Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday downpour

I knew the stories were headed this way eventually...
  • Politicians

    • No deal is ever done: Mayor Street is running down the clock on signing the anti-smoking bill; he has just two more weeks, and expressed doubts about the current version. Is he really willing to nix his own original idea, just to deprive Michael Nutter of some credit in the mayoral race? (and if so, who's he protecting?)

    • The City Paper's political notebook takes a look at State House races in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, wondering whether John Perzel or George Kenney could fall prey to residual pay-hike anger and the dedicated efforts of their opponents, Tim Kearney and Brendan Boyle, respectively.

    • A regional blog notes a chance encounter between Sens. Santorum and Specter, and reads the tea leaves about their personalities and current relations.
      (via Above Average Jane)

    • Pennsyltucky Politics notes that neither Pennsylvania Senator is at all popular with staffers, who see their nonpublic uglies.

    • The fate of Carl Romanelli's Senate candidacy could end up in the lap of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who must rule on how many signatures are actually required, as well as on who is allowed to circulate petitions. (Neither answer is as simple as it might seem.)
      (via Pennsyltucky Politics)

  • Other news

    • The owner of a 450-acre farm in the Philadelphia suburbs died recently, leaving conservationists and others concerned about the fate of a critical open green space (which spans Fairmont Park to Fort Washington State Park).

    • An independent agency gives Philadelphia schools a mixed report card for progress on measures ranging from class size to facilities upkeep.

    • Apparently Bucks County has applied for funds to prevent gang invasion of their tree-lined neighborhoods. Would that we could get such funds to solve *existing* problems!

    • The new CityPaper features a cover story on the 10th Fringe Festival starting soon (although the linked story appears to be more about one longtime performer than about the festival itself -- beats me).

    • Another strong CP article looks at SEPTA reluctance to switch to green fuels, which appears to be based more on lack of motivation (and thus information) than on any real barrier to making the change. Imagine smog-free buses! (imagine, if you can...)

    • AAJane notes some appearances of Pennsylvania places and issues in the Wall Street Journal.

  • Opinionistas

    • An Inquirer editorial calls on Philadelphia's mayoral candidates to address the appalling city poverty figures announced yesterday.

    • The Daily News takes on the scheduled special election for City Council, arguing that real voters should have a say in choosing the candidates, rather than just party insiders. Hear, hear!

    • An opinion column in the DN jumps off of a Santorum campaign ad to look at malpractice and tort reform (coming to slightly different conclusions than does the Senator).

    • CityPaper's "loose cannon" looks at organizational information flow as a "sniff test" for its health and civic-mindedness, and then applies that test to a number of local institutions and politicians.

    • Have some strong opinions of your own about what future mayoral aspirants should be thinking about? The Next Mayor site is collecting top issues, so now's your chance to get your priorities some attention.
      (via PhillyFuture)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday deluge

If I hadn't blown my morning on something stupid, I might have time to say more about the following bits:
  • News

    • Philadelphia tops the charts in terms of poverty among large cities: nearly 25% of all residents live below the poverty line!! This is what people mean when they talk about building human capital for the long haul. We need more and better jobs. Pile onto that the nation's record level of uninsured and a lot of people are hanging by a thread. Dan UA adds his two cents on these sad circumstances (and the need for future leaders to address them). Best quote goes to Ben in the comments:
      There is something very strange happening right now in Philadelphia politics. Everyone is talking about crime. No one is talking about poverty. It's akin to a couple of weather forcasters talking about rain without mentioning the clouds.
    • Gov. Rendell commits Pennylvania to doubling its use of green energy.

    • State Rep. Dwight Evans is on a listening tour, talking with various community groups about how to prevent violence, in theory in preparation for a special session of the Assembly this fall.

    • Philadelphia's City Hall will be getting more security, possibly similar to that at the judicial buildings nearby (and less draconian than initially proposed).

    • Supporters of Rendell may want to check out a "young professionals" event in Old City tonight.

    • The Philadelphia Weekly profiles a Brazilian community that has established itself in Northeast Philadelphia, where it has avoided the conflict with neighbors that tore Riverside, NJ apart.

    • Despite strong opposition by local government, PGW continues to press for liquid natural gas shipping on the Delaware River (and storage in Port Richmond).

    • A local guy is starting a sort of Consumer's Review for green technologies, hoping to provide homeowners and businesses with better data for improving their own bottom lines.

  • Opinion

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Very quick Tuesday

  • A new study reports that 1 in 4 adults in Philadelphia reports having been the victim of sexual abuse as a child. Fewer than half ever told anybody. Um, wow.

  • The landlord of the mercury-contaminated daycare center is getting a stiff fine that will go toward cleaning up the site. He was supposed to have done it already, but apparently needed a stronger incentive. putz. A criminal investigation continues.

  • Sen. Rick Santorum rages against Iran. Apparently now Ahmadinejad is a larger threat than Saddam ever was (or cold war nukes, or...). How many more rabbits inside that hat, Rick?

  • Apparently the son of State Rep.John Myers was kidnapped over the weekend from his West Philly home, in an incident that involved shootings and the theft of a heap of cash. Geez. Best to all involved!

  • For those of you in or near Columbia County, AAJane offers an interview with David Slavick, candidate from the 109th State House District.

  • Finally, a poster at YPP is frustrated with the nondemocratic system by which replacement members of Philadelphia City Council will be chosen for the special election this fall -- both the secret conclave of Ward Leaders and the somewhat unreassuring likely nominees.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quick Monday round-up

A bit of a slow regional news day, to judge by the random smatter of articles...
  • New Jersey's Senate race is centering on the immigration issue, and especially as highlighted by recent events in Riverside. A Daily News opinion piece looks at the motivations and repurcussions of attempts by local regions to handle immigration issues in the absence of better federal guidelines.

  • Also across the river, NJ farmers are switching from beef to more exotic stock, like ostriches and llamas, for everything from alternative meats to petting zoos.

  • Mayor Street is taking his executive team on power-walks through Fairmont and other areas, at 6am on Sundays. Sounds like a deal-breaker to me, heh.

  • The Daily News has a profile of Eileen DiFranco, the female priest ordained in the Philadelphia region a few weeks ago.

  • DN columnist Earnie Smith reports on another zoning/development debacle, this time one where the developer made peace with the neighbors but then hit opposition from the neighborhood civic association. Of course it's important that abutting neighbors not be "bought off" at the expense of the larger neighborhood. But this points up the general problems developers have with Philadelphia's piecemeal approval process.

  • An Inquirer editorial looks at FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina, and what it has and hasn't made better about its preparations for handling disaster.

  • State Rep. (and mayoral hopeful) Dwight Evans writes the DN about recent proposals on gun regulations and violence.

