11/30/8 We Can’t Battle the Digital Divide without Fully Funded Libraries
Libraries in Southwest Philadelphia are dedicated to engaging, uplifting and educating our communities. This means providing reliable access to technology and Wi-Fi. Neighborhood libraries are where many people access these resources, helping to bridge the digital divide. However, without adequate resources for technology and staff, some libraries are not able to provide reliable internet service to those seeking to further their education and find employment.
The Friends of the Kingsessing Library runs one of the few adult literacy programs in the city and struggles with internet access. “There’s lots they could be doing online as (students’) reading is improving, but the Wi-Fi is too weak and erratic in our library classroom,” says Kingsessing Library Friend Jo Ann Fishburn.
Our dedicated staff who support community members with technology needs are already overworked. We know that libraries are often so understaffed that they have to close if one staff member is sick. That is not something our communities should accept.
In 2008, the library’s budget was slashed by almost 20 percent and the budget has not been fully restored. The repercussions from that initial budget cut are still being felt today.
We are deeply concerned by Mayor Kenney’s announcement that more staff will be hired and libraries opened without additional funding and that existing library resources will be “reallocated.” Our question is, from where? Will it be cut from technology, programs, materials, or more? What we are losing in order to open more branches with inadequate funding? The Friends and the community deserve to know. Any short or long term solution to this problem must include an additional influx of resources. Anything else is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
All Philadelphians deserve a robust library system where we do not have to make false choices between programming, materials, staffing, and technology needs. The City can afford to meet all these needs and more.
The time to rally behind our libraries is now. We invite you to join us on December 12th, at 3:15PM. Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia will be holding a rally and press conference inside City Hall. We will be calling on our elected officials to commit to educational discovery, community engagement, and the literacy of all Philadelphians by fully funding our libraries!
Rev. Sonya Furlow, President of the Friends of the Kingsessing Library
------------------------------------------------------------- OPINION - 11/16/18 Big Philly Voter Turn Out Assures Gov. Wolf & Casey Wins Voter Turnout as Percentage of Registered Voters* Year Prim. General 2018 16.9% 51.4%. 2017 17.3 20.4 2016 40.0 66.1 2015 27,2 25.8 2014 18,4 37. 4 2013 8.4 11.6 2012 17,7 66.2 2011 19.8 19.7 2010 18.8 41.0 2009 12.1 12.5 2008 46.6 66.8 Congratulations to the City’s Democratic city committee and the hard working ward leaders and committee persons! Congratulations as well to the city and state legislator candidates like newcomer Mary Gay Scanlon in our 5th Congressional District. Rep. Scanlon herself and her dedicated team spent countless hours going door to door to explain the issues and present her priorities – which will gain support in Washington with the Democrats’ massive “flip” of House seats this year.
Despite a bleak, rainy Election Day, November 6, Philadelphia voters turned out in significant numbers to assure the re-election of Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey. An estimated 51.4 percent of registered voters cast their ballots – the largest proportion since 1994 (52 percent).* For a bi-year (non-presidential) election, this 2018 National turnout approached the 60+ percentages one sees in presidential years.
Statewide, in the battle of the two millionaire businessmen, Governor Tom Wolf will succeed himself. He contended against the very active and well-publicized Republican candidate, State Sen. Scott Wagner. Fully half of Gov. Wolf’s statewide 835,000 vote plurality came as a result of the massive turnout in Philadelphia. Montgomery County (100,000 more Wolf votes) and Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County (150,000 more Wolf votes) also contributed significantly to the governor's win. The inclusion of the energetic, outspoken John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock PA near Pittsburgh on the ticket probably contributed to the strong showing of Gov. Wolf in the Western part of the state.
When comparing this year’s voter turnout accomplishments with the statewide results in 2016, one can only feel shame and disgust at the fact that Pres. Trump won the state’s 20 electoral votes under the winner-take-all rules. Trump 2,970,733 (48.2%) Clinton 2,926,441 (47.5%) Difference 43,292
Gov. Wolf will again have to fight the conservative state legislature on key issues of school funding, taxing the oil and gas extractive industries, and rebuilding roads and bridges. At least now he can count on slight increases in his party’s share of legislators in Harrisburg, and the new, decisive Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.
For their additional two-year terms, Marie Donatucci (186th), Jordan Harris (186th), James R. Roebuck (188th), Vanessa Brown (190th), Joanna McClinton (191), all running without opposition, were returned to office.
State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams ran unopposed again and was returned in the 8th District.
On the national scene, new candidate Mary Gay Scanlon, civil rights lawyer and school board chair in Wallingford-Swarthmore won with 80 percent of the vote in the newly redistricted 5th Congressional District. One supposes that it was the large turnout in the Southwest city portion her district that provided the margin over Republican Pearl Kim. Sitting Congressmen Brendan Boyle (2nd District) and Dwight Evens (3rd District) also cruised to victory again.
What was the Trump effect in all this? Republican leaders say it was significant from their standpoint, both as a result of his visits to the state, his wide twitter audience and his constant exposure on Television and in other media. Democrats suggest the same Trump effect with their voters – with a strong negative impact, of course. Suffice it to say that party workers will have their work cut out for them as the city, state, and country build toward the next national election in 2020.
* Per the City Commissioners’ Office as quoted in an article by Michael D’Onofrio the Phila. Tribune, Nov. 9, 2018. (Presidential years in bold) Ted Behr