Friday, July 29, 2005

Gum-shoe tracking...

PhillyPolitics spent some time looking for possible mayoral campaign websites (or reservation of good domains for same) for a variety of the most-mentioned (but not yet committed) contenders. Grist for the speculation mill . . .

Smaller political waves

  • This page has several short blurbs about the comings and goings of influential people in the Philadelphia area, including the departures of the aid to the City Council Majority Leader and Mayor Street's former top city planner.

  • Two bits on recent District Attorney candidate Seth Williams, both concerning his fundraiser (to retire campaign debt) this week: PolitcsPhilly lists the bigwigs in attendance, and Dan at YoungPhillyPolitics speculates that the event is effectively an advance retirement party for Lynne Abraham. Guess Williams achieved as much as he could ever have wanted with this year's primary run...

Mariano update

Beleagured Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, now officially under federal grand jury investigation, is being closely watched by rivals and others who wonder whether he will resign and trigger a special election. An Inquirer article tracks the speculations and lists the favorites for replacing him should he leave, from former opponents to major Ward players. Meantime, Mayor John Street calls on Mariano to resign if convicted, applying a standard he advocated previously (but which amazingly carries no legal weight), but there might be reasons that he would step aside before that (not least, pension considerations).

A small note late in the DN article notes that the total city bill for legal defense in all of the last two years' corruption cases is currently over $3 million . . .

Hey, what happened?

A week or so after it happened, Gov. Rendell suddenly notices the shocking moves by Harrisburg leadership to shift around committee asignments based on pay-raise votes (see previous here). Three different takes from the players:
  1. Rep. Thomas F. Yewcic of Cambria County, who lost his post as chairman of the economic development subcommittee, said in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday: "We were told before the pay-raise vote that if people voted against it, we would be removed. It was punishment."

  2. At an impromptu news conference, Rendell called it "unfair and inappropriate" to retaliate against lawmakers who did not support the 16 percent pay raise, which was approved earlier this month before the General Assembly recessed for the summer.
    Welcome to the party, Ed!

  3. [House Minority Leader] DeWeese's chief of staff, Mike Manzo, yesterday defended the action as a way to reward some of the 61 Democrats who voted for the raise.

    "We recognized those who voted 'yes' " and supported Democratic leadership on the bill, said Manzo. "This was not a move designed to punish or single out others."
    . . .
    Manzo said DeWeese, who controls a $19 million budget that pays expenses for House Democrats, could have punished members by cutting spending for their offices and staff - as he has done in the past - but did not.
    I'm sure they're glad they still have their heads too.
Not sure whether the sudden news coverage (and subsequent gubenatorial notice) will make anything happen, but it might help with subsequent pressure on minimum wage and good government fronts.

Update: columnists continue to pile up the finger-wagging: John Grogan on the worsening outrage, and an Inquirer Editorial about DeWeese's whip-cracking:
When he argued in favor of the pay raise several weeks ago, DeWeese said it would attract "high-minded and intelligent" young people into politics. They will be led, unfortunately, by the same old assortment of hacks who rule by wielding the lowest common denominator.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Specter continues to confound definition

At least, that's my take on this story that had previously been under my radar: Specter may seek probe of Guantanamo, followed rapidly and inevitably by White House cool to Specter's idea for a Guantanamo commission. He's actually working on a bill concerning the rights of Gitmo detainees even now, and plans a trip to Cuba in lage August (for another road-trip committee hearing).
A main concern in setting up a commission, Specter said, is the amount of time it would take to issue a report. "We wouldn't have results for at least two years, and we would have a very different texture here," he said.
Maybe we will, maybe we won't...
The first article also mentions some half dozen other things that Specter is involved with, from the Roberts hearings to asbestos-related legislation. The second article mentions how various bigwigs reacted to Specter's idea; most surpising to me was this one:
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the Republican Conference chairman, said he supported Specter's desire to hold hearings on this issue, which "clearly falls into the committee's jurisdiction."

"Sen. Santorum looks forward to talking to Sen. Specter about the idea of some sort of commission," Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham said.
Specter cites various concerns about detainee handling and rendition, and notes that the topic has been considered "too hot" for anybody to want to take on. He surely seems to be wearing an asbestos suit these days!

You know it's summer when . . .

. . . a typo can become a news story.

(It's about whether Gerlach meant to cosponsor the Grow Act, making him a flip-flopper, or the Growth Act, making him, uh, whatever he was before.)
As you were...

Nutter's shadowy past?

The Daily News has a story today in which they cast aspersions on City Councilman Michael Nutter's new mantle as ethics crusader, pointing out a recent incident in which he tried to help his local Ward leader get some no-bid contracty goodness.
Nutter said he had given Campbell no special treatment and merely inquired about the contract as he would for any constituent. He said he did not know what the contract was for or that it had been a no-bid contract.

The contract, signed in spring 2003, was an $80,000 deal for Campbell to provide consulting services to improve the efficiency of the sheriff's office.

The contract was with the Visionary Group, a Campbell-run consulting firm whose clients are typically political candidates seeking Campbell's support in local and judicial elections.
This probably gets the reporters salivating, coming as it does on the heels of the recent kerfluffle over Nutter's inaction on some Campbell-related trolley obstructionism (see background here). But the actual details here give a window into How Business Is Done in Philadelphia:
Green would not say whether he had been pressured about the contract, but sources in his office say that Green initially agreed to the contract as a political favor, hoping the funding would never be approved.

When funding was approved in a transfer from the city's general fund, a completed contract signed by Campbell landed on the sheriff's desk. The sheriff signed it, but then ordered Tyrone Bynum, his finance director, not to formally execute it.
. . .
A source close to Green said the sheriff had been concerned that the contract "wasn't going to fly" under public scrutiny because the Visionary Group "can't do anything."
Zack Stalberg, the new director of Philadelphia's political watchdog group, the Committee of Seventy, is a bit dubious about Nutter's claims that he was merely looking after a constituent's interests.
"There's a very fine line between an inquiry and what is perceived as a call in support of a potential contractor," Stalberg said. "The 10 district Council people have extraordinary power, whether they're in the administration's favor or not. People pay attention to their phone calls because at the end of the day, anything that happens in their district, really needs their support."
Anyway, the article does point out that Nutter generally holds himself to high ethical and transparency standards, and that his recent ethics bills (still awaiting voter approval in the fall; see summary here) would make contracts like Campbell's illegal. And yet...
But in early 2003 when Campbell's contract was in the works, the probe-triggered ethics bills were at least a year away. It was also an election year, a time when ward leaders hold enormous sway.

