Weary from dealings with City Council President, veterans seek an executive order from Mr. Jim Kenney, Philadelphia’s Mayor-Elect.
Black Lives Matter activists weren’t the only ones in Philadelphia last Friday hoping to get face-time with Mr. Jim Kenney, the Mayor-Elect, during or after a town meeting at Strawberry Mansion High School.
Mr. Ari Merretazon, a Vietnam veteran drafted at age 19, was there, too, with his comrades, and they wanted to talk about the state of veterans affairs, an issue most media companies in the City cover with brevity or not at all.
For more than four years now, Mr. Merretazon and Mr. James Abrahams of Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry have been the face of a movement to hold the City of Philadelphia accountable to a 1955 law that requires a Director of Veteran Affairs to serves as a liaison between the VA, which has been plagued with scandal due in part to its lack of oversight, and the community of former soldiers, ensuring benefits and services are received.
The battle thus far has been contained between City Council chambers, its occupants – a September 2011 ‘State of Emergency’ hearing, the first ever of its kind, was organized by City Council members Mr. David Oh, Mr. Curtis Jones and Ms. Jannie Blackwell – and the advocacy group Mr. Merretazon represents.
But as Mr. Merretazon has grown restless with City Council President, Mr. Darrell Clarke, who doesn’t see the need for additional services for veterans beyond what the city currently offers through the newly formed Veterans Advisory Commission, the scope in which he and his associates agitate and advocate will now include Mr. Kenney, who on Friday in a brief private meeting told Mr. Merretazon that he will “work it out” with Mr. Clarke in order to establish a Philadelphia Department of Veterans Affairs, a consideration which until now had never been part of the public narrative associated with the “Philadelphia Veterans Service Scandal.”
“We shook on it,” Mr. Merretazon told Techbook Online exclusively. “We’re veterans, so we believe your word is all you got. We’re depending on his word.”
The demand from PSHM had always been just for a Director of Veterans Affairs, but, Mr. Merretazon, after given it much thought, said the director will need an office with at least three workers, thus a department or even a Mayor’s Office with a line in the budget must be created.
The latter may be Mr. Merretazon’s best option, as Mr. Kenney, if he really believes in the cause, can use an executive order to establish the office in a manner identical to how the city’s current Mayor manifested the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
Prior to Friday’s meeting, PSHM’s plan was, and still is, to be present at every City Council meeting in the New Year to ensure the question about changing the Home Rule Charter to include a Director of Veterans Affairs is on the May 2016 ballot, which will require a Council member—likely Mr. Oh, a Republican and ally to the veterans – to introduce the resolution. But, now the strategy will also include lobbying the Mayor to leverage his executive powers long before then.
Mr. Merretazon, who today penned a post referring to Mr. Kenney as “a possible rescuer of veterans,” expressed doubt in Mr. Clarke’s change of heart, but acknowledged if anyone can make it so, it’s the Mayor-Elect, who has been a friend to the City Council President for decades.
‘Exploring Generations of Black Activism,’ a live broadcast featuring black male thought-leaders on Saturday, December 19th, 2015 beginning at 1pm EST and heard exclusively on www.TheDrVibeShow.com, will be moderated by Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris.
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