McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management.

McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management company that privatized entire Chester Upland School District, then cashed out.


In early, January, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee (PBOC) released a statement, “Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?”  It documented the role a Rob McCord led venture capital firm played in privatizing the Chester Upland School District; a move that not surprisingly, quickly led to a fight with the Teacher’s Union.  McCord’s involvement was also documented by AP Ticker on Scrapple TV highlighted by Philadelphia Weekly.

PBOC submitted the statement to the Progressive Democratic Caucus (PDC), which was asking for verifiable information about candidates, in order to develop their scorecard.  PDC was successful in getting a response from the McCord Campaign.

The McCord Campaign’s response was defensive and disturbing.  It is immediately below, followed by our response.

Rob went to Pennsylvania public schools and credits them with giving him the foundation for his future academic and professional successes.  He’s not a proponent of school privatization, he is a full-throated advocate for Pennsylvania’s public schools.
Here are the facts:

–  When Rob was at PA Early Stage Partners, the firm, on behalf of the teachers’ pension fund, invested in a small, start up company called Learn Now.  It was founded by two Morehouse grads who wanted to make a difference in the education sector.  One of the founders, Jim Shelton, is now the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.  Here’s his bio:  The other, Gene Wade, continues to be an advocate for innovation in education.  Here is his bio:

–  This is really nothing more than PA Early Stage Partners investing in two start-up business owners from an inner city background who were trying to find ways to improve the educational system.

–  When Learn Now was bought by Edison, the teachers’ pension fund made a small profit and got their initial investment back.  Rob and his partners did not make any money from the sale of Learn Now to Edison.  It’s worth repeating that last part: Rob and his partners did not profit from the sale of Learn Now to Edison!

–  Once the sale of Learn Now to Edison was complete, PA Early Stage Partners no longer had any stake in either company.

We believe the McCord Campaign response sidesteps fundamental questions about his policy beliefs and responsibility.  We believe we deserve more from a candidate for Pennsylvania’s highest office.

What roles does he believe for-profit education management companies should play in public education?

Would he have led Early Stage Partners to invest in Learn Now, if he knew, that just three months after it won the contract, it would break its word to the Chester Community and sell to Edison Schools?  – that shortly thereafter Edison Schools would fight the Teacher’s Union?

Rob McCord has not once on the campaign trail referred to the attack on public schools as a privatization effort – rather his rhetoric, along with some other candidates, has attempted to narrow the scope and define it simply as a funding issue.

Further, as a matter of policy the McCord Campaign saying he is “not a proponent of school privatization” is contradicted by the later stated support of Jim Shelton and Gene Wade.  They both have personally have profited from for-profit education management companies that have not served students.  Wade continues to do so and Shelton went on to advocate policy that enables privatization.

His bio page at the Department of Education uses code words like “Teacher Quality” and “School Choice” and while the McCord Campaign holds up his position at the U.S Dept. of Education to validate his legitimacy, that office has been at odds with Public Education movements and the policies advocates like Diane Ravitch have called for.  Indeed, the head of that department, Arne Duncan’s visits to Philly, have been often met with protest.  What’s more is Shelton’s career includes time at the Gates Foundation, a huge proponent of privatization.  Pittsburgh’s elected school board is being threatened by the Gates Foundation right now, precisely because it has cancelled contracts rather than close schools and is standing up for high quality public education and against privatization efforts that the Gates Foundation advocates.

Gene Wade is a pioneer of for-profit education, that the NY Times described as “more entrepreneur than educator.”  He has a long track record of educational failures, including in Chester with Learn Now.

So, again, here are the facts:

A venture capital firm that Rob McCord led, invested in a for-profit education management company – LearnNow, that was a driving force in the privatization of the entire Chester Upland School District.  Even worse, LearnNow made promises to Chester and emphasized it had differences with Edison Schools, but 3 month later cashed out for over $30 million by selling to Edison Schools – a fact McCord’s company prominently displayed on it’s website, as a win.  Edison Schools, then with more power took on the Teacher’s Union in Chester, on its way just a few months later to attempting privatization of the entire Philly School District.

If Rob McCord is unapologetic about investing in for-profit education management companies, then he should make that case, and see if Pennsylvanians agree with him.  If he recognizes people were wronged and that this is the wrong direction, then he should take responsibility for that mistake.

Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?

and other questions about the soul of the Democratic Party.

The struggle for a well-funded and vibrant Public Education system in Philadelphia has been long and storied.  The School Reform Commission’s announcement that it would close 23 schools, was the latest outrageous development, and one of the many severe consequences of Governor Corbett’s decision to cut $1 Billion from the state education budget.  The school closings, as has been well documented, happen in almost exclusively low-income and majority African-American neighborhoods.


The resistance has been fierce.  It has been led by young people, parents, teachers, school safety staff, and unionists from many industries.  It has included massive student walk-outs, hunger fasts, civil disobedience, and much more.  The resistance has operated with a unity and clarity of purpose that brought organizations together, and engaged thousands of people, who sought to put their outrage to good use.

There is nothing that will challenge that unity and clarity more than the Pennsylvania Governor’s race.  It is with this in mind, that we believe we need to examine Rob McCord’s candidacy, particularly as his campaign just released a video that puts forward his experience as a businessman as giving him perspective on the need for Education.  This is in line with Mayor Nutter’s governing strategy, which has often suggested that “government is a business.”

However, Philadelphians and Public Education activists who have had to fight Mayor Nutter are clear that this type of thinking has been detrimental and in some cases devastating to Public Education.  It is precisely the approach that has led to schools that run like factories or worse, prisons.  It is exactly that “cost-effectiveness over everything” mantra that has led to program cuts, school closings, and attacks on teachers.  In fact, leading anti-privatization activist Diane Ravitch just posted a blog praising new elected NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio for appointing an educator – not a businessman, to be the city’s Chancellor of Education.

On this key point, it is not just Rob McCord’s recent campaign video that is disturbing, but more importantly, his record.

0120 MCCORD  JRH 22871

In 2001, Public Education activists fought against the state take over led by Republican Governors. This included fighting against a for-profit education management company, Edison Schools’ bid to privatize the entire Philadelphia School District.