"Carol Campbell is a loose cannon," Stalberg said. "She's a ranking official in the Democratic Party in Philadelphia and she uses that involvement and influence as head of the African American Ward Leaders to benefit herself."
Probably the whole thing will blow away (in voters' minds) as Just More City Shenanigans, but I'm sure Nutter would prefer that the story hadn't come to light . . .

Political smack-down

Well, voters may be up in arms about PA legislators who voted for the recent government-wide pay-hike, but party leadership is more concerned with those who voted against it: they're being stripped of committee chairs.
Fifteen House Democrats who voted against the controversial legislative pay raise were stripped of their committee leadership positions in an unusual midterm shake-up that some members viewed as payback for their "no" votes.

In a letter to House Speaker John Perzel (R., Phila.) last week, House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese announced changes in 16 House committees. Committee assignments are routinely made at the beginning of a new session, not mid-session.
. . .
In all, 12 subcommittee chairmen and three committee vice chairmen who voted against the raise were removed or demoted to secretary. One was stripped of leadership in two subcommittees. Democratic lawmakers who voted for the pay hike were moved into the higher-ranking and higher-paid positions.
In part this gives those folks an immediate $4k pay cut, but obviously its repurcussions are much wider. I find this manner of enforcing party discipline on an issue with no meaningful party lines appalling. Views from the inside?
Political analyst G. Terry Madonna said the move is not surprising in a legislature known as one of the most controlling in the country. "They do what they need to do to enforce discipline," he said.
[Rep. Greg] Vitali said the move raises legal questions.

"They are using tax dollars to entice a legislator to vote one way or another," he said. "It's not about the money, it's about leadership acting within its legal authority. My gut feeling is they have exceeded it."
Well! when you put it *that* way . . .

Let's not be too hasty!

In an announcement that surprises few, Sen. Rick Santorum says that he hasn't entirely written off a Presidential bid in 2008, despite his statement during a Washington Post online interview (see here).
"The reason I leave this little window open is because I have no idea what's going to happen between now and 31/2 years from now," Santorum said in a breakfast meeting with reporters.
. . .
"It would be easier for me to say no, absolutely, positively under no circumstances, but in my mind that wouldn't be honest," he said.
Surely what I say to the press doesn't count? I had my fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Colleges set a good example

Apparently a consortium of southeastern Pennsylvania's educational institutions are taking the lead in using wind power to help fill their energy needs.
Halley stresses that despite fears of exorbitant costs, wind energy has an almost negligible effect on budgets. He says that on average, schools spend $450 to $550 annually on electricity for each student, and that purchasing wind power adds only $3.50 to $10 to that number. Though the cost difference is minimal, the impact isn't. A nickel's worth of wind energy is equivalent to 3 to 6 pounds of coal.

Combined, the 34 schools purchase approximately 92,200 megawatt hours. In terms of carbon dioxide reduction, it's an amount equivalent to planting 7.5 million trees, cutting driving distance by 96 million miles or removing more than 15,000 cars from the road each year.

But the benefits go beyond carbon dioxide reductions. The schools' commitment, which began with Penn, Carnegie Mellon and Penn State in 2001, has provided the capital needed to construct new turbines, fueling a Pennsylvania wind energy boom that comes with significant economic gains.
A handful of schools, including UPenn, have managed to hit the 10% goal mark already -- kudos to all involved!

(via PoliticsPhilly)

In other favorite topics

After a long stretch of summer drought, the stories already posted, plus these three on themes we've been watching here at ASFR:
  • In the realm of Philadelphia's plan for citywide wireless internet, a trial run in Olney, offering free service for a year within a square mile area. Lots of publicity being worked here, plus some word of finalists to put the citywide service together.

  • A Daily News story looks at the doubling of average city house prices in the last decade, and particularly at the plethora of high-end real estate. They give some examples of what sells for a cool half-million these days...

  • Jill Porter argues that SEPTA made the right decision in not following New York into the random bag-search follies.
    Terrorists still manage to blow up buses in Israel, despite intense security, package searches and buses retrofitted with measures to keep suspicious passengers from boarding.
    Good point. And we have a lot less daily threat here...
Well, now I expect the heat to break and the news to dry up again tomorrow!

News from the world of political corruption

Some old and new faces in the investigation news today:
  • Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, target of much federal sniffing (see previous story here), has received official notice that a federal grand jury will be discussing his business.
    Federal prosecutors have also sent target letters to at least two companies in Mariano's district. One of those letters referenced alleged criminal acts that included money laundering and conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud, according to a criminal justice source who has seen the letter.
  • Norristown Mayor Ted LeBlanc is the latest target of anti-payola law enforcement activity in the region, now charged with bank fraud, soliciting a bribe, and various mail frauds.
    Norristown Mayor Ted LeBlanc was accused by the U.S. attorney yesterday of taking a $10,000 bribe from an insurance contractor in exchange for giving him government business. Former municipal administrator Anthony Biondi was accused of concealing his financial interest in two companies and then accepting hidden cash payments from the firms.

    Insurance agent Herbert H. Bagley, the insurance broker for the municipality, was accused of stealing more than $50,000 from the borough and bribing LeBlanc. Two paving contractors were accused of hiding Biondi's financial interest in their businesses.
    The charges come after more than two years of investigation into Norristown hijinks.
Classic local seaminess. The LeBlanc story even involves brown paper bags full of thousands in cash...

News from the educational front

Several stories today about schools in the Philadelphia area:
  1. The National Constitution Center is planning to run a high school with the Philly school district.
    The project, which will stress democracy and citizenship, is the latest new high school venture between the increasingly entrepreneurial school district and an outside organization.

    Seven other new or remade high schools are set to open in the next few years, with big-name partners such as Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania, the Franklin Institute, and the College Board, the creator of the SAT and Advanced Placement program.
    . . .
    Each partnership works a little differently, but usually the groups provide expertise and time, help customize the curriculum, and participate in selecting a principal.
    This one will be downtown; the Microsoft one will be in West Philly; both hope to open in 2006. It looks like they'll run a bit like magnet schools, with a mix of students from their neighborhoods and the rest of the city.

  2. That story also ties in with the announcement that Philadelphia's city high schools will be getting smaller, something that Education CEO Paul Vallas has made a priority (see previous announcement here). They hope it will improve learning and enable a wider array of offerings.

  3. Meanwhile, an African-themed charter elementary school which planned to open this fall in West Chester, is apparently still looking for accommodations. Their lease negotiations failed because the school group and proposed facilities were headed by the same guy. They now have only a few weeks to meet a planning deadline.

