Thursday, April 16, 2015

AccessMatters and CHOICE to Merge

from the inbox:

[PHILADELPHIA, PA: April 15, 2015]: After decades of partnering to increase access to sexual and reproductive health, AccessMatters, formerly Family Planning Council, announced that CHOICE, Inc., a longtime community partner, soon will merge into AccessMatters.  The boards of both organizations approved the proposed merger and expect it to be finalized by June 30th. The merger preserves the legacy of CHOICE’s programs and enables AccessMatters to expand its ability to address critical health needs of even the hardest-to-reach populations, closing the gap between those with access and those without.

“For decades, CHOICE, which stands for Concern for Health Options, Information, Care and Education, has provided access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and programs,” said Kerri Barthel, President of the Board of Directors of CHOICE, Inc.  “CHOICE is excited to pursue a merger with AccessMatters, a mission-aligned organization.” 
AccessMatters has been trailblazing for over 40 years to eliminate barriers to high caliber care for more than 200,000 people annually. Through research, training, delivery of evidenced-based programs, community engagement and advocacy, AccessMatters leads the way in transforming access to sexual and reproductive health.

AccessMatters’ breadth of work is expansive including both business-to-business services and direct-to-consumer services. Programs and services include: healthcare provider training, research, quality improvement, program evaluation, grants and program administration, and community-based services. 

“CHOICE was looking for a like-minded partner,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, President and CEO of AccessMatters.  “Given our long-standing partnership with CHOICE, and AccessMatters’ strategic interest in expanding our capacity for community outreach and quality improvement initiatives, it was a perfect fit.”

“CHOICE has a proud history of providing high-quality health education, and has a stellar reputation as a trusted referral resource,” Weiler Gerber added.  “We are honored to preserve this legacy.”   

Since 1972, CHOICE has served the Pennsylvania region with education and information on human sexuality, pregnancy options, contraception, and health care through education programs for the general public and through a counseling service for individual women and couples.  CHOICE offers community education, training, and outreach programs; maintains a referral database of over 714 agencies throughout the Pennsylvania region; and operates free and confidential hotlines.  CHOICE hotlines are staffed by trained professionals who offer individualized support, referrals and short-term counseling to women, men, and teens.

For over 25 years, CHOICE has been a part of AccessMatters’ Network, participating in AccessMatters’ Title X Family Planning and CDC funded I MATTER Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs by operating its hotline, producing health information publications, and providing quality assurance services aimed at improving service delivery in the AccessMatters’ Network. CHOICE also is a partner in AccessMatters’ school-based Health Resource Center Program, staffing adolescent sexual health programs in South Philadelphia and Frankford High Schools. 

“Our purpose has always been to meet the unique needs of individuals by connecting them to resources and empowering them to make informed decisions,” said Barthel.  “We are confident that this new relationship will serve as a catalyst to strengthen services and broaden our reach in providing access to health options for all.” 

 “We complement each other in mission, and there is a clear alignment in our strategic plans,” said Weiler Gerber. “With our common commitment to community education, community engagement and quality improvement, this is a unique opportunity for AccessMatters to add another layer of depth to our programs while preserving invaluable services that CHOICE has provided throughout the years.”

The two organizations will begin working toward integration of services, with the merger officially taking effect on July 1, 2015, at which point all operations will be housed at AccessMatters’ offices at 1700 Market Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Famous Philly Women II: Deesha Dyer

Politico's new KGB  File column by Kate Glassman Bennett highlights the woman who will be the next White House Social Secretary, Deesha Dyer.  She is a native of Philadelphia and used to work for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

Another contender for the job, Samantha Tubman, also has Philly roots, as a graduate of Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania.

You can read more in "Entertainer-in-Chief."  The article starts with Tubman, who was considered a frontrunner, and is updated with the announcement on Dyer.

