Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday round-up: surprise morning edition

  • Mayor Street has appointed a 35-person task force, which will review Philadelphia's school system and make recommendations, especially with regard to whether it's time to return to local control (after five years being run by the state). The group has an immense budget and 3.5 months to make their recommendations. Probably great, but I kept thinking, he could find 35 folks for this and not even one for the Board of Ethics??

  • Speaking of which, the Daily News adds to the finger-wagging over Street's foot-dragging on ethics nominations. They note some prior lapsed deadlines...

  • Continuing the theme, the current Ethics Board ruled yesterday on former tech-czar Dianah Neff's slither into a consulting firm that had done a half million dollars of city business on her watch (see previous, e.g., here). The board said that Neff broke no rules, but opined that they should have been consulted about at least an appearance of impropriety before she took the post. Or, ahem, make the rules more functional. More on the story here.

  • Jill Porter rebuts a close-minded reader by pointing out that everybody pays the price of violence, not just those afraid to open their doors. Apparently a lot of people could use an empathy transfusion.

  • Politicians:

    • The Daily News looks at Rendell's political savvy and how it's served him over the last few years.

    • The Weldon-Sestak race is now too close to call, according to a new Keystone poll. I thought this was the sleeper of the three hot suburban races, but looks like Sestak has been making things happen! Notable is that people concerned about Iraq favor Sestak over Weldon nearly 3 to 1.

    • Gar Josephs looks at the recent Council nominations and reveals a little of the back-room deals that got at least one nominee onto the ballot. Also news here that two female Councilfolk, Krajewski and Tartaglione, may both have decided against retiring this year, after improvements in their health. (Also a note that Nutter may use The Shame of a City against his mayoral opponents next year.)

    • In a somewhat amusing sidelight, apparently Mayor Street is too busy to renew his car registration or get it inspected. Shouldn't *somebody* be benefitting from the lesson of Angel Ortiz's embarrassment? Get real, kids!

  • Finally, Tom Ferrick is getting his official pundit badge, starting a weekly series of podcast discussions on local politics. The first one is already up. Welcome to the cyberwaves!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thursday deluge

Really, this time only headlines. Really.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In other Wednesday news

  • Columnist Phil Goldsmith offers Perzel some suggestions about additional programs that should complement his additions to police forces around the state if we really want to decrease violence. (There's also some info here about a previous state mandated program still waiting to be given funds...)

  • With this year's Senate race so tight, I have to admit some relief that Green candidate Carl Romanelli might not appear on the ballot. But at a more basic level I agree with this Inquirer editorial arguing that our democratic system should be more open to viable third-party candidates. Personally, I'd like to see them start more local, like all the "big" candidates do, but that doesn't mean I think the bar should be set so high.

  • Marc Stier puts in his two cents on the need to repeal Act 193 (see previous here) so that civic groups can help shape their neighborhoods. Two sites now exist for this push: Neighborhood Defense (a coalition effort, including a petition) and Fight for Philly (the brainchild of City Councilmen DiCicco and Kenney).

  • The Daily News shares my amusement with the confused response to the smoking ban, but also suggests that Street could have set up a more orderly process with time for getting regulations in order.

  • The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is helping open the region's eyes to the contributions of the diverse arts and cultural institutions here, from economic impact to variety of offerings.

  • AAJane provides a belated report of a Sunday debate between Patrick Murphy and Michael Fitzpatrick. I see that Murphy has a new ad out too, advocating change in Washington.

Rally round-up

handgunYesterday featured a couple-dozen buses headed from Philly to Harrisburg, spearheaded by Mayor Street and the coalition Pennsylvanians Against Trafficking Handguns. Here's a round-up of coverage of the event. (Note that PATH hasn't updated their home page yet.)
  • Ferrick estimates 2000 in attendance, two-dozen speakers, and no legislators listening, as they were debating legislation indoors. Nice touch: a half-dozen other regional mayors showing their support for the cause.

  • An overview of proceedings inside the legislature includes observations that the one-gun-per-month bill was never discussed, and that, in contrast, a measure to widen "shoot first, ask questions later" rights was given a thumbs-up.

  • Gun owners were also out in force to argue their case for an armed citizenry. Many disparaging things said about Philadelphians along the way here, from their parenting skills to their "catch and release" legal system...

  • John Baer looks specifically at the Philadelphia-Harrisburg divide, quoting legislative leaders defiant on the issue of gun regulation. (Similar sentiments in graphical form via Auth here.)

  • Jill Porter thinks we've reached the "tipping point" on this issue, and that legislators will have to take action soon or see retribution at the polls.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday deluge, semi-topical edition

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday news round-up

Tight for time, will do what I can.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Neighborhood Networks' second conference

Hard to believe that Neighborhood Networks was founded just a little over a year ago (see its founding conference described here), with all the projects it's been involved with along the way -- the minimum wage, ethics reform referenda, gun control, even recycling programs. And, of course, the elections, with this fall's campaigns still getting geared up. Interested in what NN is about, meeting your neighbors and other progressive agitators (hah), and maybe joining the fight to improve government accountability in the region? Come to the 2006 Annual Conference a week from tomorrow, September 30, at Temple's law school (in North Philly) -- easy subway access! Talk about issues, learn some skills, become part of the solution!

