Thursday, August 30, 2007


This afternoon on my way home I stopped to buy next month's trail pass from SEPTA. The clerk was, as they tend to be, brisk, as there was a line. However, as she was sliding my pass through the window she also gave me a lanyard and pass carrier. "Compliments of SEPTA," she said. SEPTA has never given me anything other than good service before so it took me by surprise. I tested it out on the ride home. My one concern is that the lanyard hangs the pass longways but you insert the pass from the side. I worry about it falling out. But we'll see how it goes.

PA Books: Fiction Updates

I had hoped to attend a townhall meeting held by State Rep. Bryan Lentz this evening but a stuffy head has me home and not thinking especially clearly.

So in lieu of politics I bring you brief mentions of two new-ish books with Pennsylvania connections.

Victoria Thompson lives in PA but writes a mystery series set in late 1800's New York City. The latest edition, Murder in Chinatown, is a good read and a good introduction to Chinese-Irish intermarriage when immigration laws forbade Chinese women to legally come to the U.S.

Susan Muaddi Darraj, who grew up in Philadelphia but now lives in Maryland, has written The Inheritance of Exile: Stories of South Philly, about the Palestinian community there. She was on PCN talking about the book earlier this summer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hotcha!! LgDb and Pennsylvania Legislation

Hey, hey, all you Pennsylvania politicos. There is a new game in town. LgDb is a new web service that will let you track legislation, see what bills an official has sponsored, and find similar bills. It's not just PA but a number (all?) states. In fact you have to actively limit to Pennsylvania. is the URL. You can search on a legislator's name in the general search box but to search by topic or limit to PA, use the advanced search function. (It doesn't readily show up, just put something into the search box and one of your options on the search results page is "advanced search.")

One note -- there are a number of short instructional or informative videos imbedded in the site that start up automatically. Something to keep in mind if you are at work and your work does not involve politics.

There is a more advanced version aimed at people in the political business; there is, of course, a fee for that, but you can set up bill sheets that clients can check on to track progress, etc. Armchair politicos like me can do very nicely with the free version.

Next time I update the sidebar (possibly redecorating the blog over Labor Day weekend) I'll add this.

May Senate Journals

The Pennsylvania State Senate is ahead of the House in posting their legislative Journals but they don't have all of June up yet so this is the most recent month available. Most issues of the Senate Journal are taken up withs lists of bills voted on or sent off to committee, resolutions, introducing guests, etc. I only take note of substantive discussion; well, Sen. Fumo's diatribes on Iraq also.

May 01 (15 p.)
May 02 (12 p.)
May 07 (16 p.)
May 08 (39 p.)
May 21 (24 p)
May 22 (24 p.)

May 01, p. 10-11, nurses overtime, p. 11-12, Sen. Fumo on Iraq (again), pp. 12-14, Pittsburgh named the most livable city.

May 02, pp. 4-5 public school employees retirement board, p.9, SERS

May 08, p. 13-38 are primarily concerned with Kate McGinty and Michael DeBernardis being reappointed to their positions at the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

May 22, p. 9-16, discussion of HB 112, insurance merger, pp. 22-23, Sen. Fumo on Iraq (again).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Redistricting GAme

Redistricting is always controversial. It is also, like movie casting, a complex task that people tend to think is easy. To try your hand at it (redistricting, not being a casting director), check out the redistricting game at I haven't played yet but hope to over the holiday weekend.

April Senate Journals

The Pennsylvania State Senate Journals are posted on the senate's website, though they tend to run behind. Here are some notes from the April Senate Journals. Most of the Journal is taken up with lists of bills, introduction of guests, celebratory resolutions and so on. I only take note of substantive discussion on pending legislation.

April 16 (51 p.)
April 17 (18 p.)
April 18 (11 p.)
April 23 (14 p.)
April 24 (16 p.)
April 25 (14 p.)
April 30 (16 p.)

April 17, pp. 3-4, pay for county District Attorneys

April 23, pp. 12-14, Sen. Fumo on Iraq (again).

April 25, p. 14, Sen. Hughes reacts to yesterday’s sign in the Rotunda saying Rep. Angel Cruz should be hung from the tree of liberty

Monday, August 27, 2007

Philly Townhall Meeting on Iraq War

From the inbox:

After four years of war, the American people have had enough. This Tuesday, we're going to make Senator Specter finally take a stand.






Tuesday, Aug. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Free Library of Philadelphia

Central Library, Skyline Room
1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA

The "Take a Stand Campaign" is a nation-wide effort of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI) to demand that members of Congress and the Senate take a stand with the 70% of Americans who want a safe and responsible end to Pres. Bush's endless war policy in Iraq. Sponsored by:

Please note that another email I received this afternoon indicated that Sen. Specter did not plan to attend, though a vigil at his office today may have convinced him otherwise.

April House Journals

The Journal of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives is posted on the House website up into the early part of May, so this is the last month I can report on until more dates are posted. Most of the Journal is taken up with lists of bills that are shuffled off to committee or pass without discussion, or introduction of guests, or speeches on non-controversial resolutions, and so on. I only take note of discussion of pending legislation.

April 16 (13 p)
April 17 (43 p)
April 18 (50 p)
April 19 (2 p)
April 23 (31 p)
Aril 24 (33 p)
April 25 (27 p)
April 30 (2 p)

April 17, pp. 21-4 discussion of HB 302 on foster parents, pp. 26-30 on jury duty exceptions for caregivers and the elderly.

April 18, pp. 20-23 legislation on stalking of care-dependent people; pp. 24-41, discussion of HB 112, insurance merger, many amendments, pp. 47-49, Republicans asking when budget discussions would begin in earnest

April 23, p. 12-14, special exemptions for fire house fundraisers to serve alcohol in dry townships; pp. 22-25, overtime for health care providers

April 24, pp. 23-26 on HB 112 (again), pp. 29-30 on signs displayed in the capitol suggesting a representative be hanged; pp. 30-32 more requests for budget discussions

Sunday, August 26, 2007

National Priorities Project Update

From the inbox, our friends at the National Priorities Project send us this:

On Food Stamps: NPP just released today an analysis of 2004 county-level data and statistics that shows that half of all low-income people did not receive Food Stamp benefits. The report looks at the percentage of low-income people receiving Food Stamp benefits in each county in the country, juxtaposing it with poverty rates. Click here for the report and go to the NPP Database to find your county's information. And keep your eyes peeled for it in your local paper -- the story appeared in eight papers from across the country within hours of its release this morning.

On Cost of Iraq War: We have updated our cost of war factsheets, which includes the cost and trade-offs for each state and congressional district. If you want to visit your congressperson while they're home in these next few weeks, this is just the piece of paper to leave behind.

The cost of war factsheet for Pennsylvania provides information for the state as well as congressional district. The congressional district data also includes estimates on the number of children that could have been provided with health care, and the number of affordable housing units or elementary schools that could have been built, with the amount spent on the war for that district. The statewide data compares the number of soldiers killed and wounded in the country and the state. I haven't verified the numbers but it is interesting to look at regardless.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

PA in the WSJ

Whoa! There is nothing Pennsylvania related in the Wall Street Journal these days. Somebody find some stock fraud or promote a local company or something.

Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians


PA Businesses


Other PA

One of the examples given in “When special education goes too easy on students,” by John Hechinger and Daniel Golden (8/21) is at West Philadelphia High School

Carnegie Mellon is mentioned in “Zipcar goes to college,” by Darren Everson (8/22)

A coach from Churchville is quoted in “Are we teaching our kids to be fearful of men,” by Jeffrey Zaslow (8/23), a thought-provoking piece.

Among the “Private properties,” (by Christina S. N. Lewis) listed on 8/24 is Allen Iverson’s fixer upper in Villanova. The asking price is only 6.3 million.

Other Interesting Tidbits

No mention of politics in “A new generation reinvents philanthropy,” by Rachel Emma Silverman (8/21)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Voting Machines Update

Two items concerning voting machines crossed my screen or desk this week.

The fine folks at the Election Reform Network bring us a story on the latest security tests of voting machines:

The most comprehensive analysis of security and operating issues of electronic vote machines ever performed was released in late July by the State of California, and the results from a series of reports provided a body blow to an industry already on the defensive. Tests were done on systems of three vendors, Sequoia Voting Systems, Diebold, and Hart Intercivic by researchers at the University of California under a $1.8 million contract with the California Secretary of State’s Office.

“I had expected them to find problems – but to be able to replace firmware in all three systems is nothing short of an utter takeover of machines, and that shouldn’t be possible,” declared noted computer security and vote machine expert Avi Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I was shocked by how severe the problems were,” he continued. “What’s even scarier is that the researchers were looking at certified systems that have been already used in an election,” he said in a July 30 TechNewsWorld article.

The complete article, " Sequoia Software Flunks Security Probe in California – Another Blow to Voter Confidence in Montgomery County Vote Machines," is on their website.

