Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Other Wednesday news and chatter

Groggy, interrupted day. Here's what I forgot to blog...
  • Fumo and other local thunder politicians sit down with bloggers, but only off the record. Good to start a conversation, but that's a tight leash! D-Mac has an amusing take here.

  • The Daily News opinion page also noticed the poor record over at the Gaming Board...

  • Another DN editorial calls for Philadelphia to let its Planning Commission do its job along the Delaware River, rather than creating a new body to do the same job.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly offers its own view on the new owner of the major Philadelphia daily papers. The good, the bad, the yet to be seen.

  • Another PW story notes a debate over the fate of a prime Center City school property, which neighbors would like to see sold to an interested charter school rather than more condo developers.

  • Ray Murphy continues the "what's a progressive take on things" discussion by looking at the anti-casino efforts in the context of their support by a Democratic governor and most legislators. Lively discussion ensues.

  • Finally, Above Average Jane takes another look through the state Senate Journals, this time peering at the various opening prayers recorded there. A few good out-takes (with minimal snark).

Who's behind whom?

  • Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge plans a 5-city tour with Lynn Swann. The hope is that Ridge will bring his pull to help raise funds and unify Republicans behind their new gubernatorial hopeful.

  • Speaking of Swann, Republicans in the southeastern part of the state are telling him to focus on Philadelphia if he wants to have any hope of edging out Rendell overall. (There's also a small note here about how Swann loyalties may have helped decide the race for the next state GOP chair.)

  • Meanwhile, onetime Georgia Senator Max Clelland stopped by to give a plug to fellow veteran Brian Lenz in Deleware County (running for the state house). He also showed up for Chris Carney, shooting for US House from the 10th.

  • Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell used to be an ally of Mayor John Street, but now she's standing in the way of several projects that he backs, including the relocation of the Youth Study Center (whose current location is slated for the new Barnes museum). Nobody's sure why she's holding things up, especially on district projects she once supported. (It may be that community opposition to some other proposals recently has her spooked.) This little history tracks the background for Blackwell's relations to Street.

  • Tom Ferrick wonders whether Governor Rendell should be rooting for or against John Perzel for state House majority leader after the fall elections -- will he be harder to work with after a rightward shift in his party? would the next guy be worse? do the Democrats have any chance of shifting the balance in Harrisburg? All unanswerable but thought-provoking...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Today's Other Things

  • Gaming news:

    1. Harrisburg legislators are considering removing the provision of gaming regulations that allows local officials to own a (small) portion of casinos in the state. They passed such a measure 18 months ago, but it opened the door to unlimited investment by relatives of officials (ahem). It's unclear whether they'll manage a better approach this time. Given the thousands of hours going into attempts to stave off corruption and crime, you can really see the benefits that the gaming industry is already bringing to Pennsylvania...

    2. Just to raise one's sense of comfort with the Gaming Board, a fifth member has been arrested for questionable behavior.

    3. Dan at YPP is concerned by a report that casino companies are trying to woo their prospective neighborhoods with gifts and promises of community investment. He's afraid that their strategy of creating divisiveness among community groups will lead to the worst proposals being enacted.

    4. The anti-casino riverfront group will be having a rally Thursday at noontime. (See the link for more information, if interested.)

  • The Sunday Inquirer featured a column looking at New Jersey's attempt to reform its eminent domain laws. Specifically a new report prepared for the governor recommends defining more carefully when a property may be considered "blighted," and better compensating property owners when their property is ceased. A good explanation of the problems, and seemingly an excellent vision of how the abuses of eminent domain can be prevented without entirely removing this tool from the civic toolbox.

  • Above Average Jane offers two posts on blogs and their relationships with politicians and campaigns: a quick guide to "using" her blog (much applicable to interacting with any local blog) -- what you can expect and what might be expected from you -- and a question for other bloggers about what they think they owe to the candidates that they support. Interesting questions...

  • Finally, Albert offers a glimpse of a different kind of Memorial Day celebration (in contrast to, say, those here) via a Revolutionary War tribute re-enactment in Washington Square. Lucky for us that he stumbled upon it!

Today's Things About Politicians

Well, not all from today, since a couple of bits appeared in Sunday's paper, but long weekends are blogging-free times for me...
  • In a letter to the Daily News, a city resident explains why she voted for Babette Josephs, despite the pay raise. I don't have the author's long history in this city, but I share her view of Josephs as an ally in the fights that matter most.

  • A Sunday editorial in the Inquirer took on Lynn Swann's new property tax proposal, concluding that it would hang schools out to dry.
    This is a plan to limit taxes, without giving much consideration to what those taxes are purchasing. When that same one-sided philosophy was imposed on Californians, the results were indeed dramatic. Property owners got immediate tax relief, and public schools got decades of program cutbacks and decline.
    The piece also points out that it would create a disincentive for people considering moving to Pennsylvania, since new buyers bear the brunt of property tax increases. Altogether a harsh assessment.

  • eRobin went to the Patrick Murphy campaign's day of community service, timed to coicide (and contrast) with the big fundraiser being held by his opponent.
    (via Above Average Jane)

Friday, May 26, 2006


Philly Skyline has a fantastic set of tables showing major construction projects planned or underway throughout Philadelphia. You often hear about the building boom, the huge number of new condos, etc., but really seeing it all laid out (including sketches of the planned towers) blows my mind:

Residential -- 80 floors of new building complete, 270+ under construction, 900+ proposed

Commercial -- Cira Center complete, 80+ floors under construction, a few hundred proposed [images of slot designs also included here, but not countable]

Residential conversion -- hundreds of floors of commercial and older residential buildings on their way to more stylish living spaces

And that deluge is without the (additional pages of) new buildings planned by various local campuses, hospitals, museums, and other institutions. Ten years from now, the city could have a whole new face (and/or a housing glut, but I won't hold my breath)...

(thanks to Philadelphia Will Do for the reminder/pointer)

Friday news

  1. Political bits

    • More on the Sen. Santorum residency debate (discussed yesterday): Rick fires off an angry defense to his Alleghany paper. However, embarrassingly, another paper's attempt to get his opinions for their coverage before the primary was returned marked "not deliverable as addressed." The editorial points out that while this doesn't undermine his legal residency, nobody really believes anything other than that he doesn't live in PA anymore. Why does he keep fighting this?
      (latter link via Tom Ferrick's blog)

    • Apparently Pennsylvania's Republicans have overcome any divisions and settled on a consensus candidate for state chairman.

    • I don't know Carl Singley, but he's apparently a local character of various sorts of fame. Anyway, Gar Josephs offers some out-takes from an interview with Singley in which he gives some opinions of the mayoral contenders of the sort you seldom find said for the record.

    • Philadelphia's City Council has apparently signed off on a budget that included many of the compromises discussed here recently, but which chose not to lock in cuts to business taxes (for five years) as some had hoped.

    • Tom Ferrick takes a closer look at Lynn Swann's property tax proposal (see prev. here) and concludes that the inequities it would create make it extremely unlikely to ever be implemented (or even legal).