  4. In higher education news, Tom Ferrick reports a kerfluffle at Drexel over a group of one-year MBAs whose program was supposed to include a trip to China, which was then canceled due to SARS concerns (and, to add insult, replaced with a one-day seminar and Chinese dinner. heh.). They're now appealing a lawsuit that awarded each student the value of the intended trip. Ferrick relates their lack of diplomacy in this matter to their handling of the Powelton Village development dispute.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No, thanks

That's what SEPTA says to questions about whether it is considering a move like those taken by the New York and New Jersey transit associations (see, e.g., this or this) to institute random bag searches.
"For us, I don't think random police activity is highly favorable [to security]," said Jordan. "I'd rather have our officers out walking a beat than concentrating on doing package searches in a couple of major stations.
The argument made in the article is that Philadelphia is not an obvious terrorist target in the way that New York or DC might be; stronger to me is the argument that such searches inconvenience commuters while likely doing nothing to stop a determined terrorist (turned away? try the next stop down). Experts also point out that public transit, by its nature open at multitudinous points, is very difficult to protect at, say, the level of airport security.

A second article discusses the use of bomb-sniffing dogs, both in general and in transit systems specifically. Sounds like almost exactly what the permeable-system problem needs, but it's hard (and expensive) to train enough dogs for the potential scale of the job.

Not quite blown over

I sort of wondered what had happened to the idea put forward by Senator Rick Santorum that the publicly financed reports of the National Weather Service should be kept for private distribution (see previous story here). Appears that the weather gurus were just biding their time: they've now gone on the offensive to oppose his bill.
A union representing National Weather Service employees took its case against a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) to the radio this weekend, putting up ads that accuse him of trying to privatize the federal agency.
The article notes that the bill has yet to even attract a cosponsor; could the weather folks be making an early election jab?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Santorum talks

PA's junior US Senator, Rick Santorum, has just begun a publicity tour for his new book. He went online live today to answer a variety of questions about his book and his plans. Some intriguing excerpts:
...lots of different types of families can work but what we know works best is a two-parent traditional, what I call natural, families.
. . .
In fact in 1950 the average American family paid 2% in taxes. Today that average American family pays 27% in taxes to the federal government. Oddly enough the difference, 25%, is what the average second wage earner makes in America today. So you see, on average, the second wage earner is working simply to pay the increased burden the federal government has put on the family.
Um, doesn't the patheticness of that second wage need addressing too?
I can't speak for other politicians but I can speak for me, and my intention is not to run in 2008.
So much for the conspiracy theorists...

Those wishing to hear more from the Senator can catch him on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight as well. An interesing choice for somebody with no Presidential aspirations.

More big guns

Word that Barbara Hafer might challenge Tim Murphy for his Pittsburgh (18th district) congressional seat (see prev here) apparently got some notice at high levels in the GOP, as Vice President Cheney is coming out for a Murphy event today.

(via Edico)

Lifting more boats?

A front-page Inquirer article today speculates about whether the widespread outrage over recent legislative pay-hikes will drive passage of a higher minimum wage for Pennsylvania (even though the two were delinked by Rendell's signature).
Almost two decades ago, citizen outrage over a $12,000 legislative pay raise prompted lawmakers to share the benevolence. They boosted Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $3.70, 35 cents above the federal standard.
. . .
Efforts to increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage have been stymied by Republicans and business interests for almost two decades. The three bills, introduced by three Philadelphia lawmakers, propose raising the state minimum wage by as much as $2 over the federal minimum of $5.15. The bills have remained stuck in House and Senate committees.

But now, Gov. Rendell - who as a gubernatorial candidate in 2002 opposed raising the state minimum wage in favor of a federal increase - is on board. With Rendell promising to make the minimum wage a top agenda item this fall, momentum is growing.
The article points out that the last time legislators hiked the minimum wage was also tied to a period of backlash over a payraise that they granted themselves.

As for the level of outrage, columnist John Baer says he's never gotten such volume or variety letters on one topic, and Signe offers a blunt comic giving his own opinion of the matter.

Update: Rendell's Welfare Secretary was apparently among the outraged too.
"I certainly don't believe that people should not have raises, but I believe that part of the business of a state is to make sure our most vulnerable citizens have their needs taken care of, and I think we're leaving some people uncovered."
She was probably in the midst of the painful Medicare cut decisions, so it's not an abstraction to her at all...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Speculation in the streets....

The Street boys just can't keep a low profile around town. First there was the impolitic decision to give Milton Street a no-bid concessions contract during Live8. And now speculation is running high that Sharif Street might be considering a run for City Council, perhaps for an at-large seat rumored to be opening up. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't forget that they're out there working the name recognition.

From the serious to the sublime

Three other stories of potential interest:
  • An update in the New Jersey gubenatorial horserace puts US Sen. John Corzine ahead of his opponent Doug Forrester by a comfortable margin, but with the latter's name recognition on the upswing. That election is creeping up.

  • College tuition is crazy nationwide, but apparently the pricetag in southeast PA is even worse in every category.
    The area's centuries-old tradition of higher-education excellence is partly to blame, experts said, noting that prestige has a price. But poor state support for public universities, the high cost of doing business in an urban area, and the local marketplace's hankering for colleges with top-notch perks are also factors, college administrators said.
    Pesky demand for quality!

  • The invention of TV dinners apparently arose from the Philadelphia suburbs.
    Thomas first came up with the idea in late 1953, when he worked for Swanson and the company had more than 52,000 pounds of frozen turkey that went unsold for that Thanksgiving. Thomas sketched his idea for the dinner, drew cover art for the box holding the tray that made it look like a television set, and presented the package to his bosses.

    The next year, Swanson sold 10 million TV dinners, and a lifestyle was born.
    The guy who had the idea brought home frozen dinners almost every night, and used his family as cheap taste-testers. Ah, civic pride...

Everything's "ok"

That is, two different chunks of significant paperwork have gotten approval:
  1. PICA, a state oversight board, has signed off on next year's Philadelphia budget. This turns out to have been a nontrivial process:
    After the city's five-year spending plan was passed last month, PICA staffers warned that it projected a five-year deficit of more than $100 million. Under the law, the authority can reject a city budget that is out of balance, which would throw city finances into chaos.
    City officials had to adjust some of their projections and promise to trim expenses of several types. The Board then passed the budget, but has not yet released its report, which is expected to be critical of the Street administration and its financial choices (see, e.g., this).

  2. Meanwhile, preliminary regulations for gaming parlors were cleared in Harrisburg, after the firming-up of protections for problem gamblers, as requested by Senator Fumo (see prev. here). They're looking to start taking applications for licenses early this fall.