In last Friday's Wall Street Journal, a brief note "Diebold lets voting unit run more independently," (8/17), says:

Diebold Inc said it failed to sell its voting-technology business amid criticism that its voting machines -- used across the U.S. -- arent' reliable. Instead, the company said, it will allow the unit to operate more independently, with a new management structure and a separate board that includes independent members.

Think that will help?

News Updates

In the past week the Inquirer has published articles on candidates I have written about. In case you are interested:

Today, the Inquirer published a story on Delaware County Council candidate David Landau, "New day for Delco GOP: The once-dominant party faces a changing reality, underscored by Democrat David Landau's tactics," by Mari A. Schaefer. I posted an interview with Landau on Tuesday.

Seth Williams, currently Philadelphia's Inspector General, is the subject of "A new way of tapping water users is outlined: Philadelphia's Inspector General says some Water Department customers with overdue bills have been victimized by a scheme," by Jeff Shields, 8/17

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Something is Rotten in....

The State of Denmark and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

Three years ago Lou Sessinger, in a column in the May 4, 2004 Intelligencer, asked these questions:

If the offices of the top law enforcers in a county or state are so heavily influenced by politics that one's employment in such an office can be jeopardized by the "correctness" of one's politics, what is the average citizen supposed to think?

To what extent can the average citizen who happens to support the "wrong" party or who fails to support the "right" party expect fairness from a prosecutor's office that is so political it eats its own young if they're perceived to be disloyal?

He was talking about the Montgomery County DA’s office, in regards to matters discussed later in this post. And he has an excellent point.

Risa Vetri Ferman, currently first assistant district attorney, is running on the GOP ticket for District Attorney, since current DA Bruce Castor is running on the GOP ticket for County Commissioner, with incumbent Jim Matthews. Recently an employee of the District Attorney’s Office, more specifically Ferman’s administrative assistant, has drawn media attention for being on the payroll of Castor’s and Ferman’s campaigns and doing other part-time work for the local Republican party. Ferman conducted an investigation and found no wrongdoing, but basically she investigated herself, her campaign, and her office staff, and this just never looks good.

The situation came to light when County Controller Eric Kretschman received an email from the administrative assistant during what he said were office hours. Kretschman might have ulterior motives as his re-election plans were, for all intents and purposes, scuttled when another Republican who was planning to challenge him in the primary, questioned, with supporting evidence, some of the signatures on his ballot petitions. The challenger was another assistant district attorney, Bob Sander, who continues to work in the DA’s office while running for Controller. (“Kretschman: No coverup in Ferman’s office,” by Margaret Gibbons, Times Herald 8/07/07

It brings to mind another situation with an assistant district attorney a few years ago. Christian Marrone, who served as vice chairman of the Whitemarsh GOP while working as an ada, supported the party’s endorsed candidate for state Attorney General, Tom Corbett, over Castor, who ran against Corbett in the primary and lost. Prior to that Marrone had expressed interest in running for the 13th congressional district seat eventually won by Allyson Schwartz. Castor fired Marrone, who landed on his feet with a DC job.

As reported in the May 2, 2004 Intelligencer (“ADA who supported boss’s rival gets fired,“ by John Anastasi):, a Pennsylvania political news Web site, reported late last week that Castor tried to fire the former Penn State football star and son-in-law of Philadelphia state Senator Vincent Fumo because Marrone supported Corbett in his race against Castor. The report attributed a quote to Castor indicating that Marrone "made the wrong decision and (has to) live with the consequences."

"First of all, I didn't attempt to fire him, I did fire him," said Castor. "Second, I never made such a statement. But I see nothing wrong with the statement had I made it."

Castor explained that a district attorney could legally fire one of his assistants for any reason, even if the reason is based on the candidate the assistant supports.

"I can't say that happened in this case ... I'm not commenting on the reason Marrone was fired," he said. "But (in general) an ADA represents the DA and the DA relies on their loyalty and discretion and that they won't advance an agenda contrary to my own."

It was these comments that led to the column by Sessinger quoted at the top of this post. A similar situation in Bucks County in 2001 was also mentioned; more on this later.

Yet in an article in the Springfield Sun this past April (“Peter Amuso: DA’s office won’t be political farm system,” by Margaret Gibbons 4/26):

"I have been in this office for 15 years and I have never seen politics interfere with the business of this office," responded county First Assistant District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a 42-year-old Abington Republican seeking her office's top job.

Maybe she was sick the day Christian Marrone was fired.

The DA’s office almost sounds like a political soap opera. I’m sure the assistant district attorneys, who work hard for much less than they would make in private practice, would prefer to focus on their work than be drawn into political intrigues. However, if they do want to dabble in electioneering there are no rules to prevent it. In other locales there are. In Philadelphia, for example, if an assistant district attorney wants to run for office he or she must resign before doing so.

Not having a clear policy, in writing, can lead to misunderstandings. In 2001 Terry Houck, a Bucks County prosecutor, decided to run for district attorney, against Diane Gibbons, who had been appointed to the job in 2000 when the long time DA resigned to accept a judicial position. According to an April 19, 2001 Inquirer article (“D.A.’s race pits the incumbent against her former employee,” by Stephanie Doster):

When Houck told Gibbons in February that he would run against her as a Democrat, she demanded his resignation, citing a 16-year-old policy that prohibited prosecutors from running for elected office. Houck refused to step down, and Gibbons, a Republican, fired him.

Houck said he had never heard of such a policy.

Later in the article one prosecutor said he was aware of the policy but another was quoted as saying he was not. Either something is in the personnel manual or it isn’t and if a paper copy of the rule can’t be produced the rule isn’t much of a rule.

The Democratic candidate for Montgomery County District Attorney Peter Amuso would enact new rules, as spelled out in an April press release:

* No prosecutor will run for political office while employed as an assistant district attorney.
* No prosecutor will serve as a committeeperson, an area leader or in any other office or position in a political party.
* No prosecutor will manage, serve on the staff of or volunteer for a political campaign.
* No prosecutor will solicit contributions for a political candidate.
* No prosecutor will engage in political activity in the office or while on duty.

This would not prevent people from attending fundraisers or debates or being educated voters. It just keeps them out of the active political process. Nor are these rules unusual. Below are four examples of existing rules for employees of various levels of government.

Hatch Act for State and Local Employees

The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.

Employees of private nonprofit organizations are covered by the Hatch Act only if the statute through which the organization receives its federal funds contains language which states that the organization shall be considered to be a state or local agency for purposes of the Hatch Act, e.g., Headstart and Community Service Block Grant statutes.

An employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Additionally, employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws.
• Permitted Activities
• Prohibited Activities
• Penalties for Violating the Hatch Act
• Advisories for State and Local Employees

Permitted Activities
Covered state and local employees may-
• run for public office in nonpartisan elections
• campaign for and hold office in political clubs and organizations
• actively campaign for candidates for public office in partisan and nonpartisan elections
• contribute money to political organizations and attend political fundraising functions
Prohibited Activities
Covered state and local employees may not-
• be candidates for public office in a partisan election
• use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination
• directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate
Penalties for Violating the Hatch Act
If the Merit Systems Protection Board finds that the violation warrants dismissal from employment, the employing agency must either remove the employee or forfeit a portion of the federal assistance equal to two years salary of the employee. If the Board finds the violation does not warrant the employee's removal, no penalty is imposed.


§ 10-107. Political Activities.
(1) No person shall seek or attempt to use any political endorsement in connection with any appointment to a position in the civil service.
(2) No person shall, for the purpose of influencing the vote or political action of any person, or for any consideration, use or promise to use, directly or indirectly, any official authority or influence, whether possessed or anticipated, to secure or attempt to secure for any person an appointment or advantage in appointment to a position in the civil service, or an increase in pay or other advantage in employment in any such position.
(3) No officer or employee of the City and no officer or employee of any governmental agency whose compensation is paid from the City Treasury shall, from any person, and no officer or member of a committee of any political party or club shall, from any civil service employee, directly or indirectly demand, solicit, collect or receive, or be in any manner concerned in demanding, soliciting, collecting or receiving, any assessment, subscription or contribution, whether voluntary or involuntary, intended for any political purpose whatever. No officer or member of the Philadelphia Police or of the Fire Department shall pay or give any money or valuable thing or make any subscription or contribution, whether voluntary or involuntary, for any political purpose whatever. 30
(4) No appointed officer or employee of the City shall be a member of any national, state or local committee of a political party, or an officer or member of a committee of a partisan political club, or take any part in the management or affairs of any political party or in any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen privately to express his opinion and to cast his vote.
(5) No officer or employee of the City, except elected officers running for re-election, shall be a candidate for nomination or election to any public office unless he shall have first resigned from his then office or employment.
(6) Any officer or employee of the City who violates any of the foregoing provisions of this section shall, in addition to any penalties provided for hereafter, be ineligible for one year for any office or position under the City.