  2. Other topics

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday opinions

  1. Daily News columnist offers some advice to his new overlords. Unsurprisingly, he thinks more conservative opinions should be heard, but he also has a variety of suggestions for how the papers' resources and strengths would best be used.

  2. Marc Stier calls on Philadelphia's political leaders not to force the poor to absorb the cost of balancing the city's budget. There will be a hearing next Thursday evening on the move to roll back planned tax-cuts for the poor, and Stier offers lots of explanation for what the cuts were supposed to achieve.

  3. Dan at YPP asks readers to help him try to define what being a progressive means. A challenge to boil it down to basic principles, but a good way to start to define common ground and goals.

Thursday news highlights

  • President Bush was in town to raise money for threatened local legislators, including Mike Fitzpatrick (opposed by Patrick Murphy) and Jim Gerlach (Lois Murphy). Curt Weldon (Joe Sestak) chose to skip the event and win over voters himself. Much discussion in all coverage of the tricky need to keep a safe distance from Bush's approval ratings, even when accepting his aid...

  • Last night was a big community meeting about casino design proposals which drew some 300 people (despite big TV finales). Many attendees criticized the planners for lackluster buildings that ignored neighborhood interests. Albert Yee also offered a thorough participant's take on the event (including specific reactions to each plan). [A YPP reader suggests that the Daily News might learn something by allowing its reporters to flesh out their stories for online versions like this...]

  • Philadelphia's school system and building trades council have finalized an agreement to set up an apprenticeship program (see prev. here) that would help public school graduates find their way into the skilled construction fields. The program could start as early as this fall. [More here.] This seems to be good for the students, the unions, and the city itself; a rare trifecta.

  • Some New Jersey engineers appear close to perfecting a "smart gun" that can be shot only by its legitimate owner. If they succeed, then a law on the state's books would require that all guns sold in NJ use this or some similarly secure technology. Such a gun would certainly excite a lot of interest, allowing for some common ground between legitimate gun users/dealers and those worried about gun violence.

  • The CityPaper looks at one wealthy conservative who bankrolled much of the effort that led to last week's GOP upsets, and at the coalition that is trying to push the Republican party further toward the right.

  • Above Average Jane notes a gaffe by Lynn Swann, who passed up a major keynote and fundraiser at a Manufacturer's Association meeting to attend another flashier event.

  • The Minimum Wage Coalition is planning an event for June 5, to pressure some Harrisburg legislators to bring a bill to the Senate floor for a vote. They're looking for more participants and supporters.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In other news...

  • Tony Payton has the lead in the 179th state house race, after a number of blank or misplaced write-in votes were thrown out. The absentees and provisionals have been counted, leaving a margin of around two dozen votes, but both sides seem to think it will still go to court. More details here.

  • US Senator Rick Santorum's residency is under scrutiny again. Tom Ferrick points out that his supposed Pennsylvania residence appears to be vacant. John Baer rolls his eyes at Santorum's defensiveness about the issue and his foam-flecked charges that stalkers are watching his property.

  • How's the health of the Pennsylvani GOP after recent upsets and other shifting trends? An Inquirer piece describes the party as disheartened and divided compared with a few years ago, which must be worrisome in the face of the hot general election races this fall. The state party is seeking a new chair, and Above Average Jane also catches two letters backing different candidates in a county leadership race.

  • More reactions to Lynn Swann's tax plan (announced yesterday). Most agree it's a radically new idea for Pennsylvania, although opinions vary on whether it would be an actual improvement... Ben at YPP is underwhelmed by the notion that vacation homes would get breaks under the new system.

  • Ray Murphy at YPP calls on progressives to get building a regional policy agenda, and picks up the topic of inclusionary zoning as a starting place for finding some points of agreement and beginning to forge a shared vision.

  • Short bits:

    1. The PPA just changed its conflict-of-interest policy in response to the unseemly picture of one of their consultants going to work for a company whose contract he ensured.

    2. Sandra Shea puts out a last call for community input at tonight's casino design forum. See the layouts, ask your impact questions...

    3. The Pennsylvania Tourism Office is soliciting input on possible new bumpersticker slogans. They could use some help...

  • The Mongomery County Democratic Committee is offering a campaign training camp in late June for new political candidates, organizers, and activists (separate tracks for different niches). It's inexepensive and looks promising.

  • PhillySkyline invited some students to share an insider's view of/from their campuses and shares the resulting photos. They did him proud.
    (via PhillyFuture)

Apparently there was some kind of newspaper deal...

Tierney faceThe PhillyNews duo are in paroxyms of joy and self-coverage over the news that the local group of businessmen headed by Brian Tierney have finalized a deal to buy the papers (audio of the press conference available here). The top story included links to a blizzard of other stories and graphics, so I presume that the better part of a section is being given over to the papers' history, current state, and new owners. For the benefit of those with a similar degree of interest, here's what I can find:
  • Top story -- $562 million deal for both papers and all associated holdings. Tierney himself has picketed the paper in the past, but all of his investors signed a pledge not to interfere with news coverage (and not to sell their investments for at least 5 years). Also,
    Tierney said he would stop his political activities on behalf of the Republican Party. But he will continue to invest in businesses that are sometimes covered in the papers, such as Donald Trump's proposed Northwest Philadelphia casino, and NutriSystem Inc., the Horsham-based diet-meal distributor.
    The local investors contributed 40% of the total, with large banks making up the rest; whether those corporate groups will share the local folks' focus on long-term health over rising profits will have to be seen. The Daily News was enthused, labeling their new owners Our Kind of People.

  • Who are these people? A diverse group of investors in terms of their other involvements, political leanings, etc. [This piece gives bios and amounts invested, where known, for all of the new Board of Directors; shorter take here.] A more detailed profile of Tierney is also given, including a background in challenging how the media covered his prominent clients -- he promises to throw that zealotry behind his onetime adversaries. More Tierney bio here.

  • What are they getting? (statistics and other goodies) A timeline history of the Inquirer and Daily News. A graph of circulation levels for each over the last 20 years, and a map of where all local papers are sold. PNI (Philly News Incorporated) is more than just the Inquirer and Daily News, including some neighborhood papers and free publications as well as web content. Fascinating stuff here!

  • Reaction by the papers and staff: An Inquirer writer looks back at the paper's history and sees a continuing mission. The Daily News is given a long view as well. Another Inquirer piece portrays the first response as an optimistic sigh of relief, and Daily News employees appear to feel that they escaped the hatchet; their opinion page seconds the cautious optimism.

  • What does all this mean? A quick Q & A from the Inquirer -- why, what, who. A separate piece looks more closely at the owner noninterference pledge and the prospects that the newspapers will retain their journalistic independence. (Again, cautious optimism.) Another speculates that this purchase may signal a shift in news ownership from corporate profiteers (expecting constant growth) to local interests with a combination of goals (steady revenue + better papers). The Inquirer editorial page follows this last point by wondering whether local ownership of papers might strengthen the public trust in their reporters and institutions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday news -- from other arenas

  • Strawbridges has been a corporate chameleon for some time, but now its stores are officially closing, marking the end of an era for many. [This piece is a historical tour de force.]

