Folks, we got trouble right here in Philadelphia. Trouble with a capital “T.” And that rhymes with “C” and that stands for CORRUPTION. All the major institutions in this city are wretched hives of patronage hires, hacks and shady backroom deals. There is zero accountability for the police, the unions, the politicians and don’t even get us started on the PPA. There is just one candidate running for City Council that aims to do something about it. His name is N. A. Poe and he is running on a platform of pulling back the curtains of secrecy and letting the disinfecting sunlight shine on our institutions, of holding police, prosecutors and the PPA accountable and the restoring the long-trammeled civil rights of the citizenry of our fair city. Though his opponents and the media may paint him as a joke candidate, a Wavy Gravy-style jester promising unicorns and free doobies for all, N.A. Poe is in fact a very intelligent, sincere and well-spoken young man and his cause is just and righteous. It is for these reasons that Phawker has formally endorsed his candidacy. Perhaps we are tilting at windmills, but we’d rather go down fighting for what we believe in than surrender to the hopelessness of the corrupt and contented. You may say that we are dreamers, but we are not the only ones. More will come after us, and more after them. Every day the old ways die a little more. Real change is as inevitable as the status quo is unsustainable. We urge you to think long and hard about who you are voting for on Tuesday and what they represent. Is it just more of the same? How’s that workin’ out for ya? The messenger of change is knocking on your door, Philadelphia. The question is, are you going to let him in?
PHAWKER: Handicap your chances of getting elected to City Council. What is the likelihood of an N.A. Poe siiting in the at-large seat in City Council this time next year?
N.A. POE: If I was a betting man, I’d say the odds are about as likely as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year or about as likely that 19 guys with box cutters hijacked four planes on 9-11. But seriously, it’s up to the people of Philadelphia. I’ve given them an unique opportunity to actually create real change and shock this corrupt system to it’s core. I’m on the ballot, so now it’s in the hands of the voters to decide if they are fed up enough to elect a wildcard like myself. I would be shocked if I won, but stranger things have happened. Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected as governors for chrissakes.
N.A. POE: The best way I can help protect the rights of Philadelphians is by exposing the backroom deals between union bosses, corporate interests, and politicians which make rule of law such a joke here. The first thing is to immediately reconvene the Ethics Committee which has not met since 1993, and it must be both given real teeth by President Clarke as well as total independence from his influence over normal Council rules. The meetings will be filmed, entirely public, and held weekly, even if I have them alone in my office, as long as I am in Council.
I’m running for common sense public safety policies, like marijuana decriminalization and putting cameras on cops to reduce complaints and excessive use of force. I want funding immediately stopped to the fusion center surveillance complex in South Philly. The Philadelphia Parking Authority is a parasite and needs to go, along with all the Vichy Republicans who control and play ball with the union’s boys, who also have to go. A new or reformed agency, with over 300 million bucks in gross assets and enormous revenue rededicated, could serve as a large part of the solution to the funding crisis for Philly schools.
PHAWKER: In 2013 you were arrested during a pro-pot legalization rally on Independence Mall — the very cradle of personal liberty — for igniting the wrong kind of leaf and then inhaling the ensuing smoke. For this you were tackled by three park rangers, hogtied and thrown into jail for five days. Why were you held for so long after your arrest? Please summarize the disposition of your case from arrest to now.
N.A. POE: I was held for five days after my arrest because the U.S. Attorney and the park rangers framed me up on charges of assaulting a federal officer, which was complete horseshit and did not happen. I eventually took a plea deal and copped to disorderly conduct, interfering with agency function and possession of marijuana. I then waited seven excruciating months to be sentenced on the charges and am currently five months into a one year probation term. They’ve tried multiple times to silence me throughout probation and continue to stalk my social media pages, doing their best to stifle my right to free speech, which is appalling. They have went as far as dragging me back into court to demand that I no longer associate with The Panic Hour, which I created. They’ve tried to force me to not live with my girlfriend because she’s an activist as well. The Feds have made it their mission to break the law and stomp on my rights to prevent me from organizing people in acts of protest against unjust laws. I’ve had my ups and downs with probation and will not shut up and they hate it. Fuck ’em.
