Monday, April 30, 2007

Help from unexpected quarters

Philadelphians are used to working on their own violence issues, usually while complaining about the unhelpfulness of attitudes in Harrisburg, where gun regulations, especially, generally die a quick death. However, the new Speaker of the State Assembly, Denny O'Brien (who comes from the area of Northeast Philadelphia himself) is proposing a cluster of bills to address urban violence and relieve overcrowded prisons, including increased focus on repeat criminals and alternative approaches to nonviolent offenders.
His legislation establishes, for the first time, probation and parole guidelines for when inmates should be released. It allows judges to grant reduced jail time for those successfully completing job training or drug and alcohol programs while in prison.
O'Brien also seeks to ease Philly's prison overcrowding by sending anyone sentenced to two-to-five years to state prison. He notes Gov. Rendell's budget includes state prison expansions to cover the change.
A promising new piece of the corrections puzzle, that could complement other local efforts. Will be interesting to see how it does in the legislature in the next few weeks.

Mayoral news

The Inquirer has officially endorsed Michael Nutter, with a lengthy write-up in Sunday's paper that included brief summaries of their views of the other candidates' strengths and weaknesses as well. The lens for their assessments was "what the voters are looking for" as assessed through their Great Expectations project, which could be an interesting framework for addressing the remaining endorsement choices and election issues.
They want someone who is not just smart, but displays "emotional intelligence." Someone who can attract good people to City Hall and keep them; who can make ordinary citizens feel heard, not dismissed.
Two amusing bits along the way: (1) they manage to depict Nutter as both the Little Engine That Could and as Don Quixote ("who brought his windmill down" ?!) in complimenting his perseverence in the face of naysayers inside and outside City Council, and (2) they summarize Knox as "not so much an outsider as a novice."

In related news, the final candidate profile in their week-long series is Al Taubenberger, the Republican who's unchallenged in the primary but a long-shot for the office.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday roundup

Other news

The mayoral race -- new poll, some thoughts

Was excited to hear on the radio this morning about a new poll, which puts Michael Nutter within 2% of Tom Knox among likely voters. Notable here, in addition to Knox's drop and Nutter's surge, is that (a) the undecided group is way up, 32% here, and (b) even those with a preference show uncertainty, with nobody over 14% when respondants were pushed to say that they would "definitely support" their choice. What this means is that all the recent horse-race coverage, the talk about Knox as "unstoppable," or about other candidates as the "only alternative," etc., is pretty much crap. This race is wide open, with probably half of all voters still in play. Newspaper endorsements are likely to come out next week and make an impact, the types of ads that candidates run are likely to sharpen, and voters will start to tune in to the issues coverage and other discussion as the calendar flips over into May.

Thus it's important to get discussion going wherever you can -- talk up the candidate you really care about -- and also to be willing to support the right person, as you see it, rather than presuming that only this guy or that guy has a chance. I don't know how many people I've heard say, in particular, that they'd really like to support Nutter, but thought he had no hope, and thus they figured they'd better vote for [Fattah/Brady] lest they end up with Knox. That's not the right way to be thinking at this point -- this is a primary, the field is wide open, and it's not the time for cynicism and hopelessness. Our votes, our activism, can make a real difference in such a close race. We should be supporting the candidate that we think deserves to carry our banner and run the city.

And thus I think it's appropriate for me to say that better Nutter photo I'm endorsing Michael Nutter for mayor. I've had the opportunity to see all of the candidates in person, as well as to read about their positions and watch them debate, and Nutter made by far the strongest impression. Not only is he clearly smart and well-spoken, familiar with City Hall and how the city works, but he speaks with a genuine passion about Philadelphia and its residents and what needs to be done here. He talks about violence without resorting to simple one-shot solutions, arguing that we need not only more police, but a better system to support and monitor prisoners when they are released, better oversight of violence-plagued neighborhoods, and better early intervention to keep kids in school and out of trouble. He's serious about the desire to improve city education, so that all parents will be glad to send their kids to public schools and so that more of them will graduate and go on to productive lives. And he clearly sees the linkages between education, violence, and poverty, and the need to address them all together. More even than these insights, he brings a proven dedication to better government, and an energy and earnestness that can inspire listeners. Michael Nutter as mayor could give Philadelphians pride in their city and hope again, after some years of anger and division. I'll be voting for him on May 15, and I hope you'll join me.