Pennsylvania Code, Chapter 29, Subchapter M adopted November 24, 1998, effective immediately, 28 Pa.B. 6068, unless otherwise noted.

§ 29.471. Definitions.
(a) The term “partisan political activity” shall include, but is not limited to, running for public office, serving as a party committee-person, working at a polling place on Election Day, performing volunteer work in a political campaign, soliciting contributions for political campaigns, and soliciting contributions for a political action committee or organization, but shall not include involvement in non-partisan or public community organizations or professional groups.
(b) The term “court-appointed employees” shall include, but is not limited to, all employees appointed to and who are employed in the court system, statewide and at the county level, employees of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Court Administrators and their employees and assistants, court clerks, secretaries, data processors, probation officers, and such other persons serving the judiciary.
§ 29.472. Prohibition of Partisan Political Activity.
(a) Court-appointed employees shall not be involved in any form of partisan political activity.
(b) This prohibition shall not apply to court-appointed employees who are duly sworn Court-appointed full-time masters and members of Board of Viewers, who are attorneys in good standing admitted to the practice of law in this Commonwealth, who may become candidates for higher judicial office. Said employees shall, during such candidacy, be subject to the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct and, particularly, Canon 7, which governs judicial campaigns.
§ 29.473. Termination of Employment.
Except as provided in paragraph 2(b), above, henceforth, a court-appointed employee engaging in partisan political activity shall cease such partisan political activity at once or shall be terminated from his or her position. In the event an employee chooses to become a candidate for any office, such employee shall be terminated, effective the close of business on the first day of circulating petitions for said office.
§ 29.474. President Judge.
The President Judge of each appellate court or county court of common pleas shall be responsible for the implementation of these guidelines and shall be subject to the review of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board for failure to enforce.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Governor’s Office. Management Directive 580.25 Political Activities of Classified Service Employees

1. SCOPE. Applies to all classified service employes in state agencies identified in Section 3(d), Civil Service Act of August 5, 7941, l?L. 752, as amended, and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth which have contracts with the State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) for services and facilities as provided for in Section 212, Civil Service Act.

a. All classified service empioyes, regardless of status, are subject to Section 905.2 (Political Activity) of the Civil Service Act.
b. The Federal Hatch Act (Chapter 15, Title 5, United States Code) continues to apply to both classified service and non-classified service employes connected with programs wholly or partially financed by federal grants or loans. The Federal Hatch Act contains language regarding prohibited and permitted political activities which may differ from the State Civil Service Act.
c. Executive Order 1980-18, Code of Conduct, Part 1, Paragraph 8, also restricts certain
political activities of all Commonwealth employes, including classified service employes, in the Executive Branch under the Governor’s jurisdiction.
d. Exceptions:
(1) The provisions of Section 905.2 of the State Civil Service Act DO NOT apply to persons who have been furloughed or are currently on leave without pay because they are considered to be separated from the classified service. Upon returning to any classified position, including employment of a temporary nature, the employe must immediately cease ail partisan political activities. However, the empioye may complete a term of
public office if appointed or elected before returning from furlough or leave.
(2) An empioye holding an elected public office before beginning civil service employment may complete the balance of the term of office:
(3) Classified service empioyes may run for and hold the office of School Board Director.
However, empioyes should be aware that the Federal Hatch Act continues to apply and may prohibit empioyes covered by the Civil Service Act from running for or holding the office of School Board Director.
(4) Empioyes allowed to complete the term of public office as described in d.(i) and (Z), or who run for or hold the office of School Board Director may NOT engage in political activities while in office

An information sheet is attached to the policy providing other examples and further information.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Interview with David Landau (candidate for Delaware County Council)

David Landau, one of three Democrats running for County Council in Delaware County, is a Delaware County native, raised in Havertown, and a resident of Wallingford for 22 years. He is an attorney, currently a senior partner at the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, LLP, and previously served as solicitor for the Borough of Yeadon. In 1988 he ran for Congress against Curt Weldon and this past year served as senior campaign advisor to Congressman Joe Sestak. In 1984 he was the deputy campaign manager for Gary Hart’s presidential campaign. He has been the chairman of the Nether Providence Democratic Committee since 1991, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Family and Community Service of Delaware County, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Delaware County as well as Congregational Oheu Shalom in Wallingford.

Introductory Remark

First of all, Jane, I would like to take a moment to thank you for having me on this forum. I see the internet as a great resource. One of my first initiatives is to make more public records available via web 24/7, something most other counties have had in place for years. Right now Delaware County residents are forced to hurdle multiple legal requirements just to find out where their taxes are going. And that’s what I’m fighting against here. I’m running to end the unaccountable, Bush-Style bureaucracy in Delaware County and to restore faith in local government.

Why is a county health department important?

Health statistics indicate that Delaware County is not moving toward the Federal Healthy People 2010 standards for healthcare. Even worse in key areas, it is falling behind. Our percentage of children with prenatal care is dropping and infants with low birth-weight are rising. Restaurants in non-covered municipalities of the county are inspected 1/4 as much as our neighboring counties.

We need to take a more preventative approach to issues of public health. A health department would allow us to collaborate with the private medical sector in Pennsylvania to make a real impact on the public health issues facing Delaware County. For more statistics, look on my website ( for my policy paper and plan for a county health department.

You’ve worked on political campaigns from presidential to congressional to state house, have served as a borough solicitor and are now running for county council. Given that experience you would you balance local vs. county vs. regional concerns?

It’s an issue of planning and leadership. I think it is vitally important to allow for open avenues of communication between all levels of government. I believe that the role of the county is to act as an advocate and resource for municipalities.

This is a fundamental difference between my opponents and me. The courthouse candidates believe the more politically connected municipalities should be able to secure funding and create jobs for a select few. I believe the county must steer the ship and help create a comprehensive plan and resource stream for all 49 municipalities.

A county council member deals with dog licenses, hazardous waste, and everything in between. What in your background prepares you to manage such varied areas effectively?

As Solicitor of the Borough of Yeadon from 1992 to 1998, I dealt with many, many different kinds local and municipal issues ranging from municipal finance, housing code enforcement, tax enforcement, and zoning. As special counsel in Nether Providence Township, I helped secure the creation of two parks as open space. Through my work on the Board of Directors of Family Community Service in Delaware County, I am familiar with the social service program network that uses County Council funds. Through all this experience, I developed sensitivity to local problems and became skilled at developing pragmatic solutions to those problems. I have put forth substantive plans for the future of the county, while the courthouse candidates have circled the wagons to protect the status quo.

Are there any circumstances under which being married to a magisterial district judge in the county could present a conflict of interest?

The jurisdiction of the district court encompasses such legal issues as landlord tenant programs, traffic offenses, and emergency protective orders. None of these issues are issues which face County Council. I also note that Michael Puppio’s wife, a retiring member of County Council’s spouse, is the magistrate district judge of Springfield and there have been no apparent problems with them serving in both of those positions.

In 1983, when working at the ACLU, you said that a good faith defense invites law enforcement officials to be ignorant of the law. In 1998 and 1999 you represented Darby Mayor Paula Brown in a case against the police. Would you be able to work well with law enforcement in the county if elected? (“’Honest mistake' change urged in seizure law,” Philadelphia Daily News January 14, 1983)

I believe that I will be able to work very well with law enforcement in the county. Our county law enforcement efforts have been strongly supported by County Council. I would also strongly support efforts to have more cooperation between the county law enforcement and municipal law enforcement law officials. The Paula Brown case was a unique case, which was limited to the involvement of the rights of an elected official to speak at a council meeting. Mayor Brown had been arrested and charged with a felony for speaking out of order at a meeting. That case was really about the problems of one party government. In that situation, when a Democrat was elected, the majority party did not take easily to having a member of the opposition sit on council. I am sure most people would agree that when a Democrat is elected to a Republican majority body, they ought to have the right to speak at their council meetings.

You have been endorsed by the Philadelphia newspapers in previous campaigns. What qualities do you have that appeals to newspaper editorial boards?

Editorial Boards provide a broad spectrum of democratic viewpoints. I believe my appeal to the boards is merely a representation of my appeal to voters, who are looking for a change in the system. These boards, like all voters, want a candidate who leads on the issues that are important to them.

There hasn’t been a Democrat on the County council since 1980. Only if all three Democrats running are elected would you be the majority party on the county council. Would you find being a minority member frustrating?

No, in fact I’d find it invigorating. We need a real debate on the issues in this county, not just the lip service and political favors the courthouse has been doling out for the past 30 years. For that very reason, I have proposed a series of debates to my opponents and have yet to receive a reply. The exchange of ideas will be critical for the future of Delaware County and I look forward to working with the Republican minority in January. As a minority member, I will be a forceful voice.

In other area counties the minority party county commissioner has been criticized for voting too often with the majority party. Other elected officials are criticized for voting with their party too often. How do you find a middle ground?