PHAWKER: Last month you were scheduled to make a statement of support at the Darrin Manning hearing outside Family Court, but at the last minute you were called in to see your probation officer at the exact time you were scheduled to speak. Coincidence? Harassment? Do you think it infuriates prosecutors that you are running for office to overturn the law that ensnared you in the criminal justice system in the first place?
N.A. POE: It’s most likely a coincidence, but that doesn’t mean the probation office doesn’t bust my balls constantly. I’m pretty sure that my probation officer gets his marching orders directly from Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Goldberg. He’s a good little lapdog. They deny my right to travel, to speak and work. I have weekly pee tests, house visits, they even go as far as to monitor my free speech on the internet. The lengths these fascists will go to silence my activism and dissent is disgusting. It’s my job as an activist and a comedian to push their buttons. I’m sure it makes them sick that I am running for City Council and that they have to see my face plastered all over the media. They can try their best but they will never break my spirit or stop me from using my humor as a weapon. I sent my prosecutor an autographed copy of my Metro cover story the other day and thanked him for the inspiration to work within the system to change the law. I hope the cocksucker couldn’t digest his lunch because of it.
PHAWKER: It is clear there is zero accountability of the the Philadelphia Police department. The ‘Tainted Justice’ cops walked, Lt. Josey got his job back after sucker punching a woman on video that went viral, there are hundreds of complaints lodged against almost every police precinct in the city for brutality or harassment. And on it goes. If elected, what would you do to reign in the cops?
N.A. POE: It’s obvious to anyone that is paying attention that there are police everywhere and justice nowhere. The whole country is turning into a fucking police state. A day doesn’t go by where you don’t hear a story about crooked cops or police corruption. There is no accountability and they operate with impunity. As a Councilman, I will propose that all police in Philly be required to wear cameras on their uniforms. The police in Rialto, California, are required to do this. In the first year, complaints against the police dropped 88 % and the use of force dropped by 60%. I also think we should stop hiring cops with neck tattoos. I really feel like the requirements to be a police officer have gone downhill and it shows in the quality of officer we are putting on the streets. I know it’s not an easy job and for the most part, I respect the police. Let’s bring some dignity and class back to wearing a badge. What ever happened to protecting and serving the people?
PHAWKER: You are running on the promise to end stop-and-frisk. What do you say to supporters of the policy that say it takes illegal guns off the streets and is responsible for significantly lowering the once-skyrocketing murder rate in the city?
N.A. POE: I would say that the numbers in around this issue flatly contradict both claims. While Philly has understandably touted its reduced murder rate over the past few years, in places like the 22nd District and other “high crime zones,” where people of color are being shaken down without cause, violent crime has in fact gone up. So unless the argument is that harassing black kids in poor neighborhoods has somehow scared them away from killing people in Old City, which would be hard to defend logically and morally, holding on to this policy of terror has no upside.
PHAWKER: You are also running against the so-called ‘fusion centers’ that Homeland Security is setting up across the country. Most people probably don’t even know what I am talking about. Please explain what Fusion Centers are and why you are so opposed.
N.A. POE: Fusion centers can come in lots of forms, from one office in a high-rise to command complexes like Philly’s Delaware Valley Intelligence Center which is located on 600,000 sq ft plot on Oregon Avenue. Fusion centers are supposed to be the solution to the problem that the 9/11 Commission found led to the attack on the WTC not being diverted, which was that intelligence agencies were not sharing information or are sharing it inefficiently. The problem with the DVIC and other fusion centers is that there is very little evidence that they do anything to prevent crime, and they often violate civil rights while not protecting us. The city spent tens of millions to build the center with funding that was suspended for a time for suspected malfeasance, and we need to immediately stop the one million dollar a year commitment to the operation until we at the very least get a lot of answers from Nutter.