Edit: I guess I should include Nutter's website! Still lots of time to make a donation, volunteer some time, get involved. (Same for our other endorsed candidates, who can be viewed from the sidebar link.)


Housekeeping note

I've decided to change what I do here, at least for the next few weeks; will see how it goes from there. Right now, with 20-30 stories catching my attention, and coverage of the upcoming election running out of control, my "news summary" take is becoming a major chore, and my life just can't sustain the couple of hours per day that it demands. Plus, my "insight for the newcomer into how Philly politics works" goal has long since been lost. I don't know what the right solution is.

But for now, I'm going to try picking out just a couple of top stories per day, that either demand attention or offer some helpful insight at the margins, and I'll leave the rest of you to check the papers for yourselves. Will see how that works, and whether it lets me add more context and commentary, which would make the endeavor a bit more fun all 'round. Expect the new take starting Monday, although I may relegate a lot of today's news to a headline round-up as well...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday tsunami

Can't possibly do all of this justice, other than by organizing it a bit...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In other Wednesday news

Obligatory mayoral round-up
  • Inquirer candidate profile: Chaka Fattah. A bit of a cipher, but some interesting bits here about his background and operating style.

  • Brady is officially on the ballot, after a Supreme Court ruling put an end to any further challenges.

  • Dwight Evans has a new ad comparing his record to those of Fattah and Knox, esp. on crime.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly gives a quick impression of each candidate as they prepare to choose one to endorse.

  • The Inquirer reads the tea leaves of what Katz could mean for the fall elections (see yesterday for the story).

  • The PW muses on whether any mayor can fix the crime problem in the city. More an overview of perceptions of their proposals, rather than a review of their actual proposals.

  • A campaign chairman makes the case for Chaka Fattah over at YPP.

  • America's Hometown notes that Nutter was endorsed by Philadelphia Magazine, the first news outlet to announce their choice. I have to admit that this wording:
    [O]nly Michael Nutter has the vision and sense of urgency to tackle the city’s problems, from ethics to tax cuts to taking on the murder epidemic. In the end, we felt that Nutter has the best potential to be an inspiring leader and to speak to all Philadelphians
    comes pretty close to my own feelings. I hope to have more to say on that front soon.

Other news

Wednesday = Tom Knox Day

I title this post a little tongue in cheek, but apparently we've hit some critical mass of concern about Tom Knox in the mayoral race, both among candidates and among journalists, and there are enough stories and new info. about him today to justify a solo post. So, here goes.
  • The Inquirer leads off with a story about a Maryland healthcare firm run by Knox that got into trouble for hiring a crook to oversee their legal compliance. He may have been giving a friend a second chance, but it was in violation of federal law regarding such matters. A number of lesser (but common) violations by the firm are also noted here, and given more play in a Daily News article that notes the record fines paid by Knox's firm for its misleading statements, lapsed licenses, and other violations. Knox points out that most of these errors were not his directly, but it raises questions about his ability to bring reform from the top.

  • Next come stories of the other candidates ramping up their attacks against the frontrunner, with Evans, Brady, and Nutter all raising questions about different aspects of Knox's qualifications. My favorite is Evans handing out empty hamburger buns with the question, "Where's the beef?" heh. More on the new feistiness here.

  • The Daily News takes a closer look at Knox's claims to be an outsider and finds them a bit wobbly, noting his large contributions to local power figures, his previous contemplation of a mayoral run with insider backing, and some business dealings that benefitted from his connections. They even note that a previous stint as "state-appointed rehabilitator" of an insurance firm ended with his dismissal for an investment judged to be a conflict of interest. Oops!

  • Somehow anticipating today's theme, AAJane posts an impressive research piece on Knox's business involvements. She finds several of the indelicacies mentioned above and a number of other strange and/or questionable actions and broken promises.

  • Dan at YPP looks at the accumulating evidence from Knox's record and finds much to worry about.