Legislative race chat

  1. U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R, 6th dist.) will run for re-election next year, likely in a rematch against Lois Murphy. Gerlach has not always been popular with his own party, due to an unpredictability with regard to the "party line" on various issues (e.g., Social Security), nor with the opposition party, which finds him a bit too much of a party player (e.g., on the DeLay ethics investigations). However, the GOP made a strong show of support, with Laura Bush swinging through PA for a Gerlach fundraiser. A lot of attention will be focused on this raise, which is considered a swing seat.

  2. Meantime, on the western side of the state, onetime U.S. Senate aspirant Barbara Hafer, who bowed out of that race in deference to Bob Casey (see previous story here), is considering a challenge to Tim Murphy for his Pittsburgh-area U.S. House seat. Mention is made of conferences with Gov. Rendell, so perhaps support for this effort was linked to her decision in the previous one.
Lots more, I'm sure, as these races approach!

What does it mean to be pro-choice or anti-abortion?

Folks incensed at the prospect of a Casey nomination for Senate in 2006 because of his pro-life views could do worse than read this post by Markos, which demonstrates succinctly that it's not always as easy (or productive) to draw lines as one might think. Party lines aren't always so clean either, but his point deserves more consideration. I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Text for new course officially set

The text for the new African/African-American history course to be taught in Philadelphia public schools starting this fall (see original story here and more discussion here) has now been chosen. It's adapted from one sometimes used in college courses (including occasionally at Temple and Swarthmore), and contains material that students often find surprising. Scroll to the bottom of the story to find a few excerpted facts that you probably didn't know yourself.

(hat tip to PoliticsPhilly)

Lots of opinions

The pieces catching my eye today are on the Opinion pages rather than big news items:
  • A member of the Chester County Transportation Management Association argues that we need to get moving on a Schuylkill Valley SEPTA line if we ever want to get control over the local commuting mess -- action, not study.

  • A consumer advocate takes the legislature to task for its defense of payday lending, and gives some stats to back up the criticism: most notably, the vast majority of loan customers are repeat rather than one-time, which undercuts the "emergency need" argument.

  • John Baer is agog over one PA judge's comment that "nobody was complaining" about the recent statewide pay-hike. He must not get out much.

Where the money goes

Dan at Young Philly Politics had a good post yesterday, unpacking some of the power lines in City Hall and how city money gets budgeted and spent in Philadelphia. Specifically, it appears that the Mayor can lowball the expected revenue figure, which limits City Council to working with that amount, and then if "extra" monies appear, he can spend them essentially as he likes. Maybe you like his choices, but the game this time around forestalled discussion of whether we could have *both* cut business taxes and still funded libraries and other important services -- let's keep the cards on the table when distributing public resources.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Town-gown relations

Drexel is angering its neighbors in Powelton village over development of a swath of land that was supposed to be used for mutual benefit.
The intent - outlined in a series of letters to and from local pols, residents and school officials - was to have Drexel buy the lot for use as green space and recreation, primarily for its own students, but also for local residents.

Within a few years, the university returned to the civic group and said it had found a perfect use for the lot: building a large dormitory.
The neighbors killed that plan, but the current proposal seems like the same wolf in semisheepish clothing. Ferrick traces a history of undiplomatic maneouvers past -- looks like Drexel should learn to play nicely with its neighbors lest it become unwelcome.

Update: more on this story in Thursday's Daily News, especially the grim vision of a hungry developer who's also on the Planning Commission...

Self-fueling outrage

The Inquirer reports that the current outcry against the recent legislative pay-raise is more widespread and longlasting than the response to the last big raise a decade ago. Will it last long enough to result in any substantial consequences for the legislators involved in the vote? Only time will tell.

City Council chief hospitalized

Anna Verna is apparently in the hospital, as I heard on NPR this morning. She has some kind of pulmonary condition requiring intervention, and has already been under care for a couple of weeks. Sounds serious -- I hope that everything goes smoothly and she's back on her feet soon. (The press release said she'd be out in another week, and fit in time for the September session.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Rendell speaks to pay raises

From Sunday, but I had missed it -- Rendell in his own words, for the York Daily Record (at least). He focuses on the judiciary, which hasn't gotten much discussion by the gripers.
First and foremost, this legislation frees the judiciary from depending on the legislature to decide when and if judges will receive a pay increase — the very legislature on whose actions the courts sit in judgment. That has raised in the minds of some an appearance of conflict and impropriety, creating the question, “Did the court rule a certain way because the legislature did or did not give the judiciary a pay increase?” This legislation puts that question to rest.
He also mentions executive staffers, and cites some studies of disparaties between public and private sector pay. The legislators have gotten plenty of discussion already, and he recycles his "once and for all" angle here, but also demonstrates their hard work with a list of major legislation.

(via Edico)

Trippi comes to Philly

Joe Trippy, of Howard Dean campaign fame, is apparently planning to weigh in on the 2007 Philadelphia mayoral race. Specifically, he's been hired as a consultant to Tom Knox, the guy I know least about in the race -- apparently I'm not alone, as Dan at Young Philly Politics says his stances are virtually unknown. Trippi will probably bring good strategy, as well as independence from local power influences, but I wish I had ways of learning about Knox other than the image that gets crafted in such a kiln.

Monday, July 18, 2005

New look for boathouse row

Well, the new lights were debuted over the big holiday weekend. Lots of folks seem wowed, but I share The Long Cut's take on the whole thing -- not as nice-looking, and prone to carnivalification. Compare the photos he shows there to images of the original, along the lines of this one or this.

Money matters

John Grogan is still bitter over the legislative pay-raise, and gets inspired for a voter action to change the linkage of PA pol. salaries not to a fraction of those of their federal counterparts but to a multiple of the median PA income. Sadly, he finds that such voter initiatives are not allowed in PA.

Meantime, the Inquirer takes a look at local politicians who voted against the measure and inquires about their intentions to accept or refuse the raise for themselves (this year, at least). Strangely, they weren't able to get a full set of answers to that question...

Finally, a Daily News article looks at new campaign finance rules, which appear to be confusing the (myriad) mayoral hopefuls.
"It's a fascinating subject," said Comcast Vice President David L. Cohen, who managed two mayoral campaigns for Ed Rendell. "Even the people who've favored all these changes don't know what they mean yet."
Some presumed candidates have already accepted donations larger than the new limits, so there may be some refunds coming or money that will be hanging in limbo. Of course, Philadelphia politicians are sure to be enterprising when it comes to finding ways to keep money in play; for example:
One way around the law is for outside committees to raise big money and spend it on behalf of a candidate. A powerful pol like state Sen. Vince Fumo or House Speaker John Perzel could spend whatever he likes on a candidate he favors.
Messy bidness...

