Thursday, October 31, 2013

Montco County II: Ruth Damsker for Upper Gwynedd Tax Collector

Ruth Damsker has served in elected office before:  Montgomery County Commissioner, and Cheltenham Finance Officer and Township Controller.  Now she lives in Upper Gwynedd Township and is running for the township's Tax Collector.  Prior to that she was a medical social worker and a volunteer with the U.S. Army Community Social Services Program.  She has also been active in the American Cancer Society, Rotary, The Gwynedd Condo Association, parent teacher organizations, and the League of Women Voters.

Montco Women I: Jeanne Sorg for Ambler Mayor

There are a number of highly qualified women candidates running for office in Montgomery County.  One is Jeanne Sorg, Democratic candidate for mayor of Ambler.

Among her accomplishments:

  • currently a senior staffer for State Rep. Steve McCarter 
  • formerly Assistant Director of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee
  • community volunteer in Ambler

Issues she has worked on are:

  • storm water infrastructure
  • violence prevention (including helping women escape domestic violence)
  • education 
  • environment (including flooding, community gardens, and Marcellus Shale jobs)
  • helping low income students get school supplies

She describes herself this way:

Many folks still remember me as the mom who walked [daughter] Amelija to school with a toddler in a little red wagon as it clicked and clacked on the sidewalk.    That’s how I got to know many of you in Ambler.

People might also remember her as the wife of former State Rep. Rick Taylor.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Health Care Reforms Eliciting Savings for Medicare Beneficiaries

part of a press release in Tuesday's inbox:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today said that health care reform efforts are eliciting significant out-of-pocket savings for Medicare beneficiaries, pointing to zero growth in 2014 Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles, and more than $8 billion in cumulative savings in the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” 
According to CMS, since the Affordable Care Act provision to close the prescription drug donut hole took effect, more than 7.1 million seniors and people with disabilities who reached the donut hole have saved $8.3 billion on their prescription drugs.  In the first nine months of 2013 nearly 2.8 million people nationwide who reached the donut hole this year have saved $2.3 billion, an average of $834 per beneficiary.  These figures are higher than at this point last year (2.3 million beneficiaries had saved $1.5 billion for an average of $657 per beneficiary). 
The health care law gave those who reached the donut hole in 2010 a one-time $250 check, then began phasing in discounts and coverage for brand-name and generic prescription drugs beginning in 2011.  The Affordable Care Act will provide additional savings each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.
for more information:

To read the notices please go to: and  The notices will be published on October 30, 2013.
 To read CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum’s blog Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of- pocket savings, go to: 
To see a state-by-state breakdown of savings in the coverage gap, go to:
For more information about the 2014 Medicare Part B premium, and Medicare generally, please go to 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

DePasquale on Lottery Contract Extension

from the inbox:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today released the following statement on the Corbett Administration’s decision to provide an eleventh extension on the contract with British-owned Camelot Global Services Inc. to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery management:

“I disagree with the Corbett Administration’s decision to extend the Lottery privatization contract, but I respect the governor’s right to make that decision and proceed.

“My office will carefully scrutinize the $3.4 million already spent on this effort. We will continue to review the entire Lottery privatization process in such a way as it may be helpful to the governor — and therefore the people of Pennsylvania — to make a final decision that is in the best interest of all taxpayers.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guns and Domestic Violence

from our friends at Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Domestic violence survivors and advocates from across the country will come together on Wednesday, October 30 in Washington, DC to urge Congress to pass common-sense gun law reforms that will save women’s lives.   Their fly-in marks the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and efforts to highlight the life-or-death role of guns in domestic violence:
  • On average, 46 American women are shot to death each month by current or former intimate partners. 
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.   
  • Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.  
  • In 2011, 44% of women murdered with guns in the U.S. were killed by current or former intimate partners. 
  • More than half of mass shootings involve domestic violence.  In at least 57% of the mass shootings between January 2009 and September 2013, the shooter killed a current or former intimate partner or family member. 
  • Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries.  
  • In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 38% fewer women murdered by intimate partners. 
One of the speakers will be a Pennsylvania woman whose estranged husband shot her and killed their two-year old son.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Two Articles on Philly Start Ups

Two interesting articles on the start up scene in Philadelphia:

"Meet the Philly Start-Ups Leading the Entrepreneurship Era," by Ashley Primis, Philadelphia Magazine, October, 2013

"Here's What 10 Philly Tech Leaders Told 100 College Entrepreneurs Last Week," by Christopher Wink, Technically Philly, 10/25/13

Sibelius on the Impact of Obamacare for Women

Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has posted an entry on the White House blog, entitled "How the Affordable Care Act Improves the Lives of American Women."  Excerpt:

Important preventive services are now available to women at no additional cost.  These include an annual well woman visit, screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer; certain contraceptive methods; smoking-cessation treatment and services; breastfeeding support and equipment; screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence; immunizations; and many more.  Thanks to the health care law, more than 47 million women have guaranteed access to preventive services without cost-sharing.

