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City could reject move to bar voters

(10/23/90 9:00am)

City Commissioners will decide this morning whether to consider petitions requesting that hundreds of University area voters be barred from casting ballots in the upcoming November 6 general elections. Local Republicans this month filed petitions asking that over 700 voters -- all of them registered as Democrats or independents -- be stricken from the roles because they had failed to re-register after changing voting divisions. Yesterday, the commissioners began hearing arguments on the petitions. The hearing was recessed so they could decide whether Republicans had properly served notices of the challenges. If it is determined that the notices were not properly served, the petitions will be rejected. Republicans, however, may appeal. University students are especially hard hit by the petition drive, which has become a tradition for area Republican leaders, because many students move to new residences each year and are not aware that they have changed divisions. Although about 700 petitions were filed, the actual number of voters in question is smaller, since some of those on the list are students who have graduated and moved away from the area. Democratic 27th Ward Leader Kevin Vaughan, who appeared at the hearing yesterday to challenge the petitions, said the commissioners have denied similar petitions twice before. Those denials occured when the commissioners, not their assistants, conducted the hearings, he said. The city requires challengers to notify voters at their old addresses. Matthew Wolfe, the 27th Ward Republican leader who led the drive to challenge Democrat and independent voters, said last night that the Republican Committee had adhered to that rule. "For years [the commissioners] took [the petitions] because we essentially followed their form and we followed the same procedures their investigators followed," Wolfe said. But Democratic leaders have raised questions about the effectiveness of the notice deliveries. Kevin Vaughan, the Democratic 27th Ward leader, said last night that notices were left with desk clerks in some large residences on campus, such as the High Rises. "Those people are not paid to be service acceptors for students," Vaughan said. Wolfe said that the Republican committee does not file the petitions until after the voting registration deadline, October 9, because members prefer to spend their time before the deadline getting people to register. Republican leader Wolfe said that his main concern is to keep the voting list current. "We played their game, and we played it by their rules," Wolfe said. "Now they appear to be changing the rules." Students who have moved since they last registered to vote may be on the Republicans' list, and can call that City Commissioners' office to find out their status.

700 voters may be disqualified

(10/22/90 9:00am)

Over 700 University-area Democratic and Independent voters could be stricken from registration rolls this morning when the Philadelphia City Commissioners hear petitions to disqualify the voters. The petition drive, led by 27th Ward Republican Leader Matthew Wolfe, comes about two weeks before the November 6 general elections for governor and other state offices. Wolfe said his committee decided to challenge the voters in order to clean up the lists of registered voters which he described as "hopelessly out of date." The strike petitions ask that the city disqualify voters who do not reside at the address listed on their registration. Students are often hardest-hit by such drives because they move between political divisions -- some as small as the Quadrangle -- from year to year without re-registering. Since 1983, the 27th Ward Republican Committee has led several similar petition drives during general and primary elections. Kevin Vaughan, who is the 27th Ward Democratic leader, said he believes a high percentage of the challenged voters are students. The hearing's outcome depends on how closely the commissioners decide to scrutinize the cases and if the Democrats challenge the petitions. Vaughan said yesterday that he would attend the hearing. Wolfe said that Republican Ward Committee members collect the names while they canvass areas to register voters. "It's kind of simple," Wolfe said. "I think everybody knows that when you move you have to register to vote." But Vaughan called the move "voter intimidation." He said Republicans are using a "loophole" in election laws to remove students from the rolls. "It's clearly a partisan effort to disenfranchise people who don't vote their way," Vaughan said. "It's a low and loathsome thing they do." "No one can tell me they're doing this out of the kindness of their hearts," Vaughan said. He also said he supports "universal registration." Voters would present adequate identification at the ballot box where they would register before they vote. Several states already have implemented the system. But Wharton junior Tex Roper, who is vice chairperson of the 27th Ward Republican Committee, said yesterday that the law was meant to be used "exactly as we're using it" to help the city update its voter registration rolls. "I think that the Democrats ought to stop whining and see if they can actually go out and find some live bodies instead of ghost voters to put on the rolls," Roper said. College Democrats President Michael Berman, a College sophomore, called such charges "ludicrous." Vaughan echoed Berman's sentiments. "This area does not have a history of people trying to vote twice or trying to vote dead relatives," Vaughan said. Voters who believe they are being challenged can go to this morning's hearing and contest the petitions. Wolfe said committee members serve notice of the challenge at the old registration address. Those voters who find on November 6 that their registration has been canceled can seek special registration at Election Court. People who registered this fall at their current addresses should not be affected by the petitions. But registration for this fall's election ended almost two weeks ago.

