Friday, March 31, 2006

Mostly politicians Friday

  • One of Mayor John Street's closest advisors (on his way out) reflects on Street's image and how it has shaped/constrained what he was able to do in office.
    [Note, comments possible on this piece.]

  • Mayor Street and State Sen. Vince Fumo both throw their weight behind the promise of green urinals for the Comcast Center, making them the first politicians to call on the plumbers to change their stance. They're trying to engineer a sit-down with union leaders, building regulators, and the property owners to make things happen.

  • An Inquirer article suggests that Lynn Swann may need to clarify his positions soon, as conservatives won't be happy just floating along behind his likability, etc. He's addressing a big gathering of conservative groups today, and many will be looking for the substance to start there.

  • Meanwhile, Gov. Ed Rendell has found a counter to challenger Swann's hockey arena pronouncement of yesterday (see here), suggesting a plan that would ensure a new arena with or without casino help by cobbling together funds from several sources. In related news, John Baer looks at the bonus that incumbency brings, in terms of resources and favors that can be promised around (not to mention, a record of having done things)...

  • Despite being free until June, Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano has decided to pass on attending Council hearings. No word on what he plans to do with his last couple months of free time...

  • The Daily News reports on a poll finding that Pennsylvanians are still bitter about the pay raise issue, but that few hold their own local representatives accountable, meaning that the state's high rate of reelecting incumbents might survive the storm. [Also noted: a third of voters express indecision in Rendell v. Swann.]

  • Gar Joseph collects a few additional tidbits, from Donald Trump's attempting to buy a neighborhood's affection to Johnny Doc presuming he can win his way back into the party's good graces.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quick bits

  • Really leveraging his recent popularity around town (ahem), John Dougherty makes another delicate move by suing a local broadcast station for a report that included insinuations about possible legal probes. Way to work it, Doc. Dan at YPP takes this opportunity to look at the bases for Doughtery's power in the political realm and the way it is now crumbling around him.

  • In contrast, Lynn Swann chooses to leverage an opponent's weak point, rather than his own, throwing his (essentially meaningless, at this point) support behind the possible hockey arena deal in Pittsburgh (for Rendell's awkward fix in this matter, see previous here).

  • Rick Mariano's sentencing deadline has been moved up -- the story says that "the judge gave no reason," but perhaps he noticed citizen outrage at the prospect of having to pay Council salary to a convicted felon for the next four months.

  • House candidate Lois Murphy was in the New York Times in the last week as part of a piece on female candidates in high-profile races around the country. (In fact, gender is probably a minor component of these races, where challenging the status quo is more likely to resonate with a frustrated populace.)
    (via Above Average Jane)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday news round-up

The Philly papers are sporting a new headline font (wheee!), and there's even some news (in no particular order):
  • Round three of Ferrick v. Weldon has Ferrick uncovering some more uncomfortable facts about the Delaware County Congressman, despite his avowal that he's never getting into a tussle with Weldon again.

  • Papers tout Mariano's "first public appearance since his conviction," which is a 20-yard dash from courthouse to taxi. He needs a shave, but has been given a clean bill of mental health.

  • The Barnes Foundation hopes to move from its suburban home to the Franklin Parkway someday soon; $25 million from the state (to help build the collection's new quarters) should help smooth the trip. No timetable has been set, and much additional fundraising is going on.

  • Gaming regulators seek to reassure Pennsylvanians that slots parlors won't lead to gambling addiction. Surprisingly, no evidence is cited for that claim.

  • Ray Murphy is celebrating the success of Tony Payton in the 179th state legislative district. This progressive newcomer not only refused to step aside for the party's preferred candidate, he then went on to get his primary opponent disqualified from the ballot. Since this pretty much means he's a shoo-in for November, it should be quite a switch from the area's previous moribund Rep. Rieger (see here).

  • Inga Saffron looks at a new major tower planned for the eastern part of Center City, not far from Independence Hall. Seems like a nice project, but not without the usual uproar from neighboring properties...

  • Workers at the Philadelphia Tribune, a major black-oriented local paper, may go on strike today over salary and benefits. Interestingly, the union appears to represent only 16 out of 100+ employees, so it could lead to a bit of an odd situation...

  • Keystone Politics presents an interview with Valerie McDonald Roberts, a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
    (via PhillyFuture)

  • And finally the Philadelphia Film Festival starts this weekend, and the Philadelphia Weekly offers a preview of the attractions. I anticipate that I will, as usual, have great ambitions for seeing a bunch of films, but then manage to see only a couple, at best. sigh.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A tale of two meet-ups

Barely managed a double-header of political events this evening, one a Young Professionals gathering/fundraiser for Patrick Murphy (running for the US House, 8th District) and one for Anne Dicker (running for the state Assembly, 175th). Both are candidates who have generated a lot of excitement locally, and I hadn't met either, so was looking forward to putting some faces to names and stories. Murphy's race is quite high-profile nationally and has been underway for a number of months, while Dicker is prominent only among progressive activists and jumped into the race only a few weeks ago, when a seat became open at the last minute. Thus the campaigns are at pretty different scales and stages, and the events were necessarily something of a contrast. Anyway, my impressions of each.

The Murphy event (at a bar a few blocks north of Rittenhouse Square) was a bit of a Who's Who of local pols, with State Reps. Babette Josephs and Michael Gerber (another young rising star) giving introductions, fellow candidates Paul Lang (state Senate, Bucks) and Bryan Lentz (state Assembly, 161st) in attendance [all part of the alliance of veterans running for Democratic positions], and City Councilman Michael Nutter stopping by briefly to shake a few hands at the margins (before heading to an event of his own). Murphy himself was nice, direct and real, and gave a good speech that talked about things that needed changing in Washington and some specific things he'd like to focus on (from cutting the deficit to getting the government to buy medicines in bulk for public health purposes). His staff also impressed me -- for example, I spoke to a financial guy who was interested in getting Patrick to develop an online presence, but who demonstrated a meaningful understanding of the need to do it right or not do it at all (i.e., that a token blog brings only wrath from readers, rather than engaging possible supporters). In net, I was already a Murphy booster, because Patrick is a progressive running against a Republican yes-man, but now I can back my support with first-hand experience that he's also an earnest guy who's on top of his game. It also sounds like they may be announcing a big number for 1st-quarter fundraising, so the race is plenty live...