NN logo

Friday news round-up

  • Legislative races

    • Rendell chips in serious bucks to Casey campaign -- after all, his race isn't that close... (Note too the contrast to treatment of Hoeffel in '04.)

    • Dick Cheney will hold a Santorum fundraiser near Pittsburgh tonight, helping his side in the battle for dollars.

    • The US Senate race isn't the only one that's already featuring negative ads: there's a kerfluffle in the 161st District state rep race between Thomas Gannon and Brian Lentz over some pretty charged allegations made in an ad being run by the state Republicans. Anybody who's been a defense attorney is likely to have occasionally represented somebody guilty of something...

    • Tom Ferrick offers condolences to Curt Weldon for a series of terrible developments in his re-election campaign that arrived all at once. (Commenters point out that he still has a strong lead in the polls.)

  • Philadelphia City Council news

    • Apparently there was a near-fistfight in Council yesterday over an obscure zoning matter. Undercurrents of power battles in the absence of a District representative from the area in question. (More here.)

    • Darrell Clarke is giving up on his parks reform efforts, apparently because it doesn't appear to have the votes.

    • Inga Saffron welcomes the Kenney/DiCicco bill to overhaul city planning, but thinks it's a tiny first step in a system that needs more major improvement, especially in the relationship between Philadelphia's Planning Commission and Zoning Board.

    • A letter to the Daily News defends Carol Campbell's record and says she doesn't deserve being the scapegoat for frustration with the special elections system.

    • We at ASFR, however, appreciate our title becoming a theme for cartoons and editorials...

  • Other miscellanious stories

    • School District chief Paul Vallas received an Urban Innovator Award this week for his work in Chicago and Philadelphia.

    • The feds are suing a local union for not filing its financial records with the Department of Labor. The union claims to be fighting "slavery" and "tyranny" by refusing. Very odd.

    • The Daily News is plugging next Tuesday's rally in Harrisburg again; there's always more room in the buses for those opposing gun violence in the region. (They also highlight their picks among proposed legislation.)

    • The Inquirer has set up an expert panel to field questions about political races in Pennsylvania. Been curious about something? Drop them a line.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday round-up

  • Polling news

    • A Keystone poll puts Casey up by 7 points over Santorum at the moment, with about 6 weeks to election day. Some speculation here about what has and hasn't been achieved by the onset of heavy recent advertising in the race.

    • John Baer cautions Democrats against getting too confident in light of such poll results. Is there anybody who thinks Santorum is done campaigning? Or that 6 weeks isn't nearly forever?

    • Tom Ferrick notes that much of the support for either candidate is quite soft, meaning that votes could be shifted either way in the weeks ahead.

    • Proving that there's more than one race in PA this year, another poll shows Patrick Murphy within 5 points of incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick in the 6th Congressional District race.

  • New City Council nominees

    • The CityPaper has the recent nominations as their cover story, including a substantial profile of Carol Campbell and shorter introductions to Greenlee and Savage. Note the "election not included" subheader...

      cover clip

      The Campbell piece is really brutal. The shorter piece speculates a bit on who might challenge these folks in the spring primaries.

  • Gubernatorial wife-watching (no, really)

  • Immigration news

    • Civil rights groups are threatening to sue Riverside, NJ, if it doesn't repeal its new immigration ban at its first council meeting next week, largely on the basis that immigration is a federal issue, not one for every town and region to regulate separately.

    • Federal agents arrested 115 illegal immigrants in PA and DE this past week, most of whom had standing deportation orders.

  • Violence

    • The Daily News has a whole feature article on the full-day Harrisburg rally planned for next Tuesday to ask for handgun control. Apparently 25 buses will be going! (See this site for more info and/or to join in.)

    • They also give a list of the many related bills that may be discussed in the special legislative session that day.

  • Other bits

    • Mayor Street is forming a task force too look at city schools, and particularly whether it's time for them to return to local control.

    • A poster at YPP gives an overview of Gov. Rendell's rocky relationship with LIHEAP (a program that provides heating assistance for the poor).

    • City Councilmen Kenny and DiCicco will introduce a bill to revamp city planning and the zoning system in Philadelphia. Some of their changes include requiring particular expertise on the Zoning Board and Planning Commission (including, e.g., architects and community groups) and allowing more time for reviewing proposals. More here, including suggestions that the Zoning Code also be overhauled.

    • The CityPaper political note was unimpressed with a recent Casino Town Hall Meeting, which appeared to be opponents preaching to the choir. Also at this link, a little on Sharif Street's preparations for a Council run.

    • AAJane is unimpressed by the double-standard of a state Senate incumbent about how and where fundraising should be done.

    • Hot on the heels of the new police funding, Rendell now brings state funds for school laptops for more than 100 local schools.

    • Ronnie Polaneczky hopes that the mayoral candidates will think/talk about single motherhood, and about the paucity of life options for poor young women.

    • A Daily News opinion piece calls on City Council to reform the parks system in Philadelphia by passing the Brown-Clarke bill.