Rob McCord, at that same time, was a leader of Early Stage Partners PA, a venture capital firm.  Under McCord’s leadership, Early Stage Partners PA invested in LearnNow – a for-profit education management company with revenue of $38 million dollars per year.[1]

LearnNow’s CEO was a fellow Wharton School grad, a businessman by the name of Gene Wade.  The NY Times described him as “… more education entrepreneur than educator.”[2] LearnNow, with Wade, at the helm worked to establish private, for-profit, management of Chester Schools.

Early Stage Partners PA’s website, at the time, boasted LearnNow as part of it’s portfolio,

“LearnNow won a very important contract representing a total of 2,350 students in the Chester, Pennsylvania Upland School District. Shortly thereafter, in July 2001, Edison Schools (Nasdaq:EDSN) acquired LearnNow in a stock transaction valued at approximately $30 million.”[3]

LearnNow received a contract to manage Chester Schools and just three months later, sold the company to the main competitor, they had sought to distinguish themselves from.  The New York Times put the sale even higher, at $38 million.  That sale meant profit – good returns on investment for Rob McCord and other Early Stage Partners PA investors, but it did not sit well with those tasked with the education of Chester’s young people.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted at the time, the concern this caused Public Education activists like Keith Reeves, director of Swarthmore College’s Center for Social Policy Studies, he said,

“LearnNow really knew how to focus in on and energize the community. They had persuaded us that they could offer us something very different [from Edison]. One has to question whether they can deliver that now.”

Chester Public Education advocates also pointed to the duplicitous nature of an education management company that “won” a contract in March 2001, and just three months later sold the company to Edison Schools for $38 million.

Charles Gray, whom headed the Chester Upland district task force that crafted the recovery plan said,

“I’m disappointed. I have some problems with it. . . . If [the two firms] had initially come to the process with this arrangement, I’m not sure it would have been accepted.”

It is no surprise that just a few months later, when Edison Schools, who had since brought former LearnNow CEO, Gene Wade on-board, would push to demand concessions from teachers.  Their for-profit approach demanded they please their investors at all cost, and they were more than willing to fight educators on the ground for resources and power.  Businessmen were to get richer.  Teachers were to get poorer.

These types of decisions, those made to maximize profit at the expense of young people, mislead public officials and parents, and fight Teacher’s Unions are at the core of the privatization agenda that Early Stage Partners PA under Rob McCord’s leadership, participated in.

The Democratic Primary for Governor offers many candidates who, in the primary, will commit to restore funding.  However, the primary offers few candidates, who dare to take on the problem at its root, and challenge the privatization agenda.  Could this be because candidates like Rob McCord have donors and friends who like him have personally profited from the privatization agenda?

The future of Public Education in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania is in many ways a question of who will win the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.  The struggle for how to address Public Education challenges has a strong relation to another key aspect of this battle: how Democratic Party fundraising is conducted.

What we see is that big donors are largely businessmen who invest in elections to see a return, what will the return be in this election?

The “Third Way” – Wall Street-financed wing of the Democratic Party has pushed to abandon the fight for democratic campaign finance laws.  They’ve done so because their donors demand that their “right” to influence elections (disproportionately) be protected.  So more and more we see even Democrats opposed to what the majority of working people need and want, such as Public Education and Public infrastructure broadly.


Rob McCord puts forward his “prolific fundraising” as an asset – but an asset for who? How does that shape his accountability?

It is Democrats who fight for real campaign finance laws and democratic regulations on investment who are assets to the majority of us.  The majority of us could not, like Rob McCord, rely on millionaire friends or donate $200,000 of our own money, to fund a campaign, like he did in his bid for PA Treasurer.  It is a history that’s only made more disturbing with the perspective on how this money is made – in one case, through the privatization of Chester Schools.

The vast majority of Americans believe there is too much money in politics.  Seventy-Six percent believe it gives rich people disproportionate influence.[4]  It is this pay-to-play electoral terrain that has incubated the destruction of Public Education in Philadelphia and beyond.

It is no time for a Democratic Party nominee whose rise to power was an egregious abuse of Pennsylvania’s lack of campaign finance laws.  This is no time for a nominee who has personally profited from the privatization of schools.



* This photo was published by the Philadelphia Public Record on Dec. 13th, 2013.  It shows Rob McCord at the Blank Rome party at the Pennsylvania Society gathering.  Blank Rome is a law firm that specializes in services like White Collar defense, Banking, and Finance.

A)  “It’s in the Country’s Best Interest for Poor Folks To be Smart’: The most compelling opportunities for social entrepreneurs are the public schools.”, Fast Company, Rekha Balu, November 2000.

[1] “Edison Schools to Acquire LearnNow, Inc.: Combines Nation’s Largest Schooling Company With One of Industry’s Fastest Growing ”, PRN Newswire, June 4, 2001

[2] “For Profit and People: UniversityNow Rides a Low-Cost Wave”, The New York Times, Anya Kamenetz, November 1, 2013

[4] “Reuters Poll: Most Americans Think Too Much Money in Politics”, NewMax, Thursday, 24 May 2012,
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A Few Things I Think We Should Learn From MCTC’s Attack on Professor Shannon Gibney

Opine Season

As many who are within this network are aware and many I’m sure who are not, Shannon Gibney, a Professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), recently received a formal reprimand from the institution.

 The reprimand was due to the discomfort of two white male students who said they were being personally attacked while Professor Gibney led a discussion about structural racism in her political science and communications course.  These very students interrupted Professor Gibney during the discussion, expressing that it was upsetting to them that it was being discussed at all.   MCTC went so far as to identify Professor Gibney’s conduct in the class as a violation of the Non-Discrimination Policy and she was directed to meet twice with the Chief Diversity Officer to learn how to be more welcoming to people of  all backgrounds.

 It is an outrage, albeit not…

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A Choice to Believe in Our Own Power

PBOC announces its intent to endorse John Hanger for Governor.

It is a choice to believe we can turn back the tide on the privatization of Public Education.
It is a choice to take on the monied interests that infect even our own party.
It is, at its core, a choice to recognize that we deserve better, to believe we can achieve better, and to seize the opportunity in front of us.