The Dicker gathering was in a bookstore just off of South Street. Having hustled across town, I got there about an hour after it started, and missed the formal talk (if there was one; a videographer might be planning to share the proceedings), although Dicker was fielding questions when I arrived. She seemed confident and enthusiastic, and was encouraging people to volunteer their time to go door-to-door and talk about her candidacy. I came in pretty certain that she would advocate the "right" viewpoints on various issues, based on the positions taken by Philly for Change, the Dean-for-America affiliate that she helped found and lead. However, I was a bit surprised that she wasn't a bit more on top of relevant local facts; for example, she was advocating taking action on the minimum wage to Senate President Jubelirer's home district/constiuents, but then she didn't know where his home base actually is (Altoona), and she was passionate on the need for controlling gun violence, but expressed a lack of familiarity with the bills currently under discussion at the state level. I grant that she's had to go from 0 to 60 in very short order, and that the focus of her efforts right now is probably on recruiting street troops and some donations to cover flyers and the like, but I feel like some knowledge of the issues should come just from being a political junkie, let alone a candidate. It's easier for many folks to rant about things that happen at the national level (and there's plenty that needs fixin') than to focus on the issues and measures that can be controlled more locally, and I guess I would have liked to see more mastery of the practicalities. On the other hand, I haven't seen other new candidates for state office "perform," so I don't know what the standard really is for polish and knowledge going in. Certainly, having a better grasp of the machine function but less ideology driving your candidacy is hardly a recommendation. Perhaps I'll have a stronger opinion after sizing up Terry Graboyes in coming weeks (unsure whether O'Brian will be reaching out my way, given likely party support).

I'd like to have a stronger opinion in this race than I currently do (even though it's not my district), especially with a progressive activist in the race, but I'm still collecting information (e.g., see the NN post from earlier today) and just feel that I don't know enough to commit my own energies yet. Perhaps this is what scares so many people away from primaries, where the policy differences aren't always so sharply defined nor the candidates so visible, leaving voters feeling unqualified to decide the party's fate. And yet here, where the primary is the race, we can't afford to stay on the sidelines. I hope to be in the game soon, and you'll be sure to hear more then.

[Updated with campaign/info links, 3/30/06]


Tuesday deluge

Will do the best I can, between the onslaught (22 tabs!) and the short day...

Neighborhood Networks asks the questions to empower *you*

logoNeighborhood Networks is putting its Elections Committee through their first set of paces this year, and they have provided some good stuff to those feeling lost in some of the local primary elections. Surveys covering both general and specific issues were mailed to a number of candidates who have requested NN backing, and the answers that were returned are being posted on the organization's website, as a tool for neighborhood groups trying to decide whether to make an endorsement in the races affecting them. Such information is bound to be of use to regular voters wanting to know more about the options before them as well.

Currently posted for contested primaries are surveys from Babette Josephs and Larry Farnese in the 182nd State House district (which is centered in the western half of Center City but sprawls in many directions; map here), and from Anne Dicker and Terry Graboyes in the 175th (a more easterly slice of the city; map here). There may be more on the way. I intend to read the info from these four candidates, since the two races split up my own Ward, and will post my impressions after doing so, hopefully later this week. (I also know Babette personally and expect to meet Terry at an upcoming neighborhood event.)

Oh, and if you haven't yet, you should join NN. They hope to be a conduit for information to regular folks, an outlet for action and activism of regular folks, and a counterbalance to the money-driven mechanisms by which our political system seems to be run. You can't start making a difference if you don't get in the game.

Monday, March 27, 2006

End-of-Monday leftovers

Because sometimes you have to catch up on the work you're paid for...
  • Pennsylvania appears to be on the forefront of a new wave of gambling, with interests in many states watching the introduction of slots across the state and rubbing their hands eagerly.

  • With the rush to build fancy highrises and high-end condos, are the average folk getting left out of housing choices? A few organizations are trying to fill the gap for middle-class buyers.

    America's Hometown also notes that some downtown building owners are renovating with the "middle market" specifically in mind, although from the renting point of view.

  • Love Philadelphia's murals? Check out the fundraiser and info session that's planned for this Wednesday -- info at YPP and AH. A great organization, an inspiring leader, and a chance for a fun evening.

  • Dan at YPP reports that UPenn is cutting lower- and middle-class kids a break by replacing loans with grants for students from families earning under $50k. A huge gift to graduate without a heap of debt.

  • Um, something happened this weekend (of the meeting variety) concerning the future of media. Even the name confuses me, so see Albert and others for more.

    Blinq makes sense of it all... (sounds spiff!)

Around the Monday politicians

  • John Dougherty has gone official with his frustration with Mayor Street's proposed restructuring of the housing authority, now campaigning to block the plan. Councilman Michael Nutter has reservations of his own, but is steering clear of Doc's bandwagon.

  • John Baer notes that after the pay-raise furor, state legislators put forth a lot of penitance and promises, but have not yet acted on anything (tax reform to lobbyist disclosure, let alone minimum wage). He speculates that they're waiting until after the primaries to see how seriously to believe in residual citizen anger, but hopefully it will be too late for some of them by then...

  • Valerie McDonald Roberts, a Democratic primary candidate for Lieutenant Governor, decided to skip the race for party endorsement and take her campaign directly to the people. I've heard a lot of enthusiasm about her (a real progressive with experience and energy, and also with the western-PA and racial cards to offset Lynn Swann) but don't know much personally. However, her record seems impressive, and this could be a good year for an outsider candidate to catch the swell of civic activism.

  • Apparently Bob Casey has agreed to two debates with his primary opponents, Chuck Pennacchio and Alan Sandals. They will be held April 8 and 19 in different parts of the state.
    (via Philly Future)

  • Short takes from the Inquirer include Lois Murphy's battle to get billboard exposure, feisty words from a Casey consultant, and more tin-ear slams by Andy Warren against his primary opponent Patrick Murphy.

Some tales from the weekend

The Inquirer is trying to tempt me to broaden my home Sunday subscription by delivering Thurs-Sat papers for free. This is not likely to work, but this weekend I actually had time to read a few papers, and the following stories caught my eye as being of interest here:
  • The controversy over the planned Spring Garden area tower continues, with neighbors arguing about how many hours of shadow the new building would cast on their properties. There aren't actually new developments here, but mainly an expansion of the story from earlier in the week. However, noteworthy to me was the inclusion in the paper (although not at the above link) of a selection of the many comments left on the paper's website in response to the original story. They ranged from the thoughtful to the looney, but it's still a remarkable cross-over of blog-like feedback into ongoing reporting...

