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‘We carry each other, we help each other’: These Pa. moms lost sons to gun violence. They want Harrisburg to help | Wednesday Morning Coffee

June 23, 2021 7:14 am

Tina Ford, of Clairton, Pa., speaks at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday, 6/22/21 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Tina Ford understands the toll of gun violence like few of us ever will. She lives with it every day.

In April 2019, her, son, Armani Ford, a local high school football legend, was shot and killed in his hometown of Clairton, Pa., a steel town in the Monogahela River Valley, just south of Pittsburgh. He was just 23 years old.

In the wake of her son’s death, Ford helped found a local chapter of Mothers of Murdered Sons, or MOMs. Among other women who had buried children all too soon, she found comfort and solace. To her frustration and sadness, she found its membership kept growing.

And the price of that loss, she said, extends beyond the heartache. The hole torn by premature loss of a child can mean missed work and economic hardship that leads to a bereaved person falling behind their rent and bills. For too many, there’s no way out of that financial spiral.

“We carry each other. We help each other,” Ford said at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday. “I have strength from God. But this is serious. We need help.”

Enter a pair of newly introduced House bills sponsored by Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, whose 35th District seat includes Clairton.

State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, speaks at a Capitol news conference on 6/22/21 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

The Mon Valley lawmaker’s proposal respectively would offer debt deferral to grieving parents and create a grant program that would offer financial assistance to those families.

If they’re eventually approved and signed into law, the bills would give families “time to grieve without a fear of losing their homes,” Davis said Tuesday.

That’s not just rhetoric. Research has shown that gun violence exacts a measurable economic impact on the communities where it occurs.

Across five cities, gun violence slowed neighborhood home appreciation ~4 percent, according to The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.

The research also showed that surges in gun violence, defined as a sudden and sharp uptick in violence, also led to lower credit scores and home ownership rates.

All told, gun violence exacts an economic toll of a staggering $229 billion a year, according to Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

That tally “includes $8.6 billion in direct expenses such as for emergency and medical care,” according to The Washington Post. And, as the Urban Institute notes, those costs are disproportionately borne by communities of color.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, the chairperson of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, speaks during a Capitol news conference on 6/22/21 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

“We talk about gun violence as a public health crisis and a state of emergency,” said state Rep. Donna Bullock, the Philadelphia Democrat who chairs the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

But as was the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing emergency declaration, families in need received services and financial assistance, Bullock pointed out.

And if policymakers are going to walk the talk about the public health toll of gun violence, then the families whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence should receive the same kind of help from the state.

Bullock, the mother of two sons, says she prays the Black mother’s prayer every day that her children return home safely and, then, referring to the mothers arrayed behind her holding photos of their fallen children, that “I don’t join your club — that’s real.”

“Let’s do right by these families,” she said, by passing Davis’ legislation. “That’s the best thing we can do for these families.”

State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, now the Democratic nominee for Pittsburgh mayor, echoed that sentiment, arguing also that the cost and trauma of gun violence cut across racial, geographic and class lines.

Policymakers, he said, needed to come up with more than band-aids, they needed to learn “why people wake up with murder on their minds … Until we come up with a plan that addresses the root causes of crime, we’re going to be back here every year.”

For Ford, who deals with the post-traumatic effects of her son’s death — anxiety and insomnia — that help can’t come soon enough. Until it does, she said, she and her fellow MOMs will persevere.

“We can’t stop the violence in the streets,” she said. “But we can help the mothers.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
General Assembly Republicans are all in on the House GOP’s 150-page election bill to rewrite Pennsylvania’s election code with tighter deadlines, stricter voter verification requirements, and more controls on how voters return ballots, Stephen Caruso and Marley Parish report.

U.S. Senate Republicans, joined by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.shut down efforts to open debate on a sweeping elections reform and voting rights bill brought to the Senate floor by Democrats on Tuesday night. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa has the details.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Nellie Bly student loan program may be on life-support this budget season, but a majority of Pennsylvanians want to see slot revenue directed away from the horse-racing industry. Cassie Miller has the details on new poll results.

Reporter Marty Schladen, of our sibling site, The Ohio Capital Journal, explains why some pharmacists are cutting insurance companies out when it comes to generic medications.

Philadelphia’s acting health commissioner has warned city residents about the COVID-19 Delta variant, and urged them to get vaccinated, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

In Pittsburgh, reformers are calling for tax dollars to be directed away from the city’s police department, and into community programs, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz suggests a striking and immediate way you can stand up to anti-Jewish hate. And respected Carnegie-Mellon University scientist Allen L. Robinson says the Wolf administration has to close its ‘low producing well’ loophole to fight methane emissions.

Photo via pxHere

Elsewhere.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 and Republicans have reached a deal to revive the state’s Charter School Appeals Board, the Inquirer reports.
Pennsylvania is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the well-being of its children, the Post-Gazette reports, citing new research.
The state Senate has sent a bill protecting kids’ lemonade stands to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk, PennLive reports.
With the Lehigh Valley reopening, parents are grappling with how to protect their unvaccinated children, the Morning Call reports.
Facing a shortage, the Red Cross is making a plea for blood donations, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Albert Lee (@urphillypal)

A new poll shows Pennsylvanians want action on climate change amid the pandemic, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.
The state Senate has approved legislation allowing local police to use radar, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).
Erie’s Catholic bishop is on board with the drafting of a ‘teaching document’ about denying communion to believers who support abortion rights, GoErie reports.
The number of fatal drug overdoses in Washington County last year reached their highest point since 1992, the Observer-Reporter reports.
Eight of nine GOP members of Pa.’s congressional delegation have backed the candidacy of Republican 7th Congressional District hopeful Lisa Scheller, PoliticsPA reports.
Roll Call looks at what comes next after voting rights stalled in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

What Goes On
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today.
9 a.m., LG’s Porch: Rep. Mary Isaacson and Sen. Amanda Cappelletti discuss their pay range disclosure bills and equal pay
9:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: A call for climate leadership
10 a.m., Ryan Rotunda: Rep. Natalie Mihalek and others discuss furthering a ‘safer Pennsylvania.’
12 p.m. Capitol Steps: “We the People” Rally for a budget that invests the federal COVID-19 relief funding in communities
1 p.m.:  Faith leaders “engage in disruption and civil disobedience” in calling for a budget to fund schools properly

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
6 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Donna Oberlander
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Barbara Gleim
Hit both events and give at the max, and you’re out $5,500 today.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf
 speaks on a virtual panel at 10:30 a.m. put on by the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday you’d like observed in this space? Email me at [email protected].

Heavy Rotation
Here’s something appropriately summer-y and tropical to get you through your hump day. From Manu Chao, it’s ‘Me Gustas Tu.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Montreal got past Vegas 4-1 on Tuesday
, taking a 3-2 series lead in their Stanley Cup semifinal match.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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