PHAWKER: You are a stand-up comedian but I read that you alienated yourself from the local comedy scene for being too social justice-oriented. Please explain.
N.A. POE: Stand-up comedy is where I got my start, so I’ll always be grateful that I learned how to speak in front of crowds, make people laugh and engage an audience because of it . All of those skills have been vital in my development as a performance artist, satirist and now a politician. But to be honest, it bores me to death as an art form. The repetition, the cliques, the dick, fart and rape jokes — it’s just not my scene. Nobody wants to hear my jokes about drone planes and FEMA camps in this town and you know what, I don’t blame em. People want to be entertained and most of the time the lowest common denominator is what they’re looking for to escape the doldrums of their daily lives. I’ve always been inspired by dudes like Lenny Bruce, Abbie Hoffman and Hunter S. Thompson, guys that lived their act. That’s what I’m trying to do in my own way. I would eventually like to transcend the idea of what a comedian does, blur some of the lines.
PHAWKER: One of your campaign promises is to dismantle the PPA. Is that not controlled by the state? Assuming that’s feasible, how would you replace the school funding that PPA tickets and fees provide?
N.A. POE: The line “Abolish the PPA” is really for effect, in that I cannot personally vote for that as a councilman. However, with the potential of Democrat, and possibly a local Democrat in Harrisburg, practical steps might soon be taken to make more of our money not just in tickets but in taxes altogether stay here in Philly.
We need an income generator to fund schools, the PPA is an income generator to fund the PPA salaries and pay for vehicles, buildings, and equipment, is sent off to the Commonwealth for pet projects of the Governor’s friends, and trickles back to the general fund with scraps going to schools after the machine has its fill. Council just raised parking rates a dollar, yet this year they will give $ 4 million dollars less than last year to the schools. So no matter what, I will speak out, lobby, fundraise, and campaign to end the predatory relationship between Philly’s parking enforcers and Philadelphians. We definitely need the Parking Authority’s money for schools, I would also accept them immediately agreeing to provide it.
PHAWKER: Like the police, unions are out of control in this town — and I say this as a firm supporter of the concept of unions as bulwarks against the greed and abusive labor practices of the owners of capital. Because I think that the behavior of certain Philadelphia unions feeds into the Koch Brothers narrative that unions are greedy, corrupt and thuggish, and that only serves to turn more and more of the work force away from unions, which is a major reason that unions are in decline and so too is the middle class. What can/should be done?
N.A. POE: Unions are supposed to be a foil to the power of money, in Philly it has become the pigs in the farmhouse, oinking and swilling and no different to the eye than the exiled farmer. Johnny Doc and his lieutenants brag about their power and Emma Goldman would be rolling in her grave. The first thing you do is elect me to City Council, and then elect others who do not owe their jobs to the Dougherty cartel. If Ed Neilson is elected that’s three seats Johnny Doc might as well hold himself. This is simple and seems impossible in Philly, but I’m running so that people see that there is an alternative to the machine.
PHAWKER: If you don’t win, what comes next for N.A. Poe?
N.A. POE: Regardless of what happens, the experience of running this campaign and being able to do it with such an intelligent group of dedicated people has been priceless. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll do next and I’ll probably take a little breather when this wraps up. I have a great partnership with Scrapple TV, they have been essential in helping us create campaign propaganda and I will continue to create content with those wackos. I will be starting a weekly podcast with them over the summer. I will most likely run for public office again in the near future, maybe for mayor and will use this experience and what I’ve learned from it to come back bigger and stronger. I will continue to host shows, protests and events and remain active in my criticism of politics in Philly. I really wanna do some traveling once probation wraps and take my work to a national level. To me, building a career means never letting one project define your work. It’s been a crazy year for me and I look forward to whatever happens next.