Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesday quickies (short day apologia)

  1. City:

  2. State/region:

    • Trenton will be the testing ground for a new law aimed at restricting the degree to which animal rights activists can harrass businesses and their employees to make a point.

    • Pennsylvania's requirement that people show a Social Security number when applying for a gun license has just been struck down by a federal court. Privacy rights bump heads with attempts to regulate gun trafficking -- bummer.

    • Impact reports for proposed casinos are being held by the state regulatory board, preventing cities and neighborhoods from having complete information before deciding whether to support or fight the plans. A DN editorial bemoans this state of affairs (and particularly its implications for Philadelphia).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Other Monday miscellania (you know you want it)

  • Former Mayor Wilson Goode (Sr.) thinks Philadelphia should get in on the teen abstinence promotion craze. It should be noted (a) that this Silver Ring Thing program was funded through earmarks by Sens. Specter and Santorum, and (b) such programs have been noted for their ineffectuality and provision of misinformation.

  • Apparently Philadelphia has some sludge problems, and Mayor Street is suggesting that the solution might be to privatize the treatment of sewage solids. Because, you know, corporations always hold the public health as paramount. ?!

  • The city's real estate market continues to surge, with Center City slowing and the surrounding areas speeding up.

  • Two suburban Republican Reps (Gerlach and Fitzpatrick) appear to have been in a battle over the placement of a veteran's cemetary. This story perplexes me, not least because it's not at all clear what outcome represents winning or losing. However, both have tough races ahead in the general election, so probably every event is supercharged... [There's also a zoning meeting tonight related to the prefered site, for those interested in having a voice in the outcome.]

  • Above Average Jane has been looking at the candidates for the Democratic half of the 8th District House race (Fitzpatrick's seat). She favors Patrick Murphy, as do I, but has attempted to research each of the other contenders in some depth as well; today's installment is Andy Warren, and her conclusions aren't that pretty.

  • Rep. Chaka Fattah has been generating news events for himself recently, on topics from heating oil to college scholarships. The article notes that this seems like more than preparation for an easy reelection to Congress. Indeed, Fattah plans to send out letters inviting folks to join his mayoral exploratory committee, and he remains unrepentant about his large contributions from Selfless Philanthropists. Dan at YPP adds his own speculations to those surrounding Fattah's plans.

  • Finally, Marc Stier puts in a few cents worth of thoughts on Rendell's experience as governor and about what progressives might learn from his attempts to run the state in a manner similar to his centrist approach as mayor -- specifically from his increasing failures in the face of the ever greater difficulty of achieving bipartisan compromise. Stier intendes more posts suggesting a better way to go...

More thoughts on lobbying

  1. A Delaware County State Rep writes a piece for the Inquirer arguing for the importance of better disclosure rules for lobbying activity in Harrisburg.
    Public disclosure of this information is important. If constituents were able to compare their own legislators' voting record to the gifts they received from lobbyists it would help curtail influence peddling.
    He suggests that if lawmakers can't manage even a minimum disclosure bill (in the current vacuum of any restrictions of any kind), then voters can express their displeasure in the primaries. My, how the threats are piling up...

  2. Separately, an Inquirer editorial points out that lobbying can serve positive purposes.
    In Washington, state capitols and city halls across the land, experts educate lawmakers every day on issues ranging from prescription-drug coverage to workplace safety to nutrition.

    Lawmakers and their staffers can't possibly know all the details involved in crafting thousands of bills annually. Lobbyists' input is needed to draft legislation that balances competing interests while benefiting all kinds of ordinary people who have never flown in a corporate jet.
    They argue that the responsibility to keep influence within bounds should lie with the representatives, not the citizen groups trying to get access, and that regulations should put the burdens of disclosure and paperwork on those whose perks it hopes to regulate, rather than making it even more challenging for regular folks to be heard.
    The risk is that the costs of compliance could hamper the ability of small, poorly funded constituencies to hire effective representation. The big dogs will always be able to pay for lobbyists.

    The burden of reform ought to fall mostly on lawmakers themselves.
    In the end, transparency is likely to be a better weapon than any attempt to predict and proscribe the ingratiations of the biggest offenders. This piece is focused on national considerations, but it applies just as well here in Pennsylvania.


DN cover shotThe Daily News front page is a set of photographs of an assortment of state legislators from the greater Philadelphia region, with the headline "They Kept the Pay-Raise." [The link is to a column by John Baer, which appears to be the story supporting the cover blurb.] It's the time when candidates are collecting signatures to get their names on the appropriate ballot, and implicit here seems to be the reminder that there are plenty of reasons to give newcomers a look, and that incumbents should be aware that the voters may bring their grudges to the polls... Keeping money after all this brouhahah seems like real evidence of political tone-deafness. Are the incumbents that complacent about their seats?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Other end-of-week tidbits

  • Companies looking to build Philadelphia casinos are offering neighborhood improvements as a sort of olive branch to nervous residents. They've been meeting with local political and civic leaders to see what top priorities might be.

  • Meanwhile, another article notes that the casino licensing process remains behind closed doors, with token and restrictive opportunities for civic input.

  • Local counties trying to install new voting machines are seemingly caught between a rock and a hard place, as feds threaten to bring suit if new systems aren't rolled out in May, while a court ruling requires voter approval before changes are made.

  • An Inquirer editorial applauds the recent calls for better enforcement of Philadelphia campaign donation limits, and encourages citizens to keep up the volume.

  • And finally, Marc Stier looks at the good news and bad news inherent in the recent defeat of the PA voter ID bill, and prospects for progressive reform in the face of an increasingly polarized political climate. He plans a series of posts on what needs to be done.

Friday politicians

  • US Rep. Chaka Fattah claims that Philadelphia Mayor John Street is not headed for Congress when his term expires in 2008 (at least not with a push from Fattah), attempting to end speculation that the two men might be considering "swapping seats." Street, however, claims not to be ready to leave politics, so he may have his own ideas on the subject...

  • The Inquirer offers three short bits, one noting the arrival of Queena Boss in the mayoral race and being grateful that *somebody* is willing to declare their candidacy officially; a second speculating about the firefighters' recognition of former Controller (and presumptive mayoral candidate) Saidel; and a third saying that Council President Anna Verna had some choice words for the Chamber of Commerce about their long-term commitment to tax cuts.

  • Mayor Street may find himself in the middle of another terf war in his attempts to streamline some of the city's housing agencies, with the RDA, union reps, and Councilfolks ready to fight for their constituencies.

