City on Skwire

A Southwest Philly Blogger lights a fire under Nutter's ass.

By Kellie C. Murphy
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 19 | Posted Dec. 17, 2008

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The neighborhood provides plenty of inspiration for the blog, like the colorful entry he posted about a "giant living asterisk" as a metaphor for the sight of children dispersing from gunfire on the Kingsessing basketball court. That's why Skwire takes the budget cuts so personally; he believes they disproportionately affect Philly's most at-risk residents.

Seven out of the 11 libraries scheduled to close are in high-crime police districts. Skwire worries that vulnerable members of the community--kids, seniors, the disabled--will have to pass through danger zones in order to get to the nearest library. That's why the mayor and a growing cast of characters are now featured daily on Brendan Calling, where Skwire challenges Nutter and Siobhan Reardon, the director of Free Library of Philadelphia, to make that same walk one evening without police escort.


The road to what Skwire calls "Blogsylvania," the state's informal network of online scribes, started with some guest blogging at Fire Dog Lake, a D.C.-based blog, and contributions to local blogs here and there. He says Brendan Calling began because of his long angry emails to friends about what he perceived as negligence within the Bush administration. He annoyed his friends to the point where they all begged, "Dude, start blogging."

It's a task his friends say is perfect for him.

"Brendan is nowhere near as insane as he sounds. He's somebody who has a real heart," says former print journalist Susan Madrak, of the blog Suburban Guerilla. "He really cares about what's happening in the community, and he's not embarrassed about that. He's very fiery. He loves to be outraged."

Though he's just as outraged as Skwire is, 34-year-old Andrew Schwalm, the marketing director for First Person Arts and administrator of the Malcolm X Park blog, admits to leaving the overtly political rants to Skwire.

"I'm not as combative as Brendan," he confesses. "I do write about the murder rate, issues affecting parks and the 52nd Street corridor, but generally when I want to put together a rant, I look to other people, like Brendan, who are much better at that than I am."

One rant that's getting quite popular among Philadelphians is the feeling that Nutter is backpedaling on his pledge to bring more transparency to government, and that his citywide town hall meetings are condescending smokescreens.

"The mayor steadfastly says he refuses to negotiate on this. Quite frankly, when you have that much power and you're telling the people you represent, 'This is the way its going to be, sorry'--that's not give and take. That's shoving people around," Skwire says. "This is a guy who promised greater transparency in his campaign and that people would have a say. This is a chapter out of the George Bush school of politics."

The mad blogger let the mayor have it in a in a Dec. 10 post: "Is it strength when a 'strong mayor' allows his most vulnerable citizens to take service cuts when our wealthiest corporate citizens get away without paying their debts? No: It's a cowardly mayor who won't leverage his political capital, except to play the bully and beat up on those who can't fight back."

Skwire is on a long list of neighborhood bloggers who have become legitimate players on the news circuit, reflecting an ongoing shift in newsmaking in general. An average guy-turned-citizen journalist like Skwire--someone with a WordPress account and a point of view--can break real news, in real time, and offer readers an inside perspective on the social and political issues affecting their neighborhoods. These days, some readers give more credit to bloggers than to old-school news outlets.

Despite his thirst for truth and love of writing, Skwire says joining the mainstream media never enters his mind. He's more like a 19th-century muckraker than a modern corporate journalist.

"I don't want some editor standing over my shoulder telling me I have a deadline to meet or that some advertiser doesn't like what they're reading from me," he says from his living room couch, surrounded by history books, kids toys and an upright bass. For now, Skwire is good where he is--enjoying a vigilante freedom with his blog, as well as a growing following: about 250 visits per day and 450 page views.


Skwire won't apologize for calling the mayor out. He says Nutter should work harder to collect the unpaid debt and secure partnerships from corporations that got fat off the city over the years before he cuts community services.

"I began to look at the earnings of some of the biggest corporations we host in Philadelphia, many of whom have obtained generous incentives to locate here. For example, in October of this year, Verizon brought in nearly $25 billion in revenue, a 31 percent increase, according to CNN.

Many of the blog's commenters agree with him. A response to Skwire's Dec. 12 post "What I Would Like to See" reads: "Much like what the Flyers Mgt. did for ice rinks, I would like to see famous wealthy Philadelphians (former or current) hold a press conference and donate $1M per (or whatever) to the city specifically to keeping a library or pool open. Bill Cosby comes to mind almost immediately as someone whose message tends to have a strong positive streak to it."

