Bonin, a member of the JSPAN Board of Directors, provided an overview of the process by which redistricting is accomplished for state and federal elections in Pennsylvania, what role is played by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and which Constitutional provisions come into play. He also traced the history of litigation with respect to interpretations of key provisions of the state Constitution and explained how these likely may impact redistricting decisions currently before the Court.
(JSPAN) The Jewish Social Policy Action Network strongly supports federal and Pennsylvania state
legislation as well as municipal ordinances designed to reduce the incidence of gun violence in our state and nation.
Each year more than 30,000 Americans die from senseless gun violence. Each day men, women and
children - mothers, brothers, sisters, children, family, neighbors, and friends - are taken from us as a
result of our inability to advance common-sense firearms regulations.
More after the jump including video of the 20/20 Special "If I Only Had A Gun"
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has issued its 4th Haggadah Supplement entitled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. According to JSPAN Vice-President and Philadelphia Jewish Voice board member Kenneth Meyers:
We were immigrants in Egypt. And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil. The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here. Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted. Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.
Links to JSPAN's previous issue oriented Haggadah supplements follow the jump.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger will host Members of Congress, Administration officials, school children, and other national faith, anti-hunger and anti-poverty leaders for the National Hunger Seder on March 20, 2013 at the US Capitol Visitor's Center.
The National Hunger Seder is an adaptation of the traditional Passover Seder, telling the story of the Exodus with emphasis on the moral imperative to end hunger in America. The National Hunger Seder is the kick off to the 5th Annual MAZON/JCPA Hunger Seder Mobilization taking place in 27 communities around the country, which are designed to encourage participants to advocate to restore the 5.1% cut to the WIC program mandated by the sequester.
After the jump: JSPAN issues a Haggadah Supplement on immigration.
There are two cases before the United States Supreme Court involving same-sex marriage. We are pleased to announce that JSPAN has joined the two amici briefs for which the ADL was the lead amicus.
One brief was filed in support of Edith Windsor, who challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), after being denied treatment as a surviving spouse under federal estate tax and other laws despite having been legally married in Canada. Section 3 of DOMA amends the United States Code to define "marriage' and "spouse" for federal laws, rules and regulations as follows: "the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife."
Last September, Sami Rahamim's father was killed in a mass shooting in Minneapolis. Now, he's doing everything he can to reduce gun violence and keep our communities safer.
He's hoping his story will help inspire action from Congress — and from people like you.
Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA, addressed the JSPAN Board of Directors at its February monthly meeting.
JSPAN Vice President Burt Siegel, who also chairs the organization's Gun Control Policy Center, introduced the guest speaker. JSPAN is currently working in coalition with CeaseFirePA and other organizations to press our legislators to adopt better gun controls.
Goodman, an attorney, assumed the position of CeaseFirePA Executive Director in October 2012, after serving for three years as Deputy Director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. During his introduction, Siegel referred to a recent piece in The Jewish Daily Forward reporting that the National Rifle Association had compiled a list of its "enemies," and that the list "reads like a Jewish Who's Who" and included individuals, organizations, media outlets and corporations that have provided support to anti-gun organizations, including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith and Hadassah.
— by the staff of The Jewish Social Policy Action Network
We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This horror reinforces the urgent need to ensure that common-sense gun control laws are in place to help reduce these kinds of incidents.
On December 4, JSPAN presented its 2012 Social Justice Award to Dr. Ernest Kahn. Dr. Kahn has served the Jewish Community in numerous capacities, including Director of Community Planning, Associate Executive Vice President and acting Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The award was presented to Dr. Kahn by the co-chairs of the event, David Gutin and Burt Siegel. Dr. Kahn expressed his deep appreciation for the award not only on his own behalf, but as recognition of the contribution made by professionals to the wider Jewish community.
