Marjorie Margolies, one of the Democrats running for the 13th congressional district, is profiled in Politico magazine. Read "The Clinton-in-Law," by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood, 12/04/2013.
Friday, December 06, 2013
not sure how I got on this email list, but here is Paul Simon's statement on the death of Nelson Mandela:
"Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the twentieth century. He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should reignite a worldwide effort for peace."
My candidacy is grounded in the idea that I am a different kind of leader -- a non-traditional candidate -- a businessman who has never run for public office.
I built my successful business on doing things differently. The organizations that I have been involved with have survived and grown in the toughest of times because we overcame challenges by working together to better our community.
It is in this spirit of community and in the spirit of the holiday season that my wife Frances and I will be breaking with the contemporary campaign tradition of hosting a reception during the Pennsylvania Society weekend in New York City.
Food should never have to be a question, but just before Thanksgiving, more than $5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program went into effect, hurting more than 47.7 million Americans who are already struggling to put food on the family dinner table.
In Pennsylvania alone, these cuts to food stamps affect more than 1.8 million of our neighbors and friends. For a family of four, these cuts mean 20 fewer meals per month -- and as a result, charitable food banks are struggling to meet a sudden surge of demand.
So instead of doing what is expected of a campaign and spending upwards of $15,000 in New York City, we have decided to contribute our time and money to Pennsylvania food banks so that others who are not quite as fortunate as many of us may enjoy a brighter holiday.
It is our hope that by taking this different approach, that all Pennsylvania families will be united in the bonds of friendship.
If you'd like to join us in this effort by donating your time or money to a food bank in your area, please visit http://www.feedingpa.org/.
With warmest regards for a joyous and peaceful holiday season,
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
from the inbox:
Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7thDistrict), and the Philly Land Bank Alliance on Wednesday announced they were ready to move forward on Bill No. 130156 authorizing creation of a land bank. Final passage of the bill is expected before the holiday break.
“Philadelphia is making history. Today, we get a step closer to creating a new tool to repurpose vacant, tax-delinquent properties and grow the city's tax base,” said Councilwoman Sánchez, the bill’s prime sponsor.
“I would like to thank my partners in City Council, the Nutter Administration, the Philly Land Bank Alliance and members of the community for being part of this collaborative process. It was frustrating at times for some, but I feel strongly that building the foundation for an efficient, well-resourced land bank – as opposed to just a signed bill – should always have been the goal,” said Council President Clarke, a sponsor of the legislation.
Philadelphia’s land bank would have the authority to acquire vacant, tax-delinquent properties through sheriff’s sale and begin the process of consolidating title of and making available for sale the 9,082 vacant properties currently owned by the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s land bank would be the largest municipal land bank in the nation.
Council President Clarke continued: “The opportunity to consolidate land under single ownership will certainly provide a better customer service experience for applicants. We must now continue the conversation about developing policies to incentivize the development of vacant land for the purposes of generating jobs, growing businesses, producing more revenue for our schools, and creating safe and enjoyable spaces for the public.”
“We’re very pleased the bill sponsors on City Council and Alliance representatives have reached agreement that will allow the land bank ordinance to be passed by the end of the year,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.
“This legislation as amended strikes the appropriate balance between transparency, fairness, efficiency and accountability in the process of getting publicly owned vacant land under one title and available to the private market,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of Philadelphia LISC.
The Philly Land Bank Alliance includes the following non-profit and for-profit stakeholders: the Building Industry Association; City Wide NAC Alliance; Community Design Collaborative; Design Advocacy Group; Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors; Philadelphia LISC; Next Great City/PennFuture; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Regional Housing Legal Services; and Sustainable Business Network.
Monday, December 02, 2013
Joe Biden noted a new post on the White House blog, listing 23 executive actions the President has taken to reduce gun violence. You can read more about the White House plan to reduce gun violence at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence
from the inbox:
Citing legislation on both the state and now the federal level, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery/Phila., denounced the industry-driven effort to end legal protection of endangered species and the designation of wild trout streams.
“These bills were troubling enough when we saw them at the state level, but now we’re seeing similar legislation introduced at the federal level,” McCarter said. “It’s clearly an all-out assault on the environment and endangered species perpetrated by big industry that doesn’t want to deal with legal protections of wildlife hampering their profits.”
In Pennsylvania, H.B. 1576 and S.B. 1047, dubbed the Endangered Species Coordination Act, would aim to make it more difficult to designate an endangered species and protect wild trout streams by giving the final decision-making process to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the legislature.
“IRRC is made up of bureaucrats, not biologists,” McCarter said. “Removing scientists and adding bureaucrats causes one to become suspicious about the actual intent of these bills.”
At the federal level, a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, S.B. 1731 which would end protection for most species that are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bill's most extreme measure would require every species to be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species every five years until Congress passes a joint resolution renewing their protections for another five years. The process would then repeat. The species would have no legal protections between the expiration of their classification and the passing of the congressional joint resolution.