This one is easy- one finds a middle ground by seeking out the best approach to a situation and then fighting for it. I do not care whether or not the letter next to someone's name is a “R,” a “I,” or a “D.” What I care about is finding the best way to improve Delaware County, plain and simple.

You have talked about making county government more transparent. One possibility you have mentioned is having county council meetings in the evening so more citizens could attend. Would that lead to overtime for county employees who are required to attend? What other changes would you like to make?

I want to make the government open and accessible because the people must be able to evaluate the quality of their representation. I would do that by using state funds available to county and local governments to make records and other aspects of government readily accessible. There are so many things we could do- reduce patronage jobs, competitive bids on contracts, make plans and records accessible to the people, etc. It really begs the question- why hasn't the current council taken steps to do that? With respect to County Council meetings, first of all not many staff are needed to attend a County Council meeting. Second, for the most part, these would be salaried employees in supervisory level and so overtime rules would not apply. Third, we can make an adjustment with flextime to make sure that taxpayer costs are kept to a minimum.

The proposed change in flight patterns at the Philadelphia airport would put more planes over Delaware County. Congressman Joe Sestak and State Representative Bryan Lentz have been active in proposing alternatives. What role can the county council play?

Council must support Bryan and Joe in their efforts at the national and state levels and continue to oppose the FAA plan. Banding together with other areas affected by the proposed changes would provide the leadership necessary for Delaware County residents.

What are the biggest challenges facing Delaware County and of those which would be easiest to tackle?

The biggest challenges facing Delaware County are an unaccountable, one-party government, the lack of a public health department, aging infrastructure, a lack of open space preservation, and stagnant community revitalization, and economic development. Government transparency is something we could achieve tomorrow if council was committed to it.

What question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?

Over the last month, I have traversed the county putting forth substantive policy proposals to improve the lives of Delaware County Residents. Why is it that my opponents are so defensive? Rather, they should roll up their sleeves, admit some fault, and fix the problems that we all face. I think that the answer is that at the end of the day they lack the vision and leadership necessary to get the job done. Their concern is enshrining and exalting the status quo. I am running to place the desires and hopes of my friends and neighbors first and put an end to the culture of corruption that suffocates this county.

My thanks to David and his campaign staff for taking part in the process.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'll Take Attorneys General for $500, Alex!

I reported last week on a press release from three Montgomery County Republican candidates, incumbent county commissioner Jim Matthews, current District Attorney and county commissioner candidate Bruce Castor, and current first assistant district attorney and district attorney candidate Risa Vetri Ferman. It called for President Bush to ask for the Attorney General's resignation.

An anonymous comment pointed out the wording of the press release:

Montgomery County Commissioners candidates Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor, along with District Attorney candidate Risa Vetri Ferman, today sent a letter asking President Bush to replace Attorney General Roberto Gonzales.

“As public officials and candidates in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, we know firsthand that there is perhaps nothing more important than earning and maintaining the public trust,” the three Republicans wrote in the letter.

The trio went on to emphasize that the current lack of trust in the Attorney General is the key factor in this decision. “…we would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree on this point, even if they hold Mr. Gonzales in high regard as Attorney General.”

The letter concludes that keeping on the Attorney General is a mistake and asks the President to remove him from office. (See full text of letter below.)

The release goes on to provide biographical information on the three candidates and the full letter to the president.

The comment on my earlier blog entry points out something that had escaped me entirely. The Attorney General is Alberto Gonzales, not Roberto Gonzales. Their letter gets the name right.

Gosh ... that's .... well, not good. Many thanks to the person who caught the mistake. Too bad someone didn't catch it earlier....

Jim Dean's Visit

A few emails have come in about last Sunday’s Damsker / Hoeffel fundraiser at the Shanachie Pub and Restaurant in Ambler. Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America, drove down from Connecticut to speak and planned to drive back later in the day. One of his primary themes is that expensive television ads in the last few weeks of the campaign just won’t do it anymore. Candidates and their supporters have to get out on the street, knock on doors, and ask people to come out to vote. Ruth Damsker and Joe Hoeffel also spoke. Kevin Shaw of MontcoDFA organized the event.

A video of Jim’s remarks is on the MontcoDFA web site:

Other notaries reported in attendance:

Peter Amuso, candidate for District Attorney
Ed Cheri, candidate for Sheriff
State Rep. Rick Taylor
Paul Gallagher, candidate for Horsham town council
Lori Schrieber, Abington Township commissioner
Det Ansinn, Doylestown Borough Councilman
Jeff Albert, who ran for state senate in ‘06
Chuck Pennacchio, who will be speaking at a Montgomery County Health Care Forum this Wednesday.


Two news items for your information:

1) Anthony Riley, who performs with The Reverend (Robby Torres), was slated to try out for American Idol today. Riley regularly serenades me (and a lot of other people) in one of our local train stations, as well as singing in Rittenhouse Square. My fingers are crossed for him. A comment left to a previous post said a website, is in the works. As of today it wasn't up yet.

2) The summer interns at Gyro Worldwide, a local advertising agency, held their Worst Logo contest and today announced that I Hate Steven Singer won(?). His prize is a free new logo.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Further Look at Patrick Murphy’s Campaign Finance Reports

There have been a few articles about Congressman Patrick Murphy’s 2007 fundraising in the Bucks County Courier Times recently. Let’s take a look at one of those articles, then at some comparative data and finish up with a look at a few donations in particular. Here are some quotes from the BCCT.

A look at donor’s to Murphy campaign,” by Brian Scheid Bucks County Courier Times 8/08

So far this year, Murphy has raised about $670,000 in donations from individuals. According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly, nearly $280,000 of those contributions came from Pennsylvania residents. That means that about 54 percent of the contributions came from individuals from other states, according to Congressional Quarterly.

However, those out-of-state donors weren't entirely Beltway residents, according to the analysis. Murphy raised about $79,000 from donors in New York, the most of any state outside Pennsylvania, and nearly $26,000 from California donors. Murphy raised about $73,000 from donors with Washington, D.C., Virginia or Maryland addresses.

In his first six months in Congress, Murphy has raked in more than $420,000 in contributions from political action committees. That makes up about 40 percent of his fundraising.

I’d like to further comment on this. I’ve kept watch on campaign finance reports lately. Looking at the first 6 months of 2007, as one group, is enlightening but a little misleading. Let’s separate the numbers into the two quarterly reports filed, and also take a look at the reports from the post-general (10/19 to 11/27, 2006) and end of year (11/28 to 12/31, 2006) reports. After all, everyone loves a winner and money often flows in after an election, but it comes in at different times from different people.

Let’s also compare with some of Pennsylvania’s other freshman congressional representatives, and maybe provide some historical perspectives. This data is taken from the FEC’s website, Some reports are amended and I made an effort to take numbers from the latest report, but apologize for any numbers from reports that were later amended.

Patrick Murphy (D-08)

10/19 to 11/27 $298,288.75 from individuals, $86,173.29 from PACS, political party committees $13,464.06

11/28 to 12/31 year end report, $1,383 from individuals, $45,750 from PACs. This is an example of “everyone loves a winner.”

In the first quarterly report, $155,506.12 came in from individuals and $184,620.33 from PACS. This is a lopsided percentage and most politicians want to avoid having more money from special interests that the folks back home (assuming that’s where most individual contributions come from).

However, in the second quarter, the percentages flipped. In those three months $512,577.62 came in from individuals and $ 238,150.00 from PACS. That’s more than twice as much from people than groups.

The big test will be in watching future quarterly reports.

Now to compare with the other newly elected representatives.

Joe Sestak (D-07)
Post-general 10/19 – 11/27 individuals $359,927.99; PACS $123,457.06

Year-end 11/28-12/31 individuals $6,475, PACS $2,500 (political party committees smaller so left out)

Jan-Mar individuals $291,912.14; PACS $147,600

Apr – June individuals $330,766.01; PACS $165,400.19

So, he’s doing pretty good at keeping the individual contributions larger than the PAC contributions.

Chris Carney (D-10)
Post general individual $ 241,959.05 PAC $ 136,796.67

Year end individual $50.00 PAC $2,500.00

Jan – Mar individual $ 107,820.02 PAC $ 146,570.33

Apr – June individual $ 53,081.24 PAC $ 221,750.00

A little out of kilter but he has a more rural district and money may not be so freely available in the area.

Jason Altmire (D-04)
Post general individual $28,867.32 PAC $92,050.00, political party committees $23,300.00

Year end individual $11,410.40 PAC $43,350.00

Jan – Mar individual $45,415.00 PAC $179,970.33

Apr – June individual $126,629.96 PAC $240,384.40 political party committees $1,010.47

Now, for historical perspective, let’s look at how 2004 newbies Mike Fitzpatrick (who lost to Murphy in 2006) and Allyson Schwartz did in their first reports.