  • The Democratic State Committee met this weekend to decide on official party endorsements for statewide races, and the results were pretty much as expected -- Casey, Rendell, and Knoll by a landslide for Senate, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor, respectively. The actual vote on Casey wasn't reported. Two noteworthy bits in the coverage:

    1. The subheader for the article made it sound as though winning the endorsement was directly equivalent to winning the primary: "The Democrat will take on Rick Santorum, who he said was out of touch with Pennsylvanians." Um, I think there's a little formality in May first...

    2. The first great quote on the race that I've ever seen from Casey:
      Casey said Santorum had voted with President Bush 98 percent of the time since Bush was elected and Santorum became the third-ranking GOP leader in the Senate in 2000.

      "When two people agree 98 percent of the time, one of them is not necessary," he added.
      heh heh...

  • Casey also tangled with a group called the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, which claims to be running nonpartisan get-out-the-vote training but had Sen. Santorum address their last meeting. Casey argues that he should be given equal time, and the organization promises to let him appear, although he may not get to address an issue to his taste.

  • State legislators may have repealed their pay-hike last year, but many of them appear to be in a position to continue to reap its benefits, as the higher rate is used in the (arcane) formula by which pensions are calculated. The gift that keeps on giving...

  • An Inquirer reporter asks several Big Dogs from the Philadelphia area to comment on the union choice to oppose waterless urinals in the Comcast Tower (see prev. here) -- and comes up with an across-the-board "no comment." Much pee-related humor is had along the way...

  • An odd bit reports on the experience of the Mariano Blog, which tracked developments in the case on a nearly live basis -- the brutality of blog commentators and the ill effects of anonymity are dredged up here for some hand-wringing and amusement simultaneously.
    As you might expect, it was a free-for-all. And within a day or two, the forum looked less like an electronic town square that enabled civic-minded debate than like a high-tech bathroom wall that permitted smear after smear under the cloak of anonymity.
    Awwwww. This is why long-term discussion sites often require registration or at least the consistent use of pseudonyms, so that people can decide whom to ignore.
    Just before the trial was done, we took down the link to readers' posts. Though the law has treated unedited message boards the same way it treats telephone companies - that is, not responsible for what users say about people - we didn't like being associated with it. Call it the ickiness standard.
    Looks like the mainstream press isn't ready for the rough and tumble online world anytime soon. Or at least, they'll leave it to Blinq, where the light isn't quite so bright (or the sensibilities so delicate)...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Other Friday news and chatter

Latest salvos in the US Senate Race

  • Pennsylvania's Senator Rick Santorum is in the midst of a traditional incumbent dance -- how to trumpet his experience and power within the Senate leadership without appearing to be a tool of his party (particularly in times when that party isn't looking so good). Latest installment: inviting President Bush to the state to help him raise money, while delicately avoiding any joint public appearance. This early, he can get away with that combination, which would bring howls in the starker light of fall...

  • The Inquirer actually devotes an entire article today to Bob Casey's little-acknowledged primary rivals, Sandals and Pennacchio. The occasion is this weekend's meeting of the Democratic State Committee, which will be deciding whom to endorse for the May primary. The challengers "ask Democrats to be Democrats," the insiders predict a Casey victory, unmentioned is the remarkable decision by the party committees in several SE Pennsylvania counties (including Bucks) to make no endorsement in this race.

  • The Daily News reports that a religious charity under suspicion of making donations to Rick Santorum's reelection campaign has just received a large federal grant due to his efforts. All very cozy...

  • DN cartoonist Signe makes a jab at the Democratic Party for its handling of this primary, hitting the bullseye of the frustration felt by many regional progressives.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Other political news for Thursday

  • The Inquirer has a [mis-headlined] article in which they report the views of the Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional seat on impeachment/censure discussions currently in the air. The question was raised by a Quaker antiwar forum. Warren says impeachment proceedings should begin; Murphy would like to hear more before committing.

  • A flurry of challenges and other legal proceedings related to ballot nominations are beginning to be settled, leaving incumbent Rep. Josephs and her challenger Farnese still standing, Rep. Blackwell's opponent vanquished, one candidate for the Lederer seat withdrawn, and a smattering of other results decided or still to be considered...

  • Dan at YPP is encouraging folks to work for Anne Dicker in the 175th state House race (for "the Lederer seat" mentioned above).

  • Ray Murphy notes that David Cohen's Council seat is still open, a gap that becomes even more glaring with the removal of Rick Mariano from the field of action. There was a rally in support of Florence Cohen for the seat today (see prev. here), as Albert also noted. oops, sorry for the late notice...

  • Finally, Michael Smerconish at the Daily News gives us a look at the upcoming documentary "Shame of a City," which follows the Philadelphia mayoral race of 2003. He calls the film "political dynamite" in that it uncovers the way that the federal wiretapping was leveraged into a race issue to ensure Mayor Street's re-election. I don't tend to share Smerconish's point of view, but this description has certainly piqued my interest in seeing the movie when it debuts at the Philadelphia Film Festival at the end of the month...

Of building and development plans

  • Apparently a substantial skyscraper (twice the size of anything nearby) was approved for the Art Museum area of Philadelphia with virtually no warning to (let alone consultation of) the neighborhood. Hundreds of neighbors got together last night to express their displeasure, with state Senator Vince Fumo among them. They may have their license to build, but angering powerful interests in the area (City Councilman Darrell Clarke weighed in too) is bound to make your progress difficult, if not impossible.

  • Philly's ever more popular airport needs some revamping to keep up with business, and apparently (a) there are plans to significantly lengthen one runway as a short-term improvement, and (b) the airport has submitted two possible plans for expansion to the FAA, one of which would entirely rip down and replace most of the existing terminals, and the other of which would lengthen and add runways while retaining the current basic configuration. A response from the FAA is expected to take close to two years.

  • Meanwhile, Philadelphia's RDA (Redevelopment Authority) is under assault from several sides, facing not only an uncertain fate in the planned multi-agency reorganization (see prev. here), but accusations by Street that it spent federal funds without approval and a sense of implied threat against current chairman John Dougherty. There may be real efficiencies to be had from the streamlining, but I hope that the agency doesn't get lacerated in the cross-fire between mayor and union boss...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Other Wednesday bits

  • I'm not the only one shocked by union opposition to environmental technology in a local building project (see previous here). Friedman at America's Hometown is worked up and urges people to call the Licenses and Inspections office on the matter. Today's Daily News opinion page also takes the plumbers to task.