Also addressing the gathering was Professor Michael Reisch, Daniel Thursz Professor of Social Justice at the University of Maryland. Dr. Reisch spoke on "The Implications of the Election for the Future of Social Welfare in the U.S." Professor Reisch observed a need for a change in the discourse in both Washington and in the states about funding of social services and advanced the idea that the word "entitlements" — so much a part of the controversy over budget and deficits — is really a misnomer since all employees and self employed pay into Social Security and Medicare during their working years.
While we await a final ruling on Pennsylvania's Voter ID law, we must assume the worse and try to mitigate the damage by minimizing the number of voters disenfranchised by the law.
(JSPAN) The Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition is continuing to canvass for residents who do not have photo identification that meets the new requirements to vote on election day. The Coalition is transporting those people to Department of Motor Vehicles license centers to apply for the necessary ID. You can volunteer to help by phone banking, joining the canvass, providing transportation, or greeting and assisting people at the license centers. - Ed.
JSPAN and nine other non-profit agencies joined in brief amicus curiae to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in the pending challenge to the "Photo ID Law" enacted in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
The case was launched by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Viviette Applewhite and other voters who will be burdened by the new law. Applewhite, a 93 year old voter who has never driven a car, cast her first vote for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There appears to be no record of her at the Motor Vehicle Bureau. Because she was born in another state, there is no birth certificate on file in Pennsylvania either. Before she can vote again, the Photo ID Law would require her to produce a birth certificate or other specific documentation to an office of the Motor Vehicle Bureau to convince that agency to issue her photo identification.
Applewhite and thousands of others like her face serious difficulty under the Photo ID Law. For many elderly people, the need to travel to a motor vehicle bureau and document their entitlement to a photo ID is a significant burden. For many others, securing the necessary voter ID before election day will prove to be impractical or even impossible.
The amicus curiae brief reflects extensive research on the disparate impact of the law on several hundred thousand elder voters who do not have the specific current photo identification called for in order to vote. The right to vote, the amicus brief argues, is a sacred right and is the foundation of democracy, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated that free and equal elections, guaranteed by the state constitution, preclude registration requirements that are so difficult as to amount to a denial of the right to vote. By requiring a registered voter who has no driver's license — or whose license has expired — to travel to a state office, provide a birth certificate or other specified documentation, and secure the specific photo ID — the law especially burdens and discriminates against the elderly.
Abington Health is a not-for-profit, regional healthcare provider serving residents of Montgomery, Bucks & parts of Philadelphia counties, comprised of Abington Memorial Hospital, Lansdale Hospital, two outpatient campuses & Abington Health Physicians.
Mission: Abington Health is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all by fostering healing, easing suffering, and promoting wellness in a culture of safety, learning and respect.
Abington Health will be the most trusted health care partner, consistently exceeding expectations for care, comfort and communication."
Property tax exemption — Abington and Lower Moreland, to name just two of the townships in which it operates, have allowed the hospital to remove large parcels of land from the tax base to enlarge its operations.
Municipal services beyond those extended to others, such as vacating streets and changing traffic patterns to accommodate the hospital.
Volunteer workers without pay — community people provide untold hours of volunteer services to the hospital, greeting and helping to move and handle patients.
Abington Day — a fund raising event supported by the community every year.
Over the ninety years that this modest local hospital transformed — with these public benefits — into a large institution, the public has bestowed its gifts on the assumption that this is a non-sectarian institution.
The strength of Abington Memorial Hospital contrasts with the smaller nearby Catholic hospital, Holy Redeemer, that it now seeks to attach to its health system. Certainly no small part of the development of Abington Memorial is attributable to its appeal as a non-sectarian institution rendering community service based on medical and ethical principles, not religious dogma.
By accepting religious dogma as a limit on its medical service, Abington Health breaks a covenant with all those donors and public officials who have supported it and its non-sectarian mission.
By imposing its religious dogma on Abington health as a condition of a commercial transaction, the Church violates a key principle of American law and practice. Religions are free here to promote their beliefs and practices by virtually every means but not by coercion.
