Free Saturday parking is back for the holidays

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s an annual gift to holiday shoppers — free limited, metered street parking in Philadelphia on Saturdays.

The free parking initiative began many years ago in an effort to attract holiday shoppers to the city.

Before 11 a.m. on Saturdays, you have to pay the meter or kiosks for a parking spot on street where signs are posted. The Philadelphia Parking Authority will ticket violators.

After 11 a.m. on Saturdays, however, it’s free, for the remainder of the year. Many people who didn’t know about this received a “payment required” message and were left confused.

The Hess family drove from Fairless Hills into Center City to shop, and they liked the free parking.

“I think it will draw a lot of revenue to the city that’s for sure,” said Mike Hess. “A lot of people don’t like parking at the risk of towing.”  

Some parking garages in Center City and Old City are offering an $8 flat rate on Saturdays. The Parking Authority says residential parking time limits will still be enforced and all other parking regulations will remain in effect.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Criminal courts present long process for families of victims

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Weaving through the criminal court system for many victims’ families is a long, arduous and painful process — sometimes taking more than a year and a half for murder cases to be resolved.  One father has been sitting in every hearing for two years to see the man accused of killing his daughter brought to justice.

“It’s tough,” said Rusten Johnson. Every month for a few hours, Johnson waits patiently in courtroom 1105 every month for a few hours, waiting for David Grier’s name to be called. Grier is accused of beating and strangling Johnson’s 21-year-old daughter Kierra to death and leaving her body in Cobbs Creek.

Kierra Johnson was just starting her life when she was killed. “Open-minded, real, loving, kind person,” her father described. “Very sweet. She wasn’t a person who liked violence.”

Authorities say Grier murdered Kierra Johnson as he robbed her in November 2017. The 24-year-old Grier was on parole in California for attempted murder at the time.

Related: Murder charges upheld against man accused of killing art student

Since he’s been arrested, Grier has gone through several mental health evaluations, which takes time, and adds more status hearings to his docket. With each hearing, Johnson waits and listens to what’s going on in the case. 

“I feel like things will be taken a little more seriously if people see me there and know that I care about it and just make sure they kind of care a little more about it,” he said of his presence in the courtroom.

While Johnson understands why the process takes as long as it does, he said it can be frustrating. 

“Some of it angers me, some of it saddens me,” he admitted, “but it’s all part of the process and I understand that. I am clear with that. And ultimately we want justice. I can’t bring my daughter back, but we can get justice and that can be corrected, that can be righted.”

When asked how long he could wait for that, he replied, “As long as it takes.”

more Philly News (For Your Information)

4-legged aide lends a ‘paw’ to kids with learning challenges

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — When you think about effective educational tools, a dog probably doesn’t make your list.

But for kids who have learning or emotional challenges, a dog can be exactly what they need in school.

Paws and Affection, a Narberth-based nonprofit, trains service dogs to empower kids who have disabilities. Trainers spend two years teaching the dogs and getting them ready for placement, like 5-year-old Lab-poodle mix Kelly.

It’s safe to say Kelly is paws down the most popular staff member at AIM Academy in Conshohocken, a school for kids with learning differences and special needs. 

Kelly has worked with AIM’s speech and occupational therapists and guidance counselor for three years now, helping students reach their learning and therapeutic goals.

Since 2013, Paws and Affection has placed five dogs. Some are one-on-one companions or service dogs, but Kelly is the organization’s first facility dog.

Paws and Affection Executive Director Laura O’Kane said they have to essentially teach the dogs not to act like, well, dogs. 

“Lying at my feet and not making any noise,” she noted as an example, “not reacting to things in your environment — that’s very hard. Takes a lot of practice.”

After about a year of training, tasks become more specific, O’Kane said, like putting their heads on a kid’s lap to alleviate anxiety.

Fifth-grader Declan Head, who has learning challenges and anxiety, said playing with Kelly  helps him get through the day and puts a smile on his face.

“I like how she’s always there if I need her and how she makes me feel joyful,” added the 11-year-old. “She’s always ready to help a student.”

A post shared by AIM’s Facility Dog – Kelly (@kellyataim) on

Fourth-grader Max Pestronk, who has fairly severe ADHD, said he likes to play games like tic-tac-toe with Kelly.