Delco Times Endorses Democratic Candidates

The Delaware County Times has published it's endorsements for the Court of Common Pleas and the county row offices.  They like several of the candidates for Court of Common Pleas but especially favor Steve Chanenson (D).  For sheriff they prefer Mary McFall Hopper (R).  For Registrar of Wills Frank Daly (D).  For Controller David Boonin (D).  Read the editorial for the reasons behind their endorsements.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Delco Updates

Now that Delaware County Democrats have the advantage in voter registrations they are starting to get some attention, or rather some of the electoral races are.  PoliticsPA has named the Delaware County Council race as the 3rd most interesting race in the state in 2013.

The downballot races are interesting, too.  In Upper Darby, two Democrats are running for Township Council At Large seats.  Barbarann Keffer and Matt Silva are the candidates in question.  Keffer is a former professional basketball player, who now coaches youth teams.  Silva is an aerial lift and heavy equipment  mechanic.  Both have been active in their community.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DePasquale on Voter ID

from yesterday's inbox:

 Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today released the following statement on the use of $1 million by the Pennsylvania Department of State to buy television advertisements promoting a voter identification law that is on hold until Commonwealth Court rules whether it is constitutional:
“With two weeks to go until the general election I am flabbergasted that the Department of State continues to waste $1 million to run television ads telling people to be prepared to present photo identification when they go to the polls Nov. 5. The courts have made it very clear that photo IDs are not required to vote on Nov. 5, even though the court has ordered them not to implement the requirement.
“Wasting $1 million to promote a law that is not even in effect is like putting $1 million on my 2-4 Steelers to win this year’s Super Bowl. Instead of spending $1 million on a voter education problem that doesn’t exist, we should invest in making it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballot.
“I am surprised that during these times of very tight budgets for government at all levels, that anyone in the state would want to spend money on TV ads that foster confusion rather than provide clarity on the issue.”

What Do Paul Ryan and Monty Python Have in Common?

One little reported aspect of the recent government shutdown was the attempted linking of funding the government to restricting use of contraception.

This from a Sept. 28th article from CNN, "GOP adds "conscience clause' to spending bill," by Lisa Desjardins:

House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

and this from the Washington Post, "Senate leaders take over government shutdown talks," by Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery, Oct. 12

According to two Republicans familiar with the exchange, Ryan argued that the House would need those deadlines as “leverage” for delaying the health-care law’s individual mandate and adding a “conscience clause” — allowing employers and insurers to opt out of birth-control coverage if they find it objectionable on moral or religious grounds — and mentioned tax and entitlement goals Ryan had focused on in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
I take it that any proposed legislation on this would restrict use of condoms, or ban employees from using their wages to pay for condoms or erectile dysfunction medications?    What, you say, the legislation would only pertain to prescription medications, and so only target contraception purchased by and / or for women?  Surely a conscience clause would require men asking for ed medications to supply a marriage license, to make sure that sexual congress is limited to married couples.  Alas, no.

What about asking men who get ed medications to watch a video of a woman giving birth?  As the governor of Pennsylvania likes to say "you can always look away."  What?  Nothing about that in the legislation?

So is it only contraception that is covered by insurance?  But ed medications are covered by insurance, aren't they?

What about selective reduction in invitro fertilization, or discarded excess unused embryos in IVF procedures?  Would companies be required to cover this or would it be part of the "conscience clauses?"

The problem with letting someone else's religion make health care choices is that once the door is open it can easily swing wide open.  Could a company owned by Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to cover any invasive procedure ot medical treatment other than prayer?  That policy might be very inexpensive but I don't think it would be very effective.  Could a company owned by Scientologists refuse to provide mental health care?  It becomes a very slippery slope.

I oppose a conscience clause in health care legislation.

Govt Investment in PA

from the inbox:

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, today announced that the SEDA Council of Governments of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania will receive $1,800,000 as one of 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge, an Obama Administration initiative to accelerate job creation and encourage business investment in the United States.
The SEDA Council of Governments and the nine other grantees will receive a total of $20.5 million to fund projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements.  The programs are designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations—and jobs--in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.
The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) are providing funding for the winning proposals. Additionally, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) plans to make awards in early FY2014.
“Given our competitive advantages in energy costs, research and development, labor productivity, and intellectual property protection, there is no better place to do business than the United States," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The Make it in America Challenge grants support innovative, regionally-based strategies that will encourage businesses to capitalize on those advantages.”
“Making smart investments in a skilled workforce is critical to continuing our recovery and unleashing the economy’s full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “In an increasingly sophisticated economy, equipping workers with the skills they need to succeed on the job isn’t just a workforce development issue, but also an economic development issue and these partnerships are helping to lead the way.”
The Make it in America Challenge was issued on March 18, 2013. Under President Obama’s leadership, federal agencies are collaborating more effectively to make smart investments that provide stakeholders with a seamless process for applying for federal resources.  To that end, the Make it in America Challenge allowed applicants to submit one application to fund their projects.
·         EDA’s Challenge investments will help distressed regions build on existing assets and create a competitive environment for foreign-owned and domestic firms to establish and grow their U.S. operations and create jobs.
·         U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration Challenge investments will provideH-1B Technical Skills Training Grant funds targeted to developing a skilled workforce for specific industries.
·         The Delta Regional Authority will support the winner from the agency’s congressionally designated area.·         When they are announced in early FY2014, NIST-MEP’s grants will focus on developing greater connectivity of regional supply chains in addition to assisting small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
These grants will support PA Made Again, an initiative focused on promoting job creation, growth and retention in manufacturing by building networks of industrial clusters in a 52-county Pennsylvania region. The initiative will facilitate collaboration among manufacturers, colleges, and research institutions in the area, while developing a pipeline of skilled manufacturing workers, all with the goal of generating foreign and domestic investor interest.  The project’s collaborative industry model will build a strong pipeline of middle-skilled and highly-skilled manufacturing workers through new and/or expanded training courses in industrial maintenance, computer numeric controls machining, and various trades along the industrial production career pathway. 
The Make it in America Challenge builds on the United States’ significant competitive advantages – from a strong business climate to a highly skilled and productive workforce – that make it a profitable place for businesses to invest. Investing in businesses and production here can help put more Americans back to work. Some of the ways in which the Administration has already helped American workers and businesses thrive include enhancing the general business climate, securing access to markets for U.S. exports, providing financial and technical support for companies to grow and expand, providing funding to improve education and training opportunities to develop a skilled workforce, and enforcing global trade rules to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on a level playing field.
For more information on the Make it in America Challenge, please visit:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Return of the Gun Boys

There was another school shooting this week.  That is worrying for many reasons but some of those reasons hit very close to home.  Years ago there was a gun incident at my children's elementary school.  No one was hurt but the parents were, as you can imagine, very concerned.  The gun boys (as I think of them) seemed to disappear from the school, rumors abounded but nothing was known for certain.  One of my children was in the same classroom as one of the gun boys so I took it all very much to heart.

Fast forward to today.  Guess who's back?  Yes, at least one of the gun boys, and yes, he's sitting in a class with one of my little snowflakes.  This pulls me in two directions.  I believe in redemption, though it does not sound like this gun boy is any more mentally stable now than he was then.  I believe everyone deserves the chance for a good education, something the schools in my area provide.  I also understand how disruptive the presence of one or more "acting out" students can be in a group.  I know that as just a parent volunteer; teachers can probably tell a lot more alarming stories.

One of the questions that always comes up when I talk with people about the Philadelphia schools is what do you do with students who have little or no interest in learning and who actively pull the gaze of the teacher and the other students to themselves on a regular basis, to the detriment of the learning environment.  What do you do with a student who destroys the projects or work of other students?  If you start warehousing them this early what hope is there for them?

And what the heck do you do with a gun boy?  To quote The King and I "is a puzzlement."

National Economic Overview

Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, has posted an entry to the White House blog, outlining several elements of the national economy.  It has some handy charts and graphs in it, but as those don't always translate well to blogger, I'm linking to it instead of cutting and pasting.

A few highlights:

  • Private sector employment has risen for 43 consecutive months, with businesses adding a total of 7.6 million jobs over that period.

  • Weekly employment indicators not in today’s report suggest that the labor market situation deteriorated in early October, coinciding with the shutdown and the threat of a possible default.

  • Local government educational services employment rose by 9,500 in September and is up 56,400 over the last three months – but remains well below pre-crisis levels. 

  • The unemployment rate for women ticked down to 6.7 percent in September, the lowest since December 2008 but still above pre-crisis rates.

  • The economy has been adding jobs at a pace of more than 2 million per year.

White House Interns with PA Ties

The Fall 2013 White House interns have been announced.  A description of the program is as follows:

A White House Internship provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Chief of Staff, the Office of Communications, the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Office of Presidential Personnel, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the White House Counsel, and the Office of White House Fellows.
Fall interns are listed with hometown and college.  Those with Pennsylvania connections are:

Cooke, Thomas Hometown: Greensboro, NC; University of Pennsylvania, PA
Cutillo, Andrew Hometown: Clarks Summit, PA; University of Rochester, NY
David, Emily Hometown: Wilmington, DE; Dickinson College, PA
Drauschak, Heidi Hometown: Exton, PA; American University, DC
Kamal, Rashida Hometown: Allentown, PA; New York University, NY
McKeon, James Hometown: Erie, PA; Northeastern University, MA
Patel, Parth Hometown: Elk Grove Village, IL; University of Pittsburgh, PA
Pyo, Jane Hometown: Shoreline, WA; University of Pennsylvania, PA
Satten-Lopez, Elena Hometown: Tucson, AZ; Haverford College, PA
Schreiber, Zachary Hometown: Woodbridge, CT; Franklin and Marshall College, PA
Wild, Clayton Hometown: Allentown, PA; The George Washington University, DC

Friday, October 18, 2013

Shapiro Receives National Award

from the inbox:

