Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday lag-fest

Internet connectivity intermittant today, and work ceaseless. Will get this out when I can...
  • An Inquirer piece describes Joe Sestak's challenge to US Rep. Curt Weldon as a bit of a risky undertaking, with the already steep odds compounded by Sestak's disinterest in professional polishing and other advice from the political class. I imagine it's hard for a retired admiral to take orders, but this could be the wrong time to try to learn everything on the job.

  • Santorum's camp is unrepentent over its attempts to link opponent Casey to an Arabic news organization, even after revelations that it had the wrong Al Jazeera(h). (The one endorsing Casey is a group promoting cross-cultural understanding, and is based in Georgia.) [This link has a smattering of other small political bits too.]

  • More editorials calling for creative solutions, strategic vision, and more leadership in fighting gun violence in Philadelphia. Ok, I think we're all in agreement...

  • A Daily News editorial suggests that a solution to prison overcrowding could be to get rid of minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses, in favor of keeping violent offenders incarcerated.

  • A YPP poster is concerned about a plan to reduce the number of PA legislators.

  • Another YPP poster looks at the recent relocation of AAA headquarters as an example of how regional cooperation in economic development goals could better serve the interests of all of their residents.

  • A PhillyFuture post looks at the rise and fall of Operation Clean Sweep in Pennsylvania.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday news

  • Philadelphia

    • Street's live address on violence gets a lot of coverage -- the Inquirer's piece includes a description with background, and also an additional piece giving reactions from the mayoral candidate field. The Daily News offered its take here and a summary of the ongoing violence here. Albert was unimpressed, but offers the transcript for those who missed it.

    • City schools are showing their 5th year of improvement in test scores. In related news, the Schools Reform Commission is finally working on an extension of Vallas' contract.

    • The Daily News offers two pieces on Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson: one a news piece saying that his job is secure, whatever may be happening to violence rates, and the other an opinion column by Jill Porter calling for his ouster on the grounds that we need a more inspiring leader in the fight against violence. They also provide a list of past commissioners.

    • A CityPaper opinion piece (that I somehow overlooked) thinks well of Nutter's ideas on how gun violence might be reduced in the city.
      (via America's Hometown)

    • An Inquirer editorial calls on building unions to add more minority members, lest the boom in construction leave us short-handed. They also call on insitutions to make such a requirement a part of future contracts.

    • Matt at A Tattered Coat talks briefly to an Inquirer editor about how decisions are made about what stories to cover, which are investigative rather than just factual, etc. A fascinating glimpse.
      (via PhillyFuture)

  • Pennsylvania/region

    • More feisty hearings on immigration, including testimony from organizations that often provide (medical or religious) services to illegal immigrants, as well as at least one person arguing that children born to illegal immigrant parents should not automatically qualify for US citizenship. Tom Ferrick appears unimpressed with the proceedings.

    • A group at Rutgers will be working on antiterrorism by scanning news and information sources for patterns of activity that might signal plans in development.

    • AAJane notes more petty attacks against Joe Sestak by Rep. Curt Weldon, who must not like seeing his opponent looking dignified.

    • Marc Stier offers some thoughts on the process of candidate selection in the state and local Democratic Party, and points out that there is no real "They" at the top against whom to rail, but merely a collection of smaller We's competing for influence.
      So there is no one to punish or reward. What we can do to prevent a recurrence of behavior we don’t like is to build progressive organizations across Pennsylvania so that our faction is one that the other factions here in Philly and across the state have to satisfy. And we have to build our capacity for getting out the vote so that progressive candidates for Senate and Governor will not back away from a difficult race because they know that they have a powerful progressive force behind them.
      An excellent challenge to all who care about the future of the region to Personally Make Things Happen.

    • A poster at YPP alerts us to outlets for progressive activism all over the state, organized around both issues and elections.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thursday news dump

  • Albert's tip was good: Philly out of the Olympics race, for this time around, anyway.

  • John Baer adds fuel to the fire of speculation about Brady's mayoral aspirations. Meanwhile, the DN opinion page hopes that this meeting of titans produces something more than talk.

  • An Inquirer piece tries to take the temperature of suburban Rendell supporters, concluding that they'll vote for him, but aren't super enthused.

  • A national Latino group is making a voter-registration push in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this year, claiming that this area's hispanic population is growing and under-organized.

  • Gay rights activists are working voter registration too, in many parts of the state, carrying an anti-Santorum message along the way.

  • Apparently campaign donations from controversial characters are a hot potato, resulting in a Casey gift's being redirected to Philadelphians Against Santorum (much to Ray Murphy's joy).

  • Mayor Street will go live on TV tonight to address Philadelphia's violence problem and describe programs to combat it.

  • The Daily News opinion page applauds the new program to keep guns out of schools.

  • Smerconish thinks that the Boy Scout kerfluffle is an attempted diversion from more serious city problems. Not sure I agree, but I found noteworthy some additional information he provides, including that the scouts have actually been paying quite a lot for the building they've been using:
    In reality, the scouts pay $60,000 a year for maintenance and upkeep of the property. They also made $2.6 million in renovations to the building in the mid-'90s.
    I leave it to better diggers to clarify the discrepancy between this and the $1 rent claim made earlier in the week.

  • Above Average Jane draws us to a Bucks County editorial by Paul Lang, candidate for state Senate, in which he rebutts some of this opponent's claims.

  • A new-to-me regional political blog reports on turmoil within both major parties as stallwarts demand that their leadership represent their beliefs.

