When Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Wogan last visited the Burholme Community Town Watch and Civic Association, he assailed the Clerk of Quarter Sessions office.
Wogan, a former state representative, called it a “very poorly run office.” He noted that the most egregious acts were committed by selected court clerks who, for some reason, wouldn’t forward a defendant’s full sentence to the prison system.
In October 2010, the city abolished the office, and its duties are now handled by the First Judicial District. Wogan said the courts are doing a better job running the office than Vivian Miller, whom he labeled a “Democratic ward leader from West Philadelphia.”
Last week, Wogan returned to speak to the folks from Burholme.
This time, he expressed concern about the 47,000 active bench warrants in Philadelphia. He said some of them are 18- to 20-year-old “violent thugs” who are able to outrun police officers, but somehow collect Social Security disability benefits.
In Wogan’s courtroom, absconders are tried in absentia, despite claims by some defense attorneys that their clients could be dead or in the hospital.
The judge recalled a case of a home invasion robbery. During each break, the missing defendant’s mother called him on the phone to give him an update. A jury found the defendant guilty, and Wogan gave him a sentence of up to 70 years in prison.
On another subject, Wogan called the city’s probation and parole department a “joke” and a “travesty,” but said many officers care about public safety and do a good job.
The problem, he said, is that the probation files of repeat criminals are often not opened. He cited one convict who’d been arrested for four drug felonies. He committed three rapes while on probation and landed in Wogan’s courtroom.
“I gave him every day I could,” he said.
Wogan sentenced the 40-year-old defendant to 67 years in prison.
“He probably won’t be raping anybody when he’s 107 when he’s paroled,” the judge said.
On a related matter, Wogan is eager to see the final report on security at Philadelphia prisons. The prisons are getting a closer look following the October 2010 shooting death of Lawndale jeweler Bill Glatz by an escaped convict.
On a brighter note, Wogan said Philadelphians should be confident of the operations of Common Pleas Court under the leadership of President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe and Administrative Judge John J. Herron.
In other news from the April 12 meeting:
• Members observed a moment of silence for Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney, the two Philadelphia firefighters who died last week while responding to a massive blaze in Kensington.
• There was a discussion about the pending move of Storybook Children’s Center from a shopping center at 7722 Dungan Road to the Pentecostal Church of Philadelphia, at 7101 Pennway St.
The move is being made because a shopping center tenant has expansion plans. Storybook offers child care, preschool and before- and after-school care to 150 youngsters.
Officials from the church and Storybook attended the meeting.
The civic group took a tour of church grounds and saw an overflowing Dumpster and other property maintenance issues.
“There was trash all over the place,” said Al Taubenberger, president of the group.
Neighbors were to join Taubenberger and other civic group members at a follow-up visit to the church this past Tuesday night.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness,” Taubenberger told church representatives at the civic meeting.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18, in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Although the civic group appeared willing to support the proposal, one Storybook employee was moved to tears during the drawn-out discussion.
• Lt. Frank Schneider and community relations officer Mark Mroz, of the 2nd Police District, fielded questions about illegal commercial truck parking.
The police officials told the crowd that the district has a focus on curfew and truancy violators. More than 120 offenders have been cited for each violation in the last month.
In Philadelphia, curfew during the school year is 8 p.m. for anyone age 13 and younger, 9 p.m. for 14- and 15-year-olds and 10 p.m. for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Curfew in the summer is 9 p.m. for kids age 13 and younger, 10 p.m. for 14- and 15-year-olds and 11 p.m. for 16- and 17-year-olds.
• Presentation BVM will host a Night at the Races to benefit the Semper Fi Fund, which assists wounded military troops, this Saturday at 6:45 p.m. in the church hall, at 100 Old Soldiers Road in Cheltenham.
Tickets cost $20. There will be 10 video horse races, food, beer and raffles.
The Burholme Town Watch/civic association donated $100.
Anyone who wants to make a donation can send checks to Semper Fi Fund, c/o Presentation BVM Church, 100 Old Soldiers Road, Cheltenham, PA 19012.
• Don Garecht, a Burholme resident who works for city elections commissioner Al Schmidt, explained that voters will be asked to produce photo identification during the April 24 primary.
Anyone without a photo ID will still be able to vote. They will receive information on obtaining a free ID.
A new state law requiring a photo ID to vote will go into effect for the Nov. 6 general election.
In response to a question, Garecht said the commissioners have an ongoing effort to increase the number of handicapped-accessible polling locations.
• Nick Himebaugh, an aide to state Rep. Brendan Boyle, announced that the lawmaker would lose the Burholme divisions of his district under a preliminary plan approved last week by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
Himebaugh added that Boyle’s office can process requests to the city’s 311 non-emergency system. The office phone number is 215-676-0300.
• Burholme Community Town Watch and Civic Association will meet on Thursday, May 10, at 7 p.m., at United Methodist Church of the Redeemer, at Cottman and Lawndale avenues. ••EndFragment