From public education and public sector union-busting to corporate tax breaks and mass prison expansion, the privatization agenda out of Harrisburg threatens the future of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians – this is a Governor’s race with the highest of stakes.

And the Corbett-backed “Voter ID” laws threaten to suppress the political will of the majority, preventing us from fighting back against economic policies that benefit only the wealthy few.

Walter G. Smith school in Point Breeze closed as a result of Governor Corbett’s cuts to the state education budget.


Point Breeze community members have also watched the Corbett administration deliberately defund Cheyney University – the country’s oldest African-American Higher Education institution.  School closings in Philadelphia happened in majority African-American and low-income neighborhoods.


Taken with the Cheyney effort, this suggests that, much like Ronald Reagan, the Corbett Administration hopes to use targeted attacks against the African-American community and public education as a way to set the stage for the privatization of everything, undermining the public infrastructure necessary to have real democracy.

Hanger’s campaign earlier this week released a statement entitled, “Top education policy goal – stop the war on public education.” Here is the thesis:

“Funding shortages are only the symptom – not the root cause – of our public education problems… We must recognize that the crisis in our schools has been largely manufactured by those with ideological and financial interests in destroying them. Unless we accurately diagnose the problem, we won’t come up with the solutions needed to correct it, and our public schools’ problems will persist. We are facing a well-financed and organized privatization movement whose money has bought support in Harrisburg, not only on the Republican side of the aisle, but on the Democratic side, as well… I am the only candidate for Governor who is willing to expose the cynical strategy of the privatization interests to damage and destroy public education so they can divert more and more taxpayer money into the privatized schools they operate.”

Hanger has publicly criticized the school-to-prison pipeline. And, “in Philadelphia,” he says, “where a decade of state control has not improved the city’s schools, it is time to restore direct local control and abolish the School Reform Commission.

On marijuana reform, the Hanger campaign has stressed, “Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws are being enforced in a racially discriminatory manner against African Americans… prosecuting and jailing people for the non-violent offense of using marijuana ruins lives, stresses our judicial system and strains our prisons.

These are the words of those who speak truth to power, and yet if the people come together, and exert power, they could also be the words of our next Governor.

When we found out that the John Hanger for Governor campaign was touring the state with a Save our Schools initiative, we reached out and asked to meet with his campaign staff.  Mr. Hanger asked to be there himself.

We were surprised to find that he was one of us.  He attended public schools and took out federal student loans to complete law school.  He lived in Philadelphia for 12 years and worked at Community Legal Services for 4 of those. After working at CLS, his work consisted largely of advocating for low-income consumers in the world of energy and public utilities, fighting to keep gas and electric bills low for working-class households. He has also been a proud union member.


During our meeting with his campaign, he pointed out that he was the most progressive candidate in the race; however, with the exception of eliminating the death penalty, all of his positions are majority positions in Pennsylvania.  A sign of the times, is it not?

The will of the people – of the majority, subjugated so that the top 1% of income earners can have more money and more power.

And yet, people in Philadelphia have not been willing to go down without a fight. Student safety staff, along with students, teachers, organizers and clergy, fasted for two weeks to win their jobs back after budget cuts. Thousands of young people have organized student walkouts. Hundreds of parents are filing complaints with the State Department of Education claiming Philadelphia’s public school conditions are unconstitutional.

As we look for leadership from those who have stood up, and as we gain clarity that our vision is shared by the majority of people across this state, the words of the poet June Jordan, could not be more a propos:

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The Point Breeze Organizing Committee will join with NORML, the families of Dimock, PA, and others across the state, to stand up – not just against Corbett, but for strong public infrastructure, high quality public education, and democracy.

We are in fact the only ones who can build a Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that we deserve.  Join us, and let’s wait no more.


Check out this video from a few months back of PBOC members interviewing John Hanger:

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First Corbett. Then Feibush.

PBOC will stand for the Public Good and defeat 21st Century Reagonomics in the both up-coming elections.

Two stewards of 21st Century Reagonomics

Governor Tom Corbett cut $1 billion dollars to the state education budget.  In early March, the effects of the budget cuts were felt deeply in Philadelphia, and the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted to close 23 Philadelphia neighborhood schools.  Walter G Smith School, an elementary school at 19th and Wharton, was one such school, that Ms. Wilma Frazier reminded us, has been a pillar of the Point Breeze neighborhood.

Then, in August, as the Philadelphia School District looked for the funds through which it could safely open schools, the Corbett Administration released a statement calling for an extension of a sales tax and give backs from Philadelphia Teachers.

It’s important to note that American Teachers in general make less money that their counterparts in other developed countries like Switzerland, Germany, or Japan; and Philadelphia Teachers make less than their suburban counterparts.  Most countries with high performing Public Education systems have high paid teachers, in other words, lowering teacher pay is bad for students.

With the August statement, the Corbett Administration demonstrates callous disregard for Philadelphia’s young people and particularly those of less economic means.  Corbett refuses to tax the highly profitable natural gas industry and instead proposes pushing that burden onto working-class people through regressive taxation measures and attacks on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT).

Diane Ravitch, whose principles and conscience, have led her to go from being a public official appointed by the Bush Administration, to being the nation’s premiere anti-privatization activist, recently posted this graphic on her blog.


It shows the school closures have disproportionately effect Black communities and low-income communities.

The Corbett Administration has also pursued other policies that hurt the working poor – in spite of protests from Point Breeze’s State Representative Jordan Harris and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Republicans under Corbett’s leadership have pushed an effort to privatize liquor stores, which would eliminate jobs and leave reduced compensation for the jobs that remain.

It gets worse, PA Republicans, under the leadership of the Corbett Administration have paired these attacks on the majority with an effort to suppress the political will of the majority.  Governor Corbett signed into law “Voter ID” legislation, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported would disenfranchise about 10% of voters across the state and 18% in Philadelphia.