Famous Philly Women I: Malika Saada Saar

The April issue of More magazine includes a profile of Malika Saada Saar, a human rights attorney.  One of her areas of specialty is fighting human trafficking.  She led the effort to shut down the adult services section of Craigslist in 2010.  In 2011 she co-founded a human rights organization called Rights4Girls that helps raise the awareness of child sex trafficking in the US.  The article, by Sharon Cotliar, mentions that Saar grew up in Philadelphia.  I can't find the article online but the print issue is still on newsstands.

Biden to Philly Next Week

Traffic alert:  Vice President Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia next Tuesday, with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in tow.  Plan accordingly;

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interesting Articles from the WSJ

A few articles in the Wall Street Journal from the past week or so:

"Pro Stadiums, Public Money," by Eliot Brown 3/09/15 (behind paywall)
The president's proposed budget would bar the "use of tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports facilities."  The Treasury Department noted that such bonds "shifted more of the costs and risks from the private owners to local residents and taxpayers in general."   Yeah, let's stop doing this.

"Executive Pensions Swell at Top Firms," by Theo Frances and Andrew Ackerman (3/25/15)
One of the examples discussed is that of Jeff Imhelt of GE. Compare these two quotes: "In all, Mr. Immelt’s pension is valued at about $4.8 million a year for life. The company puts its current value at about $70 million, up from around $52 million a year ago." and this "In 2011, GE stopped offering new employees traditional defined-benefit pensions and replaced them with 401(k) plans. At the time, Mr. Immelt cited recent market downturns and lower interest rates as being among the reasons for the shift."  Somehow that just doesn't seem fair.

"Wells CEO Sees Pay Stay at $19.3 Million," by Emily Glazer (3/18/15) (behind paywall)

"For Google CFO, a $70 Million Package," by Rolfe Winkler (3/27/15) (behind paywall)

These last two are self-explanatory from the headlines.

Registration Open for GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon

from the inbox:

On Wednesday, April 1 at 12 a.m. (midnight EDT) registration for the 2015 GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon, Half Marathon, Rothman Institute 8K, and Kids Fun Run will open. Evolving from a small, local race more than 20 years ago into what named the best marathon in the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2014, GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon Race Weekend offers race participants, volunteers, and fans a dynamic experience. Interested race participants can register for the three main races, along with the Kids Fun Run at

“Our goal is to make the 2015 GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon the best one yet,” said Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Race Director of the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon. “We are excited to have GORE-TEX® footwear sponsoring the Marathon for the third year in a row, and we look forward to giving runners the best Race Weekend experience possible.”

Race Weekend 2015 opens Friday, November 20 and ends Sunday, November 22. Events include a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo located at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, carb-loaded dining options from participating restaurants throughout Philadelphia, and the Kids Fun Run, a short distance non-competitive event for kids ages 6-12 years old.

The GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon takes runners through 26.2 miles of different neighborhoods in Philadelphia and is a Boston qualifier. The course displays a unique mix of historic landmarks, gorgeous scenery, and vibrant neighborhoods — starting and finishing along the iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This year’s GORE-TEX®Philadelphia Full Marathon and Half Marathon will both take place on Sunday, November 22. The Rothman Institute 8K will occur Saturday, November 21. All three races are USA Track & Field-sanctioned.

Last year, 29 year-old Dan Vassallo of Peabody, Massachusetts, captured the men’s marathon crown for the second time with a time of 2:17:28. In 2010, Vasallo took first place in the men’s marathon with a time of 2:21:36. Competing in her first full marathon, Leonara Patrina of Bayport, New York, came in first place in the women’s marathon with a time of 2:40:00.

The two champions were among more than 30,000 registered runners to participate in the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Race Weekend. The races attracted participants from every state and 53 countries.
 “GORE-TEX® footwear is excited to serve as the title sponsor for the Philadelphia Marathon for the third consecutive year,” said Kirk Christensen, GORE-TEX® Running Footwear Global Leader. “With many runners training in cold or wet weather, the connection between our brand and a race like the Philadelphia Marathon is clear. Having waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® product technology in your running shoes during your training allows you to focus on your run and not the weather. We're proud to help these runners have the best training and racing experience possible, rain or shine.”  
Pricing and Fees
The first 500 participants to register for the Full Marathon on April 1 will pay a registration fee of $80. After the first 500 are registered, the price from April 1 to April 15 will be $100. April 16-30, the cost will be $110. For the month of May, the registration price will be $120.