    • The City Paper is starting its survey for the People's Choice Awards for everything from Best Cheesesteak to Best Educational Program -- have your say while you can.

Breaking news

There was an underground explosion near 15th Street in Center City, causing building evacuations and traffic disruptions. It was some kind of transformer malfunction, so no dire stuff, but plan on working around it if you travel through Center City at all...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday news roundup

  • Crime

    1. Philadelphia came in #1 among big cities for violence rates, according to the FBI. Local experts bemoan the omission of Detroit from the list, which would have bumped us. Great.

    2. The Philadelphia Weekly profiles Police Commissioner Johnson and his attempts to do his job under a constant barrage of criticism.

    3. A PhillyFuture piece looks at the problem of repeat offenders and the gaps in oversight of those out on bail and those on parole.

    4. Some state money suddenly appeared to fund 100 new police officers in Philadelphia. Part of a general Rendell plan, or an attempt to steal thunder from Perzel's new proposal on the same subject?

  • Council election

    Ferrick's column is far from flattering of Ward Leaders, who chose from among themselves the new Council nominees. He saves particular barbs for Carol Campbell, "that poster girl for election-law abuse."

  • Pay-hike blovation

    1. State Chief Justice Cappy defends the judicial pay-keep. In related news deposed Justice Nigro considers another run for the bench. Both premium examples of honed political instincts, I tell ya'.

    2. A Daily News opinion piece agrees that the judges are within their rights to keep the pay raise, but calls for overhaul of the system so clearly rife with conflicts of interest.

  • Legislative races

    1. An Inqurer piece looks at the centrality of Reading to the tight Gerlach-Murphy battle, with a trash referendum expected to play an important role.

    2. A veterans organization has put together an ad concerning body armor provided in Iraq, which has created something of a sensation since it launched in VA (against Allen). Now it's being brought to PA and run against Santorum, who voted against the same bill.
      (via Talking Points Memo)

    3. AAJane offers blow-by-blow coverage of the first Murphy-Fitzpatrick debate, for those wanting all the details. I see that Fitzpatrick's staff still hasn't learned any manners.

  • PGW scandal

    1. Jill Porter is insulted that PGW execs thought word of the bonus wouldn't come out.

    2. Mayor Street defended management at the company, on the grounds that they need to reward good people or lose them.

  • Overseeing the overseers

    1. Butkovitz audits L&I (Department of Licenses and Inspections), finds lapses on safety -- following up on complaints and making regular inspections. They frequently don't even follow up on their own citations. Understaffing and lack of resources may be partly to blame. L&I Commissioner questions the audit's claims and competence.

    2. More on L&I at the Daily News here.

    3. Another story that I haven't been covering has involved Butkovitz audits of the school system and criticism of its adherance to safety guidelines, etc.; this was followed by a critical editorial by the Daily News, and a rebuttal by Butkovitz. Today a letter on the topic defends the audit on principle and in practice. (Tracking the previous pieces is left as a boring exercise for the reader.)

  • Other

    1. Ben Waxman of YPP is starting his own blog on youth issues. I wish him luck, but hope he still chips in some political ideas at YPP.

    2. Inga Saffron offers two pieces in response to the news that Boyd Theater renovation has been put on hold: one suggesting that maybe local government officials could get involved (as they would for other development crises), and the second looking at strategies in a similar revival effort underway in Chicago.

One last thing

I had a half-dozen more things to blog yesterday, but you will live just fine without most of them (see, e.g., more from Ferrick on Santorum, on his blog). However, one surprise story from yesterday is driving lots of discussion today, so it's worth hitting. City Council just discovered that PGW gave out $500,000 in bonuses to its execs last year, after asking for a rate hike to cover their costs. The company says bonuses were justified by many service and collections improvements, blah blah, and that raises had been on hold for several years prior.

Councilfolk were shocked that these bonuses were kept hidden, as well as that last winter featured so many threatened heat shut-offs, and point out that improvement from "terrible to just bad" is still short of stellar. It should be noted, however, that the scale of the total here is puny compared with the amount represented by the average rate increase...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In other news...

Blogger goes offline at 4, so I may cut this off midway through...
  • Theme of the day appears to be emergency preparation: several stories addressed plans to improve government infrastructure get local residents scared into making their own preparations for possible disasters.

    • Mayor Street is launching an 8-week ad campaign (called "Ready Region") urging folks to be ready for a Katrina-level crisis.

    • David Morse is pitching in by recounting an earthquake experience and recommending practicing emergency plans.

    • The Daily News opinion page applauds this effort to improve regional readiness. A few meal bars on hand are nothing against a lack of communications in subways, though...

    • For my part, I recommend that anybody who wants their own family to be ready for possible disasters read this series of posts made by an expert in the wake of Katrina. Very reasonable and thorough, and does a good job of bypassing fear and getting down to realistic practicalities.

  • Rivals Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Murphy had their first debate last night, on the topic of healthcare. No winner called here. More debates on the way, as I recall.