Here, we see shades of not just the economic policy agenda of Ronald Reagan but of his approach to politics.  Ronald Reagan, prior to his election as California Governor, opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, calling it “humiliating to the South”.  As President, he even went so far as to oppose the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The recent decision of the U.S Supreme Court to overturn key provisions of the Voting Right Act must be understood as the logical conclusion of the trajectory that Ronald Reagan’s leadership put the country on.

Further, we have to understand the focused attacks on African-American’s political rights, are not just racist, they are a tactic for creating the political conditions necessary to attack the vast majority of people in the country.  Economic inequality broadly has increased exponentially since the Reagan agenda took hold.  Just before Ronald Reagan took office as President, the average CEO made 42 times that of their worker.  In 2010, thirty years after Reagan shifted the country’s trajectory, CEOs were making 343 times that of their worker.

This is the legacy that Governor Tom Corbett is a part of.  He is a steward of 21st century Reagonomics.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

What did he actually mean? He meant that for those who had money and power, “government,” and the possibility it affords for democratic participation, was a barrier to the richest among us – the top 1% – becoming even richer.  If there are organizations designed for the general welfare, and if there are institutions where everyone has an equal say – well, that’s a pesky thing for monied interests who want to accumulate money and power. “Government,” according to his formula, is reduced to a mess of bureaucratic red tape in the way of business, rather than the sphere in which we must struggle for democratic inclusion and policies that promote equity and the public good.

One of the challenges the Reagan Administration ran into was that its policies designed to consolidate money and power in the hands of the few were not very popular.  However, it responded to this challenge in aggressive and politically sophisticated ways that would inspire new generations of Right-Wing activists.

First, rather than engage in public debate around various social programs or openly criticize their necessity, the Reagan Administration would simply de-fund them behind closed doors.

Second, it enacted a divide and conquer strategy – Reagan’s team deliberately cultivated the racism and fear of white working-class and middle-class people.  Reagan’s calls for “Law and Order,” that began while he was Governor, were designed to cultivate deep fears in the electorate following the race riots in major American cities. As President, he would give speeches filled with bogus tales of “young bucks using food stamps to buy T-Bone steaks” and “Chicago welfare queens who drive Cadillacs.”  This mythology from the Hollywood storyteller was used to cultivate resentment and generate an understanding, particularly among white people of all classes, that there was a “parasite class” threatening the nation.

Third, once generally white, working-class and middle class people accepted this “parasite class” existed, it was then easier to win them over to a regressive economic program, such as opposition to all taxation and opposition to so called “big government.”  Why should they, who work so hard, they reasoned, have to supplement the others who aren’t willing to work?

While one could take great moral issue with the budget, particularly defense spending, the truth is that the vast majority of spending on social programs goes into programs that everyone, except the very wealthiest, rely on: programs like Social Security and Medicare.

So, Ronald Reagan’s legacy is both an economic and political agenda.

Economically, it is to:

  1. Privatize everything –defund the public sector, criticize the diminished capacity of government to respond, then points to the failure as a reason to further de-fund.
  2. Oppose any democratic government regulation on business.
  3. Reduce taxes on the wealthy and move the tax burden to the working-class.
  4. Attack unions and workers’ right to organize.

Politically, it is to:

  1. Use racism and coded language to divide and conquer the electorate.  Particularly invoke mythology of “criminality” and “parasitic nature” of the African-American community.
  2. Promote racially tinged narratives in order to cultivate identification with a leader, as a representative of the “silent majority” i.e.  interests of the few, represented as broad white sentiment

With this economic policy agenda and approach towards politics in mind, we can see that Ori Feibush, too, is a steward of 21st Century Reaganomics.

First, Feibush and his supporters don’t openly criticize the idea of public infrastructure or democratic government, but instead they design their rhetoric to suggest it’s only lack of competence and effectiveness, and particular City officials, that they oppose. However, the actions of Feibush and his company, OCF Realty, are designed not to invest in and improve democratic government, but rather to take private control over land use and public safety.

He opposed land in Point Breeze being held in the public sector for affordable housing. He has bypassed, obstructed and dismissively criticized the community-input process around zoning and land use.

Second, Feibush’s interviews where he points to a gun on his hip, or press releases about privately-funding increased camera surveillance on Point Breeze Avenue, or attacks on Kenyatta Johnson’s office for being too lenient on crime – this is the updated “Law and Order” playbook, and Feibush has cast himself as the new sheriff in town.  Also, as PBOC has documented in “OCF Realty and the Incubation of Hate” and in “Top 5 Examples of Ori Feibush, OCF Realty and its Allies Incubating Hate,” Feibush operationalizes a media infrastructure to paint all long-term, usually African-American residents of Point Breeze, as criminals, parasites, racists (against white people), or poor people who don’t know what’s in their own best interest.

Third, once people have accepted these respective understandings of government, and accepted to some degree the representation of the neighborhood, it’s easier to develop in ways that are highly profitable for Mr. Feibush, but will result in economic displacement for many in the neighborhood.

Mr. Feibush’s support for the ten-year tax abatement offers a case study in 21st century Reagonomics.  It is supply side economics that Mr. Feibush is able to portray as helping the middle-class.  The truth is, as a matter of policy, the ten-year tax abatement, benefits each respective new resident, a little, by subsidizing their purchase of a home, they might otherwise not be able to afford.  However, its overall effect is that of publicly subsidizing demand for developers like Ori Feibush, who then privately profit.  The people cut out of the deal are the same people whose neighborhoods are experiencing school closings in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia.

However, it serves Mr. Feibush’s interests perfectly, because he not only benefits financially, he is also able to present himself as representing the broad interests of all new residents and young professionals who are in the neighborhood and want to move to the neighborhood.  Like Ronald Reagan, Feibush has been successful in building racially tinged narratives and cultivating identification with him and his leadership.  Many new residents, even-progressive minded people identify with Feibush.

We – the Point Breeze Organizing Committee, in the past, had made the mistake of feeding into this dynamic, for example, we were wrong to ever suggest the issue was “yuppies moving in.”  And we must be crystal clear at every opportunity that our beef is not with new people moving in, but rather with developers who place profits above people.  With this clarity that has emerged through dialogue with new residents and older residents, the question of our objectives have been brought into focus:  We must build the broadest possible principled unity around the general welfare of all residents and protection against economic displacement of any residents.

