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A Few Words From John Buffington

Philadelphians have the opportunity to vote on November 2, or by mail sooner, for judges, District Attorney, and City Controller.  Here’s some information that may prove useful.

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania has issued it’s endorsements in this year’s state-wide judicial races.  CVP’s website, conservationpa.org says, in relevant part: Conservation Voters of PA is the statewide political voice for the environment. We work to elect environmentally responsible candidates to state and local offices.

Their recommendations are:
For the State Supreme Court: Judge Maria McLaughlin
Superior Court: Judge Timika Lane
Commonwealth Court: Judge David Spurgeon and Judge Lori Dumas.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s website is: plannedparenthoodaction.org.  It says, in relevant part: The Planned Parenthood Action Fund works to advance access to sexual health care and defend reproductive rights.  They have endorsed exactly the same four candidates.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association rated Judge McLaughlin “Highly Recommended,” its top rating. (Her Republican opponent got the same rating. That race is vote for one.)  They also recommended both Judge Lane and her Republican opponent.  They Recommended Judge Dumas. Judge Spurgeon is Highly Recommended.  They Recommended one Republican in that race, and found another Not Recommended. In that case, the PBA found that while the community holds the candidate in high regard, she “lacks the depth and breadth of experience necessary ” to be a judge on the Commonwealth Court.  Not a denunciation, of course; this candidate might well be endorsed in future years.  The state bar is demonstrating that it is serious about getting the most qualified candidates into judgeships.

The Philadelphia Bar Association has a judicial commission which adopted the State Bar Association’s endorsements of Judges McLaughlin, Lane, and Dumas, all of whom are Philadelphians; they didn’t rate Judge Spurgeon, because he doesn’t have a history here.

Superior Court Judges Bender and Bowes are up for retention, as are Commonwealth Court Judges Covey and Jubilirer.  The PA Bar recommended three, but the judgment on Judge Jubilirer was Not Recommended, for failure to participate in the evaluation.

The Committee of Seventy, seventy.org, produces a Voter’s Guide with information on both candidates and ballot questions.

The City Commissioners always put up the precise ballot at philadelphiavotes.com/en/voters/candidates-for-office.

The Philadelphia District Attorney race pits former defense attorney Larry Krasner, who had no prosecutorial experience before his first election, against defense attorney Charles Peruto, who has no prosecutorial experience to my knowledge.  I didn’t know what to say about this rather bizarre situation, so I called a woman that I know who keeps her ear close to the ground, and asked what she has heard in the way of grassroots murmuring in the somewhat nitty-gritty part of town where she lives.  She reports a lot of outrage about DA Krasner’s de-emphasis on controlling crowds of highly visible homeless people, and the rising crime rate in some categories since he took office. On the other hand, there seems to be a widespread impression that Mr. Peruto has a rather close past association with organized crime.  Nominating Charles Peruto doesn’t seem like the smartest of Republican moves when facing such a controversial DA.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has endorsed DA Krasner.

Rebecca Rhynhart is unopposed for re-election as City Controller.  If I knew anything much bad about her I would recommend a write-in vote for none-of-the-above.  But I don’t, so she may well deserve a check on your ballot.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court has 12 vacancies, and the Democratic Party has nominated 12, with no opposition.  The Philadelphia Bar Association has a Judicial Commission, whose recommendations are available at judges.philadelphiabar.org.  They Highly Recommended or Recommended 9 candidates:  Kamau, Barish, McCabe, Wahl, Hall, Hangley, Levin, Sulman, and Moore.  The other three weren’t evaluated.  That would be because they failed to participate in the evaluation process.  There appears to be no reason not to vote for the nine candidates who have been found at least Qualified, or against the three who evidently refused to participate.  No votes, in this case, will require writing in three other names in blanks provided on the mail-in ballot, or going to the extra trouble of calling up that little window on the voting machine and writing in other names–don’t forget to take in your own pen, if so inclined.  Anyone who runs for public office of any sort is voluntarily agreeing to engage in the give-and-take of electoral politics.  It shouldn’t be decided just by putting up enough street money to pay people to secure petition signatures.  Failing to participate in a legitimate candidate evaluation system is not a great characteristic in a potential Judge, I think.

