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The Post  
Controller's Report on Philly Protest Response; PreK-2nd Grade Return to School; PA Amendment Vote
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 01/28/21 12:12 am | updated: 01/28/21 12:23 pm
Philadelphia City Controller Rebeccas Rhynhart released a report on Wednesday, 1/27, on the city's response to the protests and unrest following the killing of George Floyd last year. On Saturday, May 30, a peaceful protest in Center City turned violent. Center City stores were looted and police cars burned. On Sunday, May 31, widespread looting broke out in areas of Port Richmond and 52nd Street in West Philly. Officers in West Philly used tear gas. On Monday, June 1, a large protest spilled onto I-676. Police used tear gas, mase, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Tear gas had not been used in the city since the MOVE bombing in 1985.

The new report is the result of an independent investigation by law firm Ballard Spahr and security consulting firm AT-RISK International. It determined that ultimately a lack of leadership and planning resulted in the chaotic response to the unrest. Rhynhart says, "according to the City's emergency management doctrine, the Mayor is the one ultimately responsible for any City emergency response." Despite the level of unrest in other cities across the country, Philadelphia officials did not prepare for that kind of protest here. "Despite having a blueprint for effectively maintaining peace during other large scale events in the past," there was not enough police staff available, the Emergency Operation Center was not activated, and outside forces were not called for help.

A city spokesperson issued a statement saying Rhynhart "appears fixated on platitudes and attempts to cast blame for mistakes that have been acknowledged on multiple occasions." (The administration had their own independent investigation that was completed last month.) He also disputes that a 'lack of leadership' was the problem, calling the controller's report a "Monday morning quarterbacking by an official more focused on her own resume than in actually making Philadelphia a better place." (see city's full statement below)

SEE ALSO: City Controller Report -> Independent Investigation Into the City of Philadelphia’s Response to Civil Unrest

SEE ALSO: PPD Response to Recommendations (from their own investigation)

The School District of Philadelphia announced plans on Wednesday, 1/27, for reopening schools using a hybrid plan to some students starting next month. PreK through 2nd grade students who had selected the hybrid model will start on Monday, February 22. Staff that supports those students will return to school on Monday, February 8, to prepare. If a family had chosen to remain 100% digitial, they'll have the chance to change their option at a later date. Hybrid families can also choose to go back to the virtual model. There will be many safety protocols in place such as mask wearing, social distanding, ventilation, hand sanitizers, plexiglass dividers, and pre-screening requirements.

"We know that while some students can thrive in a digital learning environment, many do not. Some of our most vulnerable students, including younger learners, are at risk of falling behind," Superintendent Dr. William Hite said. "Escalating violence and feelings of isolation are all tragic consequences of the pandemic, further threatening the health and well-being of our young people. Resuming in-person learning opportunities is a crucial step to help restore a much-needed sense of familiarity, community and connectedness for students and families."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said, "The lower grades are the less exposed, and they are also the citizens of our city who are losing the most ground by not be being in school. In earlier years the child’s education is some of the most important years and these kids are almost a year behind now where they would be in their matriculation."

SEE ALSO: District to begin phased return to in-person learning
SEE ALSO: School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely

The Pennsylvania Senate and the House of Representatives have both voted to endorse a proposed constitutional amendment that would go before Pennsylvania voters in a statewide referendum. One more vote is needed in either the Senate or House and it could appear as early as the May 18 primary. The next vote could come in the House on Tuesday. The amendment would limit emergency disaster declarations by the governor to 21 days. Lawmakers would then have the ability to extend the declaration past that. Republicans in the legislature have repeatedly tried to stop policies and orders put into place by Governor Wolf over the past year. Wolf declared an emergency due to the pandemic last March and it has continuously been renewed.

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(1) response


 by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA | responded: 01/28 12:23 pm
Philadelphia Mayor's spokesperson response to Controller report:

"We look forward to fully reviewing the Controller's Report, but after initial review it appears to largely mirror the report released last month by independent consultants who conducted a comprehensive examination of the City's response to the protests on behalf of the Administration. The key difference between the two is that while our consultants focused on solutions, the Controller, in her duplicative effort, appears fixated on platitudes and attempts to cast blame for mistakes that have been acknowledged on multiple occasions.

Specifically, we reject her unsubstantiated claims that the Mayor and members of his Administration did not exercise "leadership". The Mayor, Managing Director, Police Commissioner, Fire Commissioner, City Solicitor, Chief of Staff and other top officials were quite literally at the table, working out of the Emergency Operations Center during the entire difficult period.

Particularly offensive is her baseless claim that Fire Commissioner Thiel was hands-off during this period. Commissioner Thiel is one of the most dedicated public servants this City has ever been blessed with, and has consistently worked for days on end to address the multiple emergencies the City has been faced with over the last year, specifically during the civil unrest for which the Controller now maligns him and his team. The fact that the Controller chose to make such an inaccurate claim about dedicated public servants is repugnant, and its lack of accuracy certainly calls into question the veracity of her other claims.

The Mayor and Police Commissioner have previously owned up to mistakes made, and committed to reforms that are ongoing. (Please see the attached chart spelling out the status of those reforms to date). Admitting mistakes, committing to fixes, following through: that is far greater leadership than Monday morning quarterbacking by an official more focused on her own resume than in actually making Philadelphia a better place. As the Mayor said last month, "Black and Brown residents of Philadelphia have suffered too long. With this report, the path ahead is clear, and I am committed to following it no matter how difficult - because their pain, evidenced in stark relief this past summer, must end."

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