  • AAJane notes that State Rep. candidate Brian Lentz just won a popularity contest that will bring his race some additional support from the state party.

  • Albert wanders by the local Democratic headquarters and notices a couple of significant ommissions from the promo banners in their windows. ahem!

  • The blogger at Phillyville offers some guidelines for mayoral hopefuls on what the city really needs in a leader. Food for thought, anyway.

  • Pennsyltucky Politics notices a novel play for publicity by Jim Gerlach. (the linked article is at the top of the frame when loaded...)
    (via PoliticsPhilly)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Weekend fun

Anybody looking for some computer-based frolic on this last real weekend of summer (!) might enjoy the random link-fest here. Or not . . .

Friday news round-up

  • Politicians

    • Ed Rendell announces that this campaign will be his last. Not sure exactly what he means, as he is ineligable for another term as Governor, and says he's open to a tap for Vice President. I guess no threats to current legislators, no jumping into the Presidential flurry; he'd still be open to a plum appointment someday.

    • Apparently Bill Clinton plans a trip to Philadelphia in October (to receive a medal) and will appear at a big-ticket fundraiser for Chaka Fattah -- I'm *sure* it's all for his Congressional re-election campaign. [In completely unrelated news, there's now a flash-tastic website for the Fattah for Mayor Exploratory Committee. Thanks, Tulin.] The Daily News version of the story says that Clinton will also appear at an event for Bob Casey, but doesn't say more. Also no word on whether the Big Dog will do anything to help the hot races in the Philadelphia suburbs.

    • Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli defiant in the face of recent set-backs. More legal wrangling ahead, as well as the slower and less dramatic process of validating a quabillion signatures. Meantime, I suspect I am not alone in knowing very little about the man.

    • I am totally mystified by the motivations of Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr., in suggesting that candidates who donate substantial amounts to their own campaigns should have contribution limits raised, allowing larger donations from others. Is it actually good that the "rich get richer" in public life? What am I missing?

    • Columnist Elmer Smith reports on another Goode measure, which aims to prevent parollee recidivism by giving employers increased incentives for hiring ex-cons (building on his own prior bill). This one makes quite a bit more sense to me.

    • Gar Josephs reports an amusing tidbit: tax-crusader Brett Mandel won a bike ride with Mayor John Street in a charity auction, but seems, um, unable to schedule a date with the mayor (who is either very busy or afraid of what 50 miles of questions might feel like). [Several other short snark bites at this link too, including who's flying planes with slogans down at the shore.]

  • Other bits

    • The Inquirer looks at the ubiquity of mercury in the environment and its increase due to human activity, as well as its health effects and some of the recent attempts to regulate it.

    • Continuing the theme of confidence-diminishing stories about the new casino industry in Pennsylvania, it appears that one of the machine suppliers has a criminal record. It may have been a while ago, but I'm not sure that will reassure many residents about the judgement being exercised by the Gambling Board.

    • And in related news, an anti-casino activist reports on a Harrisburg meeting of the Gaming Control Board, at which all involved seemed to discount the concerns of Philadelphians about the proposed slot parlors. Also, he notes the worrying support of local representatives for removing casinos from Zoning Board regulation, as though state oversight would automatically be more responsive and less corrupt than local oversight (with -- gasp! -- input from neighbors).

    • An Inquirer editorial applauds the decision to retain Paul Vallas, giving his widespread reform efforts a chance to get better established before the disruption of a change at the top. (Some sports metaphor battles ensue.)

    • Finally, Tulin, back from a summer hiatus, offers a schedule of political events and fundraisers over the next six weeks or so. Tis the season of a good local fish-fry...


Philadelphia City Council President Anna Verna officially announced yesterday that this fall's elections will include the selection of new City Councilfolk to fill the three currently empty seats (left by Cohen's death, Mariano's imprisonment, and Nutter's resignation). Of course, voters won't have a lot of choice in electing their new representatives, as special elections replace any sort of primary with a process involving only the city's Ward Leaders. Many names are mentioned as contenders for the annointment (with the most likely being some of the Ward Leaders themselves). Winners will have to run again in the May primary next year...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Other Thursday news

  • The Inquirer reports the reopening of a Fairmont Park playground featuring novel design -- the piece also talks about planned renovations to the neighboring playhouse -- of the kid's play kind, not the theatrical kind. Now *I* wanna go!

  • A proposed Philadelphia-Reading rail line will not receive federal funding, causing pessimism about the larger Schuylkill Valley Metro project (see here).

  • Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky draws attention to the large number of grandparents raising their grandchildren in the Philadelphia area, in particular, and to the financial, legal, and logistical obstacles that can make their jobs even harder.

  • Philadelphia's city budget apparently posted a substantial surplus this year, with a good chunk of the revenues coming from the hot real estate market (which generates hefty transfer taxes with every sale). Best cranky quote goes to Brett Mandel:
    Had City Council known last spring that so much extra money would be available now, I don't know that it would have made good decisions about spending, but they certainly would have been different.
    Some discussions are underway about setting up a city "rainy day fund" to keep such surplus for unexpected future outlays, and to put it under Council control (rather than the Mayor's back pocket).

  • The Daily News opinion page brings our attention to a below-radar debate in the US Senate over a bill that would slash federal funding for a number of local housing-related programs, suggesting that Pennsylvanians should let their Senators know their thoughts.

  • The new CityPaper raises the spectre of hundreds of death-defying deliverymen descending on Fairmont Park when a courier bike "race" comes to Philadelphia next weekend; it involves a number of job-related events. Sounds fun (to watch.

  • Folks interested in keeping mercury emission regulations strong should see this link about upcoming hearings and the chance to put in your two cents.

  • State Rep. Mark Cohen writes the Daily News to rebut John Baer's (frankly weird) suggestion that slashing welfare would help lower violence rates (see prev. here).

  • I just gotta point to these three reader letters to the DN, all of which seem to express an intense dislike of fellow Philadelphians -- from those who aren't as nice as small-town folk, to the onetime sex-slaves who should get out of town. Boy, it sure makes you proud, don't it?

  • cameraAnd finally, two neat features from one of my favorite Philadelphia photographers: PhillySkyline offers an updated view of the Comcast Center's construction, in both film and diagram (and I gotta say it's the first time I've really understood how that skinny cement core was going to become a substantial building), and photo junkies may now download photo wallpaper featuring Philadelphia sights and patterns. Oh, and check out the site's cool new flash header, in which each building of the famous skyline is a link to photos and more about that location. Great stuff!

