Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pay-to-play legislation just moving the shells around?

An Inquirer piece expresses doubt that the new Nutter bills will do much to curb influence games in Philadelphia, giving examples of law firms that put more wait on city contracts or on the influence gained through large donations. Despite their concerns, I remain cautiously optimistic.

Schools leave Rendell hanging on tax plans

Well, Governor Ed Rendell is a bit depressed by the weekend's tally, showing that school districts have rejected the gambling-funds-replace-property-taxes scheme that he helped engineer. It's not that surprising, given the wealth of ambiguities and potential pitfalls built into the legislation (see previous discussion of these reservations here and here), but still a blow for both the gambling promoters (really! it's all for the kids!) and for Rendell's hopes to crow about property tax reductions during his re-election race in two years. There will be further thoughts about tax realignments, and meanwhile Philadelphia's workers get a break on wage taxes, but it's also possible that this setback will color the handling of the appeals case questioning the legislation that legalized PA gambling initially. All to be seen.

Friday, May 27, 2005

In other Philly news...

A few other stories of note:
  • Tom Ferrick reports heartening progress in improving a previously ridiculous system by which tow trucks were dispatched to accidents. A benefit to those who are already victims, and credit due to Frank Rizzo, Jr., for following through on this one.

  • The Daily News recaps its Top 10 list for City Hall reform, with notes on progress made since they first composed it. This week's legislation, as well as other proposed measures and shifts in leadership at local watchdog organizations, get at some things, while others are mostly unchanged.

  • City Council approved John Street's budget for 2006 on Wednesday, after each side made some concessions (see previous discussion of the issues here). Part of the fallout is a likely delay in attempts to roll back business taxes in the city (separate legislation, but seemingly sacrificed for issues in the budget accord); in fact, a couple of new taxes (on valet parking and billboards) were required to fund the restored programs (e.g., firetrucks and libraries). As always, everybody grumpy about a compromise, but happy to have avoided their worst fears... Much better process than last year, anyway.
That's likely to be all from me today -- have a great long weekend!

Council bill follow-up

Ok, here's how things look after the Nutter bills came to pass:
  1. The amended smoking ban passed by 10-7. However, Mayor Street objects to the changes that were made; in fact, giving "corner bars" the right to opt out for two years means that visitors to the city may have no idea which bars are smoke-free and which aren't, and he can't claim a transformative victory. However, it's not clear that if he vetoes the current version (of his own proposal), anything else would make it through. I note these quotes:
    Street has long supported antismoking laws, but he is also a longtime rival of the bill's chief sponsor, Councilman Michael A. Nutter.
    Nutter said he, not Street, had brought the bill to the brink of passage after two months on ice. "There's been no indication that another vote was forthcoming as a result of any of the lobbying that the mayor was doing," Nutter said.
    I agree that a blanket ban would be preferable, on principle, for both workers and customers. But this gets the idea on the books, and gives a chance for some bars to benefit from going smoke-free, making the rest more willing to follow. I hope these guys can lay their rivalries aside and let some progress be made on the issue.

  2. The pay-to-play bills passed 16-1, and will be put before voters this fall. The article summarizes the high-points of the legislation, but I suspect that most voters will have a sense of disbelief closer to that in this Signe cartoon . . .
Onward, ho!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nutter won't take no for an answer

Well, after previously calling Nutter's ethics and smoking bills dead in the water, I am now happy to report that both appear to have fresh sails. The ethics bill (actually two pieces) has been tweaked slightly to address initial concerns, and appears ready for passage today.
Today's expected movement on the legislation, which good-government experts have hailed as among the strongest in the nation, comes just two months after Council narrowly defeated the effort in a tense 11-5 vote.
. . .
As of yesterday, at least 14 Council members said they were willing to vote for the pay-to-play measures, including two who had previously voted against them: Marian Tasco and Rick Mariano.
This will still require voter approval, as it involves some sort of change to a mysterious document, the City Charter.

On the fresh-air front, Councilfolks were apparently able to find a couple of small concessions capable of revitalizing the smoking ban as well. Namely, outdoor seating and smoking clubs will be exempted, and corner bars and private clubs can apply for a delay or waiver (respectively) of the regulation.
"It gives the local neighborhood bars, which I was most concerned about, a couple of years to get ready," said Councilman Frank DiCicco, a former critic who said he would vote for the measure today.
DiCicco's flip is what will allow this measure to pass; he must hope that by the time the delays are up, either the owners will have seen that their colleagues are still doing fine, or he himself will have moved on to another job... heh.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Has he heard of mortgage rates?

Philly Mayor John Street is trying to take credit for the boom in housing values, by saying it derived from his anti-blight efforts, among others. Maybe, but the halving of interest rates in the last five years, paired with tax incentives that sent developers all around the city, probably had more to do with it. Sorry, John; probably not the right place to seek your mark.

Lois Murphy back for another round

Lois Murphy has announced plans to run again against Jim Gerlach for his 6th district U.S. Congressional seat in 2006. This is a sprawling (read: heavily gerrymandered) district west of Philadelphia that winds from Ardmore out to Pottstown and Coatesville (see PDF map of the district here). Murphy is likely to face primary opposition this time around, in addition to a well-funded opponent in the fall, but she will have more name recognition as well as likely outside support. Could be another nailbiter for PA.

Won't you be my neighbor?

The Philadelphia Weekly offers a profile of Neighborhood Networks, the citywide progressive organization planning its launch on June 4. It captures the mission of the group, describes the conference and keynote speaker, and talks about how it hopes to interact with and influence existing political parties.
"Neighborhood Networks will be a democracy in spirit as well as form," says Marc Stier, a Temple University professor and president of West Mt. Airy Neighbors. "We want to work to help elect good candidates-ones who aren't in it for patronage or jobs, but because they care."
If you haven't heard about this organization, this is an excellent introduction. Whether it's new to you or not, if you'd like to move from reading about politics and sending money to abstract groups to putting your feet and your energies into changing the political culture in Philadelphia, consider coming to the June 4 conference. Motivated folks are needed from every neighborhood in the city.
"The biggest challenge is getting people to understand that in order to have an impact on a national level, you need to be energized on a local level," says Stan Shapiro, an attorney who worked for Philadelphia City Council for many years.
There's plenty more information on the Neighborhood Networks website, and you can greatly help with planning by registering for the conference in advance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Philly a model in handling the homeless?!

