Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday headlines

The things I do for you people! ;)Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday headlines

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday deluge

I guess it's an excuse to avoid the mind-blowing heat for a little longer...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In other Tuesday news

Trickle of Fumo news

Embarrassing testimony in the federal investigations into State Senator Vince Fumo today, as the president of Verizon admitted to striking a "gentleman's agreement" that Fumo would stop trying to break up the corporate megalith if it would send some legal business in the direction of his allies. Smooth. (A parallel is made with the alleged shake-down of PECO for his favorite charity during regulation hearings.) More on the stories here. Note that all of this discussion is really just a preview of Fumo's actual trial, as it's taking place during hearings about whether a particular law firm should be disqualified from representing Fumo because of possible conflicts of interest . . .

Who giveth and taketh away

Cheering on the efforts in Harrisburg to institute a state-wide smoking ban? Your feelings may change when you discover that the bill would override Philadelphia's new local laws in favor of the looser state regulations, especially with respect to bars and casinos.
The amendment - which exempts casinos, private clubs, cigar bars and some taverns from the proposed ban - also bars municipalities from enacting any smoking ban tougher than the state's.
Because, lord knows, state legislators have unquestionable wisdom in all things. More grumbling at YPP here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday headlines

Busy period both at work and at home, so a quickie today:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Quick Friday roundup

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In other Thursday news

Transit funding on the horizon?

Don't know whether Evans' budget threat created some motivation or if the ideas were already well along in the pipeline, but apparently the State House is voting today on various sources of funding for transit (along with the obligatory roads and bridges -- insert snide comment here about the wasteful suburban lifestyle).
Proposals by House Democrats include increasing the tolls on the turnpike and adding tolls to Interstate 80, beginning in 2010, and giving local governments the ability to increase some taxes to help pay for mass transit.
A variety of other proposals and combinations are described here as well, including various vehicle fees and oil taxes. (Dan at YPP is a bit irate that the oil company taxes are not considered viable.)

In related news, PATCO is looking at possible expansions, including new routes on both sides of the river. I wonder if their "Philadelphia waterfront" lines are sparked by interest in serving the new casinos -- that would be great for Philadelphia's projected traffic woes, although local residents might prefer to have SEPTA generate the routes...

Let the traveler beware

If you are planning a trip abroad and are anything like me, you're lucky if you check the status of your passport a month or two ahead, counting on the post office to zip your renewal along if need be. Well, you'd better not wait, as passport renewal has become a major headache. The backlog is apparently the result of new rules that went into effect in January, which greatly increased applications (because passports are now required for visiting Canada and Mexico) and may have led to stricter screening. The images here are of multi-block lines outside the Philadelphia office, which is mighty grim. If you think you might be travelling in the next year or so, you might want to start the process well ahead (although possibly after the summer rush), both to avoid any last-minute problems and to put off dealing with privacy-invasive technological changes (see last item here) planned for the near future.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday trickle

  • Mayor Street is late in submitting a 5-year budget plan to the state oversight committee, eliciting threats that if Monday's dealine isn't met, state funding for next year could be slashed. Bureaucratic bumbling, or vengeance on Nutter via the people of Philadelphia?

  • The nation's drug czar came to Philadelphia to promote poor science (treating a correlation between marijuana use and gang membership as a causal one) and recommend random drug-testing of students as a cure. (More here.) Sadly, none of the discussion involved funds for better intervention with at-risk youth...

  • John Baer decries the inability of our elected representatives to pull together dedicated transit funding, rather than waiting for a crisis and then cobbling together a band-aid.

  • Two from the new Philadelphia Weekly: a profile of the struggles of West Philly High, and a piece noting that food critic Craig LaBan will lose his ability to make secret visits when his rarely seen visage appears via a taped testimony in an upcoming trial.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's Tuesday, right?

Summer is a bit disorienting, not least for the drop off in substantive news...
  • Office space in city rebounds -- vacancies have fallen, reassuring many that the completion of the Comcast center won't torpedo the commercial rental market. (Our local healthcare giants are taking up a nontrivial amount of the square footage for administrative purposes.)

  • 'Report card' is bleak for city's children -- of course, since Philadelphia Safe and Sound did the grading, and has been benefitting from a shift of monies from the DHS, it's a bit unclear how objective these measures are. [Sorry for the cynicism, but the nepotism here (i.e., see here) is a bit grating, and a friend reports that S&S is one of the most poorly run after-school funders in the city.] It's hard to deny, though, that some of the statistics, including 1000 kids shot per year, are pretty grim. The Daily News wonders why more progress hasn't been made on all of these fronts under Street's tenure.

