Saturday, January 31, 2009

Biden, Green Jobs, Meeting in Philly

Pres. Obama created a task force on the middle class and appointed VP Biden chair. Their first meeting will be Feb. 27th in Philly. Details from the White House blog:

The task force’s first focus will be green jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class.

Green jobs are jobs that provide products and services which use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, conserve energy and natural resources and reconstitute waste.

So what do green jobs mean for the middle class?

First, quite simply, it means more jobs. At a time when good jobs at good wages are harder and harder to come by, it is critical we find new and innovate ways to create more such jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few examples of ways to create new good quality jobs – green jobs – and strengthen the foundation of this country at the same time.

Second, more green jobs mean more money in your pocketbook at the end of the month. If we create jobs that aim to reduce your energy costs – like your electric bill and your home heating bill – that means you have more disposable income for other things.

Creating more green jobs has multiple benefits. It helps the economy as a whole; it helps our environment; and it will save you money.

Stay tuned for more information on green jobs following the Middle Class Task Force’s first meeting on February 27, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interesting Note in Dec Philly Magazine

This was in the "to blog about, if there is blogging" pile. From Philadelphia Magazine, December 2008, note at the bottom of page 50:

Weeks before Election Day, Local 98 boss John Dougherty sent a message to union members, 80 percent of whom are white: Don't let Obama's skin color impede your vote. Even more intriguing than his plea to bridge the racial divide was how it was delivered -- J. Doc mailed 5,000 one-time-use MP3 players loaded with his pro-Obama stump speech, plus words from building trades manager Pat Gillespie, Rep. Pat Murphy and Senator Bob Casey. Operation MP3 ran a cool $90,000 -- but Dougherty says it was worth it: "Everbody loved it. I even saw one on Craigslist for $150."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Allyson Schwartz on WHYY's "This I Believe"

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13) has joined those recording an essay for WHYY as part of their "This I Believe" series. You can listen to the audio on WHYY's site. The planned text is given below; it varies slightly from the recording due to editing.

More than 60 years ago, a young woman, a girl really at 16, named Renee Perl arrived in the United States after years of displacement, uncertainty and abandonment.

Having fled Austria to escape the Nazis, she arrived in America: alone, scared, but, hopeful.

She was sent to Philadelphia, a safe haven with a welcoming community and good public schools. Times were not easy, but she quickly learned English, to dress like an American, and to type fast enough to land a steady job as a secretary.

Over the years, as a young wife, busy mother of four, she worked as so many refuges do to put her troubled times behind her, to embrace her adopted country and build a new life for herself. And, while she was forever haunted by her experiences, she embraced America with joy and gratitude.

Renee Perl was my mother.

She instilled in me a great love for our country, for the freedom, the security, and the opportunity it offered her.

Her life taught me that we each have the responsibility to keep these freedoms alive, that each of us contributes to ensuring that opportunity
for others and that hope can only be fulfilled if it is shared.
My mother told me to not romanticize her experience.

So I believe it's important to enable families to nurture their children, that growing up in fear and violence does not make you stronger.

That we should expect neighbors to respect neighbors, that discrimination and hate are not tolerable.

That we have to work to meet our personal responsibilities to ourselves and our families, and that while this is clearly a full time job, to do only this is not enough. The world around us demands more.

I knew none of this was easy, but to stand on the sidelines is not possible (acceptable).

So, I never have.

I take with me each day, the sadness, as well as the hopes and the dreams of my Mother, to fight for that opportunity and security. at all levels.

First on the community level, then with the City, as a state Senator, and now as a Member of Congress, I seek to improve the lives of our children, to expand access to health care, to create economic opportunities for more Americans, to build a safer, more secure world for all of us.
I know I am sometimes too determined, too demanding of myself and the people around me, but I believe that we must set high goals for ourselves, get as close as you can to achieve them and then pursue new, higher goals.

I believe that few of us can achieve much without hard work, determination and a vision for the future.
I believe that each of us holds our own reasons for caring.

Each of us has to find our own path to meet our responsibilities to
ourselves and to others.
And, the best of us find a way to have people work together on behalf of all of us.

My mother did not live to see me elected to public office, to see me as a mother.

But, she would have been proud of who I am today, and proud of who we are as Americans: willing to find the way to meet our challenges together, to move ahead, and to embrace the future with confidence and hope in each other and our great nation.

That is America’s promise; just as my mother believed, just as I believe.

Public Forum on Gerrymandering

Sorry for the late notice. There will be a public form on gerrymandering and redistricting; announced panel speakers include Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, State Reps. Josh Shapiro and Babette Josephs, and Chris Satullo, formerly of the Inky and now at WHYY. The event is tomorrow, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia at 2125 Chestnut St.

For more info see Satullo's blog entry on WHYY's It's Our City blog.