Thursday politicians

  • Green Party candidates in Pennsylvania's statewide races had hoped to challenge the rule that set their number of necessary ballot petitions so eye-wateringly high. However, an Circuit Court appeals judge upheld the law, although calling on lawmakers to have mercy on third parties and lower the bar. Meantime, the candidates for the top two offices have withdrawn (having insufficient funds for a legal battle), leaving only Senate candidate Carl Romanelli to defend his signature heap.

    Update: Apparently 60% of the petitions examined so far have been ruled invalid. Not a promising start for Team Green.

  • Bob Casey rolls out his first statewide ad buy, and Rick Santorum adds some attack ads to his normal-guy appearances (which have been running for two months already). More here on Casey's introducing himself to voters, and griping from John Baer (and rantier version from Albert) that he didn't get going sooner. Pennsyltucky Politics gives some more analysis of what recent polling numbers really mean. [Update: even more analytical depth here.]

    My half-penny? The folks paying close attention over the summer are folks who (deep down, at least) already know whom they're voting for. Those who honestly don't, still aren't paying attention, and probably won't be for another few weeks. But still, Camp Casey has got to get going if they want any chance to define their own candidate!

  • Ben Waxman offers his next installment of a debate with Michael Nutter about the best way to foster job growth and to reform business taxes in Philadelphia, sparking more interesting discussion from a range of commenters.

  • The City Paper reports on last weekend's GOP event of the year, where regional Big Dogs of the Republican party hob-knobbed with lesser pols and wannabees. Lots of reports of internal spats and secret alliances, and even speculations about future City Council and mayoral prospects...

  • Last, not really a politician, but a Person of Importance locally, schools czar Paul Vallas will be getting his contract extension, by a 3-2 vote of the Commission. Many parents will breathe a sigh of relief, while planning starts for the heavy work still to be done.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wednesday deluge II: Other stories

  • Apparently the Black Panthers (see, e.g., this) have reconstituted themselves in North Philly! Not entirely clear whether they intend to help fight violence or to incite police resistance.

  • The main Philadelphia teacher's union is suing the School District (and Vallas) over last-minute changes to their pay structure. Not enough detail here to really understand, but it sounds like an extra one-week pay period was added this year in a leap-year-type accounting move, which may or may not be changing anybody's total salary (but could make things tighter on a month-to-month scale).

  • A commission put together by Gov. Rendell to look at the state of Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure finds SEPTA in dire straights, needing almost $1 billion more than it has just to keep things in running shape. They're not alone -- lots of bridges and highways need overhauling, and efficiency increases in organizational management can't make up the slack anymore.

  • New Jersey school system woes: a large number of schools are facing No Child Left Behind penalties for not having higher property values showing insufficient progress over a number of years. In related news, NJ's education experts are looking to Maryland's example in trying to come up with better ways to distribute school funding.

  • The new Philadelphia Weekly offers a cluster of stories about climate change and green options in the region.

    • The cover story (by Gwen Shaffer, yay) looks at Philadelphia city preparations for climate change, including the formation of an "interagency sustainability working group" to work on reducing emissions and other long-term planning. There seems to be a lack of leadership from the top on these issues.
    • A second piece looks at increased use of roof-top gardens in the city, both to add plant life (improving air quality and decreasing sewer run-off, among other things) and to better insulate the buildings themselves.
    • Another piece looks at the buy-local movement and other efforts to make more regionally grown produce available.
    • Philadelphia students are now learning about environmentalism along with their other subjects.
    • One green transportation option, biking, is a bit dangerous in Philadelphia. More bike lanes and more riders help make drivers more aware, but there's a long way to go to establishing a usable network of routes here.

  • The Iraq war documentary made by soldiers had a preview showing here yesterday. The Weekly gives it a high rating here, and Albert agrees and also shares some excerpts from a question & answer session with one of the soldier filmmakers, held after the local screening.

  • Finally, an Inquirer editorial speaks out against witness intimidation and the "no snitching" ethic. They hope that better witness protection programs could help increase cooperation in prosecuting violent offenders.

Wednesday deluge I: Politicians

Suddenly a downpour of interesting links, so will post in two parts...
  • Mark Warner, former Virginia Governor and presumed 2008 Presidential aspirant, was in town yesterday to stump for local Democratic candidates Patrick Murphy, Lois Murphy, and Joe Sestak. Several sorts of coverage:

    1. General story (at the Daily News).
    2. Context of Presidential contenders keeping themselves in circulation (at the Inquirer), especially in electoral-vote-heavy Pennsylvania.
    3. Booman describes the Patrick Murphy event, to which a smattering of bloggers were invited.

  • Over on the US Senate side, Rick Santorum and Bob Casey have officially agreed to four debates, strangely including two in one day.

    Meanwhile, the Daily News opinion page calls on Casey to get moving, and on Ed Rendell to start helping him; in fact, Casey will start running his first statewide ad tomorrow; and the Pennsylvania Progressive looks at both candidates' efforts to define one another at this stage in the race. Finally, a poster at YPP points us to a short guide to differences between Casey and Santorum on a number of issues. (The Casey campaign has a pretty good version of the same thing, but apparently prefers not to make it public. hello???)

  • Speaking of debates, Patrick Murphy and Mike Fitzpatrick will have another one in Bucks County on October 12 -- presumably it will get radio or TV coverage; will let you know if/when I hear.

  • For those on the eastern side of the state who might have missed it, Pittsburgh's mayor Bob O'Connor was diagnosed brain cancer about a month ago and is undergoing advanced radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The city has held prayer vigils and other events to wish him well; I'm sure residents statewide are hoping for the best.

  • Last, calls for a smaller state legislature might not achieve what proponents hope: the Commonwealth Foundation reports that
    As "a stand-alone reform, reducing the size of the legislature would have a minimal effect on improving the efficiency and the effectiveness of the General Assembly and therefore must be complemented with other critical reforms."
    Better would be lobbyist disclosure regulations, independent redistricting, and other (cough, obvious) improvements in how things run. In a related vein, Marc Stier explores the rationale for public financing of political campaigns, pointing out that we're already paying for politicians' deals when their kick-backs to donors raise the cost of doing government business . . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tuesday news

  • The Inquirer takes a look at what the mayoral hopefuls have been doing with their summers, working the donors and neighborhood gatherings before the fall election season gets into full swing. Brady is included here, giving us a full Seven Dwarves to follow into the cold season...

  • Also, the papers report that Santorum and Casey have added a second debate (Oct 16) in Philly to the TV debate on Meet the Press (Sept 3) previously announced. A longer story notes that there are other joint appearances scheduled and under discussion, and reflects Casey's consequent impatience with Santorum camp accusations that he's avoiding them. Geez, can you imagine 10 debates? How many people could keep up their interest by the third Presidential debate?!