  • The Daily News also takes a look at its own potential buyers, and is heartened that one group has hired a consultant with long experience in Philadelphia's news world.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly is also looking at the Daily News, but focusing mainly on Wil Bunch as its most visible face. The article is intrigued by the dichotomy between Bunch's mainstream news reporting for the paper and his more outspokenly opinionated blogging style.

  • Another Weekly piece looks at moves by New Jersey to make itself more attractive to gay couples, in contrast to Harrisburg's interest in restricting gay rights ever further in PA. I've lost some great neighbors to the better legal situation across the river, so I know first-hand that no state operates in a vacuum. We can't afford to casually give up productive citizens to neighboring regions...

Around the politicians

Lots of chatter as the political season gets underway...
  • US Senate/House:

    1. Tom Ferrick wonders about U.S. Rep (PA-7) Kurt Weldon's priorities, in particular his association with the lunatic fringe and his exclusive focus on international matters. A substantial challenger may force him to pay more attention to the home front.

    2. Above Average Jane looks at the freshman Congressfolk from the Philadelphia area, and finds that Mike Fitzpatrick (R-08) has had mighty little to say on the record during his first term. She promises to provide a similar analysis for Allyson Schwartz in a few days.

      Update: AAJ has retracted her first post, because it turns out that the searches are much more difficult than first imagined (some data is stored, e.g., under "Mr. Fitzpatrick" with no first name). Some sort of revised analysis to follow...

    3. In the Democratic primary for Senate, two women's rights groups have endorsed dark-horse Alan Sandals over either party heart-throb Casey (pro-life) or slightly more visible underdog Pennacchio (pro-choice, but in favor of parental notification). The groups are NOW and the Feministy Majority, so that's some serious early weight, as much for symbolism as for impact on fundraising. [More here.]

    4. In related news, an editorial writer uses the decision of Kate Michelman to stay out of the Senate primary as the spur to a look at whether the instant-runoff system of voting might give voters a better way to speak their minds without worrying about getting their least favorite candidate elected in the process. It would certainly change the way we think about least-of-evils races!

  • Philadelphia stuff:

    1. The Inquirer reports on a power-brokering luncheon among Mayor John Street, local Democratic party chair (and US Rep.) Bob Brady, and Councilmen Frank DiCicco and James Kenney. Agenda? Mending the intra-party feuds before the important 2006 and 2007 elections. Speculative secondary motivation: snarking about fellow weight-thrower John Dougherty.

    2. In the wake of his criminal convictions, but with months to go before sentencing, it appears that Rick Mariano intends to keep his City Council job (and paycheck), but will resign his committee chairmanships (more here). This choice has elicited a number of reactions around town, including muted statements by his colleagues (4 support an immediate resignation, but none will submit a motion to that effect), exasperation from the Daily News opinion page, and a combination of cynical sighing and a call for Council action from DN columnist Jill Porter.

    3. The Daily News has a feature story looking at U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's prospects for the 2007 mayoral race, and the pros and cons of being considered an early frontrunner. He brings a lot of resources to the race, but also has to keep up with high expectations as a result.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mariano in limbo...

[oops, this one didn't get posted!]

While Councilman Rick Mariano has been convicted of various corruptions charges and is currently in jail, his official sentencing is not until July (?!, and there appears to be some question of when he is required to resign his Council seat. It seems that most people are hoping he will resign now, but nobody other than Mayor Street (who on Friday expressed his hope that Mariano would resign)is willing to push him on it, perhaps out of respect, perhaps out of concern about his emotional state. (See also similar DN story here.) I hope that somebody starts to worry about the functioning of City Council, with one member deceased and one incarcerated, leaving the chambers a bit empty and the party balance significantly altered. With the uncertainty about timing of his resignation, it's hard to even get started on discussions about the possibility of a special election. Philadelphia Will Do also notes the irony that Mariano continues to draw a paycheck after having been convicted of taking liberties with public and private monies...

In other Tuesday news

  • Looks like the merger of Fairmont Parks with the Recreation Department (see background here)is officially moving ahead, and the result may be a ballot measure to be put before voters in November.

  • Today's Inquirer is reporting that a minimum wage bill is set to pass the legislature in Harrisburg, which seems like great news, although it is tempered by the fact that the bill in question has been substantially modified from the one originally championed by state Rep. Cohen, Gov. Rendell, and others, and would result in only half of the desired increase. Time for soul-searching among advocates about whether half a cake is better than none.

  • Marc Stier is depressed by more shows of conservative pandering by Bob Casey, and muses on the difficult path that Democrats will have to wend between their choices in the primary and then the need to get behind whoever wins that race in order to unseat Santorum in the fall. It's hard to put in a lot of sweat without much enthusiasm...

  • Above Average Jane delivers on her promise to provide an interview with Paul Lang, candidate for the PA 6th Senatorial district. It's long and full of details about his district and its needs -- a great resource for those who live there and for others who might like to support a promising progressive candidate for state office.

More drama over committee challengers

With nominating petitions in, now is the season for challenges to the qualifiers, and feelings continue to run hot, with one Ward leader hitting the lawyer representing some union challengers. Apparently this is yet another proxy battle in the ongoing war between Brady and Dougherty -- as with so many local struggles, the Big Dogs are always the unseen forces in the room. [Might I put in a plug here for The Scorecard? Can't tell the players without one!] Meanwhile, Albert shares evidence that Ward leaders are circling the wagons around their own. Boy, the functioning of the processes of democracy certainly ruffle feathers!!

Begone, eyesore!

Finally, it's happening: the homely 1970s-era building that previously housed the Liberty Bell is due to be removed by the end of April, leaving the sight lines of the mall clear from Independence Hall to the Constitution Center. Thanks go to the coalition of local trade unions that are donating some 2,000 hours to make this happen. yay!!

(via Philadelphia Will Do)

Update: more on this today, including a photo, here. The old structure is headed to someplace in Alaska, after Bryn Mawr failed to pull together funds to install it on campus.

