Last Week Today is a roundup of all things politics and civics that happened in Philadelphia during the previous week. This includes legislation, news from political officials, government initiatives, and internet ephemera.
Seth Williams Trial
Deputy commissioner Joseph Sullivan testified at the corruption and bribery trial of District Attorney Seth Williams. Sullivan said that he was instructed by Williams to help one of his benefactors, Mohammad N. Ali, get through airport security on two separate occasions. The testimony furthered the prosecution’s case that Williams used his D.A. position to help wealthy associates.
Soros Spending in Philly
Billionaire George Soros donated $1.7 million to Larry Krasner’s District Attorney Democratic primary campaign, according to new numbers from the City Controller. That means Soros spent $33 per vote, which was enough for Krasner to win the primary. Beth Grossman is the Republican nominee.
Seth Williams Trial
Another Seth Williams benefactor testified. Michael Weiss, part-owner of popular Philly bar Woody’s, gave Williams gifts and favors like paying for airfare and letting him borrow his Jaguar convertible. Weiss refused to acknowledge he did any of it for political favors, he said he considers Williams one of his closest friends and does not believe he bribed anyone.
Federal prosecutors tell jury da Seth Williams stole money for his mother's nursing home to pay his ever-growing pile of bills.. pic.twitter.com/vbJlvAiXVx
— Vernon_Odom (@Vernon_Odom) June 20, 2017
Police Choose Grossman
Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) endorsed Republican District Attorney candidate Beth Grossman. Democratic Opponent Larry Krasner is openly for criminal justice reform and some of his supporters were heard chanting “No good cops in a racist system,” during his victory party.
Union’s Contract Dispute Slows Construction
Several construction projects, including the Comcast tower, are slowing due to contract disputes. The International Union of Operating Engineers pulled its workers off of projects around the city. They cannot reach a contract agreement with the General Buildings Contractors Association (GBCA). Projects can barely operate without crane operators.
Heroin Use Rising in PA
Hospitalizations for opioid-related overdoses quadrupled since 2010 in Pennsylvania, and drug overdoses went up 37 percent in the past year. In Philly alone there were 907 fatal drug overdoses in 2016. Cases with the synthetic opioid fentanyl increased as well.
Guns Allowed in Schools
The State Senate voted to allow school workers to have guns on school property. The bill was passed in an effort to make schools safer, but has been the subject of much controversy. The bill passed 28-22, on the heels of an emotional plea from survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. They argued that the bill makes schools less safe. Twenty-six Republicans and two Democrats backed the bill while all eight Southeastern PA Republicans, along with 14 Democrats, voted against it. Under the law, only employees who have gone through a firearm safety plan with local police will be permitted to have a firearm in the school. The bill goes to the Republican-leaning House of Representatives next.
— Senator Hughes (@SenatorHughes) June 28, 2017
Seth Williams Pleads Guilty
Two weeks into his federal corruption and bribery trial, Williams pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from businessman Mohammad N. Ali, bringing the trial to an abrupt end. Williams also resigned as District Attorney as part of his plea deal. The decision comes after the revealing testimonies of Ali and Michael Weiss earlier this week. He was painted as a moocher who shamelessly asked his wealthy associates for money and gifts. Williams will only be charged for 1 of the 29 counts against him, but according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer, Williams “admits that he committed all of the conduct in those 29 counts.” Williams was ordered to jail to await his sentencing trial on Oct. 24. He could face up to five years in prison.
Prosecutors say Seth Williams told the government he wanted to plea guilty at 1AM this morning. He pleas to 1 count of bribery, 28 dismissed
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) June 29, 2017
Weekend 7.1, 7.2
New Jersey Shutdown
The New Jersey government shutdown Friday night, and remained so until late Monday night. A budget-deadlock caused the shutdown, which included the closing of all state parks over the bustling Fourth of July weekend. Gov. Chris Christie is facing criticism for how he handled the shutdown because of a picture that surfaced Sunday. The picture shows Christie and his family, in the midst of the shutdown, relaxing on the beach. And not just any beach, Island Beach Sate Park is where they were, one of the beaches that was closed due to the government shutdown. Christie contends that since his governor’s residence is in the state park, he is allowed to use the beach. Many New Jersey residents and officials have expressed frustration with the governor, and the internet has not been silent either.
— CNN (@CNN) July 3, 2017
— Christian Hetrick (@_Hetrick) July 3, 2017
Another time Chris Christie thought he had the whole beach to himself. pic.twitter.com/VGCYQ565ee
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) July 3, 2017