  • The new CityPaper has sent a number of its reporters walking around the city, and the cover and several related stories report on their discoveries and rediscoveries along the way.

  • The feds are bringing a heap of indictments against people regionally who were involved in ID theft and related crimes, from check-cashing to false mortgage deals.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An end to Olympic hopes this time around

Albert reports that we didn't make the cut. Let's make the infrastructure improvements anyway!!

Wednesday headlines

Really. Exerting every bit of will not to read more than the headline and first paragraph before linking these. Blame a breakfast meeting and too little sleep.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Remaining Tuesday round-up

  • There was a head-on crash between two SEPTA trains on July 1 (guess I was away!), and now officials are looking to improve the safety mechanisms that prevent such risks. Recurrent budget woes and other delays mean it could be another decade before all lines carry improved devices.

  • Apparently Philadelphia's prisons are operating beyond capacity, and a class-action lawsuit is being brought to improve inmate conditions. Apparently the same lawyer sued the city 30 years ago, resulting in an overhaul of the system, but it hasn't kept up. The DN provides a timeline of the legal battles and judicial decisions, including some laws that have made it more difficult for inmates to assert their rights.

  • Apparently the Olympic short-list will be trimmed tomorrow, leaving many on pins and needles.

  • Two stories in today's DN about ongoing complaints about postal delivery in Philadelphia, seemingly due in part to the opening of a new processing facility. The bulk mailings that go missing in action must be greying many the corporate pate, but USPS folks seem optimistic that things will be back in order soon.

  • Lynn Swann visited South Philly yesterday to discuss crime with a tiny crowd.

  • Add the Inquirer editorial page to those unimpressed by Friday's decision that stock ownership by one's children (however young) doesn't represent a conflict of interest for lobbyists. They offer some other suggestions, too, on how to restore (create?) citizens' confidence in the oversight of gambling generally.

  • I think Mark Alan Hughes is right in thinking that awareness of the tensions between old and new Philadelphians is key to politics of the years ahead. (He's not really offering much to or about Nutter here though.)

  • A poster at YPP looks at the experiences of Camden and Philadelphia to point out the importance of public education to lasting regional revitalization.

  • Also at YPP, Councilman Goode shares some thoughts from the Peace Weekend activities. A good take-home from Will Smith.

  • Signe Wilkinson make the rare trip out from behind her cartoonist's pen to write an opinion piece about city crime, in a satirical (if painfully truthful) vein. Perhaps we can stop the violence without requiring any of her suggested prods.
    (via PhillyFuture)

  • Montgomery County residents might be interested in a piece by AAJane about the paying of county commisioners there. Wacky.

  • Jane also offers a quick note on Rick Taylor, who's challenging the incumbent state rep. in his district.

  • Tom Ferrick offers some more strategic analysis, this time of the Casey-Santorum Senate race, and what kind of improvements over Klink's performance, region by region, would give Casey the win.

  • Finally, congrats to Mark Stier for being the latest featured blog at Philly Future. He's certainly generating a lot of original content, including many ideas that are worth having more folks chew over.

Scouting kerfluffle

Sunday's paper had a story about Mayor Street being poised to evict the Boy Scouts from their downtown headquarters because of the organization's policies discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Actually, he offered the regional group the chance to either denounce the national policy, leave, or pay market rates; their current deal involves token rent, and the city feels it shouldn't be subsidizing a group whose policies differ from its own. Anyway, I didn't blog this because it felt like the prologue to a story, rather than a story itself.

But now it's ballooning into the sort of thing that gets both liberals and conservatives in a froth; the Scouts are considering taking the city to court, after being caught off-guard by the renewed complaint. And the details are a bit complicated, including that the local scouts agreed to a nondiscriminatory policy a year ago, but they were a bit hedgey about the wording (and have a history of sidestepping earlier agreements of a similar sort), and there are threats that federal funding to the city's housing programs could be endangered if they are accused of holding the Boy Scouts to an unfair standard. The Fairmont Park Commission, which officially owns the building in question, has supported the mayor's stance, but I can't really tell where the motivation is coming from -- City Solicitor Diaz? Gay activists? A lame-duck mayor? mysterious. You can get Albert's take on the whole thing here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday round-up

  • Politicians

    • Two pieces on Michael Nutter in yesterday's Inquirer: one covering his official announcement event for the Philadelphia mayoral race (and particularly noting who was and wasn't in attendance, although it's hard to fault anyone for staying neutral this early), and the other his anti-violence plan, which has more breadth than depth as yet.

    • Jon Saidel is signalling his seriousness about the mayoral race by hiring big-time consultants. um, wow?

    • Another ethical dilemma for state house Speaker John Perzel: he's on the board of a corrections company that's attempting to take over a company with Pennsylvania contracts. Presumably he could avoid any conflict of interest if he quit the board if the deal goes through, but it's not clear that he agrees that any steps are needed.

    • Small bits from the PA governor race: Rendell picks up some endorsements, Swann travels in a biodiesel bus.

    • Tom Ferrick takes a look at Rendell's alleged urban leanings, and when he runs the numbers he finds out that the state is spending more per capita on several rural counties. (Not that it really answers the question of Rendell's world-view, but it does rather undermine those who think the country subsidizes the city.)

    • John Baer sees signs of life in Bob Casey's Senate campaign. Odd piece, but I can't put my finger on why.

    • Above Average Jane continues to put various suburban races under the spotlight; today it's the 12th state senate race (in Bucks/MontCo), and she offers a substantial interview with Democratic candidate Jeff Albert (running against Stewart Greenleaf).