Mike Fitzpatrick (R-08) 2004
Post general 10/14-11/22 individual $150,225.97 PACS $258,903.40, transfers from other authorized committees $122,339.00

Year-end 11/23 -12/31 individual $9,905.00 PACS 0, transfers from other authorized committees $10,192.60

Jan – Mar individual $264,419.17 PACS $215,550.00

Apr-June individual $117,105.00 PACS $205,868.00

3rd quarter more PACS than individuals, 4th quarter slightly more individuals

Allyson Schwartz (D-13) 2004
Post-general 10-14 – 11/22 individual $420,611.85 PAC $124,619.37

Year-end 11/23-12/31 individual $27,584.37 PAC $3,499.00

Jan-Mar individual $354,308.00 PAC $50,599.00

Apr-June individual $384,438.67 PAC $106,140.48

3rd and 4th quarter continue with PACS a third or a fourth of individual

Compared to his contemporaries Murphy’s individual / PAC ratio is not out of line. I was not able to compare his in-state / out-of-state numbers with the other congressional representatives. Looking at newly-elected representatives two years earlier, his numbers are favorably compared with Fitzpatrick but he has a lower individual / pac ratio than Allyson Schwartz.

In the micro level, let’s look at a few specific donations during the post-election time period. This information comes primarily from

In 2007, two Amgen executives each donated $500, for a total of $1000. According to, no Amgen employees donated to Murphy during the 2006 campaign season. Nor did the Amgen PAC, which tends to give more to Republicans. They did not donate to the former Congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, either. But, during 2007 there were the two donations. It doesn’t seem to have gotten them much, if their intent was to buy a congressman. According to the 8/10/07 Wall Street Journal (“Amgen weighs how to cut costs” by Marilyn Chase) Amgen is considering layoffs because of “recent federal actions tightening reimbursement policy for anemia drugs.”

While looking through the 2007 reports I noticed a few donations from employees of Aristeia Capital, an investment management and bond firm. Checking opensecrets I noticed quite a few donations from Aristeia people to Murphy, in late 2006 as well as the 2007 donations. None of the donors lived in Pennsylvania; in fact all but one are in New York. Aristeia is an interesting case. I looked at their political contributions generally. Cross checking with personal names I can see that a few donation records have misspellings or missing information and don’t show up under the employee / occupation search but only a few so let’s work with the information that shows up under Aristeia. Twenty Aristeia employees made donations of a sufficient amount to show up in the database. There were 80 political donations in 2006 and 2007, for a total of $350,484, most to Democrats but at least one employee favors Republican candidates. Twenty-six donations were made by one employee, 17 were by another, so two employees made almost half of the donations. A few employees make large (over $20,000) donations to congressional or senatorial caucuses; many made just a few smaller ($250 or $500) donations. Two or three high rollers accounted for a greater percentage of the total amount. One donor accounted for nearly a third. Aristeia is a latecomer to the political process. Only eight donations from their employees are recorded before 2006.

But let’s get back to Patrick Murphy. Sixteen Aristeia employees donated to his campaign, that’s 80% of all the employees who made political donations. A total of $112,068 was contributed to a total of 29 candidates. Of that amount Murphy received $11,550, putting him in a near tie with Barack Obama. The two of them received far more than the other candidates. Twelve donated to Murphy in late October; five made another donation later, an additional four donated to his campaign in 2007.

So how did this happen? His committee memberships have nothing to do with finance or money matters. The bills he has introduced have nothing to do with finance, other than small business. The company surely would not put so many of their eggs in one basket if their intent is to influence legislation.

Speculation is easy. I wondered if someone at Aristeia had gone to school with Murphy or was a student of his at West Point. To find out I asked someone in the campaign. The answer I received is that Murphy met someone from Aristeia at a veterans event who later set up a “meet and greet” with his colleagues.

What does this all mean? It’s hard to say. Murphy can clearly raise money, from people as well as political action committees. He can turn a chance meeting at a public event into over $11,000 in donations.

It will be interesting to see what shows up with future finance reports.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that math is not one of my particular skills and I was working with printouts from opensecrets, a calculator, and a pencil, not a spreadsheet or database management program.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Our folks were quiet this week, perhaps home talking with constituents.

PA Businesses

Oh, dear. “In the McDog house?,” by Ryan Chittum, Jennifer S. Forsyth, and Michael Corkery (8/15), has Robert Toll of Toll Brothers saying the reason why nearly 25% of people buying the homes Toll builds prefer to list their income and assets rather than provide documentation of them is “they’re lying, cheating dogs not paying their taxes.” Company spokesmen later said the comments were tongue in cheek. Also foot in mouth.

An interesting tidbit from “March of the inconvenient truths,” by Sam Schechner (8/17), especially considering the news this week that two film studios or film related businesses might locate in the Philly area:

Christina Weiss Lurie, a philanthropist and co-owner of the Philadephia Eagles, says she has invested in the “mid six figures” on two documentaries in progress, one about Iraq and another on Nigerian oil. Rather than aiming for a profit, “It’s much more about having an impact on the national conversation,” she says.

Sounds like blogging!

Brief mentions: Cozen O’Connor, Philadelphia law firm (8/13)

Foamex, based in Linwood (8/17)

Other PA

Philadelphia is mentioned several times in “Wireless – without strings attached,” by Amol Sharma (8/16). The article says that Philadelphia’s wireless project is running 30% over budget.

Philadelphia again in “Home inequity,” by Ruth Simon (8/16). The article is on “jumbo” mortgages, those for over the $417K guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We find this sentence:

Linda Baron, an agent with Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors in the Philadelphia suburb of Blue Bell, Pa., says she has seen some of the more expensive homes in her area come off the market and prices for others drop in response to the recent uptick in jumbo rates.

Later in the article the ubiquitous Moody’s is mentioned. (They were quoted elsewhere this week also but I've misplaced that note.)

Other Interesting Tidbits

Bad news for women in politics, “Women’s march into office slows,” by June Kronholz (8/15)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Colonial School District School Board Candidates

Congressional representatives get paid. State representatives and state senators get paid. Most township officials and mayors get paid. The people who really get stuck with a demanding job and absolutely no money in return are the people who serve on the school board. It is a thankless job; no matter what you do someone is unhappy with you. The hours are long, the meetings are many, and the parents (I say this being a parent) are seldom, if ever, satisfied.

To take one district as an example, the Colonial School District School Board

The nine members of the Colonial School Board are elected at large to serve the citizens of Conshohocken Borough and Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships. The term of a board member is four years and the only compensation is the satisfaction of service to the community. The time commitment of a board member is significant. During the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years nearly 275 meetings were attended by members of the board. Appearances at official ceremonies and school functions and committee meetings for outside organizations take up additional time.

The district's school report card, like all school districts in the state, is on the Internet.

This year five candidates, Fred Dugan, Dave Reppert, Chrystal Taylor, Frank Gillen, and Jerry Glick, are running as a team, calling themselves The Right Team. I salute their foray into the political arena and wish them well.

Jim Dean Comes to Town

If you have always wanted to meet Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America (DFA), this weekend is your chance. He will be at a fundraiser for Ruth Damsker and Joe Hoeffel, Democratic candidates for Montgomery County Commissioner. Details here.

No Misdirection, Everything Spelled Out

In today's Inquirer, there is an article by Thomas Fitzgerald, "Blunt call to arms backfires in Bucks" which starts:

The e-mail to Bucks County Republicans urged recipients to lean on "courthouse employees and consultants" for help in registering new GOP voters.

"Many people owe their jobs to GOP leadership," it said. "Professionals, consultants, contractors, and loyal GOP supporters have benefitted handsomely."

The email was sent by Northampton Township Supervisor Vincent J. Deon who now says "it is something better said than read." Incumbent Republican County Commissioners are saying they had nothing to do with it.

Well, it's always good to know where you stand.


"Look over there! Don't look over here!" is the tried and true way of trying to get out of trouble. Whenever I see a candidate or official trying to persuade the public to look at something off in the distance instead of the business at hand I wonder what's up.

So it was with great perplexity that I read the press release from Republican candidates for Montgomery County Commissioner and District Attorney providing the text of a letter they wrote President Bush calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Have any of these three, Jim Matthews (incumbent commissioner), Bruce Castor (current DA and candidate for commissioner), and Risa Vetri Ferman (currently first assistant district attorney and candidate for district attorney) ever commented on President Bush's personnel choices before? I don't recall any comments but it is possible they have.

Response from Montgomery County Democratic Chair Marcel Groen. Response from Peter Amuso, Democratic candidate for Montgomery County District Attorney.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

PA in the September Fast Company

The latest issue of Fast Company arrived yesterday in the mail. This morning's agenda included a trip to the dentist so I had a chance to read it in the waiting room. A few Pennsylvania items and something else just of interest. The website hasn't been updated yet to include the Sept. issue but when it is one or more of these articles should be online, or you could buy it on the newstand.