  • Another big event last night was a forum hosted by Philadelphians Against Santorum, and featuring Bob Casey's first appearance in Philadelphia. One YPP contributor was favorably impressed with both the event and the candidate. Albert gives a more detailed account, including fantastic photos (the first time I've thought Casey was handsome!), and was more disappointed (as predicted) by the limited questions and interaction, and by the Casey positions he find frustrating.

  • Brady held his second summit on city violence. The problem's solved now.

Surprising no one...

The Ward Leaders made their selections for Philadelphia's City Council special election (more coverage here). No stays, no unexpected faces. I especially enjoyed this bit:
Although voters will still have a choice between a Republican and a Democratic candidate for each of the seats, the party's nomination is tantamount to an early election victory because of the overwhelming dominance of the Democratic Party in the city. One nominee, Campbell, has even made a round of phone calls in search of potential staff hires and has discussed where in Council's chamber she will sit during meetings.
Also capturing that nepotistic coziness of Philly politics is this:
Within 15 minutes, Savage, the 23d Ward leader and a son of former ward leader and now U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage, got the nomination by an 11-1 vote. The dissenting vote was cast by 33d Ward leader Donna Aument in favor of her daughter, Marnie Aument Loughrey.

"You never go against your blood," Aument said.
Anyway, late-coming opposition aside, this outcome was pretty much foreordained. However, a discussion about the system has been started and could lead to changes down the line; at the very least, party progressives got a chance to reassert their existence and right to be heard. Whether anyone will spearhead an effort to change the special election procedures is yet to be seen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday deluge

  • Politicians and related follies

    • Over the weekend I heard that an appeals court ruled against Tony Payton in the contested 179th primary, opinining that some of the misplaced write-in votes for Emilio Vazquez should be counted. This is unlikely to be the last we hear of this matter, as some of the votes thus switched had also *marked Payton's box*! If the next round of appeals doesn't move fast, I don't know whose name will end up on the November ballot!

    • Michael Nutter has spoken out on the City Council special elections, sending a letter to Brady to request that his seat be left empty until the May primaries, when district voters could make their own choice; Brady counters that calling or cancelling council elections is not under his control. The Ward Leaders are meeting tonight to make their picks for the November ballot, and are expected to put Carol Campbell in Nutter's old seat. Nutter says it isn't personal, but didn't talk to Campbell about his feelings; she has stated her support for Brady if he enters the mayoral race; how much of this is principle and how much back-room politics?

      Three related bits:

      1. John Baer imagines what might be in Nutter's long-term dream, given potential Democratic victories in various venues this fall, and imagines that not many of his rivals would be willing to get in line with it.

      2. Dan UA is happy to see Nutter on the side of the good guys, if belatedly, and sees the move as a window into the value that Nutter places on the progressive community.

      3. Signe Wilkinson offers her own take on the presumptive coronation of Campbell, given her shady history.

    • Friedman at America's Hometown notes Nutter's testimony on transit needs in our region, including some concrete suggestions for improving service and increasing ridership.

    • Philadelphians Against Santorum is the first progressive local group to get Bob Casey to acknowledge their existence -- he's showing up tonight for a question and answer session at 6p. I can't make it, but look forward to Albert's inevitable disappointment, and perhaps to some other reports of how Casey deals with grudging supporters.

    • Apparently Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann will have three debates/forums between now and election day. You must be kidding...
      (via The Pennsylvania Progressive)

    • Above Average Jane offers an in-depth assessment of Paul Lang, candidate for the State Senate, using the criteria she set out some months back, looking at everything from campaign staff to tests of character. She finds him accessible, thoughtful, and trustworthy, among other accolades.

    • The Inquirer offers several short bits on city politics, including the changed dynamics of an underpopulated City Council, a plea from Nutter to let voters pick his successor, Brady inviting Evans to his second violence summit, and activity by Butkovitz on behalf of Sudan. A second installment of tidbits covers fancy fundraisers for legislative candidates, Casey getting a tough question from Catholics, and Swann making up for a cancelled appearance before a regional business group.

    • And finally, the Inky also showcases a host of questions suggested by readers, to be put to candidates seeking the paper's endorsement. An interesting mix.

  • Other (equally or more annoying) bits

    • Amtrak sets a great example for SEPTA by gladly waving farewell to 20% of its regular Northeast Corridor riders in search of a 3% increase in revenues. This is the cost of low public funding for transit: having to chase dollars means that service doesn't even matter, let alone growing long-term ridership and getting more people to think about giving up their cars. Stupid for society to throw away its options, and stupid for the planners to think about short-term bottom lines, but that's the current mode of operations. sigh.

    • Continuing to demonstrate the stupidity of slippery slope arguments, sportsmen gather to oppose all gun regulation, let Philly shootings be damned! Because if you can't kill deer with handguns, the terrorists have won! Santorum and Casey were there to cheer them on. In related news, the Pennsylvania Coalition to End Handgun Violence encourages everybody to join them for a full day rally in Harrisburg on Tuesday, September 26 -- free buses will be available.

    • New Jersey residents are increasingly being asked to show their Social Security cards as ID in a range of contexts, despite the fact that many such uses of SS cards are illegal under federal and state law. Signs of more paranoid times?

    • Looks like Philadelphia's new city wireless program (remember that?) may cost more than originally promised. Lots more info about the program at the link.