Santorum under the microscope

The conventional wisdom is that all publicity is good for a politician, but it's hard to know what to make of the way that Santorum has been getting coverage lately. A flurry of bits along these lines:
  1. Tom Ferrick had a Sunday column looking at what he calls the wacko factor in recent Santorum news. His conclusion?
    I have to assume this is a deliberate strategy with two goals:

    One. Energize his base by turning the election into a moral crusade. Two. Peel moderate voters away from Casey by tagging him as a representative of the radical-feminist-no-fault-freedom-liberal-decadent-anti-family Democrats, if you'll excuse my hyper-hyphenation.

    In this scenario, Casey becomes the extremist. It is a plausible strategy, unless the Wacko Factor comes into play and voters decide that Santorum fits Winston Churchill's definition of a fanatic - a man who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
    Interesting analysis, if peppered with snark.

  2. A Daily News editorial piles on the perplexity, wondering whether Santorum really wants to get reelected, given his strong recent statements.

  3. Two more columnists at the DN look into the Santorum crystal ball, trying to figure out what the Senator may have in mind for 2006 and beyond, and concluding that it's mighty difficult to say.

  4. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is coming to Rick's aid with an early show of support, by having a summer meeting in Pittsburgh.
    "I don't think that was lost on us," [RNC spokesman] McLear said. "Pennsylvania's a crucial swing state, and I think it's beneficial not only to Sen. Santorum, but also to the other candidates in the Pittsburgh area, to bring a couple of hundred Republicans into town from all over the country."
    No, that probably wouldn't hurt his visibility, but who knows whether it fits with his long-term schemes...

Friday, July 15, 2005

In other Friday news

  • The Intelligent Design controversy in Dover, PA, continues, with a group of parents bringing suit over the proposed textbook . . .

  • Fundraising for next year's Senate race is off and running, with Santorum's incumbent advantage currently looking like a two-fold monetary bonus. The absolute numbers are big, however, furthering speculations that this race will set new spending records (with Philly's mayoral battle close behind). Pennacchio hasn't yet started to fundraise.

  • John Baer reports that there's a new marker near Independence Hall recognizing gay-rights activists of the 1960s. It was unveiled rather quietly on July 1 by the Pennsylvania State Historical Commission. The article suggests that we not read too much into the action, pointing out that a similar proposal was recently judged "too controversial" to even discuss in the state legislature.

  • An avid Phillies fan who took out some frustrations by launching an email attack on the Inquirer and Daily News computer systems (and sending offensive emails to other people under the names of some of the sportswriters) has been sentenced to jail time.
    His lawyer, Thomas Ivory, said, "It goes to show you: Don't pick a fight with someone who prints ink by the barrel."

    In response, Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett said, "It goes to show that spam isn't a joke, and that frivolously disrupting people's jobs and lives won't be tolerated."
    I guess that loving your team really *can* go too far...

  • PhillyPolitics caught a strange little drama in which Philadelphia City Councilfolk, officially done for the year, made waves over proposed new water prices. We'll have to see what comes of it for both water rates and political hay.

Improving housing in Philadelphia

Two stories indicating good news for housing in Philadelphia and for the city's future:
  1. Governor Rendell signed a bill that will set up a trust fund in the city to help with improvement of housing in poor areas. The fund had been approved by City Council, but required tweaking of a state law before it could be put into action.
    The fund will be used by nonprofit community development groups to build housing for low-income people, such as a family of four with an annual income of $20,000 or less. It also will be used to construct homes for moderate-income people, such as a family of four with an annual income of $78,000.

    The money also will be used to provide grants for home repair, for adapting housing for the disabled, and for providing emergency payments for rent, mortgage and utility bills.
    A starting chunk of funds for the program will come from Mayor Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, with subsequent funding to come from doubling the sums charged to record deeds and process mortgages in the city.

  2. Meanwhile, it appears that neighborhoods where the NTI or Philadelphia Housing Authority have undertaken projects (from individual homes to major housing developments) have become hotbeds for private real estate development.
    Two independent studies conducted by Applied Real Estate Analysis, Inc. and Econsult Corp. show that PHA's multi-year real estate development program is bringing increased property value and optimism to formerly distressed neighborhoods. The studies show that property values from 1999 to 2004 have grown by 142 percent, more than 2.5 times the citywide rate of 55 percent.
    PoliticsPhilly looks at these effects and notes that many of those regions were among the biggest population-losers during the 1990s, so if they become desirable neighborhoods again, they may really fuel a turnaround in Philadelphia's fortunes.
Putting these two stories together: if the pattern continues, the synergism between new government investment and subsequent private expansion in troubled areas could mean substantive and exciting improvement in the condition of Philadelphia's neighborhoods and in the lives of its inhabitants.

Crazy like a fox?

Will Bunch at Attytood thinks that the recent spate of Santorum scandals -- from controversial quotes in his new book to blaming the city of Boston for the woes of the clergy -- is less a sign of craziness or a sinking boat than symptoms of a devious strategy -- namely, to free himself up for a run at the Presidency. This could be complete bollocks, but I've heard wackier. Santorum is certainly a savvy politician.

(via Young Philly Politics)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

When it rains...

Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano has been under federal investigation for a number of his financial relationships (see previous story here). And every rock that they turn over seems to lead to more beetles running in more directions. Now the school district is starting to itch.
FEDERAL investigators probing City Councilman Rick Mariano's business affairs are asking questions about a company that he introduced to the school district in 2003.

Danlin Management Group Inc. was given a $225,000 contract to consult for the district on worker-compensation cases for six months, but wanted much more. In a lawsuit filed against the district in February, the company asks for $2.5 million, complaining that it wasn't paid for a contract extension and was never given a promised larger contract.
There's also a contribution to Perzel mentioned, coming a day after Danlin received a big contract. Sigh.

Olympics in Philadelphia?

There's sure been some speculation lately about Philadelphia's fitness and prospects for hosting a future Olympic games. First the Sunday Inquirer had a piece looking at all the ways Philly was way ahead of other contenders in having facilities already in place, etc. Now it appears there's an official study underway with a report expected this fall. I guess the city, heady with the success of Live8, is hungry for more of the spotlight. I tend to think in terms of the traffic, construction hassle, and general disruption of my enjoyment of city life, but there are probably better measures . . .