Skwire's daily posts keep residents informed on the closed-doors workings of the city. So even with a full-time job, a girlfriend and a young child, he's compelled to write out his anger, sometimes blogging furiously several times a day.

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Comments 1 - 19 of 19
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1. Hannah said... on Dec 16, 2008 at 10:36PM

“Hey Brendan - great story. It's all true people! ....AND F___ THE EAGLES. ....And BTW - did you see this? We're going to have the greenest jail in the country!”

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2. Doc Hollywood said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 07:37AM

“Why are you wasting ink on this commie-pinko-bedwetter-community-activist who wants to do "good" for the people? Why don't you put a real American on the cover like Rick Santorum?”

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3. THETruth said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 08:49AM

“Brendan's publishings usually aren't helpful. First, they aren't always true--take, for example last weeks comments that PW itself repeated about the city closing the Kingsessing rec center. A totally false rumor that PW AND Brendan refused to correct. Second, they don't produce any meaningful change. Can't prove a negative...but please be my guest and proffer up something to prove me wrong. Third, he is bilking someone out of their monies when he blogs from work, which mosts of his most recents posts indicate that he does. Does his boss know and approve of this behavior? Fourth, his opinions seem less relevant --if not irrelevant, considering that politicians' antics would have little to no impact on him and his silver-spoon. ”

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4. THETruth said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 08:52AM

“So there we have, the media and Brendan wasting our time by distracting us from focussing on the real enemy.”

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5. Doc Hollywood said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 09:54AM

“I think the real "truth" is that THETruth is jealous that he is not half the writer or person that Brendan is. Brendan's publishing's are very helpful and vital to a voiceless community. Perhaps THETruth prefers inner city residents remain quiet and illiterate.”

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6. Susie from Philly said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:12AM

“Most bloggers write their posts the night before or early in the morning before work, then time the posts to be published throughout the day. ”

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7. brendan said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:13AM

“"take, for example last weeks comments that PW itself repeated about the city closing the Kingsessing rec center. A totally false rumor that PW AND Brendan refused to correct." that's actually totally inaccurate: in fact, i visited the orignial article posted by ms. murphy here, and commented: "there's clearly a misstatement in the article. So far as i know, it's the Kingsessing pool that's being closed, not the entire rec center." i guess you missed it while you were researching my "silver spoon". Besides, that quote isn't attributed to me anyway: I never said that. And speaking of that spoon, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! I wish I had a silver anything.”

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8. kenny mayne said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:25AM

“oh please, he's not much of writer”

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9. Neil Cleary said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:33AM

“Funny how the internet inadvertently rewards cowards like "THETruth" who lack the cojones to sign their own name under their opinions. Score one for Brendan on that count. If you're going to take someone on, at least do it on an even playing field, ie with your own name. In light of this, this mysterious and unverifiable person's "insights" about Brendan ring hollow, especially considering: 1.) they seem designed to harm him personally rather than contribute to the discussion (Going after a man's job in times like these? That's low, low stuff) and 2.) the "silver spoon" comment (hmmm... racial profiling anyone?) is knee-slappingly laughable to anyone who's read an inch of the blog, in which Brendan chronicles his own near-desperate financial situation which -- (surprise, THETruth!! ) -- are directly impacted by the people he rails against. I would direct your attention to his numerous entries on his own home heating bills, child support payments, education & health care costs -- not to mention those on his own neighborhood safety, directly related to poverty in the neighborhood. It's insanity to claim that Brendan's not personally invested in what he writes about... but it does seem to beg the question of whether the coward behind "THETruth" is somehow personally invested in harming Brendan. Hmmm... And by the way dude, seriously... The Truth? Really? Maybe give yourself a weensy bit more time in picking a fake name next time.”

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10. lutton said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:38AM

“as the saying goes...THETruth is out there--way out there.”

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11. Phillybits said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:33AM

“Speaking of writing.... ”

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12. kenny mayne said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 12:55PM


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13. Jane Goodall said... on Dec 17, 2008 at 06:06PM

““Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read” ~Frank Zappa”

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14. Disgusted said... on Dec 19, 2008 at 03:02AM

“Acutally Brendan from Brendan Calling thinks most people who don't agree with his ideology are idiots. If you have ever read his blog, he completely denigrates anyone who has an opinion that differs from his own. He is a far left liberal who has this sense of entitlement. He blames the government for most things in his life that are lacking. He uses the blog to complain about all the injustices in his life. The most entertaining aspect of his blog are the personal comments he writes about family and friends (his mom being an alcoholic etc). She must have been thrilled to see that was all over the internet. Another wasted article from Philadelphia Weekly”

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15. oprah said... on Dec 21, 2008 at 02:12PM

“amen brother "In a recent post, Skwire confesses to making so many harassing calls to elected officials over the years that it’s nothing for him to use up an entire month of cell phone minutes in just one week" -if that is true, it is pretty lame”

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16. Dr Schuylkill said... on Dec 22, 2008 at 07:34PM

“ The Grinch that stole the Library at Christmas… By Dr. Schuylkill Every Who, Down in Kingsessing, southwest Who-ville, Liked their library a lot… But a new Library director Grinch, From a town far from southwest Who-ville, Did not. The city was going through a tough financial season, Mismanagement of money and an economic downturn was the reason. Budget cuts had to be made, that might be right, But the Free Library’s cut, that was way, way, (20%!!!) too tight. The director decided she didn’t need the libraries, serving the small, And didn’t want any cuts to the prestigious central library at all. The Diabolical Director, Siobhan Reardon, came up with a plan, She figured a way to keep the money, for the central library’s expansion. She would close the library in the neighborhood of the Whos. And for this she set herself up to receive big BOOOOs. It was the day before Christmas was the date of the closing, Where the building would be shut up, and readied for selling. It was Cindy-Lou Philly Who, who first saw the fact, That this was forever a library, as it was written on a stone plaque. Cindy read the words of a man named Carnegie, That said this building would forever be a library. Cindy looked up forever in the dictionary, confused by what she found, As the entry said forever, couldn’t be closed down. Then Cindy-Lou Philly Who told all her Who friends, So that the library that she knew and loved, wouldn’t have to end. Library director Reardon must not know her vocabulary, Otherwise she wouldn’t confuse the meaning so badly. She wouldn’t morally carry on with this library closing endeavor, If she knew the true meaning of the stone carved word, forever. Cindy called the library directors office, but Ms. Reardon didn’t care, But Cindy-Lou Philly Who knew, that this wasn’t legal, moral, or fair. Also Cindy-Lou Philly Who’s mother, was mad as can be, And it wouldn’t be long before the next democratic primary. Mrs. Who and her friends who vote, will definitely remember, The man who ignored, the library sign saying forever. If Mayor Nutter was a smart man, he would know what to do, Find a new director who could keep the library open, for the Who’s. Nutter could be the one to save the libraries, and stand much taller, And he should, because political careers have been lost, over things much, much smaller. The Mayor has in his power, to free the Who’s library from their Grinch, Because there are other ways of saving money, in a financial pinch. Mr. Nutter it time to do the right thing, to be a strong leader and to be brave, Because you know in your heart, that the library branches, need to be saved. ”

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17. phillygrrl said... on Dec 22, 2008 at 09:26PM

“Enjoyed your poem, Dr. Schuylkill. And kudos to a fellow blogger for the great exposure. Obviously THETruth fails to realize that blogging is opinion, not news. It's meant to highlight the author's interests, not yours, Mr. Truth. Brendan is definitely exposing some important issues. ”

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18. Wing Bowl Louie said... on Jan 28, 2009 at 03:38AM

“This guy's thirty-eight years old, and this is where he is in life? Jeez, no wonder he's mad - I'd be mad, too, when I took a good look in the mirror and realized that this is all I've achieved in life. I'm sure it feels cool to be a rebel and live in an edgy neighborhood doing edgy, provocative things, but in reality, the rest of us enjoying the good life in the suburbs (where we have nice libraries for our smart children!!!) just find you amusing. "I will wander around barefoot I will have a psychedelic gleam in my eye at all times I will love everyone I will love the police as they kick the shit out of me on the street"”

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19. Hector said... on Feb 20, 2009 at 10:05AM

“Grant Writer = Parasite”


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