  • Hot issues

  • Other bits

    • We're not just unworried by the threat of global warming, but are actually planning to spit in its face: new coal plants are planned for the first time in decades, including one along the Delaware River. Coal is one of the dirtiest sources of traditional energy production, but that appears not to factor in to corporate business planning.

    • Anne Dicker wasn't too impressed with Friday's ruling that stocks held by children of lobbyists don't trigger conflict-of-interest restrictions. She's thinking, though, that maybe the solution is to have a baby now, just for the business freedom! heh.

    • AAJane lets us know about another set of workshops on the political ropes; the main seminar is in San Diego, but they appear to have online sessions available as well.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday downpour

Sometimes a slow news day, but not today...
  • Politicians

    • Two Fumo computer guys, charged with deleting emails to block an FBI investigation, pleaded not guilty. Hard to imagine they have much defense, given the documentation of their plans... The trial won't start for six months.

    • Rendell staffers are making hay out of some paid Swann speeches, claiming that they reveal an insensitivity to conflict of interest issues. -- Yawn --

    • Rick Santorum is railing against "Islamic fascism" and calling for "regime change in Iran." He also complained about press coverage of defense issues. Looks like administration hawks have one guaranteed backer for taking the oh-so-successful Iraq war to a second front.

    • Wilson Goode, Jr., has made no secret of his interest in Michael Nutter's seat on Philadelphia's City Council -- a district seat offers many benefits over an at-large seat. However, would he have to quit before running? Apparently, not if he were running in a primary next May. This ruling is semi-helpful: (1) what if Verna calls a special election this fall instead, given the three empty seats? (rumors have it that she will) (2) can he run both his current and the new seat in a primary, or must he decide? (a tough choice in two crowded fields)

  • Other news

    • The new Constitution School is letting its students have a say in its design and character, from paint color to motto. A range of new theme schools will be opening this fall.

    • Not pretty: among the firms approved to sell gaming supplies for new PA casinos is at least one with lobbyist connections. Because his small children make their own investment choices. Right.

    • The Barnes has hired an architectural firm to help them plan their downtown digs. Answering some questions for me, at least, was the note that they would "replicate the Merion gallery" while adding more space for classes and other operations.

    • City Hall was the site yesterday of a rally to mourn violence victims and find a way forward.

    • I read this story about conflict over a West Philly homeless shelter three times, and am not sufficiently certain of what it was describing to want to summarize it. I guess that the shelter was defeated by neighborhood opposition, but is something else going in there? Involving the homeless? Color me perplexed. Perhaps it's too late in the day.

    • A chunk of state change is coming in the direction of the Philadelphia police department, which will probably use it for more officers and more overtime.

      Update: PhillyWillDo notices a conundrum in Street's promises with regard to police staffing...

    • Marc Stier is up in arms over a court ruling that takes away the right of community groups to protest Zoning Board decisions in their regions (it's billboards this time; might it be a monster building next?). Various civic organizations are strategizing to get back their voices.

    • The Daily News is getting a new editorial page editor, and the old one says his farewells here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thursday news (late edition)

  • A group gathered to mark the 15th anniversary of Frank Rizzo's death. His bigger-than-life anticrime stance still attracts a lot of admirers, whatever later investigations might have hinted about how the city fared under a mailed fist.

  • The hearing on the Spring Garden tower was raucous as expected. It sounds like zoning officials would like to find a compromise, perhaps a shorter tower that would cool local ire.

  • John Baer thinks Dwight Evans has shown in the state house that he's serious about gun violence. He's been trying to make his district "a laboratory for the whole city" in rebuilding community spirit and improving law enforcement along the way.

  • Seth Williams has a post at YPP sending a call for action on city violence -- now, by everyday citizens. Dan seconds the sentiment.

  • Above Average Jane offers two looks at the 8th District Congressional race between Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Murphy: recent poll results showing the gap closing between incumbent and challenger, and a closer look at Fitzpatrick's political origins, which show him well-connected within the party.

  • Friedman points us to a podcast interview with Michael Nutter.

  • Finally, a poster at Philly Future points out a recent study showing a "ghetto tax" paid by the poor, from higher insurance costs to usurious loans, etc., making it even harder to break the cycle of poverty. Good points.

One man's wackiness...

When I heard the story this spring about the guy who tried to start a newsstand business by stealing and relocating a bunch of kiosks all around the city, I thought it was pretty amusing and wacky. However, when this one was returned to the sidewalk out front of my place of work, I got a different feeling:

damaged newsstand

Suddenly, all I could think about was the lost livelihoods represented here, both that of the owner (was he insured? or did he lose everything?) and the person who once worked inside.

damaged newsstand, from side

It was like seeing a battered veteran sitting out on the sidewalk week after week, and suddenly the cranes-by-night scheme didn't seem so funny anymore.

Took me a while to get around to shooting this (last week), and I was lucky I did it then, because by the end of the same day the newsstand was gone. I hope my camera didn't make somebody nervous; I hope there's an insurance settlement in somebody's future, and maybe a new newsstand to serve the gum and tobacco needs of this corner . . .

(p.s.) Advance warning: I've bookmarked a bunch of news links for the day, but won't be able to blog them until this evening. See you around 8!


Around the weeklies

The Philadelphia Weekly had four stories that caught my eye:
  1. A Gwen Shaffer piece, the cover story, on the need for city planning (and neighborhood input) in the current rush to new construction. It notes the tangle of bureaucratic mess that even simple ideas must pass through, gives some history of the city and its attempts at regulating development, and spells out the need for overhaul of the zoning code so that people don't have to react to proposals one at a time. A thorough and educational piece.