Today, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro was selected as one of twelve rising leaders from across the country to join the NewDEAL, a national network that is committed to highlighting innovative ideas from state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives.
 Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland and U.S. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, Honorary Chairs of the NewDEAL, recognized Commissioner Shapiro’s efforts to make government smarter by using zero-based budgeting. 
“Senator Begich and I have joined the NewDEAL because we believe we need to look for fresh ideas not just from the top down in Washington, but also from the bottom up, where innovative leaders like Commissioner Shapiro are developing and testing their ideas out on the ground,” said Governor O’Malley, Honorary Co-Chair of the NewDEAL. 
“In communities throughout the country, rising state and local leaders such as Josh Shapiro are proving that you can be both pro-growth and progressive. The NewDEAL is designed to foster these types of ideas and these types of leaders,” said Senator Begich, Honorary Co-Chair of the NewDEAL.
"I am proud to be recognized by the NewDEAL for my work to reform county government and use innovative solutions like zero-based budgeting to close Montgomery County's budget shortfall while investing in our people and the core functions of government," said Commissioner Shapiro. “I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas with the other NewDEAL Leaders and learning about their ideas from around the country that can help us make even more progress here in Montgomery County.” 
Shapiro is currently featured on the NewDEAL’s interactive website at He joins Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale as the third NewDEAL Leader from Pennsylvania.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Two Notes on the Government Shut Down

Two notes on the government shutdown:

Chris Cillizza's Washington Post column / blog "The Fix" highlighted "Just how bad was the shutdown for congressional Republicans?"  It has an interesting chart showing the results of public polling on a generic congressional ballot.  

More polling news:  The Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a poll from Public Policy Polling, asking people how they felt specifically about the EPA being shut down.  Poll results are available online.  Here are a few highlights:

While most Americans oppose the shutdown, even more don’t like that furloughed EPA inspectors, suspended cleanup of toxic dumps, and delayed work on carbon pollution limits for power plants—the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate action plan.
This is true nationally, among Latinos, in key states, in districts represented by once-moderate House Republicans who have changed their positions to support the Tea Party’s agenda—and even in House Speaker John Boehner’s home district.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they opposed statements from politicians who had said the EPA should remain closed even if other agencies reopened.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Delco Voter Registration Tips

Registration for the upcoming November election has closed and the registrations have been counted.  The Delaware County Democrats have announced that for the first time in its 224 year history Delaware County now has a Democratic majority.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Details

from the inbox:

 In the birthplace of U.S. history, the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon will feature its own historic milestone in 2013. 
GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon Race Weekend, November 15-17, will highlight twenty years of competition, growth and excitement. More than 30,000 race participants and 60,000 spectators are expected to join - cementing the event's position among the 10-largest marathons in the U.S. 
Race Weekend offers competitors and fans three days of dynamic events - on and off the race course - highlighted by Sunday's GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. Additional events include:
  • A free two-day Health & Fitness Expo
  • Rothman Institute 8K
  • Kids Fun Run
  • GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon
More than 20 fan-friendly cheer zones line the 26.2-mile race course in unique neighborhoods such as Old City, Manayunk, and University City helping establish Philadelphia as running's best host city. 
Race Weekend welcomes runners from all 50 states and over 40 countries. Much more than just an athletic competition, the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon acts as a platform connecting local businesses, hotels, charities and government to create a magnificent experience for Philadelphia's residents and tourists. 
Created in 1994, the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon launched its first race with about 1,100 participants. In 2012 the event set a record, registering more than 30,000 race competitors. A detailed schedule of 2013 Race Weekend events are below:
Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16: Health & Fitness ExpoNoon - 9:00 p.m., Friday, November 1510:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Saturday, November 16Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hallway FEntry is free and open to the public and includes numerous activities, vendors and seminars. 
Saturday, November 16: Rothman Institute 8K7:30 a.m.22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.Scenic Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, set along the Schuylkill River, is the site for 3,000 Rothman Institute 8K race participants to kick-off GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon Weekend's running events. 
Saturday, November 16: Kids Fun Run*Onsite registration begins at 9:00 a.m.*Races begin at 10:30 a.m. at 22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Kids Fun Run is a noncompetitive race promoting health and fitness among children, ages 6-14. 
Sunday, November 17: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon and Half MarathonWheelchair and Handcycle competitions begin at 6:57 a.m.; Competition for runners begins at 7:00 a.m.22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.The GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon is an elite U.S. race. Sunday is the climax of Marathon Weekend, when thousands of race competitors travel through 13.1 or 26.2 beautiful miles of Philadelphia's race course. 
The GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon weekend attracts more than 3,000 volunteers, 30,000 runners and 60,000 spectators to Philadelphia to experience "20 Years, For the Love of Running". Race Weekend features the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, November 17; the Rothman Institute 8K and Kids Fun Run on Saturday, November 16; and a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16. 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

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Cost of an Epi-Pen

Anyone who has watched a child start going into anaphylactic shock understands the importance of keeping an epi-pen around.  An epi-pen is an injection device that is used to deliver epinephrine.  They are designed so an individual can self-administer or someone else can easily administer the drug to block anaphylaxsis.   It is a self-contained needle already loaded with epinephrine.   There are two sizes, juvenile and adult.