U. will advance city gov't $10 million in wage taxes

(10/18/90 9:00am)

The University will advance about $10 million in taxes to the city of Philadelphia, joining several other institutions in a group effort to help the city weather its cash flow crisis. The $10 million, which will be paid in one lump sum from cash reserves, is the amount of wage taxes that the University would owe to the city through next June. The University is the city's largest private employer. University Treasurer Scott Lederman said that the $10 million will not be taken from another project, and that prepaying the money will not force officials to manipulate the University's budget. He stressed that the prepayment will not affect students' tuition. "We are very careful about those things," Lederman said. "We have a focus from the Trustees on down to keep the rate of tuition very low." Lederman said that the University pays the city $1.25 million in wage taxes in several payments throughout the year. But the University stands to lose several months of interest income that it would have earned on the $10 million. Lederman did not give an exact figure, and said that the University will not seek a tax discount to make up for the lost interest. Philadelphia Electric spokesperson Bill Jones said that the utility agreed to prepay $8 million in wage and property taxes, forgoing about $300,000 in interest. "We feel that it's incumbent upon business to assist the city in any way we can," Jones said. Assistant to the President William Epstein said that it was PE that proposed the idea to President Sheldon Hackney early last week. The move is a "small price to pay" to give city leaders time to find a solution to the city's cash flow problems, Epstein said. He added that it is important that the city's business community make a statement that the Philadelphia economy is basically sound. Treasurer Lederman said that the University wanted to join other institutions in helping the city through its tough financial times. "We don't make decisions like this very lightly, and Philadelphia is obviously very important to the University," Lederman said. Philip Terranova, Drexel's assistant vice president for public relations, said that his school will prepay $650,000 in taxes. "We live in this city and have a stake in it like everyone else," Terranova said. Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science will also contribute. Philadelphia Revenue Commissioner Cheryl Weiss said yesterday that the city has not received money from the prepayments yet, but that her office is working with participating institutions in arranging proper crediting of their accounts. In addition to the large employers, about 100 private citizens have inquired about how to prepay their taxes, Weiss said. She stressed that people should not mail in prepayments without consulting the city's Revenue Department. City Council member George Burrell said that the prepayment demonstrates to potential investors in the city that Philadelphians are willing to work through the crisis. The city failed in an effort to sell $375 million in notes last month. Other institutions prepaying taxes include Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Conrail, the Meritor Bank, The Resources for Human Development Inc., Rohm and Haas Company and the Tasty Baking Company. Helen Jung and Brent Mitchell contributed to this story.

Advance won't fix budget woes

(10/18/90 9:00am)

A $30 million booster in prepaid taxes will buy Philadelphia officials a few extra weeks to work out a budget plan, but the move will have no direct effect on the city's long-term budget deficit. Several of the city's largest employers -- including the University -- announced last week that they will join to pay a total of $30 million in taxes, mostly wage and property taxes, to help the city through its budget crisis. But Finance Professor Robert Inman said the prepayment is like a short-term loan -- it will not solve the city's structural deficit problems. "What that says is the business community in Philadelphia is not running away from the city's problems," Inman said. A long-term solution will have to include the state government, Inman said. If there is no solution by the end of the state legislature's session in November, the $30 million prepayment will not be enough to carry the city into the legislature's reopening. City Council member George Burrell said that city leaders are working in "good faith," searching for a solution to the city's budget problems. But he said that it is too early to say if a budget agreement has been reached or what such an agreement would look like. Philadelphia Electric spokesperson Bill Jones, whose company will prepay $8 million, said that the move only eases the city's cash flow for a few weeks. He added that participants still hope for a solution among city, state and federal authorities. "The end result has to be a biting of the bullet by the city and the state," Jones said. Last month the city tried and failed to sell $375 million in short-term notes to tide it over until property tax revenues flow in at the beginning of the calendar year. The city traditionally sells about $220 million in notes for that reason. But this time, the city's projected $200 million deficit scared investors away. Mayor Wilson Goode announced that the city will run out of cash on December 1. The prepayment will put that date off for a few weeks. The city will receive property tax revenues in early 1991. Property owners usually receive their tax bills in January, and must pay them by the end of March, according to Revenue Commissioner Cheryl Weiss. Weiss said that the city receives $600 million in the first five months of the year -- a "significant portion" of revenue.

CITY LIMITS: Philadelphia is getting a new convention center

(10/10/90 9:00am)