It is with this clarity of intention that we must turn our attention towards the Governor’s race and the defeat of Tom Corbett.  There is no threat more severe to the general welfare of all Point Breeze residents and Pennsylvanians than a second term for Governor Corbett.  We talked in depth about what is at stake for Point Breeze residents here.

We will do voter registration drives, voter education, build phone trees and the like, so we can participate in the massive turnout from Philadelphia that will be necessary to defeat Corbett.

Then, we will pivot, and join others in Point Breeze and through out the 2nd District, in defeating Mr. Feibush’s campaign for city council.  We will not allow his campaign to hide their own interests in the rhetoric of “a better Point Breeze.”  Nor will we accept competence in carrying out an agenda that he benefits from as proof that he can be competent in carrying out an agenda we would all benefit from.  We will defeat Mr. Feibush.

With the defeat of these two stewards of 21st century Reagonomics, we will be part of ushering in a new era of defense of the Public Good and expansion of Democracy.  Onwards.

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What’s At Stake for Point Breeze in the Governor’s Race?

On September 25th, Laporshia Massey, a sixth-grader at Bryant Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia began having asthma issues at school. Because of massive budget cuts to our public schools, Bryant can only afford to staff a nurse two days a week. There was no nurse at school that day – no one trained to recognize the severity of the symptoms. A school staff member drove Laporshia home at the end of the school day because she felt weak. She collapsed in her father’s car on the way to the hospital, and she died from asthma-related complications later that night.

Jessica Desvarieaux

In 2011, 289 school nurses worked in Philadelphia. Now only 179 nurses work in the district.

There are many forces responsible for the gross underfunding of our public schools, but few of them have had as major an impact as Governor Tom Corbett. He has decreased education funding by $1 billion, when one third of that money was supposed to go to the School District of Philadelphia. No other school district in the state has suffered as severe budget cuts per student as Philadelphia since Corbett took office. And over 80% of school closures have occurred in African-American neighborhoods. Civil rights leaders have called the conditions in Philadelphia’s public schools unconstitutional, saying that Pennsylvania’s education funding so underserves low-income communities of color that it’s illegally discriminatory. No wonder that when the Point Breeze Organizing Committee announced our platform at an event on June 29th, “Get Corbett Out of Office!” got the loudest response.

Announcing the Platform

We are told that budget cuts are necessary to close the budget gap. In other words, that the money’s not out there. But the governor has passed other policies that keep us from being able to fund public education – and not only public education, but other public goods that we value and rely on: parks, libraries, youth programs, rec centers, transportation.

The state legislature under Corbett has passed tax breaks for corporations to the tune of $600 – $800 million per year. He refuses to tax the big drilling companies that are drilling for natural gas in rural Pennsylvania, which would raise significant funds. He’s allowed poor-performing Charter schools to suck millions of tax dollars into private Charter companies with no accountability. He even withheld, until recently in the wake of the tragedy of Laporshia’s death, $45 million in Federal funding for Philadelphia schools, demanding that our teachers’ union weaken its contract in exchange for the money – bargaining away students’ futures just to bust unions.

Tom Corbett Come Talk to Public School Parents

In Point Breeze, longterm residents – including seniors on fixed incomes – are told that we have to put up with skyrocketing property taxes to fund our public schools, all while our public schools are defunded and closed down. The result is that we have all been paying more – supposedly for public education – and getting less.  We are also told, in Point Breeze, that the 10-year tax abatement for new development is necessary to attract wealthier people to our area, and that once they’re here, we’ll be able to fund the schools by taxing them.  One wonders if we’ll have many public schools left by then – and in the meantime, as documented by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), the abatement is a public subsidy for private developers while our schools are starving.  Corbett’s regressive solutions to economic challenges at the state level create the context for similar approaches locally.

Fight Privatization

There are other ways to fund public education, and many of them could be implemented by a Governor who was willing to tax major corporations their fair share and hold Charter schools accountable. As it is, we are scrambling to come up with school funding in our city, when we rely on the state for almost half of our education dollars.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the state house plan to continue pushing their privatization agenda in part by passing Voter ID laws that disproportionately suppress the democratic voice of the elderly, African Americans, immigrants, and poor people who are most affected by their economic policies.

Governor Corbett’s policies embody the worst combination of anti-democratic and profits-over-people agendas. They come down hard on our neighborhood of Point Breeze. We’ve set out to fight for a people-first development, for our right to a neighborhood and a city where African-American communities and all working-class people can have both the economic necessities for a good life, and the political power to decide our futures. We’ve fought the bullying and silencing tactics of OCF Realty, which we’ve documented, and their profits-over-people development model.

We also recognize that their push to use money and intimidation to have disproportionate influence over Point Breeze happens in the context of a bigger picture – statewide policies that inhibit our ability to have healthy and stable lives, organize, and have a voice in what is supposed to be our democracy. Corbett’s policies, from education and taxation to mass prison expansion and voter suppression, are shaping our neighborhood from the state level. They constitute a major attack on our ability to build the political power we need.

Not only will we be limited in what we can achieve locally if we allow this governor’s race to pass us by – we could miss out on a major opportunity. This is a moment when we can do more than just throw up our hands and say, “Anybody but Corbett!” It is not enough to know what we are against – what are we for?

Much of Philadelphia can be united around the need to elect a governor who will restore full funding to our public schools, hold Charter schools accountable, stop prison expansion and the racially-biased criminalization of young people, and tax large corporations to fund job training centers and other public programs. Going in to the Democratic primaries in May, we can take a close look at the candidates to determine who is mostly likely to implement exactly those policies. We have an opportunity to fight for our interests across all of our issues, and as part of a broad motion in Philadelphia for a progressive, people-over-profit vision of our neighborhood, city and state – with the public education imperative at the center.

Voting Helps Save Schools

For all of these reasons, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee is looking seriously at focusing our work on this governor’s race in the next period. We look forward to working with those who share a commitment to economic justice and political power for working-class and African American communities, and an interest in a well-funded, thriving public sector and a truly democratic city and state.