Epi-pens can be purchased in boxes of two.  This is great for parents -- one for home and one for school.   They expire within a year or so of purchase, and so have to be replenished whether they are used or not.  It's great peace of mind to have one handy if you or a loved one has a severe allergy.

That is a luxury for the wealthy, or at least in the insured.  At my local pharmacy the cost of a double pack of epi-pens (two epi-pins) is $10.00 for people with my kind of insurance (union, yes!!!), and $400.00 for people without insurance.  You read that correctly, $400 for two epi-pens, something that you hope you will never need, that has an expiration date on it.  Families struggling to feed children, buy school supplies, and pay for housing and utilities may decided to skip the expensive purchase, unless they have insurance.  That is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Imagine trying to sleep at night, knowing your child has a potentially life threatening allergy, and not being able to afford the medicine that would save the child.  Or only being able to afford one and knowing there isn't a nurse at your child's school who would have experience using it if needed.

This is the kind of health care spending that is just insane.  What are low income, uninsured parents to do?  I hope the Affordable Care Act can help solve problems like this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two Notes on Guns

A press release came through today on a Pennsylvania State House bill on gun safety.  It is provided at the end of this post.

Today on the train I listened to a conversation between two young men sitting behind me.  (It isn't eavesdropping to listen to people speaking loudly in public; people should be aware of that.)  One of them was talking about the difficulty of being a gun enthusiast in Philadelphia.  One of his complaints was that there were few shooting ranges in the city.  He didn't have a car and the shooting ranges he knew of were outside of or on the outskirts of the city.  He couldn't have his gun with him on his bike to ride to the ranges because PA doesn't have an open carry law and even in a case a gun attracts such attention that it is considered a public nuisance.  (Really, in Philadelphia the sight of a young man with a gun case strapped to his back riding a bicycle through the city alarms people?)

His other complaint was that he couldn't find any other gun enthusiasts to talk to.  He said all the people he ran into who liked guns were "either military or crazy."  He continued on with "Doesn't anyone just want to go out and shoot holes in paper anymore?"

Personally I'm kind of glad that people can't bicycle through the city with guns on their back, or hip.

Here's the press release:

CeaseFirePA today stood with legislators, community organizations, domestic violence prevention advocates, health professionals and Mayors Against Illegal Guns to observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month and highlight how commonsense gun laws can help protect domestic violence victims and survivors.  The focus was the need to expand the Pennsylvania background check system.
Representative Steve Santarsiero of Bucks County,  prime sponsor of House Bill 1010, thanked his colleagues in Bucks and Montgomery County who are supporting the legislation through cosponsorship.  He explained that the bill is simply designed to close a loophole that allows certain gun sales -- private sales of long guns -- to be conducted without background checks. 
Long guns are disproportionately used by domestic abusers against women and by criminals against police officers.  The facts demonstrate that background checks work to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.  The presence of law enforcement officers, including one who himself was shot in the line of duty, and domestic violence prevention advocates made clear that making all gun sales subject to background checks will save lives.Representative Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County remarked "I am proud to stand with legislators and other members of my community who are directly affected by the devastation of gun violence.   The passage of HB 1010 will be a step in the direction of building safer communities here in my town and across this state."
Standing with a crowd of partner organizations and community members calling for change, CeaseFirePA Executive Director Shira Goodman observed, "We are the growing majority: Pennsylvanians who want our Commonwealth to lead the way in enacting commonsense laws that protect us without burdening the rights of law abiding gun owners." 
"As responsible Pennsylvanians, it is our right and obligation to make our voices heard," said Goodman. "Our elected officials must demonstrate that they are standing with Pennsylvanians who are working for safer communities by signing on as cosponsors of HB 1010." 

Gettysburg National Military Park Loses Money and Visitors in Shutdown

from the inbox:

 As the 10th day of the government shutdown looms, more than seven million Americans have been kept out of national parks and $750 million in visitor spending has been lost, with huge repercussions for the economies of gateway communities and entire states that depend on national park tourism, according to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR).

CNPSR-gathered figures show that the shutdown is resulting in:

* 715,000 visitors lost daily (based on October 2012 national park attendance numbers).
* $76 million in lost visitor spending per day.
* $450,000 in lost revenue each day that would go directly to the National Park Service ($300,000 in entrance fees and $150,000 in other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees, boat rentals, etc.)

CNPSR Chair Maureen Finnerty, former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic National Parks, said: “These figures are mind boggling and they only begin to capture the full economic shock of locking up the crown jewels of America – our national parks. Towns, cities, and even whole states that depend on park tourism are feeling an increasingly strong pinch. And if Congress continues to hold our national parks hostage, these communities will soon be reeling from what is in many cases the main driver of their economies.”

Finnerty added: “The only thing that would be crazier than shutting down America’s national parks would be for Congress to allow wide open access to the parks without NPS’s dedicated and hardworking employees in place to protect the sites. By essentially enabling looting, poaching, and vandalism, Congress would be taking what is already a dark episode in the history of our national parks and making it worse, including the theft or destruction of national treasures of incalculable value.”

