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The criminal conviction and resignation of a Philadelphia Congressman is never good news, no matter the circumstances.

While we, the people, grapple with feelings of betrayal realized after guilty convictions on all 23 federal counts against longtime Congressman Chaka Fattah, the heavily African-American 2nd Congressional district that he led for 11 terms is left without representation until a replacement is made. That replacement will have to start at the bottom of a mountain on which seniority and status in the U.S. Congress is built.

Prior to Fattah’s conviction, former State Rep. Dwight Evans defeated him in the April primary. Evans will face Republican challenger James Jones in November. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will decide the details of a special election, while ward leaders will decide on the candidate.

The counts against Fattah – federal racketeering, fraud and money laundering – were devastating, in part because of the place from which they came. According to prosecutors, grant money and nonprofit funds were routed through Fattah’s consultants to pay back an illegal loan of $1 million. These funds were intended to help our youth find their way, to help them reach the halls of academia so often denied to us due to money and circumstance. Instead, argued prosecutors, some of these funds were used to cover expenses from a failed 2007 mayoral campaign.

Fattah had been a staple on the political scene — winning a seat in the Pennsyvania state house and senate before defeating legendary labor leader and former City Councilman Lucien Blackwell for the seat. Chaka Fattah hailed from one of the city’s most cherished public families – the honorable mother Falaka Fattah and David Fattah, founders of the life-saving House of Umoja.

When gang activity seemed an insurmountable challenge in Philadelphia in the 1970s, the couple took neighborhood gang members into their home and raised them as they were their own sons. The duo promoted anti-gang campaigns with slogans like “No more gang war in ‘74” and “Stay alive in ‘75.” Fattah’s conviction likely leaves a painful scar on a family whose leaders gave so much.

Being a public servant should not be synonymous with taking advantage of the public dole and abusing one’s privileges. It should be about self-less actions, and giving of yourself for the good of all.

That doesn’t always happen, and once again, we the voters and constituents are left picking up the pieces.


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