Registration for the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Half Marathon will start at $60 for the first 500 registrants. After the first 500 participants are registered, the price of registration from April 1 to April 15 will be $80. From April 16 to April 30 the registration fee increases to $90, and for the month of May the price will be $100.

From April 1 to May 31, the registration price for the Rothman Institute 8K will be $25. The price of registration for the Kids Fun Run will be $15 from April 1 to November 21.

*Additional pricing information and promotions will be available on the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon website,, at a later date.

GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon Race Weekend attracts more than 30,000 runners, 60,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers.  Race Weekend features the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, November 22; the Rothman Institute 8K and Kids Fun Run on Saturday, November 21; and a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21. Race participants pass many of Philadelphia's famous attractions on the swift and scenic USATF-certified course, which is a Boston qualifier. Take the first step to experiencing 26.2 miles of fun, beauty, history and excitement by visiting Be sure to connect with us on Facebook (, Twitter (@philly_marathon) and Instagram (@philly_marathon) to stay up to date with the latest GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon news.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pennsylvania: Not Really Better Than Indiana

Before we get too angry about the new "religious freedom" law in Indiana, let's remember that in Pennsylvania gays and lesbians are not protected groups under Pennsylvania's discrimination laws.  Gays and lesbians can now legally marry in Pennsylvania but it is still legal to fire someone just for being gay or lesbian.  Given that, we can't feel very superior to our neighbors to the west (not directly to the west but in a westerly direction).

Some Thoughts on The Gallery

On average three days a week for the past 20 years I have walked through the Gallery, as one of the estimated 13,000 commuters who use Market East / Jefferson Station.  It’s a quick and easy way to get from the train station to the next point of my journey.  I have been reading the articles in the paper about the future of the Gallery, which has been slowly closing stores and clearing out the kiosks.  Without the ambient lighting from the stores and kiosks the walkways are fairly dark and dreary now.

I’ve gone through several stages of thought since the news broke that the Gallery would be closing.  At first I was concerned about public safety – after all, you can’t move 13,000 people from the underground walkway to the city streets unless you widen the sidewalks.  There just wouldn’t be room.  But then the number of people in the Gallery started to decrease.  These days the former streams of people walking through has slowed to a trickle.  There is room enough now for people to charge up their cell phones at the outlets along the wall.  In busier times there wouldn’t have been space for them to do that.  Either there are more high school students loitering around or they are easier to see now that there are fewer commuters there.  The train people I know well enough to ask tell me they have found other ways to get from Jefferson Station to wherever they go next.  They are unlikely to return.

Just the loss of the stores has taken a toll.  For me personally, the Gallery was the second most frequent place I shopped.  I bought something there once or twice a week.  The grocery store is the only place I spend money more frequently.  Granted some of my Gallery purchases were just snacks or cards but others were expensive (clothes, shoes, books, gifts, etc.).  I remember when there was a CVS along the way.  It often opened up early enough to catch the morning commuting crowd and I took advantage of that.   Several of the merchants saved me from disaster – a fruit tray for a work party when I left the one I intended to bring at home, flowers for a new colleague, gifts for the holiday toy drive, safety pins when a wardrobe disaster happened, and so on.  I will miss this quick fix to daily problems, and the convenience of being able to shop going to and from work. 