Recent Mariano news

  1. In what is likely to be his last Council appearance for some time, Rick Mariano pulled off passage of a tenants' rights bill.
    If signed by Mayor Street, the measure would require that owners obtain a certificate of rental suitability before leasing out property and would allow tenants to sue over code violations. The certificates would go only to those whose licenses are up to date, who had no outstanding code violations, and who would attest that their property was free from defects.
    Sounds like a good finish, with an unspecified hospitalization and then a federal trial next up on the Councilman's dance card...

  2. Meanwhile, another of the businessmen included in the same indictments, Joseph Pellecchia, decided to plead guilty yesterday to fraud and money-laundering charges. He will not testify against Mariano in the upcoming trial, but his wife apparently will...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A handful of Thursday bits (late edition)

Vewwy vewwy quiet

There really is almost no news of note today, which fits well with my complete lack of time to blog anything. I might get a chance later this evening to post a few gleanings...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Other Wednesday stuff

  • Tom Ferrick decries the voting bill under discussion in Harrisburg and explains why it's a bad idea.

  • Pennsylvania environmental regulators have suggested lower caps on mercury release in the state, lower than those set by federal regulations. Expect the miseducation campaign by coal-burners to start tomorrow.

  • Norristown votes no on establishing a Neighborhood Improvement District like Center City's. Say yes to citywide improvement instead.

  • The Market-Frankford el line will visit its new 56th street station for the first time on Monday. neighborhoodier. 60th Street comes next.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly profiles the housing/construction boom and looks at the future of urban development, via an interview with Inga Saffron.

  • Another Weekly piece looks at an urban design competition, challenging students to think about abandoned lots in an eco-friendly way. wheee, rooftop windfarms!

Around the politicians (Wednesday)

  • Unsurprisingly, Sen. Rick Santorum defends his mortgage as obtained legitimately and not through political pull. It appears that he got the market rate, but also that he wasn't one of their investment clients, to whom their loans are otherwise restricted.

  • Another Inquirer piece looks at the stormy relationship between US Rep. (and city party chairman) Bob Brady and union chief (also party treasurer and mayoral aspirant) John Dougherty. They report rumors of heightened tensions between the men that could affect Dem. party elections in June.

  • In separate news, Dougherty is no longer on the witness list in the federal trial of Councilman Rick Mariano. He has already testified to the grand jury about his involvement with Mariano and his financial woes. The feds still have some 23 other witnesses on deck . . .

  • Mayor Street is directing some of the year's budget surplus to overdue pay-hikes for City Hall staffers (the nonunion contingent, who don't have automatic raises). Many other offices bemoan their pay rates and the resulting brain-drain...

  • Rep. Chaka Fattah is starting a new push to strengthen his scholarship program for needy students in the city, by setting up a permanent endowed fund. The program gives small amounts where they're most needed, but only covers the first year of college, which may make it more symbolic than effective.

  • Another contender has thrown a hat into the crowded 2007 mayoral ring: Queena Bass, who apparently also ran in 1999 (of which I have no memory). She sounds like a bit of a colorful local character.

  • A Daily News opinion piece looks at a gun-safety report card on state legislators prepared by a group called Men United for a Better Philadelphia. See how your senators and representatives stand on the one-gun-per-month bill...

  • Dan at YPP starts are regular feature on why Rendell is a better choice for Governor than challenger Lynn Swann. Today's reason involves hiring smart people who actually do their jobs.

More ruminations on campaign finance

The Inquirer looks at why the Chamber of Commerce is leading the call for enforcement of local campaign contribution restrictions. Apparently business leaders are tired of being repeatedly pestered to ante up, but there are a number of other reasons, from the desire to level the playing field to an interest in keeping out of the way of the next round of pay-to-play investigations.

Somehow I overlooked this

Last week's Philadelphia Weekly had a piece by personal fave Gwen Shaffer on the rivalry between Councilman Frank DiCicco and his dogged primary challenger Vern Anastasio. In 2003, Anastasio was bumped from the ballot after a lengthy court challenge by DiCicco (who, according to this piece, was willing to support the younger man if he would wait his turn), but it seems that he's been running for the seat ever since, with opinion pieces (see, e.g., here and here) and other activities keeping his name out there on a regular basis. The rivalry may be a microcosm of more titanic conflicts, as Anastasio's supporter, John Dougherty, has a long-time feud with DiCicco's mentor (and partial employer!), Sen. Vince Fumo. How the two men actually differ on the issues facing their district is almost lost in the shower of sparks (and connections with power brokers of all stripes), but the rivalry has entangled neighborhood matters as simple as the hanging of Christmas lights... Other factors noted here are the power of incumbency in Philadelphia, the changing composition of many of the neighborhoods in this district (which may undermine longterm loyalties), and the backlash against city corruption (which may or may not sustain long enough to affect this match).

(via staff researcher RM)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Other Tuesday bits (uncategorizable)

Really, it's amazing to me that subcategories ever present themselves...

Tuesday politicians

[Network connection unreliable, so hope this won't be my last today...]Update: there's a meet-and-greet for Councilman Michael Nutter downtown tonight; see America's Hometown for details.

Rendell voices opposition to voter ID bill

Sorry I was out yesterday. (No, not sorry at all, enjoyed the feet-up time with kittens and computer games; just apologetic to frustrated news-hounds.) Anyway, onward ho...

Ending speculation about whether he might see his way to approving the modified voter restrictions bill about to be sent his way by the state legislature, Governor Rendell used a visit to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to make clear his intent to veto it.
The legislation, he said, would discourage voting at a time when "we should be doing everything we can to increase voter participation."
He apparently flew to Pittsburgh to repeat this promise, perhaps to reassure black voters that he stands behind efforts to decrease barriers to voter participation. The DN story misses the angry quote from Lynn Swann, but notes that the PA gov website includes a host of letters from civic organizations in support of the veto.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Phriday Philadelphia bits

  • The Affordable Housing Coalition wants Mayor Street to put more of the city's budget into developing more affordable housing capacity here, and to put some brakes on the use of eminent domain to replace current homes that could be salvaged.

  • The Chamber of Commerce followed up on yesterday's call for adherence to campaign finance limits by releasing a pledge by the majority of its members to limit their own donations in the upcoming mayoral race.

  • Jill Porter reports that the city's Family Court, badly in need of new facilities to replace those currently in use, just lost its best prospective site to other tenants. It sounds like a serious problem.

