PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!

ON THE COVER

CP: In this time of hand-wringing and handouts, it seems the banking industry could use a breath of fresh air. Andrew Thompson takes a look at two Philadelphia residents who are trying to give business-as-usual an injection of environmentalism by starting e3. It’s a banking venture that aims for sustainability both through its lending –homebuyers who build their houses for energy efficiency qualify for lower rates — knowledge of fair-trade and sustainable practices, and their scaled-down, green-as-it-gets headquarters. It’s a tall order, but Frank Baldassarre and Sandy Wiggins have already cleared a few major hurdles to make it happen.

On Sept. 26, 2008, the day after Washington Mutual collapsed and became the largest bank failure in CP_2009-04-23_1.jpgU.S. history, Baldassarre and Wiggins sat in the FDIC branch office in New York to pitch their idea for e3. Given the crisis of confidence rippling throughout the financial sector, they weren’t sure what to expect.

But the FDIC reps received their idea well. So well, Wiggins recalls, that by the end of the presentation, he and Baldassarre were getting pats on the back for a job well done. “I think they were really tired of regulating an industry with no value system,” says Wiggins.

The FDIC also likely knew the same thing as investors, who poured $1.5 million into e3 over two meetings last spring, according to Baldassarre. That is, they knew it had a market — a crucial part of getting government approval to start a bank.

Wiggins speculates that had Al Gore’s environmental warning calls not invaded mass consciousness in the past few years and created a “perfect storm of awareness” in the U.S., e3 never would have gotten past lunchtime conversation.

It might be a tougher sell in Philly than it was to the bigwigs in NYC, though. Thompson has some skeptical sources who don’t see average city residents fitting into e3’s target consumers, and the banking system, as a whole, is predicated on maximizing a different kind of green. Still, e3 — it stands for enterprise, environment and equity — is tough to beat in the boldness andgutsiness departments, and even in this climate, it’s rare to find someone with both money and morals. Kudos all around.

PW: Tara Murtha digs into the mess surrounding the city’s Animal Care and Control Shelter. Only a few months into the Pennsylvania SPCA’s resumption of control over the facility, things have really gone to hell: countless sick animals, vaccines being administered late, if at all, and a steady and consistent stonewalling from officials in a position to comment on or correct the situation. Murtha summarizes:

dog2cover_1.jpgThe situation is so grave that some local rescues say they’re going to stop pulling animals from the shelter altogether and instead focus on trapping and rehabilitating animals right off the street.

It’s a depressing development given that just a few months ago, PSPCA was promising to put Philadelphia on track to becoming a “no-kill” city in five years. No-kill cities only euthanize animals as a last resort, not as population control to make space. Now, with anxious rescues turning to street animals and sick animals bogging down the lifelines out of the shelter, the bad news gets worse: Kitten season is just starting and the shelter is already posting notices on Craigslist that it’s full and desperately needs foster parents and rescue partners to take animals off its hands.

As far as investigative journalism goes, this is the real deal, and it’s not even the first time a crusading writer has taken on the problem; Murtha cites a five-part expose in the Daily News from five years ago that shed light on “The Jungle”-esque conditions. All that, and the city still can’t get it right? Here’s hoping the mounting outrage will get the PSPCA to instate a citizen advisory board like they said they would. Short of that, it seems there’s little hope that the operators will clean up the shelters, much to the city’s shame.
INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: Fat-bottomed girls, you make the opera world go ’round. Sorry, Civil War buffs, this is a Revolutionary kind of town. Philly pantheon: Ben, Penn, and Harry. See third entry here: Holy crap.

PW: Three R’s in Philly schools: Reading, writing and (armed) reinforcement? Bringing everyday drama to the stage. Apparently, Steven Wells has been reincarnated as a “pop super god.” Chifa: Satisfying your mustard air cravings.

WINNER:
Solid stuff all over this week, but props to PW for issuing some much-needed takedowns and for digging in their heels against uncooperative sources. Troubled times demand it, and I salute it.

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