Voices | May 13-20

Image: Priscilla Du Preez

The Shout out

Philly’s concert venues are preparing to get back to live, in-person performances.

Your turn

Would you feel safe attending a live concert again?

Send your thoughts to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com.

Face the future by facing today

What a wild ride we’ve lived in the last year – even today, it feels like we’re living in strange, in-between times. But when we acknowledge that things are changing, we are able to choose our future that comes. And to create the future we all want – one with the pandemic as a thing of the past, one with the new puppy we welcome into our home, or one with the beauty of the natural world that we all deserve right outside our front doors. We need to rise to the occasion. Because the time for action is now. And there’s one area where Pennsylvania needs to rise – our great commonwealth needs to join RGGI.  

Pronounced “Reggie,” the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, it’s designed to do two things, simultaneously: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate economic growth. 

It’s wild to me that Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the northeast that’s not leading the way to a brighter tomorrow. We may be the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the entire nation, but that only means our partnership in RGGI is all the more critical. We can have a bigger impact if we step up as a new energy leader for the country. And no one can tell us we don’t deserve the beauty in our natural lands that will come with it, or the economic freedom in jobs to lead the way to a future that is already unfolding around us.  

Our future is defined by our ability to see that the world is changing. And all we can do as people is to challenge ourselves to face today. That’s why I’m writing a letter to the editor myself – something I’ve never done before. This year will bring another set of new things for us to face together, and things happen and will continue to happen all the time. Let’s not let them happen to us. Let’s make things happen. And that means creating a future world and economy that works for today and tomorrow. That starts with RGGI. Pennsylvania knows we are strong. “Life is not about waiting out the storm, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” And it’s been so long since we all danced together. 

Harrison Mace | Philadelphia

Make Pennsylvania a winning state for job growth

PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement in regard to Pennsylvania’s burdensome regulatory environment and uncompetitive corporate tax climate driving investment out of the state:

“Last week, President Joe Biden mused, ‘there’s no reason why wind turbine blades can’t be built in Pittsburgh.’ But it turns out there is – a concerted effort among environmental groups paired with obstruction by environmental regulators to undermine Pennsylvania’s ability to manufacture the goods needed to compete in a 21st century economy.

“The recent announcement by U.S. Steel to cancel significant investment into its facilities because of this anti-growth, anti-jobs agenda is just the latest example of a missed opportunity for the commonwealth. This came on the heels of the news Pennsylvania will lose another congressional seat. Let there be no mistake: The states that have gained seats have more dynamic, competitive economies than those losing seats, because these winning states have, by and large, taken steps to improve their tax and regulatory environment. With those reforms have come more economic opportunity for their citizens and, as we are increasingly seeing, for graduates and young workers from other states who are leaving moribund local economies behind.

“Economic stagnation and decline are a direct result of the policy decisions our elected officials make. When Pennsylvania again loses out on significant, new economic opportunities for investment and job growth, it is incumbent on these officials to become more motivated than ever to pursue policies that will transform Pennsylvania into a beacon for investment, growth and opportunity. Reforms that create a transparent, efficient, accountable regulatory process; a competitive tax structure; and a skilled and able workforce will bring about an equality of opportunity for all Pennsylvania residents. These are the pillars of our member-driven Bringing PA Back economic recovery initiative, and the PA Chamber will continue to advocate for making Pennsylvania a winning state for job growth and investment in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.”

A District Attorney’s Office in disrepair

Philadelphia’s criminal justice system needs reform. This is why we must reject Larry Krasner’s reelection. I once believed that Krasner was Philadelphia’s savior. But during my two years as a prosecutor in his DA’s Office, I learned how dangerously wrong I had been. In reality, Krasner is the worst thing to ever happen to the criminal justice reform movement.

