Voices | Sept. 24-Oct. 1

Reactions, rants and other random musings from you, our readers

Encampment tents
The scene along the Parkway is one of frustration for those living both in and around the encampment. This week, our readers offer their thoughts and a member of Green Party PA poses a solution. | Image: PW file photo

Leadership from Kenney needed to solve the encampment situation

We are residents of the Fairmount area, and until the encampment came, we were able to walk to Target and Whole Foods for groceries. However, we no longer can do so because it is no longer safe. 

We wish the mayor would make low-cost housing available so that the people in the encampment would feel they are being listened to and there is hope of their demands being met. New York City has a certain amount of low-income housing available in parts of their buildings that have regular rental costs. With all the houses lying empty in Philadelphia and houses whose owners refuse to pay their taxes there should not be so many rules and regulations that make it impossible for people to use them for low income housing. 

If the mayor wants to be re-elected, he should show some leadership in this terrible situation.

Anonymous | Fairmount

The SHOUT Out

Last week’s death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg created an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Your turn: Should President Trump appoint her replacement or should the decision be made by whoever is elected president in November? Send your thoughts to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com

Put people’s health before profits

NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) just published a shocking report indicating that the Northern Hemisphere had its hottest summer in recorded history. One would think that in light of this news, Andrew Wheeler, the EPA Administrator, would reconsider his stance on the assault of existing methane rules. These rules have been successful in preventing the emissions of millions of tons of the highly-potent greenhouse gas methane. Yet, Wheeler, who also happens to be a former coal industry lobbyist, has failed to meet the dire needs of the current moment.

It’s no secret that the current administration prioritizes the oil and gas industry over public health. Wheeler, like his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, perfectly embodies the Trump administration’s stance when it comes to public health: profits come before peoples’ health. Unfortunately, in this time of climate emergency, Wheeler has bent over backward by methodically diffusing Obama-era regulations in order to please Trump and other climate deniers in office.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned us of the dangers that greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide have to our atmosphere. Methane, carbon dioxide’s lesser-known cousin, is in fact up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Methane is not solely emitted from cow and sheep flatulation, as is most commonly believed, but rather occurs at every phase of natural gas production. Additionally, the increase of deadly summer heat recently seen around the world has drastically exacerbated the negative effects of methane by further trapping it in the atmosphere. The understanding is that more heat equals more methane trapped in the atmosphere. The record-level heat experienced around the globe these past few years has in fact caused up to 25 percent of the devastating effects of climate change.

In 2012 and 2016, the EPA passed the New Source Protection Standards (NSPS), which required the oil and gas industry to conduct regular inspections for methane leaks and required them to repair their equipment to prevent the leaks. The EPA first began rolling back these regulations in 2019. A direct quote from the EPA website regarding the initial rollback says, “the proposed amendments are estimated to save the oil and gas industry $17 to 19 million a year, for a total of $97 to $123 million from 2019 through 2025.” But the Trump administration wasn’t done putting profits before health: As of Aug. 13, Wheeler and his misguided EPA have now fully rolled back the 2012/2016 NSPS, a decision that will allow methane leaks to go unchecked for longer periods of time.

In an age when the hottest temperature on record is beaten every year, it is the wrong decision to rollback methane regulations. The EPA said it themselves that this decision will allow hundreds of thousands more tons of methane to leak over the next five years alone. With more extreme heat on the horizon, this methane is therefore predicted to cause unprecedented levels of climate change. While a few may profit in the short-term, decisions of Wheeler and the EPA are causing untold harm to the globe, which will be felt for generations to come.

Akiva Weinstein | Queens Village

The Green Party believes it has a solution to end housing insecurity in Philadelphia. | Image courtesy: Damian Lobato

Green Party of PA will end housing insecurity

The elected leaders of Philadelphia are debating how to deal with three encampments of people who have no permanent homes. There have been several threats to remove the unhoused citizens using police force, and some of these threats have been reversed by the courts. 

