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Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 7-8:30pm


Nikil Saval called the meeting to order at 7:05pm.

Minutes from the October 10 and November 1 General Meetings were approved.

Statement on Academy at Palumbo

Nikil presented a statement written by George Donnelly and Lizzie Rothwell regarding the building damage (collapsed ceilings and standing water) at the Academy at Palumbo (1100 Catherine Street, Division 19) that occurred over the past weekend. The statement demands that the School Board and our elected State and City officials address the issues at Palumbo and all our schools with urgency and transparency through proper funding and actions.

The statement was adopted with the following additions:

    • Students who do not return to class due to safety concerns should not be charged with truancy.
    • All children should be tested for lead immediately and in 30 days to assure there is no lead exposure.  

The final version of the statement is attached to these Minutes and will be sent to members of the press and posted on our social media channels.

Treasurer’s Report & Fundraising

To date, CP’s have contributed $700 to our PAC.  Venmo and PayPal accounts have been set up to facilitate donations.  Dermot Delude-Dix will send an email with instructions for donating through these accounts.

There are two fundraising events planned prior to the election:

  • A forum on funding public education is scheduled for October 3rd at Gloria Dei/Old Swedes’ (916 S Swanson Street).  Speakers will include Dan Urevick-Acklesburg, Honey Polis, and Nikil Saval. We will be asking for a donation to the Second Ward to support the GOTV effort for the 2018 General Election and beyond.
    • Sara Jennings will communicate the date and details when finalized
    • Each committee person is encouraged to bring two friends.
    • Assistance with set up and donations of food and drinks will be needed.
  • A GOTV Weekend Rally at OX Coffee Shop will be held the first weekend in November (exact date TBD).  Speakers, music, food, drinks and fellowship will be provided to energize us for the final push.
    • Will Gross will finalize date and other arrangements and communicate to the Ward Committee.

We also discussed having casual post-canvass bar events where we can invite friends and ‘pass the hat’.

Canvassing/GOTV Update

Kelly Morton reported that to date, we have had two weekends of canvassing with 14 shifts and 133 conversations.  Sixteen more shifts are scheduled for this weekend. Kelly reviewed the reporting structure for scheduling and carrying out our coordinated canvassing efforts — Sara Jennings is coordinating our overall effort and there are 5 regional leaders who are contacting canvassers to schedule and confirm shifts: Ellen Greenberg, Julia Tackett, Kristin Dator, Heather Atkinson, and Gloria Gilman. On each weekend day between now and the election, there is a canvassing hub where walklists can be picked up and returned and a trainer is on hand to run through the canvassing script.

We are using the Voter Access Network (VAN) database to capture voter information such as language spoken and voter preferences. The current walk lists target weak to moderate voters who need additional encouragement to get to the polls on election day. As we get nearer to the election, the lists will be modified to include frequent voters as well as return visits to people who have already pledged to vote for Wolf and Casey.

It was noted that these lists do not include all our constituents and there is a concern that we are missing unregistered voters. CPs are encouraged to reach out to neighbors who are not on the VAN walklists on their own in order to get as many potential voters as possible registered before the deadline (October 9th).

    • Additional volunteers are needed.  Please contact Sara Jennings if you can help.
      • Hub hosts are needed for Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm.  Volunteers will come by for training and to pick up and drop off walk lists.
      • Data entry volunteers are also needed on Saturday and Sunday nights.
      • Translators for Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese are needed.  Please contact Sara Jennings and Lizzie Rothwell if you have a volunteer with these skills.
Constituent Services

Nikil reiterated that our general approach for constituent services is to operate as facilitators rather than as ‘fixers’.  Resource guidance will be published on our website to cover neighborhood, City, State and Federal level concerns. When the issue is recurring or impacts many constituents, it may be appropriate to get more involved as committee people. 

Fern noted that some senior citizens may need help with Medicare/Medicaid.  She offered to put together a factsheet to help.

Election Day Committee

Amanda Feifer O’Brien provided an introduction to the work of the Election Day Committee, which has four main priorities:

  1. Staffing the polls (Highest priority):  This has been a major issue across our Ward in the past.  Amanda will send out an email with a list of each division’s acting Board of Election members (those who worked the last election).  Committee people must contact the complete board, starting with the Judge of Elections, to be sure that they will be managing the polling place on November 6th. If there are vacancies, we need to work with the Judge to find poll workers. Amanda will be contacting each pair of CPs with information about the BoE in each Division. 
  2. Supplemental Board of Election Training (beginning in 2019).  
  3. Addressing Polling Place Issues.  There are notable irregularities in some polling places often due to inadequate training.  CPs will be trained as Poll Watchers so that we can properly record issues and report them to our Ward Leader or the District Attorney as necessary on the day of the Election.
  4. Training Committee People in basic rules so that we can improve Election Day experiences for our voters.

Gloria Gilman asked whether we are also responsible for recruiting poll watchers. The answer is yes — to be discussed further at our next General Meeting.

Note: State law currently requires the BoE to work for the entire day (~14 hours), which makes recruitment of new election officials difficult.

The next Election Day Committee meeting will be held the week of September 23.

Communications Update

Our basic website ( is now up and running with some great graphics created by Martha Rich.  Thanks also to Akiva Rubin, Caroline Tiger, and Ben Block for their work on the website. We will be adding more information to the site over the next few weeks and providing translations of the Voter Resource pages.

Alison Perelman asked whether we will have email addresses tied to our website domain. Due to security concerns, we are not going to currently but may revisit this topic after the election.

Closing Notes

Kimberly Washington is organizing a cookout/voter registration event in the Courtyard Apartments on Saturday, September 22. Everyone who is available is encouraged to attend and bring food contributions.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:20pm.

2nd Ward Democrats Statement on the building damage at the Academy at Palumbo

On Tuesday morning, students and staff at the Academy at Palumbo arrived at a school building with collapsed ceilings and areas of standing water on all five floors. Heavy rains over the weekend had overcome the roof that was flagged for $500,000 in major repairs in 2015.

For too long, the children of Philadelphia have gone to school in decrepit buildings with flaking paint, damaged asbestos, mold outbreaks, and toxic levels of lead in the drinking water. The flooding at Palumbo is just the latest example of the intolerable conditions that our children have to endure in order to receive an education and the costs of deferred maintenance of our public facilities.

The Second Ward Democrats condemn the systemic failure of governance that has allowed our schools to fall into such disrepair. We ask for transparency from the newly appointed School Board on the conditions of our school facilities and their plans to address them. We call on our state officials—Representative Mike O’Brien, Representative Brian Sims, State Senator Lawrence Farnese, and the rest of the Philadelphia County Delegation—to demand action by the state legislature to address the unequal funding of schools across the state. And we call on our elected city officials—Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla—to immediately push for municipal legislation that will properly fund our schools. There is no higher priority in our city than the right of every child to receive a quality education in a safe, well-maintained building.

Students at Palumbo were dismissed early on Tuesday but told that classes would be held in the damaged building the next day without receiving any credible assurances from the administration or the district about the safety of their building, which has already had numerous documented instances of lead residue and asbestos damage. The school district should take responsibility for testing students’ blood lead levels to assess the lead exposure risk. Additionally, any student whose parents choose to keep them out of school out of concern for the environmental impact on their health should not be penalized for truancy.

These measures are meager restitution to offer students who are facing a choice between their health and their education that they should never have to make. The 2nd Ward Democrats stand with Palumbo’s students and parents—and those throughout our city—in demanding better.