  • The sale of Philadelphia papers is on the verge of being closed, and it could still be announced today. More here, including sighs of relief that both papers will be kept open for the time being...

  • The planned reorganization of Philadelphia's housing agencies may be closer to reality with news that Mayor Street and Councilwoman Blackwell have reached agreement on some differences, especially on provisions for any displaced employees.

  • The latest PPA kerfluffle concerns the news that a primary architect of the new GPS-in-cabs plan will be leaving for a new job with the GPS company he helped select. Since he's a consultant, not a government employee, the move isn't illegal, but of course it raises (sadly familiar) eyebrows, especially in a city tired of being told it's not ethical enough to run its own agencies. The Daily News opinion page wonders whether the consultant loophole should be closed.

  • An Inquirer editorial takes Councilwoman Blackwell to task for her slowness in approving a new site for the juvenile detention facility due to be displaced by the relocation of the Barnes museum. Good point that these plans need to get moving.

  • Dan at YPP looks at a New Jersey case that could go to the Supreme Court, testing the limits of how badly a company can rip off its customers before it's considered illegal.

  • South Philly was the scene of an anti-casino demonstration on Saturday, ably documented by Ed Goppelt at Hallwatch.
    (via dragonballyee's Philly)

Tuesday news -- political bits

  • Lynn Swann has made his first substantive policy proposal, outlining a radical restructuring of Pennsylvania's property tax system. His proposal is based on a similar law in California, which has been quite controversial, and critics are already questioning whether schools could be adequately funded under the plan. But in the absence of any action by the state legislature, these suggestions may find a favorable reception with some frustrated homeowners.

  • US Senator Rick Santorum is running attack ads against challenger Bob Casey, perhaps trying to get first rights in defining the lesser-known candidate.

  • Despite the fact that the ballot measure called for the city to "consider the use" of surveillance cameras, its approval appears to be being called a mandate to proceed. Luckily, a task force including both police and community members will help set up guidelines for how such cameras are to be used. The ACLU is reserving judgement, but many violence-troubled neighborhoods are rushing to be first in line.

  • The matter of who will represent the 179th State House district in Harrisburg is still up in the air, as careful examination of records and write-ins puts Tony Payton back in a slight lead over party-backed Emilio Vazquez with provisional and absentee ballots yet to be counted (and unknown legal complaints still to follow). A surprise nail-biter!

  • Above Average Jane reports on another close race (in the 183rd) as well as a smattering of other political bits from the area.

  • Philadelphians list environmental concerns high among their criteria for mayoral candidates and City Council aspirants. Better sewer management, improved transit, and other infrastructure issues stood out as critical for the area's future economic health, to the surprise of some analysts.
    Asked to rate various issues according to their importance, city residents ranked stopping water pollution and redeveloping abandoned property just behind fighting crime and improving the public schools. The business leaders agreed with the primacy of crime and education, but said improving roads and bridges and the redevelopment of blighted areas were next most important.
    There's plenty to go around... In related news, a coalition of state and local environmental agencies, called Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, is putting together an agenda of proposals to help shape the debate in 2008's elections.

  • Speaking of possible mayoral candidates, Fattah is still undeclared, but he's collecting volunteers and screening promotional videos...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday bits

  • Political shots

    1. Gubernatorial hopeful Lynn Swann hopes to tar Governor Rendell with the pay-hike and its attendant anger. Of course, he put his weight behind Senate chief Jubilerer, now ousted on a related wave, so the charges may not impress voters. Rendell never claimed the high ground on the issue, but it wasn't really his baby either.

    2. Three short bits from the Inquirer, including jabs at Swann's voting record, some civility among primary candidates, and the possibility that some Republicans may be keeping their distance from Bush on defense issues (while others take all available aid).

    3. Joe Sestak, Curt Weldon's opponent for his own Congressional seat, speaks out on net neutrality, and important issue for bloggers or for anyone who makes use of the internet for news, entertainment, or business concerns.
      (via Atrios)

    4. Above Average Jane offers a look at the 13th US Congressional race, which pits a well-funded Democrat Schwartz against a reality-TV GOP underdog...

  • Newspaper rumblings

    1. The Daily News reports that a local group is on the verge of buying Philadelphia's two big daily papers.
      If Tierney's Philadelphia Media Holdings is indeed successful, it would mean the newspapers would be in the hands of private owners as opposed to a public company - such as Knight Ridder or McClatchy - and the pressure to meet the quarterly profit demands of Wall Street. Local ownership also would buck the trend over the last half-century toward consolidation of the American media, including newspapers, in the hands of a shrinking number of conglomerates.
      Exciting possibilities. [Inquirer story here.]

    2. Will Bunch seems pleased with this outcome, as Tierney pledges to stay out of the newsroom; Dan UA feels a bit more nervous. D-Mac is just happy to hear that both papers will stay alive...

  • Other topics

    1. A Daily News column looks at challenges for developers looking to move Philadelphia's wave of growth into new neighborhoods -- mostly beauracracy and fees.

    2. In related news the Opinion Page lauds Councilman Wilson Goode's actions to help block predatory lending and other difficulties for people trying to make their way in low-income parts of town.

    3. Stan Shapiro looks at what progressives can learn from the recent elections, both successes and failures, and starts a discussion on how to better organize behind promising candidates in the future.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday round-up

Still a lot of post-election rumblings in the news, as well as in the City Election Commission offices. The Payton-Vazquez outcome will be a while in getting sorted out, between write-ins to be verified, provisional ballots to be sorted through, and the inevitable legal challenges from both sides. Meantime, in the rest of Philadelphia and its surrounding areas...
  • News:

    1. Yesterday's rumors of budget negotiations between Mayor Street and Philadelphia's City Council appear to be substantiated by stories today of compromise and near-closure. Happily, the city will get 100 new police officers, in addition to Street's suggestion of using more overtime.

    2. The press continues excited over the story that newcomers are shouldering their way in to the political system in Philadelphia, despite the fact that even 64 new faces are mere foam on the sea of 3000 committeepeople across the city. I'm very excited about the infusion of new energy, but really the story only *starts* here; it's more about the hard work that will be needed over the next few years, both for high-profile elections like the races this fall and for the smaller battles at every level by which incremental change will occur. Let's get moving!

    3. Councilwoman Brown is suggesting a curfew for kids 13 and under that would be earlier than the one already in place for all minors. I guess this is a response to shocking recent crimes by younger offenders. I don't envy the officer charged with guessing the age of some slouching teen...

  • Opinion:

    1. DN columnist Elmer Smith defends Philly voters from the charge that they don't care about how their politicians behave, citing the high approval for the new Ethics Board as a counterbalance to the low ousting of local politicians. It's good to think we have a range of ways to voice our opinions.

    2. Another Dicker supporter gives a view of the election in the 175th from a personal perspective, both in how one polling place operated all day and in how he feels about the undertaking overall.

    3. Above Average Jane notes two candidates who acknowledged their (past or future) rivals in a classy way: Patrick Murphy (US House 08) and Mike Paston (State House 152). Yay to keeping things respectful.