    • Finally, for a break (?) from the annoying stories, Dan notes the new phallic igloo being showcased by the Eagles. What next -- football?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday downpour

Yeah, it's raining outside, but it's the 20-something tabs I have open in Firefox that are frightening me...
  • Pay-raise revisited
    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday concerning the constitutionality of last year's unpopular pay raises, and the result is raising new outcry.

    • They ruled the mid-term raises illegal (including use of unvouchered expenses), after having approved such games previously, but they also (1) said that legislators had no obligation to return the funds that they had already accepted, and (2) reinstated the judicial pay-hikes that were passed at the same time. There are pretty clear legal bases for these subtle distinctions, but that doesn't mean anybody is impressed with the split decision. (Conflict of interest is ignored in state Supreme Court appeals!)

    • Columnist John Baer heaps some snark on this cynical outcome, especially in a time when voters are already distrustful of their governmental branches.

    • Dave Rialis considers this a black day for the state.

    • Pennsyltucky Politics reports on reaction from the middle of the state, where pay-raise anger burned hottest last summer and may be rekindled by this decision.

  • Senate race follies

    • Bob Casey reaches out to religious voters, part of a wider effort on the part of Democrats to disprove the myth that they're hostile to religion.

    • Carl Romanelli's fate is still up in the air, with Democratic lawyers making their case yesterday that too many of the signatures on his ballot petition were invalid. Green Party lawyers will have their say (blaming errors in the voter registry for falsely invalidating signatures) in another week.

    • Pennsyltucky Politics notes that Rick Santorum has opened the door for ethics discussions with his strange recent anti-Casey ad. I have to admit that I thought immediately of Abramoff and K-Street, which are substantially uglier connections than any of the his-neighbor-kid-once-kicked-a-dog sideswipes made at Casey. The worry is that the really terrible corruption infesting the GOP, with Santorum in the middle, will be converted into an "all politicians are dirty" image in the voters' minds, removing the issue from this race.

    • Meanwhile, Santorum's performance at a recent Women for Santorum (cough) gathering rather rubbed AAJane the wrong way.

  • Council race chat

    • Gar Josephs looks ahead to Monday's City Committee meeting, calling Bill Greenlee and Carol Campbell done deals, and describing ongoing battles over the remaining seat, in the 4th district. [The column also has a passle of other unrelated tidbits.]

    • Jill Porter calls Carol Cambell the wrong choice for Nutter's former Council seat, if for no other reason than the symbolic back-slide from civic reformer to consummate insider (with plenty of shady shenanigans in her past).

  • Smoke signals

    • The Inquirer notes Street's two-faced handling of the smoking ban bill; instead of signing in front of white coats and TV cameras, he did it in private and came forth only with mutterings and dissatisfaction. News to me: the ban goes into effect immediately. I presume that bars wishing wavers have their applications already prepared.

    • The Daily News described Street's body language as more appropriate for a tragedy than for the culmination of an effort that he originally spearheaded. They also note that he said nice things about Nutter, although I suspect that nobody was fooled. This piece also clarifies that "into effect immediately" will be qualified a bit to let bars make adjustments, and DiCicco has a bill on the schedule for fall that will push it back until Jan.1.

    • Dan UA looks forward to breathing easier soon. I look forward to going back to bars and dance clubs again... Some interesting discussion here too about some of the uncertainties, such as how the new law will be enforced. [Also this priceless quote in a comment:
      I should have presented on this at Council: "Madame President, I'm here to speak in objection to the proposed smoking ban. I like to hit on randoms when I go dancing, but I'd prefer not to waste my time talking to the ones who smoke. As a busy person, I only get to go out every now and then, and this measure will force me to waste time chatting up ladies with ash-tray mouth."
      heh heh . . .]

    • The Daily News also breathes a sigh of relief that Street actually did the deed.

  • Other stories

    • The renovation of Philadelphia's Boyd Theater (once the Sameric) may be coming to a halt, with its owners citing ballooning construction costs; however, it may be that the company is now more interested in rock concert venues than broadway-style theaters, a grimmer outlook. Both preservationists and neighboring businesses are dismayed by the uncertain prospects.

    • Culture shock: Reading Terminal is going to start opening on Sunday, on a trial basis. Personally, I'm thrilled by the additional brunch and shopping option, but it kind of dissipates the Amish/mennonite aura of the place.

    • The state legislature has approved a new program of low-interest home loans for making improvements to properties, available to middle and lower income residents. A poster at YPP gives an overview of other home loan ideas in the pipeline, most trying to protect the poor from predatory lenders.

    • Finally, Tulin caught sight of some Dougherty for Mayor signs in a Center City window. help.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thursday round-up

Smoking ban.... signed!

The Daily News reads the tea leaves on this deadline day for Street to sign or be a schmuck defy Nutter; related Inquirer editorial here. But then, Dan at Philadelphia Will Do (in the midst of his gloomy count-down) apparently hears a broadcast announcement that Street signed the damned thing this morning. See you at a dance club in January!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday highlights

  • Reflections on recent news

    • Mayor Street continues to leave the smoking bill unsigned, with tomorrow the deadline for a thumbs-up or -down. As a result, the once settled debate is set to start up its engines again, and Michael Nutter isn't there to hold up his end of various deals. Maybe he's waiting for Carol Campbell to come aboard in City Council and help provide him cover by retracting the measure. I confess myself annoyed and perplexed by the shenanigans here... Meantime Dan continues the pessimistic count-down...