  • Less concerned than the other commentators, John Baer looks at Knox as a phenomenon, suggesting that his surprise lead over the "connected" candidates speaks less to bulk advertising than to a real desire among residents for change. There's certainly plenty of that, but it's good for people to know what kind of change they're getting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday quick roundup

Other news

A new twist in the mayoral race?

The front-page story in the Inquirer today is the news that Sam Katz, who ran against John Street four years ago in the general election, has changed his registration to independent, apparently to keep open the possibility of entering the race again this fall, depending on who wins the Democratic nomination. More precisely:
[Katz's 2003 campaign chair, Carl] Singley sized it up this way: "It probably represents the notion that if Tom [Knox] is the [Democratic] nominee, that Sam is in position to tap into the disenchantment of the voters of the other four candidates."
More analysis of the logistics of this move and how it could play out relative to the major parties, etc., here. There's still a lot that could happen in the Democratic field, what with new TV ads taking aim at Knox, many voters undecided, and the major publicity pushes of each candidate still to come. But having the shadow of Katz waiting in the wings will add an unexpected layer of pressure and uncertainty to the next three weeks . . .

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday roundup II: Remaining deluge

  • Politicians

    • The Democratic City Committee in Philadelphia thought long and hard, and then endorsed all the incumbents for City Council. Yawn. [Also noted here, Common Pleas candidate Dan Anders was just appointed by Rendell to fill a seat that just opened up, reducing that crowded field by one.]

    • AAJane notes that Dwight Evans is having another online teleconference tonight, for any who'd like to ask the mayoral candidate some questions.

    • The Inquirer offers a roundup of votes by regional representatives in the US Congress, on issues including represenation for the District of Columbia, withdrawel from Iraq, and other business.

    • The Inquirer offers highlight some candidates for the two Supreme Court openings.

    • In related news, the Inky and DN boards team up to offer a Common Pleas candidate forum this Friday at the Convention Center. Pre-registration required.

  • Ordinary news

    • The Inquirer looks at transportation congestion in all modes of transportation, and suggests that some big changes are needed to keep us moving.

    • The Philadelphia Library system has had the same head for some 20 years, and now he's moving on, leaving a much improved infrastructure in his wake (but, of course, Things Still To Do).

    • A YPP poster offers some intriguing data concerning unemployment in Philadelphia, the state, and the nation -- make sure to check out the additional graphs he pulls out as the discussion progresses. What to make of it all (e.g., for the likely impact of local tax tweaks) is harder to say...

    • City cops may be watching speeds on Roosevelt Boulevard more closely now that they've handed off some of their highway responsibilities to state patrol forces.

    • Prediction of things to come? PA slot parlors to include video poker and other virtual table games...

    • Michael Smerconish is hitting the airwaves, taking the place of ousted Imus. D-Mac watches the first broadcast so you don't have to. Better yet, he unearths a photo of Smerconish with hair, just for the perverse amusement of it all.

  • Around the opinions

    • Editorial | Creating Summer Jobs
      It's a crime-fighting tool. It's an economic development strategy. It's a way to give the city's young people the opportunities they deserve.
    • Opinion: Philadelphia tour guides should be educated, tested and licensed. Apparently they're actually *taught* the made-up factoids.

    • Tom Ferrick imagines a working city government that actually takes care of the needs of its residents, with or without their having strings to pull. The ideas he cites are being heard from several of the top City Council challengers (as well as incumbent Kenny, to give credit where it's due); perhaps it's time to let some new blood into City Hall.

Monday roundup I: Things mayoral

  • The Inquirer had a lengthy piece on Sunday about how the specter of Knox is electrifying (and terrifying) the other mayoral candidates. Their ads are starting to slight him, and several of them took jabs in the second mayoral debate.

  • Chris Satullo added to this a musing on how reformers may learn the law of unintended consequences, as fund-raising limits (important to anti-corruption goals) may help Knox into City Hall.

  • The Daily News picks up this theme, noting a rise in jabs between the mayoral contenders over the weekend, noting in particular a new Evans ad, remarks in the TV debate, and a list of allegations against Knox released by the Brady campaign.

  • For those of you who, like me, missed this weekend's TV debate, AAJane provides a summary of the points made. This one was quite different from the first, having a more conversational set-up and allowing back-and-forth among the candidates.

