Lots to discuss

A recap op-ed of the massive week that (still is) in Philadelphia

Broad Street Run
So many people incensed that a cash-strapped city offered them a chance to run a race virtually, the school district’s plan to keep kids safe and Brian Abernathy’s good call are all inside this week’s editor column. | Image: M. Edlow/Visit Philadelphia

I started off this week wanting to convey a group of silent leaders in our community doing their part to distribute masks into lower socioeconomic parts of the city before the bomb that was this week hit our news desks. 

The biggest was the City’s decision to cancel all large scale events on public property until March 2021. This means some of the biggest fall and winter events in the city you can think of are either canceled or plan to host it virtually.

Then there was the fallout from the Monday announcement that city managing director Brian Abernathy will step down from his position in September after realizing he’s essentially clueless (his estimation, not mine) when it comes to Black and Brown problems in a city that is majority Black and Brown. I actually applaud Abernathy for looking himself in the mirror in the aftermath of all this unrest and realizing he by his very nature is counterproductive to an attempt at progress.

Then there was the School District of Philadelphia announcing its plans Wednesday on how students will return to class this year amid a pandemic that appears to have rounded the corner and is coming back in a major way. I’ll touch on this first, and work back to the other two in order. While it’s important to get kids back in an environment conducive to actually learning, one would think the safety of these kids is at the utmost. 

“Parents clamoring for their kids to go back will be the same ones incensed at the school district and educators the second a school has to shut down due to a discovery of a COVID-positive student or teacher – which you know is an inevitability.”

So I wonder what’s the rush? Do you really think students are going to adhere to social distancing guidelines? Do you think kids walking around asymptomatic still can’t spread to kids who aren’t? How about the millions that will be spent on additional cleaning measures? Where is a cash-strapped school district supposed to get funding from, when the state looks at funding inner-city public education last and City coffers are closing in on a budget shortfall close to $800 million?

Also, parents clamoring for their kids to go back will be the same ones incensed at the school district and educators the second a school has to shut down due to a discovery of a COVID-positive student or teacher – which you know is an inevitability. 

I hope the District’s plan works and that none of this happens. The mix of partial in-class time supplemented with digital learning at home sounds smart now. But are all risk factors being thought of here?  Are they looking at how many city kids get to school (public transportation), where they go before school (mostly close-quartered Papi shops), and the smartphones they’re on constantly before, during and after school?

No one wants me to be more wrong on this than me. I just don’t see the mitigation plan for what kids do before they enter the classroom – and that’s what worries me. 

Moving on, and now that I think about it, there really isn’t much more to say on the Abernathy situation that isn’t aforementioned, I just hope the City and Mayor take their collective time in choosing the right candidate to serve as the bridge between city residents and the oft-biased City-run departments, programs and services for them. 

On to the cancellation of events, specifically the Broad Street Run. 

Following the City’s announcement of all large scale public events, the organizers of the Broad Street Run posted their plans to still honor runners who received the golden ticket to this year’s event. In addition to a virtual run, all participants would receive all of the shit one normally gets for participating mailed to them, a lottery waiver for 2021, a 20 percent discount on registration fees, and most notably, confirmation that proceeds of their fee from this year’s event would go to five different charitable organizations.

Sounds fair, right? Apparently, not to a whole bunch of registrants who took to social media shortly after the announcement to throw shade at BSR officials for not offering a full refund. The one tweet that got me especially was a young woman who wrote:

To which, I wonder…there were no issues in running the race and using those funds not to feed your family amid a pandemic but now it’s an issue? There were even some runners who took to relaying BSR plans to news outlets, including ours, some even planning to boycott the race entirely. 

Let me remind again, that because of COVID-19, Philly is broke AF. Unfortunately, we have to accept that some of the things we looked forward to just aren’t happening or will be modified because of this pandemic. 

So what these racers view as unfair, personally, I just view as a sense of entitlement. 

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.