    4. Speaking of letting bygones be bygones, Marc Stier is first out of the gate at acknowledging that he wasn't that excited about Casey in the primary, but calling on progressives and liberals to rally around the Democratic candidate now and work to defeat Santorum in November. Those who worked hard for another candidate in the last few months should probably take a few more days to recover and mourn before worrying about trying to find the energy for the next fight. But I think that this is a critical election, and Stier does an excellent job of laying out the case for Casey as a candidate now, from both strategic and moral bases. Worth coming back to when you've caught your breath -- but make it this summer; don't wait until fall.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Thursday deluge

I have 19 tabs open and have to leave in under two hours, so just a quick round-up of what caught my eye earlier today:
  • Above Average Jane notes that Mike Fitzpatrick wasted no time before laying into his now-official general election opponent, releasing a combined congratulations and smack-down. (Her response is quite amusing.)

  • Rick Santorum was also quick to call out his opponent (although he did pause for breath). He'd like the race to be about Casey rather than about Bush and the Republican leadership.

  • A Committee of 70 volunteer recounts some polling place drama from his stint on Tuesday. At my own polling place, a paranoid committee person wouldn't let the rovers even ask the judge of elections how things were going, although we had no technical problems and kept a close eye on "suggestions" to voters from helpful pollworkers.

  • Another CityPaper story bemoans the low turnout and gives a few highlights from the election and various watering holes where the players gather.

  • First round of speculation about what the dramatic upsets of Jubilerer and Brightbill mean for the fall elections and the cause of legislative reform. Some conservative reformers are taking a different angle, calling for renewal of the Republican party and its original goals. Not only the tall wood fell, but some local giants had surprises too, indicating that the activists created by Bush misbehavior are also starting to make their presence known, in Philadelphia at least.

  • Speculation and dismay, as well, about what happened to the voting machines around town and whether things will run more smoothly in the hot November election. The City Commissioners promise a thorough investigation.

  • Meanwhile, Tony Payton is shocked by the amazing success of the party-backed write-in campaign, but the margin is close enough that challenges and double-checks could leave the result in that race in doubt for a while yet.

    Update: Dan at UA thinks this was a poor showing for the party in many respects...

  • Chester County's special election provided an upset of its own, electing a Democrat to the State Senate (by a wide margin) for the first time in a century. [Best part of the story is the name of the last Dem. State Senator: Septimus Niven.] Jim Gerlach unlikely to be happy with this news.

  • Philly's City Council and Mayor may actually find a budget they can agree on, apparently after a bunch of back-room negotiations.

  • The Daily News reports that Philadelphia tourism is booming, so I guess the 40,000 articles about our coolness mean that the secret is out.

  • Finally, columnist Sandra Shea points out the holes in casino design restrictions and challenges readers to come to a public design forum at the Convention Center next week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogger round-up

Oh yeah, there's some other stuff too. :)
Forgive me if I'm a bit distracted today, but a lot of minor (neighborhood) elections had exciting victories by newcomers and activists -- at least two Ward leaders were defeated in their own committee races (although that doesn't automatically oust them from the higher position) -- and it's a buzz...
  • Will Bunch watches the one general (special) election that took place yesterday, and thinks it could indicate momentum for the Democrats this fall.

  • Chris Bowers managed to win his write-in campaign for state committee. He reflects positively on the other insurgent races, and particularly on how Chuck Pennacchio's (losing) Senate campaign energized a host of local people to get involved themselves in ways they might never otherwise have considered. Also this:
    Even if our victories are few, our victories will keep multiplying as long as we keep running. Hell, that is probably how the establishment came to power in the first place. As soon as it is clear that you will win sometimes, and that you will not be deterred even when you do not win, eventually those in power have no choice but to accept that you have a role in determining the future of the party. Give up easily, and be defeated easily. Never give up, and eventually you will govern.

  • Ray Murphy follows up on this in a slightly different vein, arguing that Anne Dicker's second place is still a victory for progressives, not least because she showed that low-cost high-contact voter outreach could trump expensive traditional ad & literature campaigns.

  • Albert Yee is exhausted from his sleepless weeks of campaigning for Pennacchio and himself, but gives us some reflections on his election-day experience before nodding off.

  • Atrios notes that Rick Santorum has a bunch of former staffers in trouble for campaign law violations. The FEC investigating.

In other news

In addition to results of yesterday's elections, apparently the globe continued to turn and other events and plans moved ahead...
  • Bob Casey won the Democratic nomination for US Senate, as expected by many, with the challengers splitting some 15% of the vote. Tom Ferrick looks ahead to the Santorum--Casey matchup (with the help of a "commission" of real or imagined wags) and considers it too close to call.

  • Also looking ahead to the fall election is Governor Rendell, who starts a four-day campaign kick-off tour today.

  • The rumbling triumverate of [Gov] Rendell, [Mayor] Street, and [State Sen. and general Big Dog] Fumo met yesterday to talk about Delaware riverfront development in the face of pressing casino projects and other developer ambitions. Most excitingly, they discussed the prospect of setting up a nonprofit to oversee development in this area in a manner that would most benefit the city and its residents.
    The corporation, which would seek both public and private funding and would bring together development experts from across the United States, is the brainchild of City Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose district includes a long stretch of waterfront being eyed by gaming interests and residential developers.

    DiCicco, who also attended the lunchtime meeting, said the Big Three supported his idea to engage experts as both board members and planners to work through the development impact of thousands of housing units and potential casinos along the river.
    These discussions are a follow-up on Rendell's decision to issue a moratorium on all building along the river (and sale of the state's "riparian rights" over shoreline projects), and might extend to transit needs and pedestrian routes.

  • Two stories yesterday reported that the Barnes Foundation is on the road to relocating to downtown Philadelphia, having raised some $150 million from a collection of donors already. No word on plans for the building design, although they hope to break ground next year...

  • While candidates were sweating the returns yesterday, Philadelphia's cabbies went on strike to protest a new rule requiring that cabs carry GPS, adding to the fees that cut into drivers' meager earnings.
    "We didn't ask for the GPS," Blount told the cheering cabbies. "Owners didn't ask for the GPS. Customers didn't ask for the GPS. Who asked for the GPS?"
    Well, the newly state-run PPA has great ideas for everything, it seems.

  • We recently noted here a suggestion that an abandoned rail line could be used for a new subway spur to serve the Parkway and parts west. Apparently area transportation planners have been eying a similar stretch of suburban railway, but suggesting paving rather than fixing up tracks, to establish a sort of bus-subway fusion service called BRT (bus rapid transit), which would extend into Bucks County. I can't picture how the given map superimposes on existing rail routes, but I gather that this would serve areas that were served by a discontinued line. There's a public meeting tonight to see what area residents think of the plan.

Election round-up

Full results of the primaries (not including ward committee races) can be found here. These are the top stories of the morning, to me at least:
  • The two heads of the State Senate, Republicans Jubelirer and Brightbill, were both defeated by their primary opponents, after challenges fueled largely by pay-hike anger and related issues. Unfortunately, the winners were backed by the Club for Growth, which lies on the far right edge of conservative politics. Speculations abound, however, that this will open the field to Democratic challengers in the general election, who might have been afraid to take on top leadership but will be emboldened by the newbies carrying the GOP flag. Stay tuned! (In related news, John Baer now believes that anything is possible...)