Top Five: 5 examples of Ori Feibush, OCF Realty, and its allies incubating hate.

1.  “Po Black People Against Prosperity”

CS PoBlk-2-small

Close OCF ally, Chris Sawyer, under his PhiladelphiaSpeaks, user name “Artic Splash: Dixie Enormous” writes that the name of Point Breeze’s community organization should be the above.  Less than three hours later, Feibush posts.  This would-be civic leader, says nothing about the virulent racism, of his friend, instead he reports, business is going well.

2.  Vagina pic text message;  a woman PBOC organizer received the below, from an unkown number, the day after the march, along with other vulgar messages.


3.  Internet stalking and disregard for privacy as a form of intimidation.

Philadelinquency, the pro-gentrification website – owned by Chris Sawyer, posted a story about the cease and desist letter sent to Haley Dervinis.


A commenter, “MantonSt. Resident” reffers to Feibush’s practice of using IP Addresses to identify people. The user says Feibush is often incorrect. The user goes on to say that the only reason he doesn’t post his actual name is because of Feibush’s constant retaliation.


Feibush, true to form, responds by posting the name, “Tyler Westnedge” with an IP Address; insinuating that he knows who “MantonSt.Resident” is.  “Tyler Westnedge” using a username with his own name, then responded- it was not him and for Feibush to cut it out.  He is rebuffed by Sawyer who calls him, “Mr. Prissy Pants.”


4. Spreading misinformation: the manufacturing of “”

The morning of the PBOC’s march, there was an incident of vandalism –someone threw a brick through the window of OCF’s coffee shop.  It was convenient for OCF in that, for those outside the neighborhood, it shifted the narrative to one where Feibush was a victim.  The vandalism occurred at 6am.  Only 90 minutes later (see creation time below), an acknowledged friend of Mr. Feibush launched the website, “” with a corresponding youtube page, and twitter account. The site’s sole article argued that the act of vandalism was connected to PBOC’s march.  It also posted the surveillance footage.

PBCriminalswebsite-small  whois-small

Feibush, was apparently lucky, that he had a friend who was up that early and in such a small amount of time, had the idea for a website, obtained the domain, built the website and corresponding social media, uploaded and transferred the surveilance video footage, wrote the article, then recruited supporters to promote the website on places like the Newbold Neighbors facebook page.  At the very least, it demonstrated an unwillingness to investigate and speak responsibly.  The police did not agree with Feibush’s claims that it was the Point Breeze Organizing Committee and apparently neither did some of the Facebook users.


5.  Disrespect of women.

Mr. Feibush himself has participated in all the threads the below examples are pulled from.  He usually doesn’t use vulgarity himself, however this would-be civic leader, doesn’t intervene either.  And it certainly doesn’t stop him from asking this exact group of people to turn out to support him for zoning meetings.  Older examples include speculating with disgust what it would be like to sleep with longer-term woman residents, and one long-time community activist is reffered to as a “turd,” for saying she felt disrespected at a Newbold Neighbors meeting.

In the lead up to the march, PhiladelphiaSpeaks user, John Goodman posts, “Can someone post a pic of the girl organizing this?  I’m not on fb…want to know if she’s hot?”


After photos of the march came out, PBOC Organizers are said to be “ugly,” “look like a man,” and be “too frumpy for tight jeans.”  All part of creating a cost for anyone who stands up, particularly women.


One of the most appaling treatments of a PBOC organizer, is the way Ms. Gwen (pictured above) is talked about; “Loveisnoise” user speculates if she “has an innie or an outie” and writes, “I’m a tax paying citizen and have a right to know what happened to her weave, and if the curtains match the carpet.”





This post is a follow-up from a previous post, “Ori Feibush, OCF Realty, and the Incubation of Hate.”

The Point Breeze Organizing Committee had a successful march, commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the March on Washington, and chanting down Point Breeze Ave. to protest OCF Realty.  A video the march, produced by The Media Mobilizing Project can be viewed here.

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Ori Feibush, OCF Realty, and the Incubation of Hate.

An exposé on the anti-woman vile and intimidation that is the dirty work of OCF’s profit over people gentrification model.


Some have looked at the on-going conflict between the Point Breeze community and OCF Realty owner Ori Feibush with confusion.  They see a neighborhood in need and a young entrepreneur with plans to “improve” the neighborhood.  It’s such a perfect fit, they reason, that anyone against it should be dismissed.

The photo above, posted by a close OCF ally, Chris Sawyer, to the website he owns Philadelinquency, suggests something different about the nature of this conflict, and it points to something very different about Ori Feibush’s intentions.

The people of Point Breeze have a rich and vibrant history of standing up to build community and fighting for what’s right.  Mamie Nichols, Al Brown, and Alice Shockley are but a few names that immediately come to mind.

Point Breeze residents have attempted to secure affordable housing, good schools and jobs, freedom from violence and incarceration, and build vibrant culture and arts.  Most of all, as the “I am a Man” mural on 19th and Federal might suggest, we have fought and do fight to be treated with dignity as human beings, and to have the right to exercise political power over our lives.  Political power is in fact the only way we will meet our needs.

There have always been obstacles to achieving our goals and OCF Realty and its owner Ori Feibush is but the latest obstruction.

Ori Feibush, who just announced an intention of running for City Council, stands to gain financially and politically from a more affluent class moving in and working-class and poor families moving out.  OCF’s interests are what get hidden in all the rhetoric about improving the neighborhood.

We don’t have to speculate about Mr. Feibush’s intentions; we simply have to look at his actions.  OCF and its allies use multiple attack platforms to push their agenda for the neighborhood.  They push for policy and use legal threats; they intimidate, threaten people’s jobs and spread misinformation.  And they have developed a blog and message board infrastructure designed to support their ability to do all these things.  It’s designed in fact, to incubate hate and create a cost for anyone who might stand in their way.

Ms. Betty Beaufort is a proud woman  who has lived in Point Breeze for 40 years.  She’s been a leader of the Save the Libraries Coalition, involved in Townwatch, and now working to implement the Affordable Care Act against opposition.