“The strength of both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Pennsylvania Endangered Species Act — in fact all of our nation’s environmental laws — comes from the requirement that science, not politics, guide the protection of our wildlife, air and water,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These bills would allow extreme ideologues in Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature to veto environmental protections for any protected species they wanted, just so they could appease their special-interest benefactors.”
“The legislators who have introduced these bills are not giving proper thought to the long-term consequences of their actions,” McCarter said. “Many of the animals on our endangered species list serve a vital purpose in their individual ecosystems that will be undoubtedly altered in a negative way – with no way of turning back the damage that has been done. These are very serious bills and everyone needs to pay attention to what is really going on here.”
A local note from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:
USTR [United States Trade Representative] DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Jeremy Sturchio drafted and cleared one final memo last week, his last as USTR executive secretary. The former director of speechwriting will take his trade chops and great stories to the growing team at Visa Inc., where he starts today as Business Leader for International Government Relations. Like many in Obamaworld, Sturchio started at the grassroots back in '08, as a field organizer in Bucks County, Pa. (where he grew up), running phone banks and voter canvasses out of the Boilermakers Hall in Bensalem.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
A few interesting notes from the December issue of Money Magazine.
The editor's column suggests an alternate way of managing the lottery:
"Enter the prize-linked savings account. The idea: You place money with a private of government institution,and in exchange for a slightly lower interest rate, you're entered into a lottery that could make you a lot. You get the entertainment value of dreaming about a big score while still saving." (p. 11)
Sounds like a great idea to me.
the first student loan ombudsman at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Rohit Chopra, is a Wharton grad (p. 80).
I've been reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey and have found it really fascinating. It would be a great holiday gift for those interested in the subject matter. I've ordered two copies, one for a relative and one for a friend (shhh, don't tell). The book does a great job of showing us how things look different if we look at them through a different cultural lens. I've learned a tremendous amount about first century Jewish life.
However, one sentence caught my interest for a completely different reasons. In the chapter "The Blind Man and Zacchaeus," Bailey notes that the name of the blind beggar was Bartimaeus which can be translated "son of filth" (p. 173). The name Bartimaeus seemed familiar. Then I remembered the name of a character in Harry Potter, Barty Crouch. A quick check showed that, indeed Barty is short for Bartemius. Combining a forename which can mean "son of filth" with the family name Crouch seems an odd coincidence. Potter author J. K. Rowling does take names seriously and chose them with care. There's no way of knowing if she was aware of the meaning of Bartimaeus / Bartemius but it's an intriguing thought.
Okay, you may now return to your regularly scheduled activites.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Two notes in the inbox this week regarding Marcellus Shale.
A new report was released today [Nov 22nd] by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative — a group of research organizations, including the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, tracking the impacts of shale drilling.
And, from the Nov. 26th inbox:
The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, today celebrated the approval of more than $28 million in Marcellus Legacy Fund grants to support recreation and critical land and water protection efforts throughout the state.
“The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition is pleased that funds from the Marcellus Legacy Fund will be used to support vital recreation and land and water protection efforts,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition. “These grants will have a lasting impact on the Commonwealth by supporting projects that provide numerous benefits including protecting watersheds, mitigating risk of flooding, building and maintaining recreational trails and treating former mining sites.”
A result of Act 13, which was signed into law in 2012, the ‘impact fee’ collects fees on natural gas drilling. To date, the state’s impact fee has collected more than $400 million. Forty percent of the fees collected are allocated to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund. A portion of the Fund is administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) to support statewide conservation and recreation efforts. This initial round of grants distributed more than $28 million in grants.
The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition was instrumental in ensuring that funds collected through the Marcellus Legacy Fund be made available for statewide conservation and recreation projects.
A breakdown of the grants distributed by the Commonwealth Financing Authority is as follows:
· $5.6 million to restore streams impaired by polluted runoff in 18 counties.
· $16 million to support 116 greenway, trail and recreation projects throughout the state.
· $5.2 million to support 12 abandoned mine drainage abatement and treatment projects statewide.
· $700,000 to support flood mitigation projects in Blair, Bucks, Lackawanna and Northumberland counties.
· $225,000 to plug orphaned and abandoned wells in Allegheny and Washington counties.
from the inbox:
Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia open. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is considering closing the consulate.
In a letter dated November 26, Shapiro wrote that the consulate “is critical to the continuance of the longstanding relationship between the people of Israel and our region.” Shapiro went on to say that the consulate “is of vital importance to our respective nations’ common interests and its continued operation will serve to enhance the mutually beneficial economic and business connection between Israel and our region in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”
In the letter, Shapiro references Netanyahu’s upbringing in Montgomery County during which the future Prime Minister graduated from Cheltenham High School. “The Greater Philadelphia region is an economic hub for Israel, processing 25 percent of Israel’s nearly $20 billion in exports to the United States each year,” Shapiro wrote, adding that the presence of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is integral in that process.
Shapiro is active is many Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the area. He has traveled to Israel six times, and has met Netanyahu twice.
