Council opposes plan to give city cash to Fattah's CORE Philly program

Posted: June 15, 2012

CLOUT THIS WEEK is dedicated to winners who are losing — a scholarship program and a new state representative — and losers who are winning — an "Occupy" candidate and a poll on the Phillies.

First up, the College Opportunity Resources for Education Scholarship program, also known as CORE Philly.

This program, created in 2003 by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, provides "last-dollar scholarships" to help college students who are having trouble scraping together enough cash to earn a degree.

The city in 2004 put up $4 million per year for five years to help fund the program. The school district put up another $6 million. That dual funding ended in 2009 amid serious troubles in the city and school district budgets.

CORE Philly has lived since on federal grants here and there, giving out $2 million last year to students in grants that were as big as $6,000 and as small as $100 and averaging about $3,000.

Amid the current city budget strife to find more money for the school district, rookie Councilwoman Cindy Bass this week proposed a way for the city to send CORE Philly $4 million per year by adding a $2 surcharge to parking tickets. Her colleagues did not support the measure, which would have been tacked on to pending legislation to add a $4 parking-ticket surcharge to pay for parks and recreation centers and taxi regulation by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

"This is a program that had done a lot of good," said Bass, who worked on CORE Philly while employed by Fattah. "The success rate is off the charts."

We wondered if the budget crunch was the right time to set up city funding for an outside agency. Bass replied: "There's nothing more important in the city of Philadelphia than making sure that all of our children have opportunities and a quality education, whether it's on a primary level or at a university."

Fattah in April announced that the U.S. Department of Health put up a $500,000 grant for the program to be matched by the CORE Philly endowment, the University of Pennsylvania and other participating colleges.

Not-so-free media

Nate Kleinman had a plan: brand himself as the first Occupy Wall Street candidate for office and then use all the free media attention to promote his run against U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in April's Democratic primary.

He hit a few snags. Kleinman, after predicting that it would be easy to gather 1,000 names on nominating petitions, was booted from the ballot because he didn't have enough valid signatures.

Kleinman then ran as a write-in candidate for the April 24 primary. There were 460 write-in votes for the 13th District U.S. House seat in Philadelphia and Montgomery County. If each one was for Kleinman, that would give him 1.23 percent of the vote.

"In a lot of ways, my strategy was modeled on this being a novel campaign," Kleinman explained. "We expected to get free publicity from that."

Kleinman and his Occupy allies have turned their attention now to the HBO program "Real Time with Bill Maher" for rejecting his repeated efforts to be invited on the show before the primary.

They slammed Maher for saying on his show last week that the Occupy crowd should "actually participate in the American political process" by doing the "boring stuff" like running real campaigns.

Kleinman calls it "pretty ridiculous" that he couldn't get on the HBO show, noting that Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" also passed.

A "Real Time" producer declined to comment Thursday.

Kleinman's complaints are now a bid to draw attention to the Occupy National Gathering being planned for Philadelphia from June 30 to July 4. The quest for free media never ends.

The whipsawed 169th

The state House's 169th District was once again yanked out of Northeast Philly last Friday and plopped down in York County.

That was one result from the state Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which redraws the lines of political districts every 10 years. The commission's first plan, released in December and rejected in January by the state Supreme Court, also pulled the city district to York County.

Ed Neilson, a former staffer to former Gov. Ed Rendell, won an April 24 special election for the seat. He is finishing the last six months of the term for Denny O'Brien, who joined City Council in January. Neilson faces Republican David Kralle in the Nov. 6 general election. The winner gets one two-year term before the seat moves to York County in 2014.

Neilson calls the new plan "very disappointing" and predicts the Supreme Court will reject it like the first version.

Quotable:

"The Phillies are having trouble in the National League East but they are still number one among Keystone State fans."

—Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, announcing this week that a poll of 1,129 adults found the Phillies more popular than the Pittsburgh Pirates, 48 percent to 25 percent.

Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report. Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email him at brennac@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN and read his blog, PhillyClout.com.

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