The following is CNPSR-gathered data for the lost visitors, visitor spending, and jobs at risk for 12 leading national parks across the U.S.:

* Acadia National Park (Maine) – 68,493 lost visitors in first 10 days, $5,263,013 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3331 total jobs at stake, including 3147 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Badlands National Park (South Dakota) – 26,767 lost visitors in first 10 days, $656,986 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 475 total jobs at stake, including 375 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Boston National Historic Park (Massachusetts) – 54,794 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,032,876 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1019 total jobs at stake, including 904 non-NPS jobs.
* Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio) – 68,219 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,545,205 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 819 total jobs at stake, including 599 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Everglades National Park (Florida) – 25,083 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,857,534 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2364 total jobs at stake, including 1951 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania) – 27,397 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,796,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1141 total jobs at stake, including 1051 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Glacier National Park (Montana) – 60,273 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,076,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1994 total jobs at stake, including 1632 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) – 120,000 lost visitors in first 10 days, $11,750,684 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 6825 total jobs at stake, including 6167 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee) – 257,534 lost visitors in first 10 days, $23,123,287 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 11,766 total jobs at stake, including 11,367 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Olympic National Park (Washington) – 77,808 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,912,328 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1673 total jobs at stake, including 1395 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) – 80,821 lost visitors in first 10 days, $4,821,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3033 total jobs at stake, including 2641 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) – 98,630 lost visitors in first 10 days, $9,452,054 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5572 total jobs at stake, including 4481 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Yosemite National Park (California) – 106,849 lost visitors in first 10 days, $10,021,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5607 total jobs at stake, including 4602 local/non-NPS jobs.
* Zion National Park (Utah) – 72,876 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,495,890 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2401 total jobs at stake, including 2136 local/non-NPS jobs.

A note on data: Visitation, economic impacts, and job numbers for the 12 parks are drawn from Headwaters Economics, “Land and Communities, National Parks Service Units, Economic Impacts of Visitation and Expenditures” at Topline numbers for NPS daily visitation provided by Coalition of National Park Service Retirees using National Park Service data. 

Sen. King Discusses the Shutdown

from the inbox:

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) of Maine joined CNN's Jake Tapper, Gloria Borger and Dana Bash to discuss the latest in the federal government shutdown. A full transcript of the program is posted on Highlights and video links from CNN's discussion with Sen. Angus are below. 

VIDEO: Independent senator: Short-term debt ceiling bill makes no sense

VIDEO: Sen. Angus King: Debt ceiling debate 'is ridiculous' - pass a bill and move on

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Candidates for Montco Court of Common Pleas

It's time to start taking a closer look at some of the local elections this November.

For example, there are four candidates (two from each of the major parties) running for a judicial seat on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.   Here's my prediction:  the court will have at least one more woman on the bench after the election.

Read up for yourself at their campaign websites:


Gail Weilheimer:

Steve Tolliver:


Maureen Coggins:

Sharon Giamporcaro:

EConsult Report on SEPTA and Real Estate Value

Econsult has produced a 10 page report on the effect of proximity to a SEPTA station on real estate prices in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.  The full report is available freely online, as is a brief executive summary.

Here is an excerpt:

Our analysis found that the average property value premium attributable to Regional Rail across Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties is approximately $7,900 per house. Applying this average value to the over 754,000 single-family homes in the four counties results in approximately $6.0 billion in aggregate property value impacts generated by SEPTA Regional Rail Stations, with the impacts distributed across all four counties. This represents the value of accessibility generated by SEPTA in the suburban counties and does not value the loss associated with a diminished economy or increased congestion. As such this should be thought of as a lower bound estimate of the property value impacts resulting from the suspension of SEPTA Regional Rail service. 

I live within a mile of a transit station.  It was a factor in why we bought where we did.  I would not want to live anywhere in this area that wasn't within walking distance of public transit.  

Two Arts Education Notes

Two arts and education related events, from the inbox:

The third annual Pennsylvania Arts and Education Symposium will be held in Harrisburg on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.  This daylong event is sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network and will feature presentations and workshops led by state and national leaders in arts and education.  The keynote speaker will be Ian David Moss, research director of Fractured Atlas, founder of Createquity, and a leader in arts evaluation and advocacy.  Other sessions will include a Policy Leader Workshop with members of the state legislature, Department of Education, and other state agencies invited.

PCN's Focus on Education, to be aired later this month, will also focus on arts education.  Check PCN's listings for details.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Fracking Poll

A pollster called this evening.  He was a little cagey about who was paying for the poll but did say it was being done under the auspices of Public Opinion Research.  The pollster had a noticeable accent and pronounced Gov. Corbett's name so that the last syllable sounded like bay (as in sorbet) not bet.  I corrected him; I'm sure he was pleased about this.

I took notes while on the phone and caught the gist but not the exact wording of the questions.

