For a whole lot of reasons, the end of 2011 couldn’t come fast enough.
By Denise Clay
You ever have a year in which it seemed like every time you turned around someone was hitting you in the head with a baseball bat….and you knew it was coming but couldn’t avoid it?
That would probably be the best way that I could think of to describe 2011. For many of us, this year brought some really bad memories and circumstances. The economy beat the crap out of all of us. Some of us lost our health. Others lost family and friends.
But if you’re an old news hound, which I am, 2011 brought a whole lot of interesting with all that nonsense.
Here’s a look at some of that interesting:
The old African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child.
But in 2011, we all found out that maybe the village might not be keeping as tight an eye as it should on its kids.
From Bishop Eddie Long’s peccadillos with young men he was supposed to be mentoring to the Penn State sex abuse scandal that brought down the non-profit Second Mile foundation and cost everyone from legendary football coach Joe Paterno to university president Graham Spanier their jobs to the revelations of child sexual abuse that forced Daily News Hall-Of-Fame sports columnist Bill Conlin to retire, we found out that we may not be able to trust our kids around the people we thought we could trust our kids around.
The lawsuit filed by a group of young men against Long, the pastor of the New Birth megachurch in Atlanta, started the “Want some candy?” Parade this summer. Pictures of Long in come-hither poses and revelations of trips that he took with young men for sexual trysts started a spiral that has ended with his church in limbo (the church’s school is closing later this month) and his marriage destroyed. (His wife filed for divorce in the fall.)
In November, the world that was Penn State football came crashing down thanks to a grand jury presentment that ended in charges that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had allegedly sexually abused eight boys, and that some of that abuse had occurred in the showers of the football locker room, on road trips to bowl games, and in other places where someone in the Penn State hierarchy should have said, “Something’s a little hinky here…”
When a graduate assistant did what the NCAA requires you to do, which is tell your immediate superior when you see something that’s a little hinky, coach Joe Paterno took it to his immediate supervisors, two of which are looking at perjury charges for what they did with the information. And as time went on, and more came out about what Sandusky was accused of, Paterno went under the magnifying glass.
He announced that he was going to retire at the end of the season because, let’s be honest here, Paterno had been able to tell his bosses what he was going to do and when in the past. Spanier had tried to fire Paterno before, but he refused to leave.
But when the board of trustees at Penn State said “you’re fired!”, that was it. Something that caused the kids at Penn State to show me why there’s no way I’d send any kid of mine there. Any group of kids who cares more about a football coach than they do eight abused children isn’t a group of kids I’d want my kid around.
(Besides, if he or she insisted on going to a Big Ten school, it’ll be The Ohio State University, just like Mommy! Or Michigan State in a pinch…)
Meanwhile, other victims of abuse began to feel empowered to speak out in light of the Sandusky matter. An assistant men’s basketball coach at Syracuse lost his job in light of revelations that he had sexually abused some of the team’s ball boys.
And in a story that no one saw coming, the Philadelphia Inquirer detailed the alleged trail of abused kids connected to Bill Conlin.
(Boy, I’ll bet the Philadelphia Newspapers Holiday Party was one for the ages!)
While Conlin isn’t looking at jail time due to the statute of limitations on abuse cases in New Jersey at the time the incidents occurred, the folks making the allegations, including one niece who just happens to be an Atlantic County prosecutor, are pretty credible.
Thus, he hired a good lawyer, George Bochetto, to try and salvage his reputation.
Unlike Jerry Sandusky.
If you find yourself in a jam like the one Sandusky’s in, you should be really careful when picking a lawyer.
I say this because Sandusky’s legal beagle, Joseph Amendola, has been doing him no favors. First of all, you don’t let your client do the kind of interviews that give the prosecution ammunition. Just Google Jerry Sandusky+Bob Costas and you’ll see what I mean.
And don’t get me started on the New York Times interview. Or the one that Jerry and Dottie Sandusky are supposed to do later this month.
A good lawyer would give a client in Sandusky and Conlin’s circumstances a simple two word command: shut up!
But as we’re going to see next, you don’t need to be looking at pedophila charges to need a good lawyer.
Just ask Arlene Ackerman.
When Ackerman was hired as superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia back in 2008, she promised to bring in a new era of kid-centered management for the district.
She advocated the dismantling of the district’s tough to get into magnet schools so that the resources used to run them could be spread out to make all of the district’s schools great. She set up the Imagine 2014 plan, which included a group of Promise Academies comprised of the district’s lowest-performing schools.
And she managed to not only leave a $629 million hole in the school district, but also to piss off every politician in the city from Mayor Michael Nutter to State Rep. Dwight Evans.