As a Green Party of PA leader, I do not approve of evicting the encampments. This would endanger those living in them and get us further from a resolution. In today’s climate we cannot ask the police force to do anything responsibly or expect any accountability from them for the damage done in the process. However the encampments are really just the surface of the core issue. How do we end housing insecurities?

The Green Party would begin by ensuring that people do not become homeless. That part won’t be easy. The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, candidate for president of the U.S., has put forth an Economic Bill of Rights.  This would include ending poverty as we know it. Hawkins says, “We will end poverty by guaranteeing every person has an income above the poverty line. The income guarantee will be built into the federal progressive income tax structure. If your income is below poverty, the federal government will send you a monthly check to bring your income above the poverty line. . . . We will update the official poverty line to reflect a realistic income needed for self-sufficiency to pay for basic needs. Researchers find that 200% of the current poverty line is a more realistic poverty line.”

Hawkins continues, “The income guarantee we will enact is often called the Negative Income Tax (NIT). We prefer it to the Universal Basic Income (UBI) because it targets the benefits to those who need it, provides a sufficient benefit to end poverty, and costs a fraction of a UBI.” 

Hawkins would also guarantee every person a job. His Economic Bill of Rights says, “We will enact . . . a federal job guarantee to every American willing and able to work in public services and public works (infrastructure). If you cannot find a living-wage job in the private sector, you go to the Employment Office – not the Unemployment Office – and get your living-wage job. The program will be like New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s, but expanded to guarantee full employment.” 

This would help citizens become independent and buy their own homes as opposed to renting and being at the mercy of landlords. It is also a great way to build generational wealth. There are many families that are not able to leave an inheritance to their heirs. This exacerbates the wealth gap and is especially devastating to Black and Brown communities.

The Green Party’s next step will be to pick up the pieces and make people who have already lost their homes whole again. “There are 10 abandoned houses for every homeless person in Philadelphia right now,”  said Cheri Honkala, director and co-founder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. Honkala was the Green Party’s candidate for vice president in 2012. 

Hawkins’ Economic Bill of Rights says, “Public housing and universal rent control is how we will provide affordable housing for all who need it within a decade. We will build 25 million new units of public housing in a 10-year, $2.5 trillion public housing program that is part of our Ecosocialist Green New Deal. 40% of the units – 10 million units – will be set aside for low-income people seeking affordable housing. This set-aside will more than cover the current shortage of 7.8 million units of affordable housing for low income (7.5 million) and homeless (400,000) households and individuals. These public housing developments will be high quality, humanly scaled, and designed to be energy efficient and powered, heated, and cooled by clean energy. This housing program will be a jobs program, a clean energy program, desegregation program, and a walkable communities program as well as an affordable housing program.” 

Offering affordable housing is a good start. To accomplish it, universal rent control and public housing will need to be widespread. It will be controlled federally so that local organizations like the Philadelphia Housing Authority cannot use funds inappropriately. A good example of that would be the $45 million PHA headquarters, where one of the encampments has staged itself. Instead, a community lead board should be elected to establish and enforce laws regarding the illegal repurposing of properties. This would apply to developers removing people from their homes or landlords charging unreasonable amounts.  

These actions need to be taken with utmost urgency. The unhoused population is expected to increase by 250,000 people in the U.S. This is the beginning of a crisis situation in our country. 

On Sept. 10, a third attempt by the city of Philadelphia to evict the encampments was unsuccessful. Activists (including GPPA & PPEHRC) from all around the city showed up in force to prevent the removal. They were successful. In a press conference, Mayor Kenney stated, “We’re going to continue to try to do it the way we’ve been doing it, in an amicable way, in a non-forceful way. And we’ll continue doing that until we have to move it.”  So as of now, there is still a stand off.  The city offers temporary housing as a solution to a problem that is not temporary. We are going to need to think outside the two-party box to curtail this crisis.   

Justin Bell is a member of the Green Party of Philadelphia City Committee.