  • The Metro has a candidates' roundtable about their visions for the city and how to get there.

  • The Inquirer is also doing a week-long series of candidate profiles (in alphabetical order), starting today with Bob Brady as political peacekeeper. It traces his history in the city (and a bit in DC), how the machine "worked for him," how his insidership works. His cult of personality comes across well here, but exactly what he'd do as mayor is less clear -- who prioritizes the sit-downs?

  • John Baer talks about Michael Nutter's campaign, from hand-shakes to TV ads, and how it's faring. A little horse-racey, but perhaps a human glimpse of the candidate.

  • Another DN opinion piece wonders how much to believe the candidates' various promises about kids, education, and safety. It's particularly designed to encourage support for after-school programming.

  • Among the small bits here is a sighting of Knox having a long meeting with Johnny Doc -- supporter to be? (perhaps behind the scenes, in order to leave his Outsider mantel unruffled?)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday round-up

Readership seems to have taken a plunge this week -- I hope that means that you guys are all out pounding the street for your favorite primary candidates! Every bit helps...
  • Politicians

    • A union of city white-collar employees has endorsed Chaka Fattah; AFSCME is a big one because its members often turn out to work on election day. More here.

    • Former US Rep. Curt Weldon is using his residual campaign funds to defend himself from the ongoing federal investigation.

    • The DN's blog suggest that the only way to stop the Knox campaign is via negative ads -- they may be right on that (and that 3rd parties are the ones to do it), but surely they aren't really advocating "Swiftboat-style" attacks based on fabrications??
      [Among other tidbits noted here is a possible US House committee chairmanship on the horizon for Bob Brady.]

    • The Metro talks with John Longacre, running for the 5th District Council seat against Darrell Clarke (and fellow challenger Haile Johnston). Mostly fluffy.

    • Mayor Street goes green in his personal life in honor of Earth Day -- more efficient cars and use of wind energy among the changes.

    • A leader of the Philadelphia Bar Association lays out the recipe for a good judge. Not always easy to figure out how the flotilla of candidates measure up, however.

    • This cracked me up: Tom Ferrick summarizes the performance/message of each mayoral candidate in last weekend's first TV debate. One sentence each. heh heh.

  • Casino bits

    • Philadelphia City Council has struck another blow at the casino developers, this time changing the zoning of the Foxwoods site from commercial to residential. (!) The goal is to make the developers appeal all of their decisions through the Zoning Board, giving the city some input into how the site is shaped. (SugarHouse already must go through such a variance process.) More here, including the possibility that this approach could also face court challenge.

    • The Daily News also offers a look at how the mayoral candidates would use casino revenues, if and when they start flowing in.

  • Other news

    • In a bizarre development, Drexel may face a lawsuit over funds that it received as part of its handling of college loans; the suit would be part of a nationwide investigation of the student loan industry and the deals it cuts with individual schools. Some students will receive a reimbursement as part of various settlements.

    • No news is apparently still news: no progress on transportation funding in the state legislature, where Rendell and other advocates have little to offer the rural representatives...

    • The DN reports community commitment to improve conditions around 52nd and Market.

    • John Baer looks at the cozy state grant process, which appears to involve an eyebrow-raising number of folks getting grants for organizations run by their spouses.

    • More on the efforts of the pro-bono design firm mentioned here yesterday: they're involved with efforts to recharge far-West Philly, starting with a historic theater and some nearby buildings. They also have projects in other areas.

Philadelphia: where even the outsiders are insiders

The Daily News has a piece today looking at this year's Council races and particularly at the power of incumbency. One interesting thing to me was the note that it's pretty common for a few Council incumbents to get ousted each year; the pessimistic conventional wisdom sometimes makes you feel that it's much rarer than that (and, indeed, only one was replaced in 2003).