Mostly I will miss the camaraderie of my fellow commuters.  People were busy and in a hurry so there wasn’t a lot of conversation but if you dropped something someone would tell you or pick it up for you.  On a regular basis a group of deaf people met in the food court and watching their sign language conversations which, for all their silence, could get loud (at least judging by the large and adamant gestures), reminded me that the deaf have a vibrant community of their own.  For awhile a sharply dressed older man would sit facing the foot traffic and insist on making eye contact with the ladies.  I think he just wanted some attention.  One day I was going slower than usual because a toddler was wandering around and I wanted to make sure an adult was with him.  A man behind me was so close he nearly stepped on my heels.  I apologized and said I was just making sure the little boy was okay.  The man stared at me intently and asked “Well, is he?”  My interpretation of this is that he had noticed the boy, too, but did not feel comfortable pausing himself.  He had zeroed in on me as a “safe” women who was also concerned.  One day recently a group of high school kids was loitering in the area and two of the boys started circling each other, fists up.  I used the lowest voice register possible and yelled for them to cut it out.  They mocked me but scattered and I went off in search of a guard.  I helped police my corner of the universe and I saw others doing the same. A few years ago a middle aged man would hang around and try to chat up the teenage girls in school uniforms.  I was not the only woman walking by who told him to buzz off (or some similar to that).

Daily courtesies like friendly smiles, doors held, and so on, gave me a sense of community.  This is pretty much gone now, leaving with most of my fellow commuters.  If the renovation plans were public or if there were a published timeline I would view this as more of a temporary blip.  But all we have heard is that the real estate company that owns the Gallery seems to be in pursuit of the corporate retail unicorn – wealthy shoppers who will stop by every day and spend large sums of money.  There is talk of “upscale” stores and restaurants.  That excludes me and most of my fellow commuters as customers.  We can only provide regular reliable sales of a middling nature.  I do not think upscale stores (whatever that means) will find the location appealing enough, no matter how spruced up the walls and floors are.  Certainly they would not view my level of shopper as sufficient to move in. 

Personally I don’t see how you can do much better than having 13,000 people walk past your store front every day but I’m not a retail specialist.  I do mourn the loss of this pleasant way to begin and end my regular work routine.  Most of the commuters are gone.  I’ll stick around until the rest of the lights go out, but at some point I’ll have to find another way from point A to point B, probably up on the sidewalks or using another train station altogether.  Like the other train people I’ve talked to, I probably won’t return either.  For me, this is a shame.  I’ve enjoyed my walks through the Gallery.  They’ve been an important part of my life for two decades.

So, farewell to a much-loved place and to my fellow travelers, and to the merchants who sold us what we wanted or needed.  The walls and ceiling kept me safe and warm regardless of the weather.  I’m really going to miss this daily ritual.

Statistic on the number of commuters is from “Gallery Mall stores close for planned renovations,” by Valerie Russ, Philadelphia Inquirer 1/22/2105

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Another Rumor Proven Wrong, Ted Cruz Edition

Senator Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, the first declared presidential candidate in the 2016 election.  Cruz was born in Canada and I've seen a lot of blog posts and online comments regarding his citizenship.  Cruz's birth certificate lists his mother's birthplace as Delaware.  People seem to be questioning this.  They should stop.

Anyone with an membership can check on this.  There is a girl in the 1940 Delaware census (the most recent federal census available to the public), with the right name and the right approximate age to be Cruz's mother.  She is listed as having been born in Delaware, as are her parents.  Names tend to run in families and I see some evidence of that here.  It is possible that this is another person entirely but the simplest answer is often the correct one.  This is most likely Ted's mom.

This information is not terribly difficult to find.  People are just being willfully ignorant.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SEPTA Statement on Controversial Ads

from the inbox:

A federal court judge presiding over a dispute between SEPTA and a group seeking to purchase advertising space on SEPTA vehicles has ruled that SEPTA must accept the ads, even if they contain messages that may be disparaging to riders and SEPTA employees. After careful consideration, SEPTA has decided not to appeal this ruling. Our policy was revised in October 2014 to allow the Authority to reject these types of ads without violating the First Amendment. However, this policy change was made after the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) initial request to purchase advertising space and is not applicable in the matter. 

Consequently, AFDI has executed a contact with SEPTA’s advertising management agency, Titan, to purchase advertising space on the side panel of 84 SEPTA buses. The ads will contain what some may view as anti-Muslim messages. These vehicles will be placed in normal inventory rotation throughout the SEPTA service area. The ads will begin appearing on vehicles during the first week of April for a four-week period. “We understand that our decision to not file an appeal will be disappointing to those who will be forced to view the disparaging ads,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. 