(via PoliticsPhilly, and welcome to the blogroll, well past due)

More wireless mutterings

Philadelphia's plan to go wireless has sometimes been ballyhooed (usually by those who see it as a social equalizer and trendsetter) and sometimes panned (usually by those who would lose business). It's in the news today as bids to build the network run higher than expected.
Meanwhile, no board members have been appointed by Mayor Street to Wireless Philadelphia, although Neff said the appointments are imminent. A spokesman for Street said yesterday that the process was "moving forward" but that Street was not ready to announce any appointments.
Fundraising still in preparation phases as well, although the director of the city's information services hopes construction could be underway by fall. hmmmm...

PA prepared to grow greener

The Growing Greener II funds are apparently close to launch, since Rendell officially signed it yesterday. The article recaps the hopes and fears surrounding this legislation, and also gives the breakdown of the $625 million by geography and/or who gets to distribute it. Much speculation about what good things could come of this, since the specific projects haven't been decided yet, for the most part.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The outrage rages on

From the western end of the state, another columnist bemoans the legislative pay-raise. This one has a novel suggestion, after comparing the number of PA legislators to those from the other high-end state governments like CA and NY -- we should trim back the number of reps and senators until they are more in line with the ratios elsewhere.
If it was time to face facts in this budget due to declining federal money, aging population and double-digit health-care inflation, then it's time to face facts about our swollen Legislature. The cost of keeping these people employed is no longer tolerable. It's time to cut their numbers in half.
. . .
What's needed is a political groundswell so widespread that nobody can afford to ignore it. Candidates should be asked to sign a pledge that they will vote in the next session to cut their own numbers in half, effective in X number of years (but no more than 10). That gives the old hands time to retire and the rest plenty of notice. Those who refuse to sign are dogged at every step -- meetings in their districts, pickets, blogs, e-mails, letters, phone calls, billboards, Web sites, newspaper ads, letters to the editor.
If it's so hard to attract quality folks that we need to hike their wages, then perhaps the answer is to settle for a smaller yield . . .

A home with a view

Real estate is hot everywhere, and particuarly undergoing a renovation and construction boom in Philadelphia. An Inquirer article today spotlights the sudden frenzy of new condos being planned or built along the Delaware River. Could Center City finally reach out its fingers and reclaim its eastern border, or will the highway always separate riverfront housing from the pedestrian city? Only time will tell...

Late starting education

With all the efforts to get kids learning at an early age, it amazes me to learn that under current PA law, parents don't need to send their children to school until the age of 8. This means that some kids (as many as 20% in Philadelphia!) are entering 1st grade already a year or two older than their classmates and without the benefits of kindergarten, etc.
[Philadelphia school chief] Vallas said the late-starters face problems in their own learning and pose problems for others. They tend to be less academically prepared, are more likely to become disciplinary problems, and eventually are at greater risk of dropping out, he said.
The state House has passed a bill that would lower the compulsory age to 6 in Philadelphia, and the Senate should be considering it this fall.
State Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. (D., Phila.), chairman of the House Education Committee and the prime mover behind the bill, said he wants to get the Philadelphia provision in place by the end of this year and in effect for the 2006-07 school year.
It seems like the entire state deserves the benefits of this requirement. Opponents cite parental choice, but presuming that city parents choose poorly while rural parents "have good reasons" to delay smacks of cloaked racism.

Latest Quinnipiac poll

Casey still well ahead of Santorum (50-39) for US Senate in 2006, for those who believe that opinions 18 months out are significant. Santorum still looks pretty good on job approval (51%) and deserving reelection (45%), which makes PA voters look a bit inconsistant. The poll also asked about views on a variety of issues, finding widespread support for a moderate new appointee to the Supreme Court (as derived from their views on Roe v. Wade, the balance of the current court, and how they'd like Specter to handle things).

(via Armando at dailyKos)

Earning that raise

Above Average Jane has some mullings over job worth, followed by suggestions for ways that the legislature could justify their recent pay hike, such as increased regulation of their outside sources of income and added transparency of the legislative process. Seems about right (and more productive than the yelling and hiding that are currently the norm).

Philadelphia booming with boomers?

America's Hometown caught an interesting study showing that more and more older folks are choosing the city over the suburbs (or shedding the baggage of home and yard to move in) for their retirements, and that this could fuel a lasting wave of population influx to downtown Philly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tuesday news bits

We're getting into the quiet news season as everybody heads for the shore and the pols take the summer off. Thus, posting likely to lighten (unless my ever-wider nets find me an unexpected gem). For today, these bits:
  1. The battle to save the military base at Willow Grove added a new weapon (or maybe front, heh), as PA's top politicians file a suit to block the closure.
    The "militia" clause in the U.S. Constitution states that a National Guard unit "may not be changed, relocated or withdrawn without approval of the governor," the three officials asserted in a press release.

  2. Montgomery County is speeding its disposal of property seized through forfeiture laws, turning to eBay to sell a variety of items. I guess it's a good thing that real estate is hard to unload this way...

  3. The Daily News has a couple of stories on payday lending (or semi-legal usury; see story here). The PA House approved a crummy measure to legalize and regulate the practice, and the Senate is expected to take up similar legislation in the fall. The House version, which was stripped of its consumer protections, would likely be vetoed by Rendell, but who knows what will come out of conference. Anyway,
    • One story looks at the heavy-hitting lobbyists and PR folk who are involved already and will continue to throw their weight around on this legislation. Lots of names listed for all sides.
    • A second piece looks at the pros and cons of payday lending -- it's easy to see the folks who borrow beyond their means and get into trouble, but there are also people who are able to get loans for unforeseen expenses that might otherwise be impossible to meet. Interesting, although I'd rather see a non-usurious micro-loan program (for people, not businesses) developed to address the latter.
Update: I wouldn't want to miss any of the legislative-pay-hike outrage stories, which today included an editorial at the Daily News.
THE MINIMUM $11,380-a-year raise that Pennsylvania state legislators voted themselves last week is more than their constituents who work full-time at the state minimum wage make in a year.

But according to according to Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow, D-Lackawanna, who will get $23,877 more a year, raising your own pay in the middle of the night takes guts.
If Pennsylvanians want their complaints to be taken seriously, they should be thinking hard about the next round of primaries...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rendell -- flush with success?

An article today points out that Gov. Rendell is now claiming to have fulfilled his original goals for the office (seven, as spelled out in his election campaign) and thus starting to gear up for his re-election run.
It's no big secret that a year in advance of an election - before the shadow of re-election politics gets cast over everything - is the best time for a politician to line up his ducks. Rendell has seven of them: revitalize the economy, improve education, cut property taxes, better the environment, expand prescription drug coverage for seniors, cut government spending and reform medical malpractice.