Municipal Court has 5 vacancies, with 5 Democratic nominations and no opposition.  The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Judicial Commission recommended 3.  The Bar Recommends Yorgey-Gergey, Twardy, and McCloskey.;  they say “Not Recommended” on  Lambert.  DiCicco didn’t participate. Here again, writing-in is available.

Common Pleas Court has 13 judges up for retention and Municipal Court has 7.  The Philadelphia Bar Association recommended a Yes vote on all the Common Pleas candidates, and six of the Municipal Court ones; except Municipal Court Judge Sharon Williams Losier, who is “Pending” until a Bar committee meeting on November 1, which will be too late for this coverage.

The ballot questions this year are discussed in some detail at the League of Women Voters website.  Briefly stated:

#1:  Add to the City Charter a rhetorical call for the State Legislature to legalize the casual use of marijuana.  The Inquirer supports this idea; their Editorial Board thinks that state legislators will pay attention to the climate of opinion in Philadelphia, knowing that there’s a gubernatorial election coming up, and we vote.  I think that the Board is remarkably naive on that point. We vote all right, but we vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  I can’t see the Republicans who dominate both House and Senate in Harrisburg thinking that they can influence that much.

#2: Create a City Department of Fleet Management.  This would replace management of vehicles by personnel in the individual departments.  The Inquirer supports this one too. They looked at how other major cities handle fleet management, and decided that Philadelphia should conform.

#3: Loosen the City’s hiring process somewhat to give managers more flexibility in choosing from job applicants who have passed the civil service test.  Again, the Inquirer’s Editorial Board recommends this, as giving managers more hiring flexibility.  They think that the civil service system is strong enough to keep the opportunity from being an opening for expanding patronage.

#4: Mandate City Contributions to the Housing Fund.

Both the Committee of Seventy and the Inquirer recommend a no vote on this one.  While they like the purposes of the Housing Fund, they think that the Mayor and Council need budgeting flexibility.

I hope that this is helpful.  Because judicial elections occur in Pennsylvania in years when there is less going on in the executive and legislative departments, judicial elections tend to be low turn-out, and the leadership of the major parties tend to have a disproportionate influence.  This is unfortunate, because the interest of major political parties is mostly in maintaining and enhancing their shares of offices held and patronage, not so much in qualifications and issues.  Perhaps  more people will vote, and do it more independently of party officials, if more information is a bit more conveniently available.  Perhaps.  We shall see.

John Buffington

The author is a retired lawyer who has been politically active on behalf of selected candidates, Republican, Democratic, and Green, whenever so inspired, for 57 years.

 

 

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Historical Society September Program

The Historical Society of Frankford (HSoF) will present its September program, live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, at 7:30 pm on September 14, 2021.

John Buffington will discuss some of the current activities at HSoF, and then read a paper, “The History of the Dummy Car,” by Thomas Creighton, first delivered to the Society on January 28, 1916. Dummy cars were self-propelled, powered by steam engines, and they replaced horse-drawn street cars for transportation between Frankford and Philadelphia in 1863. They served that purpose until they were replaced by electric trolleys in 1893. Thomas Creighton had first-hand recollections of the dummy cars in operation, and also collected stories from the operators.

This program will remain available as a video on both Facebook and YouTube indefinitely.

 

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Op-ed from John Buffington

Let’s Reverse Trumpery

Representative John Taylor has decided to retire, so this year’s election for the 177th Pennsylvania House District Seat is the one and only time that Democrats have a good opportunity to rise up in their righteous anger and deliver a stinging blow to Trumpery, gerrymandering, global warming, fracking, gun violence, misogyny, and compulsory pregnancy.

We all need to get to the polls on May 15th to vote in the Democratic primary, and again on November 6th for the general election.

 Please!

The good news is, that with John Taylor leaving, four Democrats have stepped up to contend for a legislative seat from a district that was carved out of our overwhelmingly Democratic City for the purpose of guaranteeing that Philadelphia would have one Republican State Representative.

