Friday, May 27, 2016

A look at violence in Chester - from someone who knows it too well

We spend a lot of time writing and describing the violence that takes place in the city of Chester.

Janene Shipley knows all about it.

She lives with it every day.

She took a bullet in her shoulder in the Saturday night hail of gunfire that snuffed out the life of 14-year-old Zenas Powell.

Shipley lives in Highland Gardens, which is often seen as ground zero for Chester's problems with guns and drugs.

She wants nothing more than to get out of the city.

And she's not the least bit reserved in how she feels about those responsible for the violence.

This week she sat down with reporter Rose Quinn to talk about Saturday night's incident and what life is like in Highland Gardens and the city of Chester.

It's an eye-opener.

You can read it here.

An outside look at the Chester Police Department

When he was running for his city's top office, Thaddeus Kirkland made it pretty clear that he was not a fan of the way things were being run by the Chester Police Department.

He had harsh words for both then-Mayor John Linder and his top cop, Joe Bail. In Kirkland's view, they were out of touch with the community, leading to a distrust of the department out on the streets.

It was one of the things Kirkland vowed to change.

It didn't take him long after taking office to do just that. He put Darren Alston back into the spot he once held - before being demoted by Linder - as police commission.

He also vowed that the department would be more transparent, and have better interactions with the community.

The city took a big step in that direction yesterday when it was announced that the federal Department of Justice would undertake a thorough review of the city department.

The review was instigated by several police-involved shootings that had draw questions and criticism from the community. Alston asked the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services - known as COPS - to perform a comprehensive review of the department.

They will specifically concentrate on five areas: police-involved shootings; community policing and trust-building; training and employee development; data collection; and crime analysis.

One thing became increasingly clear at yesterday's press conference.

This is not going to some some kind of cursory, insider look at the department. These are outsiders who age going to poke around, identify deficiencies, and suggest changes.

That's a good thing.

You can get all the details here.

The Daily Numbers for Friday, May 27

The Daily Numbers: 1 man taken into custody after a standoff last night with Springfield police and a SWAT team in which he is believed to have fired several shots at officers.

0 injuries reported in the incident.

4 hours, how long the man was barricaded in his home on Hillview Drive.

600,000 dollars being spent on a review of the Chester Police Department by the federal Department of Justice.

5, age of Springfield resident Ryan Natow, who raised $115 for his local volunteer fire department.

93 million dollar budget that got the green light by Radnor School Board.

3.6 percent tax hike that will be included in the spending plan.

735,000 dollar shortfall remains to be whittled down.

30-acre reserve known as Taylor Memorial Arboretum in Nether Provide acquired by Widener University.

12-8 win for Radnor girls to capture District 1 lacrosse crown.

2-1 win for the Penguins to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. They’ll face the Sharks.

120-111 win for Golden State to stay alive in their series vs. Oklahoma City Thunder.

31 points for Steph Curry. Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.

Anyone remember the Flyers? Yes, they’re still playing hockey. The finals are now set. Just seems like a long time since we saw the Flyers on the ice.

I Don’t Get It: Janene Shipley puts an entirely different look at what it’s like to live with violence in Chester.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Ryan Natow. The 5-year-old donated the $115 he received for his birthday to the local township volunteer fire department.

Quote Box: “In Chester, we are under attack.”

- Janene Shipley, shooting victim and Highland Gardens resident.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Two views of Chester

I have said many times that it is very easy in this job to present a skewed image of a community in the newspaper.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the city of Chester.

Simply put, it has not been an especially good couple of days in the city.

We continue to mourn the loss of Zenas Powell, the 14-year-old caught last Saturday night in a hail of bullets that were meant for someone else. There have been no arrests in that case.

Meanwhile, the city did record its 10th homicide, and also saw a former star on the Chester High basketball team charged in another murder. Erikk Wright was voted to the All-Delco basketball team, a key member of the undefeated 2012 Clipper team.

But there are other stories in the city, ones that offer another image of the city - and its young people.

That's why I had a reporter back in Chester yesterday to do a story on some very special honors for a group of students at Chester High and the STEM Academy.

Yes, they also appeared on our front page.

I very likely will continue to struggle with this idea of how many towns in the county, and the young people who live in them, are portrayed in the paper.

I would be lying if I denied that many - if not most - of those stories would be considered negative in nature. That's the nature of the beast, and what I do.

But it's not ALL I do, and it's not all this newspaper does every day.

By the way, we'll be back in Chester this afternoon for a press conference with city officials, the police department brass and representatives from the Department of Justice. The feds have been invited to Chester to review police procedures in the wake of several police-involved shootings.