Governments — federal, state and local — are barred by the Constitution from coercing religious practice. Non-governmental enterprises including charities are barred by statute from coercing their employees to follow religious dogma. Non-governmental enterprises that accommodate the public — including hospitals — are barred by statute from discriminating against people on the basis of their religion. This includes refusal or unwillingness to participate in abortion or sterilization procedures, consistent with competent medical care.
In this case, the Catholic Church is coercing Abington Health to discriminate against all women who do not share the church dogma regarding their reproductive rights.
Seeking to add more "catchment area" to its substantial geographic influence, Abington Health is agreeing to impose this coercion on those who are caught!
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network is thrilled that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, most specifically the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance. The reasoning used in Chief Justice Roberts' decision is totally consistent with the argument we presented in our amicus brief — specifically that the mandate and penalty are essentially a tax, which Congress has the constitutional right to impose. This is an important step in providing high quality, affordable health care for all Americans. The ACA, whose implementation depended on the mandate in exchange for the health insurance industry's agreement to stop using pre-existing conditions to deny coverage or make it unaffordable, will now progress to create manifold other changes in the health insurance and health delivery systems. JSPAN will remain vigilant in assuring the implementation of the Act, including the national and state levels.
The Jewish Social Action Policy Network held its 2012 Annual Meeting at the Pyramid Club in Center City Philadelphia on June 6, 2012. Guest speaker, bioethicist Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., captivated his audience with the many reasons he is "optimistic about the future of the American healthcare system" and why he believes that it will be "vastly improved" by the end of the decade.
Reprinted courtesy of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that there is no justification for the Defense of Marriage Act to disallow recognition to a same-sex couple legally married under Massachusetts law. The court's reasoning follows the arguments advanced in JSPAN's amicus curiae brief. Primary credit for the content of our brief goes to Philadelphia Jewish Voice Board Member Prof. Perry Dane of Rutgers Law School, an active member of the JSPAN Church-State Policy Center. Our strongest congratulations to Perry!
The court applied "intensified scrutiny" to DOMA's treatment of minorities that are subject to discrepant treatment generally. Finding no federal interest that adequately justifies the statute, the court ruled that DOMA denies equal protection to gays and must be struck down.
Don't miss your opportunity to hear a White House insider's view of the future of American healthcare. A top healthcare insider is coming to The Pyramid Club on June 6 to address JSPAN and you can be there.
Who: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, ex-White House advisor on healthcare (also brother of the Mayor of Chicago), will speak on the future of healthcare reform and American medicine.
Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is well known on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times and in the media. He headed healthcare at the White House Office of Management and Budget in 2009-10, during the design and Congressional passage of the Affordable Care Act.
When: The event is at 7:30 pm on Wednesday June 6.
Where: The Pyramid Club, 1735 Market Street, Philadelphia. With a great dessert buffet, the cost is $10 (free to JSPAN members with 2012 dues paid). Discount parking is available.
Myths give comfort to people, groups and entire societies. Usually they confirm pre-existing notions and prejudices. Today an all-encompassing political debate is being waged over the belief, cherished by some, that a full economic recovery is prevented by "job killing governmental interference" of the Obama Administration, including "bail outs," extension of unemployment benefits, the proposed return of higher taxes for the ultra wealthy, and even efforts to reign in some more egregious excesses of the financial sector.
Politicians like to quote eighteenth century economist Adam Smith regarding the benefit of the "invisible hand of the market place." The problem is that Smith never once said or wrote that. While he did speak of the invisible hands that impact on economies, he was not an advocate of a system in which government totally absented itself from a nation's financial health. In fact, he observed "we find the workings of the vile maxim of the masters of mankind of all for ourselves, and nothing for other people deeply troubling." "The invisible hand," he wrote, "destroys the possibility of a decent human existence, unless government takes pains to prevent this outcome, as must be assured in every improved and civilized society. It destroys community, the environment, and human values generally."