  2. An organic farm in West Philly is bringing together sustainable agriculture and improved access to fresh produce in urban areas.

  3. A foundation in North Philly (different from the one mentioned yesterday) is helping highschool dropouts and other at-risk teens avoid violence and find a new way in the world.

  4. Some South Philadelphians stand up to say that Joe Vento doesn't speak for them in making immigrants and visitors feel unwelcome in the city.
Meanwhile, over at the CityPaper, three stories of note:
  1. Their cover story looks at the remarkable decision of NPR station WXPN to host the vestigial remnant of popular but defunct alternative station Y100 (going online on August 1, I believe).

  2. The polnote looks at Tom Knox's mayoral campaign and what it's up to and thinking about in these early days.

  3. An editorial takes exception to Mayor Street's attitude toward violence, pointing out that even Center City doesn't exist in a vacuum, and that no part of the city can be healthy when residents of (or travelers through) other parts are fearing for their lives...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wednesday deluge

Blogger is having some difficulties, so will try to compile this into one monster post and hope for a window of opportunity...
  • I knew we had some impressive storms last night, but had no idea how much damage they did. PECO expects many folks to be without power through the weekend. Lots more stories linked from here.

  • Immigration hearings in Harrisburg get rowdy. I can't stand to read this stuff, especially when so little data is used in the discussion.

  • Mayor Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative aimed to combat blight by pulling down abandoned and dangerous buildings; however, in many cases the resulting abandoned lots are no gift to those neighborhoods either when promises to create and look after nice tree-laden spaces are not fulfilled -- the Logan neighborhood of North Philly appears to have been -cough- overlooked.

  • The Daily News offers an inspiring story of a half-way house for at-risk teens that gives many a shot at a normal life that they would never have found otherwise.

  • DN columnist Jill Porter bewails the bail policies that let potential gun dealers back out on the street as soon as they're arrested. Mark Alan Hughes also looks at gun violence, and focuses on concrete enforcement opportunities that rely only on the laws we already have. Meanwhile, the police commissioner promises to redistribute his forces to the most troubled areas.

  • The condo tower planned for Spring Garden (see prev. here) is expected to draw more neighborhood ire at zoning hearings today. Seems like the developers have the edge in this fight, although one can never count out any group including Vince Fumo.

  • Mariano has to serve time; what about the guy who bribed him? Prosecutors say yes; stay tuned for sentencing in early August.

  • A YPP poster reports on the health-care plan funded by tobacco settlements in PA (for low-income folks), both that it's good and that general insurance is just too costly for all of us.

  • Above Average Jane and some other suburban subversives are setting up an ActBlue list for regional progressive candidates. They welcome your research aid, suggestions, and, of course, contributions to the cause.

  • Jane also discusses military families and those with such connections running in this year's political races.

  • Tom Ferrick has two blog posts looking at the gubernatorial race: the first looks at Swann's hopes for Southeast Pennsylvania, by analyzing Rendell's numbers from 2002 and imagining where Swann could shave some percentages, and the second looks at how Rendell's last opponent fared around the state. Some fodder there for the tea leaf readers and statisticians.

  • Albert is underwhelmed by Santorum's ad buys during The Daily Show, both in content and timing. It's hard to disagree. Are a few thousand "stoned slackers" really going to make up the margin in this race?!

  • And finally, Albert also relates his experience with Philly Car Share, to whom I'm always happy to give air time. Because it's SO COOL!
Update: forgot this one -- see Santorum and Specter debate about stem cells. (Warning: this is unapologetically framed as a put-down of Santorum's intelligence. But you can watch and judge for yourself.)

Radio Times looks at emergency preparedness

The second hour of NPR radio program Radio Times today looks at the recently released report on Philadelphia's disaster preparedness, and also discusses personal/household preparation to some degree. Interesting and informative. Will attach the direct link to this segment as soon as it's available.

Update: Real Audio and mp3 of the 2nd hour of today's Radio Times.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quick Tuesday rush-through

Too many links for too short a day (pesky carpet guys!)...I have to learn how to link without reading. Gotta go get some work done now!!!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday deluge II: state and other...

  • An Inquirer piece looks at the recently passed budgets of PA and NJ and compares the two in size and content. New Jersey appears to spend more to help local governments and school systems, while Pennsylvania has a larger total budget (to go with its larger population) only because of the infusion of federal funds.

  • Some smaller regional bits at the Inky include Gov. Rendell keeping reporters off his bus, battles over how to arrange a US Senate debate, and some of the faces supporting various GOP incumbents in the state.

  • A regional company is offering to turn all sorts of landfill into usable fuel (or maybe even sewage sludge!), and they may get a chance to demonstrate their capability in a couple of spots in the state. And speaking of eco-friendly solutions, some municipal sites are finding that goats provide pretty good lawn-care...

  • Dan UA was distressed to find Green party folks gathering Senate ballot petitions under the guise of supporting the minimum wage. Sure, the MW can go higher, but folks should know what they're doing with their signatures (and they should wonder where all the funding for petition-collectors might be coming from).

  • For those who live in or near the 15th Congressional District, Above Average Jane provides an interview with Charles Dertinger, the Democratic challenger to freshman Charlie Dent.

  • And finally, Mark Stier is back from vacation and again ruminating on the future of progressivism, and he promises a series this week on goals and themes that can unite the local and statewide efforts. Introduction today, as well as Parts I: We're All in This Together, & II: in Philadelphia Too. Long but chewy.