I can remember back about 7 years when a "sidewalk ordinence" was passed to allow ticketing of anybody misusing the Philadelphia sidewalks. It was controversial because, skateboarders and bikers aside, most people felt it was an attempt to criminalize homelessness. In the wake of the outcry, however, it appears that (under *my* radar at least) the city made compromises with the businesses and residents who wanted more regulation, by putting substantial amounts of money into improved homeless services in return.
Since the passage of that 1998 law, Philadelphia has added hundreds of beds in small shelters, transitional housing and apartment buildings throughout the city. Not only are the homeless offered a place to stay, they're assigned a case manager who gets them into programs intended to keep them off the street.
The support facilities appear to be integrated into just about every neighborhood in the city, and the police have a special unit that handles calls about homeless people. All remarkably enlightened and effective too.
"There is a path out of homelessness, but it's like walking through a forest; you need a guide," said Marcella Maguire, Philadelphia's director of initiatives for the chronically homeless.
(via Karl at PhillyFuture)

More plums for West Philly

A collaboration between Philadelphia and U. Penn. is resulting in plans for a new school in West Philly focused on international studies.
Students will study world languages, take an international curriculum integrated across subjects, be connected to schools worldwide via technology, and be immersed in community service for groups with worldwide links - which could even include international internships.
The school would get a chunk of funding from the Gates Foundation (who is promoting international schools nationwide); it's unclear to me whether it would be a charter school, or magnet, or just plain spiffy.
Paul Vallas, Philadelphia schools chief, hailed the project as yet another potential jewel in the district's efforts to create smaller high schools. The district also plans to open new high schools in 2006 in partnership with Microsoft Corp. and the Franklin Institute.
More potential progress for Philly's beleagured school system -- yay!

Update: Ray Murphy summarizes the controversy surrounding this school, and the general ill will caused by the feeling in West Philly that most of Penn's investments benefit only its own employees...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Swim, Senator, swim!

John Grogan has some advice for Rick Santorum, as he looks ahead to 2006 -- distancing himself from Bush's unpopular Social Security and tax cut proposals, and coming up with another way that Americans might contribut more toward their own retirements. A return, perhaps, to what was once considered "conservative principles."

They know who he is now!

An interesting little article in today's Inquirer talks about Seth Williams recent campaign for District Attorney and his future in Philadelphia politics. Most telling is the recognition he received, despite defeat, both for the reasonable showing he made (more than any previous Abraham challenger, even with low turnout) and for the high tone and issues focus of his campaign. Noteworthy quotes:
"He's a good guy," said U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady, the city Democratic chairman. "He came to me when he was thinking about running, and I said I would be with the incumbent and told him to keep it on the high ground. He did, and that's to his credit." Brady said he thinks Williams "has a future in politics."
and the concluding line:
"I've been getting lots of calls from different politicians, people who wouldn't talk to me during the campaign," Williams said.
Well, well...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Fumo's shady sideline?

Vince FumoWhile the rest of us were busy with the primaries and other local developments, the Inquirer was publishing a three-part exposee last week Sunday through Tuesday about Vincent Fumo's involvement with PSB Bancorp (most visible as First Penn Bank). The company grew out of a small bank that Fumo's family started, and has undergone several mergers and expansions through the years, but remains a relatively small and unimpressive financial institution, without much to offer its shareholders in terms of price growth or dividends.

However, it appears that this bank and its various mergers have offered Senator Fumo quite a bit through the years, in a variety of ways that, while technically legal, have caused regulators some raised eyebrows and elicited comments about a bad smell. Certainly, the Board members at the bank are all longtime Fumo political allies, and many are contributors to his campaigns or substantial beneficiaries of his political support, so there is plenty of room for appearances of impropriety, if not actual back-room payola.

So, what does the Inquirer present? To summarize each article briefly (they average two full newspaper pages each):
  1. Despite the relatively poor performance of the bank's stock over recent years, Fumo's compensation has been significantly out of scale with that paid by other banks of similar size to officers of the same title.
    The PSB board doubled Fumo's compensation for last year to $709,800, though he had given up one of his posts. He stepped down in 2003 as chief executive, staying on as board chairman.

    In contrast, $30,000 is the average pay for chairmen of comparable banks. The average for chairmen who also serve as chief executive is less than half of Fumo's pay.
    They also awarded him millions in stock options. The impressive bit here is the list of bank Board members, which reads like a Who's Who of Fumo pals, from Councilman Kenney (received $225k in donations from Fumo over the last 4 years) to James Eastwood (runs a couple of Fumo-linked nonprofits) . . .

  2. When First Penn bank was considering acquiring a smaller bank (IGA) in order to expand, Fumo and several other board members bought up the target bank's stock in large quantity, putting themselves in direct position to profit mightily from the takeover. This isn't strictly forbidden, as is similar stock trading on inside knowledge, but third parties are supposed to be alerted, and nobody was filled in.
    [Former SEC lawyer] Frenkel said that, in general, when a corporate executive buys stock in a firm that his company has targeted for takeover, "It smells because the clear implication is an insider had material nonpublic information that nobody else had and that insider used it for personal advantage and gain."
    A number of other state legislators (including House Speaker John Perzel) somehow had the insight to get in on this deal too...

    [There's also a side story here about a foundation that IGA had and that First Penn inherited -- it's not clear what they use any of their money for, or that they are giving away the minimal amount that the IRS requires...]

  3. The third piece is the strangest to me, as we readers are clearly missing some critical piece of information to make the story cohere. It has to do with a Vice President of First Penn Bank and an investor friend of his who were stripped of over a million dollars worth of stock options. There were charges of fradulent activity, quickly dropped, and various attempts to intimidate the two men into letting go of these assets. They in turn sued to regain their rights, and a U.S. District Judge agreed that there was no problem with the options. Fumo's testimony in this matter was contradicted by his own bank lawyer, who said he had advised Fumo that the options were legally valid. The judge in the case said that there were "no genuine issues of material fact," but the case has now been appealed on the basis of venue (whether it should have been tried in federal rather than PA court).

    Hmmph. This one is a bit perplexing. The best explanation offered by the reporters here is that the bank officers wanted to free up these options so that it could offer better incentive plans to Fumo and other board members -- almost an identical amount was part of the new deal announced a few months later. Certainly a conflict of interest, but that they thought it would work (probably without ever seeing court) testifies to the hubris of a Big Man who's used to getting his way.
The improprieties covered in these articles are all a little technical and in the grey areas of the law. When combined with Fumo's apparent connection of utility agreements to donations to his pet charity (the focus of a current federal investigation), however, one could imagine a pattern in which there is a financial quid pro quo for his exercise of political clout -- get a legislative break, donate to my little charity; get career support politically, see that I get a good compensation package at the bank; be a longtime supporter, get tips on no-lose stock deals. It's all inference and allegation for the time being, but it sure doesn't raise the image of how deals get done in Philadelphia . . .