  • There were widespread problems with voting machines malfunctioning, which led to the casting of hundreds of provisional ballots in the affected divisions. Because such ballots will take time to verify and process, some close races may not have final numbers for weeks! [More here.]

  • It appears that some "insiders" were able to fight the anti-incumbent fervor and eke out a win. Those include Babette Josephs (although her race is one of the ones involving divisions with provisional ballots), who had a margin of around 200 votes at the end of the night; Michael O'Brien (the 175th is also not final, although the DN calls it), who appears to have beat progressives Anne Dicker and Terry Graboyes by a margin of 39% to 32% to 29%, empowering Dougherty and dismaying many; and, most surprisingly, Tony Payton, the lone candidate on the ballot in the 179th, may have been narrowly defeated by a write-in campaign for the machine candidate, Emilio Vazquez -- there's some discussion of impropriety surrounding this race (did pollworkers hand out stamps with Vazquez's name on them?), and write-ins don't get dealt with until the certification process on Friday (which also deals with absentee ballots and provisional votes), so the outcome will not be known for a few days yet.

  • Voters endorsed the formation of an Ethics Board by a 4-to-1 ratio, continuing the push to clean up the political system in Philadelphia. The surveillance measure also passed, after a telephone push by Street that raised a few eyebrows. Despite the fact that this latter measure is just permission to consider the idea, headlines are trumpeting "voters ok cameras" and the like...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's primary day!

go vote!

Other posting by me today unlikely before the polls close at 8pm...

Monday, May 15, 2006

In other news

  • AAJane had a good time at YPP's happy hour on Friday. Glad a bunch of people came out, especially with all the canvassing and flyering going on right now...

  • A KYW Radio report raises some questions about parts of the background check being made of potential Gaming Board employees. Sure, you want to be sure that they're not married to casino developers, but are there other ulterior motives to asking about housemates?
    (via Above Average Jane)

  • An Inquirer piece looks at how rarely City Council sees turnover, making the two current empty seats a heady opportunity. On the other hand, nominees for a special election are selected by Ward leaders, which hardly leaves much room for new blood...

  • Lookie, lookie: We're Philly Future's new featured blog! Thanks to everybody who is not in finals voted!

Election and political miscellania

  • Some regions of PA will be voting on new machines tomorrow, which could lead to delays and kerfluffles... I think Philadelphia voters should have no surprises.

  • A letter to the Inquirer wonders who would sit on the new ethics board, given restrictions on other office-holding and the token pay...

  • US Senate primary candidate Alan Sandals is attacking Santorum in recent ads rather than his May opponents Casey and Pennacchio.

  • A Sunday Inquirer article looked at three state legislative leaders in close primaries fueled largely by anti-pay-hike fervor. The three are Republicans Robert Jubelirer and David Brightbill (heads of the two state houses), and Democrat Mike Veon (house minority leader), and all are spending and mudslinging at a rapid rate.

    Correction: both Brighbill and Jubelirer are state Senate leadership; the state House speaker is John Perzel, who either isn't up this year or had no challenge. my braino.

  • Rep. Mark Cohen, unopposed in tomorrow's primary, appears not to know enough to lie low and let recent financial scandals (over per diems and book allowances) blow over -- he remains unapologetic. John Baer continues to shake his head.

  • The Daily News noted that many candidates passed up Mother's Day festivities in favor of working their districts in thos critical final days before the election. I know *I* was out there, but not so many folks answered their doors...

  • Above Average Jane is unimpressed by politicians who sling unsubstantiated (or meaningless) mud.

  • Dave Ralis offers a series of Election Day Issues, including tax reform, campaign finance reform, and lobbyist reform. (I think there were two other parts too.) Good summaries of the state of those discussions, although not applied to any particular races.

  • America's Hometown reports the results of a recent Pew poll on a variety of subjects such as Pennsylvanian's happiness with the state's "direction," their leanings in the gubernatorial race, and a variety of current issues.

Tomorrow's elections -- what They're saying, what I'm thinkin', etc.

Last year at this time, Philadelphia voters were faced with a confusing array of judicial elections, which I attempted to research and sort out. Small races, but city-wide. This year, some of the races are larger -- essentially choosing the winner in a number of state House races, and choosing party nominees for some US Congressional seats -- and yet the districts divide and overlap various parts of the city and its environs. Thus, providing a coherent set of recommendations (or even a good list of what races are out there) is difficult. This is an attempt to summarize a variety of races that I've been following, as well as endorsements and other discussions directly related to tomorrow's primaries. I'll update it if I bump across races or folks I might have missed.
  • For everybody: There are two ballot measures which will be on all Philadelphia ballots, no matter where in the city or what party you claim.

    1. Ethics referendum. Following up on last year's City Council actions to regulate campaign contributions by city contractors, as well as forward-going discussions to extend those controls and add other restrictions on Philly's pay-to-play culture, tomorrow's ballot measure enables (via a Charter amendment) the establishment of an independent Board of Ethics to oversee enforcement, etc. This is key because current oversight positions report to the Mayor and other folks who might have interests in how such enforcement proceeds. If you want more details on the measure, see this explanation, and the Sunday Inquirer also had a longer piece on supporters' hopes for this ballot question.

      This one should be a no-brainer: vote YES. Everybody is behind it, from the Committee of Seventy, to Neighborhood Networks, newspapers, blah blah. (My ward/committeeperson, of course, strangely silent.)

    2. Surveillance referendum. This is a delicately worded measure asking for voter opinion about placement of cameras in "high-crime" neighborhoods around Philadelphia. I sympathize with residents of such areas, but sadly there's no evidence that such cameras reduce overall crime rates or do anything more than move the bad guys to a different corner. However, the wording of the current measure stipulates that any plan would be carefully screened to protect civil liberties, and it really only calls for discussion of the notion. Thus, both major city papers have encouraged a yes vote on this one. Neighborhood Networks took no stand, nor could I find any mention of this on Committee of Seventy's website, probably reflecting the fact that it's a bit too early and vague to get worked up about.

      I intend to vote NO on this one, but understand that those hearing gunshots more frequently may feel that they don't have the luxury of passivity.

    3. US Senate. Republican Rick Santorum is currently unopposed, but the Democratic slate features three candidates, summarized briefly here. Robert Casey is the annointed choice of the Democratic Party, having been asked to run by national leadership figures after a strong showing in his statewide Treasurer race that made him appear the best choice to beat Santorum. He's solid on labor and poverty issues, more conservative on social issues. Both of his opponents are significantly more progressive, but have had a hard time getting heard. The Inquirer endorses Casey, Neighborhood Networks and Philly for Change chose Pennacchio, NOW endorsed Sandals. The city party pretends that the latter two candidates don't really exist, but they have volunteers who feel otherwise.