  • Utility giant PGW has been working on a plan to ship liquified natural gas through a new facility in Philadelphia, and City Council has given official notice of its lack of support for such a move. While the official agreement has not yet been brought to them for approval, they voted on a resolution expressing "unqualified opposition" to location of such an LNG facility here. PGW remains undaunted, but could have a steep uphill battle ahead...

  • Above Average Jane reports that Young Democrats will be having a big gathering here this weekend. She takes the opportunity to congratulate a local branch for their thoughtful blogging of political issues.

Around the politicians (other)

  • Well, it looks like Joe Hoeffel, onetime Senate hopeful, has decided to make [semi-]official his interest in the office of Lieutenant Governor, despite its relative lack of prestige or power. Perhaps he hopes it would put him next in line in 2010. No word yet on how current-LG Knoll feels about the challenge, but the party seems happy with her performance and likely to endorse her. Dan at YPP, however, is thrilled with Hoeffel's entry into the race, for a number of reasons, and AAJane is also pricking up her ears.

  • Ginny Schrader has pulled out of the race for the State Senate seat of Joe Conti, without giving her reasons. On her way, however, she stopped to endorse one of the candidates for the Bucks County State Rep. race, choosing County Commissioner Andrew Warren over Iraq vet Patrick Murphy for her blessing (in the district she once hoped to win herself). Electability is the drumbeat. Also intriguing, Schrader claims that the Dems have another "great candidate" in the wings for the Senate race, so I guess we'll have to stay tuned.

  • Signe Wilson's cartoon today takes aim at the political king-makers in the state, specifically Gov. Ed Rendell's annointment of Bob Casey, Jr., for the US Senate.

  • Strangely, DN columnist Gar Joseph devoted his column today (then given top billing on the DN website) to Rep. Chaka Fattah's mother. I couldn't bring myself to dignify that with a read.

Defensive maneouvers

Some Pennsylvania politicians are feeling the pinch of public opinion and are attempting to strike back:
  1. US Senator Arlen Specter, accused of directing pork toward employers of the spouse of a staffer, calls for an investigation by the Senate ethics committee, presumably to clear his name.
    Specter said that Siegel Herson never disclosed to him that her husband was working for the recipients of his earmarks - nor did she suggest to him that she should recuse herself from any earmark decisions involving clients of her husband's.
    Of course, the recipients were fairly large local interests, such as Drexel College and a number of defense-related tech companies, so it's probably a stretch to think this was all a scheme by Specter. I suspect that the aid is not long for his staff, however...

  2. Gubernatorial hopeful Lynn Swann, recently discovered to be an intermittant voter, at best, responds by saying he's proud of his voting record and that Pennsylvania has bigger things to think about. well, alright then!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday dispatches from Philly

  • As the field of 2007 mayoral contenders hem and haw about whether they're really candidates and whether they have to follow campaign finance law, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has sided with the law in no uncertain terms.
    "Enough is enough," said chamber president Mark S. Schweiker. "The reputation politically of this city has been damaged enough. It's time to live by the dictates of the ordinance."
    Given the number of big donors that the Chamber represents, their decision could have the effect of a fait accompli. The Inquirer editorial page supports the Chamber and Committee of Seventy in these efforts to resurrect the spirit of the campaign finance restrictions.

  • City Council takes Street to task over neglecting the city streets in his latest budget. His own staff recommended a figure almost three times higher for simple upkeep of facilities and infrastructure.

  • A Daily News article reviews the forecasts and reality of the city's new sports arenas, concluding that the construction projects have been a financial loser for city residents.

  • Well, local financial shadiness is certainly keeping federal investigators employed! The latest object of scrutiny is the sale of a downtown parking lot by the Redevelopment Authority. The transaction sounds pretty clear from the descriptions given here, but who knows what goes on in the invisible generation of assessments and all the rest...

  • Ray Murphy at YPP lays out the case for the criticality of Philadelphia in the 2006 election for US Senate, the criticality of that race to the region, and for turning Rick Santorum out of office. He'll be leading the charge via his new organization Philadelphians Against Santorum, putting to good use his experience as regional head of MoveOn's 2004 operations.

  • Marc Stier has two posts today looking at the critical issue facing evolving neighborhoods amid a citywide economic shift: gentrification. The first piece looks at what happens when the middle class flees, sketching the things that make life ever more difficult for those left behind, but pointing out that the people themselves are often brave and hardworking, even if their neighborhoods are falling apart around them. Stier argues that the return of more self-sufficient residents can help these neighborhoods fix themselves, as long as the long-time residents are not shouldered out along the way. His second piece gives an outline of how to do gentrification right so that everybody wins.
    The return of the middle class to parts of the city they fled years ago gives us a second chance to create the kind of city we failed to once before, a city of economically, culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse neighborhoods that give everyone the opportunity to succeed as individuals, to be part of a vital community, and to feel at home in their own country.
    An exciting prospect, and one that Philadelphia, in the midst of a huge amount of rebuilding and revitalization, would do well to pursue with care and foresight.

Never enough snow?

snowy benchFor those of you sad about today's warm spell and the melting on all sides, PhillySkyline offers the opportunity to relive last weekend's "blizzard" in fine photographic form. All your favorite city landmarks are there, mostly recognizable...

Various rumblings at the state level

  • The cold war between PA and NJ over dredging in the Delaware River continues, with the governors planning no meetings, the Pennsylvania contingent continuing to boycott meetings of the Delaware River Port Authority commission, and general beating of chests on both sides. eesh.

  • The state legislature passed a compromise voter-ID bill (it requires some form of ID from voters every time, and restricts the placement of polling sites, but no longer prohibits voting by parolees), which Rendell has expressed reservations about but not sworn to veto. Stay tuned.

  • Apparently Rendell is also at odds with the legislature over restrictions on automobile emissions, with the governor wanting strict requirements (comparable to those of California) to take effect a year from now, while the Republican Senate would like the option to wait until 2014.

  • Daily News columnist John Baer applauds Rendell's budget item establishing a medical research matching fund, which aims to increase the amount of such activity taking place in the state, and castigates legislative Republicans for dismissing these efforts out of hand.

  • Finally, a letter to the Daily News suggests that Philadelphia shouldn't be fighting to pass a local smoking ban, but should be turning to the state to establish uniform guidelines across the commonwealth.

Yay! (and help!)

This very morning my spouse and I were in a rare car outing and wondering to ourselves when (oh when!) the South Street bridge might finally be closed off and really given an overhaul. And look! plans are official! It will be closed off in April of 2007 (uh, I guess advanced planning is good, but...?), and then kept closed for eighteen months of work. I suspect that some ugly things are about to happen to traffic in the western part of Center City...