Friday, May 20, 2005

A last trickle of primary analysis...

...including an explanation for the one judicial candidate (for Common Pleas) who I'd seen no endorsements for but who came in first by a substantial margin, is provided by Philly1.com.
"Ample evidence as to what motivates voters, was that Municipal Court Judge Frank Palumbo rode his family-restaurant-famous name to first place, garnering over 41,000 votes. Palumbo led Schulman, the second-place finisher, by almost 5,000 votes, an incredible spread."
My, how heartening...

(thanks to staffer rm)

City budget negotiations

City Council and John Street continue to wrestle over the Philadelphia budget, with differences on proposed spending cuts (in libraries, firehouses, and funding of Philly institutions) as well as tax plans (with new levies on valet parking proposed, and separate legislation on reducing the business privelege tax being sidelined). As usual, nobody's completely satisfied, but it sounds like there might be willingness to make some compromises -- such as Street restoring some library and ladder funding, and regional Councilpeople letting go of recreational pork -- that could see the process through. Tough issues, not unlike the balancing act anywhere in the nation.

I was interested to note one detail that I hadn't seen previously: part of Street's rationale for cutting some firehouses was related to plans to increase the number of EMS vehicles in the city. Given the appalling recent story on the ambulance crisis in Philly, I'm glad that that issue is part of the discussion.

Ethics bill revitalized

The Philadelphia bill to regulate city government ethics appears to be back on track for passage, with the addition of two amendments: one exempting nonprofits from its regulation of city contractors and the other bringing city-related agencies like the Parking Authority back under its auspices.
The legislation, which aims to crack down on awarding big city contracts to big campaign donors, was amended yesterday to allay concerns that it penalized nonprofit organizations.

With the amendments, Councilman Michael A. Nutter, the bills' lead sponsor, appears to have the 12 votes he needs to approve the measures, which then would be placed on the November ballot.
It will still need voter approval, but I suspect that Philadelphians are tired of their city's being a national laughingstock over payola, and will happily sign on to these (relatively limited) measures.

John Street is also working on legislation to require disclosure by lobbyists, but that's still in earlier stages of discussion. The Committee of Seventy is throwing their support behind that idea and further ethics measures (see the Daily News story here).

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PA takes lead on mercury emissions?

In light of the Bush Administration's relative disinterest in environmental issues, local governments are starting to take matters into their own hands. Last week it was a nationwide group of mayors agreeing to enforce Kyoto Accord standards (for greenhouse gasses) on their own cities, and today the state of Pennsylvania announced its intentions to enforce tighter regulations on mercury than those proposed by the federal government (which have been widely denounced).
Calling the Bush administration's approach "inadequate and illegal," Gov. Rendell's environmental regulators said yesterday Pennsylvania would issue its own restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants - the first big coal state to do so.
Details of the plan are expected by late summer. Apparently this action was spurred by pressure from a coalition of environmental, labor, health, and sporting groups, who filed a petition asking for better standards in the state. There's likely to be resistance from power companies, with arguments about competitive disadvantages of increased regulation. Stay tuned.

PA has also joined with NJ and several other states in suing the federal government for providing inadequate protection of the public health through its new mercury standards (announced in March). I have to say, when they're warning you not to eat the fish, it's perhaps time to take some further action . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More lack of agreement on gun woes

A state commission formed by Governor Rendell has made recommendations that satisfied nobody (and even involved abstentions from its own members):
In a report issued yesterday, the divided commission recommended the legislature commit more funding for gun violence prevention programs, enact tougher penalties for those who violate state gun laws, and create better tools for prosecutors to pursue gun traffickers.

But the commission failed to endorse the most controversial proposals: limiting an individual's gun purchases to one a month, and allowing Philadelphia and other municipalities the right to approve local gun laws.
These last two points were those requested by Mayor Street to help with gun violence in Philadelphia. The city and state are constantly at loggerheads over this issue, so I guess that the support for youth violence programs should be taken as about the best that can be achieved anytime soon.

Local kids make good -- in a big way!

a trophy: hooray!The group of West Philly highschool engineers working on a car fueled by alternative energy sources (previously noted here) did the city proud this weekend: their sporty hybrid was judged the best car at a national competition for eco-cars, against big-time competition.
Among the 15 hybrid, solar and biofueled cars in this year's competition were vehicles from Toyota and Honda, and entries from major universities, independent auto enthusiasts and high schools from across the country.
. . .
A modified Honda Insight broke the 100-mile-per-gallon barrier, but the West Philly vehicle was the best all-around performer in the five-category competition - acceleration, obstacle course, fuel efficiency, range and low pollution.
Good for the environment, good for the city, good for the kids!
Hauger said that the students were answering questions from people all day. Knight, a graduating senior who plans to become a mechanic and engineer, said he felt like a celebrity.
Amen to that kind of reinforcement. Congratulations to all involved!

One of our own...

While people and organizations around the Philadelphia decry its problems with governmental ethics, individuals continue to think that the pols who are friends of theirs are above reproach. Latest example: the unions are throwing a "Rick Mariano Appreciation Night" fundraiser bash to show their support in light of his current federal investigation (see previous story here).
Pat Gillespie, business manager for the city's Building Trades Council, said yesterday that "when something gets printed about you, that people are looking into you and your activities, the reader never gets the total context. And people get judged unfairly sometimes."
Well sure. And sometimes our judgements of our friends are clouded by our affection for them. Unfortunately for city ethics, everybody has friends, so sometimes somebody else has to check up on things...

Primary wrap-up and party prognosis

Lynne Abraham won the Democratic primary for D.A. by a margin of 56-44% (with 95% reporting). A decisive win, but Seth Williams got more votes than Abraham's last opponent, despite bucking the conventional wisdom that only race-baiting could generate enough interest to give a challenger a chance. That he did so well with so few initial connections and resources speaks well for the way his message resonated with voters hopeful for positive change; I think we'll be seeing more of him.