  • Speaking of debates, AAJane gives her takes on the Fitzpatrick-Murphy debate after reading a transcript of the event. Sounds interesting but a bit poisoned by frequent reiteration of campaign sound-bites.

  • The Daily News has been plumbing the list of casino ownership stakes just released, and they found a few additions to the ranks of glitterati there.

  • Apparently local billboard activists aren't so happy with the federal suit settlement announced recently, saying it gives away too much, including the legitimization of some signs already ruled illegal.

  • DN columnist Elmer Smith despairs that PA could join other gun-happy states in implementing a shoot-first law, despite opposition by legal authorities.

  • An Inquirer editorial objects not just to the (still-) proposed Independence Hall security fence, but to the entire heavy-handed security set-up around our local gems of democracy.

  • AAJane alerts us to a new blog over at the Harrisburg Patriot-News, with the amusing name of Pennsyltucky Politics. A good addition to the roster of blogs keeping track of coverage of statewide races and issues.

  • For those wanting to hear/read Joe Sestak's weekend speech (a Democratic response to Bush's radio address), the links are available here.
    (via Above Average Jane)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Quiet news Monday

Lots of imaginary conversations and other silliness in the papers today, indicating a bit of a slow news day. There were some interesting things in yesterday's Inquirer, but if I don't have it here before me, I can't recall...
  • Ed Rendell isn't really pushing himself this time around, with a big lead by all measures. yawn. Related drivel here.

  • A Saturday report gave highlights of the radio debate between Fitzpatrick and Murphy, 8th District Congressional rivals. Fitzpatrick argued that
    Israel should have the right to a preemptive strike against Iran if it believes such action "to be in their self-interest."
    Who are we talking about, again? Murphy criticized this stance.

  • Some small bits at the Inquirer include a near-admission by Saidel that he's running for mayor and a possible gaffe by Evans in responding to a pay dispute between firemen and the city.

  • The Pennsylvania Progressive shares some photos and impressions from a Casey campaign stop in Berks County. Sounds like the Bobster could use some better publicity coordination with locals. Sound familiar to anybody?

  • Young Philly Politics alerts us to a brainstorming session on crime/violence being held by Chaka Fattah on Thursday evening. He seems to be trying to get smart people together to debate the possibilities (to judge by his previous forum on housing), so if you've got solutions, come and have your say.

  • And via AAJane and YPP, an article from a couple weeks back describing a wealthy conservative donor who'd like to help oust a number of incumbents in Pennsylvania's legislative races (a few from each party, but he'd like to see Perzel out as Speaker in Harrisburg). He seems to have a reform agenda, in this, at least.

  • Today's Daily News cover story expresses dismay at the tasteless shirts that glorify gangster culture in a period of such serious and deadly local violence.

  • Speaking of tasteless, the racist symbolism that greeted protesters in Riverside, PA (see prev. here) belies the rational arguments made in support of their new immigrant legislation.

    1. It appears that Riverside is in NJ, not PA -- I'm not sure whether I've been conflating two stories for a while now, or if I just got the wrong locale into my head. bleah.
    2. The comments left on this Inquirer article about the rally/counter-demonstration are pretty appalling. A year of active stirring of American xenophobia is really paying off -- "I don't want them living in my building," complaints about smell and crime and... Wow.

  • I never know about Happenings around Philadelphia -- am always perplexed to encounter parades or preparations for some festival along the Parkway. How do all the rest of the crowds know to show up? sigh. Anyway, the latest Great Event that I totally slept through was Unity Day. Sounds like a great sucess.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday news round-up

  • Ongoing stories

    • Apparently I'm not the only one who was surprised to hear that Diana Neff (Philadelphia's information tzar) was leaving city employ for a contractor who she did business with. Mayor Street defends her move, but asks the Board of Ethics to give it a look, in service of reassuring the public. I look forward to their report. The Daily News editorial page suggests a sniff-test for such situations in the future.

    • Immigration in the spotlight again, as a large rally is planned to protest Riverside, PA's dramatic new restrictions. The number of protesters expected may be matched only by the number of town residents who have moved out in frustration.

    • Lawsuits claiming that Philadelphia's jails are overcrowded appears to be prompting some action, although not really of the kind hoped by the plaintiffs: District Attorney Lynne "Tough Cookie" Abraham vows to fight any releases. Surely a few nonviolent offenders or low flight-risks awaiting trial wouldn't create such a crisis that it's worth housing everybody in subhuman conditions? Oh, nevermind. Dan at YPP sighs and looks ahead to the next chance to vote for Seth Williams to replace Abraham. Meanwhile, Mayor Street is making quiet inquiries about ways to expand the system and reduce crowding.

    • Ongoing woes at the Post Office over the opening of its new automated facility: not only are customers seeing their mail disappear (see prev. here), but now the workers unions are rallying in protest of automation-related job cuts.

    • In mayoral futures, Jonathan Saidel emerges after several quiet months of speculation about his plans. He's been working community gatherings outside the spotlight, and claims to be unworried by the prospect of Brady's entering the fray. He also appears to have experience-derived strategic thoughts about when and how to seek publicity in a race like this. Interesting.

    • On the casino front, the Inquirer editorial page seems a bit relieved by the recent decision of the Gaming Board to make ownership stake information public. This industry needs all the daylight it can get.

    • More on the Senate ballot petitions controversy: a letter defends the Democratic challenge and berates the Greens for questioning the process and blaming their opponents.

    • DN columnist Elmer Smith tells a story in which eminent domain was exercised in a thoughtful and productive way that benefitted the town without ruining the lives of the homeowners affected. Perhaps other projects can learn from the patience and planning here.

  • New stuff

    • Joe Sestak, running against Rep. Curt Weldon in the 7th, will be getting some high-profile exposure this weekend, as he delivers the Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address. Tune in if you'd like to get a sense of him.

    • Speaking of which, Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Murphy had a debate on the radio today. Sadly, I missed it. If anybody finds an audio recording of the event online, I'll add it here.

    • And in state House races, Brian Lentz shows faith in the power of direct democracy, logging his 10,000th door-knock.

    • An Inquirer story casts the evil eye on the steep salaries paid to top state executive officials. Great performance, or just cushy jobs? The perennial unanswerable.

    • Apparently there were Philadelphia regional brothels fueled by the sex slavery trade (who knew?), and a large number were freed in a recent bust. Make what you will of this being the cover story in today's DN.

    • PhillyFuture alerts us to the opportunity to get free training on nonprofit fundraising.

    • Inga Saffron's Skyline Online is a year old. Congrats to her, and thanks for all the interesting information on development plans around the city and ruminations on architectural design and related issues. She also muses in this piece on the differences between blogging and traditional print journalism (from the writer's perspective).