Are you registered at this address?
Would you pay $20 or $30 more a year in property taxes to improve water quality and environmental preservation?
Have you heard of [the official name of fracking]?
What is your view on it:
1) moratorium
2) continue but tighten regulations
3) continue as is
4) loosen regulations

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

1) tighter regulations would improve drinking water
2) tighter regulations would improve water quality and health
3) tighter regulatiosn would have a negative impact on the economy and destroy jobs
4) fracking created jobs for people I know

How do you react to these statements

1) We have twice as much natural gas as Saudi Arabia and we should do more to be energy independent
2) Allegheny Institute for Public Policy showed that fracking created new full time  jobs in the state and will create more [this was longer with more statistics]
3) Fracking used in 1 million wells for more than 60 years with no problems
4) the natural gas boom has increased the energy supply

React to these statements on tighter regulations:

1) Fracking in PA is a risking new process endangering the water supply
2) Oil and gas lobbyists have cut funds, taking environmental cops off the beat, only 9,000 wells inspected and many have problems
3) Politicians allow fracking in rivers, forests and parks
4) Oil and gas companies promised a bonanza but jobs are going to out of state workers

How do you feel about fracking

1) loosen regulations
2) continue as is
3) continue but tighten regulations
4) moratorium

Do you agree or disagree with:

1) Tighter regulations would impact the environment
2) Tighter regulations would improve health
3) Fracking created jobs for people I personally know
4) Tight regulations would improve water quality

With what you now know what is the best reason to tighten regulations [open ended question]

Do you favor or oppose?

1) increase fees to frack to clean up water
2) Prohibit fracking within 500 ft of schools, etc.
3) Require natural gas companies to disclose the chemicals they use
4) moratorium until the risks are better understood


year of birth
how much education
Democrat or Republican
strong attachment to party

In the past 2 or 3 years have you engaged in these activities?  If yes, frequently or occasionally?

visited parks with lakes
canoeing or kayaking
hiking in parks or on trails

married or single

primarily use house phone or cell phone

Recommended Weekend Outing

Last weekend I went out with some friends; the group included some kids, young adults, and fifty-somethings.  It was a long day and late night but still fun.  If you have a weekend day, keep this in mind.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is about an hour, and hour and a half away.  I hadn't been in five or six years.  We toured the shops (great place to do some early holiday shopping), and watched The Mud Show.  Several music groups performed.  The only name I caught was the Roguish Rakes, who were quite good.  There was also a bagpipe group that sounded very innovative but I missed their name.  We also watched the big joust in the early evening / late afternoon.  The hero, Sir William, has a marked resemblance to Chris Hemsworth (Thor).  The other knight had a Jeremy Irons look about him. Caveat:  If you have some familiarity with medieval or renaissance history, check that part of your brain at the door.  (Queen Elizabeth I at Bosworth Field?  Really?  I don't think so.  And Elizabeth and Grace O'Malley seemed to get alone well.)  The pyrotechnics are very impressive, though.

After spending the day in the 1500s, spend the evening at Field of Screams.  It is less than an hour away, in Lancaster.  There are four major attractions, two haunted houses, a haunted hayride, and a maze.  I went through one of the houses and on the hayride.  That was about all I could  manage so I waited in the main open area for the rest of my party to go through the other attractions.  I struck up conversations with two other people doing the same thing.  They were wonderfully nice, so if you end up waiting for your friends, don't be afraid to start talking with the other parent-types loitering near the attraction exits.  The most  impressive thing I saw there was the giant Pumpkin Man near the hayride.

It was about a two hour drive home.  All told the whole thing took about 11 hours from door to door.  It could be done in less time, though.  We hit some traffic in a couple of places.  It can be a little costly but if you work the coupons, are careful where you eat, and note time differentials in price you can keep it affordable.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

PA Marriage Equality Act Introduced

from the inbox:

Against the backdrop of Love Park, state Reps. Brian Sims, D-Phila., and Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery/Phila., were joined by supporters in announcing the introduction of H.B. 1686, the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act.
 "The majority of Pennsylvanians now support marriage equality, and that support continues to grow," Sims said. "Neighboring states, including New York, Maryland and Delaware, have all decided to be on the right side of history and have granted equal rights to their LGBT citizens. The time has come for Pennsylvania’s legislature to stand up and let our citizens know we see them as truly equal members of society and they have the right to choose whom they marry. 
"With the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, it became apparent that Pennsylvania cannot continue to be stuck in the past. This is a civil rights issue facing our LGBT community. Furthermore, this issue is holding back Pennsylvania’s economy. People and businesses are seeing states that have true marriage equality as more attractive to them, and they’re spending their money in those states. This lack of equality is holding us back. Where are we at in our government where you lose rights by crossing a border?" 
Sims and McCarter have been gathering co-sponsors and have received bipartisan support for H.B. 1686. 
"This goes beyond simply legalizing gay marriage," McCarter said. "This is about ensuring all Pennsylvanians have equal benefits and protections before the law. Marriage equality and the benefits associated with it need to be afforded to all of our citizens, and the people of Pennsylvania support that idea. The issue is getting our fellow legislators to listen to their constituents and the voice of Pennsylvanians who are calling for this bill to proceed." 
"An ever-growing majority of Pennsylvanians now agree that all consenting adults should be able to make life-long commitments to the ones they love," said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, co-chairman of the legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus. "I believe the institution is strengthened when families – gay and straight – can choose the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage." 
"We’re in a situation now where we’re galvanized," McCarter added. "The ruling on DOMA made it apparent that marriage equality is the correct direction for Pennsylvania to follow. With a companion bill in the Senate, there is no better time for Pennsylvanians to contact their legislators and tell them now is the time to act. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and watch as the rest of the country evolves to accept what should already be state law." 

