Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday headlines...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday headlines

Short day...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday news roundup

  • The passing of an era: Tom Cronin's reign as union leader comes to an end this week. Something tells me he'll find other outlets for his activism...

  • SEPTA finds endless ways to endear itself to those who should be its loyal supporters: the riders. Lost in the clamor over the threatened transfer elimination was another change that had my Spouse grumbling for several days: regional rail riders pay a surcharge for buying tickets on the train even if there was no place to buy them at the station (which includes some half of all platforms). All this does is discourage occasional riders, those least motivated to buy ahead or in bulk. Good thinking, transit planners!

  • Phila. health agency in disarray: Drug shipments are not tracked, equipment is missing, and no auditing is done, an official said. Very reassuring.

  • Perhaps those Clean Sweepers are having some effect: a second apellate judge is giving back her pay raise and now wants to be sure that people know that.

  • Philadelphia will get its first of several retail mini-clinics, a primary care outpatient service to be offered in some pharmacies.
    The clinics offer early-morning, evening and weekend hours, plus clearly posted prices. They focus on relatively mundane medical problems - bladder and ear infections, flu, poison ivy - and promise to refer patients with more serious maladies to emergency rooms or doctors' offices. MinuteClinic will give shots, including flu shots.
    Good to get some alternatives for non-emergency care.

  • City schools sever tie to Aramark -- will run own cafeterias. Dan U-A has some ideas they might consider.

  • John Baer | Somebody is keeping track of the truth -- local Annenberg-based FactCheck keeps the politicians honest, at least after their speeches end.

  • Assessing the tax issue -- Philadelphia Forward is challenging the city's reassessments, while final plans for handling the resulting tax changes are still up in the air.

  • Ward leader Matos facing N.J. sentence -- he already pleaded guilty to bribery, but the Philly machine is rallying around him as he awaits sentencing. I'm sure this picture reassures Mr. Fumo.

  • The Philadelphia Weekly has an issue on environmentalism ("green" issues):

    1. Bring It on Home: New Philly companies help locals build green. (Actually, various stores cover construction to home cleaning products.)

    2. Under the 'Hood: PhillyCarShare cultivates street cred. (and reaches out to additional populations)

    3. Breaking the Recycle: PW -— like most city businesses -— needs to go green. (It's an uphill fight.)

  • Editorial | YouTube's Mayoral Forum


  • Phil Goldsmith | FORGET THE GIPPER, AL. DO IT FOR SARAH = Taubenberger needs to run an actual campaign, with actual GOP positions on the issues.

  • PW: Cop Out: How ’bout just hiring 10,000 more police officers? (rather than hoping to find that many volunteers to patrol)

  • YPP: Volunteer This Election Day with The Committee of Seventy!

  • AAJane: An Interview with Scott Yates of (which helps you keep track of what your representatives are up to)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday round-up

  • State doings:

    • Hazardous-site program barely going, official says -- state funding is about to run out, leaving Pennsylvania with virtually no oversight or enforcement capacity. eep!

    • Rendell links energy plan with defense -- that is, too much reliance on foreign oil leads to entanglements like Iraq. Unclear whether this will be enough to convince Harrisburg opponents to sign onto his alternative energy plan (especially since they've been quick with their own versions). John Baer also reports that the usually lively Governor delivered a real sleeper with this speech.

    • Judge criticized for public stand -- a State Superior Court Justice appeared at an anti-immigration press conference/event, raising questions about the propriety of such apparent advocacy. The judge in question, Correale F. Stevens, is on the November retention ballot...

    • 2 face investigation for Pa. film-lobbying role -- a state legislative panel wants to know whether lobbying loopholes were exploited in the establishment of a large tax-credit to companies that produce and/or film in Pennsylvania.