    • Finally, Albert extolls the virtues of community organizing and its prospects for building a neighborhood feel and for making a difference. Yay!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thursday news

  • Politicians

    • While many politicos are distancing themselves from the low approvals of President Bush, Lynn Swann brought him in for a fundraising sweep through Pennsylvania. Lots of big-ticket events on the agenda...

    • John Baer reports on Rick Santorum using fear of terrorism in his run for reelection to the Senate.

    • In other Santorum news, apparently he's now being trailed by a giant gorilla, perhaps in response to the costumed duck that's been shadowing Casey on his rounds. Hard not to disagree with Albert's disgust that an important election is being reduced to playground antics.

    • The new CityPaper features a letter/column by mayoral candidate Michael Nutter defending his ideas on taxes (and his choice of priorities).

    • AAJane notes some recent developments in Chris Carney's run for the US House in the 10th District. In addition, she notes that this race has moved up in national rankings to be one of Pennsylvania's four hot House races in the Top 25 nationwide (according to the National Journal), joining Districts 6 (Murphy-Gerlach), 7 (Sestak-Weldon), and 8 (Murphy-Fitzpatrick).

  • Other news

    • More rumblings on the getting-Vallas-an-extension front: the commission votes next Wed, and Vallas is on record as glad to accept. The Daily News headlines this as a step closer to a done deal, but some commissioners are mighty quiet so far.

    • PA State gambling overseers will be making casino ownership details public on the web while proposals are under review.

    • DN columnist Stu Bykofsky reports on an odd tale involving a School District auditor and a typically Philadelphia intersection of power, business deals, and public funds.

    • The City Paper's "city beat" looks at neighbors worried about potential casinos, not just from a traffic or eyesore point of view, but because of the shady characters who may end up overseeing them.

    • Alex at YPP alerts us to a screening of The War Tapes, an Iraq documentary made by the soldiers themselves.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wednesday onslaught

  • Politicians

    • New polling data shows the Senate race tightening. Interesting to me was that most of the Green Senate voters appear to fall into the "undecided" pool when asked their vote in a two-way race (although it's hard to imagine them breaking for Santorum). Casey has yet to run state-wide TV ads, which could change the margins, and the first Senate debate is still three weeks off. Over on the gubernatorial side, it continues to look like a Rendell romp.

    • An Inquirer article looks at the GOP strategy of running black candidates in swing states to try to woo black voters for the longer haul. The Swann campaign is examined in that light.

    • Michael Nutter made a statement in opposition to laxer rules on use of prison inmates for testing of new drugs. History would certainly indicate that great caution must be used in considering such a move!

    • Albert provides a report of the first NN mayoral forum, in which Saidel and Nutter addressed a packed house. He was a bit frustrated that nobody really had a compelling message.

  • Other

    • A group of voting activists have brought a lawsuit to block use of electronic voting machines in Pennsylvania unless they generate an auditable paper trail. Their arguments are based on evidence of past malfunction as well as studies showing how easily the electronic results can be manipulated.

    • New Jersey state investigators have concluded that administrators did artificially inflate test scores in the Camden school system last year -- or at least that "adult interference" happened to manipulate outcomes. Not pretty.

    • Philadelphia's technology czar, Diana Neff, is leaving the city for a top job at a company that she helped hook up with city business. Haven't I heard this tune before? Weren't the rules tightened?

    • The Daily News profiles a private citizen whose determination may have made the National Parks Service back down on their planned fence for Independence Hall.

    • A Philadelphia Weekly piece looks at one of the casino legislation amendments under discussion, which would inform gamblers of their losses on a regular basis, to help them stop before getting in trouble.

    • A second PW story looks at recent rulings that have limited the group of people with standing to contest a Zoning Board decision. This would mean that only immediate neighbors and others suffering direct harm could bring a complaint, blocking groups like civic associations and issue alliances from bringing challenges on behalf of a larger group of taxpayers or more distant neighbors. The law at issue was actually written by the billboard industry...

    • A DN editorial calls on the Schools Commission to approve Vallas' contract extension, pointing out that we're lucky to have had one person and one vision this long.

    • Another DN opinion piece gives a personal reflection on how we need to go about stopping violence in our communities.

    • Inga Saffron has been taking a look at what is and isn't getting built around town, as a guage of how long the housing gush can continue.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Belated Tuesday round-up

Stayed home useless today. Only a skimming look; will dig around more tomorrow when I'm, um, functional.
  • Apparently Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has seen the light on Iraq. I'm sure the strong challenge from Patrick Murphy and the election 3 months off have nothing to do with his sudden discovery that he's capable of disagreeing with the President.

  • Two-thirds of the Green Party ticket has decided to withdraw rather than take on a legal challenge to their ballot petitions. That leaves the Democratic challenge focused on Senate candidate Romanelli.

  • AAJane give a report of another political rally that she attended, this one focused on veterans and featuring Patrick Murphy, Ed Rendell, and others.

  • The Daily News reports on Census data about Philadelphia, showing that the city is shrinking but becoming more ethnically diverse (although we still have many fewer immigrants than other large cities).

  • Treasurer (and Senate Candidate) Bob Casey finds himself in the midst of a proxy fight at Heinz, in which the state treasury holds shares.

  • This may be short notice for many, but Neighborhood Networks is sponsoring the first of several mayoral forums tonight at the Irish Pub -- a chance to see them in person and maybe ask some questions. They hope to have the other four top mayoral suspects in similar events this summer, to help members form some opinions for next spring, so that by fall we can be focusing on this year's elections again.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Monday news round-up

Short day, many tabs, will do what I can here...
  • Sunday's paper featured a new increment in the saga of the federal investigation of State Senator Vincent Fumo, noting his use of substantial state funds to pay his lawyers. Add this to recent revelations that majority leader Perzel is spending a fortune for an image consultant, and the residue of anger over last year's pay-hike, and I'd have to guess Fumo is lucky he's not on the ballot this year. Anyway, amazing what counts as Appropriations budget these days...

  • A related Fumo story noted that his lawyers had picked out the lawyers for the various aides who might be called to testify against him (or about their own activities). I'm sure *nothing* was intended by having the Senate pick up their legal bills, either.

  • Word comes that the state legislature may allow debate on the one-gun-per-month bill that's been collecting dust for some time. Discussion would involve the whole House and take place in September.

  • Meanwhile, columnist John Baer wonders where Street has been as Philadelphia's violence rates have become the hot issue of the day, and while Brady and others have taken the lead. Speaking of which, Rep. Dwight Evans touts his record on violence. Q: Is Street dropping the ball, or staying out of the way of mayoral candidates and others who want to build credibility on this issue?

  • Along similar lines, Dan at YPP asks what compromises of civil liberties we would be willing to tolerate in service of successful campaign against city violence (as in a short-term measure until longer structural fixes could be found). An interesting question, bound to come up more and more often.