Monday deluge I: Philadelphia bits

  • Increasing use of electronic tax returns is putting IRS employees out of a job, and will prompt the closing of a tax processing center in NE Philadelphia by next fall. The center (one of many being phased out around the country) used to employ several thousand folks, and claims that it will be helping them find positions elsewhere in the IRS, federal government, or private sector.

  • City tech czar Dianah Neff is taking some flak for her frequent business trips, including some underwritten by wireless vendors, etc. I'm all for spreading buzz, but let's get an actual program up and running too!

  • Philadelphia insider politics follows the population to the shore, where a Brady fundraiser became a speculation fest about mayoral aspirants, city council wannabees, and others.

  • Speaking of speculations, the Inquirer connects the dots on Nutter's mayoral plans, including advertising for a campaign manager.

  • City gun violence is in the news again, with two pieces in the Daily News covering (1) and Anti-Violence Summit yesterday, at which organizations and individuals pledged to work together for community healing, and (2) John Baer shares a heap of reader response to his discussion of proposed gun legislation and other aspects of the problem. Unsurprisingly, he concludes that there are no fixes, which gets us back to the longer-term undertaking of (1)...

  • Meanwhile, as attention is focused on the high rate of gun homicides, it turns out that drug overdoses are killing even more people in the city than are their fellow residents. Some of them are due to a new component, fentanyl, showing up in local drug mixes. [This article can't actually decide whether it's about drugs or gun violence. A little weekend ADD?]

  • A visiting DN opinion columnist would like to see the Olympics come to Philadelphia, but thinks that we shouldn't wait for that external prod before investing in our own infrastructure and carefully planning the city's growth.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Two good Sunday local stories

Two articles in today's Inquirer jumped out as useful to people trying to get a handle on Philadelphia politics.
  • Tom Ferrick responds to some recent letters and fleshes out a portrait of Northeast Philadelphia, its history and the uncertainties of transition. Along the way, he rebuts the common tendency to lay the blame for all unhappy changes at the feet of Mayor Street.

  • Tom Fitzgerald has a profile of Chaka Fattah as a Congressman and as a mayoral aspirant. It does a pretty good job of describing his strengths and some of his perceived weaknesses. Most amusing (and perplexing) to me was this throwaway bit:
    He also has a pending proposal to abolish the federal tax system and replace it with a national transaction fee.
    Come again?? Anyway, worth a read for those in his district as well as those mulling the mayoral field.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday speed round-up

Day squeezed from both ends, so little time to do more than skim...
  • State spending has increased under Rendell a little faster than in other states. Lessee, less federal aid, more need, health costs... this is a surprise?

  • Democratic Party announces official plans to pour money into the races against Weldon (Sestak) and Fitzpatrick (P. Murphy). This means they've joined the ranks of top-tier (as judged by the DCCC) opportunities for taking back the House.

  • Immigration may seem like it wouldn't be a pressing issue in an inland state like Pennsylvania, but some towns are passing ordinances to make it harder for employers to hire illegals or landlords to rent to them (!). Feel the love...

  • A bunch of Philadelphia cultural organizations are benefitting from Pew grants. yay!

  • More looks at the crack-down on city curfew-breakers (announced yesterday): an Inquirer article looks at some of the downsides, including reducing crime surveillance and evidence that most juvenile crime occurs earlier in the day, and a Daily News opinion piece argues that curfews are key to keeping kids themselves safe and preventing minor crime. Add your thoughts to this PhillyFuture thread.

  • Rick Mariano's defense cost taxpayers a half million $, way more than his embezzlement games netted him.

  • An Inquirer editorial joins the chorus encouraging the city to follow the recommendations of its recent disaster-preparedness report.

  • Ray Murphy is upset about the arrival of casinos and possible displacement of TastyKakes headquarters. And some conspiracies I couldn't really sort out.

  • Another YPP poster is concerned about the fate of LIHEAP, given some fund-shuffling...

  • Like to see Perzel out? then Tim Kearney would be your guy -- check him out at his event/fundraiser tomorrow (most of the day).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday miscellania

  • Disaster preparedness

    • An Inquirer piece summarizes the big report to be officially released at a press conference today, which found that Philadelphia needs better disaster planning. I was intrigued by some of the critiques, such as that the ciy relies too much on individual knowledge, rather than documented strategies for evacuation and other needs. Anyway, the Street administration plans to double its Emergency Management budget and bring in a new head, but it's not clear how many of the other recommendations will be implemented, or on what timeline, especially as some (such as setting up emergency radio wiring in subway tunnels) would be very pricey.

    • The Daily News take on the story highlights Mayor Street's statement that city residents need training in how to handle emergency situations. This was a point made in the report, but local pols may prefer an education campaign (make sure you have duct tape!) to trickier infrastructure changes.

    • A DN opinion piece looks at the mental shift required in both politicians and city residents, to accept that planning for the unthinkable might be a rational part of modern life. As long as we're talking about it, anybody with an interest in making thoughtful personal preparations for disaster might want to check this multi-post guide to what might be needed.

  • Violence and safety

    • Columnist John Baer depairs that local pols will ever move from studies to action on gun regulation. Proposed task forces and commissions (and summits and blueprints) abound, and yet the murder rate soars...

    • Mayor Street announced a plan to up enforcement of city curfews in some police districts, in an attempt to stem recent violence. I had no idea we had curfew laws. Seems like a helpful plan, for those areas having a lot of teen-driven problems.