The Inquirer printed a Point Breeze based story at the beginning of the year which ended with the line, “what Point Breeze really needs is more Betty Beauforts.”

A thread immediately appeared on the pro-gentrification blog, PhiladelphiaSpeaks.  Mr. Feibush was the second comment, “I just threw up a little,” he wrote.


Ms. Betty, understands, They attack me for standing up for my community and the things I believe in” she says.

Incubating hatred of Black women and framing the story.

(This section removed at the request of Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze while they explore legal options)


Cultivating and Incubating hate through blogs and message boards.

Feibush isn’t just like thousands of other Internet users – mean when on the Internet.  He is a smart businessman doing something much more deliberate.

Feibush frequents the PhiladelphiaSpeaks message board and the Newbold Neighbors Facebook page.  He also owns, and a friend and close ally Chris Sawyer owns Philadelinquency.  Sandy Smith, who talks openly about having Ori’s back, is an editor and writer for many real estate blogs.  These are only some of the blogs that then incestuously reference each other, often deliberately misrepresenting the opinions of the few, portraying them as broad consensus.

OCF and its allies, operationalize this conglomeration of blogs, message boards, and Facebook pages in order to: 1) Shape news stories that OCF has interests in, 2) Recruit newcomers and cultivate a shared identity and ideology of those whom OCF calculates it needs as part of its coalition.

“I think it is cowardice, divisive, divide and conquer tactics” says Ms. Gertrude DeVose, a long time Point Breeze community member. “It encourages segregation.  It fosters an ‘us versus them’ attitude and mentality.  This does not make for good neighbors.”

However, to ensure its success in advancing OCF’s interests,this consciously developed ideology must have an “us” and “them.” In fact it must have an “other.”

It must cultivate the “welfare queen” imagery and produce disgust for the so-called ‘criminals’,‘parasites’ or ‘takers’ that make up the neighborhood.  It promotes fear of long-term residents and validates blight as the central problem facing the neighborhood.

The ideology is dynamic but its common thread is the dehumanization of long-term African-American residents.  The thrust of contempt for long-term residents is necessary because otherwise it’s hard to justify a business model that displaces them.

In that way, racism and sexism are convenient tools for OCF.  That’s not to say the hate spewed isn’t genuine, it’s only to say, it also serves a broader purpose.

Further, the ideology must have an enemy.  Feibush and his cohorts build on the right-wing narrative of small business owners up against the Government.  OCF uses the media network to feed the idea that government can’t provide for you, all the while advancing political efforts to prevent government from providing for people.

The network of blogs and message boards is what breathes life into this ideology and so the legitimacy of the network is crucial to OCF’s ability to advance its interests.  Mr. Feibush is ever active; sometimes spewing hate himself, but more often trying to seem above the fray.  However, he’s always engaging and validating the conversation, and in the case of his own blog, directly incubating this hatred that is the necessary undercurrent of OCF’s profit-over-people gentrification model.

Cultivating and Incubating hatred to justify action.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones” the popular saying goes, “but words will never hurt me.”   That’s why it’s important to recognize the network that Mr. Feibush utilizes is not designed to be just words, it’s designed to be a launchpad for other attacks.  It is meant to give the order to swing the stick, and then defend the times they throw the stones.  Its purpose is to create costs and consequences for members of the community who want to nothing more than democratically participate in decisions that will affect their life.

“I want for the people of Point Breeze to have a voice in the development of their community” says Ms. Haley Dervinis who moved to Point Breeze in 2006. “ In regards to development, I would like to see cultural and socioeconomic diversity, small business owners, and people first decisions.”

However, Haley’s vision of Point Breeze ran into opposition from OCF and Mr. Feibush.  The dispute arose over a proposed OCF project on Annin St.  OCF’s plans required zoning variances and thus they would need to present their plans at an RCO meeting before attending a zoning board hearing.

Haley, worked with her block captains to oppose the effort and she ran square up against OCF’s media strategy.

“In my case, the articles published on NakedPhilly after our community meeting and zoning hearing were one sided with some major details missing. I believe this was done on purpose to bolster support for the developer and to minimize our community’s valid concerns. To me that’s done by someone who is fearful; fearful that the community’s ability to make their own best decisions will stand in front of the developers desire to make more money by exploiting them.  To make matters worse, when people on PhiladelphiaSpeaks were writing awful things about the situation and me, the developer fueled the fire by writing what I consider to be falsehoods to further escalate the already aggressive opinions.”

She passed a petition signed by 90% of her block, which stood in sharp contrast to the “support” for the project, Mr. Feibush had engineered, in part by using the network of blogs and message boards.

In order to intimidate her out of organizing her neighbors, Mr. Feibush called Haley’s boss to request a meeting with him and his lawyer to discuss her alleged use of a work computer to write critiques of him on the internet.  Her employer’s legal team quickly dismissed the threat, but the message was clear: “Stand against me and I’ll get at you anyway I can.”

Feibush wasn’t just venting on the network of blogs he was cultivating a base of support.  The screen shot below, which came later and was aimed at PBOC organizers, is an example of this type of threat from OCF supporters.


However, Feibush wasn’t done yet with Haley.  His lawyer sent her a cease and desist letter, threatening to sue if she went ahead with her testimony at the Zoning hearing.  Lawyers including those from the ACLU assured her she had done nothing libelous and that the letter didn’t have a legal basis; it was pure intimidation.

Notably, the cease and desist letter, cited two e-mails Haley had sent to reporters, those “reporters” from the Phillyliving blog had simply turned over the e-mails to Mr. Feibush for him to use as part of the attack.

Mr. Feibush received bad coverage for one of the first times as a result of sending the cease and desist letter.  But his network would respond.

Philadelinquency immediately went into damage control, posting a story, “When you go Loco about a developer could that land you in court?”  Philadelinquency wasn’t just posting sympathetically to OCF; it was playing its role as a soldier for OCF’s interests.  It pushed back on the negative coverage that Feibush was experiencing by introducing different framing. It framed Haley as being “Loco” [crazy in Spanish] and that that was the reason she might end up in court. Its message was a warning to anyone who might wish to challenge OCF’s agenda; they could be sued and/or negatively targeted by Philadelinquency.