More frustrating to me was to read their speculations about the At-Large challengers that "have a chance" -- again and again I hear enthusiasm for Marc Stier, Andy Toy, and Matt Ruben from a range of quarters, but here they match Stier with Bill Green and Sharif Street as among the top newcomers. Newcomers? Sons of a past and the current mayor, respectively, both Green and Street offer a high ratio of name recognition to community service, especially compared with a lot of the other contenders this year. Well, only the election will tell who carries the day; it would sure be heartening to me, though, if meaningful message and hard work by dedicated volunteers could offset some of the power of insider status. If not this year, then when?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday deluge II: Other news

Thursday deluge I: Politicians

Way too many tabs today, so will do them in batches...
  • The Inquirer looks at Chaka Fattah's plan for the airport, which involves leasing it out to raise a capital endowment for an extensive poverty-reduction push. They note that there is no similar successful plan in the US, and also list the hurtles that the proposal would face (from Congressional approval to local union support). (Less discussed is how Fattah would reconfigure his ambitious plans in the absence of airport funds...)

  • Another Inquirer piece highlights Jim Kenney's 311 system plan, designed to make government services to the public more effective and accountable. He's writing up his proposal to be ready for the next mayor's perusal on Day 1. This general plan has also been mentioned by some of the newer Council candidates, so perhaps there's a way to find a critical mass to make government work better...

  • Michael Nutter has stepped down as head of the Convention Center Authority to focus on the last four weeks of the mayoral race.

  • The Daily News looks at a recent Dwight Evans TV ad, complaining that he's using outdated crime statistics to bolster his claim that his part of town is the only one escaping this year's rise in homicides. (Things were better the previous year...)

  • The CityPaper offers a look at Maria Quinones-Sanchez, candidate for the 7th District seat in City Council, and at her campaign. [They also note that the Councilfolk elected this year will be involved in redrawing of districts in 2010 -- all the more reason to choose carefully!]

  • A Tom Knox volunteer got into a spat with the shark-suit guy who's been haunting Knox campaign stops.

  • The Political Notebook argues that Dwight Evans is the most qualified of this year's mayoral candidates, though it seems not to be enough to get him support.

  • AAJane got to hear the Superior Court candidates all at once and gives some background and impressions for each. A valuable resource in information-scant races!

  • The Metro notes that Philadelphia's mayoral candidates all support expanded use of Philly CarShare by the city's fleet.

  • Sense of deja vu: North Philly Ward Leader jailed for driving without a valid license (it was suspended some time back).

  • Not about a specific candidate, but relevant: the significance of endorsements to campaigns at various levels, and how the candidates go about getting them.
Update: the DN is sponsoring a forum of Common Pleas candidates next Friday -- a rare chance to unpack this crowded field for yourself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quick Wednesday roundup

A deluge today, and once again, things to run off to...


Had to miss work yesterday, and my errands expanded to crunch the day. Luckily, nothing earth-shattering that I came across...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday bits

Mayoral news:
  • Well, the first big TV debate among the Democratic contenders aired this weekend. I thought that all five men did pretty well, although Brady avoided a few substantive questions and Knox appeared to be dredging his answers up from a distant databank with a faulty connection. Nutter continues to make a strong impression in these events, although some of his personal humor is lost in the formality required by tightly timed responses.

    Anyway, impressions of others: Sty Bykofsky was underwhelmed, in part because the format led to more scripted points and fewer exhanges between the candidates (I can't disagree), and he gives his impressions of the individual performances; AAJane offers a blow-by-blow recap of what was asked and offered.

  • In case anyone missed it, the appeals court says Brady can stay on the ballot; we should know soon whether the case will go to the state Supreme Court for final arbitration.

  • Albert offers a report with photos from another mayoral forum, held a week ago on the subject of design/planning. Albert seems to get to a lot of these things, which makes his summaries valuable but a bit backlogged. A few lesser known issues were raised here.

  • Nutter's latest ad brings out his softer side via his family.

City planning in the air
  • The head of the Center City District presented a plan for Center City focused on leveraging the area's strengths to bring in more people and jobs. He argues that continued development of downtown is critical for the health of the larger metropolitan area and should be a priority for the next mayor.

  • The same guy (CCD head) offers a DN opinion piece on why planning matters, and what has changed in the 20 years since Philadelphia last formulated a plan for Center City.

Other items of note
  • An Inquirer piece details the range of tactics being used by anti-casino activists and those who want more city and neighborhood input over any development that does occur.