    • Philadelphia was supposed to be a testing ground for a new kind of anti-terrorism technology that allows scanning of closed packages, detection of radiation, etc. However, the new devices have yet to leave the shelf as they await final clearance and possible upgrades. SEPTA hopes to have the system (for scanning unattended packages, e.g.) in service by the end of summer.

  • Political races

    • Berks County is finding itself in the midst of a hot midsummer political battle, as the candidates for the 6th US Congressional seat get an early start on serious campaigning. Both Lois Murphy and Jim Gerlach have run local TV ads, and the GOP appears to be targetting some cranky mailings to this more conservative part of the district. Berks appears to be this race's "swing county"...

    • Former New York mayor Rudolph Guliani was stumping for Lynn Swann in King of Prussia yesterday, saying that the country needs new blood in office.

    • A letter to the Daily News defends the city's resign-to-run rules (against a recent DN opinion piece wondering whether they cheated us of good public servants).

    • Above Average Jane notes the views of the candidates in the 8th US Congressional race on protecting children online (from predators, etc.). Color me old-fashioned on this one too.

  • Other

    • School system news: two bits today, including news that $12 million of new funds from the state were included in the latest budget, and an opinion piece from Rep. Chaka Fattah calling on the city to keep Paul Vallas in charge so the momentum can be sustained.

    • Dan UA at Young Philly Politics jumps off from a recent story to look at regional handling of seized property; he argues that too much leeway is given to District Attorney offices in dispersing such funds, and that opportunities for abuse abound.

    • The new CityPaper is mostly focused on the Gay Film Fest and related stories, but their PolNote takes a moment to look at battles between moderates and ultra-conservatives for the soul of the state and national Republican party. Former NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman wrote a book called "My Party Too," which is serving as a catalyst for discussion among those feeling pushed out by the GOP's right wing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Belated Wednesday news links

My schedule is getting disrupted a bit, so couldn't get to blogging before now. Apologies for the delay...
  • Ray Murphy's group, Philadelphians Against Santorum, is asking the mayoral candidates to remember that there's a significant election in November (and thus stop stealing the spotlight between now and then). He raised the point in a letter delivered Monday to the six presumed mayoral frontrunners, eliciting a variety of responses. I'm sure that those running for US Senate, PA Governor, and a heap of state and US legislative races agree that there are bigger issues in 2006 than who might be on the ballot in 2007!

  • Joe Hoeffel, once a hopeful for US Senate and for PA Lieutenant Governor, has accepted a position in state government, specifically in a business/economic development office. Today's Inquirer reports that he's taking flak for the job, insinuated to be a reward for staying out of some of this year's primaries. I'd think his legislative background would be pretty good qualifications, but who am I to question regional cynicism...

  • We seem to breed our politicians tough in Pennsylvania: following in Arlen Specter's footsteps in defying health set-backs, Pittsburgh's mayor Bob O'Connor is working from his hospital room as he receives treatment for a rare cancer. Best wishes to him and his family.

  • The Daily News notes that the crime-surveillance cameras theoretically approved by voters in May aren't much closer to appearing on Philadelphia's streets. It's only been two months; surely we want to do this carefully so it's done well and with no complaints or problems...

  • The proposed Trump casino has optioned another dozen acres adjacent to its site, which would allow it to get into business sooner. If exercised, the sale would lead to the relocation of longtime local fave TastyKakes...

  • The Philadelphia Weekly has as a top story a spittle-flecked rant against Michael Smerconish, conservative columnist and pundit. [It goes for a remarkable 7 screens at tiny text size!]
    I'm not saying there's a definitive link between a taste for shit hippie music and a penchant for sadly reactionary politics...
    Um, wouldn't a serious rebuttal to his ideas go farther than a taunt of his (imagined) highschool social life et al.? Whatev.

  • A second PW piece looks at the Philly papers' labor contracts, due for renewal this week. Negotiations may be helped by the honeymoon aura around the still very new local ownership...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tuesday news

  • Politicians:

    • The court case attempting to settle the results of the contested state House primary (179th district) between Tony Payton (on ballot, current winner by a nose) and Emilio Vazquez (party favorite, write-in candidate) took testimony from lawyers and others yesterday, with the outcome hinging on whether to count a slew of stamped votes for Vazquez from one Division that were put in the wrong spot. I don't envy the judge this Solomonic decision, so my bet is on calling a special election to settle this race.

    • Joe Sestak, challenger to Delaware County's US Rep. Curt Weldon, had a strong fundraising quarter as this race gained more visibility nationally and started to garner some excitement. Sestak says he plans to build his ground troops first before launching "an air war" . . .

    • The Daily News devotes a major article to the question of Chaka Fattah's news-anchor wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah, and how her career might be affected (or her employer put in an unpleasant bind) if Fattah decides to run for mayor next year. The players are refusing comment for now, but plenty of readers left comments on this story...

  • Other

    • A task force studying Philadelphia's disaster-preparedness says we aren't ready for an event of Katrina scale. Mayor Street will talk about specific recommendations at a press conference later this week. It doesn't surprise me that we're less prepared than other major cities, because we're kind of out of the way of most hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the like. Still, storms or explosions shouldn't catch our leaders napping.

    • An Inquirer story notes that many have states have found that the arrival of casinos can mean a slump in lottery revenues, a nontrivial risk, given the number of programs making claims on both sources of money. State leaders claim to be keeping this possibility in mind, but they seem mighty unworried.