      I recommend that Democrats who long for more progressive representation vote for Pennacchio or Sandals; there's plenty of time to come together behind the winner before the fall general election.

    4. Lieutenant Governor. Governor Ed Rendell has no primary opposition, but his Lt. Gov., Catherine Baker Knoll, does. Valerie McDonald Roberts is posing a surprisingly strong challenge from western PA, garnering the endorsements of the local progressive groups such as Neighborhood Networks and Philly for Change, as well as the paper and a smattering of ward groups. The current LG has not been a terribly visible presence over the years, but seems known more for missteps than for any positive contributions; in contrast, Roberts brings some energy and dedication to a range of causes such as public education. (There are also a number of independent and third-party candidates for this position, but I'm not clear whether they'll appear on primary ballots.)

      I recommend a vote for McDonald Roberts. She would balance the ticket as the incumbent does (and racially as well), but presents better prospects for work in current office as well as a more palatable potential Governor, should Rendell find himself appointed to some national position.

  • US Congressional races of note (see a full list here, although it has some errors!):

    1. Vote Murphy! Patrick Murphy is my choice over Andy Warren in the 8th district, and Lois Murphy over Mike Leibowitz in the 6th. I've given both of these candidates a lot of links over the last few months, so I'll just leave it at that. (Their Republican opponents are unopposed.)

    2. I think that the other US races are uncontested. Will fix if incorrect...

  • State House races (see maps of districts here and/or see this). There are a ton of these, but not all are contested. Two have gotten a lot of attention this year and are bound to be nail-biters:

    1. 182nd features incumbent Democrate Babette Josephs under assault from a Clean Sweeper named Larry Farnese (see short descriptions here). The former is a longtime legislator known for progressive stances and having some leadership positions; she has been endorsed by the party as well as by Neighborhood Networks. The newcomer claims a progressive background, but his campaign materials seem more focused on business interests and taxes than on social issues and civil liberties, and he is backed by local union boss John Dougherty (as well as by the 5th Ward leader, still holding a personal grudge against Josephs after losing to her 20+ years ago).

      Taking the pay-hike was stupid. But I still much prefer Babette to this business operative. Vote Josephs in this race.

    2. 175th is a close three-way between Mike O'Brien (onetime staffer of the departing rep), Terry Graboyes (longtime committeeperson and business woman), and Anne Dicker (progressive activist) -- see short blurbs on the candidates here. That ordering reflects my approximate guage of their relative indebtedness to the party "machine," but all three claim longtime progressive credentials. Philly for Change endorsed Dicker, one of its founders, and the City Committee endorsed O'Brien, but many other organizations have stayed out of this one. Some fear that the progressive vote will be split between Graboyes and Dicker; others think that the "politico" vote will be divided between O'Brien and Graboyes. Dicker is working the street with a host of dedicated volunteers, while O'Brien and Graboyes run TV ads in an expensive market. Some ward groups have nearly come to blows. Nobody knows which way it will fall, so anybody with a horse in the race should be putting in the time tonight and tomorrow.

      I like both Terry and Anne personally, and am somewhat glad that I don't have to pick a button in this one. However, my heart is rooting for Dicker, who has a lot of energy, genuine progressive commitment, and the desire to help build a coalition in Harrisburg over the long haul.

    3. 188th sees longtime incumbent James Roebuck being challenged by real neophyte Devon Cade (see blurbs here). The W. Philly part of Neighborhood Networks strongly supported the incumbent after talking to both men.

      I agree -- Roebuck in this race.

  • Even more local: look for new names and faces at the polls this year. There are a lot of folks running for neighborhood ward committee positions, both in empty races and in places where the incumbents haven't been doing all they can to connect their constituents to the party. The last few years have brought a number of new people into the political process, through get-out-the-vote efforts, candidate campaigns, and issue education efforts. It's time to get some of them inside the machine . . .
For background to some of the above, here is the Inquirer's summary of their endorsements in a number of races. Also see the archives of this blog (or search them by candidate name) for further background on the races and choices. More other stuff in another post.


Friday, May 12, 2006

News dump -- miscellania (last installment)

  • Another suggestion made on the smoking ban front would use financial incentives to encourage businesses to go smoke-free. The bill, sponsored by Jack Kelly, appears to have had a tepid reception, despite combining two hot local issues.

  • America's Hometown reports the first data that I've seen concerning community views on Philadelphia casino proposals. Take-home: feelings about nearby proposals are almost exactly divided, although people in the river wards seem to agree that they'd rather have one slots parlor than two in their part of town.

  • A PhillyFuture poster looks at possibilities for running a new SEPTA subway along an abandoned rail line along the Parkway. Apparently this has been thought of before by transit junkies, but it hasn't been discussed lately and looks pretty reasonable!

  • Albert links to his interview at Metro, which includes a photo and some chat about politics and blogging. Hi, Albert!!

News dump -- other political bits

News dump -- Tuesday election bits

Lots of stuff today, of varying interest, so will try to post it in several installments as time allows.
  • The Daily News notes that Tuesday voters of all persuasions in Philadelphia have a chance to chip in their two cents on two ballot initiatives that they may or may not know about, one concerning red light cameras and the other establishing an independent Board of Ethics.

  • Upper Merion, Chester, and Bucks voters will face a ballot measure concerning open space, which asks for a tax increase to preserve undeveloped land. It's not clear whether there has been enough education on the issue to motivate dubious residents.

  • Gar Josephs looks at a Ward leader's responsibilities on election day, using Marion Tasco as an example, from knocking on doors to making sure that poll workers have enough snacks. [Another story further down at the link mentions an official contender for Rick Mariano's Council seat, 23rd Ward leader Dan Savage.]

  • An Inquirer editorial urges voters to remember the pay hike when voting in state legislative races. A time to hold them accountable, or just one factor among many for those making up their minds?

  • A poster at PhillyFuture offers the text of suburban news articles about a variety of races in the greater Philadelphia area, many of which are not getting much coverage in the Philly papers.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thursday other things

Speed edition...

Thursday Things About Politicians

  • Tony Payton is an energetic young man with ideas for the N. Philly district that he hopes to represent. However, the Democratic Party is offering him no support, despite the absence of other names on the primary ballot. This is the desperation of the machine; they'd rather work for a long-shot write-in than welcome a newcomer aboard. Sad.

  • Another state House primary, that pitting incumbent Angel Cruz against challenger William Cartagena, appears to mask a deeper rivalry between Cruz and Carlos Matos, who is running Cartagena's campaign and also sponsoring a fleet of committeepeople to challenge Cruz's position as Ward Leader. The feud between former allies is causing shock-waves in many directions.

  • Albert offers us an interview with Valerie McDonald-Roberts, a promising candidate for the overlooked office of Lieutenant Governor. The post gives more narrative than dialogue, but that's actually helpful in getting some context for this race and for covering a lot of ground in getting to know the candidate.

  • The Daily News offers a round-up of contested races (complete with ballot positions) in Tuesday's primaries.

  • The Inquirer has a piece looking at the difficulty that many candidates have had in withstanding challenges to their ballot petitions and filings. Such challenges are on the rise. On the flip side, John Baer at the Daily News points out that a remarkable two-thirds of state legislators face no primary opposition, and decries the protections of incumbency.