Take a look at our ridiculous legislative district below:

Map courtesy of the Committee of Seventy

This obscene structure isn’t just a Republican product; it’s the result of a corrupt bargain involving incumbents of both parties. Democrats in the State Legislature colluded with the Republican majority and the then incumbent Republican Governor to commit this fraud on voters in Northeast Philadelphia. And Democratic Ward leaders in Philadelphia have colluded with those despicable legislators to maintain them in office. And labor union leaders have gone right along with the scam.

So, what to do on May 15th? I recommend voting against gerrymandering, as a top priority. And the obvious choice is Joe Hohenstein. Joe is firmly committed to the creation of a non-partisan commission for redistributing Congressional and State Legislative seats. He doesn’t have a famous last name to run on and the establishment won’t be able to buy him off. Instead, he is backed by a consortium of independent, progressive minded labor unions who have a history of working to elect independent minded politicians who advocate for policies beneficial to ALL working people.

Then there’s all of those other issues. All four candidates say that they mean to do the right thing. All four talk about their deep roots in the community and their local activities. How do we choose the most effective spokesman?

My thought is, when you have multiple options who all talk the right talk, you should check their educational credentials and philosophies. Joe Hohenstein’s college and law degrees and 25 years of law practice seem like the most promising credentials for what we need:  a skeptical independent thinker who will confront right-wing extremism effectively.

Ultimately, the issue isn’t who talks the right talk but who has walked the right walk. Joe Hohenstein is the candidate who has an actual record of confronting right-wing extremism. His law practice has been specialized in immigration issues, and he mixed it up in court with the jingoes, and won. I don’t see anything like that with the others.

Joe Hohenstein’s roots and engagement in the community are at least as deep as the others. His grandparents’ wedding at St. Joachim’s occurred 60 years prior to his own. His grandfather had a saddle shop on Frankford Avenue. Joe learned to swim and worked as a lifeguard at Simpson playground. He played soccer at Frankford High School and was on the second team, all public, his senior year. And today Joe is Clerk of Frankford Friends Meeting. In that role he has actual experience in managing a school, as opposed to talking about educational issues.

Democrats in the 177th District aren’t likely to go wrong on May 15th with the available candidates. But, we really need to do the best we can to put up a candidate who will put up the best possible fight against Trumpery. That choice, I submit, is Joe Hohenstein.

 

John V. Buffington
April 13, 2018 (The 275th birthday of Thomas Jefferson)

John Buffington is a retired lawyer living in Frankford.  He sometimes has opinions.

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A guest Opinion from John V. Buffington

Please Stop Abusing Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a place, not a murderer. It isn’t a headquarters for bigots. It isn’t the breeding ground for psychopaths. It didn’t volunteer to serve as a location for stormtrooper training.

University of Virginia at Charlottesville, from Wikimededia Commons

It didn’t occur to me to be offended when Columbine became a synonym for murder. I have never been to Columbine. Charlottesville is an entirely different matter for me: I love Charlottesville.

Citizens of Columbine, please accept my apology. I failed to come to your defense. You are not a crime, you are secondary victims and it took me a awhile to get it. It took me until the legitimate American press started using the name of a place that I love as shorthand for murder.

Charlottesville has had murders before, of course – like every other place of any consequence. But it has never cultivated murder, the way, say Las Vegas has cultivated vice. Or the way that West Virginia has sponsored pollution.

It is common in college towns for there to be a sort of constant murmur of town-gown conflict; I don’t remember noticing that in Charlottesville during my 7 years at the University there.  I remember a youth minister at the Presbyterian Church near the Grounds who grilled hotdogs and explained to students of the ’60’s generation that Jesus was a revolutionary.  I remember that when the Mayor and Governor saw Anti-Vietnam demonstrations coming they kept their police back and trusted the brilliant University President Edgar Shannon to keep things cool.  I remember the dedicated lady who ran the office of the Mental Health Association where I volunteered as a student, and a lot of self-less adult volunteers who supported that operation.  I did some substitute teaching in the local high school, and I remember a lot of seniors of Mr. Golladay’s Government classes who actually seemed to enjoy talking about real issues with a stranger.  I remember that the people of Charlottesville then were Virginia taxpayers like my parents, and they subsidized my fabulous education.