  • Philadelphia and its environs:

    • Report questions Convention Center competitiveness -- a newly disclosed report wonders whether the planned expansion will really launch Philly into the convention big-leagues, given increased competition from other expanding centers. More here.
      The report notes that expansion will enable Philadelphia to compete for just 33 events it's currently too small for, "but it will do so along with 61 other exhibition centers that are also big enough to host these shows."
      Also noted are problems with utilization of the current space, and with perceived labor issues. (Much muttering ensues about why this report wasn't circulated six months ago, with a variety of obvious theories springing to mind...)

    • Neighbors' disdain postpones SugarHouse hearing -- the city's agreement requires that the casino negotiate a community benefits agreement (CBA), but neighborhood groups are so disgruntled that they blew off invitations to meet. City Council has rescheduled its zoning discussions to allow more time for, one supposes, rapprochement.

    • Ronnie Polaneczky | Is SRC's new openness going to backfire? (or rather, after ploughing right over us with every previous decision, why come to us about what we want in a CEO, about which we know least?!)

    • Editorial | Judge Rayford A. Means -- another man of the law who thinks nothing of running illegal and unsafe rental properties.

    • DN Opinion: EX-CON JOBS -- the Nutter/Goode bill is a good idea.

    • YPP: Turning the Suburbs Blue -- prospects in the Montgomery County Commissioners race.

    • The Philadelphia Zoo has a new website. (It's flash-tastic!)
      (via America's Hometown)

    • Also new on the web: Anne Dicker for State Senate -- a timely alternative to the man who stands for Entrenched Corruption?

  • New Jersey:
    Fudging grades: it's not just for elementary students anymore. That is, an NJ Medical School has just admitted that its dean fixed grades of some failing students, for reasons that are unclear. (At least with the statewide tests, the enormous pressures are obvious; here, it appears completely perverse.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday deluge

Both Inky and DN websites sporting new looks this morning. I don't mind the TOC overhaul, but the articles feel like a clunky look/fonts, although there is more width for reading...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday roundup

Residual Thursday headlines

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday top stories

Another shattered day, with a morning staff meeting and an after-work appointment. These two stories stood out -- I'll try to hit the rest of the deluge tomorrow.
  1. SEPTA seeks new fare hikes. We kind of knew that something would have to replace the blocked transfer elimination, and it looks like SEPTA would like to raise the cost of tokens and transfers (leaving the cash fare the same). The Daily News thinks this is reasonable, but also has some sharp advice for SEPTA on its overall handling of fares...

  2. Phila. council is back: Let jockeying begin. A new session, with lame-duck Ramos getting in last licks and all the Councilfolk bringing their rational and their crazy ideas to the table.
    City Council returns to work today with ethics reform, casinos, even immigration on the agenda, as members position themselves for leadership posts in anticipation of a new administration taking over in January.
    Votes on making the Inspector General's office more independent and on restructuring the Fairmont Park Commission were expected today, as both would be under tight deadlines to qualify for November ballot measures. Expect lots of takes on the action tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday downpour

I'd like to give these a bit more analysis, but I have a meeting at my house this evening, and some 25 open tabs...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday headlines

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday headlines (late edition)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday headlines

Thursday news roundup

Hmmm, it's Friday now, you say? piffle.
  • Foes raise stakes on I-80 tolls Northern PA residents up in arms -- might the transit funding deal fall through this late in the game??

  • Official: Schools' safety in peril: A planned $8 million cut in Phila.'s disciplinary schools budget will be harmful, an advocate tells the SRC.

  • Judge denies bail request for Barnes
    Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon ordered that Barnes, 71, be held in the medical unit of Graterford Prison, where he is being detained, because of his history of heart troubles.

    "The fear is he will not make it to trial," said Barnes' public defender, Bobby Hoof, adding Barnes recently had been "roughed up" in the general prison population.
    See my rant about this here.

  • Guards vote to join union -- Independence Mall security voiced serious conserns about their (private) employer, from lack of sick days to raincoats that fell apart on the job. [More here.] The guards will join SEIU, and Rep. Brady will look into whether their employer should be barred from future government contracts.