“She puts her head or her paw on a piece and then it just flips on an X or O. That means it’s my point. … Kelly beat me a lot of times,” he laughed. 

Max’s mom, Carrie, said Kelly is like a fidget spinner for him.

“He can play with (her) and pet (her) but have the ability to focus on the task at hand,” she explained. “It’s been very helpful for him.”

A post shared by AIM’s Facility Dog – Kelly (@kellyataim) on

AIM occupational therapist Amy Schwab, who works with the middle schoolers, said Kelly can help kids improve their hand-eye coordination, strength and memory. 

“I’ll have (Kelly) point to three items in a certain order and then the student has to point to them in the same order,” she said. “If we’re working on handwriting, Kelly will put her paws up on the desk and check someone’s handwriting and give them tips if they need to make corrections. They love that.”

Kelly’s gentle demeanor and soft, black fur also creates a calming presence for the young students who struggle with anxiety.

Schwab and other AIM faculty go through extensive training to learn how to handle Kelly. They must be re-certified annually.

Overall, Kelly’s unconditional love and affection gives these kids the motivation to tackle their challenges and the confidence to know they can. 

“And then I hear from the parents,” O’Kane added. “(They say), we were having a rough morning but said you get to see Kelly today, and suddenly the child was able to get on the bus and get to school. She’s just a motivator, and it’s fantastic.”

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Kenney signs bill to protect vulnerable domestic workers

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new law that takes effect next May will provide protection for some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable workers: nannies, maids and other domestic employees. Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill into law last week.

Betania Sheppard often told her story in the nearly year-long effort to pass what’s known as Philadelphia’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. On Tuesday, she told it again, but this time it was with a note of triumph over the conditions she’s endured.

“I have been paid very little, and some employers have not paid me the money that was promised me,” she said through a translator. “When I asked them to pay the money that was owed to me, I was screamed at and insulted.”

Among the provisions in the new law is the right to a contract, notice of termination, leave time, meal and rest breaks and protections unique to the positions the workers hold — prohibiting the holding of documents or monitoring private communications. 

Mayor Kenney called it a proud moment for the city.

“And we hope that this will be a turning point for many,” he said.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Business owners ready for Small Business Saturday

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday, a national event in which people are encouraged to shop small at independent businesses to support their local communities. Small business owners in Philly’s Fashion District in Center City are getting ready for the day. 

George Thomas, the owner of  jewelry kiosk Creative Silver, said he’s been in the mall for 30 years from when it was called the Gallery.

“I’m putting items on sale just for tomorrow. I’m trying to make everything down to 50% off,” he said. 

He’s hoping people come into the District on Saturday to support small businesses like his, which he says also benefits the city. 

“That means money stays in Philadelphia, spent in Philadelphia, people get to take the money home to Philadelphia instead of going to another state, the taxes are coming to us,” he added.

Related: The Fashion District, formerly the Gallery, is officially open for business

City leaders say every $100 spent at an independent business brings $68 back into the local economy.  

Other small businesses in the Fashion District, like the Sable Collective and Dolly’s Boutique, say they’re also trying to get in on the holiday spending.

“Some of our items will be on sale, we will have a DJ, some refreshments, some of our makers that are in the shop will be here so you can speak with them about some of the items we have,” said the Sable Collective’s Jai Monee. 

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Black bear spotted wandering through Villanova

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A black bear has been spotted in wildcat territory.

A bear was caught on video taking an early-morning stroll around a Villanova residence just before 7 a.m. Friday.

Officials say Radnor residents should keep their eyes peeled for it, but there’s no need to worry. 

“The bear is seen walking up the driveway, up toward what I believe is the garage, it turns around, goes back down the driveway, and goes off into another direction,” said Radnor Township Police Lt. Joe Pinto.

He received a call around 1030 a.m. that the animal was spotted along Harrison Avenue near Conestoga Road — and could barely believe what he heard.

“It’s pretty uncommon,” he said. This is only the second time in two decades such wildlife has made its way through Radnor, he added.

Pinto called the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and they say the bear is probably just passing through, so they’ll let him be for right now. But if they get more calls, that may change.