More details here, including the clarification that a completely new bridge will be built, but that there are no plans for the more ambitious dream of changing the way that traffic merges onto the highway below. The new design won't be finalized until fall.

Of public servants and civic devotion

A little embarrassing, I suspect, the revelation that would-be-governor Lynn Swann hasn't voted in most elections -- not even in the Presidential election years. But of course, he encourages all Pennsylvanians to vote... Dan at YPP feels a bit gleeful at this news...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Keeping an eye on the Joneses

Two of Pennsylvania's neighbors are dealing right now with the question of gay rights and specifically gay marriage, and with Harrisburg's recent interest in this issue (see, e.g., here), there might be lessons to be learned from their experience.
  1. In New Jersey, a Supreme Court case directly addresses the right of homosexual couples to marry. This article gives a run-down of the questions to be decided, and a link for those wishing to watch the arguments live.

  2. In Ohio, a constitutional amendment similar to the one being considered here has led to widespread (unforeseen) problems not only for homosexual couples but for unmarried heterosexual couples and others. In particular, the ability of individuals to claim domestic abuse has been severely affected. Goody, maybe we can make backwards progress on several fronts at once!
    (via benPA at YPP)
More updates as these stories develop.

Around the region

  • Philadelphia's immigrant workers joined a nationwide job-walkout in protest over an immigration bill being discussed in the US Congress -- Inquirer story, Daily News story.
    Illegal immigrants, who now face deportation but no criminal charges if apprehended, would be felons punishable by prison time under the Border Protection Act.
    Employers would also face stiffer penalties. The protesters chose February 14 as one of the two largest business days for restaurants, where many undocumented immigrants are employed at subminimum wages, and they focused their demonstrations outside the offices of Sen. Arlen Specter, whose committee will consider the legislation.

  • City budget discussions occur amidst a cloud of speculative forecasts for future revenue.

  • State stand-off on property-tax reduction (and shifting around of other taxes) continues, as House and Senate continue to disagree.

  • A fresh poll shows Swann trailing Rendell, and Dan at YPP thinks he has a steep uphill climb ahead.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly looks at community efforts to combat crime through churches and other neighborhood institutions, arguing that a combination of efforts will be needed to really make the streets safer.

  • America's Hometown notes that legal bills for all of the city corruption cases have already passed $4 million and are unlikely to be near an end.

  • Albert has had it with political leaders clearing the decks of primary competition, and pushes readers to chip in for Pennacchio, as a protest if nothing else. Much Casey-directed snark along the way.

  • The Inquirer editorial page calls on the Gaming Control Board to make their ethics rules air-tight.

  • Finally, State Senator Vince Fumo foils a purse-snatching while on vacation in Florida. Luckily, he chose to exercise his dumb heroism when no guns were around.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tuesday opinionistas

  1. Mark Alan Hughes at the DN thinks saving newspapers means focusing local. World news can be found many places, not least the AP. Could be right in the long term.

  2. Mdcphilly at YPP was unimpressed with Lynn Swann's latest outing, in which he appeared to know nothing about any of the major regional issues from the last year.

  3. Finally, Marc Stier is on the warpath against state House bill 1318, which is becoming a voting-rights mess. He points out the problems that the measure would create, and punctures the fallacy that the measure claims to be solving, here, and notes a few strategic considerations here.

Tuesday news bits

Nothing big, but a number of interesting smaller stories caught my eye this morning:

  • The legal complaint against State Supreme Court Justice Cappy for his involvement in encouraging a judicial pay-raise has been dismissed. The Conduct Board ruled that his activities fell within the rights of justices to try to improve the legal system and its functioning.

  • More Pennsylvanians think Casey is "mainstream" than feel that way about Santorum. Amazingly, 49% felt that Women-should-stay-in-the-kitchen (see, e.g., here) was in the mainstream too.

  • Both Senate candidates appear to be getting a lot of money from outside PA, not too surprising, given that this is one of the spotlight races of the year. [A small jab is also made here at the piddling warchests of the "other" primary candidates for these slots.]

  • The Philadelphia City Controller's office appears to be taking a spat with the schools system to the next level, including audits of Vallas and school expenditures. Just what the area needs; another sandbox fight.

  • Mayor Street's education secretary proposes new ways to help improve student behavior in Philadelphia's schools. Suggestions (listed at the end of the article) include a number of ways to intervene more regularly before patterns get out of hand.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Heapa heapa Monday links

Friday, February 10, 2006

Other Friday tidbits

More Swann puns. My teeth are starting to hurt. Early poll puts the race within a few points, not surprising given Swann's deluge of recent coverage. Dan at YPP advises the challenger not to read too much into this.

Locally, citizens take action to protest a SEPTA move that attempted to speed up a bus line by eliminating some stops. Much of the fervor seems to center around a combination of the potent image of old ladies having to walk an extra block, with typical SEPTA fecklessness in handling of community relations.

Friday reports on City Council

  • Philadelphia voters may get the chance to speak their minds on the relative value that they place on safety versus privacy, if Councilman Darrell Clarke succeeds in putting the question of surveillance cameras to a referendum.
    "This is something, given the sensitive nature, that I know personally I would want the citizens to ask for it ... as opposed to us imposing this 'Big Brother' atmosphere," Clarke said.
    Can Big Brother really cut down on murder rates, when so much of it is already happening indoors and/or between acquaintances? Will cameras do more than shift crime from one area to another? Will desperate neighborhoods grasp at any straw?

  • A short Inquirer piece notes that while Harrisburg is considering restrictions on lobbying (see here), similar requirements for Philadelphia have been left at a standstill after David Cohen's death.

  • Apparently discussions of Mayor Street's budget led to a flurry of votes in City Council yesterday, including provisions to add more police officers (which the DN dubbed an "alternate Safer Streets"), provide better funding to Community College of Phila, and hold hearings on the city pension fund. Three other bills had to do with traffic issues mentioned here previously (right-turns on Chestnut, ticketing for expired registration stickers, and statistics from red-light cameras).

  • Mayoral hopeful Tom Knox criticized Councilman Michael Nutter for claiming the high ground on fundraising while side-stepping the requirement that he quit his current job in order to run for mayor. [This link also includes smaller stories about Lynn Swann, Betty Friedan, and an assortment of other notables.]