Thomas Jefferson is also often quoted — actually misquoted — by those who wish to replace allegedly socialist leaning President Obama. Several have associated themselves with Jefferson's stated belief that "the government is best that governs least." The problem is that they are actually quoting Henry David Thoreau. Jefferson was certainly not a fan of an overreaching government. In fact, he asserted "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then." But once Jefferson ascended to the Presidency he developed a much greater appreciation of governmental involvement. In his first inaugural he called for ''a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another'' but otherwise he felt they should be left to regulate their own affairs. As president he strongly supported using federal funds to promote education, he proposed the establishment of a national university system, and he wanted government to fund scientific research as well as large transportation projects that exceeded the capacities of individuals or the states. Unfortunately international tensions prevented such expenditures.
Reprinted courtesy of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network
A new set of district maps for the Pennsylvania House and Senate was proposed on April 12, 2012, by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. In response to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania's ruling in February in Holt v. LRC, the Commission proposed new maps with fewer divisions of counties and municipalities. A thirty-day period is provided for members of the public to testify at a hearing on May 2 or to file written comments with respect to the proposed maps. JSPAN and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice are members of a coalition of non-profit agencies and individuals studying the newly proposed districts. We invite your comments and suggestions.
With 1 in 6 Americans struggling to put nutritious food on the table every day, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted Members of Congress, Administration officials, and national faith and anti-poverty leaders at the National Hunger Seder at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center. Seder participants made the case for protecting and strengthening funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) as legislators begin to negotiate the 2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization.
SNAP and MAZON have also developed a version of the 2012 Hunger Seder you can using in your own home to promote "hunger awareness and activism.
Similarly, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network develops issue oriented material each year you can use to enrich your seder. Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues.
The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is now available without charge. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.
In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled We were strangers, on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States.
In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, This is the bread of poverty, brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 "Freedom Seder" takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.
More about the National Hunger Seder after the jump.
(JSPAN) The third Progressive Summit in Philadelphia begins Friday night with a debate between Kathleen Kane and Patrick Murphy at 6:30 pm at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad St. (just north of City Hall).
On Saturday and Sunday there will be workshops and panels about critical issues progressives are working on this year, and some of the best practices in progressive organizing. Saturday evening is a night of comedy and a variety of parties. The full agenda is here. Here is a link to register for the Summit.
The Summit is a place to build relationships and network with other progressives. Start with JSPAN Board member Marc Stier who will be on two panels, Don't Stop Believing: Managing Activism Fatigue, and Building Coalitions That Win.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, January 16. Many of us will honor his memory by participating in a day of service to the community and by attending special programming that highlights the important issues that Dr. King fought and died for, such as social justice (see the announcement for a JSPAN sponsored program below).
On Friday evening, April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis Tennessee, Rabbi James A. Wax of Temple Israel, president of the Memphis Ministers' Association, delivered an impassioned sermon, eulogizing Dr. King, and placed his teachings in the arc of Jewish and Christian tradition and denounced the shame of white Memphis and America. Here is an excerpt from the sermon and a link to the full text.
"What did Martin Luther King do? Martin Luther King helped to bring freedom to the oppressed people yet in this free nation. He fought to break the chains that have oppressed people; he sought to give men dignity; he sought to make this a better world in which to live. Oh how the cynics sneered when they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize. They said, 'what did he do to deserve it?' How little can people be? Here was a man in the tradition, the grandest traditions of Judaism and Christianity, bringing freedom to people, and we white hypocrites that speak about freedom for all people know full well that not many miles from here negroes could not vote. In this very city, called a place of good abode, because their skin was black, they had to sit in the back of the streetcar. They were not even given the dignity of their names.
Martin Luther King was one the greatest men of this century because he personified, because he personified the greatest teachings in Judaism and in Christianity, and he did it without violence. He sought to appeal to the heart and the conscience of men."