    • Much chat about Perzel's proposal to hire more police. Tom Ferrick gives an assessment of the plan, its pros and cons and where the money would come from. [He offers further links and info at his blog here.] Even though Rendell had also once suggested using state funds for local police, he disparages Perzel's plan, opining that nobody could afford it. However, he did express openness to hearing more.

    • The Inquirer followed up D.A. Lynne Abraham's announcement that she won't run again by looking into the early-retirement benefits she has coming her way. Apparently this program will offer her a lump sum rather than a pension, but making news of the number feels oddly petty to me.

    • Common talk puts Carol Campbell as a shoo-in for one of the open City Council district seats, but it appears some legal sloppiness (including unpaid fines and unfiled campaign paperwork) could stand in the way of her taking office. At issue is what happened to some $60k of leftover campaign monies after her 1999 run for Council. oops. [This article is also the first to mention when the Ward Leader conclave will occur; they cite Monday.]

    • Gwen Shaffer has a piece in the new Philadelphia Weekly asking "Are City Council special elections simply rewards for the party faithful?" She describes the recent rally and other aspects of the controversy.

    • Jill Porter takes a closer look at Philly's shocking poverty rates, including some musings on other large cities and their different structural and social conditions.

    • A poster at YPP senses a mood for change in Philadlephia government among city residents, and wonders whether a new progressive movement may be underway; interesting discussions of older (or more recent) political movements ensues.

  • New stories

    • Amtrak plans new speedy train service from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. The new trip is 90 minutes one way at a cost of $19 -- perhaps it will entice the Philadelphia deligation of state lawmakers to give up their gas-guzzling and/or taxpayer-subsidized automobiles for the commute, while making it easier to stick around town between sessions.

    • Curt Weldon is making much of his economic record, pointing to regional coalition-building. His opponent, Joe Sestak, notes that thousands of jobs in the district have been lost on Weldon's watch.

    • Patrick Murphy fleshes out his position on Iraq, including a call for Rumsfeld to resign.

    • Dave Ralis notices that (state Senate majority leader) Bob Jubelirer, serving out the last months of his term after losing a primary battle, is still holding campaign fundraisers, and speculates about what might be up.

    • Who knew that Zack Stalberg had his own pundit-ish corner of the Next Mayor website? Each installment is a short video in which he ruminates about current affairs, from campaign ads to the likelihood that the candidates can distinguish themselves on the top issue of the day, city violence. Interesting bits there; I especially like this one.

    • People concerned about gun violence are invited to an open rally surrounding Harrisburg's special session on the issue (in two weeks). Buses are available; see the link for more.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday news

  • Politicians

    • State House speaker John Perzel has made a big splash with his announced intention to introduce a bill to hire 10,000 new police officers statewide, at least 1300 of them in Philadelphia (some others are in towns to small to even have police currently). Cities would have to partially match state funds. Guess Perzel has noticed it's an election year. Also mentioned here are plans to have a summit of local power-brokers (including Brady, Fumo, and Street) to further address violence problems. Tom Ferrick offers his take on Perzel's plan (and what it would cost the city).

    • Above Average Jane watched Bob Casey address the Democratic State Committee and found him more animated and feisty than usual.

    • Tom Ferrick looks at the latest campaign ads from the Santorum and Casey camps and about what themes (or weak spots) they are currently emphasizing. Apparently Alleghany folks are continuing to make hay out of the residency question. (via Pennsyltucky Politics)

  • Other bits

    • In response to several related scandals, New Jerseys' licensing procedure for daycare centers now require explicit determination that there are no contaminated sites within 400 feet of the proposed facility. Seems like a good safeguard, maybe for schools too.

    • The state gambling board started official license hearings yesterday for casinos to be opened at racetracks, which will represent half of the total casino licenses issued.

    • A Daily News editorial takes on the notion that the state should control local casino development, rather than cities and neighborhoods having a say in what happens to them.

    • Seth Williams' investigators continue to root out corruption, most recently at the top of the L & I (licensing and inspections) hierarchy.

    • Temple's nurses are concerned over patient ratios, something that everybody should support them in. Unfortunately, a shortage of trained nurses can give hospital administrators less choice in the matter than they might like.

    • Two interesting recent pieces at Skyline Online: a look at the new compromise on the Dilworth House, which Inga Saffron thinks serves neither preservation nor architecture very well; and a look at SEPTA's conservatism about technology, which may be keeping them from moving into the 21st century.

    • Finally I just want to point to Friday's Signe cartoon, which combines promotion of the Fringe Festival with mockery of a host of local woes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Late Monday gleanings

Annoying day of errands and work at home, followed by infuriating crashes of primary laptop browser under assault from my news line-up. But better late than never...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday trickle

  • The Inquirer reports on a controversy over the use of taxpayer funds to pay for glossy campaign materials (under the claim that they're voter information, not partisan election materials). Daddy Democrat reports on an additional incumbent abusing his subsidized mail (or "franking") privileges (a follow-up here).