Big dogs throw their weight around

This time it's a US House race -- Bryan Lentz has been asked to step aside in the 161st district in favor of fellow veteran Joe Sestak. Lentz had been in the race for a while, was getting some visibility, and had money equal to the GOP incumbent Curt Weldon, while Sestak announced his interest only a week ago. Perhaps the latter's big National Security credentials are what made the Governor and local Democratic officials intervene (or maybe they actually recruited Sestak because they didn't like the nationwide attention that Lentz has gained, especially as promoted by the liberal blogs). Again with the desire to eliminate a primary, to "have a unified front." This now raises my suspicions almost immediately. AAJane is also a bit bummed.

Anyway, Lentz will shift his sights to his local State House race, where perhaps he can earn enough party cred to eventually be allowed to sit at the grown-ups table. I don't know his opponent, Tom Gannon, but I'm sure that the Democrats are as eager to make headway in Harrisburg as in DC, so good candidates are never wasted.

Waving at the high road...

Sen. Rick Santorum tells a Senate committee a tale of his excellent record on lobbyist-funded trips, but only by failing to mention how richly he himself has benefitted from such perks. Jet, what jet??

(via Eschaton)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday news-dump

  • More on Governor Rendell's budget proposal. Democrats applaud it but Republicans throw stones (this article summarizes the major points in a list at the end). Laptops for schools suggested, amid the plenty. Time to buy stock in IM companies! heh. Dan at YPP gives credit where credit is due.

  • A Pittsburgh-area State Rep. has resigned after being convicted of using his office staffers to do campaign work for him; a special election will be held in April. Best line in the story goes to sentencing Judge Manning: "...egregious lack of remorse." heh.

  • Philadelphia-area State Rep. Babette Josephs is looking at another primary challenge, after staving off two others in recent years. This time the challenger is Andrew Farnese; no word yet on whether Hohns and/or Gillan will have another go, but Josephs has been making some efforts to make her constituents aware of her activities (which are often limited by being in the minority party). [This link also has short notes on a planned Casey appearance before gay-rights groups, and the current business activities of onetime mayoral aspirant Sam Katz.]

  • Also in the world of local State Reps., recently elected Cherelle Parker is up for her first re-election, and Marc Stier puts in a plug for her and for the power of progressive supporters to help shape the views of a young politician.

  • The Philadelphia region is declared third-worst for asthma sufferers.

  • A Daily News opinion piece describes the recent airport-related indictments as a textbook example of local pay-to-play problems, especially in that a woefully inadequate contractor may have won out over a better qualified option. But only by coincidence.

  • SEPTA announces new anti-terrorist measures of both low- and high-tech natures.

  • An article in the new CityPaper looks at West Philly's consideration of creating an Improvement District to fund safety and sanitation efforts. It's getting a mixed reception (and that's even without consideration of arguments like those that Ray made here).

  • Finally, Price at YPP gives an excellent overview of the wage and tax disparities in the Philadelphia area and on how regressive tax policies and economic unfairnesses make such problems worse. Among other points, he argues that this is no time to roll back tax credits for the working poor.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Good business news

America's Hometown has had a flurry of stories on the good health of the Philadelphia economy, including good hotel occupancy, increased convention business, and an ad company that grew and thrived after it moved downtown. He even throws in a note that Gov. Rendell has done well by taxpayers during his term, in terms of government efficiency. Yay for good news!

Other notable Wednesday bits

  • PA House Speaker Perzel predicts that the state legislature will enact lobbying disclosure rules by the end of this term, bringing Pennsylvania in line with other states.
    Perzel revealed few other details of what the final lobbying-disclosure bill might contain. He did say, however, that it likely would require lobbyists to report "every single dollar" of what they spend to influence state government.
    He intends to include high-level judges in drafting the legislation, to help ensure that it will withstand legal challenges such as those that derailed a previous regulatory effort.

  • A Philadelphia Weekly story looks at the efforts in Harrisburg to change voting requirements. The House and Senate appear to disagree on what they want, with the Senate cutting out voter-ID and anti-parolee provisions of the House bill and adding others that limit the buildings that can be used for polling places (which could mean long shleps from some urban neighborhoods). The House changed some of that stuff back. The piece explores the viewpoint of one activist for offenders' rights.

  • Johnny "Doc" Dougherty, long quiet on whether he would give in to his supporters' desire that he throw his hat into the ring for the 2007 mayor's race, continues to give grounds for speculation, including his recent announcement of an anti-violence program for Philadelphia (DN take here). The program would use union members as mentors for at-risk youth.

  • Donald Trump has offered to buy a public school near his proposed Nicetown casino location. The school is currently in use, but the offer includes building a higher-tech replacement. This could be just greed in getting the most profitable surrounding layout (to include some nice open space), but it could also be savvy recognition that a casino would be less intrusive if it weren't next door to a population of impressionable high school students. Question: what does Trump do with all this property if he doesn't win one of the licenses??

  • The Sheriff's Office, presumably reacting to some recent bad press, has hired a former city controller to provide ethical oversight.

  • Daily News columnists get snarky with politicians:

    1. John Baer expresses faux shock about alleged judicial-legislative collusion.

    2. Jill Porter snorts at the mayoral candidates who cling to their "undeclared" status as though it fooled anybody.

  • The DN's own opinion page applauds Councilman Goode, Jr., for taking on banks (or rather, just Wachovia) that unfairly deny loans to blacks and low-income applicants. A little pressure now and then keeps everybody honest.

  • The DN also chimes in with support of Sen. Arlen Specter's asbestos-suit trust-fund bill. Supporters applaud the chance to move ahead and get some relief to the injured; critics note that it caps corporate liability to a degree that may disproportionately benefit those who caused the original problem.

Today's big news items

...come in two flavors: state governor's race and city payola scandal.
  1. Bill Scranton has given up his try for the GOP nomination (see also here), conceding that Lynn Swann was getting more regional endorsements than he could hope to overcome before the official party nomination this Saturday. Maybe the Superbowl glow in Pittsburg was just one thing too much.

  2. Indictments have been handed down to a group of men who are charged with using campaign donations (to Mayor Street) to get airport contracts (DN story here). Their plot involved scamming the company they worked for as well. The Inquirer offers an additional piece on one of the men involved, Joe Moderski, who they describe as the "go-to guy" for linking powerful and influential figures in politics, business, religion, and anything else, in his role as a consultant. This is considered only the first of several rounds of indictments that could come out of the airport contract investigations.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Philadelphia news round-up

There was one piece from Harrisburg that caught my eye, but it essentially reported that attempts at cutting property taxes continue to be stalled on the disagreement between House and Senate about how to offset those revenues. So a smattering of more localized news stories:
  • The controversy over Dilworth's house in Society Hill (onetime symbol of commitment to urban renewal, now a nondescript house blocking the dreams of highrise developers) continues with a lame jumbled plan to retain the facade of the current house while building a tower behind it. Yuck on all fronts, and nobody is being won over...