Charlottesville’s history goes way back before this murder. It is the place where Thomas Jefferson chose to build his home and then his university. It is the town where the Virginia General Assembly was meeting during the American Revolution, when Banistre Tarleton’s Cavalry tried to catch them but Jack Jovett rode into town with the alarm, so the legislature and Governor Jefferson too scampered across Afton Mountain to reconvene in Staunton.

Because Mr. Jefferson chose Charlottesville for his university, it was a potential location for conflict in September 1965, when the University was beginning to desegregate and I arrived to start college. Bad things happened in a lot of towns where colleges and universities were desegregating, but I don’t remember anything bad happening in Charlottesville.

What happened with me was, I got a better education and part of that was the discovery that I had black classmates who had to meet the same rigorous standards that I did, plus live with the pressure of being the test cases. They had to be extra tough, and they made it.

So, 7 years after I arrived in Charlottesville, I left, a better educated, more tolerant person than the one that arrived.

I appreciate the voters of Charlottesville in the early 1970s for electing Tom Michie to the Lower House of their General Assembly – which Virginians call by the beautifully evocative “The House of Delegates” – because Del. Michie turned out to be my invaluable ally when I launched my effort as a novice lobbyist for Virginia’s environmental movement and the state Association of Social Workers.  (He was also one of the sponsors of my Va. State Bar Admission.)

Charlottesville is not a murderer or a gathering for bigots. Charlottesville is a great town that hosts a great University. It is a beautiful, welcoming, Virginia Place. If you don’t know why “Virginia” is a positive adjective, please go there and find out. You won’t be sorry.

At the advanced age of 70 I have just discovered a new verity: sometimes you don’t realize what you love until you see it being abused.  I have been well aware for 52 years of how deeply I love the University of Virginia but it never occurred to me before to consider it’s context: Charlottesville.  Thank you, U.VA.

And thank you Charlottesville.

John Buffiington is a double graduate of UVA: B.A. in Government, 1969, J.D., 1972.  He can be contacted at johnbton47@gmail.com.

 

 

All readers are welcome to submit opinions or rebuttals.  Guest opinions are not those of the Frankford Gazette.  Email gil@frankfordgazette.com

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A guest Opinion from John V. Buffington

All readers are welcome to submit opinions or rebuttals.

Guest opinions are not those of the Frankford Gazette.

Email gil@frankfordgazette.com

Trump’s Delusion of Persecution

 

Donald Trump recently declared that “no politician in history has been treated more unfairly.” Really?

It wasn’t more unfair for John Wilkes Booth to kill Abraham Lincoln months after the Gettysburg Address, when it was clear that Lincoln meant to knit the country back together on terms that would have been generous to the defeated Confederates?

Was it maybe a little unfair for James Garfield to be killed by a fool who wanted a job when Garfield was trying to set up something like the modern civil service system?

How about Russian sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald murdering John F. Kennedy months after JFK barely steered the world through the Cuban Missile Crisis, backing down Russian dictator Nikita Khrushchev?

Does any of that sound a little more unfair than Press reports on the misbehavior of trump and his backers?

But wait –there’s more.

Trump didn’t say “any American politician in history”, he said “any politician”. So Mahatma Ghandi’s assassination wasn’t a wee bit more unfair than criticism of trump? How about the hundreds of democratic politicians from all over continental Europe that died in Hitler’s concentration camps?

Thousands of politicians have been killed for standing for the opposite of Trumpery. It is time to start calling “Alternative Facts” what they are: Lies.

John Buffington

This is the first of a series including prequels on Trump’s claim that his inauguration was the biggest ever. the howler about Barack Obama not being an American citizen, and the refusal to show tax returns.

John Buffington is a recovering Republican living in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia.