Mayoral Candidate Karen Brown Blasts Nutter's Anti-Youth-Violence Plan

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Sep. 7, 2011

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While the law-enforcement aspect of Mayor Nutter’s strategy to combat youth-mob attacks and other violence has been on prominent display around Philadelphia the past month, the other crucial element of his plan—keeping at-risk kids occupied with more positive pursuits—has thus far mostly amounted to keeping recreation centers open a few extra hours at night.

At a cookout in Southwest Philly’s Eastwick Park on Saturday, Republican mayoral candidate Karen Brown insisted that when it comes to the latter solution, the mayor has little to tout. She blasted Nutter for slashing funding to recreation centers and youth programs, claiming that’s what’s led to the recent problems.

“We let government take all their resources away and we drove the kids to that violence," said Brown. "We shouldn't be putting our youth down—we have to find places and things for the kids to do."

As Brown shook hands and handed out campaign fliers, she fumed over the payout to ex-school superintendent Arlene Ackerman. "That million dollars would have covered a lot of kids' projects," she said. "It went to that woman's purse. She didn't need to rape our people. [Nutter] should have gave that money back to the kids."

But state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, standing in the middle of the park in his shorts, shades and polo shirt, offered a more diplomatic perspective. "I know the history of some of these parts of West and Southwest, what happens when you don't have activities," he said. "So thank God we were able to step in where government couldn't this year and saved some programs."

The cookout—which drew more than a thousand people to Eastwick Park—was Williams’ doing. It marked the end of his Neighborhood-to Neighborhood (N2N) "Summer of Peace 2011" initiative, which provided grants of anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars to nearly 50 different organizations and programs throughout the senator's 8th District—which includes areas of West, South and Southwest Philly—that mentor kids, provide activities or work to create safer neighborhoods but have recently suffered from city budget cuts.

Beneficiaries included the Philadelphia Youth Network (which provides job training for high schoolers, dropouts, and court-adjudicated minors), the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center, Girls Inc., the South Philly Rebels youth football squad, and Concerned Men of Cobbs Creek, among others.

The roughly $125,000 distributed via the initiative—money raised through corporate and private donations—was originally earmarked for his annual N2N Street Festival, the popular Labor Day event along Baltimore Avenue that Williams had sponsored for more than 20 years, bringing in big-name performers over the years like Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild and Chaka Khan. Williams said that due to the city's economic struggles, he suspended this year's fest because the money was better spent elsewhere.

"I thought we needed to refocus our values, so we came up with the idea of dividing up the money and working with these smaller groups,” he said. “It's less flash [than the N2N Street Festival] but hopefully more impactful.”

Leaders from many of the groups that received funds through the "Summer of Peace" initiative were on hand to talk about how they've spent the money so far.

"We donated football equipment to one of the youth teams, we donated trophies to a playground where they have a basketball championship, we had cookouts, we take kids places like the zoo and museums," said Eric Holmes of the mentorship outfit Tasker Elite, which also works with at-risk youth at Charles V. Audenried High School in Grays Ferry. Anthony Williams (no relation to the senator) of the Wyde Bodi Truck Club said that as part of his mentoring and community service focus he's led youth volunteers in cleaning up cemeteries throughout Philly this summer. And Eastwick Bike Patrol Lt. Luther Chiles said his group's $5,000 grant went toward purchasing new road bikes and uniforms for the more than 20 youth cadets they signed up this year.

Holmes said the efforts, and the grants, pay dividends. "I have 27 kids [he mentors at Audenried] and I've seen real, lasting changes in at least 13 of them," said Holmes. "It doesn't happen overnight but if you show them love and you listen to them and you are constantly there for them, it makes a difference."

Williams, widely speculated to be entertaining a run for mayor in 2015, had other reasons for hosting the cookout. Like Mayor Nutter, who walked around Center City last month with members of youth-led advocacy/entertainment group DollarBoyz as a show of unity against crime, Williams said that Saturday's festivities—as well as all the sports leagues, arts programs and other events funded by "Summer of Peace"—also represent an attempt to show Philadelphians that despite headline-grabbing incidents like the Kingsessing Rec Center shooting two weeks ago, the majority of youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods are doing the right thing. 

"The truth is, the community at that basketball game was enjoying themselves and not causing problems," he said. "One kid walks in who, for whatever reason—not given enough attention, maybe he's just out of control, who knows—destroyed the atmosphere. Overall, violent crime in the city is down. But it's like anything— if there's a corrupt politician then all politicians are corrupt. If a minister does something inappropriate, then all ministers are bad. [A shooting] like that happens and people write off the whole community. We've got to keep trying to change that perception."

But Brown said it’s the mayor that needs to be leading the efforts, not Williams. “[Nutter] should have been here today. Where is he? He’s not out there encouraging positive things or participating in the positive things. This is nonsense. He needs to go.”

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COMMENTS

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1. Joseph said... on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:05PM

“How exactly did the "government take all their resources away"? Just wondering.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Sep 10, 2011 at 02:31AM

“To answer your question Joseph, the federal government cut millions of dollars in social and educational programs which in turn affect state and local budgets and distribution. Thanks to Washington and our wonderful governor, public schools have closed, youth programs have diminished, educational grants for college will be less available and harder to qualify for, medical assistance and welfare for people who lost their jobs don't exist (unless a long-term disability, a drug/alcohol problem, or children are a part of the equation). Yet, the Gov. Corbett can pump nine digit amounts into building two new prisons and give coal/oil/gas companies tax breaks ...Yeah, that's a way to think ahead. Keep employment availability to a minimal, take away education, youth and social programs to groom people for their new home (prison). Do you not think he knows that crime will rise because people will be placed in more than desperate circumstances.”

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3. Sarah Appel said... on Sep 10, 2011 at 03:01AM

“I hope that crime does not rise.. our black youths have been hurting each other for so long. If they could just catch a break I feel the world would turn. I think the haves should help the have nots. Spread the wealth, it takes a village.”

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4. Reggie Bates said... on Sep 10, 2011 at 03:16AM

“No Sarah, black need to know their place. They throw other peoples money down in order to solve a problem. they are a burden on the city. the create a majority of crime in the city and they are the least likely to help the police. Cry that their sons are killing each other. So what ? Thats like telling mommy and daddy your going too hold your breath until you get what you want. Go kill each other. mayor street was a failure of a mayor, if he wasnt black in a city of failing blacks and weak minded white people, he would never be mayor. WTF, get your crap together people, you know the rules, follow them. Your community and church leaders will not do it for you!!!!! Get your head out of your backsides and man up. Conquer yourself and you will be mighty.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Sep 19, 2011 at 11:32AM

“Karen couldn't even turn a vacant lot into a park on her own street. She is NOT "Ready to Lead" as her slogan goes. She has never achieved anything and I wouldn't expect that she would do so as mayor either. Except to make a real mess of things.”

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6. James L. Grant said... on Oct 1, 2011 at 10:07PM

“Karen Brown is just tailgating what has already been said by Mainly Diop Olugbala ,Took that message to the streets after nutter called a press confrenece from his church putting down African youths when he spends 1 billion from a 4billion dollard a year budgect ,on Police courts ,the DA office ,and the Prisions ,thats what Independent candidate for mayor Diop Olgubala Also known as Wali Rahman has been saying all along ,,Nutter ha spent 1 billon dollars on ecomic developement in the Black ,Latino and the poor down pressed community again tis message is and had been Diop Olugbala talking about on the streets every day,he's from the community and has the pulse of the community come and take this fight to the polls on election down and tell city hall to stick it.”

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