  • The Daily News reports on Wednesday night's gathering of those who want an open process for selecting replacement City Council members (rather than selection by a conclave of Ward Leaders). Many aspirants to the seats (whether in fall or spring) took the opportunity to make a campaign speech; a few of the inside favorites took a pass.

  • Chaka Fattah's exploratory committee has a new website that's getting a lot of bloggish discussion -- look for yourself and judge whether it's "a new standard for online messaging" (as its creators claim) or just another addition to the More-Shine-Than-Substance pile.

  • Ferrick's blog mulls Rendell's announcement that this election will be his last. Among other things, he thinks that a promise to serve out his term will reassure those unexcited about the prospect of a Governor Knoll to follow... (Also an interesting history of Rendell's political career here, right back to his anti-Rizzo entrance.)

  • Meanwhile, in snarkville, Dan at Will Do continues his countdown (now in sparkly letters!) to Street's inevitable and pointless failure to sign Nutter's smoking bill. I hope he's wrong, but man! one week left!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday news

  • Politicians

    • Joe Sestak was talking about taxes yesterday, proposing that middle-class income taxes could be cut by a variety of means (including closing corporate tax loopholes and scaling down military involvements in Iraq).

    • Tulin notices that Lynn Swann is starting to make his presence known in PHiladelphia.

    • A poster at PhillyFuture is pushing for eminent domain reform, and asks Pennsylvania residents to pressure Sens. Specter and Santorum to vote for the version of the bill that is awaiting Senate action.

    • The new mayor of Pittsburgh, sworn in this weekend after his predecessor's death, is only 26 years old but unafraid to take on his new responsibilities.
      (via Tom Ferrick's blog)

  • Other news

    • A new study indicates that Philadelphia's property tax abatements have boosted the economy, not only via the prospect of much higher future property taxes, but through increased construction wages and other ongoing benefits. (Note: a builder's group commissioned the study; however, other cities have found ongoing benefits, even after a building boom is underway.)

    • Rather than making tempers hotter, August's heat wave lowered the homicide rate in Philly, putting us back down to normal annual totals.

    • The Inquirer uses the upcoming 9/11 anniversary to review Philadelphia's preparedness, and finds that it's much easier to identify weaknesses than it is to redress them.

    • The head of Philadelphia's Redevelopment Authority (RDA) resigned effective yesterday, after 13 years in his position. The Inquirer piece (linked above) note rumors that he might find another governmental staff position, perhaps with the city's gaming task force; the Daily News adds that he differed with Mayor Street on the proposed reorganization of the city's housing agencies (and might even have sided with Doc in that conflict).

    • A new study shows that PA does poorly in making college education accessible. DanUA has some thoughts on the matter.

    • People concerned about the safety of children on their way to and from school might be interested in an event this weekend to address the topic. A wide range of groups are behind the effort.

    • Apparently a compromise position has been found for the Rocky statue, which will place it near the Art Museum but not atop the steps (eliciting charges of elitism from Smerconish). Is it too much to hope that we could never discuss this again?

In the weeklies

Some pithy coverage of things local from the CityPaper and Philadelphia Weekly:
  • The PW's cover topic spans several articles, looking at the renaissance of West Philly, at least in the "University City" region. Their main story looks at the effects that local institutions have had in their surrounding areas. A second piece looks at the history of the property now controlled by U.Penn and Drexel, much of which was originally residential neighborhoods. A third related piece asks can Temple do for North Philly what Penn did for West Philly? (the revitalization, not the bulldozing...) They don't have the resources, but the existing success story may spur private investors to help move things along.

  • The CP's cover story is a fascinating look at what lies under the city streets in Philadelphia, from subways to wiring and pipes. Interesting to think about generally, and increasingly important for the city to get a handle on; some new technologies are allowing big cities to keep an eye on things before they go wrong. There's also info here about how various utilities and other construction agencies coordinate, the slow painful process of getting centuries of plans into computerized form, and the possibility of "x-raying" sections of ground. You may or may not sleep better after reading this piece . . .

  • Also in the CP: a guide to the fringe festival to see you through the remaining few days' events.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wednesday sampler

Can't afford much blogging time, so only the top handful of interesting stories here today. Weeklies tomorrow...
  • Democrats feel voter sentiments on issues will help them this year in state legislative races. Ferrick's board of anonymous soothsayers opine that it looks bad for incumbents almost across the board.

  • The headline here is that Sherrie Cohen is giving up her City Council ambitions for next year (perhaps letting Florence have a shot at holding the seat until spring without everybody's assuming that she's holding it for her daughter); however, the article is really about widespread discontent with the process by which insiders annoint candidates for open seats.

  • A group of Democratic legislators took calls for gun laws to the suburbs yesterday, announcing a package of bills that they plan to introduce in the upcoming special session in Harrisburg. This move appears to be capitalizing on a study showing that suburban counties favor gun legislation by a large margin, meaning it's not just a city issue as opponents often claim.