  • Ray Murphy takes at look at the Navy Yard as a possible casino location, noting a number of advantages and possible regional benefits. He suggests that casino activists have some leverage now to suggest such a thing.

  • Politicians

  • Allegheny County Faces Cuts in Public Transit -- hopefully the east-west similiarities here will help with the forging of coalitions necessary to force this issue. (As well as Evans' holding the budget hostage; see prev. here.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday roundup

Hey look! It's still Monday! (sigh)
  • Pennsylvania Republicans are a bit disgruntled over Dennis O'Brien's brokering a House Speakership with the Democrats, among other grumbles (not least his support for Rendell's budget). I'm sure US Senate Democrats, dealing with pseudo-Democrat Lieberman, feel your pain. Politics is a pesky beast.

  • A new idea for raising revenue from the PA turnpike is bubbling up: it involves higher tolls and the conversion of I-80 to a toll road, but doesn't result in the turnpikes being run by any private firm. State Senator Fumo is credited with the plan.
    Fumo said his proposal would provide $400 million a year for highways, $350 million for transit, and $50 million in reserve. He said the legislation would establish annual increases to keep up with inflation.
    Unlikely to be popular with riders, but perhaps it will manage to cobble together the votes that other proposals lack, especially since no new taxes are included. (Whether it passes the test of long-term dedicated transit funding is a different question.)

  • I'm happy to hear that Independence Mall security is loosening its grip a bit starting tomorrow, including departure of X-ray scanners. Next will be the replacement of the unsightly bicycle barriers with sturdier but less visually intrusive pillars.

  • A Daily News piece points out that stop-and-frisk is already in use by Philadelphia police, despite the controversy that accompanied Nutter's suggesting greater emphasis on such an approach.

  • AAJane gives us a rough transcript of a PCN call-in show with State Reps. Shapiro and Steil.

  • A DN letter alerts us to a Wall Street Journal article indicating that many (most?) states have actually lost money on casinos. I can't access the latter -- can anybody with a subscription take a look and let us know what it claims?

  • Two Inquirer editorials of interest: one urges the passage of a new pre-K education program, and a second decries the low pay of home-care workers, especially in an era when more and more such services will be needed.

  • Finally, an Inquirer photographer has started a blog featuring meanders through various parts of Southeast PA. (or something)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Friday round-up (belated)

  • The Daily News' Clout blog asks Two years from now, who'll be D.A.? They give a run-down of the suspects, ranging from the obvious (Seth Williams) to many folks I'd never have thought of. Dan U-A speculates that Abraham will try to sabotage a Williams candidacy, even though he looks like a strong choice for the job.

  • Council repeals 'pro-choice city' resolution -- well, that was a monumental exercise in wheel-spinning! (More snark here.)

  • Swarthmore's sale aims to put dorm castoffs to use -- everything from couches to knick-knacks, to benefit charity. This information would have been more useful if posted sooner, but I'm still glad to see somebody put this "trash" to good use this way.

  • Evans says budget must fund transit -- go, Dwight!! it's good to have friends in positions of power:
    State Rep. Dwight Evans, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, vowed yesterday to block any state budget proposal that doesn't include new dedicated funding for mass transit.
    Hope that threat will make something happen.

  • Anti-Nutter ads largely paid by Street donors, filing shows. It's what everyone suspected anyway, so no surpises. Another great showing for long-term personal politics in this town...

  • Council backs appointed park commission. I don't understand enough about the fine points to know what the significance is of a switch from independent to mayorally selected commisioners -- aren't we going the opposite way with most other things? Is this some kind of compromise with those who wanted Fairmont Parks rolled into the Recreation Department? Anyway, if park advocates are happy, I'm happy.

  • SRC’s use of outside firms roils opponents -- ironically, much of the ire is directed against their use of public relations firms...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday round-up

  • The Inquirer offers a profile of Josh Shapiro, who has ridden the reform wave (and his role in brokering the O'Brien speakership) to remarkable prominence in only his second term in the State House.

  • Somehow I missed this: apparently Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown, always at the forefont of Philadelphia's most pressing issues, engineered a resolution last week to declare Philly a "pro-choice city." Now grumbling among Republican councilfolk is leading to a reconsideration of the move (which passed by only 9-8). Meantime, the school board continues to crumble, people keep getting shot... tell me why we're working on symbolic measures? Story here and here.

  • The School Reform Commission is reviewing its deals with private contractors like Edison, and may revise the terms under which they are offered renewals.