= Note =
Blogger is in limbo today, so I may or may not succeed in posting the stuff that I have lined up here ready to go. Will do what I can...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Misc. Monday bits

  • Apparently gas company PGW has decided to abandon its current negotiations toward a contract for shipping liquified natural gas (see previous here and here), although it claims that it hasn't lost enthusiasm for the idea and may come back with a different contractor in tow.

  • Daily News columnist Sandra Shea thinks that objections to combining the Fairmont Parks Commission with the Philadelphia Recreation Department (see prev. here) might be based in the issue of class. I think she's right, and that it might be time for us to get over it.

  • John Baer feels a bit snarky that Harrisburg feels Philadelphia is too corrupt to run its own business with regard to the placement of casinos (see prev. here). (This piece is one of those mystifying dream sequences that occasionally show up in local columns...)

  • Above Average Jane offers us an overview of Pennsylvania's 6th Senate district, and will follow it up tomorrow with an interview with one of the candidates, Democratic challenger Paul Lang.

More on the primary challengers (and the challenged)

  1. The Inquirer offers a quaint picture of the process by which candidates for the city's ward committees are being assigned their ballot positions for the May election. Bingo-style drawing of numbers is up there with voting in neighborhood maintenance sheds in terms of my affection for the ground level of civic involvement -- very real, very little pretense.

  2. The large number of challengers for state legislative races inspires a reflection on the high rate of incumbent retention in Pennsylvania. Are we gaining lots of experience, losing responsiveness to voters, or both?

Philadelphia, a union town for better and worse

Was interested by a story in the Sunday Inquirer taking a look at Philadelphia's next great skyscraper, the huge Comcast building going up just off Rittenhouse Square. Turns out that the designers would really like to make it a green-certified building, and the only thing between them and that seal of pride is a reduction in water usage. They'd like to install waterless urinals, a technology that I had never heard of, but which appears to be in use in many places already, and has been shown to be safe and durable as well as environmentally friendly. And what stands in the way? The local plumber's union opposes inclusion of these nonstandard urinals. Insiders say that the primary obstacle is that the waterless devices take less time to install, meaning less labor and thus a smaller plumbing contract. Not discussed is that installation happens one time, up front, while the efficiency would be a benefit to the entire local area for years to come -- in fact, the city has been looking for ways to reduce the strain on its sewer system, and decisions like this could make a big difference.

Are union managers that short-sighted (and/or selfish)? I'm sympathetic when the conflict with building planners is over use of union versus nonunion labor; I support the protections that unionization offers to workers in risky and undervalued jobs (or any job where management has unfair power). But this reeks of pettiness and does nothing to garner public support for union concerns over more substantive future issues. I hope that the plumbers will look at the experience of other users of these devices, update the local code as needed, and reconsider their opposition. The environment needs every break it can get, and if recognition is what drives building owners to use more low-impact technologies, then I'd hate to see them deprived of those incentives.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Other Friday bits

I feel like I have food poisoning or something close, so I'm headed for home and a crash on the couch. Here are a few other things that might interest somebody:Have a good weekend, all!

Mariano verdict in

Not only was he found guilty, but he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs -- no stop to hug the kids or water the dog. Wow! I thought they might deliberate a bit or something... Guess it was indeed a wall of evidence.

(via Philadelphia Will Do)

Challenges all 'round!

John Featherman isn't the only primary candidate finding his nominating ballots and other qualifications questioned by an opponent:
  1. Larry Farnese attacks incumbent State Rep. Babette Josephs over incomplete financial disclosure paperwork. She promises an amended filing, quips about having been busy with substantive legislation.

  2. The Daily News notes not only that challenge, but also a number of other chewy fights.

  3. Patrick Murphy's primary opponent, a recently converted Republican, is challenging him to a sleaze show-down, which is unlikely to go well for Mr. Warren.
In related news of who's in or out, there are rumors that Michael Nutter may soon step down from City Council in order to declare himself for next year's mayoral race, and an East Falls businessman is ready to step into the gap. No end of ambitions and sparks!

Pot, meet kettle

I wasn't the only one amused by yesterday's announcement that Harrisburg found Philadelphia untrustworthy: an Inquirer editorial rips state legislators for singling out one of many cities that occasionally find criminals among their politicians, and then goes on to point out that Harrisburg actually has more convictions to show for its residents than does City Hall... Tony Auth lets the images do the talking, to a similar end. For my part, I think that the city has done a good job of being ahead of the curve with studies and planning. In the end they can only express a preference to the state board, so why on earth try to override that?!

(p.s.) Blogger has been down for much of the afternoon, so I may or may not get to everything...

I love Ben Franklin as much as the next person...

...and Jefferson was one of my heroes too. It's great to live just a few blocks from Independence Hall and imagine them coming and going so many years ago. But when I see the tour trollies carrying the slogan "Philly's got BENergy," I can only think of the sad slogan "Joementum," and it seems so desperate...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday news deluge

My window in Firefox has 18 tabs of articles and posts I thought worth reading and probably blogging today. Um, I have to leave in about 2-3 hours, so I'm never going to get to read them all. Thus, a rarity: I'm giving you the links, unread and thus largely unfiltered. You'll have to figure out their merits for yourselves...I'd love to get back to some of these and say more, but I may not even get to read them until late this evening. So, fend for yourselves til then...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Earthquakes always start with small tremors

...and there could be cracks appearing in Philadelphia's Democratic Party apparatus. Apparently Bob Brady feels that John Dougherty is running candidates for local ward committees around the city in order to build up a base of support for his future mayoral campaign, at the expense of party unity and of seasoned workers for the important races this fall. The newcomers are all members of the electricians union, of which Doc is the head.
"It is clear that this effort has been started by forces that seek to polarize and destroy this party," U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the local party, wrote last week in a letter to ward leaders whose committee members are being targeted, offering to protect them.
The Daily News version of this report cites a source that Brady (party chair) asked Dougherty (treasurer) to quit on Monday, which would indicate more than a trivial rift. Doc didn't sign the letter, but he may not end up getting any support the next time party officer elections are held.
"Brady told him, 'You're out now or you're out in June,' " one Democrat said, referring to the election of party officers after the primary.

"John Dougherty is an insider who is now battling those who put him in there, and he's doing it at a time when you don't want to piss off ward leaders," said one ward leader who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don't know if he has half of the 69 votes he'll need to be re-elected."
Dougherty has apparently asked some of the candidates involved to withdraw, but it may be too little too late for his own prospects.