On the judicial front, the Democratic party saw only half of its endorsed slate elected. This decline in machine power is sort of a good news/bad news story for the city: Ann Butchart, a progressive activist, made the cut, but so did two candidates (Palumbo and Shirdan-Harris) who didn't even get a thumbs-up from the bar -- not sure who their base of support might be. Most of our recommended candidates survived, although one of our top picks, Green-Ceisler, may have suffered defeat partly in payback for her activities on corruption in the police department and other government-run agencies. The party shrugs off the bucking of its nominees with claims that people just picked the top half-dozen on the list, so that chance arrangement of the names was key to the outcome. I'm not convinced.

Ballots: Growing Greener passed heftily in Philly, and reasonably (I think 3-2) statewide. The gun initiative got a stunning 80% of the vote (at least, as of last night).

Lots of traffic in the last two days -- hope you found the discussions and recommendations here useful. I appreciated the chance to wait out the returns with Chris of Rowhouse Logic, getting news in increments via his comments. Now, onward ho into the rest of Philadelphia news!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Initial Democratic primary returns

1) Record low turnout predicted from morning numbers.
2) Judicial races close enough that many are hard to call as of right now, but a number of our recommended candidates look good.
3) Abraham over Williams by a hefty amount, probably around 57% to 43% -- she had an early lead and it never really closed.

More tomorrow, after some sleep (or very late tonight if I'm tossing and turning).

Hope for PA wine-lovers?

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday about interstate wine sales:
The Supreme Court gave a boost to commerce between wineries and their far-flung customers yesterday, ruling that states that permit in-state vintners to sell directly to consumers may not deny that right to out-of-state producers.
This is significant for anybody unsatisfied with local availability, who might turn to internet purchases or phone/mail orders from their favorite wineries. It seems like good news for anybody who's ever tried to pick something out at the local state licquor stores, but in fact it's not at all clear what the significance of the ruling will be locally, since it covers such a particular situation -- for example, states could decide to ban all direct shipments (as has NJ), demoting their in-state wineries rather than letting in outsiders more freely.

Anyway, several articles on this:
  1. The original article describing the decision (from which the above quote was taken).
  2. An Inquirer reflection on the consequences of the ruling, which doesn't foresee much change. Interestingly, they note that some PA wineries wish that they had more access to markets outside the state.
  3. A Daily News piece that says the state stores will weather this just fine. Sigh.

  4. For a different take, the Wall Street Journal looks at what the ruling may mean for e-commerce, in particular, and for consumer options in a range of fields.
  5. The NYTimes piece runs down the arguments more thoroughly -- what's interesting is the way that the grounds for the decision led to an interesting (and atypical) alignment of the justices, with, for example, Thomas, Stevens, O'Connor, and Rehnquist signing a single dissenting opinion. Should alcohol be treated differently than other commodities in the 21st century? Apparently legal scholars disagree...
(thanks to How Appealing for the last two links)

Belated wow.

Seth Williams appeared on local NPR program Radio Times last Friday morning, with Lynne Abraham coming on separately in the second hour. I only got around to listening to the program this morning, and anybody who is uncertain about this choice owes it to themselves to tune in online if they can. This isn't somebody full of hot air; it's clear that he knows the ins and outs of the legal system, where it works well and doesn't, where the D.A. can influence how things work and where things are more beyond their control, etc. Good chat on a whole range of issues---gun violence, community-based prosecution, which ADA's should be deployed on which case types, how to prevent crime, police overtime, government corruption, etc.---with Marty Moss-Coane doing her usual job of getting to the heart of the questions at hand. A winning performance, much more telling than any rousing-the-troops speech at a rally or fundraiser. This is the real deal.

Update: have now heard Abraham's half as well. She came across as cranky as heck about having to defend her record, accusing both Williams and the host of citing inaccurate facts, and complaining about the influence that the NRA has in Harrisburg. She was informed and well-spoken, of course, but still "passionate" about the death penalty (on behalf of victims). Unfortunately, she didn't really address the structural issues that are the center of Williams' campaign proposals. Instead she claimed that her opponent had "no experience, just a litany of complaints." Not too impressive, Lynne.

It's voting day in PA

mark your choiceLocals are predicting a scant turnout for this election, with everybody more focused on high-profile races in 2006 and 2007, but there's one big race in the Philadelphia region (D.A.) and an array of judges who range from excellent to real bottom-feeders, so make sure you put in your two cents. Local races matter. Our recommendations (from the perspective of a progressive Democrat) are listed below.

Monday, May 16, 2005

ACM's Democratic primary Voter's Guide

Obviously, we encourage Philly voters to vote for Seth Williams for D.A. However, most voters will be more perplexed by the host of options further down the page. After reading whatever we could find, and cross-referencing the endorsement lists of the Philadelphia Inquirer, NOW, ADA, Naral, our Ward 5 Ward leader, and a few well-connected friends, we offer these recommendations (from a grantedly progressive perspective):

Common Pleas Court Judge: (8 votes allowed)
  • Ellen Green-Ciesler
  • Sharon Williams Losier
  • Ann Butchart
  • Leon Tucker
  • Glenn Bronson
  • Susan Schulman
  • Marilyn Heffley
If you want an eigth choice, the runners-up are Charles Cunningham and Joyce Eubanks. They have very different sorts of recommendations (Inquirer and Ward for the former, NOW and Naral for the latter), so I couldn't make a solid choice between them. Choose your level of iconoclasm.

Municipal Court Judges: (3 votes allowed)
  • Nazario Jimenez, Jr.
  • Brad Moss
  • Beverly Muldrow
Two already in office, and one newcomer with lots of progressive recommendations.

Traffic Court Judge: (pick 1)
  • John Furey
Apparently you only need a highschool education for this job, which explains a lot about the service they provide. Picking the guy with experience but fewer machine connections. I will admit to a modicum of whim here.

City Controller only offers one candidate.
On Growing Greener II, vote yes. (It's not everything one might wish, but it's a start.)
No recommendation on the gun thing, but given that it's sort of permission to consider doing something, I feel it's ok to vote it in. A long way from a meaningful measure.

Ok, that's it! Hope somebody finds this helpful!

Update: Don't be surprised to find a couple of other small races at the bottom of the ballot, but all with only one candidate. Local elections officials and the like...


Speed demons

A group of West Philly highschoolers have engineered a hybrid racecar that they will enter in a national race of alternative-fuels cars. Congrats to them for having a working model, let alone surviving competition! Let's hear it for student ingenuity.

(via America's Hometown)

Wait for an ambulance or call a cab?