  • The Urban Warrior reports that public health is not a priority of the Street administration, noting promised funds that aren't being spent to improve staffing.

  • The DN looks at the current stem-cell funding bill in the US Congress and notes that a single vote might be needed to make it veto-proof in the Senate; should that time come, they hope that Bob Casey will decide to follow his constituents' views rather than his own.

  • Two moves by state legislators to improve government funding: Lentz tries to strengthen sunshine laws and Marsico bravely attempts to depoliticize legislative pay by setting up an independent panel to make periodic recommendations.
    (both via Keystone Politics)

  • Finally, DanUA at YPP has a piece on City Councilwoman Marion Tasco, which notes her importance in getting predatory lending laws passed in Philadelphia, which would have prevented many of today's problems, had the state not overruled them almost immediately. Commenters note that she'd be even more effective on this and other fronts if she had more fellow progressives on City Council...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday news

The big story of the day is follow-ups to Vallas' announcement that he's leaving this summer. A flurry there, and then the usual smattering...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In other Thursday news

  • Politicos

    • A CityPaper piece looks at the grim game of ballot position, following Ellen Green-Ceisler through the crowded race for Court of Common Pleas as an example, and also details other indignities heaped upon these candidates.

    • The Inquirer notes row-office elections being held this year, including the hot race for Sheriff (about which we have given our opinion here).

    • The CityPaper's Polnote describes the argumentative 1st District Council race, particularly Anastasio's attempts to tie DiCicco closer to Fumo and his allies.

    • US Rep. Gerlach in a kerfluffle over misreported numbers on FEC filings. A hefty fine results from errors that don't appear to have benefitted anyone...

  • Casinos

    • Anti-casino activists charge confusion of interests in the Gaming Board's decision to sue PHiladelphia to block its casino-related ballot measure.

    • An Inquirer editorial advises the Board and the courts to let the people have their say before rushing to decry the (unheard) outcome and its repurcussions.

  • Other news

    • The state House Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform submitted their recommendations to lawmakers yesterday, including taking the composition of the Ethics Board out of the hands of party leaders.

    • A bill expected in Philadelphia City Council today, to set a "prevailing wage" for employees of developers who get a tax-abatement or other city support -- for example, security guards in future large buildings like the Comcast Center would get a hefty pay hike under this plan, which already has five sponsors.

    • More discussion about whether to have a constitutional convention to overhaul PA law. I just can't tell how serious this idea really is, or likely to go ahead.

    • AAJane notes some bills in the PA House that appear aimed at protecting the rights of mothers to feed their children.

    • Finally, the CityPaper offers a profile of the director of the Acadamy of Natural Sciences in Phila, and how he got here.

End of an era

I was one of many who breathed a sigh of relief when Philadelphia schools czar Paul Vallas was offered a two-year contract extension last year (after some uncertainty with the School Reform Commission). But in light of the recent budget revelations, I'm not that surprised to hear that he's planning to resign at the end of this school year. He might have still had work here to do, to follow out his visions and see his programs farther into implementation, but the period of trust and cooperation with the educational community and larger public has come to an end. I hope we can find somebody who continues to build on the delicate optimism that's been sprouting here in the last five years . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lightning round

Appeal in Brady candidacy is heard -- ruling tomorrow?

John Baer | In a dinky courtroom: Baloney, sucking up &, maybe, a city's fate

Civility reigns as candidates gather again -- forum with the Bar

AdWatch: 2007 Mayor's Race -- Nutter's latest

Phil Goldsmith | Candidates & leadership: Who has it? How to know?

PW: Who Don’t Know Ed? Rendell has serious ties to every mayoral hopeful.

PW: Votes on the Line Not all candidates’ websites are created equal.

YPP (DanUA): Once and For All, Why I Don't Think We Can Risk Tom Knox

May 15 to be key casino day in Harrisburg, too

Perzel calls again for more police

AAJane: Schwartz Teletown Hall Meeting

Rendell releases energy funding

Turnpike Boss to H'Burg: "Don't Make Us Part of PennDOT!"

City school managers backed as hearings open

Risky behavior on the Main Line

Fairmount Park fans rally for more funding

NASDAQ eyeing Philly stock exchange?

