September 20th Ups & Downs
A state Senator resigns after being charged with possession of child pornography, a new policy limits the amount of people able to rally in the Capitol’s rotunda, and a veteran journalist begins a new adventure with a familiar newspaper. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Mike Folmer. The Lebanon County state Senator resigned from office on Wednesday after being charged with possession of child pornography from the Attorney General’s office. The release from AG Josh Shapiro on Tuesday evening stated that an investigation began following a CyberTip that Folmer uploaded an image of child pornography to Tumblr. The investigation led to Folmer’s home, where a search warrant on Tuesday found images of child pornography on his phone. Folmer was charged Tuesday evening with Sexual Abuse of Children, Possession of Child Pornography, and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and various state legislatures on both sides of the aisle called for the GOP state Senator’s resignation shortly after the charges became public. Folmer served in the state Senate from 2006 until now. The 48th Senatorial District seat encompassing Lebanon and parts of Dauphin and York Counties is now vacant.
Harrisburg Accountability. The Harrisburg Patriot-News made a huge addition this week by announcing veteran journalist, John Baer will be joining the paper. Baer will be writing a weekly column on Pennsylvania politics and government. Baer, who has been covering the state capital for more than 3 decades, worked at the Evening News and Sunday Patriot-News in Harrisburg from 1972-1977. Baer’s coverage of the state legislature for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer in recent years has been vitally important to staying up to date on the latest news in Harrisburg and holding elected officials accountable.
Philadelphia Magazine. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made a drastic move earlier in September when he decided that all Philadelphia Magazine stories would require its editor-in-chief Tom McGrath to personally email Jim Engler, Kenney’s chief of staff, for any comment on stories, according to Philadelphia Magazine. The move was reportedly made due to Philadelphia Magazine’s coverage of Kenney for the last year, culminating with a recent expose about the controversial DROP program. Philly Mag was set to fight back, threatening to sue Kenney’s administration. Philly Clout reports that after 9 days, the policy is no more. City Solicitor Marcel Pratt told Clout that the policy was only a “proposed concept” that was not “formally adopted by the Mayor’s Office,” while a spokesperson for Kenney said the policy was a “staff-level decision” made by Engler.
New Capitol Rally Size Policy. A new rule capping rally sizes in the state Capitol’s rotunda to 450 people has upset activists, according to WHYY. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the change in size is partly about keeping the Capitol “accessible to people with disabilities,” yet various disability activists are quoted by WHYY saying this is not a move they asked for and believe “it’s much more important… how many offices in the Capitol are not wheelchair accessible.”
Daylin Leach. The Montgomery County state Senator did not break any federal discrimination laws, according to a final report by the lawyers from the firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC. The same report also concluded that Leach engaged in “workplace humor that was at times ‘unquestionsably sexual in nature.’” Following the report’s release, party leaders including Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa reiterated their calls for Leach to resign.
Bill Scott. In what is likely a first for West Chester Borough’s Council, Councilman Bill Scott was censured by fellow councilmembers this week as a result of “racially offensive remarks he admitted making to a black actor in a play that dealt with the impact of segregation in Scott’s hometown,” the Daily Local News reports. Fellow councilmembers, and the West Chester Democratic Committee, called on the longtime Democratic council member to resign due to the comments, but he has refused these calls. Scott was also removed as chairman of the Borough Council’s Public Safety, Events and Quality of Life committee and will be prohibited from serving as chair of any council committee for the remaining months of his office.
Pennsylvanians Insured. Healthcare played an important role in the 2018 election and is expected to be a key factor in how people vote in the 2020 election. According to a September report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Pennsylvanians without health insurance rose by nearly 7,000 between 2017 and 2018, City Paper reports. 699,000 Pennsylvanians were uninsured in 2018, while in 2017 692,000 were uninsured.
Pitt Grad Students Union Effort. Graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh voted 712-675 against forming a union in April, but will have another chance to vote on this matter after the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board said the vote is illegitimate due to administrators at the University had “committed unfair labor practices to influence the outcome of the vote,” City Paper reports.
Rochelle Bilal. Philadelphia’s incoming new sheriff ran for office on combating “two decades of scandal after scandal after scandal” in the office, but will be throwing a party asking for “generous donations” for former Sheriff John Green, who is set to begin a five-year sentence in jail on Monday after being convicted of taking $675,000 in bribes, Philly Clout reports. Bilal wrote in a Facebook post that “we owe it to him” which was joined by a flier advertising the fundraiser for Green at the Guardian Civic League, the association of black policy officers that she led for more than a decade. Bilal defended the fundraiser, citing the Green also was a former president of the Guardian Civic League and that he had shown forgiveness for his crimes. Philly Clout reports that Green doesn’t even plan to attend the event for him and was not told about it prior to the announcement and said he was “shocked, quite frankly” after hearing about the party for him, although he said he “appreciates the sentiment.” Bilal won the Democratic primary in May besting Sheriff Jewell Williams and will not face a Republican challenger in November’s election.
Philip Ahr. The former Radnor Township Board of Commissioners president was sentenced by a federal judge this week to 151 months in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release about he pleaded guilty to three counts of distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography, according to the Delco Daily Times. The former Democratic official was arrested in 2017 when officials found child pornography on the iPad that had been issued to Ahr by Radnor Township.
Andrew Yang. The 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful made his first campaign appearance in the city of Brotherly Love this week. Yang was the second speaker in the first ever AFL-CIO Workers’ Presidential Summit, and even drew a crowd of about 400 people for a rally at the Art Museum steps. It had all the ingredients of a successful trip in Philadelphia — but then he added chicken. There are plenty of great options for a quality cheesesteak in Philly, in almost every corner of the city. But Yang elected to order a chicken cheesesteak — chicken! — from Jersey Mike’s — Jersey. Mike’s. — at 30th Street Station during his visit, according to Philly Voice. Why not just wear a Cowboys jersey?
TWEET OF THE WEEK
A two-part tweet from Mark Price is the winner this week.
Today in capitol steps pictures pic.twitter.com/APQDi0hcvd
— Mark Price (@price_laborecon) September 13, 2019
— Mark Price (@price_laborecon) September 13, 2019