Misc. Wednesday developments

  • Pennsylvania:

    • Delaware County's US Rep. Kurt Weldon is spinning paranoia stories -- is he uncovering governmental negligence or making up bizarre stories to keep attention on national security issues? It sure looks weird...

    • Supporters of gay rights rallied in Harrisburg yesterday in protest of the constitutional amendment under consideration (apparently the current law is not enough) to prohibit gay marriage. A vote is expected today.

    • The PA GOP is suing to challenge the ballot petitions of Santorum's primary challenger, John Featherman, who doesn't have much of a safety margin in the number of signatures that he submitted. If the challenge is successful, then Santorum can wiggle out of his offer to debate...

      Update: Featherman is officially out, citing the cost of the legal defense to the challenge.

      [Further down in the Inquirer link is also a note that Milton Street managed to get on the ballot for state House, despite appearances that he's not even living in the state. eesh. Challenges may follow.]

    • Even though there's a Gaming Board to make final decisions about casino locations, Harrisburg legislators are trying to get their fingers into the mix, working on legislation that tweaks the restrictions on sites in ways that would favor or eliminate a subset of applicants. More as it progresses and/or as I understand it better.

    • Tom at YPP thinks that Pennsylvania needs a statewide community blog on the model of YPP or dailyKos, rather than just news aggregators and columns, like PoliticsPA offers. He argues that progressives need to start coordinating their activities to the degree that conservatives seem to have already mastered.

    • This just in: apparently sometimes used car dealers can't be trusted. Thank goodness the Inquirer was there to catch the story!

  • Philadelphia:

    • The special election to replace NE Philly state Rep. Butkovitz has resulted in a new Democrat for the city's delegation, John P. Sabatina, Jr., who won with an overwhelming margin. He will have to run for re-election in the fall.

    • City Council thinks that the Recreation Department needs more money than Mayor Street's new budget allocated for its use. I suspect that they're right. Apparently there's some dissatisfaction with the parks portion as well...

    • Friends of Mariano were on parade yesterday, as the defense portion of the trial debuted with a line-up of character witnesses.

      [Side note: this article has some text with slash-through; is Phillynews allowing corrections to their web articles? spiff!]

    • An Inquirer editorial looks at the ongoing debate about the fate of Dilworth House on Washington Square, and shares my opinion that grafting the current facade onto an otherwise new building is a stupid solution on all fronts. I'm not sure, however, that their suggestion to make the house into a civic building will stave off the forces of Change and Modernization.

    • The Phila Weekly's Gwen Shaffer looks at the recurrent frustrations with the city's recycling stalemate. The company that is drawing interest from cities and countries around the world is apparently unable to get Philadelphia to commit to expanding its first pilot program to more than a token number of homes. A long-overdue recycling czar may help. Local activists also hope to get a large citizen turnout for the City Council hearing March 29.

    • A heap of young progressives will be descending on Philly for an inter-organizational conference March 25-26.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday bits

  • Looks like PA Governor Ed Rendell's political future may be caught in the tangle of debate over whether to build the Pittsburgh Penguins a new hockey stadium. Die-hard sports fans want the Gov. to back a casino proposal that would also involve funding for the stadium, but he understandably feels he should stay out of the Gaming Board's decision processes. However, he might bear the brunt of anger that there was no rabbit to be pulled out of a hat on this one...

  • Santorum takes some jabs at rival Casey in the press, making a show of inviting his primary opponent to debate (no date yet) and mocking Casey for not having done likewise (although he has also expressed willingness with no date yet). Eight months until the general? I'm already sick of it... A couple of speculations about what this may mean for the little guys.

  • A Daily News letter-writer thinks local politicians overestimate the possible impact of local gun laws. Are the criminals likely to read the fine print?

  • Uh, some people are getting a bit tired of Pennacchio's drumbeat of disapproval of Bob Casey, and wondering if he's lost sight of the bigger target in the other party... For my part, the fervor of his supporters sometimes puts me off the man himself. But I applaud their dedication to principle.

  • Above Average Jane wonders whether Wal-Mart is being unfairly singled out for condemnation on its benefits, and notes some of the company's better points... Sorry, would never shop there, on principle and because in practice they gouge you on some items to make up for the discounts on others.

  • Apparently the 2nd installment of "why you should care about PA-08" is out, but it's on Rowhouse Logic instead of Young Philly Politics. I'm a little confused... Anyway, a profile of the Republican incumbent.

Not so fast!

News yesterday that Knight-Ridder had been sold was thought to end the ownership phase of the Inquirer/Daily News fate quest (switching us over to "what will become of our papers now?" mode), but it turns out that the buyer of the larger company wants to spin off its Philadelphia papers (along with close to half of Knight-Ridder's holdings) to somebody else. Other chains may be interested, and there's talk of a possible bid by a group of union employees of the papers or by other local folk. Meantime, reporters and others at Phillypapers, Inc., are feeling a bit of whiplash at all these shifts (see also the forlorn take here), especially those at the Daily News who've been wondering whether their paper will still exist by the end of the year. Will Bunch gives you the chance to enter a pool for March madness buyoffs. More chat about all of this at PhillyFuture here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Belated Monday round-up

Stayed home today for a variety of reasons, so a late round-up of the highlights from the papers...
  • Pennsylvania is the focus of more First Amendment rights fears, as the state government siezes hard-drives from a Lancaster newspaper in order to determine whether they were making illicit use of a government website. Reporters worry about the sanctity of their sources, but it's hard to know how else a crime of this sort could be confirmed.

  • A Daily News columnist expresses disbelief that the state legislature would pass the proposed homeowner/contracter bill with little discussion or apparent consideration of how it would further victimize consumers who are already in dire straights.

  • John Baer runs through an "annual Vince Fumo Rorshach test" and finds signs that the state Senator is starting to think about reform and the needs of his constituents. (This is a fluff piece, but there have been positive signs from Fumo this year, so stay tuned.)

  • A North Philly case raises some interesting questions about how eminent domain, religious programs (think Salvation Army), and community development intersect.

  • Tom Ferrick thinks that the case against Rick Mariano looks like an inexorable wall bearing down, and that the details make it look like the Councilman had a major case of The Stupids.

