“It’s time to go to work.”
Eugene Bell’s call to action was heard by more than 240 people attending a forum this week where local religious groups met with Philadelphia City Council members to discuss plans to obtain jobs and training for impoverished communities in Philadelphia.
The forum, organized by Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, was held at Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Southwest Philadelphia.
City Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Curtis Jones Jr. attended this forum convened the organization composed of 36 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations citywide.
The central focus of the forum was the anticipated expansion of the Philadelphia airport, expected to cost $6.4 billion and create thousands of jobs over the next 12 to 15 years, including approximately 2,000 permanent jobs.
Airlines would fund the project and no city tax dollars would be used, although the airport could institute a $4.50 charge per traveler to defray improvement costs.
POWER asked city officials to institute policies giving job hiring priority to Philadelphia businesses and residents for all government subsidized projects. It is also calling for increased minority participation in apprenticeship and job training programs.
Frances Upshaw said, “You’re always hearing in business how, ‘Well we couldn’t find anyone qualified so we went outside.’ We don’t want to hear that anymore.”
POWER claimed there are a half million people in Philadelphia who are ineligible for 62 percent of jobs due to low literacy skills and more than 200,000 with no high school diploma.
Councilman Johnson delivered a speech outlining some of the plans for the expansion and called for the support of those
attending. The expansion has met with resistance in the ouncil from US Airways and residents living near the airport.
In his speech, Johnson said, “I think some of the cuts trickling down from Governor Corbett are criminal.”
Johnson said he sees a connection in decreased government funding for education and social services and increases in the joblessness POWER is working to combat.
The councilmen both voiced their support for the initiative and promised to work with POWER.
When asked if POWER was concerned the expansion may not happen Upshaw remarked, “If something is good and going to be good for the whole city, you’re going to push for that and POWER will be there pushing the whole way.”