  • I've lived in Philadelphia for ten years, but this story is the first I've heard of a plume of oil under South Philly. For the similarly clueless among my readers, it's a 2-million-gallon slick of goo that some worry could threaten the water table, and the federal government is suing refiner Sunoco for funds to help with the clean-up. Meantime, local residents blame a panoply of health and other ills on fumes that might be emanating from this monster far underground.

  • A Daily News article applauds Mayor Street's new safety initiative (see prev. here) and holds out hope that it might actually turn things around.

  • And finally, two interesting essays at Marc Stier's blog, one arguing against the Trump casino proposal near Wissahickon (and for a different way of developing that site to support its community) and the other suggesting an approach to limiting smoking in bars, even if the hoped-for ban can't make it out of City Hall.

The end of a long tradition

Just heard on the radio this morning that Strawbridges has been bought up by some department store conglomerate (with the semi-Orwellian name of Federated Department Stores) and will be phased out in the near future; a few individual stores will be sold to competing chain Boscov's. The story said that most of the stores in this area (including the downtown store) will be replaced by Macys, and in malls where there's already a Macys, the Strawbridges will just be shuttered. Wow!! (Other regional chains will also be eliminated, including Famous-Barr, which I knew from my St. Louis days, and Filenes, of Boston fame.) The Inquirer story is here. I guess I also didn't register the import of Above Average Jane's post on the subject back in January...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday news

Funny smattering of news today, so will glob it all together here...
  • Inquirer columnist John Grogan is not too impressed with Operation Clean Sweep's assembly of Pennsylvania legislative candidates (see prev. here). He questions the merit of turning out incumbents for protest's sake, and challenges the Sweepers to put forth a platform to justify the votes they want.
    The shared platform boils down to this: Replace them with us, and we promise to never stop being outsiders, to never become jaded, to never succumb to the hubris that led the current bunch to think they could simply give themselves a double-digit pay hike in the dark before dawn and no one would squeak.

    That's not good enough.
    Leadership needs to be about more than who you won't be.
    Indeed. Dan at YPP chimes in as well.

  • Two pieces in the Daily News on Philadelphia's Mayor John Street and his proposals:

    1. A reporter follows the mayor as he spreads the gospel of Safer Streets to various churches, but is not convinced that this effort will do the trick.

    2. Another piece looks at the proposed business-tax cuts and some uncertainty about whether the mayor backs a 1- or 3-year cut. I think I'm more confused after reading it than I was before...

  • Half of Rep. Chaka Fattah's mayoral campaign thus far has been underwritten by one wealthy benefactor, a fact which appears to be raising some eyebrows. And, of course, it blows away the limit for individual donations set by City Council...

  • The husband of Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown apparently feels that he's being victimized by zoning regulators who, um, expect him to follow the law. If only his wife weren't so well known, he could develop his slum lord reputation in peace...

  • Finally, two opinion pieces round out our coverage:

    1. I am shocked, Shocked! that city candidates aren't interested in the spirit of the campaign finance regulations. Great quote:
      When politicians start knocking on your door asking for money, they're candidates. Trying to skirt the law only makes them weasels.
      heh heh

    2. Dare I hope that the reintroduction of the smoking bill might actually suceed where previous efforts failed? Can Street find his way to supporting (what is essentially) his own idea? Can we work in a few smoke-related puns?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Unexpected opportunity

Thought we had house-guests for the weekend, so hadn't made any plans -- when the guests got sick, I was sorry to miss them but happy to be able to take advantage of an invitation to be a blogger member of the press at an event today sponsored by the American Democracy Institute, an obscure but earnest year-old organization focused on getting young people involved in civic life (or at least, that's the impression I got from this event, although their website talks a bit more vaguely about civic discourse and fundamental principles of democracy). It was a big convention of students and other young folk from the Philadelphia area, going to panels and workshops on voting rights, the relevance of the Constitution, faith and politics, empowering youth, and the role of the media. But the thing that made me willing to give up a much-needed morning to sleep in was that Hillary Clinton, the organization's honorary chair, was giving the keynote plenary talk. I thought it would be interesting to hear her speak in person, as well as to see what it was like to be part of the press at a high-visibility event.

Bloggers appear to inhabit a nether realm of event organizers’ awareness -- they want you there, but they only half consider you "real" press. None of us got credentials (although I did get a press pack, which reproduced many of the website blurbs, but didn’t offer, say, any of the names of the presenters), so I had to be walked up the stairs by the woman in charge of things, who smoothly got me through the three checkpoints and into the zone set up for bloggers (with stubby ethernet cables in case we wanted to live-blog in a tight circle). Actually, our position was great -- we were along one side of the room, even with the front rows of seats, and thus about 20 yards from the podium. I was there with Albert "dragonball" Yee, Tulin of PoliticsPhilly, the Booman, and a woman Robin who blogs at Factesque. Duncan Black (or Atrios) was also there, but had an official reserved seat since he was part of the Media panel... In fact, much of the first 5-6 rows was reserved seating, with local bigwigs, conference participants, and a section for student press. There was also a raised platform for press video cameras, and a constellation of other camera-wielders, professional and amateur, flitting like insects around a porch light, working the shots and angles (Albert was among these; I’m counting on him for the photos I didn’t take).

The plenary session began with a disembodied voice calling for folks to sit down and announcing a requirement for civil discourse. Then there was a moment of silence (I missed what we were commemorating, but I suspect it was war-related) and then two students led us in the Pledge of Allegiance (? !!). Then some guy (press pack, anyone? or even a program for the bloggers to share?) gave a short introduction on the need for involvement in public life and then introduced the first of the official speakers. There were two of these "warm-up" speeches, and I’m not really clear how they were selected. The first guy gave a rather professorial speech (and I think might have been a Princeton professor) of a historical nature – invoking the great historical documents signed nearby, and pointing out that the principles of democracy have always been a challenge and required defense (he pointed out a period in the 18th century when dissent was briefly outlawed). He concluded with the argument that it’s not might that makes right but "right makes might." It was probably a decent talk, but a snoozer in the context; the student press wasn’t even looking his way, for the most part, peering into the hallway where organizers and Secret Service guys were milling around...