Some city's leaders are calling it an economic cure-all, others are calling it a drain on the economy and a boon for the politically connected. Some city leaders say that the center, slated for completion in 1993, will be an unparalleled economic catalyst for the city. They point to the building's Center City location -- between 11th and 13th streets and Arch and Race streets, near the Gallery mall and many hotels -- to the jobs that will come from the construction and operation of the center, and to the money that convention-goers might spend in Philadelphia. But not everyone is so optimistic. Opponents of the center worry that the city's payments to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, the government organization ultimately responsible for the center, will drain money from other services. And some say that economic forecasts have painted a rosier picture of convention-goer spending than may actually be borne out. A $523 Million Project The convention center is scheduled for completion in the spring of 1993. It will house 440,000 square feet of exhibition space and 90,000 square feet of meeting rooms. The old Reading Terminal train shed will be renovated to house a Grand Hall which could serve as a ballroom. Attached to the convention center, on Market between 11th and 12th streets, will be a 1200-room Marriott Hotel, scheduled for completion in 1994. The total cost for the project: About $523 million. Amid heated debate last December, City Council approved the Marriott Corporation as the center's hotel developer. Opponents argued that Marriott had previously shown hostility toward unions and that the hotel company had a weak record in contracting with minorities and women. Marriott supporters did not refute the company's record with unions, but they denied the charge about its business with minorities and women. According to Jon Weinstein, legislative assistant to Council member Thacher Longstreth, the 12 council members who voted for Marriott felt that the vote was needed to save the convention center. Further delays could have resulted in greater difficulty for the authority to sell the bonds. "They felt they couldn't wait any longer," Weinstein said. Five council members voted against Marriott. The PCCA sold approximately $280 million in bonds last December to finance contruction of the center. Arlene Friner, PCCA chief financial officer, said that favorable market conditions at the time allowed the authority to incur annual debt payment of $21.7 million -- saving over $3 million from what was predicted. Under a "lease and service agreement" passed by City Council last summer, the debt service has two main sources. First, the PCCA receives a percentage of the city's hotel tax -- which will increase gradually. The balance of the debt service is funded mostly by a service fee that the city will pay to the PCCA. The PCCA projects that as its share of the hotel tax grows, and as convention-related hotel business grows, the city will need to pay the fee for only about 10 years after the center opens. After that, the city would be paid the excess of the tax over the debt service. The state has contributed $185 million and the city has contributed over $40 million to land preparation costs. The city's contribution was mainly for the Marriott's site. An Economic Boost? In 1988, the accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster studied the market effects of the construction of the convention center. Over the long term, the report said, almost 6000 jobs could be created and $234 million in increased tax revenue to the city, $284 million to the state, could be attributed to convention center construction. University Professor Theodore Hershberg, who is director of the Center for Greater Philadelphia, said he sees good times ahead for Philadelphia's hospitality industry. He said recently that the "world is shrinking" due to improvements in communications and transportation technology. This trend leads to the need for infrequent, large face-to-face gatherings -- namely conventions. The convention center will "pull Philadelphia's economy," Hershberg said. But City and Regional Planning Professor William Grigsby said last week that the convention center is not going to be a "money winner." He said that economic forecasts were too optimistic, adding that he does not expect as many conventions to come to the center and doesn't expect delegates to stay in Philadelphia as long as forecasts predicted. Grigsby said that the center will be a drain on the city's economy. The drain will not be so much the annual service fee the city must pay to the authority to operate the center, but the "invisible" figure -- the amount the city will not be getting back in such ways as predicted tax revenues. City Planning Director Barbara Kaplan said that restaurants and entertainment venues in Center City look to the covention center to boost their business. But Linda Morrison, legislative assistant to Councilman James Tayoun, said that the center is a "big pork barrel" for the politically connected. "Other businesses aren't as organized to go in and raid the city treasury like the hotel industry," Morrison said. Market Merchants The two blocks cleared for convention center construction have left a large vacant space north of the Reading Terminal Market. The PCAA will renovate the Market's roof after acquiring the building. Duane Perry, the executive director of the Market's merchant's association, said that before the blocks were cleared, 5000 people worked there and 500 people lived there. "Those people used to shop at the Market," Perry said. The Market has been caught in the middle of troubles in the PCCA's acquisition of the Market from the Reading Company. The roof is decrepit and has leaked frequently on merchants' stands, Perry said. Environmental cleanup of the facility had held up the final transfer for much of this year, but PCCA Communications Manager Patricia Clifford said the Market should soon be certified clear. "The first thing the authority intends to do . . . is to get in there and waterproof the ceiling," Clifford said. Nevertheless, Perry said, many of the the Market's longest and best customers are intimidated by the area's new environment. The bus and trolley lines on 12th Street no longer stop at Arch Street, and the walkways past the large vacant spaces are narrow on 12th Street between Race and Arch streets. Perry said that the authority and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have not properly balanced the needs of the market with the needs of the center. He worries that the market could be changed into a simple tourist attraction. "The box is not going to have people living in it, working in it," Perry said of the convention center. Transportation Depending on who is speaking, transportation is either one of the greatest strengths of the center or a benefit only for a privileged few, that is supported by city funds. The center will be located near SEPTA's Market East Station, where convention-goers could pick up the Airport line or a train to 30th Street Station and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. But Smith, the architect, said that convention-goers will not tend to go directly from the airport or train station to the convention center, but will stop at their hotels first. Smith, citing transportation studies, also questioned how street improvements and parking arrangements will be handled. Smith said that many questions about who will pay for street widening and parking garages have been left unanswered. But he said Philadelphia taxpayers will probably foot the bill. Planning Director Kaplan said that in order for that area of Center City to be further developed, streets would need widening anyway. Kaplan said that she has seen studies which indicate that while stricter traffic management procedures will be necessary, the public's perception of the traffic impact is worse than what will truly happen. The Marriott has already planned to put a guest drop-off lane adjacent to the hotel, and a privately-built garage is also scheduled for the area, Kaplan said. Large regional shows like the Flower Show and the Boat Show, which create heavy traffic and parking demand, will continue to be held at the Civic Center, Clifford said. 'Back in the Big Leagues' R.C. Staab, communication vice president at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that meeting planners are eager to learn about the center, especially the hotel. Meeting planners ask most about the physical dimensions of the center and about nearby hotel rooms, he said. When the center opens, Staab said, 6000 hotel rooms will be within a 20-minute walk of the center. The center's figures have attracted several "definites" starting with a 13,000-person convention of the American Psychiatric Association slated for May, 1994. Staab said that many planners are interested in seeing the center's hotel finished for their conventions. Staab said that many meeting planners had "written Philadelphia off their lists." The Civic Center, Staab said, did not have enough rooms and is relatively difficult to reach from Center City. "We're back in the big leagues now with the Pennsylvania Convention Center," Staab said. 'Taxation Without Representation' The Convention Center has cleared its legislative hurdles, but it still faces judicial obstacles. The center is being challenge on several fronts. In one court case, the constutionality of the PCCA's share of the hotel tax is being challenged. According to architect Gray Smith, the hotel tax is a case of "taxation without representation." Many people who stay at hotels have no contact with the convention center, and, without voting power here, have no say in the tax they pay. "That's the reason we had a Constitutional Congress and the Fourteenth Amendment," Smith said. The case was dismissed by the trial court and affirmed by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The plantiffs are appealing to the United States Supreme Court, Smith said, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear the case. On a second front, the city is being sued in a challenge of the legality of the lease and service agreement. The suit charges that the service fee violates state law and the City Council did not properly allow public involvement as dictated by the City Charter. The PCCA was not named as a defendant. And most recently, a group of contractors sued the authority, questioning the authority's affirmative action program. Some contractors have alleged that the PCCA has instituted a minority and women "set-aside" program which promises certain a certain number of jobs on the center to minority and female contractors. "We don't have a set-aside program," said Ahmeenah Young, the authority's director for affirmative action. Young said that contractor should show their "best efforts" to include women and minority contractors. She added the authority has given some contracts that did not involve minority or women contractors. In situations where minority and women contractors are available, Young said, the authority examines the supply and sets "target indicators." If contractors fail to meet the targets, the authority investigates with construction experts.