  • The Teamsters vote to endorse Ed Rendell for reelection as Governor. Longer story here.

  • Marc Stier looks at what it means to endorse a candidate and the factors that an organization has to consider before making their pick in any race.

  • AAJane notes an odd occurrence during an everyday candidate conference call with the press, featuring Patrick Murphy and John Kerry, when a member of his opponent's staff (not campaign staff, but Mike Fitzpatrick's congressional Chief of Staff) crashed the call and tried to disrupt it (by diverting discussion from national security to some petty logistical claims). eRobin gives a lengthy description of the encounter, along with her own view of expected behavior and the awkwardness (and desperation) around this strange move. More amazement here. Note that this incident merited a brief news mention below.

  • Jane also notes some mentions of Pennsylvania political circumstances in the Wall Street Journal.

  • An Inky editorial welcomes the suggestion of a longer school year for troubled schools.

  • A Daily News opinion piece says the recent agreement on billboards should be only the start of a more responsive regulatory collaboration.

  • A DN letter calls for a more humane way of dealing with the nation's drug problem.

  • On the positive side of politics, AAJane notes that Montogomery County officials have capped their own pay increases at the exact rate given to county employees. An excellent example.

  • Six short (1-2 paragraph) bits at two links in the Inquirer are of interest: the first includes thoughts on stopping violence, the Knox campaign, and the city's improved car fleet arrangements the second touches on a division within the AFL-CIO over the Weldon-Sestak congressional race, an odd move by a Fitzpatrick aid (also mentioned above), and fraternizing of staff from opposing candidates.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Quick Friday round-up

  • A citizen coalition has announced that it will officially oppose the Trump casino proposal, based on their inability to get a guarantee of community benefits from the investment group, and due to fears that side deals would end up sending another business out of their area.

  • Rendell's right to a line-item veto was upheld in court.

  • Apparently Bob Brady is suggesting a summit of mayoral candidates to agree on rules or somesuch. I agree with Gar Josephs that he may not get too far with this idea. Also noted here is that there will be a special election this fall to fill the Council seats of Mariano, Cohen, and Nutter. I had heard this too, but was waiting for Council President Verna to announce it; perhaps she's waiting for the full line-up of candidates to be agreed upon before telling the voters. [ahem.]

  • Schools Commission intrigued by Vallas' suggestion of a summer session for low-performing schools; they need a lot more data before signing on. Similarly, a second commissioner backs extending Vallas' contract; the opinions of the others are still unknown.

  • A group of clergy takes on the mission of creating a safe zone around schools by breaking up fights and staving off adults with unpleasant intentions. Seems like a good start.

  • The Green Party talks back to criticism of its alliance with the GOP, making a good point about the barriers to third party participation in our system.

  • A "small-guy" lobbyist talks about the difficulty in getting legislation to the floor in the legislature, whether it's widely supported or not, and advocates changes that might keep the leadership from providing such a tight bottleneck.

  • AAJane brings our attention to forecasts of which PA legislative seats might change hands (and particularly change parties).

  • Pennsylvania may take the forefront in making sure that all children get medical coverage. I would welcome such a development, but am unclear why this story is running today, as so far there's just an agreement to pass some legislation, with no version agreed or law in place -- maybe I missed an incremental step. YPP looks at this news here.

  • Albert gives a report from a community meeting on violence held near the Center City site of the run down & gun down slaying last week. Discussion ranged from neighborhood watch programs, to the responsibility of local churches, to police-community relations, to relations between neighborhood residents. An interesting mix, if no quick fix. [Oh, and congrats to Albert (and Lady) for making it into the Top 5 Philly Food-blogs!]

When jargon meets real life

Remember that mercury-contaminated daycare site? Turns out that the reason it was issued a permit is because the EPA declared that it "does not present an immediate threat" -- by that, they meant that it wasn't contaminating other sites, wasn't dangerous to walk past, and generally didn't require immediate intervention (i.e., federal clean-up). But you can't really blame a regular bureaucrat for thinking it meant "isn't dangerous anymore." eesh.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday miscellania

  • Education news

    • There was a terrible story in this last week about a federal inspector who found that a private daycare center had been operating for several years on the site of a former thermometor factory that was heavily contaminated with mercury. I didn't blog it because I didn't know what to say (other than OUCH!). Today we learn that there's plenty of blame to go around: the landlord gave assurances (saying that the previous users "did medical stuff"), despite having acquired the property for $1; township officials and other regulators gave permits, despite decades of records; and even the DEP found out about the center and delayed informing them for several months while trying to get answers from the landlord. Expect lasting recriminations, of no use to the children who've been exposed... More head-shaking here.

    • The Philadelphia schools are considering lengthening the school year by a month for its most troubled elementary schools, in an attempt to get more students reading at grade level. Additional intensive programs would also be added earlier in the year. These bold ideas still require approval, as well as working out of the host of logistical issues they raise. More on the story here.

    • Looks like the Schools Commission has relented, and is likely to approve a two-year contract extension for Paul Vallas. I think that's good for the city, and many will be glad to see him here through 2009.

  • Violence thoughts

  • Other

    • A reversal for eminent domain in Brewerytown (N. Phila): a community center will remain open, despite the efforts of an upscale developer to have it condemned (and engulfed in the sea of new townhouses he's building). An interesting story, embodying two visions of what constitutes neighborhood "improvement" -- community gathering, or the building of upscale residences. I wonder whether one rec center can stem the tide of transition, though.

    • Lynn Swann has written a book to explain his vision for Pennsylvania. That seems like a mighty tough sell.

    • The CityPaper reports some more rumblings from the Philadelphia GOP, including formation of a new group to revitalize the minority party, and rumors that Rizzo, Jr., may be considering a mayoral run.

    • Regional activists will be glad to hear that 8-sheet billboards in the city will be coming down. In exchange, the city will charge less for regular full-size billboards elsewhere. More on the story here.

    • Friedman notes that Philadelphia's tourist bureau has been doing an award-winning job.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Other Wednesday bits

  • Above Average Jane notes that Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick appears to be shifting his positions to distance himself from Bush, but she's not convinced. Lots of data on his past votes and statements.

  • Friedman notes a recent Rendell announcement of substantial new funds for green space as part of the Growing Greener II program.

  • An Inquirer editorial congratulates the Barnes for their choice of new leader, and wishes him luck.

  • Two letters of interest: one suggests less obtrusive security solutions for Independence Mall, and the other suggests that periodic re-registration of guns would make it difficult for straw buyers to resell and claim to have lost the weapon in question.

