The start of Black History Month ties in well with the advent of the Lunar New Year. The history of Black and Asian solidarity is strong and continues today. As Ben Wei says, “When minority communities are divided, racists are the ones who benefit most. It is only through doing the work, showing up for each other, having hard conversations, and understanding our shared histories, can we truly move forward and make progress.”
Election boards at the local level had new appointments in counties across the state and our chapter in Philadelphia has joined with other allies to push the commissioners to appoint a third party candidate. As organizer Sergio Cea says in this post: “We know that independent and 3rd party voters outnumber registered Republicans in Philly and it's time for their voices to be reflected in this seat.” The fight for a free and fair election continues in all of our chapters.
Correct the Corrections:
The PA department of corrections decided to celebrate Black History Month by denying all inmates in-person visitation for the entire month of February. Nearly 54% of inmates in PA are POC and 90% of them are fully vaccinated. While the department blames this decision on short staffing, we can see that the understaffing is caused by a failure to follow safety protocols and vaccination rules for correctional officers. While video visits are available, in-person visits are often an important part of recovery and positive mental health.
New campaign tactics:
Moving forward into this year’s election, we look back at how we have adapted to the Plague Era of COVID. We aren't the only ones adapting to this new terrain, and as Lancaster Stands Up organizer Eliza Booth notes in this article, it’s changed the way we organize and use accessibility to bring in new members of our base.
US senate race:
The race to replace Pat Toomey in the United States Senate is heating up. Candidates filed their fundraising reports this week revealing lots of information about the current status of the race. On the Republican side, Dr. Oz and David McCormick have both spent over 4 million dollars on television advertising and are expected to dominate the airwaves for the time being. On the Democratic side, Democrat John Fetterman far outpaces all of his rivals with over $5 million on hand as of December 31st. This puts Fetterman in a very strong position, as evidenced by his own internal polling showing him at 46%, 30 points ahead of his closest opponent, Rep. Conor Lamb. Notably, Lamb appears to be winning the support of most of the party establishment. At last week’s State Party meeting, Lamb got the support of more than 60% in the party endorsement vote. He didn’t get the 2/3rds needed to win the endorsement, but he far outpaced Fetterman and Kenyatta.
The State Commonwealth Court has struck down Act 77, the law that enabled Vote by Mail in Pennsylvania. The matter is being appealed to the State Supreme Court and the law will remain in effect until the process is settled.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Redistricting Commission is meeting this Friday to vote on the new proposed State House and State Senate maps. Republicans have been pushing hard to overturn the maps proposed last month due to the way it will benefit Democrats. For the federal level maps, the process is now moving to the State Supreme Court. With the timeline for both maps unclear, many now expect that the spring election date will be pushed back a few weeks.
Build Back Better, WYA?
Moderate House Dems are joining Progressives in calls for the Senate to pass some of the provisions from the stalled Build Back Better bill. More than twenty moderate Dems have signed onto a letter urging the Senate and the Biden Administration to pass the climate initiatives included in BBB citing the effects that climate change has had on their local communities in recent years.
Bye Bye Breyer:
With Roe and more on the line, Supreme Court Justice Breyer announced his retirement last week. This will provide President Biden with an opportunity to finally uphold one of his campaign promises: appointing a Black woman to fill the seat. (still waiting on student loan forgiveness though…) He should nominate at least five people before February to fill the seat.
Susan Collins unwittingly admitted the hypocrisy as she talked about Biden politicizing the seat and also referred to the hypothetical candidate as a “black female.” (If you’re unaware of the problems with this, allow us to transport you to this scholarly article that doubles as a blast from the past.)
Big congrats are due to the nurse anesthetists at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital workers that organized a strike last week… a strike that didn’t happen. The mere threat of the collective employees walking off the job was enough for the hospital to cut ties with third-party contractor Capital Anesthesia Solutions. Union VP stated in a press release, "We look forward to bargaining a fair union contract with our new employer, whomever that may be—a contract that ensures full and safe staffing of our anesthesia department so that we can provide our community with the quality care it deserves."
The Scranton Police Chief stepped down to head a new "crisis intervention program" that is actually just a task force within the police department.
One of our NEPA Stands Up leaders that is working on a (real) crisis response center initiative in Scranton discovered that the SPD's crisis intervention program will use officers who have been trained by NEPA Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a voluntary mere 40-hour training on de-escalation, to co-respond to crisis calls with mental health providers from Scranton Counseling Center.
Across our chapters, we have been pushing for more police accountability and for cities to assist those with mental health problems without a police officer present. This proposal still keeps police at the center of mental health care and as Dr. Jamila Perritt says, “When the criminal justice system and the healthcare system intersect, wellness does not occur.”
Why does that story make me smell bacon?
This month’s recipe comes from our Political Director Lev, who swears by this method for preparing and smoking homemade bacon.