In "Fast-Food Medicine," by Ellen McGirt, on medical clinics in retail stores we find this:

Not all doctors and health systems are resistant to the idea of these businesses. Geisinger, a regional health system in Pennsylvania, has opened four clinics in the past year inside Weis Markets, a local grocery chain. Two more are under way. "If we didn't do it, someone else would in our own back yard," says Dean Lin, VP at Geisinger and CEO of its CareWorks clinic business. Worries that it would be competing with its own physician practices have proved unfounded. "About 30% of our customers have no physician," he adds. It's hard to argue with the math. "For strep throat, a doctor's visit would average $329, urgent care $109, and were $55," he says.

As a personal aside when I was in college, in a state far far away, there were stand alone clinics like this, informally called "Doc in the box." If you cut yourself badly enough to need stitches but didn't nick an artery, you would go to one of these instead of an emergency room. Step on a nail and need a tetanus shot, or fall out of a tree and break an arm, you went to the clinic instead of the ER. It was cheaper and faster. Some had x-ray machines on the premises. You still had a doctor for check-ups and important stuff, and usually followed up your clinic visit with a trip to your primary care physician, still used the ER for dire emergencies, but for the things in the middle, where it was timely but not life threatening and easily fixed, you went to the doc in the box.

Philly takes center stage in "Microsoft's Class Action," by Elizabeth Svoboda. The entire article is about the partnership between Microsoft (and to a lesser degree, other companies) and the Philadelphia school system. Mary Cullinane of Microsoft works closely with Philly's School of the Future. The company didn't just throw money at the school but comes in to talk about the curriculum.

Cullinane's position is that more interactive, integrative classroom environment helps kids retain knowledge better and engage more actively in learning -- and an intimidating array of research backs her up. In addition to the Bertelsmann study, she cites the Jasper-Woodbury experiments conducted at Vanderbilt University in the 1990's, in which researchers challenged teenage students with real-world problems that demand cross-disciplinary thinking. (In one scenario, a hiker finds an injured eagle in a remote mountain pass that can be reached only by personal aircraft; students work in teams to figure out the best way to retrieve it, given a fixed wind speed and fuel capacity.

A few other interesting items include an article on a 17 year old girl who has developed an Internet company and is now being offered a million or two for it, an article on the former president of the Sierra Club who now works for Wal-Mart on sustainability issues, and a cautionary tale on New Orleans' film industry.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rick Taylor's Planned Legislation on PA's Megan's Law

State Rep. Rick Taylor (D-151) is preparing legislation to close some of the loopholes in Pennsylvania's Megan's Law. Some of the items on his checklist are:

Under Taylor's enhanced Megan's Law measure, a sexually violent predator whose victim was under 13 years old at the time of the crime would be prohibited from living within 2,500 feet of a public, private or parochial school with students through elementary school age, as well as near public parks, playgrounds and swimming pools.

Also, for the entire period people convicted of a sexual offense against a minor are on probation or supervised release, they would have to wear an electronic tracking device.

When a sexual predator comes before a parole board hearing, Taylor's proposal would allow the district attorney from the county where he plans to reside to address the panel.

In addition to already existing quarterly verification, twice a year the state police would randomly verify the addresses of sexually violent predators as well as their compliance with counseling requirements. A verification form that cannot be forwarded would be delivered to the individual's last reported residence. Within 10 days the sexually violent predator would have to appear at a specified registration site, complete a verification form and be photographed.

"This would ensure that the convicted predator is consistently tracked and that appearance changes are noted to reflect such things as facial hair, graying hair and weight change," said Taylor.

"It doesn't help police if the last photo of a child predator is that of a thin man with a full head of hair and a mustache when he’s now bald, bearded and overweight."

Yet another component of Taylor's bill is directed at the Internet: it would make it a criminal offense for a person to solicit a child online for sex. Under current law, people cannot be arrested for propositioning a child online; they can only be collared when they show up to meet their intended victim. Taylor cited this week's arrest by Horsham Police of a Blue Bell man who allegedly solicited sex from a 13-year-old girl. Before making the arrest, police had to wait for the suspect to show up at a rendezvous site where he was to have met the teen.

"Under my bill, police could have acted immediately on the Internet solicitation alone without having to wait and go through the additional steps to arrest the suspect after he had actually shown up expecting to meet the girl," Taylor said.

Taylor said he is working to pull together bipartisan support such as that achieved in July when the House overwhelmingly approved his legislation that would prevent Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base from becoming a commercial passenger or cargo airport when it closes as a federal air base in 2011.

"The support from my colleagues in the region was important, and I'm working to recruit a similar coalition and fast-track this Megan's Law enhancement" Taylor added.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update on Regional Airport Authority / Bryan Lentz

State Rep. Bryan Lentz of Delaware County and Congressman Joe Sestak appeared on "Live! At Issue" on August 1st. You can watch the video (about 20 minutes long) on Lentz's website.

The topic is the FAA's proposed change in flight patterns for the Philadelphia airport, which would put more flights over Delaware County. Lentz has proposed a regional airport authority to more evenly distribute air traffic at airports in the area.

It's well worth the viewing time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Catching Up

I'm baaaaack!!! Did you miss me?

Clan Jane has been traveling around a little this summer, a trip to DC (no politics), a visit to the Lebanon / Indian Gap, and a family vacation with friends and relatives who have a pool in their backyard.

In DC I asked a cab driver if congressmen tipped well. He said no and that neither did their staff but lobbyists were very generous. He also told me that cabdrivers hate to see congress go out for recess because the town was dead while everyone was gone. Interesting.

Lebanon and environs is a beautiful area. We drove past a lot of nice houses and my imagination started to wander. I asked Mr. J if he thought they were on the sewer system or had septic tanks. He said septic tanks and that ruined the fantasy for me.

In any event, here are a few things that happened while I was away.

Daddy Democrat has a rundown on possible Republican contenders in the 7th congressional district. Keystone Politics had a similar discussion on potential GOP candidates for the 8th.

For more Delco news, check out this local blog and website.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Our folks were quiet this week, perhaps home talking with constituents.

PA Businesses

From “Anthracite, DGSE rise; Heelys slip,” by Rob Curran (8/09) we find this:

Home builders led the market’s charge and the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index recorded its best session since June 11, 2003, after large luxury builder Toll Brothers posted fiscal third-quarter revenue that topped Wall Street estimates.

John Rigas and his son Timothy will serve their jail time in Allenwood, to be close to family. The elder Rigas founded Adelphia and both were convicted of fraud. “Adelphia creditors await payout as founder and son head to jail,” by Sara Silver (8/11).

Boyds is featured in “The Psychology of the $14,000 handbag,” by Christina Binkley (9/09

Other PA

Philadelphia’s Pew Charitable Trusts features prominently in “As states tackle poverty, preschool gets high marks,” by Deborah Solomon (8/09). One paragraph:
Pew established its Pre-K Now advocacy group to support activists in states. It funded the National Institute for Early Education Research. To date, Pew has spent about $58 million on the campaign, a substantial sum for a foundation that spends about $250 million a year altogether.

Good news for college graduates on the health insurance front. From “Uninsured grads risk finances, future coverage,” by Cheryl Soltis (9/07):
Pennsylvania state University offers short-term insurance plans through GradMed. Roger Williams, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Alumni Association, says one advantage of going through GradMed for Penn State alumni is that there is no waiting period for coverage. No medical exam is required for new enrollees, but re-existing conditions aren’t covered. Mr. Williams says that in July, 2006, Penn State had 1,635 policies in effect.

Ed Atkins, director of emergency services for Chester County, is quoted in “Clearing emergency radio waves,” by Corey Boles (9/07). Apparently some cell phones disrupt emergency services frequencies. Sprint Nextel seems to be the worst offender. They are supposed to be shifting things around to fix the problem. Chester County is one of the areas where things are not moving very quickly.

Other Interesting Tidbits

At the tail end of “Republicans test war tolerance,” by Christopher Cooper and Amy Schatz (8/06) there are three paragraphs on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s interaction with the netroots.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

PA in Last Week's WSJ

Sorry this is late.

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this past week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Our folks were quiet this week, perhaps home talking with constituents.

PA Businesses

Fluffy eats Bugs. Hard Today, a Springboro-based rabbit farm makes it big in the cat food market. “How do cats like rabbits? Very much, and preferably raw,” by Charles Forelle (7/30)

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, a law firm, hired Diane Downs, formerly the associate dean of career planning and placement at U Penn’s Law School, to provide career counseling to the firm’s lawyers. “In need of counsel” (8/01)

Brief mentions: Plextronics of Pittsburgh (7/30)

AccuWeather of State College in “’Mashups” sew data together,” by Ben Worthen (7/31)

Other PA

Mention of Philly’s potential ban of foie gras in “No geese were hurt in the making of this “faux gras,” by Shelly Banjo (8/01)

The National Association of Colleges and Employers of Bethlehem is mentioned and quoted in “Ways to teach your children to find the work they love,” by Sue Shellenbarger (8/02)

The rich get richer – the University of Pennsylvania is the recipient of a $20 million gift, as noted in the “Gift of the Week,” by Sally Beatty (8/03)

Bad news in “Aging infrastructure: How bad is it?” by Nick Timiraos (8/04). In the chart on percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient, 2006, PA is listed in the over 20% category.