3 local bars' liquor licenses not renewed

(10/05/90 9:00am)

All three of the popular campus restaurants will remain open to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages, and the owners of Backstreet and Kelly and Cohen said they will appeal the decision. The owner of High Rise said that he would probably not file an appeal. LCB spokesperson Donna Pinkham said that the appeal process could be as brief as one week, but said that in the past, only a few appeals have been successful. The current liquor licenses do not expire until October 31. Pinkham said that sale to minors was the main reason why the bars' licenses were not renewed. She said that in the past two years, each of the three establishments has been cited and fined two or three times for between $300 and $1250, and has had its license suspended, for serving minors. "When [LCB members] see evidence of blatant disregard for the law, you're putting your license in jeopardy," Pinkham said. In all, 21 licenses were not renewed at the LCB's twice-monthly meeting Wednesday, she said. The owner of High Rise Restaurant, who gave his name only as Pano, said that he does not need the liquor license and may "let it go." He said he is happy with his food business. Kelly and Cohen owner Vinesh Vyas said yesterday that he was confident he would regain his license on appeal. He said, however, that he has tried to deemphasize the restaurant's liquor business. He said employees now check identification more closely and the establishment closes at 10 p.m. "The aggravation was just not worth it," Vyas said. He said that both Kelly and Cohen and Poor Richard's Deli, which he also owns, will remain open to sell food even if he does not win the appeal. Backstreet Cafe owner Mark Wright also said that he will appeal, but added that future plans are "up in the air." Backstreet will remain open regardless of the result of the appeal, he said. College junior Jeffrey Jacobson, co-chairperson of the University Council's safety and security committee, said that the combination of the non-renewal, the new fraternity BYOB policy and the University's strict alcohol policy may "push campus drinking further west." Jacobson said that travel back to campus from off-campus bars and parties poses problems, since intoxicated students are less able to recognize dangerous situations and are easier targets for crime. Jacobson said that the Council's safety and security committee is discussing the role alcohol plays in crimes. Smokey Joe's Tavern, along with High Rise, was on a list of "nuisance" bars submitted to the LCB by state police over the summer. Smoke's license was renewed. "There isn't any bar in a college area that isn't vulnerable, because there's so many underage people directly across the street from you who don't obey the law," said Paul Ryan, the owner of Smoke's.

After strike, Temple students uncertain

(10/04/90 9:00am)

Temple University senior Don McNutt finally started work on his last few credits yesterday morning in an atmosphere tainted by uncertainty and anxiety, as most of his school's faculty began teaching after a month-long strike. As the first day of classes began on their North Philadelphia campus, McNutt and many of his fellow students said they were worried about how they will be able to complete their classwork in a semester postponed four weeks by the faculty strike. Temple's teachers' union estimated that about 70 percent of classes had not met since the strike began September 4 -- the scheduled first day of school. As McNutt sat on steps near the Bell Tower at the heart of campus -- the focal point of many strike-related rallies -- he said that he suffers from "Orwellian double-think." He wants to receive his English degree in January as planned, but he also said he would make "serious sacrifices" because he believes that the teachers have a right to strike. Temple faculty went back to work after a Common Pleas Court judge issued an injunction Monday requiring them to end the strike, which was called to demand better salaries and benefits. Teachers voted Monday night to adhere to the order, but their union has appealed the judge's decision. Picketers, who have manned posts throughout Temple's campus, were noticeably absent yesterday. But the lounge in Sullivan Hall, the building which houses Temple President Peter Liacouras' office, was still strewn with the sleeping bags of students who have slept there for several weeks in support of their teachers. Temple's administration now faces a dilemma about how students will make up the classes they missed in September. Some students would prefer to lengthen the semester rather than cram all of the coursework into two and one-half months. But, as second-year freshman Ed Small pointed out, many students work during their winter break to earn money for the following semester. Small said that his professors gave conflicting signals yesterday about the semester length. One said that classes would end on schedule, another that classes would continue into January. Many Temple students are also nervous about the antagonistic relationship between teachers and the Temple administration. James Beaver, a senior history major, said he was afraid that administrators' treatment of the professors would force many of them to quit. "Our diplomas will be worth less than the paper used to wrap McDonald's hamburgers," Beaver said. He said that in one of his classes, which met for the first time yesterday morning, the professor wrote his name, the course title, and "Status: Under court order" on the chalkboard. Jennifer Schoenewald, a freshman majoring in Radio, TV and Film, said that only one of her four scheduled classes met during the strike. She said she thinks that all four will meet this week. Other students reported that all or all but one of their classes were meeting.