Yesterday, all nine Justices on the Supreme Court agreed that a Lutheran Church did not have to answer claims of employment discrimination brought by a former teacher in its school. Applying the "ministerial exemption," the Court ruled that the teacher could not maintain her claim that she had been fired in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
JSPAN's Church-State Policy Center has been following this issue closely for some time because the ministerial exemption raises important issues about the ability of government to regulate religious organizations and the extent to which employment actions can be shielded from ordinary judicial review when the defendant raises a religious cloak as a shield.
You won't have to worry about going broke if you get sick.
We will start to bring the costs of health care under control.
And we will do all this while reducing the federal deficit.
That is the promise of the Affordable Care Act. But from the moment President Obama signed the bill into law in 2010, a steady and mounting avalanche of misinformation about the ACA has left a growing majority of Americans confused about what it is, why it's necessary, and how it works. If you're one of them, buy Jonathan Gruber's new book Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works for yourself. (Perhaps get extra copies to give as Hanukkah gifts). From how to tame the twin threats of rising costs and the increasing number of uninsured to why an insurance mandate is good for your health, Health Care Reform dispels false fears by arming you with facts.
I think Mitt Romney is the hero of this story. But I want to make clear that the way he's portrayed in this book has nothing to do with his presidential campaign. Mitt Romney is the single person most responsible for health care reform in this country: Without his leadership we don't get reform in Massachusetts, and without Massachusetts reform we don't get national reform.
Sample page from book and JSPAN's resolution regarding ACA after the jump.
JSPAN Board Member Nathan Kleinman has participated in Occupy Philadelphia, the experiment in pure democracy happening on Dilworth Square alongside the Philadelphia City Hall, since its earliest days. Newsletter Editor Ken Myers visited OP and interviewed Kleinman on October 22. Ed.
Ken Myers: We are together to discuss Occupy Philadelphia which is happening right here. Is this a political event with a capital P, or is it something else?
Nate Kleinman: I would say at this stage it is the beginning of a social and possibly political movement. It is impossible to predict where it is going to go. Nobody has the power to decide where it is going to go on their own. The group makes decisions through, as much as possible, consensus. When we vote on things if we cannot come to consensus we decide with a supermajority. And so it really requires a long process of consensus building.
Myers: You mentioned that in the evening, typically at seven 0' clock you have what you call the General Assembly. So everybody gets out and shares ideas?
How many Jewish heroes of the Revolutionary War (or earlier) can you identify? You probably know that Haym Salomon was a key figure in financing the Revolution. Did you know that Francis Salvador was the first Jew to die in the American Revolution, on August 1, 1776, following the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You might know that Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz founded the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and other relief organizations. Did you know that her family was prominent among revolutionaries here?
It is well known that Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938), was a member of the United States Supreme Court. His family already had a glorious record in America: David Nunez Cardozo (1752- ?) was a hero of the Revolution. He led the assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia, in which Count Pulaski was killed. Cardozo was taken prisoner by the British while defending Savannah, but was released at the end of the British stay in that area.
Forty-seven Jewish heroes of the Revolution and other major events in American history are listed and their achievements memorialized on the web site of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries, with credit to
Honorable Chairmen and members of the committees, thank you for holding these hearings and for inviting me to speak to you today. Holding hearings like this is an important first step in including the public in this crucial part of our democratic process.
Public oversight is a crucial part of the checks and balances necessary to ensure that redistricting process is not abused to advantage any political party, protect incumbents, or punish political rivals. Democracy requires competitive elections and representative government.
In a democracy, voters choose their representative to protect the common interest. Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to a system of gerrymandering which turns democracy upside-down so that it is politicians who choose their voters strategically in order to advance their personal interests rather than the other way around.Packing the voters into a small number of districts in order to isolate them. (Figure 3) Cracking voters across multiple districts in order to dilute them. (Figure 4) And counting convicts where they are imprisoned rather than where they usually live. In a state like Pennsylvania where the process is totally controlled by a single political party, there may be a temptation to engage in partisan gerrymandering unless the media and the public are vigilant in their oversight.