“We are aware that the presence of the ads could anger the public, but caution that attempts to vandalize the ads or deface SEPTA vehicles will not be tolerated.” 

Abby Stamelman Hocky, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia said, “Ads like these violate our values, even if the judge ruled they do not violate the law. We applaud SEPTA for its efforts to restrict the placement of the controversial ads." The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia has chosen SEPTA as a co-recipient of its annual "Dare to Understand" award, to be presented April 29, at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. 

SEPTA regrets any discomfort that may be caused from viewing these controversial messages during the weeks they will be displayed. Those who wish to comment or voice their concerns may do so by completing a SEPTA Customer Service comment form at 

Upcoming State Supreme Court Candidate Forum

A broad coalition of organizations are organizing a public forum for state Supreme Court candidates from both parties.  It will be held on Wednesday, April 8th from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at the Philadelphia Free Library, 1901 Vine St.

Reggie Shuford, executive directory of the Pennsylvania ACRL and Holly Otterbein, associate editor of Philadelphia Magazine will be the moderators.

RSVP on Facebook:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Marriage Rates by State

Slate ran an article on which states have a higher multiple marriage rate ("The states where second (and third and fourth marriages) are most common," by Jordan Weissman 3/13/2015).  According to the map accompanying the article 20% of Pennsylvanians over the age of 15 have been married more than once.  That is below the national average.

The article is based on a US Census Bureau report, which also provides statistics on marriage rates by educational level, age, and income ("Remarriage in the United States," by Jamie M. Lewis and Rose M. Kreider, March 2015).  It supports articles I've read showing that marriage, and long lasting marriage, is becoming a perk / privilege of the wealthy and well-educated.  This should be of serious concern.

Interesting stuff.

2015 International Operator Appreciation Day

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is International Operator Appreciation Day, and our friends at SEPTA would like us to thank our favorite SEPTA driver or operator.  In addition feel free to post notes about your favorite drivers or operators in social media.  On Twitter please copy @septa_social

Play nice, now, this is not a time to rant about a few bad apples.  There are some wonderful SEPTA employees out there.  Let's give them a shout out.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Death of a Role Model

When I was in first grade my father was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and we lived in neighboring Clarksville, Tennessee.  The family all talked about a tv show they really liked but my parents thought it might be too scary for me so I wasn’t allowed to watch.  Eventually, though, they changed their minds and one Friday I was allowed to stay up and watch with the rest of the family.  I remember the excitement and anticipation. 

It was “Star Trek.”  The first episode I saw was called “The Arena” and featured a reptilian race called the Gorn.  Capt. Kirk and the Gorn captain are transported onto an uninhabited planet and told that only one can leave and the loser’s ship will be destroyed.  Capt. Kirk wins by making a primitive projectile weapon.  As he walks around the area of the fight he finds all the materials he would need.  As I watched, captivated by the plot, I was sure that my older siblings and parents would have been smart enough to do just what Kirk did, and equally convinced that I would not. Clearly, I needed to pay close attention in school and read more books.   

Even more fascinating was the tall, slender dark haired man in the blue shirt.  His name was Spock.  He quickly became my favorite character; he was surely the smartest guy on the ship.  I wanted to be that smart and that probably provided additional incentive to study.  As a teenager I had a large poster of Spock in my room.  He was a role model and inspiration, at least as much as a fictional character can be. 

As an adult I read both of Leonard Nimoy’s autobiographies to learn more about the man who fleshed out the character.  I read the autobiographies of other cast members from the original Star Trek series and one thing that stuck with me are the positive things they had to say about Nimoy.  He stood up for the supporting actors / actresses in salary and other disputes.  I have remembered that and tried to emulate it.

Leonard Nimoy died today.  Mine was one of the millions of lives he touched.  My sympathies are with his family.