So folks decided to send Ackerman away. But she wasn’t going to go away quietly. She did radio interviews in which she called out the politicians that she said did her in. She wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that said that politics would keep the school district from ever moving forward and that the kids are the ones being hurt. She promised to stay in the area and start an organization that would teach parents to be better advocates for their kids.
But one of the more interesting things that we learned through the departure of Arlene Ackerman is that Dean Weitzman is a damn good lawyer. I know if I ever find myself in a job dispute, he’s the first person I’m calling.
That’s because the dude that we all know as “My Philly Lawyer.com” helped Madame Ackerman walk away with a $905,000 settlement (some of which came from private donors), $86,000 in sick days, and a promise from the district that it wouldn’t contest it if she filed for unemployment benefits.
But when she did just that, the entire city cried foul.
Hey, if you’re gonna have a good lawyer, you have to pay him, right? That’s apparently where a nice chunk of Ackerman’s settlement went.
But even with that chunk of money coming out of her pocket, Ackerman’s still doing okay, unlike the folks who decided that City Hall, Wall Street and a whole host of other places needed to be “occupied” this summer.
As one of the 99 percent of folks in this country who don’t have a spare million dollars in her pocket, I was glad to see people get mad enough to take to the streets, pitch tents in public areas, and demand to be heard.
But critics of the Occupy movement, most of them ignorant of the Constitution or just plain ignorant, complained that it didn’t have a clear message and said such things as, “Go get a job!”
(Gee, if only the Republicans in Congress would take time out of their “Let’s Make President Barack Obama Unemployed” schedule to actually address that!)
If the folks in the Occupy movement had jobs, or could get jobs that paid ’em a living wage, they wouldn’t have taken to the streets, would they?
And they definitely wouldn’t have put themselves in the path of pepper spray and police batons like they did in Oakland and New York.
To his credit, Mayor Michael Nutter kept Philly off of that list. When he told Occupy Philadelphia to leave City Hall, it didn’t get bloody. It got ugly to be sure, but it didn’t end up on World News Tonight.
That’s because Nutter got the Occupy message: people are hurting. We’ve gotta give them some help so that they can help themselves.
But can charity begin at home with a new City Council?
A survey released prior to the May primaries showed that Philadelphia City Council as a unit had been the longest serving unit of its kind in the country.
Thanks to the fallout from the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) City Council is going to look entirely different when the City has its swearing-in ceremonies later this week.
Council President Anna Verna, Councilwomen Joan Krajewski, and Donna Reed Miller and Councilmen Jack Kelly and Frank DiCicco opted to take their DROP money and retire. In DiCicco’s case, he decided to leave after twisting himself into every uncomfortable contortion imaginable to try and appease the anti-DROP crowd.
It wasn’t working…so he left.
Two other famous DROPers, Councilwoman Marian Tasco and Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr., decided to run for re-election anyway with mixed results. Tasco won her re-election handily, while Rizzo was kicked to the curb, proving that constituent service and a famous name won’t do what it used to.
Some new, yet familiar faces will be replacing those who left: Cindy Bass, a legislative aide to Cong. Chaka Fattah will be the new 8th District councilperson, Rep. Kenyatta Johnson will become Councilman Johnson in January, taking over the 2nd District seat; Mark Squilla will be the new 1st District councilperson, and Bob Henon will be the new councilman in the 6th District.
(Why do I always find myself thinking of the WWE whenever I see Henon’s name?!)
The two new Republican At-Large seat holders will be former Speaker of the House Denny O’Brien and David Oh, who should have had this seat instead of Jack Kelly a long time ago.
Tasco ran for Council President, but lost to Councilman Darrell Clarke for the office. Let’s hope he does more for his North Philly district than John Street did when he held that chair.
(And no, Council President Clark, North Philly doesn’t stop at the Temple “T”.)
I’ll end this by talking about one thing that we won’t need to deal with come the new year.
Philly lost its Third Rail of African American Politics when District Attorney Seth Williams opted not to try and get the death sentence of Mumia Abu Jamal reinstated.
Abu Jamal, the former journalist that was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia Police officer had become the Fraternal Order of Police’s favorite cudgel to use to keep African American politicians in line. His sentence was commuted to life in prison due to a federal judge’s order last year.
Since Williams decided not to appeal the decision, Mumia’s gonna continue to exist. I just wonder what leverage will be used to try and keep folks from straying off the reservation and addressing such things as police brutality now that our Third Rail has been removed…
Yep, 2011 is ending and not a moment too soon.
Here’s hoping that 2012 is a much better year for all of us.
Or at least, let’s hope it’s equally as newsworthy!