Even when Democratic and Republican politicians share power, there is a possibility of mutually agreeable "sweetheart" gerrymandering as Democrats and Republicans engage in unseemly exchanges of constituents with the Democrat legislator offering up his Republican voters in exchange for his Republican colleague's Democratic voters. (Figure 2)
In order to encourage public participation in the redistricting process, the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and its partners - the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Common Cause Pennsylvania - hope to run a Redistricting Content similar to those run in Virginia and Ohio and being run in Michigan, Arizona and Massachusetts.
The idea is to make Azavea's DistrictBuilder, Redistricting Software, and the underlying geographic, demographic and electoral data available freely on the Internet. We now have the technology to allow everyone to have a say in the redistricting process.
The Pennsylvania Redistricting Contest will be judged by impartial numerical criteria measuring:
equality, continuity, integrity, competitiveness, proportionality and compactness.
Equality. The principal of one-man, one-vote is enshrined in the Voting Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Constitution. We will not allow districts to deviate from their ideal population range and we will reward plans which promote higher standards of equality. Furthermore, we will require that majority-minority districts be maintained as required by the Voting Rights Act.
Contiguity. Each district must be contiguous and not contain any parts which are connected to the other parts at a single point.
Integrity. The Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits legislative districts which divide any "county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward...unless absolutely necessary." By minimizing splits, voters understand easily who their representative is, and township and county officials do not have to interface with as many legislators. Our contest will penalize redistricting plans which unnecessarily divide these communities of interest.
Competitiveness. Gerrymandering undermines the democratic process by creating uncompetitive districts. When 90% of an incumbent's constituents belong to his political party, the incumbent is guaranteed reelection and no longer has any incentive to be responsive to the needs of his constituents. Non-competitive districts make everyone's vote irrelevant and reduce accountability. Our contest will penalize plans which create these sorts of lopsided districts.
Proportionality. The goal of partisan gerrymandering is to deliver a disproportionate share of the representation of the state into the hands of the political party controlling the redistricting process. In Pennsylvania, there are over 4 registered Democrats for every 3 registered Republicans, yet,Democrats only hold 37% of the Congressional delegation, 40% of the State Senate, and 45% seats in the State House.
Compactness. Bizarre shaped districts are a tell-tale sign that a map-makers is up to no good extending tentacles out of a district of their supporters to encompass his residence, or excising a community of opponents in order to secure his reelection. Our contest classify districts whose perimeter is disproportionately long compared to its area, and penalize redistricting plans accordingly.
Our hope is that the State Government Committees, Legislative Reapportionment Commission, and independent groups interested in political reform will support this initiative and help us make the DistrictBuilder software available to the general public.
Making tools like these available to the public as Florida and Alaska has value even in the absence of a contest.
However, we look forward to determining the best plan and promulgating it as an unbiased baseline against which the legislature's plans can be compared.
(The Pennsylvania Legislature's House State Government Committee and Senate State Government Committee are holding a joint hearing on redistricting tomorrow at 11am at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. These committee are responsible for the Congressional redistricting plan which will be used starting with next year's elections. After opening remarks by the committee chairmen Sen. Chuck McIlhinney and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, several groups have been asked to offer testimony regarding the upcoming redistricting.
I am honored to be speaking on the behalf of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. Lora Lavin will be speaking on behalf of The League of Women Voters. The event is open the public and members of the audience will be given an opportunity to comment as well. -- Dr. Daniel E. Loeb - promoted by Publisher)
-- by Lora Lavin, Representative Government Specialist, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
Left unchecked: politicians choose their voters instead of letting voters select their representatives.
Gerrymandering is the equivalent of rigging elections to get a predetermined outcome.
We believe some good old-fashioned competition can keep politicians honest.