The CityPaper paints a rather grim picture of 911-call handling in Philadelphia, from ambulance numbers half those of similar cities, to understaffed call centers, with the result that people with acute health crises can sometimes wait half an hour for an ambulance to wend its way through the city to pick them up.
Tom O'Drain, president of the Fire Fighters Union Local 22, said he routinely gets calls from firefighters who waited 20 to 30 minutes for ambulances to arrive on the scenes of medical emergencies. Two firemen interviewed for this story told of waiting more than 20 minutes for ambulances to arrive at cardiac-arrest calls. (A new study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota finds that cardiac arrest victims are either saved or lost in six minutes.) Some firefighters have coined a phrase for situations where they stand over a dying person awaiting an ambulance. They call it "The Circle of Death."
Clearly we need for firemen to have broader emergency-assistance training, but it's clear that the general emergency infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the increase in demand, and more resources are needed on all fronts. Meantime, this should be a good incentive for everybody to learn CPR!

Wal-Mart becomes a foil in partisan bickering

Democratic lawmakers in Harrisburg are joining a movement in several other states to try to recoup some of the rising costs of state-funded healthcare by going after large employers like Wal-Mart who skimp on employee coverage and let the government pick up the rest through Medicaid. The argument is that the profitability of these companies derives from a virtual government subsidy, but company supporters counter that some coverage (plus employment) is better than none.

This issue is highlighted in PA, where Wal-Mart is the state's biggest employer. Unmentioned today, however, is that Wal-Mart is one of Republican Senator Rick Santorum's biggest supporters, so I'm sure that any discussion that helps tie the company to poor labor practices is a boone for local Democrats and their hopes for 2006...

Primaries tomorrow

Philadephia has primary elections tomorrow, which are frequently more important than the general elections in this Democrat-dominated town. The Inquirer gives a quick summary of the races and issues you can expect to encounter at the polls, and will put a clip chart of their recommendations in the Tuesday morning paper.
(Late this evening we will also post here a list of the humble editorial recommendations of this site for the Democratic primary.)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Not everything in May is a primary

For those who live in the state Senate region previously represented by Allyson Schwartz (Abington and Cheltenham Townships in Montgomery County and part of Northeast Philadelphia), May 17 will bring the real general election to fill that seat. Because both Democrat and Republican will appear on the otherwise-single-ticket primary ballots, voter confusion and name recognition can sometimes outweigh party affiliation or candidate agenda in races such as this. If you live in that area, be sure that you know which of the candidates -- LeAnna Washington (D) or Ron Holt (R) -- you intend to choose.

The Inquirer article offers these tidbits as a start:
Holt said he strongly supports limiting awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice suits to make health care more affordable. He said district residents were worried about crime, and that he liked the approach being advocated by Seth Williams, who is challenging Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham in the primary.

Washington, a high-school dropout and one-time welfare recipient who went on to earn a master's degree, said she planned to stress education, economic development and advocacy for children - many of the same issues she has worked on while representing the 200th state House district.
Be on the lookout for more information in the next four days!

Update: the Inky also offers a list of County Boards of Elections, if you are uncertain of where to vote or need other info.

Decent summary of the D.A. race

The Inquirer is ramping up it's coverage related to the May 17 primary races, and includes today an article that really summarizes in one place much of the news bits, policy points, arguments, and even choice quotes that have been coming out here and there over the last month or so. Kudos to them for making the race digestable to those who haven't been paying attention. I hope there's something in the Sunday paper, too, for folks to chew over with their morning coffee . . .

A race to claim the high ground

In the wake of the recent federal fraud convictions, city officials are showing renewed interest in ethics legislation of a variety of types. [parallel Inquirer article here.] Not only is Councilman Nutter reintroducing his bill to regulate the awarding of city contracts (with better prospects since the return of invalid Krajewski on his side), but he and others have new measures on a variety of fronts.
Street, for example, sent to Council a proposal that would, for the first time, require lobbyists to register with the city.

Nutter, who has criticized the city’s way of handing out no-bid professional-service contracts, offered a process for awarding professional contracts when the city wants to sell bonds to finance capital projects or refinance old debt.

Nutter also introduced a resolution that would restart his effort, which Council balked at last March, to set new standards for no-bid contracts and campaign contributions from those who get such work.
. . .
In a surprise move, Councilman Darrell Clarke introduced his own bill to regulate the awarding of contracts not subject to competitive bidding. ... The bill, which also calls for a charter change, is far more modest than Nutter’s bill. Clarke ignores campaign-finance issues completely and requires the city’s procurement commissioner to set regulations.
. . .
And Councilman James Kenney introduced a bill regulating the behavior of the members of the mayor’s Gaming Advisory Task Force by preventing them from taking a job or having a financial interest in any gaming facility or gaming company until two years after their service to the task force.
With only a month before the summer recess, this is a lot to sort through. Hard to tell from all this whether there's new energy for reform, or just for the appearance of interest in the issue.

heh, check out this Signe cartoon along the lines of my rumination above...

The good, the bad, and the... who's that?

Confused by the long list of candidates for judge on the upcoming primary ballot? You are not alone. Today's Daily News gives a sordid picture of the candidates clamoring for ward leader support, but even the overlapping endorsements being sent to me in the mail tend to muddy the picture as much as clarify it, since they just give lists, rather than descriptions of the candidates. Luckily, via Hallwatch, I find this Inquirer endorsement list from a week back, which does give qualifications and other information for the candidates included, a great help, and a list of those considered qualified by the PA bar. A little more fodder for the mill. Names that seem to come up positively on almost all the lists (ADA, NOW, Inquirer, even my Dem. ward leader) include ELLEN GREEN-CEISLER, ANN BUTCHART, MARILYN HEFFLEY, and GLENN BRONSON, but I suspect a few more will emerge from further examination. Every bit helps.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Support for Seth

Much has been written in the last couple of weeks about the D.A. race and about why Seth Williams might be a good choice in the May 17 Democratic primary. Rowhouse Logic makes a simple plug for taking steps toward positive change, of which this choice is one. Additionally, a group of bloggers is planning a get-together and Williams fund-raiser for tomorrow night; information can be found here.

We are in a time when the opportunities to get involved are multiplying. Decide how you want things to change, and then put in your money, your energies, and your hope. They do make a difference.

Improved outlook for city ethics?

Two months ago Philadelphia, already injured by its image as a city filled with government corruption, suffered the insult of having ethics legislation killed by one vote in City Council. Now there's hope that that same measure could pass, as a previously ill Councilwoman voices her support. Of course, let's not celebrate excessively, as this measure had already been stripped of most of its teeth during prior negotiations, but still, it's something...

John Street, Mayor of the little people

...as long as they treat him with due deference, that is.

