Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday bits

Just a few things that caught my attention...
  • Philadelphia's homeless problem has been on the rise, most notably in increased sightings in Rittenhouse Square, including fountain bathers et al., despite increased efforts at finding shelter for people living on the streets. Numbers are down, but I guess they're more visible -- I've certainly been more aware of doorway and underpass clusterings than in years past, but who knows what moves optionless folks from here to there.

  • Plans to institute tolls on I-80 are apparently not dead, with a new scheme recently submitted for federal approval. I certainly prefer this option to the "lease our assets" approach, but it has some hoops to jump through yet.

  • The PA legislature is so stanky that it's attracting think-tank attention: the Brookings is brainstorming ways to get our representatives interested in better public service rather than [insert your deprecation here]. Most depressing quote?
    Barry Kauffman, of Common Cause, said that because of how state campaigns are funded (no limits on donations) and the way districts are drawn, "voters are almost irrelevant."
    Sigh. Wonder whether any of these ideas will leave the drawing board -- we could use an infusion of attention under our local rocks...

  • Regular readers will know that I'm just crushed -- crushed -- to hear that plans to increase the number of Philadelphia's traffic surveilance cameras ten-fold have been delayed by poor camera quality. Another few months before you have to look both ways before you pick your nose (and keep an eye out for relocation of felons to new corners)...

  • Progressive trouble-makers take note: next year's Netroots Nation conference of bloggers and associated folk will be in Pittsburgh. I really enjoyed the first YearlyKos convention (the predecessor of the current series), so if I'm in the country next August (sigh, don't ask), I'll definitely try to make this!

  • Dan at YPP notes that the 10,000 men project has stalled, and lays the blame at the feet of the absence of paid organizers behind the effort. Anybody who's been part of a volunteer activist organization knows how hard it can be to coordinate and sustain efforts in the "free time" of members, but it's a challenge to get enough money to pay a central person early on, when it's most needed. Of course many other issues undermine these kinds of long-term efforts anyway, from the limited free time of the on-the-ground folks to the challenge in keeping everybody motivated and interested in the lulls between opportunities for action (or, in the 10,000 Men case, in motivating them to take personal risks for the cause). No easy answers.

  • I just became aware of a good topical blog called SEPTA Watch, which discusses the ups and downs of our favorite regiona transit underdog. Two classic stories from the last few weeks:
    1. The new 46th Street terminal is open, but shows signs of half-finished workmanship that the blogger calls "good enough for SEPTA" mentality. (The comments devolve into a critique of the city's lack of civic pride and transit upkeep...)
    2. SEPTA debuts a huge new parking complex in Norristown, but then closes it "for the holiday" of July 4, just when lots of suburbanites and other infrequent riders might want to use transit to get downtown for the festivities. Brilliant. Would love to be a fly on the wall at the planning sessions these guys have!


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