  • In non-election news, State House Speaker John Perzel defends his absence from Harrisburg last week (see prev. here), pointing to his overall attendance record and saying that no legislative business was affected.

  • Finally, Philadelphia's District Attorney Lynne Abraham was on Radio Times talking about witness intimidation, for those who want to hear Tough Cookie's thoughts on the matter.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On a different note

A little, um, photographic fact-checking catches the Metro making up Folks On The Street (or at least, not being too careful with their particulars)... [snort]

Wednesday news deluge

  • The Olympics are getting a lot of discussion. I can barely stomache it, but here are three fresh installments of speculation for today, a mix of news and opinion. Decision on 2016 expected at the end of the year.

  • The Daily News points out that the period for public comment on casino plans is almost up, and invites readers to a public forum on the proposed designs, to be held in two weeks. Developers will show their plans, and design experts will give some critique as well. Sounds like a great opportunity -- see the article for details (free advance registration required).

  • Smattering of updates on ongoing stories:

    1. An advisory committee convened by the Fairmont Parks Commission recommends against a merger with the Recreation Department because it's likely to lead to reduced overall funding. Hard to say how independent this advice is.

    2. Philadelphia's city budget continues to be part of a turf battle between City Council and Mayor (with even the state poised to weigh in).

  • Politicians and primaries:

    1. Hillary Clinton is helping Senate hopeful Bob Casey with a fundraiser this weekend.

    2. NOW endorses Andrew Warren over Patrick Murphy in the 8th US House district, due to some differences in their stated positions, of the sort that made them choose Sandals over Pennacchio in the Senate race. Murphy's views are pretty mainstream, if not as progressive as I myself would prefer.

    3. The Inquirer looks more generally at the 8th district race, comparing how Murphy and Warren stack up against incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick, running his first reelection race.

    4. The Inquirer offers an endorsement in the 12th State Senate primary, suggesting Stewart Greenleaf over his inexperienced challenger.

    5. The Philadelphia Weekly offers a profile of Tony Payton, a newcomer running for the 179th State House district in North Philly/Frankford. He's running against a write-in candidate (favored by the Dem. establishment but bumped from the ballot), and has a lot of ideas for helping his district.

    6. A PW cover story looks at Anne Dicker's prospects in the heated 175th race for the Democratic nomination. Given the changing demographics of the riverfront neighborhoods, this race is a real pulse-taker for the power of the party machine versus motivated activists. The best description of the candidates and dynamics so far, as usual from Shaffer, despite two mischaracterizations of NN's position in this race.

    7. AAJane offers a few recent links about Curt Weldon, Republican incumbent in the 7th US House district.

    8. And finally, Albert showcases a video ad for Chuck Pennacchio's US Senate campaign. He speaks for himself on what he is and what he isn't.

  • The Inquirer speaks its piece on the "other" measure on next Tuesday's ballot, which concerns surveillance cameras. They make a tentative recommendation in favor of the bill as written. It does call for careful insurance that civil rights are protected, but it's unclear whether there's actually any evidence that such cameras make a real difference to crime rates (rather than just moving crime around).
    The ballot question should be the beginning of a public conversation about the idea of surveillance cameras, not the end of it.
    With that much, at least, I agree.

  • The Daily News wonders why Philadelphia doesn't care about its avaricious legislators, at least if running primary challengers against them is any measure. I think a spate of ethics reforms indicates otherwise, and at least some of the embarrassments cited here came out long after primary filings were past... Anyway, they're encouraging a letter-storm, so have your say.

  • A federal lawsuit against the Philadelphia prison system alleges some pretty appalling mistreatment of the inmate in question. If the charges hold, I hope that wider reforms can be enacted.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Quick Tuesday round-up

  • With a week until the primary elections, the Inquirer has acknowledged the existence of an ethics-related ballot measure and given it their blessing. The referendum would establish an independent Board of Ethics to oversee and enforce Philadelphia's new campaign-contribution limits and other clean government measures. Vote yes!!

  • Young Philly Politics gives their official endorsement of Anne Dicker in the heated race for the State 175th district seat.

  • PA State Senate candidate Paul Lang is apparently writing at the Huffington Post these days, and he posts a reminder that local races matter. The column caught Albert's eye as well, providing some renewed motivation.
A smattering of other stories that offered little news but a lot of recycled innuendo. We skim the cream for our readers! :)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday news, late edition

Luckily, another busy day on my end coincided with a slow day on the news end. A bunch of political chat, endorsements, and other rants, though...

Friday, May 05, 2006

In other Friday news

  • Lynn Swann's post-endorsement bounce has passed, and Gov. Rendell now has a substantial lead in the race to the November election.

  • Gar Josephs rounds up some minor political happenings, from the healing (or at least burying) of the local rift between Doc and Brady to the Democratic party's snubbing of its own candidate, Tony Payton, in the North Philly state House race.

  • Albert is pretty happy that a primary-oriented round-up of opinion letters in central Pennsylvania yielded a slew of support for Chuck Pennacchio. Sadly, central PA thinks it's only there, much as southeastern PA seems to think it's only Philly. Perhaps Chuck will surpise his doubters yet.

  • Somehow yesterday I only caught half of the story about the 10 State Senate race -- the Inquirer endorsed McIlhinney on the Republican side and also Rosenthal for the Democrats. Above Average Jane has more details on the two candidates on the Dem side of this race, including links to interview questions, etc.

  • Two-thirds of Pennsylvania's Gaming Control Board employees have yet to be background-checked, even though they are months into wielding considerable influence over the placing of casinos, contracts for machines, and other decision-making. Veeery reassuring...

  • Finally, in the category of Slightly Embarrassing Old Guy Moment, Philadelphia City Councilman Jack Kelly has signed up for MySpace as an attempt to better connect with young voters. Yeah, collect some buddies!

Missing in action

capitolThe big story of today continues to be the last-minute failure of the State Assembly to pass the package of property tax relief (however flawed) that they had agreed upon. Two themes dominate the coverage:

1. How did this happen? Nobody seemed to see it coming, from the sponsors of the bill (stunned) to the Governor (disappointed).
After all, it had bipartisan support, having sailed through the Senate by a wide margin, and House Republican leaders were confident they had the votes to pass it.
Some lawmakers say the matter will be voted on in June, but others point out that budget negotiations get underway then and are unlikely to set a chipper and collegial tone. Everybody has different theories about how political considerations colored the choice to hold up this vote.
Why the inaction? Some members wanted more tax relief for more people. A few really wanted dramatic, structural tax reform. More than a few, if you injected sodium pentathol, would admit that they hate to hand Gov. Rendell a victory to boost his re-election bid.
Another possibility is that the troops weren't lining up in an orderly way behind the leadership and their deals; that might explain a hesitancy to take the final tally . . . Ferrick thinks that a closer look at the details made lawmakers reconsider their support, as money for seniors might have meant less relief for everybody else later.