    In related news, the CityPaper has a substantial profile of SEIU 32BJ in their new issue. The union has been the local embodiment of the recent national trend toward unionizing those in the service industry, such as janitors and security guards.

  • Protesters upset casino hearing: Chairwoman adjourns session after trying to quiet group 19 times. (Protesters were angry that public input was barred from this event.)

  • University men get assertive - in the fight against rape -- what a fantastic idea/program! kudos to all involved.

  • CP: Sneak Attack: Blindsided by Youth Study Center plan, Fallsers brace for Street brawl. Mayor Street has thus far declined to meet with community members, which could make the Zoning Board meeting into a major confrontation.

  • CP: Six, the Hard Way: A bill looks to drastically change beer sales in Pennsylvania. But are we ready for it?

  • Nutter event: Watch Michael's Recent Video Webchat

  • Water Works project on target

  • Nevels' resignation is official -- head of the School Reform Commission

  • CP: The Felling of the Hoagie City Billboard: The big billboard was everyone's poster child for urban blight.

  • 'Uphill battle' for a Pa. helmet law (If you ask me, those who choose not to wear helmets should be required to sign away their rights to taxpayer-sponsored life-support should they be flattened on the road.)

  • Presumptive Councilman Curtis Jones writes a letter encouraging a state bill to protect Philadelphia seniors from the effects of property tax reassessments (or, um, the state bill should encorage City Council to pass such protections. or something).


  • YPP: Mayor Street's Legacy to Philadelphia -- Philly for Change encourages the Mayor to make a last push on some top issues

  • AAJane: New Information Resource: TownWatcher -- find out what your burg council or regional committees are talking about

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Wednesday news

Lynne Abraham rant of the week

I tend to only faintly register the daily reports of crimes and murders, trials and sentences, that appear in the papers. However, this (late) morning an NPR program was discussing the case against William Barnes (see here; better links have passed into the unreachable archives), which had perplexed me when I bumped across the new stories, and made me nearly apoplectic as I heard more details.

Basically, this guy shot a police officer during a robbery back in the 60s (yes, the 1960s), leaving him paralyzed and otherwise unwell. Nothing to be proud of, and the guy was convicted of attempted murder and served 20 years in jail. However, a month ago, the former officer died, and now the D.A. is bringing a new set of charges against the same man, this time for murder.

Now, we hear about that kind of thing all the time -- that is, somebody shoots somebody, leaving them in critical condition, and when they die two months later, the charges are amended to murder. But 40 years later? Questions include:
  1. How can anyone be sure that the original injuries led to this death? The man was in his 60s, had received sometimes iffy care through the years (he had to sue the city to get coverage for his on-the-job injuries), and was not autopsied. Essentially the case comes down to the judgement of the Medical Examiner, who concluded that the death was a result of the original injuries (because he had an infection of a catheter, which likely triggered the heart attack).

  2. Is there anything to be gained by this new charge/trial? Since Barnes would be held to the standards of 1960s law, he would likely be capped at a 20-year sentence for third-degree murder, a duration that he has already served. Further, this morning's legal experts found it quite believable that the whole thing would be settled before trial. If Abraham is bringing these charges to help the family "achieve closure" or feel that full justice has been done, will they really be satisfied with a plea bargain along the lines of "...pleads No Contest, in exchange for a sentence of Time Served" and watching this guy walk out of the courtroom free?

  3. Do we, or do we not, believe that people should be able to serve their time and then start to make new lives? William Barnes spent 20 years in prison, but has also been out for some 20 years. He appears to be repentant, and, among other things, addresses groups of juvenile delinquents, college students, and at-risk youth to council them against following in his footsteps. Is there a moral or correctional value to putting him at trial for essentially the same crime he has already paid for, and does this individual present the kind of continued threat that justifies renewed judicial intervention?