Apparently the Streets went out for a movie recently, and the ticket-taker asked to check the bag that the mayor was carrying on their way in. This is standard practice (a combination of post-9/11 security and craven desire for more concession sales), and the disabled worker didn't recognize the mayor as a Big Dog and hence above normal procedure. Street refused, and the incident was settled when a nearby police officer intervened, identifying the mayor and letting him pass. However, this was apparently not enough for Philadelphia's feisty mayor, and so he had one of his lawyers call the theater to hassle them about their policy.

I guess Street has a history of taking personally all dealings with police and security folk.
At the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in 2000, Street angrily accused the L.A. police of racism after his aide, Shawn Fordham, was stopped for jaywalking.

But the signature incident in Street's past is the time in the early 1990s when an official at the Dad Vail Regatta attempted to stop him from jogging through the event along the Schuylkill River. Recalling the incident the following year when he was in the midst of a bitter political brawl with event organizers over inclusion of African-Americans, then- City Council President Street said, "One of them had the nerve to try and charge me a toll to pass by a regatta. They stopped me, a bunch of teen-agers, and arrogantly told me I had to pay $2 to pass on the sidewalk. Who do they think they are?"
His managers have their hands full, if this is all the political sensitivity that he can muster in the midst of a federal investigation that's already sapping his effectiveness and popularity. Great, John, your dad yelled at Rizzo on the steps of City Hall, but perhaps we're in a different era and people are more likely to take you seriously if you can behave like an adult...

Update: the kerfluffle continues.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Seth Williams speaks up for himself

...in an opinion piece for the Inquirer, which I missed until pointed out by Young Philly Politics. See why he thinks you should vote for him next week.
The rising tide of violent crime in Philadelphia must be effectively addressed by the next district attorney. While other district attorney's offices throughout the country have changed with the times, our current district attorney has taken small steps with few results after 14 years in office.
This is not a ranting demagogue, but a thoughtful candidate with excellent experience and good ideas.

Stop pay-to-play in Philadelphia

In response to the week's verdicts, America's Hometown points out that the Philadelphia ethics bills submitted by Councilman Nutter each fell one vote short, and that there is room for pressuring those who didn't support either one. See the Stop Pay-to-Play website to get involved in the process. Let's make apathy untenable!!

Update: The Daily News republishes a list of their top ten ways to clean up the city, from limiting campaign money to making sure all records are public.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Lots of media flurry over yesterday's news that a bunch of verdicts were returned in the massive city corruption case that has been dragging on for months. Just a run-down here:
  • Yesterday's initial news: former treasurer and two high-level bank officials convicted, amid a wash of smaller findings.
  • Today's Inquirer recap of the same story, with more details. There are dozens of charges against some defendants, with varying verdicts.
  • Here's a handy timeline of the investigation and case, for those finding it hard to keep up.
  • The Daily News agrees that the verdicts vindicate the probe.
    Zack Stalberg of the watchdog group the Committee of Seventy noted that convictions of Holck and Umbrell, in particular, would "send a little chill through the leadership of the business community and hopefully remind them that being a co-conspirator in pay-to-play has its consequences."
    A second piece there theorizes that Mayor Street will not get off the hook in this probe, finding it more difficult to do his job from here on out (even if the investigations continue to skirt him). A third piece opines that the feds got both more and less than they hoped.
  • Columnist Tom Ferrick weighs in on the outcomes thus far.
    Let me say a word about these jurors. They deliberated for 19 days and, for a while, it looked to us outsiders as if they were deadlocked and in disarray.

    After looking through the charge sheets, though, I can offer a different theory. This jury did its job. It deliberated methodically and well.
  • DN columnist Jill Porter applauds the convictions, but expresses pessimism about whether the pay-to-play culture is capable of change.

  • Commerce Bank is worried about fallout from the fraud conviction of two of its officers. (Not to worry: they still have more civilized hours than any other bank in town.)
  • Mayor Street expresses sadness over the conviction of his former colleague.
  • John Baer wonders whether Pat Meehan, the prosecutor in all of this, will make hay of his success.
    As one GOP insider puts it, "Just the fact Meehan lifted the curtain on 'pay-to-play' is a marketable political asset."
  • And finally, given the failure of any real ethics legislation to pass since this mess got started, I recommend this piece pointing out that we can't wait for the FBI to clean up our government.
    A federal grand jury probe is the nuclear weapon of the war on corruption. It takes forever, costs a fortune, paralyzes the government, and splashes dozens of innocent people with the taint of scandal as they’re called before the grand jury about matters that may be trivial.
    . . .
    What we really need is a mechanism that makes more frequent, smaller corrections on the behavior of public officials, and rules that push them in the right direction all the time.
    . . .
    If it ticks you off to see the city treasurer accept a free deck, $10,000 and a Super Bowl trip from guys getting city business, and you want a change, you’re going to have to go to City Hall and say it. If you yawn, and stay home, chances are we’ll get more of the same.
    Amen. (Now might be a good time to suggest that the reform-minded consider activating their neighbors -- look into Neighborhood Networks if you want to be part of the force for change.)
Well, that's a new record for post length, but at least you can peruse it or pass it by in one fell swoop!

the remaining charges were declared in mistrial by the judge, who also said that the evidence indicated a need for ethics reform... (ya think?)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Automotive freedom

Many people who move to Philadelphia, or many large cities, wonder whether they should keep a car or rely on nearby shopping and public transit. High insurance rates can shift the balance toward going carless, but people are afraid to give up their freedom. Some commentaries in the Inquirer highlight a nifty solution and one of my favorite local programs, Philly Car Share: They also link to a list of other cities with similar programs, and here's the actual homepage for PhillyCarShare itself. If you're an infrequent driver like most city-dwellers, consider cutting yourself loose once and for all!

Developments in the D.A. race

Two big developments this weekend:
  1. There was a live debate between Williams and Abraham on local TV, aired Sunday morning. I remembered to tape it, but am ashamed to say I forgot to watch it -- blame my sick cat. However, if you missed the event too, Young Philly Politics offers a bit of a blow-by-blow response, having watched the event in the studio on Saturday.

  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer officially endorsed Seth Williams in the race. This seems huge, and must have come as a blow to the incumbent.
    Evidence also piles up that Abraham has lost her edge administratively. Critics suggest that the best and brightest don't seek to work in her office anymore.
    It's time for a change. Seth Williams arrives right on time.
    Read the whole thing. Make the right choice.
Only a week to go!