  • A Philadelphia Weekly story looks at an impressive new grocery store that exemplifies the ethnic diversification of West Philadelphia as well as the impact that urban grocery stores can have on their neighborhoods.

  • Another PW piece looks at current labor negotiations between the Newspaper Guild and the new owners of the Inquirer and Daily News -- the unions seem as unhappy as in past discussions.

  • A happy ending to a needless conflict: the owner of a Philadelphia elementary school has agreed to sell the property to a popular city charter school, which needs the additional space, rather than convert the property into condominiums, as they had proposed. Ruffled feathers in many quarters settling back into place...

  • Finally, Marc Stier starts another series, this time looking at how progressives should address crime problems. He makes the good point there that long-term solutions aimed at root causes must be joined by some shorter-term interventions to stop current violence. Specific suggestions will be in the next installment.

Top Wednesday stories

(Blogger plans to go down at 4, so I'll do what I can before and after...)
  • Perhaps noting that his claps on the back for Santorum had ruffled some feathers, Rendell included Casey in an event yesterday, making sure to reiterate his approval of the Democratic challenger and noting his environmental creds (the theme of the gathering).
    "Make no mistake, my endorsement of Bob Casey is not just because I think Rick Santorum has failed in many areas, but it is because I think Bob Casey is an exceptional young man and he will do exactly what he says," Rendell said.
    Make no mistake, Ed, abetting the opposition is not being well received this year...

  • Last night saw one of the city's big political events, a charity comedy line-up featuring many of the top players from the region and the state. Will Bunch gives a few highlights for the Daily News (which sponsors the event, with columnist Stu Bykofsky as host). I happened to be there, and it was quite a scene (or be-seen), with Big Dogs like Fattah and Santorum mixing with Little Mutts like Raj Bhakta (primarily of reality TV fame, but running against Allyson Schwartz) and Michael Gessner (who's biggest laugh line came when he explained "the Republicans were looking for somebody to run against Chaka Fattah...") and various minions and kissers-up. The confident and the terrified offered up everything from guy-walks-into-a-bar jokes to real political zingers (Santorum and Tom Ferrick got the lion's share of abuse) and occasional self-deprecating humor. An interesting way to get a very superficial impression of a lot of players at once (and all for a good cause).

  • As expected, the Democratic Party is challenging signatures collected by the Greens, for all three top statewide offices.

  • With Rick Mariano a few days into his 6-year sentence, the man who bribed him just got sentenced to 2.5 years.

  • The upset victory of Ned Lamont over Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary has many speculating about what trends it might auger. Ray Murphy asks what it might mean for the Philadelphia region, and Ben asks for confirmation of a rumor that Fattah sent people to work for Lieberman's campaign.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tuesday news

  • Politicians

    • Today's Connecticut primary is getting a lot of attention nationwide (go, Ned!), and an Inquirer story looks at the involvements of Pennsylvania Democrats who would like to avoid making a choice of whom to support in a possible 3-way general election. (I'd say, "how about the people's choice?" but party loyalty seems a bit of a chancy thing these days, when Insiders Are Threatened... Unsurprisingly, Gov. Rendell is among those contributing to the Senator who has made a mission out of directing all of his attacks toward his own party.)

    • The Inquirer reports yesterday's paranoid Weldon story, in which fears of a protest by "extreme" group MoveOn led to the police being called in on a single teenager (Eagle Scout, heh) taking notes for the Sestak campaign. I guess since he sent rowdies to hassle Sestak, he couldn't imagine somebody taking a more civilized approach...

    • Mariano reported for jail yesterday. More flamboyant (and gloating) description of the same simple fact here.

    • DN columnist Dave Davies looks at the prospects for Brady's joining the mayoral fray, and warns that his reputation as a consensus-builder wouldn't help him in this potentially divisive fight, and supporters who consider him a shoo-in are deluded. Worth a read, for the historical perspective on city factions and tensions.

    • AAJane reports on a political event from this past weekend, at which she got to see Sestak, Lentz, and Rendell in action. Some interesting takes (including the surprising invocation of religious values by Rendell).

    • Hannah at YPP has a lengthy paean to Vern Anastasio, who she thinks is a progressive's dream and a no-brainer choice for City Council (when he presumably renews his challenge to DiCicco).

    • Another YPPer, who likes to think he puts serving the state over partisan considerations, is still baffled by Rendell's hedging on Casey/Santorum. He thinks, as do many, that the differences are pretty stark.

    • Maria Quinones Sanchez is opening a campaign office. I'm sure that better tea-leaf-readers than I will know what that signals about the kaliedoscope of City Council race possibilities...

  • Other

    • The Barnes Foundation has a new head stolen from PAFA, the art school in Philadelphia. His experience with a building move, renovation, and other changes at PAFA were part of his appeal among the finalists. Albert notes that this story is getting even more coverage in New York.

    • Two letter writers express different views of the current clash between City Hall and the Boy Scouts: one argues the city needs the scouts, and the other says it's just about who gets a public subsidy.

    • An Inquirer commentary looks at the issue of female priests in the Catholic church, and argues that fighting against unjust laws is a brave and faithful choice.

    • The Daily News opinion page lets loose a blistering condemnation of the Green party, accusing it of selling out its ideals as a short-cut to ballot access.

    • Mark Alan Hughes is embarassed by the zoning process in Philadelphia, and particularly how its unwritten rules often smack enthusiastic investors and developers coming in from outside.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday news round-up

A little later than usual; blame AAJane, who lured me out to lunch...
  • More discussion of Bob Brady's possible run for mayor, this time in terms of the politicians who might be pushing him into the race, and the possibility that they're doing it in an attempt to keep some influence for themselves. I suspect that their hopes of clearing the field are due for a let-down. Tom Fitzgerald points out that Fumo's backing hasn't put candidates in office recently, with several favored picks falling by the wayside. [Another note at this link mentions that Brady has paid several city Ward leaders as consultants in the last year...]

  • Albert had a violent reaction to yesterday's newspaper story about Ed Rendell, in which the governor says nice things about (or at least refuses to attack, despite the barn-wide target) the Republican opponent of his own hand-picked candidate for Senate. I might have chosen different words, but my reaction was much like Albert's. What on earth?!?
    It plays right into Santorum's strategy: Brand himself as a pot-hole senator who crosses party lines to deliver for the state. In the must-win Philadelphia suburbs, there's no better messenger than Rendell. Already, Santorum is running a radio ad in the Philadelphia region mentioning the governor.
    I know how I'm voting in the Senate race, but I'm beginning to rethink my vote for Governor!

  • John Baer thinks Lynn Swann's latest fundraising letter looks a little desperate. Not pretty.

  • Above Average Jane has an interview with Chris Casey, candidate for the state house in the 134th district.