  • I guess that the Inquirer and Daily News have found a buyer, which leads Dan at YPP to speculate about whether the DN might be kept alive...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A small blow for sanity

Bob Casey's pulse must be slowing again at the news that Kate Michelman decided not to jump into the Senate race. What a relief. I note with some grim amusement that the sponsors of an upcoming Casey fundraiser in Philadelphia call themselves "Pragmatic Progressive Women for Casey." Fight for your favorite in the primary, but surely a two-way race has to be best in the general, with only the limping incumbent gaining from a spoiler..."

(via dailykos)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday's opinionistas

  • The Inquirer an editorial savaging a piece of legislation currently under discussion, but which I previously hadn't heard of. The bill concerns disputes between homeowners and contracters over defective or incomplete work -- in the attempt to reduce litigation, may have made it difficult for consumers to protect themselves at all. Sounds like an industry trying to simplify their own lives. Marc Stier joins the call for Rendell to veto this bill.

  • Gar Josephs blames Kate Michelman for Rick Santorum's original Senate victory, and adds his voice to the calls for her to stay away from this year's race.

  • Dan at YPP is glad to see the last of Pennsylvania's payday lenders. Amen.

  • Philadelphia Will Do can't wait for a Milton Street campaign, given the comic ineptitude of the man's attempt to get himself on the ballot for state rep. (what district? hmmm. where do I live? over there, really!)

  • Finally Marc Stier publishes the fourth installment of his series on the future of the progressive movement in PA, this time giving us a fable by which to construct what might be a positive agenda...

Friday news roundup

  • A little more on the Hoeffel pullout.

    1. AAJane excerpts parts of two messages sent out to supporters, thanking them and promising that no shady deals were made.
    2. Albert remains suspicious, but personally I think that the only one who comes out of this looking any worse is Ed Rendell, the broker of all iffy deals...
    3. The Daily News opinion page appears to agree with me that the problem is leaving the voters out of such decisions.

  • The state minimum wage bill is back on hold after brief hope that it might come to a vote this week. No reason not to keep the pressure on, especially if a member of the Harrisburg leadership is your representative.

  • Yuck: Bristol Township employees are charged with dumping raw sewage into the Delaware River. It was over a year ago, however, so no rush to install a filter on your tap. (Please don't talk to me about bottled crap!)

  • The continuing federal probes of Citizens Alliance, a charity linked with state Senator Vince Fumo, may be adding some obstruction charges after revelations that some key personnel wiped their email after learning that computers had been subpoenaed. (Background on the case is included in this piece about 1/3-1/2 way down.)

  • Philadelphia's City Council appears to like Clarke's idea of putting the red-light surveillance program up for voter approval before plunging ahead with it. The referendum has been voted out of committee and will be considered by the full body later this spring. More here.

  • Meanwhile, City Council is also battling Mayor Street for control of capital funds, such as those being used to fix up City Hall or which might be allocated to improvement projects in council districts. Council undoes a cut, Street refuses to spend it, they hold up his bond issue request... eesh.

  • America's Hometown notes that alternative energy business is expanding in the Philadelphia region, most recently with the opening of several wind turbine-making plants in Bucks County.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Still a challenger in the race

A poster at Young Philly Politics points out that even with Joe Hoeffel pulling out of the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, there is still a competitive primary, and that the other challenger is not only a progressive but comes from the western side of the state, is a woman, and is black. That could make for a very interesting answer to Lynn Swann's gubernatorial charge.

Other Thursday bits

  • Philadelphia's education czar Paul Vallas says he wants to stay in the city for the long haul, quashing rumors that he had political ambitions in his old hometown and eliciting hosannahs locally. He's even planning to renew his contract early. I think this is good for the region, as the school system has undertaken a wide range of reforms, and continuity at the top will give folks more faith that progress is ongoing.

  • John Baer is tired of hearing from candidate spokespeople and would like to hear more from the candidates themselves. He takes the opportunity to review Casey and Santorum records on health care matters, and finds significant activity by both. More issues talk, more!

  • For those who can't get enough of the federal trial of Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, the Inquirer has apparently set up a blog devoted to USA v. Mariano, which will have updates about daily developments, audio links to selected testimony, and some commentary (to an unknown degree). It has a live-blogging feel and space for reader comments. I happily pass the buck to them.
    (via America's Hometown)

  • The Philadelphia Weekly has a story focusing on short-staffing of the local police force, which leads to officers responding only to emergency calls. Reports of burglary can wait 8 hours for a response, and sometimes the number of available cars is limiting. Seems like a mess. Councilmen Rizzo and Nutter are calling for the city to hire more police officers.

  • Another PW piece looks at Philadelphia's landmarks, and particularly at ways in which they deserve improvement.

  • Finally, the CityPaper offers a look at the contenders for the 175 State House district (skip down to second story at the link), with short summaries of who they are and what they hope to achieve.

It's official: Hoeffel out

You could have gotten whiplash watching this one. He announces, and then is asked to pull out one day later, apparently due to Rendell's concerns about having a gubernatorial ticket too biased toward the Southeast corner of the state.
"He has become convinced that this could create more fuel for a bogus divisive issue," Hoeffel said. "This has always been about helping Ed. I can't go forward if he is publicly saying he doesn't want me."
(from the DN story here) This is two times that Rendell has asked Hoeffel to step aside for party interests. Will there come a time that Hoeffel gets supported in a significant campaign instead?

Update: Jane's pretty bitter about this, and points out that Rendell's been doing a lot of intervention into regional primaries, but apparently couldn't be bothered to suggest that a moribund representative step down and let somebody show up who would actually do the job...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good news on the payday lending front

While Harrisburg legislators were trying to find ways to make usury legal in theory (see here), federal regulators were getting busy on cracking down on the already-illegal practice in the real world by closing the loophole that let in-state banks outsource such obscene-rate loans to out-of-state partners.
Yesterday, Advance America, the nation's largest payday lender with 101 stores in Pennsylvania, announced it would stop issuing new loans on March 27. That follows similar announcements from other payday lenders over the past month.

"For all intents and purposes, this scam is shut down now," said state Sen. Vince Fumo, who favors a bill banning the practice.
This should have been the approach all along, rather than trying to rein in the practice by partially legitimating it (see backstory here). Now, if they continue with that bill, it can only be because they want to have payday lending in the state. No excuses.

I'm glad to see there's somebody willing to stand up for the Little Guy, even if it isn't his own elected representatives...

Who's in and who's out?

