West Philadelphians Beg Sen. Pat Toomey to Help Pass American Jobs Act
West Philadelphia resident Tiana Smith would like to see a change in her neighborhood. For as long as she can remember—and she’s lived here almost her entire life—there’s been a condemned building at the corner of 55th and Poplar. It formerly housed a gas company, and was then a community center. Its roof has since caved in and it’s become a dumping ground for bottles, bags of garbage, tires, you name it.
Across the street, there’s an overgrown lot. She can remember that being a basketball court, but years of neglect has turned it into another unusable square in the city, filled with broken bottles, spray paint and weeds.
“I just want to do something to change this community,” she said. “I have a 3-year-old and if I continue to live around here I don’t want it to look like this.”
So, Smith called Fight For Philly, a young grassroots community group dedicated to long-term change in the city, neighborhood-by-neighborhood. They’ve dedicated a lot of time fighting against banking interests as well as Senator Pat Toomey’s agenda—and have even asked he get on their side, though he has never acknowledged the group publicly.
Yesterday, Fight for Philly, along with Smith, organized a protest at 55th and Poplar, calling for the passing of the American Jobs Act. They believe the act could help fund construction projects that could bring some much needed change in this West Philadelphia neighborhood. Starting with the parks.
About 20 people gathered at the corner, with some others casually stopping by to see what the event was all about. Fight For Philly organizers asked those in attendance sign their roll call sheet, set up banners hung on the fence outside the once-upon-a-time basketball court and encouraged everyone to do their part if they want to see results from Washington. “Make those phone calls,” an organizer told the crowd. “Call Senator Toomey. He carries a lot of weight.”
Many organizers referred to Toomey’s spot on the congressional “Super Committee,” a group of 12 members of congress charged with finding $1.5 trillion to cut from the United States’ budget over the next decade.
Those in attendance say they’ve placed calls to Toomey, urging him to help pass or compromise on the American Jobs Act, but have often been referred to a lower ranking member of his staff if they get an answer at all.
“He doesn’t want to [help pass the American Jobs Act], because Obama is in there,” said a neighborhood member at the protest who asked not to be named. “He wants to spite Obama; he’s trying to be smart.”
Toomey rejected the plan under the guise that stimulus spending doesn’t work—within hours of its proposal. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, too, has half-heartedly rejected the plan as is, in a rare break from President Obama.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin stated this week that Democrats don’t have enough votes to get the jobs act through, citing many Democratic senators afraid to raise taxes on the rich during an election year.
Mayor Michael Nutter held a press conference this morning again calling for passage of the act.
“I am going to be calling Senator Toomey until he answers,” said one protestor.
“They can do something else than just having [the park and building] sit here,” said Smith. “Even if they just put some benches in here, it’s like, don’t just have it sit there looking like that, collecting dirt. And now people from other neighborhoods come and they dump their trash and tires and stuff. But if it didn’t look like trash people wouldn’t dump their trash over there.”