Faye Anderson's Public Comments on Philly's School to Prison Pipeline Bill
Philadelphia, May 21, 2015—Tracking Change Founder Faye Anderson made the following
public comments regarding Bill No. 150406 before City Council:
Good morning. My name is Faye Anderson. I’m a lifelong activist and public policy consultant.
Today I’m speaking in my capacity as a citizen journalist who uses open data to promote
accountability and transparency.
I’m here to express my outrage that City Council would consider authorizing the Commissioner
of Public Property to spend a dime, let alone up to $7.26 million, to purchase land on which to
build a new prison. A prison that would cost between $300 million and $500 million. A prison
that is opposed by the next mayor, Jim Kenney.
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Planning Commission voted to disapprove Bill No. 150406, better
known as the School to Prison Pipeline bill. The Commissioners rejected the staff
recommendation to move forward with the land purchase. It was reported they questioned
whether a prison was the best use of waterfront property.
My question is: What are you thinking? The School District has an $85 million deficit and
Council is considering a bill that would give millions of taxpayers’ money to a shadowy
Delaware corporation with a New York City mailing address and no presence in Philadelphia.
Why waste millions of dollars to acquire land that will remain vacant? Philadelphia is
experiencing a construction boom, but the property at 7777 State Road is a bust. The property
has been entangled in a web of lawsuits dating back to 2007. Indeed, 7777 Philadelphia Loan
Associates got control of the 58 acres in a closed-market sale after the previous owner defaulted
on a loan. Without a land use plan, our tax dollars would be wasted paying off a private lender’s
Through open data and right to know requests, we will eventually uncover the identities of those
behind the land deal, their relationships and campaign contributions. But this is what we know
right now: Bill No. 150406 is a raw deal for the citizens of Philadelphia.
Poll after poll shows education is the most important issue for your constituents. The message
this bill sends is that Council places a higher priority on laying the groundwork for the school to
prison pipeline than building a brighter future for children trapped in 100-year-old school
buildings without librarians, guidance counselors, nurses or air conditioning. Our children are
being set up for failure.
The voters spoke on Tuesday. They want a different direction for the City and City Council.
They want education, not incarceration.
Faye M. Anderson