Lots of news, in the wake of the official petition deadline, about which officeholders are retiring, seeing primary challenges, etc.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Other updates and opinions

  • News:

    • The Kimmel Center and its architecht have reached a settlement in their dispute over who was responsible for time and cost overruns. Good; the institution and city both avoid a needless black eye in slamming a hugely popular and successful building...

    • The minimum wage bill may be poised for a vote, so now is a good time to contact your representatives (especially if they are Republican and/or in the leadership) to express your support for paying working families a wage they can live on...

    • PA Supreme Court Justice Cappy is unrepentant about his desire for a raise, and thinks judges should be more independent of the legislature.

  • Opinion:

What's all that scaffolding for, then?

All that sandblasting and other overhauling of the exterior of Philadelphia's City Hall, and yet pieces are falling off it? Isn't that usually kind of the before condition? (shades of the South Street bridge...)

(via Philadelphia Will Do)

Tuesday politicians

  • State Rep. Dwight Evans suggests legislation that would give Philadelphia (and other cities?) more say in local gun regulation, despite a 10-year-old ruling that prohibits such laws and despite the lack of any tangible support among other legislators. Mayoral posturing, anyone?

  • DN columnist John Baer wonders about the L.G. campaign of Joe Hoeffel, thinking that it does the party no favors. One suspects that Hoeffel has his own statewide prospects in mind...

  • A DN opinion piece pleads with NARAL activist Kate Michelman not to jump into Pennsylvania's already fraught U.S. Senate race. This column also points out some things that liberals can like about Bob Casey, from support for family planning, to belief in the separation of church and state, to attention to the needs of the working poor.

  • Well, it looks like Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano picked the wrong year to be tried on federal charges, as jury voidure appears to be finding that everybody distrusts local politicians as a group.

  • Apparently Mayor Street and union boss John Dougherty sat down to talk about the plans to streamline Philadelphia's housing agencies, and came out with less inflammatory rhetoric, at least. This piece looks at what may lie behind the timing of the proposed changes, as well as Doc's political considerations and the likely fate of RDA employees.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Other Monday miscellania

  • The Bucks County Democratic Committee released its primary endorsements, including Patrick Murphy for the 8th district, Paul Lang in the 6th, Casey for Senate, and an assortment of other folks about whom I can add little.

  • The Inquirer published a Sunday editorial expressing the hope that the current Supreme Court consideration of gerrymandering in Texas might lead to some improvements in the process in Pennsylvania.
    The current partisan process in places such as Pennsylvania and Texas has created unfair elections, incumbent protectionism and voter cynicism. It makes most congressional elections virtually irrelevant.
    They suggest that an independent commission would do a better job than skewed local legislatures. Ya' think?
    (via PhillyFuture)

  • America's Hometown notes that PhillyCarShare has spiffed up its fleet with the addition of (sensible-but-fun) Mini-Coopers. (I see they also have VW Bugs and some other compact faves.) That might tempt some who are wobbling on the fence...

  • In the Snark Department, we have a very strong entry today: a letter-writer to the DN suggests that if we're going to have red-light cameras, then we should also up surveillance in other areas of recurrent crime, such as corporate boardrooms and City Council chambers... (heh)

Support your favorite sites

trophy time!It's time for the annual Koufax awards, which reward excellence in the liberal blogosphere. They're narrowing the lists of nominees in each category to a set of finalists, via reader votes, so go and put in a plug for your favorite bloggers, both the Big Players and the Little-Known Gems. Philadelphia has quite a good showing in several categories, especially in the new category of regional (state and local) blogs, among which we are honored to have found ourselves. Anyway, it's potentially a lot of reading but bound to be unusually good writing, and perhaps you'll make some new finds.

Unusually competitive

This year's primary races for the state legislature are shaping up to be among the most competitive in 20 years, between races for open seats and challenges to incumbents by Clean Sweepers and others with motives and backers of their own. The Daily News gives a round-up of the members of the Philadelpha-area delegation known or likely to have challengers, and they vary in age, location, and spot on the political spectrum. Stay tuned for much more on this, once the newcomers survive the battle to get on the ballot...

Update: note that constituents of former Rep. Butkowitz (in NE Philly) should plan to vote in the special election for his seat *next Tuesday*...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Rehabilitating Philadelphia's "fourth corner"

It looks like the long-overdue face-lift for Franklin Square (tragically nestled next to the highway entrance and police headquarters), NE of four symmetric parks in Center City, is about to get rolling.
Plans call for repairing and renovating the central circular fountain, installed in the 1830s and nonfunctional for decades. New walkways, lighting and plantings will be installed, along with a Philadelphia-themed carousel and miniature golf course. There will also be a food concession.
. . .
The carousel and miniature golf will be paid attractions, but access to the rest of the square, including two new playgrounds and several picnic areas, will be free.
They want to have it all in place by July...

Carnival of updates

A million stories today that are incremental updates of stories we've mentioned here over the last week or so...
  • The federal government appears to have snubbed Pennsylvania on its request to do good things with Valley Forge Park, and/or didn't read Rendell's letter about the matter at all.

  • As a follow-up to the story about Wal-Mart, the state Welfare office has agreed to release a report on all employed workers on Medicaid, presumably so that coverage practices can be compared across employers.

  • The animal rights activists on trial in New Jersey were found guilty of using their website to induce threats and harrassment against biotech employees and their families, in a long-term campaign against a particular company.

  • Possibly related to the continuing PA-NJ pissing match over dredging in the Delaware River, Rendell has just zapped the pawns, calling for roll-back of some recent pay-raises for Port Authority employees. Meantime, as the bistate Authority continues not to meet, its credit rating is being downgraded... nice.

  • The State Supreme Court gave local counties the go-ahead to replace their voting systems with modern (handicap-accessible) ones as required by federal law, without waiting for voter approval.

  • The Gaming Review Board has relented in the face of public outcry, and will allow more time for impact reports to be released and public testimony to be arranged, before making its final decisions.

  • As Philadelphia's Mayor Street and his office scheme over housing bureau reorganizations, current employees are unsurprisingly nervous about their fates, especially upon being told that they have to resign and reapply, rather than being reassigned.

  • The Daily News's Gar Josephs notes that the rumored possibility of Kate Michelman's running for Santorum's Senate seat would be Casey's worst nightmare -- he might get past the progressives in the primary only to face opponents on both right and left in November.

    There's also a bit in this column about an inter-party agreement not to use the pay raise against encumbents. Anybody who accepts their party's endorsement/money has to leave that issue behind. Amazing.