Krasner’s inability to responsibly manage the DA’s Office created a toxic environment. I witnessed the morale of excellent attorneys vanish. Those attorneys who did not flee have struggled to perform with a dearth of leadership. Both progressive and traditional prosecutors alike are fed up with and miserable at Krasner’s office. No one can do their job well in this environment. An office in disrepair ensures neither safety nor lasting reform. 

And now, people associate reform with disaster. But the disaster does not stem from reform. It stems from Larry Krasner. Another four years of Krasner will only worsen this association of reform with Krasner’s personal failures. Instead, we need a skilled reformer, a victim advocate, and a leader.

I was excited to be part of Krasner’s first class of new hires in fall 2018. My class shared my hope of making this city safer and fairer. Our hope soon turned to confusion and concern.  

It started with the training. Rather than a rigorous program, my class was trained by a man named by Adam Foss, a former prosecutor from Boston with no experience in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. As of November 2020, Foss was under investigation for rape. The training had little applicability. It was a cross between a graduate seminar and a religious retreat, filled with lectures, followed by group reflection circles.

Our bizarre training ended with Krasner giving us a big “congratulations.” He announced to the new hires that his future hiring plan would focus nationally, not regionally. In his words, UPenn is Philadelphia’s only “A-list” school. The rest were “B-list” schools, and hiring only from “B-list” schools gets you a “B-list” office. In this moment, Krasner revealed the elitism from which he desperately tries to distance himself. He demonstrated a not-so-subtle disdain for my many classmates who attended excellent schools like Temple, Drexel and Villanova. He disregarded the fact that many brilliant lawyers do not attend elite law schools because they might not have the advantages often needed to attend one.

As we eventually entered the courtroom, my colleagues and I realized our training was insufficient at best and misleading at worst. Foss had instructed us to do with our cases what we wished, even going so far as suggesting we evade or disregard supervisor oversight. Foss’ suggestion misled some members of my class into believing they had authority to unilaterally withdraw felony charges in their first few weeks in the courtroom.

Poor training was not limited to new hires. Attorneys at all levels complained about lack of training. Even supervisors for the office’s different units, all of whom were experienced lawyers, were victims of Krasner’s aloof leadership. By no fault of their own, Krasner assigned many supervisors to roles they did not want and for which they were admittedly unprepared. Even some prepared supervisors struggled, as they had to manage understaffed units of ill-equipped and untrained attorneys. Krasner wasted our potential; he snuffed out our passion. Now, attorneys flee the office at alarming rates.  Some even quit with no future job lined up. Few people in that office have any hope things will get better. That’s because they won’t.

Why does it matter that Krasner cannot manage an office? When prosecutors make mistakes, people can get hurt or killed. Krasner has been unable to perform a core function of his post: Protect Philadelphians from danger. In October 2018, police arrested Michael Banks for a felony gun violation. Banks already had a record. Yet, in February 2019, Krasner gave him a plea deal of three to nine months. Banks immediately got back on the street. He went on to shoot 7-year-old Zamar Jones in the head as the child played with a toy on his family’s porch.

Stories like Zamar’s are too many. Crime rates in Philadelphia, including homicide, are as high as they were in the 1990s. Krasner takes zero responsibility for the role his mismanagement plays. His failure to take any responsibility is disheartening, but not surprising for those of us who know him. Luckily, Philadelphians are not so naive to accept his attempt to distance himself from his abysmal record. It is indefensible.

And it is most certainly not progressive. Almost all the city’s crime and homicide victims are Black and Latino Philadelphians living in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. And do not hold your breath that Krasner will hold bad cops accountable. The only cop Krasner could nail with a felony, he then turned around and offered house arrest.  

Make no mistake: Rejecting the disaster of Krasner’s regime is not a rejection of reform.  It is a necessary step to achieving it. We need a competent leader to take Krasner’s place, someone who can prove that reform and low crime rates are not mutually exclusive. We cannot continue Krasner’s charade of progress while crime skyrockets, reform fails, and the city’s chief law enforcement office lays in disrepair.

Thomas C. Mandracchia, Esq. | Philadelphia

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