  • The first free laptops have been given to low-income folk as part of Philadelphia's citywide wireless Internet program, with a total of 100 such computers (and support) to be given out this summer. The hope is that such computers will help people find work, as well as help children of low-income families keep up with their info-savvy peers.

  • City Council takes a pass on the hot casino issue, tabling two opposing bills until after summer vacation. I suspect that neither side is going to be happy about the delay, which appears mainly to be based in the hope that the state courts will again remove responsibility for this decision from local officials.

  • A federal judge has ruled that religious headwear can be banned by local police departments. The argument makes sense to me: when you see a police officer, you want to respond to the position they hold, not to some aspect of their personal beliefs or style, which is the whole reason for consistent uniforms. I sympathize with religious traditions, but I guess they should color one's choice of profession (as with pharmacists who claim to dislike a subset of their prescriptions).

  • Governor Rendell reports that Pennsylvania is showing signs of good financial health.

  • AAJane notes that Patrick Murphy is introducing legislation to look after homeless veterans, and judges that the measures suggested are good ones.

  • I've only been marginally following the serial date-rapist case, but that was enough to make me go ballistic over Christine Flowers' casual dismissal of anyone who'd find a date online (caus', you know, it's reasonable to think they're going to drug your drink). Anyway, more interesting is the fact noted by Jill Porter that expert testimony is excluded from rape cases in Pennsylvania, alone among the states. It's notable that the jurors asked for clarification of what it means to give consent, especially when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; an expert might also clear up Ms. Flowers' misunderstanding of how a "proper victim" (cough) behaves after the fact.

  • Fire drill coming, gotta run. Two NJ stories on land-seizures and PATCO cards...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Feeling funny

I'm feeling a bit funny, and am about to go home early. Thus, weeding some 20 tabs down to the most interesting, I get these:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sloppy post-vacation round-up

Just some headlines, until my grogginess clears...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wednesday flash

Another slow news day, and then I'm away until next Tuesday, so afraid I won't be keeping up. (But at least it will be over a month before my next summer interruption.)
  • The big story appears to be this one: Pa. Supreme Court rebuffs casino foes (see more here). Specifically, the court ruled that neighborhood groups had no standing to challenge the state's decision. Sigh.

  • City Council officially approved a lease for Barnes Foundation on the Parkway, good for 99 years. However, no new site has been found for the current occupants of the site (a juvenile detention facility), thanks to Ms. Blackwell...

  • The Daily News had Michael Nutter on its cover, and included this story of how Nutter's campaign bucked conventional wisdom for how a mayoral race in Philadelphia needs to work.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly takes a look at the city's recreation centers, with an editorial noting the decline in their numbers and a longish article looking at one North Philly center that avoided closure and is a center for neighborhood life.

  • Another PW piece notes the latest Northern Liberties growing pains, in the form of rebellion against the entry of chain stores, even so innocent a brand as Rita's Water Ice!

  • Philly for Change is undertaking a neat project, looking for concrete reforms that the mayor and lame-duck Council can enact in the six months they have left. You'll have to run to make their meet-up tonight, if you're reading this, but I'm sure Ray or Jen would gladly hear your suggestions anytime this week.
Have a great rest of the week/weekend, and I'll see you next week!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Slow news Tuesday

(And, might I note, yesterday was a pretty slow news day too...)
  • Open-records efforts in Pennsylvania got a bit of a boost with the support of the Senate majority leader, who now supports changing the default presumption to "open" (i.e., documents are assumed to be open to the public unless specifically exempted). Seems like a positive development.

  • West Philadelphia saw a large rally against gun violence yesterday, which included onetime local boy Bill Cosby. Mayoral nominee Nutter also took part.

  • Polaneczky claims that casino supporters are defensive and tired of being considered "tools" of the casino industry for being willing to listen to what is being said. yawn.

  • The Metro has more on what's going on with Wireless Philadelphia. sort of.

  • Dan at YPP had a good piece yesterday on the relationship of the city and the state with regard to local regulations -- when the state has chosen to preempt city laws, how citizens have fought back, what has resulted. A good round-up of the last couple of years' activity on this front and its import.

  • Albert's household is trying to lessen its environmental impact, and especially to push their boundaries during Low Impact Week. Good to be aware of where it's easy to be less wasteful.

  • Keystone Politics notes a series of recent stories that note the impact of casinos now operating in the greater Philly area and thus give some sense of what effects they'll have in Philly and other parts of PA. Especially notable to me was that the number of employees drawn from the immediate area was much lower than promised . . .