    • Folks who use the western end of the Market-Frankford line will need to allow extra time next week, as the line will be closed for nine days starting Friday for major renovations, and riders will be bussed between 40th and 69th St. terminals. (See the link for details.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

In other Monday news

  • An Inquirer piece looks at the sort of small neighborhood bars who might apply for an exemption from the new smoking ban, and the decisions that they have to make before doing so (such as keeping food to under 10% of business versus staying open on Sundays). Many will be taking a closer look at how many of their regular patrons actually smoke.

  • Columnist John Baer looks back at the tumultuous political year since the state legislative pay-hike was passed, and is happy to see that the outrage actually led to changes:
    [J]ust look what has happened since then: The raise is repealed, a property-tax-relief measure is enacted, there's an increase in the minimum wage (the first in nine years), two top state leaders get bounced, the state Senate's scaling back perks and the House is talking about following suit.

    I feel I've moved to a different state.
    It's definitely an excellent start, although real lobbyist regulations, more open legislative discussions, and other reforms are still on the far horizon...

  • The race in the 7th Congressional district is getting feisty, with apparent push-polling and automated calls being used to spread negative stories about each of the two candidates. [Also at the above link are two short bits, about Swann's campaign bus and Casey's investment choices. whee.]

  • A Daily News opinion column highlights the importance of the Philadelphia suburbs in this fall's election, as people around the country are tracking several hot races there as critical tests of the national mood.

  • An Inquirer editorial looks at possibilities for better gun regulation, saying that better enforcement is great but needs to be matched by better designed rules (that eliminate straw buyers).

  • Finally, in a late post on Friday, would-be-councilman Vern Anastasio calls for more citizen input into city development, in part by a simplification or consolidation of the bureaucracy that oversees such plans.

Minimum wage bill signed into law

Governor Rendell signed the minimum wage bill yesterday. I'm intrigued that he chose a church in West Philly as the site for the event -- while my conception of Christianity is very much about looking after the poor (see here, if interested), I'm not sure that's the popular vision these days. It seems that there was a conscious effort to connect this bill to the "values" of the Democratic party, the existence of which is sometimes discounted.
"Politicians love to talk about religious values and moral values. Is paying less than the federal poverty level moral?"
More on Rendell's signing, the bill, and the effort that went into getting the issue out of its committee closet here.
Dodds, considered the "quarterback" of the effort, said the [Raise the Minimum Wage] coalition grew from 15-20 organizations in Philadelphia to 38 statewide. He and others raised money to run radio ads in key districts, such as Lebanon County, where the Senate Majority leader, David J. Brightbill, lives. The ads were aimed at getting low-wage workers to ask politicians to vote for the bill. ... They also targeted Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer in Altoona and Sen. Joseph Scarnati, chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee.
On his own blog, Marc Stier takes a look at the long campaign for this increase in the minimum wage, as well as what lessons that can be learned about the power of combined efforts on a single issue from both inside and outside the political system. [He promises a lengthier summary later of the details of what was done, for those who wish to learn more from the experience.]

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday news

  • New Jersey's government managed to find a budget compromise, meaning that its government is back in action. [The Inquirer has a half-dozen related stories, all of which are linked from the above.]

  • Former Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano was officially sentenced, getting 6.5 years of jail time -- he'd hoped for none, but prosecutors had asked for 10 years. [There are also linked stories here.] More coverage at the DN here.

  • An Inquirer story reports ongoing ire about last year's legislative pay-hike, particularly the complete failure to pass any reforms in the ensuing session -- whether on lobbyist activities, the legislative process, or anything else. Much was discussed (given lip service?), nothing finalized. On the other hand, the minimum wage did get passed; some penance is better than none.

  • A flurry of coverage of gun regulation today, including the formation of a new task force to help reduce illegal gun trafficking in Philadelphia, the failure of any gun-purchase limits, and a mildly optimistic editorial at the Daily News. Details yet to come.

  • Lynn Swann doesn't like the recently passed property tax plan, because it broadens the reach of rebates for seniors without greatly increasing the maximum rebate per homeowner. May this be our largest worry in the year ahead!

  • While Philadelphia's ambitious plan was a pioneer of the notion of free or inexpensive citywide wireless, other cities are passing us by, most recently Pittsburgh, which will go live in September.

  • Above Average Jane offers a profile of the state House 183rd District (spanning Lehigh and Northampton Counties) and an interview with Russ Shade, the Democratic challenger (and self-described gadfly) there.

  • Ray Murphy notes that a couple of programs once championed by Seth Williams (challenger for District Attorney) are being pursued by other players in the regional political system. Glad to see good ideas taking root; there will still be plenty of problems that need solving, should Williams run again.

  • Ben at YPP looks at the recent events around Philadelphia City Council as an opportunity for progressives to try to capture a number of seats, district as well as at-large...

  • Friedman of AHH notes three neat new resources for Philadelphians: a new restaurant at the Water Works on the Schuylkill, some historical photos blog offered by the Department of Records, and a website of short films about cool neighborhoods, including two in Philly.

  • Finally, the Metro's look at local blogs focuses this week on Matt of A Tattered Coat.
    (via PhillyFuture)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday news round-up

  • State news

    • Pennsylvania's two US Senators, Santorum and Specter, often vote alike, but they find themselves on opposite sides of the immigration debate; in particular, Santorum opposes measures to grant current illegal immigrants a path to legitimacy and citizenship.

    • Gubernatorial hopeful Lynn Swann is charging that the state's welfare rolls are "bloated," but welfare agencies say he's speaking from outdated information. Additionally, Swann had no prescriptions for the situation.