Yes, that's also part of covering the city.

Fair Funding Formula a 'giant' step for Harrisburg

We like to poke fun at the folks who represent us in Harrisburg in this space.

Hey, they don't call Pennsylvania - the place where our governor and Legislature butted heads over a spending plan for nine months - the "Land of Giants" for no reason.

But something very important happened yesterday in the state capital.

It's called a fair funding formula for education.

Pennsylvania, unfortunately, was one of three states in the nation, that did not utilize one in dispersing funds to local school districts.

Not anymore.

Yesterday the state House approved a measure that would make the fair funding formula that was suggested by a bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission permanent, part of the Pennsylvania School Code.

The new formula will take into crucial elements such as enrollment, special education needs of the district, the economic condition of the community and the capacity to raise revenue.

The measure now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has indicated he will sign it.

If you don't think this is important, you should talk to the people in Upper Darby, William Penn and Interboro School districts. In Upper Darby, they are tightening their belts and not raising taxes, despite looking at a deficit in the neighborhood of $6.5 million.

That likely won't be the case in William Penn, where they are staring at a tax hike despite also tapping into their fund balance. And things are even worse in Interboro, where the school board is looking at a decidedly unpopular mix of raising taxes and slashing jobs.

We used our editorial page today to lay out the case for the fair funding formula, and the hope that Gov. Wolf doesn't waste any time in signing it.

For Harrisburg, this was indeed a 'giant' step

Crunch time for the Phillies

It's crunch time for the Phillies.

After they managed to escape Motown and avoid a sweep by the Tigers with a 8-5 win, we're about to find out if this team - which has clearly surpassed everyone's expectations - is for real.

The Phillies now face a string of 12 games against the Cubs and Washington. They are in the Windy City for three games at Wrigley with the NL Central leaders.

They they head home, where the NL East-leading Nats will be waiting for them. After squeezing in four games with Milwaukee, they face three more vs. the Cubs, before hustling down I-95 for three more with the Nats.

That's 12 games against what may be the two best teams in baseball in the next two weeks. The Cubs are a lusty 31-14, the best record in baseball. The Nationals are 28-19. Meanwhile the surprise team in baseball this year, the Phils, are hanging in there at 26-21, just two games back of Washington

So what do you think would be a good outcome from this crucial span.

I'll put the over/under at .500 I'm taking the under.

And I'll keep my fingers crossed that they do better.

The Daily Numbers for Thursday, May 26

The Daily Numbers: 15 years probation for an Upper Darby man who entered a guilty plea for stalking a local TV personality.

29 Chester students who received honors as part of the city’s Seeds of Excellence Awards.

81, age of man who saw charges against him dropped in connection with a standoff with police.

18, age of teen being sought in connection with a shot fired on a crowded Upper Darby playground.

11 SEPTA regional rail stations that will be hooking up with Uber this summer to offer discounted rides.

40 percent discount for riders using Uber to get to the train stations, where parking is often at a premium.

9 licenses that got the green light from the Pa. LCB for gas stations to be able to sell beer.

2 recent police-involved shootings that have sparked a federal review of operations in the Chester Police Department.

5,000 calls for help received each month by Chester police, about 150 a day.

1 employee shot during a robbery of a restaurant in Claymont last night.

15,000 dollars or more being offered to Penn State students to go to a satellite campus as opposed to main campus in State College.

2 people facing charges now in the OD death of a woman doctor after a night of partying in New York City.

0.10 blood alcohol level in a DUI offense that will now mean mandatory use of an ignition interlock device in Pa.

78,000 attempts to drive drunk stopped by the devices, according to MADD.

8-5 win for the Phils to avoid a sweep in Detroit.

12 games in the next 2 weeks against the Cubs and Nats.

31 of July, that’s date of 1st Eagles training camp session that will be open to public.

2-2 draw for the Union against Orlando.

6 game unbeaten streak for the team that plays in Chester.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.

We’re about to find out if this Phillies team is for real. They have 12 games against the 2 best teams in baseball, the Cubs and Nats, in the next 2 weeks. I think .500 ball over that span would be a huge step up for this offensively challenged team.

I Don’t Get It: A guy enters a plea for stalking, gets 15 years probation, and tells the court he has no intention of stopping the actions he just pleaded guilty to in the first place.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to all those kids who received awards in Chester yesterday. Yes, there are lots of good stories in the city.

Quote Box: “I’m not going to give it up. I want to be with her. I’m the only person who can protect her.”

- Chris Nilan, in court yesterday to plead to stalking charges involving a local TV news personality.