The second speaker was the president of The College of William and Mary (I guess I could look up his name, but I’m still annoyed about the press kit). He made a joke about feeling "like a garage band opening for the Rolling Stones (although Hillary Clinton is much younger than the Rolling Stones)." heh. In fact, this guy turned out to be quite an enjoyable speaker, with a good natural cadence, a mix of jarring statistics with inspiring quotes, and a little humor along the way. High points:
  • In talking about the ill effects of pay-to-play culture on our society, he quoted Barney Frank as having said that we’re the only country in the world that imagines that "our politicians walk up to complete strangers, beg them for thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then walk away completely unaffected (thus achieving a perfect state of ingratitude)." heh.
  • He talked about other things that create disparities (or undermine equality) in our nation, from gerrymandering, to attempts to eliminate judicial review, to poverty. A striking statistic that he quoted for that last issue was that children from families who earn over $90k per year have a 1/2 likelihood of becoming college graduates; for families earning under $35k per year, the figure is 1/17...
  • The general theme of the talk was really "What is the American idea of equality?" and he suggested that the disparaties that we see in our country are not what the Constitution, scripture, or our ideals envision. Quoting Lyndon Johnson, he said "we may not know much, but we know the difference between chicken salad and chicken shit."
He ended with a veritable war-chant litany of inspiring quotes from a wide range of (unattributed but often obvious) sources, some references to Dr. King, and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Then it was time for the Main Event. A student from Community College of Philadelphia (and head of some Latino youth organization) gave a brief introduction, and then Hillary Clinton came out from a backstage door, to thunderous applause. She looked chic but casual, but the thing that struck me, given the range of people at the mic before her and the excellent sound system, was how shouty her voice sounded -- not hoarse, but as though she had developed an Official Oration Voice that involved deepening and projecting to a somewhat unnatural degree. She was almost too loud in this well-amplified setting. Other than that, she seemed smooth and natural, rarely looked at her notes, and was generally a better speaker than I expected from the few clips I've seen on TV. However, she was hardly the Rolling Stones compared to the guy that preceded her, and it felt more like a campaign speech listing things that need to be changed than it did an inspiration to interested youth about ways they could get into the game. Perhaps that's par for the course. (I noticed to my surprise that many of the video cameras left a few minutes into her speech, implying that they just needed some visual for the 12:00 news, rather than a full transcript for clips.) Here are the notes I made:
  • She got people to stand up to show their involvement; first public servants, then community organizers, then poll watchers and voters -- look! you’re already not apathetic youth! Of course, the crowd (especially down front) wasn't all students, but ok.
  • She looked back at the many changes made through history to expand freedom in this country, not least to women and minorities.
  • She listed a lot of issues still needing work, and called them "unfinished business for American democracy." (I’m starting to see the theme of the meeting, and have retro-bolded accordingly.)
  • She gave examples of specific things that youth groups have done to have a national impact from "girlcotts" against sexism to student journalism (MTV reports on Dafur) that kept the mainstream media honest.
  • She mentioned a flurry of voting-rights issues, ranging from the need of students to vote near their campuses to national voting reform "so that all votes are counted and every vote counts." As part of this she mentioned that the youth vote increased more than any other group between 2000 and 2004. I’m pretty sure I remember seeing this debunked (that is, more youths voted, but more of everybody voted, and the % stayed the same), but it could be a difference between the brackets used: she cited something like 18-25-year-olds, whereas the other research might have been specific to college students. Not sure.
  • Finally, she talked about the need to fight the degradation of debate (yelling fests on TV) and the tendency to avoidance of facts (which served as a lead-in to discussion of global warming and the need for alternative energy sources).
She ended on the call for a broad-based progressive movement, sadly invoking the tired analogy of an Iraqi unit in saying that we should all work together. The crowd gave her a wild send-off, but I just kept thinking, Bring back the previous guy! While I didn’t disagree with anything here, it just left me a bit Eh.

Anyway, that was it for the big show. There was a pretty substantial break before any of the afternoon workshop sessions would resume, so I just had a look at the tables in the lobby -- Planned Parenthood, Habitat for Humanity, Association of Young Americans (? trying to give a greater voice to the 18-35 group), Save the Environment, Women’s Campaign Internation, Young Involved Philadelphia, Americorps, Aspira (? an education/leadership group for Puerto Rican and Latino youth), and the Young Democrats -- and then headed out. A little blogging and then maybe some sleep? I’ll link to Albert's photos of the actual proceedings as soon as he puts them into the net . . . Special thanks to Tulin, who live-blogged the whole thing!, for putting in the names of the rest of us (to the organizers)! glad to have been there.

Update 1: Robin's account covers the whole conference. I agree with her that the clearly missing piece was the way to get from Things Needing Fixing to Where You Can Get Involved. Kids, especially, have no idea of how they can get active and really make a difference (other than, say, running for office or becoming Young Democrat feebs)...Hillary, taken by Albert

Update 2: The Inquirer's description of the event is here.

Update 3: Albert's fantastic visual overview of the event (and look! speaker names!) is now available online. Wonderful, as ever, for the artistic eye as much as for the subjects themselves... He also subsequently blogged the photos with his verbal summary of the event, in three parts: 1, 2, 3.


Friday, February 03, 2006

The other Republican in the race

Above Average Jane offers an interview with Rick Santorum's GOP primary opponent, John Featherman. He wants to return dignity to the office, but only obliquely addresses most of the questions he's asked here...

Friday deluge

No time, so here's a quick dump.
  • Some would-be slots parlor owers donated to Rendell near the end of the year. Look for more of this as gambling gets more widely established. All in good fun, of course.

  • Also related to gaming, two license applications have been rejected in Harrisburg even before the final selection, based on insufficient evidence of funds. One was in the Lancaster area and the other in Pittsburgh; there are 22 remaining contenders for 14 eventual licenses. Yawn.

  • Philly Mayor Street calls for a new anti-crime initiative, dubbing it "Safer Streets" (to follow on the original Safe Streets program): Inquirer and DN stories. He hopes, in part, to involve religious institutions in encouraging nonviolent solutions to conflict.

  • Philadelphia's anti-smoking hopes, considered on ice, may be revived by Councilwoman Tasco's reintroduction of a bill similar to the one that Nutter and Street have been griping about -- Inquirer and DN stories. Perhaps the political egos will be sidestepped by this "neutral" sponsorship of the measure.

  • Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among a number of states looking ahead to an October deadline for moving welfare recipients into job training and other programs, due to the budget slashes just passed by Congress. If they fail, they lose a big chunk of federal block grants targeted at the poor, doubly penalizing those already on the losing end of the economy.

  • In the GOP gubernatorial primary race, Lynn Swann just picked up Bucks County, coming closer to guaranteeing that he'll get the official party endorsement next week.

  • A group of smaller PA political parties argue that election regulations discriminate against them. They need close to 30 times as many petitions to get on the ballot this fall as do major party candidates. heh, another thing to blame Casey for, heh.

  • I don't know why these three strike me as a group, but there it is:

    1. Philadelphia's new City Controller promised to make financial reports for major candidates publically available, and he has dutifully posted them on the web.

    2. Camden, long-suffering its designation of Most Dangerous City, answers back with a 29% drop in homicides. take that, Philadelphia!

    3. Florence Cohen takes "the people's paper" to task for supporting Street's suggestion to roll back scheduled tax cuts for Philadelphia's poorest workers. And rightly so.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Come on in, the water's fine.

Well, against the better advice of those who've gone before him, local activist and political trouble-maker Marc Stier has decided to start a blog. It looks and smells like a blog, although the initial entries are less about linky goodness and topical commentary than they are longer essays of a philosophical sort. I'm a great admirer of Stier, who can be motivational to work with while having a realistic view of what can and can't be done in the environment and with the leverage at hand -- I look forward to seeing how this undertaking evolves.

Around the politicians (and wannabees)

  1. The cover story in the new CityPaper is about Mayor Street's new lame-duck life, and his unwillingness to be counted out when he still has two years to go. They take an overview of his accomplishments and things still to be done.

  2. The Daily News takes a look at two Iraqi vets hoping to replace Weldon in the US House. Above Average Jane also has some thoughts about the two and the race ahead.

Somebody's watching (rules and regulations edition)

  • Philadelphia's campaign finance regulations were under siege yesterday from PA state Rep. Dwight Evans (a presumed mayoral wannabe), who called them unworkable and possibly in conflict with state authority -- the Committee of Seventy may put those claims to the test by suing for enforcement on the already building mayoral campaigns. City Controller Butkovitz appears to agree with Stalberg's broader definition of "candidate," which could squeeze the fundraising of some current unannounced contenders. Rep. Evans also took the occasion to call for public financing of elections, which could render the issue of campaign contributions moot (while removing the influence of rich patrons and business interests).

  • Over in Harrisburg, the PA state House is considering implementing new disclosure rules for lobbying, as an effort to regain the public trust (and beat back the Clean Sweep forces).

  • State legislators also appear to want to get a rein on who can vote for (or against) them: they're pushing ahead with a set of voter-ID measures despite opponents' argument that such requirements serve only to turn qualified voters away at the polls. (The measure also for the first time bars released felons from voter eligibility.) The House and Senate have approved different versions of the bill, so more discussion will be had, but a veto from Governor Rendell seems likely.

In their cups

As somebody who really enjoys wine and would like to be able to learn more about it than PA's state stores already presume they know, I'm always gratified by any rumbling that indicates that a loosening of our draconian restrictions may be on the way. An Inquirer piece today looks at the regulatory chaos left in the wake of recent court decisions overturning PA's right to prohibit shipments from out of state. Sadly, wineries are leery of plunging into the market, for fear that they'll fall victim to the uncertainties...
"The state regulators have to come up with protocols for us to follow first," [one winery owner] said. "We hold a federal license, and we don't want it revoked."
State legislators are busy coming up with new forms of peskiness, which could involve shipping bans or a licensing system for vintners. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Growing pains

The Philadelphia Weekly has a story that profiles the challenges of neighborhood transition for a section of southwest Philly that has a long history of crime problems and a short history of gentrification. New and old residents are left a bit unsettled...

Interesting tidbit

The school district, NAACP, and SEPTA have somehow teamed up to offer free transit passage to striving students.
Students who demonstrate improved or positive academic performance, consistent school attendance and punctuality are eligible to apply for the free tokens on SEPTA routes within Philadelphia. The freebies start in September and last through June 2007.
I like that it rewards, in essence, effort and good citizenship rather than just top academic achievement.

Today's opinions

  • Tom Ferrick goes after Rick Santorum in today's Inquirer, opining that he is more trouble for himself than any opponent could ever hope to be, not least for his obvious hypocrisy (or is that flip-flopping?) on several key issues. His suggestion about an alternative debate forum would sound familiar to fans of Steven Colbert's feature "Formidable Opponent" (e.g., this)...

  • Governor Rendell has offered new budget (after vetoing the one passed originally), which highlights some business tax cuts and picks up the slack from cut federal health care programs. [He also took a jab at partisan redistricting; look for more on this later.] Ben Waxman at YPP takes umbrage at what he sees as further Rendell pandering to the right.

  • An Inquirer editorial calls on U.S. legislators to make the most of their "do-over" opportunity in working on the federal budget, and picks out several regional Representatives that it thinks voted in ways that would harm some of our most vulnerable citizens. If any of these legislators represent you, a phone call might go a long way.

Political race round-up

Lots of discussion today of the top local and state races, probably spurred by the release of financial reports for the year just ended. Here are some highlights:
  1. US Senate: Incumbent Rick Santorum has a big lead in fund-raising over presumptive opponent Bob Casey, with $7.8 million versus $3.4 million on hand, but with plenty of time remaining for this race to set all kinds of monetary records. The other Democratic and Republican challengers are far behind in money terms, with mere thousands in the bank. The Daily News story stops there, but the Inquirer piece goes on to give fund totals for some other races in the southeast Pennsylvania region.

  2. PA Governor: Rendell is way ahead of the two Republican frontrunners in fundraising, having a nearly ten-fold advantage in funds on hand. Both the Inquirer story and the Daily News version give some details of big donors behind each candidate.

  3. Philadelphia Mayor: Despite the fact that this race is more than 18 months away, substantial monies are already being poured into the warchests of several potential candidates; 6 candidates account for $8 million already raised, although more than half of that is a self-donation by Tom Knox. This whirlwind sparks reflections on what newly enacted campaign contribution restrictions mean for these contenders, as well as warnings from chief elections watchdog Zach Stalberg.
As a footnote, the Daily News also offers a summary of the finances of Councilman Rick Mariano, whose reelection campaign may have to be put on hold pending his federal corruption verdict. Timing of various donations and expenditures is carefully itemized for your prurient interest.