Longtime community activists, Ms. Betty Beaufort, Ms. Alice Shockley, and others along with PBOC joined Haley and her Annin St. neighbors to defeat OCF’s un-democratic attempt to build on their block.  The un-democratic practices of Feibush are precisely what led PBOC to protest OCF at our march.

OCF and its allies during the lead up to the PBOC March.

 “I would like to see redevelopment in the Point Breeze neighborhood that focuses on protecting the rights of long-term residents who want to continue to live in a neighborhood that is inclusive and affordable”  said Ms. Gertrude who knew exactly why she was marching.


Ms. Gertrude also brought her neighbors with her. “Point Breeze is my home. I will not be driven out.  I will not be marginalized.”

Feibush was furious that people would march on his business.  He did everything in his power to squash our democratic rights.  He attempted to get the 17th District Police to help him with a PR ploy based on previous donations. He got his media network to write stories denouncing the march, including blatantly false ones about PBOC and residents of Point Breeze.  He fabricated a text message conversation with a white PBOC organizer where the organizer ‘threatens’ him and uses the n-word, and then showed it to other community members.  The things OCF and its allies did during the lead up to the march could be an article by itself; it includes the Philadelinquency post at the front of this article.

However, perhaps the most appalling thing he did was designed to make PBOC organizer, Mindy Isser, fear for her physical safety.


An evening about a week before the march, Feibush pulled up to a home around 17th and Titan.  PBOC organizer, Gary Broderick was standing outside.  Feibush stopped the car in front of Gary’s home, he taunted “heyyyyy Gary  heyyyy buddy.” He drove up the block, and spotted PBOC organizer, Mindy Isser, who was headed to meet Gary, and taunted in a similar fashion.  So, here’s a guy who went out of his way to show a Philly Mag reporter that he carries a gun, and he’s showing up outside one of our organizer’s homes making taunts.

The next day Feibush posted what he believed to be Mindy’s address on the Newbold Neighbor’s Facebook page.



However, when it turned out that it was actually Gary’s address, and they were not a couple as Feibush assumed, the targeting of Mindy continued.

On the morning of the march, Chris Sawyer, acting as Feibush’s pit-bull, also drew attention for seemingly no reason to his familiarity with firearms; “It’s starting at 11:30am, earlier than I thought.  Gonna have to do Ori first and gun range second.”

Later that night he tweeted Mindy, with the sole purpose of indicating, “I can get at you”


Philadelinquency’s owner, Chris Sawyer, also posted a story targeting Mindy and posted her personal financial records, along with plenty of misinformation.  The PhiladelphiaSpeaks message boards after the march, fueled by Feibush’s own participation, were also full of hateful attacks against the march, particularly focusing on women.  They called some of the women ugly, talked about their bodies, and about their weaves.  One PBOC woman organizer the next day received a picture of a vagina as a text message.

It’s Ori Feibush’s world EXCEPT people are already living here.

Feibush is not as he presents himself. He wants you to think he is a developer trying to build a better Point Breeze who is hindered from doing so by an inept city government.  While he may be trying to build a “better Point Breeze,” its not for the residents that currently reside here.  He leads a political force that operates on many levels to attack working-class Point Breeze residents and those like us.  This reactionary political force goes after the government in the same way as Republicans, whose actions led to a Government shutdown at the Federal level.  Like those Republicans, Feibush’s political force targets government precisely because an effective and functioning government means that monied interests like OCF will be restrained by the political will of the majority.


Many critics of the Point Breeze Organizing Committee say racism is over.  In fact they try to portray us as racist against white people for even raising anti-black racism.  However, no credible sociologist or political scientist would make such a fundamentally flawed argument.

Let us remember, it was 2012, not the 1960s, when PA Republicans passed “Voter ID” legislation designed to suppress in particular the African-American vote.  At the time, experts said over 30% of Philadelphians would be disenfranchised if it became law. It is in fact not possible to understand developments in Point Breeze independent of the historical racism that has burdened the country and continues to do so.  The African-American community has constituted the majority of Point Breeze for decades and has a history that is not monolithic but is storied; escaping the Jim Crow South, traveling to Philadelphia as part of the Great Migration, then enduring through White Flight, the War on Drugs, and the de-industrialization of Philadelphia.

Republicans sought to disenfranchise this community, quite admittedly, because it wasn’t in their interest for African-Americans to have democracy.  They were more likely to win elected office and advance profit-over-people policies if they could prevent African-Americans and Philadelphians from participating in political processes and voting.

Mr. Feibush’s profit-over-people business model is in effect designed in the same vein.  It’s not in OCF’s interests for there to be wide and democratic participation in the Point Breeze neighborhood.  Broad democratic decision-making would result in decisions that would not be as profitable for OCF.  That’s why there have been so many attacks by OCF and its allies on anyone who stands up in support of a democratic and community-based development model.

Feibush fought against a city council bill initiated by Anna Verna and carried through by Kenyatta Johnson that empowered City Government to use vacant lots for affordable housing., the blog owned by Feibush, railed against Councilman Goode’s attempt to repeal the ten-year tax abatement, which would stop giveaways to the wealthy and raise needed money for schools and other public services.  And Feibush funds political candidates as part of advancing his agenda.

Lest we think he’s not aware of the effects of his actions, OCF Coffee Shop’s opening party was called, “Let them eat cake” which is a famous quote from a French Aristocrat, before the French Revolution, when she found out the peasants had no bread.

Is this really somebody capable of being civic leader and representative of Point Breeze?  Is this really somebody who should be treated as a serious contender for City Council?  If Mr. Feibush is smart, he will run as a Democrat in a city where Republicans have very little chance of winning. However, make no mistake, his ideology and business practice are in line with Republicans who have devastated the country by representing the interests of the wealthy and targeting public services and infrastructure, public education, unions, women, African-Americans and immigrant communities.

The people of Point Breeze will not allow him to win. Ori Feibush and OCF are not good for Point Breeze. We, new and long-term residents of Point Breeze, deserve a better Point Breeze where we can live and thrive. Not one that is destroyed by a profits-over-people development model.


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