Editorial | No single solution (to city violence)

Attracting, keeping young city residents goal of new panel (Pittsburgh)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday quick-takes

(Blame my pre-election obligations)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday news roundup

Logistical note

I added a link in the sidebar to my current and past endorsements (so far, just two for May, but eventually I'll have a summary of recommendations for all judicial races, etc.). Unfortunately, when I first put it up, the code only worked for me. Oops. Anyway, it should be working for the rest of y'all now...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday morning edition

Big stories (to my eye)
  • Gar Josephs' DN column today questions Tom Knox's outsider status, pointing out that 10 years ago, Vince Fumo was considering backing him for mayor (and only residency questions prevented it). Knox in fact backed Fumo's eventual choice with a heap of money, and this time around he asked for Fumo's endorsement (although he didn't get it). Rather a twist for a man positioning himself as running against the machine... Dan at YPP reflects on this revelation here.

  • Scandal rocking the pleasant burb of Haverford: secretive dealings surrounding redevelopment of a public property there are leading to bribery charges against one township commissioner, allegations that confidential bid information was shared with some contractors, and general calls for greater openness in meetings and other decision-making.

  • The Pennsylvania Gaming Board is bringing suit to block the referendum planned for May 15 in Philadelphia. The Board argues that state law gives them complete control over the location of any casinos, and thus that the referendum will lead only to needless delay and loss of revenues. Stay tuned!

Other news
  • An Inquirer piece looks at the importance of transportation issues for the city's next mayor, from SEPTA to parking to better regional cooperation. Summaries are given of each candidate's position statements to date.

  • Feds suggest that Fumo get a new lawyer, as his current lawyers have represented organizations being considered victims of fraud in the case. They cite possible past conflicts of interest (did they work for those firms in a way designed to protect Fumo) as well as possible future ones (if they were called to testify) -- my favorite is the note that Fumo sent Senate staffers to the lawyer's house to have his shirts laundered...

  • Senator Casey speaks out against cuts in federal funding for public housing proposed in the next Bush budget. Sounds like a Democrat to me...

  • The Metro has two pieces looking at the new Ethics Board and its attempts to get up to speed in the midst of a fractious election season: one peers into the office, its two dozen or so investigations underway, etc. Confusingly, Stalberg is quoted as saying he "hopes they take a position" at their next meeting. (on what??) The second piece is an interview with one Ethics Board member, the interim executive director, about how he's finding the work, especially the tight deadline between final disclosures and the election.

  • Chris Carney's House seat is one targeted by the GOP next year, and they're holding their breath while their first-choice candidate makes up his mind.

  • A Daily News editorial traces the alarming loss of maternity wards/staff from the Philadelphia area in recent years, with many obstetricians moving away and several substantial hospital wards closings. They note that this is merely a typically absurd side-effect of treating health-care like a for-profit business.

  • Pittsburgh is losing population faster over the last few years than any city other than post-Katrina New Orleans, possibly due to a lack of immigration to the area.

Thursday roundup II: Oops

Wouldn't want you to think you missed anything juicy...
  • Philly for Change has announced its City Council endorsements (with high degree of overlap with NN).

  • The DN poll that measured the mayoral race also looked at voter priorities for the city, with worries about crime topping the list.

  • The PA House GOP is countering Rendell's education proposal with a plan of their own that spreads funds more evenly among school districts. 'Caus lord knows the wealthy districts are being overlooked. There are other points of disagreement about spending priorities.

  • In the same vein, State Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola writes a stern column advising the city that we shouldn't expect to undo the changes of recent years and still keep the state funding flow coming.

  • Rendell brings the US Transportation Secretary to help push his lease-the-turnpike plan.

  • For those of you following this story: Castille releases letter assailing critic of Pa. court -- leaden ear of the year award goes to his continued threats of possible disciplinary action against a lawyer who criticized handling of the judicial pay hike.

  • More good press for the Philadelphia police department: they beat up a guy filming a difficult arrest/altercation, and he turned out to be a National Guardsman due to ship out this fall. (Not that it should matter if he was the local creep: he can run his camera if he wants.)