“If it becomes a situation where we get multiple sightings or the bear gets trapped or decides to take up residency in one of these neighborhoods, then they would need to go ahead and trap this bear and move him onto greener pastures,” Pinto said.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Thor the Bulldog takes home top prize at National Dog Show

By Lauren M. Johnson, CNN

(CNN) — The annual National Dog Show touted some amazing breeds, but a bulldog topped them all this year.

Thor, a bulldog owned by a Philly-area native, is Best in Show at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show. 

“Absolutely thrilled, it’s an amazing show and it’s a dream come true,” said Kara Gordon of Midland, Pennsylvania. 

Philadelphia knows well the story of the underdog overcoming all odds, and Gordon says her 2 1/2-year-old 60-pound bulldog did just that when he won Best in Show.

“I’m an Eagles fan tried-and-true for many years, and they said, you know, what it’s like to love the underdog. So I guess he sort of was the underdog in this case. The number one dog in the country was there,” she said. 

The competition, which had more than 2,000 entries and nearly 200 different breeds, and was held on Nov. 16 and 17 at the Philadelphia Expo Center in Montgomery County, but the results were not publicly announced until it aired after the Thanksgiving Day parade.

“He’s a showman, a natural show dog. He loves it,” Gordon added. 

“I love this dog,” handler Eduardo Paris said in an interview after the show, which aired on Thursday but actually took place earlier this month. “He’s a very complete dog… he moves like a dream.”

Thor’s six other competitors were a Havanese, a Siberian Husky, a Golden Retriever, a Pharaoh Hound, an Old English Sheepdog, and a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.

A new breed was introduced at the show– an Azawakh. This is the only breed that is taller than it is long, and is bred in Africa as a hunter.

Even more outstanding than the introduction of a new breed, was the woman who showed him.

Aliya Taylor, a former Philadelphia police officer, wore a hijab and was the only person involved in the event to do so.

The National Dog Show has aired after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade for the last 18 years. Over 20 million people tune into the program every year.

Next stop for them, Gordon says, is Westminster. 

____

KYW Newsradio’s Shara Dae Howard contributed to this report. 

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Center City shopping is on the rise, report says

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Santa Claus gave his reindeer the day off on Friday and opted for SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line to help shoppers usher in the holiday season. 

And on this Black Friday, Center City District officials say the retail scene has continued to expand, creating more than $1 billion in retail demand annually.

With the holiday shopping season now underway, the District says there are 3,266 active Center City storefronts, consisting of 978 retail stores, 1,058 eating and drinking establishments, and 1,230 service providers.

“The footprint of retail in Center City has really expanded,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Michelle Shannon said, “which is fortunate because we were lacking over on the east side of town between City Hall and Independence Hall, where we have a lot of convention and tourist traffic.”

The opening of East Market last year and the Fashion District in September added new retail square footage at a time when a lot of retail is shuttering, she added. Two more projects are currently under construction and another is in the pipeline, which will add an additional 1.2 million square feet of retail in the next few years.

The Center City District added that all of the historic and holiday attractions in Center City make seasonal shopping a unique experience — evident by all the holiday characters.

Mrs. Claus and Buddy the Elf joined Santa at the 15th Street Station to the delight of the crowd of consumers before they hit the stores.

“You can come skate at Dilworth Park, you can stop and have a drink, warm up, and then go out shopping again,” Shannon suggested.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

50th anniversary of Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas in full swing

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 50th anniversary of the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas competition in Philadelphia is in full swing.

Aubrey Luce, 13, and Madison Pennington,12, are moving up in the world of Oireachtas — Irish step dancing — after competing and winning among a pool of hundreds of other dancers. 

And this year is big. 

Bridget Flynn has students competing.

“They can qualify for worlds or nationals, so it’s very important,” she said. 

The earliest known reference of Irish step dancing in the U.S. occurred in Philadelphia in 1789, and Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas is carrying on that tradition. They do it in Center City every year, just one day after Thanksgiving, with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. 

“It’s what I love, it’s my passion and the gift I was given,” said Owen Lubber, one of the many male dancers who say dancing in Philadelphia during Thanksgiving weekend is a family tradition. 

There are eight categories, and dancers can compete as a team or individually. Competitions run through Sunday. 