  4. In a period when our court dockets are packed, the D.A.'s office is chronically overworked, and city funds are tight, can we really justify the time and expense of pursuing this, among all the violent crimes which might be prosecuted?
I won't claim to know the answers to all of the above questions, but I certainly find the choice to pursue this indictment quite consistent with the mindlessness of Tough Cookie's view of justice. In fact, the novelty/press value of a 40-year-old case might have given it some added pizzaz in her eyes. I just hope that one elderly man's life doesn't become the victim of excess prosecutorial fervor, with the taxpayer picking up the bills for years to come . . .


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday roundup

Late Monday roundup

Another short(ish) day, oops.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday quick roundup

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday stories

  • Ongoing kerfluffle over relocation of the Youth Study Center:

    1. East Falls to get youth-detention center

    2. 'Respect' demanded in youth-center flap

    Feels like the mayor and governor hoped that a last-minute announcement would get the job done, with the result that community groups and local officials feel steamrolled and left out of the process. Nutter put it well:
    "This is the kind of process that citizens of the city hate," Nutter said. "No transparency, no real engagement, lack of information, which results in communities getting jammed with projects at the last minute."
    Indeed. Not clear whether there's any route of appeal, since the 3-year lease is signed (as is the lease for the Barnes Foundation at the current YSC site). Too bad that the only way to clear one idiotic logjam (thank you, Ms. Blackwell) was to roll it over another neighborhood. (Also see related story here about where Family Court should end up.)

  • Apparently there was a mayoral forum yesterday:

    1. Mayoral forum is a friendly affair

    2. The Al and Mike Show: You call this a debate?

    The headlines about cover it.

  • Philadelphia taxi strike:

    1. Phila. taxi strike ends after one day

    2. 1-day taxi strike is over

    New York cabbies intended to continue the strike today; they're not interested in becoming the next set of victims of the buggy GPS system that is driving Philly's cabbies nuts. Not clear what either strike will accomplish.

  • Phila. recycling chief steps down. The descriptions of the logistical and cultural obstacles that met this latest official are quite grim, drawing a picture of talented folks getting their hopes and confidence crushed. Not surprising that such an undervalued and powerless position has become a revolving door. (Maurice Sampson summarizes snarkily:
    "I was dismissed. Al Dezzi was ignored. Joan Batory was invisible. David Robinson was indicted," he said, ticking them off chronologically. "Are we going to shoot the next one? What is the sequence of events here?"
    heh.) More to the point, will Philly ever get a respectable recycling program underway citywide?? (More here at YPP, including an interesting discussion of various related matters.)

  • Clinton rallies backers in area -- a women's forum event of some sort.

  • Inquirer names editorial editor. Harold Jackson was the deputy editor before this promotion, and has a Pulitzer Prize for his own writing, as well as other impressive credentials. Welcome to the pond!

  • Pa. awards last racing license -- near Ohio border. Considered a favorite for future slots...

  • A CityPaper story describes a neat green-building project proposal that would include a green roof, solar panels, wind turbines, an underground geothermal system for energy storage, and a "living machine" to covert sewage and other wastes into clean water. It appears that the building would be occupied by some labs working on these and related technologies -- I'm a bit fuzzy from this article. Anyway, this nifty concept development would like to land at the NE corner of Broad and South, and even claims to be able to protect/preserve some of the space currently occupied by the community garden there. (This taxes my geometrical memory of the site.) Still seeking funding for now...

  • A second CP article looks at the SEPTA reconstruction project that has eaten up time, money, and the patience of its neighbors. Problems with contractors account for some of the woes, but not all, and there are mutterings here about undermotivated inclusion of minorities et al.

  • Ben Waxman has an opinion piece in the Daily News applauding citizen efforts at conservation but despairing over Philadelphia's meager attempts in the same direction.

  • Finally, the CP Political Notebook reads the tea-leaves at last week's Nutter fundraiser, passing along some gossip and speculation.

Belated Wednesday headlines

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sloggy post-holiday round-up

The news seems even more sluggish than I feel...