Building boom in Philly

Via America's Hometown, news that a record number of large construction projects are underway in Philadelphia, largely in Center City, and spanning condominiums, offices, and school expansions. This boom cycle could transform the city for residents and visitors for years to come.

Friday, May 06, 2005

From the weeklies . . .

Just found an interesting piece in the Philadelphia Weekly about the judicial elections that will be part of the May 17 Democratic primary. They explore some of what goes into party endorsements, and the degree to which some ward leaders go their own way in directing their consituents on how to vote. It's not really about the candidates, but about the culture, but interesting in that regard to anybody trying to figure out the local scene.

Favorite quotes:
While hundreds of Philadelphians are apparently willing to spend their lunch hours rallying for a qualified federal bench, far fewer are paying attention to the May 17 local judicial election.
"The name of the game in Philadelphia is having the ability to pay people who can get your name out there," she says. "Some unendorsed candidates are well-qualified, but competence is not the end goal of the party."
"I would never diminish the value of the party endorsement because it's still better to have it," she says. "But raising the most money and having official support from the party don't guarantee a win."

In the City Paper, an interesting run-down of some of the chewier primary races to be decided on May 17. More speculation than guidance, but a little snack for the weekend.

Pesky money matters

Two tidbits from the department of Truth in Finances:
  • The Inquirer lists a host of pricey perks enjoyed by Harrisburg legislators, ranging from sport outings to big fundraising banquets. It also notes side businesses in which some are involved.

  • Meantime, a bill that would limit donations to campaigns for various Philadelphia city offices has passed through the first of several hoops required to put it into effect. The amazing thing to me is that currently there are no limits at all, for either individual or PAC contributions.
    The measure, which Council's law and government committee unanimously approved, could be brought up for a vote before the full Council in two weeks.
    There were preliminary votes on a couple of smaller measures, too, which are part of the power battle in City Hall.
Have a good weekend, everybody! Philly Future has a heap of suggestions of what you can do to pass the time . . .

Nothing to see here, folks...

Innocent typo or attempted stealth amendment? Nobody's saying, but many are speculating, as a bill to regulate water bills turned up at voting time including language letting local pols off the hook from the current requirement to resign from one post before running for another.
When a draft of a water-rate ordinance circulated around City Council this week, the proposal's first paragraph raised eyebrows: Rather than regulating water, it would have repealed a law that forces Council members to step down before seeking higher office.
Given how many Council folk are thought to have mayoral aspirations, such a trick is certainly imaginable, and would fit with the region's history of legislation under cover of night. Maybe this was a trial balloon to judge how the public would respond... Yeesh.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

D.A. debate scheduled

Seth Williams and Lynne Abraham will take part in a debate to be taped on Saturday and aired on Sunday.
WPVI-TV (Channel 6) will air the half-hour debate at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The ABC affiliate and the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia are sponsoring the program, which is to be taped Saturday.
Not exactly prime time, but this is the most important race being decided this year, so plan to watch or tape it.

Not *too* much light...

John Street set up a special advisory board to give the city and its citizens some say in the development of gambling in the region, a worthy goal. However, that was the last we saw of high-mindedness: in February it held its first meeting in secret, and now is funded and staffed in ways that make it above public review... You know, too much daylight just stimulates the gnats.

Braxton update

Turns out he can't run as an independent, but he can try to get folks to write him in during the primary voting, so that's what he's going to try. Talk about up-hill battles!

(Previous story here.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A tough old coot

The Daily News had a brief piece talking about Arlen Specter's current battle with cancer and his general tendency to surprise the naysayers lo these many years. A nice tip of the hat to an old warrior.

Today's take on the D.A. race/office

Two new pieces today:
  1. In the Inquirer, an article on Lynne Abraham's says that she's relying on her "tough cookie" reputation in this race.
    "She's one of the brightest people I've ever encountered in my whole life. She's deadly smart," said Dick Carroll, a former homicide prosecutor in Abraham's office. "But she'll tell you flat out, 'I'm in the business of trying people and putting them away.' She's not running a social-service agency."
    It also points out that her blunt approach has not always led to good effects:
    In the fall of 2002, the city's Common Pleas Court judges voted to pursue a misconduct complaint against Abraham for her blistering of judges, particularly Lisa Rau, who she said was biased against police officers' testimony. Many judges said Abraham was using the pulpit of her office to intimidate jurists.
    The author notes that Williams' challenge is actually about policy rather than a personal attack (as was her last primary opposition), quoting the FOP:
    "To be honest with you, we don't see where the quality of life has gotten better over the last 15 years," said Bobby Eddis, president of the union. "Lynne Abraham is a good woman, but there needs to be a change from time to time. Let's have a new look."
    However, Abraham managed to get in a personal attack against her challenger, calling him a "souffle: all air and no substance."

  2. Meanwhile, Tom Ferrick chimes in about Philly's sad crime and prosecution statistics:
    Hooray for Seth Williams for making the dismissal rates in Philadelphia courts a centerpiece of his campaign.
    The column goes on to describe the criminal legal process, and where cases tend to go awry. He agrees that the dismissal rate is way too high, but disagrees with Williams that the blame can be laid at the feet of unprepared prosecutors, arguing that the system is just overloaded.
    It should be written as the criminal JUSTICE system, because it should be about justice.

    When the system part overwhelms - the need to keep cases moving, the need to process defendants - it is the justice part that inevitably suffers.
    Indeed fodder for ongoing discussion, whatever the outcome of the upcoming primary.
Update: meantime, Philly blogistan is all over the Williams campaign, encouraging local voters to take a pledge to vote for him on May 17.

Recycling pays...

Philadelphia has been running a trial program to reward homeowners who recycle a higher percentage of their household waste, rather than throwing everything into the trash and thence to municipal dump sites. The test was in Chestnut Hill, where residents were rewarded with coupons to local businesses for points accrued through weight of materials recycled. Well, it appears that the program has been a huge success, raising participation three-fold. The current program is run through a company called RecycleBank, which puts a barcode on each recycling bin, thus crediting the right household for curbside waste. I'm sure that there are some tricks to bringing this program into Center City, ranging from how to include renters, to what to do about pedestrians that throw trash and other stuff into curbside bins, to how well the default bins work in more crowded city homes. But I will be interested to see what develops.

Open question: how does this program (the test or the city-wide version) relate to this other new recycling program, "recycling pays," being promoted in the subways and elsewhere? Perhaps they're trying to raise awareness in anticipation of the widening of the program above . . .