Profs say city crisis could be remedied

(09/28/90 9:00am)

Sweeping changes in Philadelphia's government structure and its charter are crucial if the city is to weather its financial crisis, University professors said yesterday. Mayor Wilson Goode announced last week that the city could go bankrupt by December. According to three University professors, the city needs structural change as much as it needs spending cuts if it is to avoid rapidly-approaching bankruptcy. · Philadelphia's tax structure, which is based heavily on its almost-five-percent wage tax, has forced businesses considering locating in the city to look elsewhere. "Higher taxes ring the death knell of the city," said Professor Theodore Hershberg, whose recent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer outlined his proposals for restoring financial stability. Finance Professor Robert Inman has studied the effect that the city's wage tax has on potential businesses. His findings show that Philadelphia lost about 130,000 jobs to the suburbs between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s due to its wage tax alone. Philadelphia residents pay a 4.96 percent wage tax, and commuters pay 4.31. So city employers who want to attract people must offer a higher salary than their suburban competitors in order to compensate for the tax, Inman said. About 60 percent of the jobs lost to the suburbs, he said, were lost because of the wage tax. And Hershberg said that higher city taxes levied to pay for social services drive residents and businesses out, harming the tax base and forcing a downward spiral. Funding for social services must be shared by the state. Both Inman and Public Policy and Management Professor Anita Summers believe that property taxes are a less damaging way to raise revenue than wage taxes. · State and federal government officials equate giving more money to Philadelphia to "watering the desert," said Summers. She suggested establishing an independent and powerful board of experts to restore the city's financial health. Summers' board would consist of state and local government officials, outside public finance experts and chief executive officers from local companies. A similar board brought New York City through its financial crisis in the mid-1970s. The creation of a board of respected leaders, Summers said, would give banks the confidence to loan the city enough money to pull through its cash crunch. Earlier this month, the city failed to float $375 million in short-term notes after banks refused to back the notes. In the past, officials floated about $220 million in notes before the end of the year in order to tide the city over until revenues came in during the winter. Inman recommended that the city sell a similar amount of notes now, which could be backed by revenues received during the winter. The rest of the money needed could be raised by a long-term bond sale. The bonds would have to be backed by a tax dedicated to repaying them, such as a sales tax. · Hershberg said he would like to see changes in Philadelphia's charter. Approved 40 years ago, the charter contains protections which limit the appointment powers of city department heads. He said they have left city government in a "straitjacket," since departments are unable to build effective management teams. Hershberg said that to change the charter, City Council and the administration would appoint a commission to suggest change, and the recommendations could either be filtered through Council or submitted directly to a referendum. Both Summers and Hershberg said increasing productivity of city workers should be part of a more efficient spending pattern. Summers recommended linking wage increases to productivity increases. Hershberg said that new incentive mechanisms are needed. He added that wage raises for city workers have increased faster than increases in the city's revenue base, and that those raises should increase at a slower or equal rate. "The city and suburbs have got to find ways to work together or they will not realize their potential," Hershberg said.

Police job freeze may not affect U. area

(09/26/90 9:00am)

It is too early to tell if the city's hiring freeze, which includes the cancellation of the start of classes for 170 police recruits, will have any effect on police protection in the University area, a Philadelphia Police captain said Monday. Mayor Wilson Goode announced the freeze last week. He said that it will allow city officials more time to devise a financial resuce plan before the city runs out of money. Philadelphia Police Captain Richard DeLise said that the cancellation of the November and January recruit classes would not have any effect until April, since police training is a five-month program. October's class of 80 to 100 recruits will start as scheduled, he said. He added that an improvement in the city's financial picture could revive the classes. The freeze does not affect University Police. University Police spokesperson Sylvia Canada said that the force has hired more than 30 officers during the past year, and now totals 75 officers. Mobile patrol extends west to 43rd Street between Chestnut and Pine streets, Canada said. Jim McDevitt, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said that while the city's force has grown, the FOP does not consider the current level to be a "totally safe level of manpower." "The police officers of the city of Philadelphia are good cops in spite of the system, not because of it," McDevitt said. The shortage of police has lead to problems for officers getting backup support on a crime scene. Without such support, officers can become more reluctant to take risks, he said. City Council member Lucien Blackwell said the freeze is necessary because the city failed to sell $375 million in short-term notes earlier this month. "We're being squeezed out of the money market by people who are playing politics with this administration," Blackwell said.

