New planting at Water Tower looks good?

The new plantings of shrubs and trees and the nicely mulched areas that have appeared this week at the Water Tower upper park look terrific. The process of clearing out the overgrown brush started some time ago, and the present result is a beautiful step forward. It looks fantastic. Congratulations to the community and a big thank you to any and everyone who has been involved in the project.

J.R. Schroeder
Chestnut Hill


Is the fight for criminal justice reform enough?

This summer, we read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” This study of the criminal justice system and its need for reform – opened our eyes to the history of how African-American men have been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs and legally stripped of their rights by the label “felon,” essentially creating a new Jim Crow system in America.

Chris Rabb, state representative for the 200th district (an area including Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and parts of Germantown) demonstrated his commitment to criminal justice reform through the passing of the First Chance Trust Fund. The FCTF provides funding to create scholarship and grant opportunities for children with incarcerated parents, presenting affected youth with the option to pursue higher education instead of engaging in criminal activity.

This bill is a positive step toward alleviating the reverberating effects of mass incarceration, addressing its impact upon Pennsylvania youth, an issue that often goes unnoticed. Rabb’s Omnibus Voting and Elections Bill, currently working its way through the House, addresses several issues at once. Passing this bill would help young people like us become more civically engaged with automatic registration while also efficiently reinstating voting rights for those previously incarcerated.

Still, reforming the criminal justice system will require more radical societal change. We would like to see Representative Rabb introduce legislation abolishing civil asset forfeiture, which allows police officers to seize property from law-abiding Pennsylvania residents under the protection of the law. Additionally, legislation is needed to demilitarize the police. We suggest restrictions on the use of SWAT teams and stop-and-frisk, police tactics that disproportionately target people of color.

Charlotte Fox, Kayla Gibson, Lucas Jaeger and Yende Mangum
Students at J.R. Masterman High School


Supporting Rep Rabb in the 200th district

Rep. Christopher Rabb has played a key role in the community we’ve grown up in, and we appreciate all that he has done for us. As new voters and active civic citizens, we wanted to express our thoughts on his politics and offer some possible policy suggestions.

We support many of his views and we believe that Rabb accurately represents our district’s views. We especially agree with his initiative to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. We think that $9.50 is a good start towards a livable minimum wage, but we would even urge him to try and raise it even higher, to around $11. Pennsylvania should be following the lead of other states around us, like New York and New Jersey, who both offer minimum wages of $10 or more.

Naturally, we agree with his ideas on Fair Funding for Philly schools along with his First Chance Trust Fund. As students in the underfunded Philadelphia School District, we recognize the vitality of increased opportunities for students who don’t have support at home.

His co-sponsoring of a Narcan administration training course at Chestnut Hill College is also worth supporting. Although the opioid crisis is not as prevalent in the areas in which we live, we still believe that this is vital for the Philly area and other areas in his district. We hope that Rabb will continue to hold classes, preferably in areas more affected by the crisis than the Chestnut Hill area.

We appreciate his beliefs on gerrymandering. We too agree that the polarization in politics is one of the most troubling issues facing the United States today and gerrymandering is merely a product of that. We do wish that there was a way to limit or fix skewed district lines while addressing polarization in the process.

We cannot, however, agree with all Rabb’s legislative proposals. We respectfully feel that many of his proposals are too extreme to be passed, such as his thoughts on reparations. While we agree with the basis of his desire for reparations, and we all understand the horrors of slavery and what was stolen from African-Americans, we do not see a viable future for this in today’s political world.

Another policy we disagree with is his views on enforcing gun control. We do support his proposed bills to ban concealed carry while intoxicated and at polling places, and we also agree that gun legislation must come from a state level; however, we cannot agree with his means of doing it. By forcing people to join the militia in order to own a gun, Rabb reinforces the “good guy with a gun” mentality that does little to decrease gun violence. Militia membership seems like an extreme and unlikely route of working towards gun control. There must be simpler ways of regulating guns.

As young adults who are getting their driver’s licenses and learning what it means to be a legal adult in 2019, we find it egregious that we are able to purchase a gun before we can even rent a car.

We feel that Pennsylvania should first push for a low level of gun control. We understand that this is difficult in a state such as this one, one that is under so much influence from the NRA and other gun lobbyists, but we feel a mandatory buyback or a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons is necessary. How is it possible that over 72% of Pennsylvania voters support additional gun regulations, but Pennsylvania still remains unable to pass even slight restrictions? We would at least demand mandatory background checks on all gun sales, not just ones through a federally licensed seller.

Once again, we would like to thank Rabb, we appreciate all he has done for our district and all he continues to do. We wish him the best of luck in the future and success as he continues to represent our district passionately and accurately.

Maia McAllister, Theo Wyss-Flamm and Josiah Kane-Howell
200th District Residents and seniors at J.R. Masterman High School


Time to act on 2020 election is now

For many of us who were shocked with the election of Donald Trump in November, 2016, the last three years have been an exercise in Activism 101. His every assault on the environment, immigrants, democracy, the free press, equality, women’s health, voting rights and more provided us with another reason to push against this Administration.

Watching the Republicans in Congress morph into a sycophantic mob that respects Russian propaganda more than it respects American intelligence agencies and the rule of law has been an education on the importance of every vote. Perhaps we took it for granted that the government would grind on and democracy would survive, with or without us.

With 2020 at our doorstep, voting in November is critical. And for those who are depressed, angry and frightened by this Administration and the prospects of our global emergency, the solution is to personally get involved and work with others who have unified to remove the menace from our government. There is nothing as healing and effective as being part of the solution. We are not powerless in the face of this assault on our democracy and all we cherish if we decide to unite and take action. This critical year will go down in the history of America as the period when America’s democracy was either saved or allowed to die.

Ellen Stevenson