(via America's Hometown)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Braxton out

Young Philly Politics reports that the PA Supreme Court has officially removed John Braxton, a progressive candidate, from the Democratic roster of Philadelphia City Controller primary contenders. Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick recently argued that this case, involving a candidate that he likes, is a critical test of the state's dedication to its own disclosure laws. So I guess that "the people won" here, even though the political spectrum may be that much more poorly represented in this race.

Update: here are the official news stories in Wednesday's editions of the Daily News and the Inquirer. Some speculation about whether Braxton will try to run as an independent, but it seems unlikely to work.

Hard sell

Governor Rendell has invested a lot of clout in the proposed gaming industry in PA, and, in particular, in using the income stream from casinos to replace other sources of education funding (thus possibly enriching schools and buying off homeowners with lower property taxes). However, he's finding that the shift in funding is a pretty hard sell.
With a May 30 deadline for districts to decide whether to participate, Rendell has shifted into salesman mode, enlisting cabinet secretaries, superintendents and legislators to plug the program as if it were a candidate 15 points down in opinion polls.
They blame citizen suspicion about all Harrisburg proposals, but I'm not so sure. The suspicious School Boards are quoting real reservations about the legislation and its impact.

Check out the bottom of the article for an analysis of what the plan involves, region-by-region, and the pros and cons to signing on. Also see this previous post which touches on why the choice for schools is so difficult. The essence of the problem is this:
Further, school boards will have but one chance to decide - by May 30, even though they won't know how much property-tax relief their homeowners will get for two years, when the slot-machine revenue, the main source for the property-tax credits, will have accumulated.
That is, they get one, and only one, chance to trade a known budget size for completely unknown revenue flow that could be a windfall or a famine (and future budgets could be subject to direct voter approval). Doesn't sound like a great choice to me!


Another City Councilman plagued by scandal: Rick Mariano prefers not to explain some large holes in his financial records, including such matters as how he paid his bills when the City Council's pay was on hold and whether he has other employment and/or business interests. Federal investigators are interested in his ties to a number of businesses, including a scrap-metal company whose book-keeper is accused of substantial embezzlement. Just coincidentally, it looks like that company may have paid some of Mariano's credit card bills earlier...

Really, the degree to which Philly politicians seem to think they can get away with anything continually amazes me.

Until you mentioned it...

Seth Williams' campaign has been almost entirely without reference to race (except for a couple of visits to black churches where he claimed to be "one of them"), but apparently at least one radio host thinks otherwise. I'm with Daily News blogger Attytood in thinking that charge says more about the incumbent's nervousness than about her challenger's strategies:
But it does seem that whenever Abraham's actual job performance -- rather than her well-crafted "one tough cookie" persona -- comes up, there's a real rush to change the subject, even if it means playing the race card.
Nervous, Lynne?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Who loves the National Guard more?

Apparently there's a battle in Harrisburg over who can claim more sympathy with the plight of the state's National Guardsmen and their families. Rendell made an announcement in support of a number of Democratic legislative initiatives, just a day or two before the GOP was going to announce comprehensive programs of its own.
A spokesman said the House caucus was surprised by both the timing of Rendell's announcement and his support for largely Democratic ideas.

"We worked with them on our package," said Steve Miskin, a caucus spokesman. "We're a little miffed at the partisan tone that he's taken. Our legislative package is actually going to go somewhere."
I can't read the spots on this one. If they actually had cooperation going, why the sudden partisan grandstanding? Perhaps Rendell owed his party allies a bone. Curious.

Fattah for Philly mayor?

John Baer at the Daily News goes on record as thinking that Fattah will run for mayor in '07.
I think this because the most valuable asset a politician has is time, and he's spending lots of time thinking about, talking about and acting as if he's running for mayor.
He gives a lot of examples...
(For background on Fattah speculation, and particularly local rivalries that will be agitated if he joins the fray, see these two previous posts.)

Actual Williams coverage

Two stories on Williams today (since it's May, or because of the blogger-buzz?):
  1. The Inquirer notes Williams' criticism of Lynne Abraham, and contrasts his current attitude with the affection he expressed in a letter (released by Abraham) upon his departure from the D.A.'s office.
    Williams questioned the propriety of releasing the resignation letter, which he said is part of his personnel file and not a public document. "She's trying to use my being kind and courteous for political goals," he said.
    On the other hand, he explicitly praised her vision of department organization in that note, which seems a bit at odds with his current claim that restructuring is way overdue. I won't be surprised if many readers take away the message that he's currently just trying to position himself for a future run for the same office. hmmm.

  2. The Daily News reports about a large meeting at which Williams and Abraham made sequential presentations. They note that each gave a good performance, mention that Williams can't even get in the door of some Ward meetings, and describe Abraham as confident. This article also mentioned a planned TV debate, which is the first I've heard of that.
Not a good day for the challenger overall. Odd angles of coverage though. I expect the pace and depth of coverage to pick up, now that we're just a couple of weeks from the actual vote.

Paging Potential Progressive Pace-setters

Are you looking for a way to get involved in your city, state, neighborhood? Are you willing to help take a leadership role in the local progressive movement, to work on educating and motivating your neighbors to support progressive causes and candidates in the Philadelphia region? Then Neighborhood Networks is looking for you to help launch its efforts! Come to its Constitutional Convention on June 4 and speak your mind about the most important issues and the most promising strategies -- become a representative for your ward and help shape this organization into what you'd like it to be! Things are about to happen, and this is your chance to get in on the ground floor.

Read about the organization's aims and the upcoming conference here:

Interested folks, please pre-register!

If you'd like to discuss the group, and/or have some friends who might be interested but would like to know more, the organizing committee is happy to send a presenter to any livingroom gathering you can arrange between now and conference time. Spread the word!

Circus coverage

Apparently the local blog coverage of/support for Seth Williams primary campaign for D.A. has caught the notice of Mainstream Media, resulting in this little Daily News tidbit. Sadly, the writer seems more amused by the quaint novelties of the local scene, such as the colorful names of local blogs or the existence of a get-together called Drinking Liberally, than by the substance of Williams' campaign. But perhaps some of the curiosity-seekers will stumble across something more meaningful than they started out looking for.

As for anybody who comes to this page because of that article, please see these two eloquent endorsements of Williams, which summarize better than I could what he offers the Philadelphia region (and how he compares to the incumbent). Also note that he has the official support of both the Fraternal Order of Police and of a group of former Assistant District Attorneys, and that even Lynne Abraham is starting to steal his ideas. Only two more weeks to make up your own mind!

(thanks to Young Philly Politics for the pointer)