The biggest political power-play of the decade is about to get underway in Pennsylvania. It is, perhaps, the most self-serving and least transparent process of state and local government. It's called redistricting. The outcome will determine the shape of representative democracy in Pennsylvania for the next decade.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing congressional, legislative, and local government representatives' district boundaries so that each district has approximately the same number of people. The goal is to ensure communities have an equal voice in Congress, state legislatures and city and township councils.
But the politicians don't see it that way. In Pennsylvania and most other states, district lines are drawn by the very lawmakers whose political careers will be affected by the changes. For them, redistricting is an opportunity to consolidate political power and ensure their reelection prospects. For example, Philadelphia's 172nd House District was transformed during the previous redistricting in order to guarantee the reelection of a powerful legislator. It was only after a political scandal that he was eventually defeated last year.
Modern technology makes this kind of extreme gerrymandering possible. Using expensive and sophisticated software, politicians can select their voters block by block and even house by house. The tools they use are "proprietary" meaning access is limited to those with the ability to pay lots of money. But now, a Philadelphia based software firm, Azavea, in partnership with a political science professor at George Mason University in Virginia, has developed DistrictBuilder. This relatively inexpensive open-source redistricting tool can be used by ordinary citizens to draw district maps and bring elections back into the hands of the people.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, in partnership with JSPAN, Common Cause/PA and the PA League of Women Voters want to use DistrictBuilder to sponsor a redistricting competition and demonstrate that a non-partisan, open redistricting process based on objective criteria can produce fair legislative and congressional district maps in Pennsylvania. The competition would be open to individuals. The winners would be selected through an objective scoring system based on anti-gerrymandering criteria of compactness, competitiveness, representativeness, equality and integrity.
The three sponsoring organizations can contribute $6,000 toward prizes and incidental competition costs. But to use the software we need to raise $35,000 before May 1. Can you help? To make a tax-deductible contribution click the button or contact email@example.com. (Contributions directed to this project will be refunded if we do not meet our fundraising goal.)
For more information or become a co-sponsoring organizations, please contact Dan Loeb firstname.lastname@example.org.
One hundred years ago on March 25th, 1911, the Triangle Waist Company in New York City erupted in flames, and the resulting deaths of 146 people, mostly Jewish and Italian women immigrant workers, many of them teenage girls, galvanized a city and a movement. The Triangle fire was a watershed moment in the history of the American Jewish labor movement and social reform.
On March 24, 2011, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN), the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO and the National Museum of American Jewish History are joining forces to commemorate this tragic event, honor those who gave their lives and discuss the evolution of the labor and reform movements that the Triangle fire inspired.
Join us for this extraordinary program, including a documentary film about the fire and its aftermath and viewing of the first floor exhibit at the new National Museum of American Jewish History. Hear about JSPAN's new initiative to advance the Kosher Clothes movement here. Tickets are $36 (students $18) but seating is limited. Advance ticket purchase is absolutely necessary from Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN Executive Director, 215-546-3732
When one starts from a worldview in which God is active in the workings of the world, it is quite possible to understand illness and physical weaknesses as God's judgment on the ailing person, so that any intervention is a challenge to the workings of God's will. This viewpoint has been voiced by some Jewish thinkers, from the sages of the classical rabbinic tradition, through the great bible commentators of the medieval period, and beyond. In other contexts, and in numerous sources, however, saving a life is considered to be one of the highest commandments in Judaism, so much so that almost every other commandment can be violated to further this end. This quite different perspective - one that validates medical expertise and makes the practice of healing a religious obligation - has also been present in Jewish tradition from its earliest expressions.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online non-profit volunteer based community newspaper serving the Philadelphia Jewish Community since 2005. We are dedicated to addressing the important social, political and cultural issues facing our community in a spirit of honesty, integrity and diversity.
Your tax-deductible donations will help give Voice to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community.
To pay by credit card or paypal, click here:
or send a check to:
Eric Smolen, Treasurer,
Philadelphia Jewish Voice,
327 Pembroke Road,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to
Pennsylvania's non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS
Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of
For more information about the Philadelphia Jewish Voice visit