement program.

Elected officials who are in DROP benefit more than regular city employees because they can be re-elected. When a city worker retires, he or she does not return. But when a city council member wins re-election, he or she can count this as officially retiring from the City. If enrolled in DROP an elected official can collect a bonus payment (worth four years of pension payments) and then return to work. Now the councilperson will earn a salary and still get monthly pension checks as if they were retired. Allowing elected officials to retire for-a-day, collect a big pension check, and get “re-hired” for another term belies common sense!

In 2008, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski did just that. This 75-yr. old took her $297,466 DROP payment, and was re-elected to her current term. Now others are considering the same move. Philadelphia’s City Council has 17 legislative seats and 7 may come up in the 2011 elections. Six of those councilpersons are enrolled in DROP. But guess what . . . based on Ms. Krajewski’s experience, I would bet some of those people are going to resign for a day, take their lump-sum payout and then be back on the job. One of the people who is currently ‘weighing her options’ is 78-yr. old City Council president Anna Verna She has not decided if she will seek re-election (but is keeping her options open!). Councilwoman Verna is set to get a $572,679 DROP payment!

The DROP program lets workers set up a retirement date up to four years in advance. At that point, their pension benefit is frozen and they start accruing pension payments in an interest-bearing account. Workers then receive those payments in a lump sum when they retire, and start collecting their annual pension. For disclosure purposes, if a councilperson retires, takes the lump-sum, and is re-elected, they cannot apply for DROP again, their pension benefits do not increase and they cannot starting their annual pension until they permanently leave office. (This would be the case for Councilwoman Krajewski, she received her DROP payment in 2008). But that is a small caveat – the elected official would have already made a bundle at that point!

What do you think of this Philadelphia government pension perk? Do we see any correlation between the DROP pension program in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) teacher’s pension program?

Looking Forward to Restaurant's Opening

With restaurant closings rampant along the Main Line, there is some good news for local foodies. The long-standing mainstay in Philadelphia, White Dog Cafe, is opening out our way — yes, the resturant is opening a second branch on Lancaster Avenue, across from Anthropologie in Wayne. Although originally slated to open last spring 2009, it’s looking like the doors of White Dog Cafe #2 should be opening shortly.

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