Philadelphia

Steve Austin, a facilitator of Philadelphia's participatory defense program, talks about tapping the resources of the community that knows defendants.
Bastiaan Slabbers / Keystone Crossroads

It was an early autumn afternoon in 1975 — a moment that Steve Austin wishes he could take back.

Recalling that day recently, Austin took a deep breath, as if he were about to plunge into a deep, dark place.

“I killed a person. I took a person’s life,” he said. “It’s hard for me to talk about.”

Austin, 16 at the time, was selling ice cream at a street stand in his North Philadelphia neighborhood. That afternoon, he and a customer got into a heated exchange over a transaction.

Pennsylvania Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, one of the most prominent voices for reforming Pennsylvania's public defense system, in his office in Montgomery County.
Emma Lee / WHYY

If you hunt hard enough around Harrisburg, it is possible to find lawmakers who are on board with allocating state money for the public defense of the poor.

Possible, but not easy.

One of the most prominent voices on the issue is State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf. The 78-year-old lawmaker, whose Harrisburg tenure dates back nearly four decades, has an issue with Pennsylvania’s system of public defense that is rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

Malcolm Kenyatta, who won the Democratic nod for the 181st district in the Pa. Legislature, cheers during the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016.
Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

The Pennsylvania Legislature is poised to soon make history as it welcomes its first openly gay lawmaker of color.

Malcolm Kenyatta won the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia’s 181st District during last week’s primary, and, given the city’s voter registration numbers, is strongly favored to assume the seat.

For the 27-year-old, who grew up in the projects, the idea of being a role model is appealing.

Students at an art class in Overbrook High School in Philadelphia in 2016. State Senator Vincent Hughes has cited Overbrook as an example of a school in need of repair.
Emily Cohen for WHYY

Pennsylvania’s system for funding school construction projects is old.

How old, you ask?

Current statute requires school districts submit their proposals in microficheformat.

“[Anything] that mentions microfiche is probably worth revisiting and looking to update,” said Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education.

Jovan Weaver, principal of Wister Elementary School.
Jessica Kourkounis / WHYY

Season two of the Keystone Crossroads podcast “Schooled” looks at one elementary school in Philadelphia that sparked debate when the district turned it over to a charter organization. WPSU’s Emily Reddy talked with the host of “Schooled,” Kevin McCorry, who followed the school through its first year as a charter school under principal Jovan Weaver.

James Earl Davis, a Professor of Urban Education at Temple University and his golden doodle, Baldwin, pictured in his home in East Germantown.
Brad Larrison for WHYY

Temple University education professor James Earl Davis and his partner moved into their stately 150-year-old Victorian home in East Germantown in 2001, at a time when the neighborhood was, well, iffy.

“The car was broken into around 2002 because there was money and CDs on the front seat. They broke the window and got those, but that was kind of an urban novice error,” Davis recalled with a knowing laugh.

A view of Society Hill taken from inside the Society Hill Towers.
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

 

biker in traffic
Emma Lee / Newsworks

 

At Keystone Crossroads, we write a lot of practical stories on urban design, policy and politics. But today we're indulging our literary side.

We've compiled quotes that remind us of cities in Pennsylvania, and make us think about the big picture.

Man in hammock
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

For a long time, Philadelphia's Delaware Riverfront was...underwhelming.

Each winter, the city operated a harbor-side ice skating rink. There were also summer concerts and festivals on the waterfront, bursts of life that would fizzle out as soon as the events ended.

But most of the time, people didn't venture down to the river. For one thing, getting to the waterfront requires finding a place to cross I-95, the 10-lane highway that cuts through the city.