Plus, Cirrus cards can now be used on most campus ATMs

(09/21/90 9:00am)

Pick a card, any card. Holders of Cirrus System or Plus System automatic teller machine cards may now use either card in almost any ATM near campus. Before August 20, Mellon Bank ATMs accepted only MAC and Cirrus cards, and Provident Bank ATMs accepted only MAC and Plus cards. But now both banks -- which dominate the ATM scene around the University -- have signed on to both networks. The change will affect students who have Cirrus or Plus ATM cards from out of town that are not affiliated with the MAC system. Previously, those students had to go to the specific MAC machine which was affiliated with their system. They must still do so, but the number of machines they may use has expanded. Provident ATMs near the University include the machines in Houston Hall and High Rise East. Mellon operates machines at its branch at 36th and Walnut streets and on the 4000 block of Locust Street. Provident went on-line with Cirrus on Wednesday, according to James Walker, vice president for electronic banking. Mellon added the Plus affiliation in late August, according to spokesperson Becky Brinks. Before the agreement, Plus and Cirrus were each connected to about 25,000 machines nationwide. Plus System Senior Vice President Ron Reed said yesterday that 7000 machines have added the Plus network to their Cirrus affiliation. Cirrus' Ross said that 10,000 machines have added Cirrus to their Plus affiliation. Network and bank officials said that the agreement was not anti-competitive, since banks will still issue cards which will only work on one network. "[Plus and Cirrus] will continue to compete for member financial institutions and for cardholders," Reed said.

Brick wall collapses, killing three

(09/19/90 9:00am)

Seven other passers-by injured as Center City storefront caves in A second-story storefront in Center City collapsed yesterday afternoon, killing three people and injuring seven others, including four police officers. According to witnesses, the brick facing of the three buildings, which housed shops near 9th and Market streets, collapsed shortly before 2:30 p.m., falling onto pedestrians on the busy sidewalk below. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Roger Ulshafer said at the scene that the cause of the collapse was still unknown, but that it may have been the result of heavy signs and security grates pulling on the recently-remodeled storefront, shared by two buildings. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Willie Williams said that the Licenses and Inspections Department is investigating possible building code violations. Witnesses said the accident occurred without warning. "I felt the [Market Street El] train underneath and then [the building] just fell," said Rico Clark, an employee in one of the stores in the collapsed building. "It was so quick we didn't know what happened." "It was scary," Clark said. "It could have been my life lying there on the ground." The buildings, located at 930, 932 and 934 Market Street across form the Gallery mall, included a check-cashing center, an electronics store and a clothing store. Passersby and witnesses helped the six rescue squads on the scene clear away the bricks and to pull victims out of the wreckage. South Philadelphia resident Buck Ryder, who left the electronics store just moments before the collapse, said he turned around when he heard "metal crumbling," in time to see the whole front of the building "peeling off from left to right." "There were people screaming and hollering," Ryder said. "I just jumped in and started peeling bricks off and people up." Ryder said he uncovered two people, one of whom died from head and chest injuries. Bob Ott, manager of the Rite Aid Pharmacy nearby, said he was crossing the street when he saw the bricks falling, and ran across to "pull bricks off people to try and get them out." Market Street was closed to traffic from 15th Street to 5th Street for several hours yesterday.

CITY LIMITS: Please pass the paint

(09/19/90 9:00am)

