From Boyertown to bonuses, from corruption to contraception: The 2017 issues that mattered to us | Editorial
A look back at a year in editorials.
This editorial board writes more than 300 editorials a year, and we want each one to inform readers, improve our world, and make a difference. Here is a review of our opinions on some of the most important issues in the city and state for each month of 2017, and the progress (or lack thereof) that has been made since.
In reaction to the election of Donald Trump, millions of women protested in Washington and in cities around the country — 50,000 in Philadelphia alone. Even though it was the largest protest in the nation's history, the key question remained: Would it make any difference?
The Upshot: Harvey Weinstein. Matt Lauer. Dustin Hoffman. Garrison Keillor. Al Franken. Roy Moore. Twelve months later, the fall of these and other powerful men amid public accusations of sexual harassment — which also lost Vincent Fenerty his Parking Authority job and surfaced in allegations against State Sen. Daylin Leach and Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams — suggests that the spirit of gender solidarity in January lived well into the year.
An Inquirer and Daily News review found many Philadelphia City Council members skipped required annual ethics training. Why does it matter? The Board of Ethics has issued settlements for investigations for nine of the 17 current Council members since 2015. We urged the board to hold more regular training, and for Council to partake.
The Upshot: The Board of Ethics said all Council members received the training in 2017.
Congress repealed a protection for Planned Parenthood patients who get family planning care through Title X. Not long after, the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. In Harrisburg, a bill moved forward that would place further restrictions on the organization. We said, "This morally bankrupt strategy imperils a basic lifeline for health-care services in many poor communities."
The Upshot: Ten Planned Parenthood health centers closed in the Midwest and Southwest in 2017; two states now lack any Planned Parenthood services.
The culture wars came to Boyertown, and we applauded its School District for not flinching at a lawsuit that would prevent a transgender student from using the boy's locker room to change for gym class.
The Upshot: The district stood firm, refusing to bow to groups that press so-called bathroom bills in state legislatures. A federal judge in August denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the district, which is now under appeal.
The Inquirer and Daily News revealed that the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee in Philadelphia paid $1 million in staff bonuses from a surplus. The $86 million to pay for the event included a $10 million state grant. We criticized former Gov. Ed Rendell, host committee chairman. He defended the bonuses as "deferred compensation" for early, unpaid work or low staff salaries.
The Upshot: Gov. Wolf on Dec. 4 issued new restrictions, prohibiting staff bonuses funded by "special event" state grants.
We called the city's deal with Conrail to clean up a notorious railway gulch in Kensington and Fairhill, which served as a way station for heroin addicts to inject and was littered with thousands of used needles, "a rare win in the demoralizing fight against the opioid crisis."
The Upshot: That crisis hasn't abated. In fact, opioid deaths have lowered the life expectancy in the U.S. for the second year in a row. Philadelphia is on track to record 1,200 deaths for this year.
City Councilwoman Cindy Bass used the summer break to visit "stop-and-go" stores that sell beer using state licenses, masquerading as restaurants. She later proposed a bill requiring some store owners to remove bullet-resistant barrier windows. On one side were customers who saw the windows as disrespect. On the other were store owners who said they protected employees from robberies and other violence. We said Bass could wind up with blood on her hands if the barriers came down.
The Upshot: The legislation passed, but amended to remove the mandatory ban and instead instruct the Department of Licenses & Inspections to draw up regulations by 2021 for the "use and removal of any physical barrier" in places that serve food and alcohol.
City Councilwoman Helen Gym's response to Confederate statues protests – a tweet that the 2,000-pound, 10-foot-tall statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo should be removed from its location across from City Hall — touched off a battle between Old Philly and New Philly tinged with the still-reverberating ring of Philadelphia racial politics.
The Upshot: While the Kenney administration said the statue will be relocated, the city's Art Commission still has to hold hearings and vote on its fate.
The state's Liquor Control Board raised prices on hundreds of brands of wine and spirits, which we called "the latest reminder of the need for lawmakers to privatize the State Stores."
The Upshot: The state has loosened laws to allow the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores. But even with those improvements, Pennsylvania remains out of step with the majority of the country.
To pay for a $32 billion spending plan passed in July, state lawmakers agreed to expand gambling, among other things. As we pointed out: "How could this state have generated new revenue of nearly $2.4 billion a year in the last 10 years (from gaming) but still can't craft a budget that doesn't end in panic and chaos at the end of each year?"
The Upshot: Pennsylvania is now second only to Nevada in gambling.
A mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, became the latest chapter in the country's gun horrors, just weeks after a gunman killed dozens in Las Vegas. America in 2017 saw 341 mass shootings, defined by four or more people shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Philadelphia made that list 11 times in 2017. Going into the weekend, the city had seen 314 homicides, 80 percent killed with guns, in 2017, the highest rate since 2012.
The Upshot: President Trump, in his inaugural speech, promised: "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." Not even close.
Former State Rep. Leslie Acosta, a Philadelphia Democrat, started 2017 by resigning on Jan. 3; she ran and was reelected after secretly pleading guilty to a federal felony embezzlement charge. Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams pleaded guilty to a bribery charge. Former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary, who spent 20 months in prison for lying to the FBI, ended 2017 by announcing his run for the U.S. House.
The Upshot: Can we go a year without an elected official in the city not being indicted and/or incarcerated?