$50 Million to Philly Public Schools

from the inbox:

City Council’s Committee on Appropriations on Thursday gave unanimous approval to a $50 million up-front payment to the School District of Philadelphia in exchange for a portfolio of vacant surplus properties. The payment fulfills a request made by the District to the City of Philadelphia on Aug. 8, 2013, for a funding commitment in order to begin the school year on time.
 Bill No. 130577 authorizes the City’s Director of Finance to transfer $50 million from the Grants Revenue Fund to the General Fund for disbursement to the District as part of an agreement with the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID). PAID will assume responsibility for marketing and selling the surplus properties, with the first $50 million in revenue to be returned to City taxpayers and all additional revenue to be directed to public schools. 
“City Council is keeping its word to Superintendent William Hite and the students in his care,” said Appropriations Committee Chair W. Wilson Goode, Jr. “There’s no doubt that both the school district and the City were dealt a bad hand by the Commonwealth. This proposal addresses a short-term funding need as well as the long-term health of our neighborhoods.” 
Council President Darrell L. Clarke said: “Too often, government’s first response to fiscal crisis is to stick its hands in the taxpayer’s pocket. Ironically, a plan from Republican leaders in Harrisburg calls for City Council to do just that. We have found a better way. 
“Rather than borrowing $50 million and sticking taxpayers with a bill for $10 million in interest, we are moving forward with a strategy to put vacant school properties in the hands of the City’s real estate arm to market and sell. The evidence strongly suggests that not only will the City get the $50 million back, but the School District could raise millions of dollars on top of that under this plan.” 
Bill No. 130577 was introduced on Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s behalf by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) on Sept. 12, 2013. It is scheduled to appear on City Council’s final passage calendar on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. City Council continues to negotiate long-term, sustainable public schools funding with leaders of the General Assembly and with the Corbett Administration.

Patrick Murphy on the Affordable Care Act

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy has issued an op-ed on the Affordable Care Act ("Was losing my seat for Obamacare worth it?").  It appears on the MSNBC site.  Here is an excerpt:

But hearing the heartbreaking stories of so many families who were denied coverage–who went bankrupt because of medical bills–that was too much for me. In 2010 alone, 26,100 people prematurely died due to lack of health coverage. That is immoral. How can anyone rationalize that the greatest country on Earth, with the best doctors, stood by decade after decade as fellow Americans died prematurely because they didn’t have access to health insurance? Whether it was a pre-existing condition or affordability, something had to be done. Every major stakeholder–doctors, seniors, hospitals, PhRMA–all came together and endorsed Obamacare. But that is policy, not politics.

That's not the only thing he's in the news for today.  Politico has an article by Lucy McCalmont with the title:  "Patrick Murphy hints Gabby Giffords shooting tied to ACA vote."  I was at some of the Bucks County events and rallies that he mentions and things did get ugly.  The screaming and yelling was bad enough but the hateful comments (A woman saying "Jesus would throw you out!" to someone holding a What Would Jesus Do sign) were alarming. 

Stop Hunger at Your Station

from the inbox:

SEPTA will kick off its fifth annual “Stop Hunger at Your Station” food drive to benefit Philabundance with a rally at City Hall at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 4.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will join SEPTA and Philabundance employee ambassadors on the City Hall North Apron (JFK Boulevard at Broad Street) for the rally. From October 7-21, SEPTA employees and customers will help “SEPTA stock the shelves” of Philabundance and the agencies it serves by donating much-needed canned and dry foods at 42 SEPTA transportation centers and train stations throughout the Authority’s service area. In 2012, SEPTA employees and customers donated 19 tons of food to Philabundance.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Strouse Op-Ed on Shutdown

Yesterday 8th congressional district candidate Kevin Strouse's op-ed on the (then) potential government shutdown was published on the PhillyBurbs website.  Here is an excerpt:

Should we avoid a shutdown, Congress will lurch toward its next crisis over whether we will make good on our debt payments. Unfortunately, this theater of the absurd has costs — the brinksmanship itself harms our economic recovery and ability to govern effectively.
I saw this first hand as a manager at the Central Intelligence Agency leading a team of officers investigating illicit financial issues in 2011. While my team and I were working to prepare the president and his National Security staff to deal with a crisis overseas, I was yanked away from my team and the mission in order to prepare for a shutdown. The contrast between those of us who wanted to do our jobs, and those who wanted to play political games, was stark.
Preparing for each shutdown has real financial costs — tax dollars are paying for government agencies to prepare for shutdowns rather than serving the American people.