Jake Blumgart

Jake Blumgart is a freelance reporter-researcher living in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Pennsylvania Primary Puts Regional Loyalties to the Test

Increasingly nationalized politics and media coverage scramble traditional allegiances in Pennsylvania’s senatorial and attorney general primaries.

(Photo: AP/Keith Srakocic)
The statewide Democratic primary elections in Pennsylvania this year have been pitched as a knock-down, drag-out battle for regional dominance. Traditionally, the state has been split between its two principal Democratic strongholds: Pittsburgh and its suburbs, and the City of Brotherly Love. Each locus of power had its own political machines, its own power families, and its own candidates. The voters from each region were expected to turn out for the candidate from their part of the state. They could often even count on some support from voters in their region who weren’t of their party. “The April 26 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania attorney general is shaping up to be a classic East-versus-West political battle for the state,” wrote The Philadelphia Inquirer ’s political columnist Chris Brennan . The race is between Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, son of a longstanding Pittsburgh power family, and Josh Shapiro of Philly’...

Labor’s Cautious Endorsements

In the Pennsylvania Senate race, labor organizers have rallied behind the Democratic Party’s establishment pick—a familiar pattern also on display in the presidential primary.

(Photo: AP/Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times)
When Braddock, Pennsylvania, Mayor John Fetterman announced his entrance into the state’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, there was a surge of enthusiasm from progressive activists. The biker-bearded Fetterman looked and sounded like an alternative to the candidates who had already announced—retired Admiral Joe Sestak and ex-state official Katie McGinty—both of whom look straight out of central casting for a senator from the Northeast, with the picture-perfect records to match. Soon after Fetterman’s announcement, at a hip bar in an up-and-coming corner of Philadelphia, the candidate gave his stump speech—focused on inequality and poverty in the small former steel town he represents—to a small crowd of voters, many of whom were sporting Bernie Sanders paraphernalia and visible tattoos. (The mayor himself has prominent ink, with his town’s zip code on one arm and the dates of the nine murders that have occurred there since he took office on...

Tickets Out of Poverty?

Housing voucher recipients can move to better neighborhoods only if states and localities break down suburban barriers.

(Photo: Paul Gargagliano)
This article appears in the Winter 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . For Lorraine Washington, a housing choice voucher, colloquially known as Section 8, represents escape and opportunity. Before her recent move enabled by the subsidy, she lived in the Blumberg Apartments, a public housing complex in one of the most impoverished corners of Philadelphia. Then the Philadelphia Housing Authority slated her building for demolition and offered its residents a choice: They could move to a new public housing unit in the city or accept a Section 8 voucher—which can, in theory, be used anywhere they might want to go. “You should see the mob of people out here at night, drug dealers everywhere,” Washington said before her move. “It was terrible to come around here and try to walk around at night. I’m used to being very clean, not this trash all over the place and people disrespecting you. I have had a lot of problems around here, with...

Service Workers Fight for a Share of Philly's Revitalized Center City

An SEIU mega-local representing janitors and secruity guards rallies ahead of tough contract negotiations this fall. 

Jake Blumgart
On a humid Wednesday afternoon, over 1,000 members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ crammed into the confines of Center City Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street, between 22 nd and 21 st Street. The crowds were decked out in the usual purple and yellow garb, with enormous flags staking out delegations from New Jersey, Delaware, and farther-flung locations. Huge speakers blasted Billy Bragg, Jimmy Cliff, and a variety of other spirit-boosting music. The youth drumming brigade, Extreme Creation, dressed in black masks and purple SEIU shirts, kept the crowd entertained as some of the city’s most powerful politicians prepared to step up to the podium. The rally is meant to kick off 32BJ’s season of contract negotiations. The mega-local covers building service workers—janitors and security guards—in office buildings up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from Florida to Boston. As part of a strategy under development since the turn of the 21 st...

Greyhound Therapy

In many of South Jersey's counties, homeless people seeking services are offered a one-way ticket to Trenton or Atlantic City.

When Thomas Jones, a native of Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore, wanted to get clean and straighten out his life, service providers in his county gave him a one-way ticket to Trenton, 60 miles away. “In Asbury Park they didn’t have assistance—no shelter, no soup kitchen,” he said. “They just push you out to Trenton or Atlantic City.” Other homeless men recounted similar stories. When they got out of prison or lost their jobs and couldn’t keep up with the bills, they sought help. Instead, they were offered one-way bus rides to the Trenton or Atlantic City, home to the Trenton and Atlantic City Rescue Missions, the only two comprehensive shelters for adults without children in the southern half of the state. The practice—shipping homeless people off to cities better-equipped to provide services—is common enough in southern New Jersey that it’s come to be known as “Greyhound Therapy.” It’s difficult to quantify...