Between the holidays and the circus in the US house, a few stories have flown under the radar lately, so I thought I’d give them a brief mention.
DelCo Land Bank
WHYY recently had a story about the new land bank created this fall by the Delaware County Council. Land banks have become a solution many municipalities have used to turn abandoned properties into useful ones. Like many land banks, Philadelphia’s land bank has a mixed record of success. Because it involves property development, corruption is a frequent problem with land banks and transparency is vital to ensuring the properties are used for the public good rather than to enrich developers. But when they work right they can turn dilapidated buildings into parks or much needed low-cost housing and decrease crime and nuisances in the area.
DelCo Youth Prison
Last night the Media Area NAACP had two speakers that discussed the county’s plans to build a new prison for children. These reformers held an event last year that was covered in the DelCo Times. There is a recently released report about the problems faced by the former youth facility that was shut down by the state due to abuses. The speakers said that youth offenders are now either kept under house arrest or held, effectively in solitary, at the adult prison, George Hill. They have to be kept isolated because they cannot come into contact with the adult prisoners there, which sounded awful. The county has proposed building a $44 million dollar facility to house 25 youth. This seems a poor use of resources, but its not clear if enough people are paying attention to seek an alternative to locking up children.
Election Board Reforms
Today county council will be making minor changes to the ordinance that empowers the county board of elections to bring it into compliance with state laws. The county board of elections essentially oversees all elections – they do most of the work to make elections happen to train and coordinate our local election officials, register voters and count votes.
Unfortunately, even though these changes are minor, it’s expected that the 2020 election deniers will again attend and use a large part of the meeting’s time to spread election misinformation again. These people continue to plague our county council meetings and there’s no clear means to stop them from promoting lies and hamstringing our county council.
PA Has An Unexpected House Leader
Unlike the circus in Washington DC, Pennsylvania’s house leaders threaded the needle and compromised on a candidate for speaker. Mark Rozzi got the support of both party leaders, all the Democrats and a smattering of Republicans (including being nominated by Republicans) to become speaker. He promptly announced he was leaving the Democratic party and would run the house as an independent. This is potentially the best chance in decades for the PA house to pass popular, bi-partisan legislation. If Rozzi can somehow make it work at least. But, he does have a track record of getting bi-partisan legislation through the house.
As a bonus, something similar happened in Ohio. Democrats backed a more moderate Republican, who defeated the Republican’s choice, making a strange majority in the state house there as well.