Other Interesting Tidbits

Long ago I realized that what I read affected my mindset and have adjusted my choices accordingly. Psychologists agree. “Bibliotherapy: Reading your way to mental health,” by Kevin Helliker (7/31)

A wonderful program is outlined in “Erasing ‘un’ from ‘unemployable’,” by Amy Merrick (8/02). Walgreen and other companies are setting up programs for those with autism and other developmental and learning disabilities.

A note on the blogosphere in “Blogger event draws Democrats,” by Amy Schatz (8/03) on YearlyKos.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Russians are Coming......

From the inbox:

PHILADE LP HIA, PA – The Russian National Baseball team is barnstorming across America this summer and they will stop in Philadelphia to play a team of Greater Philadelphia Men’s Adult Baseball League Stars on Friday, August 10th at 1:00 pm at La Salle University’s Hank DeVincent Field. The game will be a real treat for players — a chance to measure up against top international talent as well as help raise the profile of the league and of Philadelphia as an international sports mecca.

After the game, the internationally famous Golden Gates Restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia will host a celebratory meal for the players and their hosts as a way to spread goodwill. This is a particularly fitting way to celebrate the event as the Greater Philadelphia Region is home to a population of nearly 100,000 Russian-speaking individuals, heavily concentrated in the Far Northeast section of the city.

This summer, in preparation for their attempt to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the senior Russian National Baseball Team, under the direction of the Russian Olympic Committee, will embark on their 2007 U.S.A. Baseball Tour, an American baseball extravaganza traveling throughout the eastern United States from July 15 to August 15 including Games versus baseball teams in top-level NCAA sanctioned summer collegiate leagues, a series versus Team USA and Team China scheduled through Major League Baseball, and appearances at and the attendance of Major League Baseball games and stadiums (see

The Greater Philadelphia Men's Adult Baseball League (GPMABL) is committed to providing the player who is age 18 & over, the opportunity to play real baseball at a competitive level on a regular basis in a professionally-run environment. The GPMABL is affiliated with the Men's Senior Baseball League/Men's Adult Baseball League (MSBL/MABL), the fastest-growing adult baseball organization in the country. League players may be lawyers, local businessmen, or police officers during the week, but enjoy baseball as a serious hobby each weekend. (see

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Digital Divide: Print Version (Book Reviews)

I see a lot of discussion on blogs about the influence of the new medium on politics. Yet, when I hear politicos who do not blog there is often no mention of blogging, or perhaps only passing mention, especially on the state level. So I decided to check out this digital divide in the print world. Again, books by bloggers or blog mavens, such as Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, or Joe Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, feature blogs and bloggers prominently and in a positive light. In other relatively recent political books, not so much. I sampled some 2006 or 2007 imprints and here is what I found.

Brader, Ted. Campaigning for hearts and mind: How emotional appeals in political ads work. Chicago: U Chicago, 2006.

I didn’t read all the way through this one but started it and then skimmed. It focuses primarily on television advertising. There is some mention of print and leaflets. No acknowledgement of the Internet or YouTube or any such thing. Granted this book discusses ads going back to LBJ’s 1964 “Daisy” ad and up to the 2004 elections so that is a lot of ground to cover. No fun PA facts or tidbits

Adams, Brian E. Citizen lobbyists: local efforts to influence public policy. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 2007.

I did read through this one, though perhaps not with all brain cells firing at the same time. The author uses the term citizen lobbyists to describe people who become involved with local issues, or more often, an issue, which affects them. He uses citizens in Santa Ana as a case study. Adams looks at who is active (higher socio-economic groups, those personally affected, those with time, those who are neither too young nor too old) and what issues inspire the most activity (redevelopment and another that regulates personal behavior). Chapter 5, on the effect of local newspapers on public participation, is interesting. Traditional journalism affects opinions and agendas but not necessarily public participation levels. What is termed public journalism might affect participation. Adams also looks at how people participate. Contacting officials and attending (and speaking at) public meetings were judged the most effective strategies. Networking is another frequent strategy. The last chapter concerns social networks and their importance. The book never mentions the Internet or blogging or email or any social networking software of any kind, also no fun PA facts or tidbits.

Skinner, Richard M. More than money: Interest group action in congressional elections. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007
This title looks primarily at groups like NARAL, NRA, and AARP, that advocate for particular positions or issues. Some, like NARAL, endorse or promote specific candidates. Others, like AARP try to stay nonpartisan in particular races and work for issues of interest to a majority of their members (like health car). I read through all of this one and was dismayed at some very poor copyediting in the last chapter. A few mentions of the Internet and one reference to bloggers (as engaged by the Dean campaign and as used to “bring down Dan Rather,” p. 168). Pennsylvania mentions: Melissa Brown, GOP candidate for the 13th district as a recipient of AMA donations in 2004 (p. 77), the NRA claims credit for defeating Sen. Joe Clark (p. 52), AFL-CIO given credit for Tim Holden’s victory when his district was combined with that of George Gekas (p. 106), NARAL’s work to defeat Jon Fox (R-13) (p. 63) with unions also credited in that race (p. 104), NARAL’s work on behalf of Joe Hoeffel (D-13), Ron Klink gets labor support (p. 105) as well as from lawyers (p. 118) but did not get the support of NARAL after he defeated pro-choice Allyson Schwartz in the 2000 Democratic senate primary (p. 140 and 148), Emily’s List supported both Lois Murphy and Allyson Schwartz (p. 60), two PA house districts discussed generally on pp. 5-6, Santorum gets a mention on pp. 4, 70, and 148, Pat Toomey’s race against Arlen Specter gets mentioned with the NRA’s support of Specter (p. 55) but NRLC backed Toomey (p. 68) as did the Club for Growth (p. 117 and 149)

Shea, Daniel M. and Michael John Burton. Campaign Craft: The Strategies, Tactics, and Art of Political Campaign Management. 3rd ed. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2006.
This is a great overview of campaigning. I learned quite a bit from it and read it start to finish. Two sentences don’t really do it justice but anything else would just be padding. It really is a good book. The few Pennsylvania mentions were fairly general but there are some specific mentions of the blogosphere. To wit:

Researchers will want to bear in mind that the mainstream press tends to be suspicious of partisan and alternative news sources, but campaigns should also note the increasing speed with which nonmainstream stories, including amateur pundits with popular blogs, are making their way into the dominant media. (p. 86)


There is growing speciulation about the financial potency of the web blogs. In the November 2005 issues of Campaigns & Elections, an article entitled “Blogging Down the Money Trail” suggested how campaigns might tap into “netroots” – that is blogs, message boards, and me-zines. Simply put, candidates can post information about themselves, their race, and the opponent on certain blogs. They can keep other bloggers posted about the progress of the race and, when situations arise, post urgent calls for money. The article tells how an Ohio Democratic congressional candidate posted pleas in early August for $30,000 in order to fun his GOTV efforts. He raised $50,000. “Whichever party’s candidates manage to get the biggest benefit from blogs,” it seems, “the one certainty is that they will be there to be used. Political activist are not going off line.” (p. 151).

The “there will there to be used” comment is kind of off-putting but otherwise it’s a good point.

An additional problem facing contemporary campaigns is the blogosphere. Campaign-generated blogs, which hew the official line, tend toward tedium. Most devotees of political blogs prefer the independent variety – and here a campaign must ready itself to contend with helpful (and not-so-helpful) allies and the serious possibility of an Internet smear campaign. Sometimes the smears are intentional, and sometimes they are simply the product of overzealous partisans. The best a campaign operative can do is present the facts quickly and back them up with firm documentation. (p. 170)

Again with the suspicion. I was not aware that bloggers were a group to “contend with.”

Summation: Yes, it appears that the blogosphere still exists outside the mainstream of political work. I’ll check back now and then to see if this changes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

March Senate Journals

Sorry I am behind on these. Here are my notes from the March Legislative Journals of the Pennsylvania State Senate. On most days the only items in the Journal are appointments to boards or lists of bills introduced or shuffled off to committee, introductions of guests, remarks on non-controversial resolutions, and so on. I only take note of substantive debate or conversation among the senators, of which there is very little.

March 12 (43 p.)
March 13 (16 p.)
March 14 (12 p.)
March 19 (14 p.)
March 20 (11 p.)
March 21 (12 p.)
March 26 (14 p.)
March 27 (15 p.)
March 28 (14 p.)

March 13, pp. 14-15 Sen. Fumo on Iraq (again).