Though voters will be the final judge, Rendell now claims that he's finally achieved success with the final passage of a $625 million bond for environmental programs.

"It's ... very gratifying for me because it's the last of the seven major proposals I made to the Legislature. All seven have passed," he said. "When I came here, a lot of you said, 'This is too much too fast, the Legislature is never going to work with you.' And they have."
Of course, his opponents (and even some of his supporters) will be loath to credit him with most of the above, but only time will tell whom the voters believe.

(via Edico)

All that hot air to any effect?

All the lobbying by Senators and Governors can only do so much -- Santorum estimates that the Willow Grove base's prospects may have improved from 10% to 25%, but that still leaves a high chance that it will get closed as proposed. Heck, Pentagon officials have said flattering things about all the bases they've visiting, so we shouldn't read too much into their remarks here. Perhaps it's time that local pols start looking into alternative uses for the area, as has been recommended, even while its fate is still up in the air...


Rendell signs pay-raise, defends his choice. No surprises. Business proceeds as usual in Harrisburg...

(recap of the voting tallies also included)

John Baer is venting the people's frustration today.

Friday, July 08, 2005

How much do your legislators work?

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a handy categorization of state legislator jobs into those closest to full-time versus those requiring less work, staff, and time. They also look at compensation averages within each category and a number of other interesting attributes. Good stuff (and it's from a year ago, so not linked to current, um, controversies).

(via Above Average Jane)

Horse-race tidbits

Local factions are apparently trying to lure US Rep. (and Phila. Democratic party head) Bob Brady into the fray for 2007 mayor, despite his protestations of disinterest. While he intends to focus on the 2006 races first, Brady shows his political caginess here:
"I'm not looking to become mayor of the city of Philadelphia... but you never say never."
Further down the same page, the Powers That Be plan to gather to help recent D.A. candidate Seth Williams retire his campaign debt -- just a courtesy, or are they indicating a possible willingness to consider him when Abraham's current term expires in 2009?

I deserve a raise!

Yes, the PA legislature voted themselves their pay raise of 16-30% (in addition to allowing for it in the budget; I thought they were combined but apparently there's a separate bill involved).
Without a word of debate, in the wee hours of the morning yesterday, state legislators voted themselves a double-digit pay increase before hurriedly leaving the Capitol for their 10-week summer recess.

"We deserve it," Rep. Frank Oliver (D., Phila.) said as he walked out the House chamber at 2 a.m. moments after the body voted, 119-79, for the raise. "See what time we are getting out right now. We work long hours sometimes."
It's easy to do work like this!
The article includes the full roll-call of both House and Senate (27-23 approval), broken down by county, so that constituents know whom to hold accountable.

In related coverage, John Grogan lambasts this move, joining his charge of "travesty" to Baer's "obscenity" from yesterday.
In this economy, with wages flat across the board, can anyone justify such a large jump, especially for a group that seems to spend so much of its energy on fatuous self-promotion? Perhaps that is why the raise was voted in at 2 a.m.

Updates: Here's some more grousing from the Pittsburgh end of the state, and claims by some in Harrisburg that they won't claim the additional pay. (via Edico)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And then there's the budget

Apparently the final details were hammered out in a rush last night, with a near-midnight vote allowing Rendell to sign off on the budget before heading to DC to testify about Willow Grove.
The deal, reached with the Republican-led General Assembly on a number of issues, restores $143 million in Medicaid cuts, implements a spending plan for a $625 million environmental bond, and institutes the largest legislative pay raise in two decades.
So that pay raise is just plunging ahead, right in there with cuts in medical care for the state's poor. And what of Rendell's onetime insistance that more legislative pay should be linked with a similar boost for those at the bottom end of the scale?
Earlier, Rendell had attached another proviso to his signature - that the legislature first send him a bill increasing the state's minimum wage. He is settling for much less - the appointment of a commission to study the issue.
Hooh hah.
John Baer at the Daily News is livid over this sly deal, calling it an obscenity to pad the pockets of pols at the expense of citizens. Hard not to agree.

Today's news briefs

A bunch of small stories today and not much time.
  • The PA legislature has approved a bill which would suspend the registration of anybody with 6 or more unpaid Philadelphia parking tickets.
    The legislation is aimed at Philadelphia because it lacks power to arrest scofflaws, according to the Parking Authority. In other Pennsylvania counties, those who fail to pay their tickets can be jailed.
    Booting can currently be used, but is limited by the number of boots and the probability of finding the cars in question. There are tens of millions of dollars associated with such scofflaws, but it's unclear whether the new law would get them to pay up, or just result in more uninsured drivers. Rendell's position on the bill unknown.

  • Senator Rick Santorum has a new book that blames the nation's woes on liberalism. No surprise there, but the title of the book is fueling speculation that he's gearing up for a head-to-head race against Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. Of course, having his opinions in print (some samples at the end of this article) could cut either way in the 2006 Senate race.

  • Billboard operators are unsurprisingly unthrilled with the outcome of recent Philadelphia city budget negotiations, which included a new tax on their business. Now they're bringing suit to challenge that provision, a move which should renew debate about business taxes in general. They're using a free speech argument, however, which seems a shaky basis to me.

  • Steven Vaughn, a former City Council aide and Germantown figure convicted of fraud and conspiracy, was sentenced to five months in prison as well as restitution. He straight-facedly suggested that maybe he should be used to instruct other city employees about ethics instead. Yeah, sure...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

PA legislators to investigate "academic bias"

The Pennsylvania House called for investigation into charges by conservatives that "liberal bias" is in effect on the state's campuses. These complaints to me reek of the classic petulance of students who haven't yet learned to separate the strength of their positions from the quality of their arguments (and thus mistake grades on the latter for value judgments on the former). However, the campaign to police the outlooks of educators just brings up more serious unpleasant parallels (more here). I hope the Senate can see past this cant, if the House plunges ahead.

(via Edico)

How do city wards correspond to neighborhood identity?

PoliticsPhilly makes an attempt to map Philadelphia neighborhood names onto a Ward map -- trickiest seems to be how to group closely allied neighborhoods into reasonable groups, so that you don't end up with just as many units as you started with. Some of these suggestions, like "Center City" or "North Philly" feel fairly natural; others are a bit more forced (do East Falls, Overbrook, and Westfield really mesh? how do the Northeast groupings feel?).

I'm not a native here; I'd welcome the opinions of anybody with a better feel for neighborhood identies. In many ways, the boundaries between traditional neighborhood names carry much more salience for residents than do artificial political subdivisions, and thus it's important for grassroots organizations like Neighborhood Networks to know what groupings are likely to see themselves as having common interests.