  • An Inquirer editorial addressing campaign contribution limits suggests that Philadelphia apply the state standard, which calls "campaign committees" enough to make a person a "candidate" . . . Councilman Goode appears to have drafted just such a bill -- if the opening paragraph is a good summary of the legal mumbo jumbo, then it sounds like a definite improvement.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In other Tuesday news

  • Politicians

    • An Inquirer article notes that embattled regional GOP legislators (Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, and Weldon) are distancing themselves from President Bush at every opportunity, despite having accepted his fundraising help in the last year.

    • These same three candidates, along with their opponents Murphy, Murphy, and Sestak, respectively, have reserved record ad buys for this fall. Philadelphians should expect to hear a lot about these hot races.

    • The Pennsylvania Progressive notes that both US Senate candidates, Santorum and Casey, are getting heaps of out-of-state money for their campaigns.

    • Pennsyltucky Politics notes that Arlen Specter had a national interview this weekend too, although it was overshadowed by the debate between Casey and Santorum. A few quotes are provided.

    • Above Average Jane offers an interview with Brian Lentz, Democratic candidate for the state house 161st district.

    • Jane also reports on a joint press conference held by Nancy Pelosi and Patrick Murphy (a week or so ago) to talk about embryonic stem cell research.

    • Philadelphia Will Do is counting down the days until Mayor Street doesn't sign the city smoking bill. sigh.

    • The Daily News looks at Philadelphia's 8th City Council District, where Donna Miller can expect at least one challenger in the spring primary (Irv Ackelsburg) and possibly several more. This district has a history of numerous challengers, which may be why Miller has managed to hold on. Perhaps they should combine forces!

    • Dan UA notes more outrage over the local party process that is likely to annoint Carol Campbell to replace Michael Nutter in City Council. Just because it was Nutter's seat doesn't mean that it's a nutter seat! If this riles you too, there's a meeting tomorrow night.

  • Other

    • The Daily News opinion page discusses recent economic reports noting that while productivity has been increasing, average wages are falling, an unusual trend that may auger a need for legislative intervention into business practices.

    • The Inquirer offers a slideshow of this year's Labor Day parade for those who missed it -- as much glimpses of the activists and bystanders as of floats and marchers.

    • Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson is not impressed with the planned new City Hall security system.

    • And finally, a place where I have frequently dined, Minar Palace on Sansom, has been demolished, part of the controversial conversion of that block into a huge parking garage, a plan which apparently is itself on hold, leaving another charming dirt hole in the Philadelphia landscape.

First Senate debate

I watched the Sunday debate between Casey and Santorum (on Meet the Press) as did many others. I thought Russert did pretty well in having researched a lot of the local coverage and hot issues, so that he pressed each candidate on some touchy points, but that also had the downside that lots of other interesting subjects (i.e., those not already campaign slogans or constant media refrains) didn't get much play. Santorum looked much more strained and less convivial than usual, and he dropped some real crazy-bombs (e.g., sticking with his claims of Iraq WMD's and 9/11 connections, even though Bush has now disavowed both), but he also managed to rev up during his segments into fast speech and quick sound-bite-coverage, dominating the clock. For his part, Casey seemed sane and reasonable, but also a bit slow-moving and fuzzy -- he has a bit of a Big Lug persona on camera -- and didn't necessarily push some of the points that he might have. On the other hand, he got in some good sound-bites at strategic moments, esp. just before ad breaks, when his opponent wouldn't get a come-back (best was in responding to Santorum's WMD craziness with "I think we've found the 2% of the time that he disagrees with the President!" heh). I'm sure Santorum folks thought their guy won, Casey folks felt he did ok, disappointed PA progressives continued to shake their heads. Less clear to me is who the audience is for this thing -- potential nationwide donors? the sliver of centrist undecideds in Pennsylvania? -- and thus I don't know what they would have thought... (Perhaps those just wanting to see who Casey is will come away thinking him a viable alternative, at least.)

Many many people have given their thoughts on this, to varying degrees of detail. In no meaningful order, I offer these:
  1. The Philadelphia Daily News calls it a draw, and gives their best and worst moments, as well as a link to the video. (!)

  2. Tom Ferrick agrees with many that Tim Russert was probably the winner, but gives a more nuanced view of what each side accomplished or revealed in the course of this appearance.

  3. Above Average Jane gives her own slected out-takes.

  4. Albert gives more blow-by-blow coverage, ranting at both candidates, the moderator, and the constraints of our electoral system. Rage against the machine!

  5. Pennsyltucky Politics opines that Casey won by beating low expectations and looking capable next to a major figure. They also offer a round-up of views from partisans of many stripes.

  6. Not surprisingly, Michael Smerconish thinks Santorum won handily, although not necessarily for the reasons you'd expect; he just likes that Santorum stands for something, however misguided. um, whee?

  7. PhillyFuture is collecting reader reactions to the event here, so you can add your two cents anytime.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Pittsburgh's mayor, Bob O'Connor, died from a rare form of cancer less than two months after being diagnosed. Best to our neighbors on the other end of the state in this time of sorrow and uncertainty.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday bits