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Kaplan: Philly government more honest than people think

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s chief integrity officer is retiring from the Kenney administration after four years of overseeing city employees’ compliance with ethics rules. 

When the Eagles made it to the Superbowl in 2018, the situation presented some interesting questions for the Eagles fan who occupies the mayor’s office.

“First, can he accept the offer of tickets which the Eagles organization had made available? And the optics of accepting,” Ellen Kaplan said.

As chief integrity officer, Kaplan had to have that conversation with the mayor. She says hashing out such dilemmas was her favorite part of the job.

“With a lot of the rules of ethics, you either can do it or you can’t do it. But then there’s a gray area, and the gray area is: Are you going to turn on KYW, are you going to hear something that may make you uneasy?” she said.

Kaplan has navigated the gray area for four years, while expanding the watchdog network with liaison integrity officers in every department and helping to create financial disclosure requirements for boards and commissions and to strengthen rules on what city officials can accept. 

It may seem a thankless job. The city’s had a hard time shaking that old “corrupt and contented” reputation, but Kaplan hopes she’s pushed it a bit further into the past.

“I have been overwhelmed by how many people want to do the right thing,” she said.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

With rise in violence, Philly officials monitor cops’ trauma

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police departments have the highest number of suicide deaths out of any profession nationwide, and this year the number is at an all-time high nationwide. As violence continues to ravage Philadelphia with a record-breaking homicide rate and about a dozen kids shot over the last few weeks, officials are monitoring how first responders handle trauma and urging cops to seek help if they feel it.

Philadelphia police Sgt. Andy Callaghan has been involved in two different shootings over his career.

“I lost 50 pounds in a short amount of time,” he said. “I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I remember telling my lieutenant that ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, boss, but I just want it to be fixed, so I can go back to work.’”

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

“And I just felt like I was coming unglued,” he said.

He got help, and started to educate and research into how the department could adapt in assisting other cops with similar trauma.

“When a police officer really gets shocked, its when an abnormal event happens. And for a police officer, an abnormal event is a co-worker getting shot or killed or a child getting shot or killed, or severely injured,” Callaghan said.

He works with the police department and the police union to develop educational programs for top brass.

“We are natural crisis interveners,” Callaghan said. “So, we go out everyday into peoples’ homes and help solve their problems, but we often don’t do it in our own workplace because of the emotional attachment.”

The Philadelphia Police Department implemented crisis intervention training after a national study showed it could dramatically decrease police officer suicides.

“They become aware of the fact that they are worn down and they need some help,” he said.

Callaghan encourages peers and supervisors to pay close attention to colleagues who may have witnessed something traumatic — such as a child being shot shot — and to reach out if someone doesn’t seem like themselves. 

“It really shows in what we are doing, because other police departments are struggling with health and wellness issues. and I think we are ahead of the curve.”

There are also different programs to help officers with various issues including addiction, family stress and instances when a cop shoots someone.

“So, if we provide treatment for officers who are leaving a traumatic scene, we can often stop that from becoming post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Shoppers brave Black Friday crowds for more than bargains

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Black Friday is here, and a lot of people in the Philadelphia region are out looking for a good deal at the King of Prussia Mall, where many of the stores opened at 6 a.m.

Before that, the buzz was at Starbucks, where people were looking for some caffeination to fuel their bargain hunting. 

Mall Marketing Director Kathy Smith says Black Friday continues to be their busiest day of the year.

Among those ready to spend was 17-year-old Abby Keenan of Doylestown. She was with her friends from Dock Mennonite Academy in Lansdale. She said they could barely sleep.

“We’ve been planning this for such a long time,” Keenan said. “We woke up so early today, and we were an hour early, so we waited in the car for a bit.”

Shoppers who spoke to KYW Newsradio on Friday said that, despite the convenience of online shopping, there’s nothing like the experience of being out, especially on the day the holiday shopping season kicks off.

Shawn from New Jersey says she needed to be there in person.

“Because I like to try things on. And with shopping online, you get the item but you might have to send it back,” she said.

There are deals, plenty. 

“Forty percent off everything in the store,” said Mary Kinka from West Chester, “so we did really well in there. Got some pollyanna presents out of the way.”

According to one sign outside of a department store, some merchandise was up to 80% off. 