  • A new report looks at the devastating effect of predatory lending in Philadelphia.

  • From the Department of Surely You Jest: Mumia to have another day in court in mid-May. 25 years and still fighting over technicalities. I feel like this is a piece of Philadelphia arcana I'll never fully understand (the facts and the obsession)...

  • Finally, AAJane looks at one of the challengers for Bucks County commissioner who has received Democratic Party backing.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thursday roundup I: Things mayoral

At first I thought there was No News today, but then I discovered its the Day of Knox (I guess due to the new poll). Make of it what you will...

  • Stu Bykofsky gives us a glimpse of Knox mealtime meet-and-greet events and says he appears to be connecting with a variety of voters.

  • John Baer also thinks that Knox might have the cindarella campaign of the year, although crediting a number of fortuitous developments among his rivals.

  • Another DN piece looks at attacks on Knox's past involvement with payday lending, organized by a group that claims independence. cough.

  • The CityPaper also has a piece on Knox, looking at how his campaign has developed from his entry as an unknown outsider, and weighing his pros and cons.

  • New keystone poll shows Brady creeping up after his advertising outlay, and Fattah (not yet on TV) slipping behind Tom Knox for the first time. Still, the pack is pretty close, with "undecided" a frontrunner... [and I still speculate that a lot of people don't really tune in until the last two weeks, so even the decideds are probably really soft.]

  • Technical oddity: we get to analyze Fattah's campaign fiances a month before any other candidates will disclose their fundraising and spending. Apparently somebody over there misread the filing date. Anyway, not the thunder one might have thought, although respectable enough.

  • A look at Bob Brady's ideas on crime prevention. Focusing on parole/probabation officers seems great, but politicizing them by shifting their control from courts to mayor strikes me oddly. And, um, GPS tracking bracelets?? A chewier piece on the proposal is here.

  • A CityPaper opinion piece argues that the arts are important in the mayoral race and for the city.

  • The Metro looks at the candidates efforts to plant trees -- specifically, to promise more trees than do their competitors, as proof of their environmentalism.

  • Ray Murhpy talks more about why he backs Fattah, even though he disagrees with his boss on the campaign finance limits issue.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wednesday headlines

Sleepy day, and now I have to go... (will expand this evening if I can)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tuesday news

  • Campaign finance ruling

    • Official report of the recent ruling upholding Philadelphia's right to set rules more stringent than the state standards: Inky and DN. Fattah intends to appeal.

    • An Inquirer editorial applauds the decision:
      In its landmark decision that upholds Philadelphia's campaign-finance limits, Commonwealth Court yesterday said that the city, in effect, had a perfectly legal right to try to clean up its own mess.
      They argue that the threat posed by unregulated contributions is larger than that of millionare candidates.

    • Dan at YPP looks at Fattah's pursuit of an appeal, his possible motives, and what it all means for local politics.

  • Violence and fighting it

  • Mayoral bits

    • New Tom Knox ad focuses on his outsider status (and simultaneously his experience under Rendell, heh).

    • Johnny Doc offers his takes on the mayoral race and the candidates. Mostly coffee chat.

    • Strangely, the Great Expectations project invites voters to bet on the mayoral race, I guess hoping to get a TradeSports-style prediction for the outcome.

  • Other news

    • State legislators talking seriously about the values of a state consitutional convention; the last one was held in 1967, which made many structural changes to how PA government is organized. Unclear what the breadth or make-up of a new convention might be.

    • Rick Santorum refuses to say die; says he will challenge Specter in the primary in 2010. He figures the anti-Republican sentiment related to Iraq will be well behind us by then. (Guess he's not rooting for McCain.) Toomey's in, and presumably other frothers will follow.

      Update: or, I might just have been duped by an April Fool's joke. sigh.

    • NJ Gov. Corzine officially backing Clinton in 2008 -- I have no idea how significant that endorsement might be. Also in this article, NJ will move its presidential primary from June to early February,

    • Fumo's corruption trial scheduled for next February. Guess that's enough time to build a defense! (and pile on top of Presidential coverage...)

    • YPP wants your ideas on education and on the realism of proposals made by various candidates for fixing the city schools.