Annointed son (more furor)

MoveOn, a national liberal activist organization, has taken notice of state-level politics in Pennsylvania, specifically in next year's U.S. Senate race. Progressives nationwide are interested in ousting high-visibility conservative Rick Santorum, and perhaps MoveOn hoped to jump-start his opponent with an early endorsement. But their choice to run a virtual push-pull of PA members (omitting, for example, Casey's controversial stances on abortion and Iraq) has many previous supporters and potential allies up in arms. Gwen Shaffer at the Philadelpha Weekly does a good job of reporting the incident and capturing the outrage, especially among Pennacchio supporters, who already resent the way that the outcome of next spring's primary is taken as a given.
These sentiments dominate the posts about the race on MoveOn's own blog, the Action Forum. As of June 29, about 30 messages reamed out the organization for "playing nice" with the Democratic National Committee, for supporting a "carbon copy of Santorum," and for "throwing the poll."
MoveOn has already raised more than $150k for Casey, but that may come at the cost of some of its supporters' loyalty:
Frustration with the MoveOn poll has been a "big topic of discussion" at political gatherings during the past couple weeks, says Kathi Ember, Pennsylvania state coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America. "It's ironic, considering that MoveOn is responsible for getting many of my peers involved in politics in the first place."
Indeed, Philly blogger Eligere has announced her departure from MoveOn over the way this was handled. Given the widespread desire to oust Santorum, it's too bad that MoveOn had to wade in so gracelessly, sowing dissent among liberals just starting to organize for local action. Only time will tell whether the early clout they bring will be worth its cost in potential activists.

Wage hike reality check

A few weeks back, Gov. Rendell swore that he would block state legislators from giving themselves a pay hike unless they did something about minimum wage. His spokespeople were back-pedaling almost immediately, but progressives in the state took heart. Now it appears that the test is near at hand, as the rumor mill talks about a huge hike being considered in Harrisburg (on top of the cost-of-living adjustments they already get). This raise would make them second only to California for state legislator pay, hardly a point of pride for a state that has budget woes and unemployment/underinsurance issues statewide. I hope they don't walk away with that kind of theft unchallenged.

Update: it looks like it's not just legislators who would get a pay hike under this proposal, but just about everybody from aids to the governor. Peee-ew!

Base-closing barrage

Pennsylvania's politicians have been attempting to convince national leaders that closing our local military bases is a poor idea, and not just for our own economic reasons. Apparently their efforts are paying off, as reflected in a flurry of articles today:
  • The Inquirer reports that a Pentagon official said that their understanding of the Willow Grove base was incomplete, and additional information would color their decision about whether to close it.
    Principi, whose commission is reviewing the Pentagon's nationwide base-closing recommendations and will make recommendations to President Bush, also indicated that the Pentagon information on Willow Grove didn't fully emphasize its "jointness" - the fact that it has units from each branch of the military. Willow Grove is one of only three such military bases nationwide, Principi said, adding that one of the goals of the military base reorganization effort is to expand the number of bases housing multiple branches.

    "If you're trying to achieve jointness," he said, "what value does it make to close a Willow Grove?"
    PA's governor and two senators were on hand to argue the case, and will appear in DC tomorrow to continue the fight.

  • The Daily News covers the same drama, adding some more details.
    Historically, only 15 percent of such bases have remained open after review by the independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which makes final recommendations to the president.
    . . .
    All major bases, he said, including any base that faces the loss of 300 civilian jobs or 400 jobs total, will also be visited by one of the nine members on the commission.
  • A second Daily News article examines the effects of base closings on other communities and predicts we could weather the blow. Many locales have redeveloped their bases into industrial parks and other facilities that end up providing more local jobs than before.
    "In the short term, it is never a great thing to lose jobs and an economic engine," said Tim Ford, the executive director of NAID, an Association of Defense Communities. "But what communities have been able to show is that in the long term it's not so bad."

    What's important, Ford said, is that communities start planning for new economic development even at the same time that political leaders are fighting the closure, as is happening now with Willow Grove.
    Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Two more Tuesday tidbits

  1. PA may reopen a vaccine production plant, which could help the U.S. fill more of its own needs for flu shots and protections from related future pandemics.

  2. Ubiquitous Senator Vince Fumo made a splash at the weekend's festivities by appearing in angel wings at a pre-concert fund-raiser.

And in more substantive non-music news

Apparently there's hope of a Pennsylvania budget, as the legislature and governor went into adolescent all-nighter mode to get something hammered out (with details to be filled in over pizza today). Part of the threatened Medicaid cuts restored, some trims elsewhere, more details later.

John Baer suggests, waggishly, that lawmakers should sign a pledge to get their work done ontime...

Update: apparently the first pizza wasn't enough, as details remain unresolved on Wednesday. Perhaps a round of cheesesteaks?

A couple other bits

...from last week. You guys may have already seen these, but just in case:
  • MoveOn has thrown their weight behind Casey in the 2006 Senate race, leaving Pennacchio a bit oarless. I agree with Dan's take here.

  • Also at Young Philly Politics, further views of ulterior motives behind privatizing PGW (and reasons to think it's a bad idea, if you need more).
Otherwise, you might think that live music had been sighted here for the first time in centuries...

More trolley chat

Young Philly Politics has an interesting post and subsequent discussion about the politics behind the trolley melt-down, and extending into the relative power of local candidates and their responsibilities to their local regions versus the city as a whole. Worth a visit.

Update: and they get a letter from somebody a little closer to the middle of things. For me, the key bit was this:
The trackwork had been long completed and the announcement that the newly rebuilt cars were being supplied to SEPTA began in 2003. The Inquirer published photos of the cars, the station at the Zoo and related data, and now those involved say they were caught off guard --- not a chance. This was a political power play pure and simple, crafted to have maximum impact.
It is a bit hard to see how routing and station plans caught anybody off-guard...

Santorum on priest scandals

My attention was just drawn to an article that Rick Santorum had a couple of years ago in Catholic Online in which he bemoaned the recent clergy scandals and hoped that they would lead to a re-examination and revitalization of the faith. However, he also seemed rather comfortable placing the blame outside the church:
It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
In the end, he wants the Catholic church cleansed of its liberal thinkers and influences just like he'd like to see in the rest of the culture at large.

(via pal Bill H.)

(Updated to reflect actual publication date = past not future. A bit rusty, I guess!)

Update 2: the article may be old, but the controversy isn't -- Boston pols respond to Santorum's ad hominems.