But for shoppers like Kinka, Black Friday shopping goes beyond saving a few bucks.

“We did it for years and years and years with my mom. She has since passed away, so we’re just carrying out the tradition with my sisters and my nieces and my daughter,” she said. 

All of them with Santa hats and matching shirts. 

Black Friday is also a tradition for a mother-daughter duo from Central New Jersey.

“The deals are amazing, and we’re here for a very long time,” said Erica Cedar. She and her mother, Ethel Mae Littig, wore matching shirts reading “Black Friday Besties” across the front.

“Twenty-seven hours!” Littig said.

The pair use an empty baby stroller to haul around the gifts they buy for their family.

“It’s easier to carry, and you have more stuff you can put in there. You can just load it up until it overflows,” Littig explained. “It’s our muscle.”​

more Philly News (For Your Information)

There’s a high-tech way to answer letters to Santa

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Letters to Santa are nothing new for the U.S. Postal Service, but this year, if you want to help Santa make some holiday wishes come true, you’ll need to get online. 

The Postal Service’s Ray Daiutolo says says mail carriers are inundated with letters to Santa every year. 

“We get thousands and thousands of letters addressed to Santa every year,” Daiutolo said. “Most of those letters are asking for toys and games. Some of the letters will ask for clothes, maybe shoes. And then there are a few that ask for help, maybe for the letter writer themselves, or a loved one. So you have your selection of letters.”

Daiutolo says Postal Service patrons have been fulfilling some of these Christmas wishes for more than 100 years. However, he says, if you want to adopt one of those letters to make a child or adult happy this year, don’t go to the post office. 

Instead, “you can go on your computer, access the website, complete some very simple information, and then go there and find a letter and hopefully adopt it.”

Daiutolo says the idea is to make it easier for people to help others. When you sign up, you receive a QR code, which allows you to mail the package, but the recipient’s address remains anonymous. 

If you want to send a letter to Santa, he says, there is an actual address: 123 Elf Road, North Pole. 

“The ZIP code is easy to remember,” he said. “It’s 88888.”

more Philly News (For Your Information)

African American Chamber of Commerce has new leader

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia-area African American Chamber of Commerce has a new leader, and they’re using Small Business Saturday to promote area companies and the value of chamber membership.

“The goal for anyone that’s joining is really to be able to expand their business by way of additional opportunities,” said Donavan West, the new president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

He comes after spending 16 years at People for People, where last worked as the COO. 

He’s also a small business owner and is hoping to boost the 400 businesses that belong to the chamber and attract more. 

A focus of his will be access to capital for business investment.

“Whether it’s personnel or bricks and mortars, expand the business, the size of it, or expanding the types of contracts, services or products that they want to develop,” he said. 

West says Small Business Saturday is critical to many small retail businesses, and is an opportunity for local customers to help them expand.

“You can really make a lion’s portion of your annual revenue by way of traffic that you are getting,” he added.

To help those businesses as the holidays get closer, they’ll hold a vendor event in mid-December. 

___

Listen to the full conversation West below:

more Philly News (For Your Information)

Expert’s advice on how shoppers can best tackle Black Friday

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Black Friday can be tough to tackle if you do not have a plan, and there are some big do’s and don’ts you should consider when it comes to your holiday shopping for the day.

Forty percent is the magic number to look for when it comes to Black Friday discounts, according to Jill Gonzalez with Wallet HUB.

“If you are going through your cart at the last minute and you see any discount below that level then it might be a good idea to go ahead and wait on purchasing them,” Gonzalez said. 

She said there are some special items to keep an eye on while doing your shopping.

“You can see an average discount of about 70% off on jewelry this year. Books, movies, and music are a good choice as well, around 50% off,” Gonzalez said. 

She said you should not be scared to use the technology at your finger tips to compare prices, and asking the cashier for a price match can go a long way as well.

Related: Retailers can expect a change of face among Black Friday shoppers

Believe it or not, you should hold off a little longer for that big TV calling your name because the newer models are on the way.

“If they can just wait until the end of January, early February, that is actually ideal,” she explained. 

She added furniture purchases should wait too, as you’re better off getting them around Memorial Day.

more Philly News (For Your Information)