Eddie was proud of his half-finished self-portrait. He and about 20 of his peers had just finished gluing cut-outs of their profiles to rectangular pieces of cardboard, and were preparing to affix traced cut-outs of their hands to the works-in-progress. "That's my face," said Eddie, proudly pointing to his creation. Eddie, like most of his fellow artists in Moonstone's pre-school program, glued his hand tracing haphazardly onto the cardboard. But it didn't matter. At Moonstone, the learning and self-esteem that come from a job well-done -- be it a self-portait, a play or a discussion about family life -- are what matter most. Moonstone's motto, "education through the arts," graces everything from the seven-year-old school's letterhead to its day-to-day programming. Music, painting, acting and dance at this private pre-school a few blocks from South Street are viewed as more than an expendable enrichment activity. They they are a way of life. "There's a significance in the arts to everyday life that's to a large extent ignored in the United States," said Larry Robin, who sits on Moonstone's board of directors. Moonstone uses the various arts to give children a chance to find their individual talents, boost self-esteem and start experimenting in other areas. Part of the school's goal is to create a situation -- such as making a self-portrait -- where students will always succeed, said Larry Robin. If children feel that they have failed, they will not try as hard. But they will grow by trying and gain strength by succeeding. That is the school's credo. Director Sandy Robin starts with a theme around which she designs a series of projects, such as family, the current theme. The project involves different art forms -- music, dance, painting -- all of which children are encouraged to try. "When [the kids] see an actual tracing of their hand they get a better sense of how the whole piece reflects them," said staffer Linda Conley. The walls of Moonstone are covered with the various works of the 28 children in the program. The wall of a main hallway bears the self-portraits. Sandy Robin started the school in 1983 as an after-school arts program -- it grew into a preschool in 1985. Her work with children began about 12 years ago while she was a studio artist in Philadelphia. Friends suggested she work on a local school project in which children were painting a wall mural. The project introduced her to the joy of working with children in the arts. Sandy Robin continued her work at a Variety Club camp attended by children with physical handicaps. The children's physical challenges demanded a different approach towards art than the traditional popsicle-stick arts and crafts projects, she found. So she ditched standard sheets of paper for long continuous sheets of butcher paper, rejected frustrating paintbrushes in favor of paint squirtguns, and sought abstract expression instead of specific real-world images. Her approach encouraged the handicapped children, who saw interaction and collaboration around them, Robin said. Art was an avenue for the children to build their self-esteem. Sandy and Larry Robin have found that there had already been a research base in the kind of work they had been doing. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has described the human mind as consisting of seven intelligences -- many of which, Larry Robin says, are accesible through art. Music is a constant around Moonstone. From special "clean-up music" played while the children pick up their toys at the end of morning free-play, to a jazzy rendition of the ABCs, the children are almost constantly exposed to sound. Moonstone's staff of eight rotates throughout the day, with five people working at any given time. George Barrick has worked with Robin for over four years, and he said the program, by encouraging children to engage in any comfortable mode of expression, results in children who are "fearless with their feelings." At "Circle Time" last Friday, Sandy Robin brought the children together for an hour-long discussion-and-acting period. Once they were settled in their circle, she asked the children to follow her lead, making happy, sad, and unusual facial expressions and hand movements. They followed along with every expression, every sound. Then the talk turned to families, and Sandy Robin asked the children yes-or-no questions focusing on understanding diversity in family cultures and structures. Can children live with one parent? she asked. The children answered yes. Can a pet be part of a family? Again, the answer was yes. After the family discussion the children acted out the story of Peter Rabbit as Sandy Robin recited the tale. As for the name Moonstone, if there is a story behind it, Sandy Robin isn't telling. "We like the sound of it. It has a lot of O's in it, and O's are lucky," she said.

Walnut St. Bridge may soon reopen

(09/12/90 9:00am)

Casual strolls across a nearly-deserted Walnut Street near Hill House will become ill-advised within the next few months, when thousands of motorists reclaim the Walnut Street Bridge. The 94-year-old bridge, which spans the Schuylkill River from 24th to 32nd streets, was closed in January 1988 so that it could be rebuilt. "We recognize that it would be a great relief to that entire area," Morasco said. It will also make it easier for students to walk to Center City. The new bridge is two feet wider, with four 11-foot travel lanes and two eight-foot sidewalks. The ornate wrought-iron pedestrian guardrail has been replaced with concrete walls. The project cost about $28 million, and was both federal- and state-funded. Its opening awaits final work on traffic signals and protective barriers. Unanticipated problems discovered during the final inspection could cause delays, Morasco said. While Walnut Street near 33rd and 34th streets will be busier after the opening, Morasco said she does not expect large increases in traffic further west on Walnut Street. While the bridge was closed, motorists were re-routed to open bridges, such as the South Street bridge next to Franklin Field, and returned to Walnut to continue westbound. Morasco said that throughout the project, the contractor has been ahead of schedule. Rob Buckley, the project superintendent, called the reconstruction "difficult," but added that it went smoothly. Buckley said that hundreds of workers participated in the project. He said that for every one worker on the project site, there were eight in architects' offices, manufacturing plants and other project-related work.

City may come to U. for money

(09/11/90 9:00am)

The University may be asked to contribute money to Philadelphia coffers as part of a "financial rescue plan" to stabilize the city's budget. Philadelphia's educational institutions are not required to pay property taxes on buildings used for their educational purpose. But included in City Councilman George Burrell's new "financial rescue plan" is a proposal to ask tax-exempt institutions namely universities and hospitals to give money to the city "in lieu of property taxes." Assistant to the President William Epstein, said that he had not yet heard of any formal discussion between University and city officials on the matter. Epstein stressed that the University contributes to the city's budget by paying wage taxes - it is the largest private employer in Philadelphia - and taxes for property leased by the University to commercial operations, such as stores on the 3900 block of Walnut Street. The city's deficit on it's fiscal 1991 budget has reached $206 million. Last year, Yale University officials agreed to pay the city of New Haven $1.2 million for fire services, $300,000 for golf course property taxes and $1.2 million to close off several streets on the Yale campus. Craig Johnson, an advisor to Councilperson Burrell, said that the plan does not mention only tax-exempt institutions. But he stressed that these institutions receive city services, and should therefore "pitch in" to help the city. "What we're trying to do is say all the city's constituency have to step up and be part of an overall solution," Johnson said Monday. Burrell released the plan Thursday for public debate. Institutions which provide non-reimbursed services, such as hospitals which care for the indigent, would not be asked for the contributions. Burrell's plan also calls for the city to fire current Finance Director Betsy Reveal and replace her with a local business leader. He also suggested cutting consultant fees and operating costs in city departments, and increasing revenue with a sales tax. Reveal's office declined to comment. Burrell's chief of staff, David Hyman, said Friday that the city must show a comprehensive, united front in order to get crucial financial help from the state government. He said that Burrell's plan asks for help across the board. "The fiscal realities of today are changing some of the premises we've been operating under," Hyman said.