    • In a move that I seem to have missed over the weekend, State Sen. Vince Fumo joined other regional reps in voting to take away from city pols any control over where casinos end up. Trying to stay away from a hot potato? Selling out the efforts of the Street commission and others after the fact? Hard to say, but it sure doesn't sound like an effort in making sure that constituents are being best served...

    • I gotta say I'm underwhelmed with the new PA bumper-sticker motto. Perhaps a symptom of my being a transplant, but shoo-fly pie conjurs the South for me...

  • Local/city news

    • Philadelphia's budgets must get cleared by a state advisory board, which yesterday approved the latest 5-year plan submitted by Street. Their approval did require the cut in some expenses, and came with some mutterings about rosy projections of potential revenue streams...

    • An Inquirer piece speculates that next year's mayoral candidates may have to campaign on slim funding, between the new contribution limits and uncertainty about the size (and identity) of the final field. Fewer ads, more door-knocking; seems ok to me!

    • SEPTA is facing another possible labor dispute, this time with Regional Rail workers, who have been working without a contract for nearly a year. The major difference is over wages.

    • DN columnist Ronnie Polaneczky admits that schools czar Paul Vallas may be a handful, but opines that we'd be crazy to let him go. I agree that a lot of his promise is still unrealized, but his presence has given a lot of people hope for the first time in many years.

    • An Inquirer editorial points out recent evidence to indicate that second-hand smoke is even more of a hazard than previously recognized, concluding that City Council's recently enacted smoking ban is coming none too soon. They urge the Mayor to sign it without delay.

    • A Daily News opinion piece says that while "stop-n-go" nuisance bars are a serious problem, the court was right in thinking that the attempt to put City Council in charge of licensing wasn't the right solution -- that we can find a route that doesn't eliminate due process.

    • The new CityPaper has as its cover story the anti-war grannies and their demonstration at military recruiting headquarters on Broad St. A number were arrested and will go to court late this fall.

    • Another CP story looks at the activities of the mayoral exploratory committee of US Rep. Chaka Fattah and its undeclared but busy fundraising and idea-gathering. In particular, they've been holding hearings on a variety of issues with experts and agencies working on those questions; perhaps they'll put together some great plans for the city's future.

    • A new online service offers city-goers a glimpse of restaurant menus from a whole range of types of places. Seems great for visitors and residents alike, and a boon for new businesses as well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wednesday odd bits (yes, I'm back)

A bit late in posting, as my whole day has been phase-shifted by some midday appointments. Bleah. Anyway, no big stories today, but a variety of medium interesting bits...
  • Today the full New Jersey state shut-down hits, with casinos and parks losing their holiday reprieve. Lovely.

  • After sitting on a stalled recycling program for a couple of years, the city of Philadelphia is finally going to try expanding recycling in some areas, including pick-up of plastic (!!). The new program, which does not build on the RecycleBank pilot program (see previous here), will be rolled out in Northeast Philly.

  • A longtime battle over whether/how to place a Revolutionary War museum in Valley Forge Park (see prev. here) gets a new twist with the involvement of the US Secretary of the Interior, lobbying Congress on the park's behalf. Perhaps some progress can be made now...

  • Philadelphia crusaders against carry-out beer licenses (confusingly called "stop-n-go" stores) are likely to be disappointed by a court ruling that stripped City Council of veto power over the issuing of such licenses. This makes it more difficult to rein in neighborhood nuisance businesses -- not sure what recourse local organizations will find.

  • The Daily News provides a chilling report about mailings never delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, including several major time-sensitive political mailings. Apparently the relocation of bulk mail services, with new equipment and many new employees, has led to a drop in handling of such large prepared mailings. Eep!

  • Lynn Swann is on the road, getting his gubernatorial campaign into high gear to take on Gov. Rendell's substantial lead. I sense that Baer is unimpressed.

  • An Inquirer editorial looks at the Schools Commission's initial ambitions and their partial fulfillment to date. A little experience has cooled their expectations, but slow progress is being made on many fronts.

  • Harrisburg legislators passed on voting on the marriage amendment before they broke for the summer. Ben thinks this is a good time to work on getting some new blood into Harrisburg. . .

  • AAJane thinks Mike Fitzpatrick should be getting active on flooding issues, rather than calling for study and investigation, particularly since he's already been serving on the agencies charged with making things right.

  • Friedman at AH notes the entry of McClure into the pool of City Council candidates for some future election(s).

  • The Philadelphia Weekly notes the arrival of anti-war grannies in the city, where they challenge military recruiters to take them and leave their grandchildren alone (among other forms of peaceful trouble-making). I love this group.

  • Another PW piece looks at the planned Convention Center expansion, and particularly at various local artistic groups and organizations that will be displaced along the way.

  • Finally, Phila Will Do manages to make light of Senate race prospects and local media coverage in one bit of affectionate snark.

Monday, July 03, 2006

yee hah!

(no keyboard, so forgive my gen. lack of caps...)

well, New Jersey has let its government shut down over budget debates, but PA soldiers on. most exciting to me is word that legislators managed to pass a minimum wage increase over the weekend! [just for fun, here's a graph comparing federal legislative salary increases to the static national minimum wage. thanks, Albert.] the details match the Senate version discussed here previously, meaning two steps to $7.15, with a slower ramping for very small businesses. fantastic! congrats to Mark Cohen, the minimum wage coalition, and all who made this happen.

in other news, briefly,
that's all for now. have a safe 4th.