2. Where was John Perzel? A hugely important session was underway, and nobody seemed to know where the majority leader was, but it clearly wasn't Harrisburg. Apparently he was on a jaunt to Florida, where he would be paid handsomely for attending a business meeting.
At yesterday's annual meeting at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, where Perzel was staying, shareholders of the publicly traded company voted to give him another term on the board. The job pays $20,000 a year, plus stock options and thousands of dollars more to attend meetings - including about $5,000 to attend this week's.
As a result, he missed some 42 votes for the day's business, as well as closed-door negotiations on the tax plan. Dan at YPP hopes that Rendell can punish the do-nothing Assembly in the fall, and Albert notes that the company whose meeting Perzel was attending is in competition for a substantial prison contract in Delaware County. But it's all just for fun...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A billion Thursday links!

  • Tax cuts appear scuttled for the time being. At least, the state House chose not to vote on the measure before breaking for the primary. Many express shock and outrage. The Inquirer editorial page notes some flaws in the current plan as passed by the Senate, perhaps worthy of another look when lawmakers reconvene.

  • Olympics bid to go forward, with visits to a handful of finalist cities in the next week or so.

  • Wireless plans inch forward, with word that the full City Council may vote on the plan next week. Six hearings and how long, as several other cities pass us by...

  • Polling places may see unexpected shifts in light of a bill just passed by the PA Assembly prohibiting use of private residences for voting. This seems reasonable until it requires that public sites be found, even if they're way out of the precinct in question and hard for residents to get to. An attempt to suppress the effects of Philly voters on upcoming elections? Gov. Rendell vetoed a previous bill along similar lines, so this may not get through (unless he's afraid to have it held against him).

  • Budget woes continue for Philadelphia, with City Council preparing another set of tweaks and adjustments to Street's proposal.

  • Polls in the US Senate race find Santorum closing the gap with Casey. This has many alarmed, but Casey probably won't really start campaigning until after the primary, so respondants are still working from abstractions. However, Albert thinks this time-biding strategy is Casey suicide. I sure hope not!

  • Surveillance proposals have Ray Murphy up in arms, or at least wanting reassurance that there are good reasons. Apparently there was a meeting on the issue this afternoon; it will be put before voters in the primary (12 days off).

  • Unreality: the guy planning to run against Allyson Schwartz (see yesterday) is intending to have the whole thing filmed as political reality TV.

  • PhillyCarShare, a rent-by-the-hour option for going carless, gets yet more recognition, this time finding itself among the finalists for a Harvard award for its collaborative efforts with the city of Philadelphia. yay!

  • Council seats: at least one contender has spoken up for Mariano's old seat, and there are sure to be more in coming months. Tulin's piece includes a link to an article last year speculating about other likelies.

  • AA Jane points us to a website of candidate interviews undertaken by the Inquirer in preparation for its endorsements et al. A great resource for those hoping to get to know the candidates in their areas. They didn't hit everybody, by a long shot, but they did talk to all the candidates in each of the primaries under consideration.

  • AA Jane also rounds up a couple of training opportunities for activists and others wishing to learn the ropes of organization and campaign activity.

  • PhillyFuture alerts us to an upcoming event that benefits the Committee to End Homelessness, and sounds like fun in its own right, with art, food, and festivity (more description here). Mark your calendar for May 18.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wednesday whoosh

  • Pennsylvania news:

    1. Apparently Harrisburg is close to passing a tax relief plan.
      And so, after months of bickering, the Senate voted yesterday, 40-9, to approve a proposal that, in its first stages, would more than double the number of senior citizens eligible for property-tax rebate checks, and later would help offset property-tax bills for other homeowners through revenues generated from slot-machine gambling.
      The article notes the obvious desire of state legislators to sooth voter feathers ruffled by the summer pay-raise, as well as the fact that many of these benefits wouldn't be felt for another year (or considerably longer). But it's apparantly the first property tax cut in decades, so I think there will be very little cynical grumbling among homeowners.

    2. The Inquirer catches Sen. Rick Santorum in a moment of hypocrisy, calling for a cut-back in lobbyist- and corporate-subsidized jet trips while catching such a ride himself. He hasn't taken a ton of such flights, but they do seem to correspond nicely to his advocacy for the companies involved... It's hard out there for a would-be reformer!

    3. In the State Senate 10th District, the Inquirer endorses Chuck McIlhinney, retiring from his State Rep. seat, for the Republican primary.
      He's a proven lawmaker with achievements on open space, anti-sprawl efforts, liquor-licensing reforms, and open records law. Plus, voters have a shot at sending McIhinney to the Senate, where he could grow his influence as a moderate, sensible voice.
      His opponent sounds like a bit of a nutter, and he's after the wrong guy from a Clean Sweep perspective, since McIlhinney opposed the pay hike at every stage.

    4. In the PA-08 Congressional race, AA Jane rounds up some news coverage of and snipey bits between the Democratic primary candidates.

    5. Phila Will Do notes that a former Trump Apprentice is still planning to take on Allyson Schwartz for the Congressional seat from PA-13 this fall. Is a minor TV star a real challenge? I honestly don't know anymore.

    6. Albert doesn't understand why Ned Lamont is so beloved of the netroots, while they say nothing about Chuck Pennacchio. It's a reasonable question, although Lieberman has had a long time to prove himself an idiot, while we're mostly speculating at this point about how Casey would behave in office.

  • Philadelphia:

    1. Tom Ferrick looks at local politics and declares that we live under the rule of political tribes. He mentions the Cohens, Blackwells, and Streets, among others, and I noticed the Wilson Goodes and Rizzos some time ago (see the Scorecard). A symptom of the hometowniness of Philadelphia, but surely a rarity for a city this large in the 21st century.

    2. The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia's political watchdog, is suing a raft of mayor aspirants for not adhering to the city's campaign contribution limits (see prev. in second piece here). They have now officially removed Councilman Michael Nutter from their lawsuit, since he's the only one who has, in fact, been following the law. In related news, here's a summary of how the various candidates are responding to the lawsuit (either legally or rhetorically).

    3. Before I really got a chance to figure out what it was all about, the carpenters' walk-out was settled with a 3-year contract. Um, whew?

    4. In a great development for transparency and potential reform, the city has decided to post a list of its no-bid contracts on its website. Great work, everybody who voted for the November ethics ballot measure! step by step . . .

    5. A lawyer from Community Legal Services responds to the discussion about PGW's charity burden (see, e.g., here) by pointing out that poor customers are held to high standards in order to receive assistance.
      To remain in CRP and preserve service, they are required to pay 8 to 10 percent of their gross monthly income, month in and month out. In fact, the report finds that PGW's CRP customers pay a larger portion of monthly income for gas service than similar enrollees in other states. Even at the discounted rates, a third of CRP enrollees went without or put off buying needed food, and a fifth went without or delayed needed medicines while paying their bills.
      Perhaps those jumping to anger over "carrying deadbeats" should take a deep breath.

    6. PoliticsPhilly provides an impressive calendar of political events, fundraisers, and lectures for the month of May. Check out the options for meeting and/or supporting a number of local candidates!
Update: several links fixed by light of Thursday...