March 26, p. 12-13, interesting discussion on autism, pp. 13-14 Sen. Fumo on Iraq (again).

March 27, pp. 5-8, discussion PEMA and the 2/14 snow storm on I-80.

March 28, p. 6-7, ticket resales, pp. 8-9 insurance merger

Sunday, August 05, 2007

March House Journals

Sorry I am behind on these. Here are my notes from the March Legislative Journals of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives. On most days the only items in the Journal are appointments to boards or lists of bills introduced or shuffled off to committee, introductions of guests, remarks on non-controversial resolutions (National Fingernail Day, for one made up example), and so on. I only take note of substantive debate or conversation among the representatives, of which there is very little.

March 6 (27 p.)
March 7 (3 p.)
March 8 (2 p.)
March 12 (60 p.
March 13 (46 p.)
March 14 (1 p.)
March 19 (47 p.)
March 20 (21 p.)
March 21 (29 p.)
March 22 (9 p.)

March 12, pp. 21-60, reform commission recommendations, a lot of talk about car leases.

Marc. 13, pp. 13-46, reform commission recommendations, much snark. Rep. Pallone says on p. 27 that anyone can see votes posted in the House and a rep. can provide a written tally of a vote if asked. [bloggers comment: In other words, regular folks can only get vote tallies if they go to Harrisburg or go through their state rep.]

March 19, pp. 34-38, arguments over procedural matters on HB 116. pp. 39-45, HB 282 continued, student loan forgiveness in some occupation areas., pp. 45-46, discussion on Speakers Reform Commission and their changes, ghost voting, representatives with diabetes need to be off the floor sometimes for health reasons, everyone needs bathroom breaks, etc

March 21, pp. 7-10, Rep. Preston and Maher discuss HR 70, on protecting data. Preston questions Mayer. Mayer says this is the way his predecessor, Rep. Glick and the GOP wanted it. P. 12-14, HB 116, Rep. Cohen says Philadelphia can’t have different rules that the rest of the state (campaign finance rules), pp. 25-28, snarking about which party is more heavy-handed when in the majority.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Quick Word on Marcus Mabry

In 1988 I was working full-time and going to graduate school part-time. One night after class I picked up a copy of the freebie, Newsweek on Campus. The “My Turn” essay, “Living in Two Worlds,” by Marcus Mabry really struck me. He writes about the difference in his college existence and the urban poverty of his family’s life in New Jersey. Mabry had a full scholarship to a private boarding high school and was, at that time, attending college at Stanford. He writes about the disparity between his college apartment, with art prints and plants, and the apartment his family lives in, shared by a number of people, some sleeping on couches, some on mattresses on the floor, trying to avoid the springs sticking through.

He ends with this:

Somewhere in the midst of all that misery, my family has built, within me, a “proud feeling.” As I travel between the two worlds it becomes harder to remember just how proud I should be – not just of where I have come from and where I am going, but because of where they are. The fact that they survive in the world in which they live is something to be very proud of, indeed. It inspires within me a sense of tenacity and accomplishment that I hope every college graduate will someday possess.

I saved that essay and have had it taped up on the wall of every office I have work in for the past nearly 20 years. At times I have given a copy to people that I thought might enjoy it. For whatever reason it never occurred to me to find out what had happened to young Mr. Mabry. So imagine my surprise when I heard his name when watching election night coverage on television last November. Yes, Mabry is now the senior editor of Newsweek International

You can read his essay here, just scroll down to Passage I.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Contrasting Views on Wimmen

Remember those old "compare and contrast" papers you had to write in college? Here are two passages that I ran across recently on similar subjects but from very different viewpoints.

State Senator Connie Williams issued a press release commemorating World Breastfeeding Week and recently passed Pennsylvania legislation protecting a mother's right to feed her children outside of her home.

The special sections editor of one of the local suburban papers thought it necessary to add to the press maelstrom around Hillary Clinton's cleavage. Or, as he says: "nasty, stretched, gravity crushed, baby-drained tacos."

Nice, very nice [sarcasm]. I'll definitely remember that next time I put money in the newsbox to buy the paper.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

PA Congressmen in the News (Again)

Two recent items in the political news that concern or mention our congressional representation.

First up, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post had a blog post on Rudy Guiliani's congressional endorsements. The two most recent are out own Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-06) and Rep. Phil English.

But then we glanced at all of Giuliani's congressional endorsers (which are listed at the end of this post) and noticed an interesting trend -- all but two of the 20 are from states won by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and four hold districts that Kerry won.


Those numbers mean that an endorsement of Giuliani's presidential campaign may well be an attempt at self-preservation for each of these members. President Bush is decidedly unpopular in most of these areas and the sooner a GOP Member can wrap their arms around someone other than the current chief executive the better -- from an electoral perspective. Giuliani is the best bet for members sitting in swing districts -- especially in the Northeast and California -- due to his moderate/liberal issue positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control.

Meanwhile over at CQPolitics ("With Eyes on Maintaining Majority, Democrats Put Freshmen in Spotlight," By Kathleen Hunter):

As House Democrats prepare for a floor fight over government-subsidized children’s health insurance, they are spotlighting the role of freshman Jason Altmire.

The career hospital association executive has been working behind the scenes with his leadership on legislation that would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). When the bill (HR 3162) goes to the floor Wednesday, the newcomer hasecured floor time to help make a case for its passage.

Altmire, who upset three-term Republican incumbent Melissa A. Hart, is one of the freshmen that Democratic leaders have identified as rising stars among the 42 who helped the party gain control of the House last fall.


Military veterans Patrick J. Murphy of Pennsylvania and Tim Walz of Minnesota have been standard-bearers on Iraq policy. In February and again in March, Pelosi shared the stage with the two freshmen during press conferences highlighting Democratic victories.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tivo Alert -- Bryan Lentz This Sunday

Skipping across the region to Delaware County, for those interested in keeping up with the FAA's proposed plan to put more planes over Delco, and the county's preference that this NOT happen, watch State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D-161)on NBC-10's Live! At Issue this Sunday @ 11-30am.

There is more information on Lentz's website, and an earlier post here ("Update on regional airport authority").

Another Update on Flooding

There has been a number of articles on PhillyBurbs lately concerning flooding projects in the area. Here is an overview with links.

A task force has come up with 45 recommendations for flood prevention. (“Task force lists ways to thwart flood damage,” by Brian Scheid 7/18 Bucks County Courier Times)

The recommendations, agreed on by the 31 members of the Delaware River Basin Interstate Flood Mitigation Task Force, include setting up priority funding for home elevations and developing stricter floodplain regulations and more rigorous storm water management.

However, the recommendations do not include a call for year-round caps on reservoir levels, which several lawmakers and riverfront residents have contended would reduce flooding downriver. Task force members have instead called for a study of the operations at major reservoirs in the river’s basin to see if regulating reservoir levels and releases would help reduce flooding.

This has led to some controversy as there is still an area contingent that has strong feelings about reducing water levels in New York reservoirs (“Reservoirs not the solution,” by Jenna Portnoy Intelligencer 7/19)

Over the river (so to speak) and through the woods we have more information on the Pennypack Creek.
(“Dedicated funding sought to fight floods,” by Jacob Fenton 7/18 Intelligencer

A report released by Temple University last year showed that flooding in the Pennypack Creek watershed is worse than federal agencies thought. But it has not yet helped local officials figure out how to pay millions in flood reduction expenses.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Environmental Finance Council have applied for grants from private foundations to fund the effort. Other options on the table include creating stormwater authorities, other forms of governmental cooperation, and bills for water runoff.

Other projects have had some success with federal funding. (“Congress approves $250,000 towards flood prevention,” by Jenna Portnoy Bucks County Courier Times 7/29)

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-08) has asked for $250,000 for floodplain mapping, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) an additional $250,000 to help the Delaware River Basin Commission improve its flood warning system. These earmarks were attached to a bill that has passed the House.

From Murphy's press release:
Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) announced federal funding for two local priorities. The House of Representatives, in passing the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, approved funding for two Bucks County projects for which Rep. Murphy fought. These projects were passed as part of a larger bill that invests in renewable fuels, global warming research and new technology to stop the harmful effects of climate change. The local projects include $250,000 for Bucks County Floodplain Management Services to study and evaluate recent flooding and update floodplain mapping over a wide area to help prevent and mitigate future flooding. The other project funded in this bill is $182,000 for a study of Southampton Creek to restore the ecosystem along approximately two miles of degraded stream in Upper Southampton Township .

“These projects are vital for flood planning and prevention and for repairing an important ecosystem in our area,” said Congressman Patrick Murphy. “I was proud to fight for these local priorities and am glad that they cleared this important hurdle in getting the resources they need.”

As part of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, Rep. Murphy supports a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency and renewable energy, including solar, biofuels, hydropower and geothermal energy.

Earlier this summer Murphy brought home more bacon in the form of additional money for Yardley's flood damage.