In the race to become America's biggest progressive utopia, Kenneytown is surging. Thanks to Mayor Kenney, we are among the country's most extreme sanctuary cities. Philadelphia City Council has passed laws limiting the rights of potential employers to learn about an applicant's past criminal record or what salary they received in previous jobs. We also have some of the most unruly protesters, who are routinely allowed to block traffic in downtown Philadelphia.
The city scored a lot of points when the mayor and his minions demonized the soda industry, created a tax on sugary drinks and linked both these actions to funding pre-kindergarten classes and preventing obesity and diabetes. Extra points are earned by blaming the economic damage and the loss of jobs these schemes created on the sugary-drinks industry and in one case on a local supermarket owner.
Now the utopians have set their sights on something that only the liberal citadel of Seattle has in the United States. There is a growing movement — which will come to a head in April — to create a "safe injection site" for illegal drug users. This means a place where primarily heroin users could go to shoot up in the presence of a doctor. Anyone who overdoes would be revived by a doctor armed with naloxone.
I saw the beginnings of this movement when I interviewed Dan Martino, a Port Richmond activist who had lost loved ones to the scourge of drugs. He explained that he had started a petition drive to bring a safe injection site to the Kensington area after learning that Seattle had set up two such sites. I found him to be earnest and sincere, but I didn't think he was right.
Martino told me that the idea was soon to be considered by Mayor Kenney's 20-member committee called the Mayor's Task Force on Opioids. Last Wednesday, Philly.com reported that the idea of "safer injection sites" was proposed at a meeting of the task force, which heard from Sarah Evans, who helped launch and run North America's first safe injection site in Vancouver.
The quotes from the meeting are around the cliché that desperate times call for desperate measures. Of course, that probably won't be enough to get a significant number of people to approve of the idea of Philadelphia violating state law and, I would argue, human decency by sanitizing the injection of a deadly drug.
Therefore, the euphemism merchants will have to work overtime to sell this idea.
Philly.com reports that the facilities would be called Comprehensive User Engagement Sites. Notice the word "injection" is omitted, because it might be seen as "stigmatizing." I think it's an attempt to deflect from how radical the choice will be if Philadelphia caves in to this. It's a tool to evoke science and order to blunt the gut reaction of many that it's wrong.
This scheme flows logically from the fact that, for many years, Philadelphia has allowed various groups to distribute clean needles to addicts at regularly days and times at various locations in the city. I have gone to these distribution sites a few times, and it is a horrific scene. I wish they would do it in Rittenhouse Square a few times. So logically, after a few years of the CUES operation, it should be time to have doctors inject the heroin that the city Health Department has certified as pure.
There is one fly in the progressive ointment.
Gov. Wolf is running for re-election and safe injection sites are against state law. Would he cut the ribbon to open the facility or at least order law enforcement to stand down and allow Philadelphia to flout the law? I'm sure that whoever his Republican opponent is would highlight all this in more mainstream areas of the state.
I predict Kenney will charge ahead with this. We can't maintain our standing as the progressive utopia on the Delaware easily. Seattle already has several "injection" sites, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is now pushing a soda tax of 2 cents an ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages, topping Philadelphia's 1.5 cents per ounce. It's time to be bold!
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com