Patrick Murphy's latest post on the MSNBC site, "Why I'm Thankful for the 1%," makes this point:
I’m so thankful for the 48,000 troops still serving in harm’s way during America’s longest war in Afghanistan. They serve on our behalf _ in danger _ always a mortar shell, roadside bomb or machine-gun fire away from the ultimate sacrifice. These heroic troops join 2.5 million from this generation who answered their nation’s call – less than 1% of all Americans.
one paragraph from the President's press release on pardoning turkeys, noting that the White House also donates turkeys:
On a more serious note, later today, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will bring a couple less fortunate turkeys to a great organization that works to help out our neighbors here in D.C. who need it most. And I want to thank Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating those dressed birds for the fifth year in a row. This is a reminder that this is a season to not only be thankful for the incredible blessings that we have, but also to remember the neediest and generously serve those who are not as fortunate.
from the inbox:
Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Friday urged longtime owner-occupants to check their eligibility and apply for relief designed to protect them against property tax bill hikes driven by dramatic increases in surrounding property values.
Commonly known as Gentrification Relief, this tax assistance will be targeted to senior citizens and to homeowners in financial need. House Bill 390 was introduced by Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., in January and signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett on Wednesday.
“I would like to thank the entire Philadelphia Delegation for shepherding the Gentrification Relief bill through the legislative process in Harrisburg and Governor Corbett for signing it into law,” Council President Clarke said. “I urge qualifying Philadelphia homeowners to take advantage of this program and to contact their Council representativesand the Office of Property Assessment for more information.”
Last month, Council President Clarke introduced legislation that would extend the deadline for Gentrification Relief applications from Jan. 15, 2014, to Feb. 17, 2014. Council is expected to give final approval to Bill No. 130854 by the end of the year.
“I have been concerned that longtime residents in revitalized neighborhoods could be taxed out of their homes under the Actual Value Initiative,” Rep. O’Brien said. “This relief program is an important step toward full tax fairness in Philadelphia.”
Also on Wednesday, Governor Corbett signed legislation introduced by Rep. Cherelle Parker, leader of the Philadelphia Delegation, that would enable the City to lien properties under common ownership anywhere in Pennsylvania when one property is delinquent in Philadelphia. This additional authority would enable Philadelphia to collect delinquent taxes more effectively from property owners who reside or own properties elsewhere in the Commonwealth, and is estimated to raise an additional $30 million in revenue annually.
House Bill 388 gives additional lien authority to all counties in Pennsylvania.
an excerpt from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:
SIREN - "'Surprisingly large' numbers of young people enrolling in health coverage," by POLITICIO's Natalie Villacorta : "Initial numbers from several corners of the country show that nearly a quarter of new enrollees have been between 18 and 35 years of age, the demographic bubble whose general vigor and well-being is crucial to the financial stability of Obamacare's new health exchanges. They're waiting through website error messages and wading through insurance plan details in places like California, Kentucky and Washington state as well as Washington, D.C. This early in the enrollment period, with most states not yet reporting, their response is hardly definitive. And there's no federal data broken down by age. But advocates say so far, so good. ...
"The headway to date could allay fears that the old and sick will be left treading water alone in health plan risk pools. Still, the Obama administration's goal is much higher than these early levels. It's aiming for 2.7 million of its 7 million March 31 enrollment goal - more than 38 percent - to be younger people. That tracks the bigger picture: Americans 18-35 comprise about 40 percent of the 41 million uninsured people eligible for coverage. By March, a national trend will be important psychologically, but what's really going to matter is the situation in individual states, since insurance is pooled at the state level. ... The totals so far are 'surprisingly large,' said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation."
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
from the inbox:
Seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare prescription drug plan coverage saved $8.9 billion to date on their prescription drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to new data released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In Pennsylvania, 207,036 seniors and people with disabilities saved $177,144,769, or an average of $856 per beneficiary, during the first 10 months of 2013. Overall, seniors in Pennsylvania have saved $580,285,146 since passage of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, these seniors will be free to use more of their Social Security benefit cost of living adjustment on what they choose because the Medicare Part B premium will not increase in 2014, thanks to the health care law’s successful efforts to keep cost growth low.
For more information see: http://www.medicare.gov/part-d/
A state by state savings chart is available at: http://downloads.cms.gov/files/SummaryChart2010_October_2013.pdf
Monday, November 25, 2013
excerpt from a press release:
This year’s White House Christmas Tree, which will be on display in the Blue Room, is an 18.5-foot Douglas Fir grown by Chris Botek, a second generation Christmas Tree Farmer from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA. Botek is the National Christmas Tree contest’s 2010 champion and his parents, Francis and Margaret, were the 2006 contest champions.
Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm in Belvidere, NJ has won the New Jersey state Christmas tree competition nine times, and this is the first year that the farm has won NCTA’s contest. The Wyckoff farm has been family owned for six generations, since 1839, and this year four trees from the farm will be featured throughout the White House during the holiday season.
One quick historical note -- the Wyckoff family settled in New York (then New Amsterdam) in the 1600's. [Full disclosure: my grandfather's grandmother was a Wyckoff.]