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!


CP: The Big Vision Awards represent a shift of the usual yearly Choice awards: still pointing out the city’s best and brightest, but with a different, less-consumer-y slant: “focusing on people, groups and institutions who’ve had a killer year, and whose trajectories portend bright futures for themselves — and for the city,” as Brian Howard puts it. Color me impressed. There are some fantastic, off-the-radar choices here: A Court of Common Pleas judge who held off on foreclosure proceedings in the face of the economic crisis. Tim Whitaker, landing on his feet after leaving PW and doing great work — teaching writing to kids in an after-school program. Shannon McDonald, the Temple journalism student who took on the cops.

The truth, that we all know but rarely put in print, is that reporting can involve a fair amount of averting of the cp_2009_09_24.jpgeyes and closing of the ears. It’s not malevolent: Reporters need sources. And so, sometimes, they give cops — and politicians, and others who have power — a little bit of a pass.

McDonald didn’t. When she heard the officer’s comments, she called him out and put his pathetic — and revealing — explanations for his own unacceptable behavior in print. That seemingly simple act resulted in the eventual firing of the offending officer and a slew of articles and columns by McDonald’s peers at the Daily News and Inquirer — the big shots — who seemed more eager to follow this one than break it.

Even traditionally glam categories — Music, Food and Drink — have slightly less-well-known winners this go-round. I like the approach and the photos, and even if I don’t quite see “the keep-Philly-weird thing we’re going for as a paper” that one writer touts, I like the effort to recognize the ones who are really making an impact. More than weirdness, that’s something to be proud of.

PW: Joel Hoffman lays out the figures — and folly — behind proposed sewer improvements in the city. He starts out with the almost-messianic vision ofPWD public affairs manager Joanne Dahme (did you catch that she’s speaking in a church?) and pins it to the tenuous vision of a green future

image3_1.jpg“We feel like this is a truly remarkable plan,” she says, referring to the “Green City, Clean Waters” proposal. The PWD intends to spend most of the $1.6 billion ($1.01 billion) on green stormwater infrastructure, with the remainder put toward stream corridor restoration ($290 million) and upgrades for wet-weather treatment plants ($320 million). Over the next 20 years, another $3.6 billion will be spent on capital projects for the department’s core services: wastewater collection and water treatment and distribution.

Dahme is vague about any financial burden the plan might have on Philly’s taxpayers, but she does say the EPA wants to “make sure we spend your money the way you want us to.” Though she doesn’t explain how that will impact water rates.

Holding back details about the potential cost increase is probably a good idea considering that Dahme is presenting the plan in one of the poorest parts of Philadelphia, a city that barely escaped financial collapse just a week ago. The last thing residents want to think about during times of economic duress is incremental service fees or taxes eating into their ever-shrinking paychecks. But that’s exactly what will happen if the PWD’s proposal is accepted by the EPA.

Rates look like they’ll skyrocket, and there’s a critical infrastructure conflict looming — who will own what? PWD or the Streets Department? How will they deal with privately-controlled land? Hoffman raises a lot of important questions, ones that few city residents seem to know about, much less the answers. I hope his work will prompt more digging into the facts and figures, because ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s pricey.


CP: Crusading against casinos = tilting at windmills? Fight to the Finnish. Another case of headcase-ism in Philly sports. Philly streets 1970-1985: the more things change…

PW: Put a needle on the record. The beef between burger joints. Cut off mid-sentence? Not in Pennsylvania. Siding with the Teabaggers: Some Specter perspective.

WINNER: CP takes it. No “Best” this or “Best” that, no vintage stores or purveyors offensive t-shirts. Just the best Philly has to offer, to both the city itself and, in many cases, to society at large.Kudos to all.

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