  • A Daily News piece looks at officials who've been bucking residency requirements, and applauds Seth Williams' efforts as Inspector General in tracking them down.

  • A story in which PGW is the good guy, for a change, helping some tenants get service despite their absurd landlord's behavior. Comes with a short lesson on tenants' rights.

  • Ray Murphy comments on the painful front-page DN story on victims of violence. Meantime, Dan UA notes a story on the emergence of violence in the Poconos, and sees a lesson on the root causes of such problems. Meantime, Ben, in a Friday afternoon post, looks at some lessons to be learned from other cities in using social services to help cut off the problems that lead to criminal activity.

  • The Catholic Church may be preparing to crack down on the rogue ordination of women, but locally Eileen DiFranco just celebrated her first mass in Germantown, to a warm reception.

  • And here's a little snark at the expense of Curt Weldon's latest paranoia: the fearsome Eagle Scout (cum cub reporter)!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday trickle

It's just too hot for news...
  • Republicans in Harrisburg are asking for a delay in granting the first casino licenses, so that they can rewrite the gambling legislation to "close loopholes" and give legislators more oversight powers. Nothing like planning ahead... Dave Rialis has some ranting about this here.

  • State Rep. Dwight Evans is making a circuit of speeches about the need for a sustained effort to combat gun violence. Lots of good discussions being had, although it's unfortunate that much coverage is through the lens of next year's mayoral race.

  • Jill Porter expresses her frustration that a doctor's religious views trump the desires of rape victims to prevent pregnancy; examples are drawn from hospitals in Pennsylvania. Victimized once seems enough.

  • A Daily News opinion piece takes on the dearth of minorities in the building trades, hoping that the current labor shortage will help to change the picture somewhat.

  • Finally, America's Hometown notes that Pittsburgh is in the Top 10 US cities to live in (Philly comes in at 22).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thursday round-up B: Miscellaneous

(Yeah, I know; like that other stuff isn't miscellaneous. Hey, it's my organizational system, ok?)
  • Ray Murphy is soliciting ideas for what Street should focus his energies on in his last 18 months -- to improve the city, that is, not get his next job lined up.

  • AAJane gleans some more Patrick Murphy tidbits from a recent appearance.

  • Albert reports on a book-signing event with the authors of The Case for Impeachment. Man, I love Robin's Books! I was interested to hear that the media is shying away from reviewing this book; maybe some law journal will take it on.

  • An Inquirer editorial looks at responses to the issue of gun violence in the area. They seem happy with a recent gun store crack-down, and unimpressed by the intrusion of political considerations into brainstorming for solutions. I think.

  • An Inquirer comentary calls on Philadelphia's Republican Party to shake off its defeatism and get back in the game.

  • Over at the Skyline, Saffron notes the listing of a Rittenhouse mansion for sale after 20 years in limbo, and raises the specter of a landmark's being replaced by another condo development. But perhaps it will go as two prestige properties...

Thursday news round-up A: Large stories

  • State Senate holds the first of several hearings on gun limit legislation, this one in Philly. The proposed law would limit buyers to one handgun per month, in an attempt to reduce reselling on the streets; however, it's also limited to the Philadelphia area, so unless attempts to modify it on the floor (as suggested by supporters) succeed, it would be unlikely to cut down on gun trafficking (much of which arises from surrounding areas) and resulting crimes.

  • Speaking of city violence, a substantial new poll finds that crime and violence issues are rated as most important by Philadelphians, especially in terms of things they'd like to see local candidates discussing. Among other results, Mayor Street receives low approval ratings, Gov. Rendell gets high ones, and rankings among possible mayoral candidates appear to derive largely from name recognition. Ray Murphy gives more numbers for those who'd like to see how other issues were ranked.

  • Discussion of the Green Party and its odd assortment of backers continues today. Among the Santorum supporters and other conservatives supporting the Greens' Senate try are assorted nuts with clear right-wing credentials, from all around the country. Will Bunch has more.

    Update: It appears that this strange alliance came about through the initiative of the Green Party, not scheming by the GOP.

  • The new CityPaper offers a lengthy sympathetic look at the saga of Rick Mariano, who's due to be sentenced on Monday. It left me unmoved.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wednesday highlights

  • I just don't get this sudden flurry of opposition to the fence behind Independence Hall. Don't get me wrong: I'd love to be able to walk freely under the arches there and through the park. It's just that there has been an ugly row of security barriers there for some 5 years, and it's been pretty clear that they would never go away; making a real fence is actually a stab at making appearances nicer. Where has the principled objection been??

  • With the remarkable way that Republican candidates have parroted approved right-wing talking points over the last few years, it takes some gall for Rep. Weldon to accuse Sestak of plagarism for incorporating some think-tank ideas into his own position papers. Wouldn't want to make use of actual research or expertise...

  • Harrisburg holds hearings on slashing its own numbers. Surely nobody believes this could pass? More theoretical musings here.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly takes another look at the new Inquirer/Daily News management partnership, by way of a less-covered player and some of his recent musings on what might change, from more local business coverage to the possibility of a society section.

  • Also in the PW, news of racial tensions in the Philadelphia fire department, where a class action lawsuit alleges preferential treatment of minorities during the promotions process. Sounds like unpleasant working conditions for all these days.

  • Two smaller bits:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Albert's shot of the signboard outside a Drinking Liberally gathering cracks me up. In desperate times, good company and good beer!

In other Tuesday news

Is he or isn't he?

Despite that we have an actual election 12 weeks off, the press continues fascinated with wisps of prospects for elections that won't happen for another 10 months. This summit on violence has everybody speculating about Brady, Brady, or maybe Street and Brady (more on that last here too). Who loves him, who takes his calls, who might pull out if he announces for mayor, who might be eying his current job . . . The man himself continues cagey, probably trying to be sure he doesn't alienate any of his party members unnecessarily. However, he also gets the best line of any of the pieces: "One thing that will happen is, a lot of people won't become mayor when the mayor's race is over."


Can't come up with a better header for this story. Yesterday I heard that there was a group of female Catholic priests claiming legitimacy via Bishop-derived authority, and that they had taken it upon themselves to ordain some new women, risking major disciplinary reactions from the church hierarchy. But I had no idea that this was taking place in Pennsylvania. I remember my own mother's ordination (in the UCC some 15 years ago) quite vividly -- "Here am I, Lord, Send me!" [*] -- so the description here kind of choked me up.

Anyway, this Davida and Goliath makes Beth Stroud's quest for acceptance (see, e.g., here) look like pea-shooting. I respect people's desire to stay in their home church and push for change, rather than abandoning their religious roots (mainstream political parties can offer the same frustrations), but this is a large fight that's barely begun, and the institution is moving a different way these days . . . Whew.