The unique lowdown on Philadelphia elections, part 2

This is a little weird because I last wrote a “weekly update” on April 2 — for the March 15 issue — but since then, I wrote about leaving PGN in late April, just before Passover. It’s now April 27.

Don’t mind that or look for the link for now. You’ll get there soon. Here are the details.

Last time, I gave you a taste of how Philadelphia votes. The answer has been Democratic for 50 years, even if the candidate is facing criminal charges. The story showed four people running in a special election for state representative because the criminal who won couldn’t serve. You may remember I mentioned the Democrat came in first place and the Republican came in fourth.

This time, we’re gearing up for the municipal primary election on May 21. Keep in mind, most people are Democrats so those races are pretty crowded with candidates and a general election in November isn’t always needed because there is no opposition. (That’s actually what happened in the Lackawanna County special election in that same article. The incumbent Democrat was running unopposed — until he died.)

This year, 93 people planned to run for office in Philadelphia. That was a lot. In the ten City Council districts, all members were running for reelection, but 27 candidates wanted to replace them. Plus, there were 41 people running for seven City Council at-Large seats. Some have since dropped out.

Candidates need to submit petitions ten weeks before the primary. In citywide races — for mayor, City Council at-Large, city commissioner, sheriff and register of wills — they need 1,000 signatures. For City Council districts, the number is 750. Candidates like to have lots of extras to convince their opponents they have so much support, and to drop out because they have no chance.

Unfortunately, the candidates often hire companies to gather the signatures and they often use the same company. Unfortunately for them, the company doesn’t always care to do a good job. That leads to court challenges by the dozens. Seriously, in this City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection! I’ll share those in “next week’s” column.

In crowded races, like for City Council at-Large and Judge of Common Pleas Court (the lowest level here), there are dozens of Democrats running and people have only heard of a few. That’s why ballot position is so important. In fact, it’s arguably the most important factor of whether a candidate in a crowded race will move on. It’s supposed to be a more important indicator than party, individual ward and newspaper endorsements.

Ballot position isn’t decided by alphabetical order. Oh no! Candidates draw numbered bingo balls from a coffee can to determine the order of the important ballot positions, so they’re decided at random. The coffee can has traditionally been from Horn & Hardart, which was noted for operating the first food service automat in Philadelphia. The can now has social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook version (left); Twitter version

Remember, I’m not making this up!

Onto other news: The deadline put on The Attic Youth Center by the Black & Brown Workers Co-op came and went. I called and they vaguely explained their escalation of threats. Now, they’re encouraging people to attend BDS Palestinian events. I can tell you now, Attic has an acting executive director, and two law firms conducting two investigations: one on allegations a minor was sexually assaulted on its premises and the other that former employees had experienced racial discrimination while working at the LGBTQ youth-serving nonprofit.

President Trump’s restrictions on transgender members of the military got closer, despite there not being any trouble with that for three years. I went through the details of the new policy and how it came to be.

And yes, there was Street Talk. I followed up from the meeting I attended a few weeks earlier in which city officials tried to encourage LGBTQ people to become foster parents. (You’ll find it below The Attic story.) I asked whether it makes a difference.

But the best news of the week is that I started learning how to prepare articles for the paper’s website. Unfortunately, the system is old and I couldn’t do graphics on my own. I pretty much copied headlines from InDesign, which is the program that formats the printed paper. Then, I did the same with entire articles. Miraculously, even “jumps got carried over.

The parts directing the reader to continue on another page disappeared, and so did the parts reminding people what they were reading. That kind of stuff isn’t necessary on a webpage.

I also took over social media, using only articles in the paper but creating a weekly schedule, writing posts, and then publishing them on Facebook and Twitter throughout the week.

None of the skills mentioned in the last two paragraphs showed any creativity, except for scheduling and writing the posts, but it was a step forward in what I really wanted to do. Gotta start with the basics.

Anyway, on March 22, I took a big bloody fall while running to the bus to do Street Talk. I’ll leave you there until next time.

Click here to return to the PGN, 2019: Reporter, Copy Editor, Social Media Specialist page.

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