No talks scheduled in Temple strike

(09/10/90 9:00am)

The administration and striking faculty of Temple University remained at a stalemate Friday, as the faculty union rallied to strengthen support among its members. Approximately 300 members of the Temple Association of University Professionals gathered Friday afternoon in a church west of the Temple campus. TAUP President Arthur Hochner said that the union remained in favor of the strike, which is being held to demand a salary increase and protest a proposal which would have Temple faculty help pay for their health plans. This morning marks the fifth day of the strike. Temple administrators said that no negotiations were scheduled. Temple's administration has offered all faculty members a five percent salary increase over two years, plus one percent for merit, according to Kathy Gosliner, Temple's director of communicaitons. TAUP has requested a 7.5 percent increase. The administration also asked faculty members to pay $260 per year towards health insurance. The faculty union rejected the plan, saying that it is not the "long-term" solution needed to dealing with rising health care costs. Hocher said that the union voted by a nine to one margin to continue with the current negotiating position. He said that the union estimated that 75 percent of classes have not met due to the strike. Gosliner said that the administration has asked for an independent investigator who would issue a non-binding opinion on the dispute. But Hochner called fact-finding "a stall," saying that "we want it to be over with."

Anxious students, empty classes mark 3rd day of Temple strike

(09/06/90 9:00am)

Marty Miller was frustrated. He had just walked out in the middle of Temple University's Interpersonal Communication class after two teaching assistants began repeating information about the class textbook and structure. Miller's professor had joined colleagues Tuesday morning in the first day of a strike by Temple's faculty union, the Temple Association of University Professionals, who were demanding better salaries and benefits. "Something should have been done," Miller, a senior, said bitterly. TAUP called for the strike to protest of the university's most recent contract offer, which would increase annual salaries by five percent, 2.5 percent lower than the faculty requested. The newly formed Graduate Student Employees Association voted Tuesday to strike Thursday and Friday in an effort to call attention to the concerns of Temple's 750 graduate teaching and research students. "I, like all other grad workers, am sick and tired of my rights being denied," said fourth-year history graduate student Anthony Newkirk. "We want [Temple president Peter Liacouras] to talk with us and address our concerns. We have poverty-level salaries." TAUP also opposes the university's requirement that teachers pay $260 yearly towards health insurance, which Temple officials said costs more than $4000 per person per year. TAUP President Arthur Hochner charged that the co-payment was part of a "master plan" to force teachers to use Temple University Hospital, which is having financial problems. Temple University officials could not be reached for comment. Seniors said Tuesday that they were concerned that the strike would force officials to cancel the semester. Senior Journalism major Steven Donahue said that he will ask for his money back if the strike is not settled, but above all wants to finish his undergraduate work. "I just want to get the hell out of here," he said. TAUP's Hochner said that if the strike is not settled by September 14, students can get a refund. Some students joined picket lines and helped hand out fliers about the strike. "Quality of education should be the main issue," said freshman Edward Sturdivant, whose Law and Society professor showed up for his 8:40 a.m. class. Hochner said the strike will be settled before the semester is canceled because if it is not, "the president wouldn't get his salary."

City facing financial crisis

(09/06/90 9:00am)

A $206 million deficit in the city's fiscal 1991 budget is scaring potential investors away from Philadelphia and hindering efforts to raise enough cash to pay the city's bills until tax revenues are collected this winter. To raise funds, the city will try to sell $400 million in short-term notes, which it would repay in several months. But the deficit, which more than doubles last year's $73 million shortfall, has made investors wary of purchasing notes. Without the infusion of funds that would come from the sale, the city could run out of money as soon as this month or as late as the end of the year. The short-term note offer is not unusual for this time of year, but the amount $400 million is unusually high. The deficit, revealed in August, resulted in part from a July State Supreme Court ruling which said the city must repay $25 million in real estate transfer taxes. The city must also pay $25 million to rebuild the MOVE property destroyed in 1985. And in May, City Council members rejected Mayor Wilson Goode's proposal to raise the city wage tax. Council members did pass a sales tax, but it has not been approved by the state legislature. In a televised address in August, Goode stressed a need for cooperation among the administration, City Council, the state legislature, and Governor Robert Casey. Goode has blamed the council and state lawmakers for blocking the city's effort to increase its revenue. The rating on Philadelphia's long-term bonds is the lowest among large U.S. cities, according to Michael Johnston, assistant vice president at Moody's Investment Service. This reflects a comparitively high risk for bond purchasers, and means that the city must pay a high interest rate on its notes. Johnston said that Moody's has not been asked to rate the short-term notes. Investment institutions will "think carefully" before buying notes from Philadelphia, Johnston said. City controller Jonathan Saidel has said that the sale of short-term notes neither cures the city's financial ills nor forces the necessary cooperation among local officials. Some civic leaders have called for an independent board to manage city finances similar to that which brought New York City through its bankruptcy in the mid-1970s. The Associated Press contributed to this story.