Philadelphia: Home of Girl Scout Cookies

Two newsy bits on Girl Scout cookies (yes, it's that time of year again!):

If you want to support the scouts but don't want cookies around the house you can pay for boxes that will be sent to troops overseas. That would be a nice taste of home for soldiers far away. Just a thought.

The first Girl Scouts cookies were baked in Philadelphia. From the inbox:

The Girl Scout Cookie Program began right here in Philadelphia in 1932 when Girl Scouts demonstrated their cooking skills in the windows of the Philadelphia Gas Company. This led to the Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia's first commercial cookie program in 1934, making this the 75th anniversary. The Cookie Program went national with the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. in 1936.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Case of the Disappearing FEC Reports

Old habits die hard and so last Saturday afternoon I found myself perusing the FEC website, to see if anyone had posted the end of year reports, due the end of January, early. No one had. Pre- and post-general reports were there and provided some entertainment / educational value. The easiest way to do this is to go to and view the electronic filings.

A few things really struck me. One is that Mark Cohen’s old congressional campaign committee, started when he contemplated running for Congress in 2004 and still hanging around, is not listed as having filed a report for the quarter ending in October. I’d done some checking via back channels about missing reports (see next paragraph) and someone suggested looking at the “view images of all financial reports” function. Sure enough, there was a pdf copy of a letter from the FEC telling Cohen’s treasurer that they were no longer obligated to file reports until they received or spent money. I don’t know why this wasn’t posted with the electronic filings. Just viewing the list of electronic filings it would be easy to assume that a report had not been filed.

Another thing that really surprised me was the absence of reports that used to be listed with electronic filings. I have reviewed quarterly FEC reports for the suburban Philadelphia congressional campaigns for some time now and am familiar with committee names, what sort of reports they file, etc. So, imagine my surprise when the reports for the Republican candidate for the 13th congressional district didn’t appear. Not under the candidates first name. Not under the candidate’s last name. To be double extra sure I printed out a list of all the electronic reports available for Pennsylvania house races. Do not do this at home – it is 120 pages long. No reports for the 2008 GOP candidate for the 13th district. They used to be there. I reviewed them a number of times. But they are gone now. That’s just plain strange.

Reports for the 2006 GOP candidate for that district are all there. There were three primary candidates for the GOP congressional lost in 2004. Their reports are available electronically. Reports for a Democratic candidate who lost in the 2004 primary are available. Reports from a Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district who withdrew from the race in 2006 are available. Reports from all four Democratic candidates for the 2006 8th congressional district race are available.

Tapping a few people who know more about these things than I do someone suggested checking the reports filed on paper, the “view images of all financial reports” option. Sure enough, all of the reports for the 2008 GOP candidate for the 13th congressional district are all there. However, they have been removed from the electronic reports list. I have never seen that done before.

Looking at the pdf copy of the latest report, a termination report dated 11/24/08 is difficult going. The print is small. The pages are hard to read. It is slow going. However it does appear that the candidate repaid herself for three loans of $95,000 each. There is a $15,000 loan that she appears to have forgiven; that loan also from her personal funds. The interest rate is floating but it looked like she paid herself some interest on the loans. There are also a handful of in-kind donations from the candidate. I’m not well-versed enough in FEC arcane to grasp what, if any, significance all this has.

What I do know for certain is that the FEC reports for this campaign used to be available in the easier to read, easier to use, electronic files and now all of them have been pulled. The only access is the more cumbersome pdf files.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Philly Budget Forums

For those interested:

The people who brought us the Big Canvas meetings, the Project for Civic Engagement, have planned a series of four forums on the Philadelphia budget:

Thursday, Feb. 12. — St. Dominic’s School, 8510 Frankford Ave. (Northeast)

Wednesday, Feb. 18 — Mastery Charter School, Pickett Campus, 5700 Wayne Ave (Germantown)

Thursday, Feb 19 — St. Monica’s Catholic School, 16th and Porter Streets. (South Philadelphia)

Monday, Feb. 23 - Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54 TH Street (West Philadelphia)

The forums will run from 7:00pm - 9:30pm

For more details see WHYY's It's Our City blog.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Return of Anthony Riley

Anthony Riley whose singing talents were mentioned here in June 2007, has returned to the city after a lengthy stay in Las Vegas. For the moment he said the best place / time to catch him is in Suburban Station on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the afternoon.

Interesting Theory or Tinfoil Hat Time?

This evening I talked with an old college buddy who has traveled widely, including a stay in India a few years ago. She told me she thought there was some symbolism in what the new first family was wearing at the inaugural. The colors of their clothes struck her as emblematic of some of the world's religions. I'm not up on what colors represent what religions but did say I would, with her permission, post it here.

Pres. Obama -- black (Muslim)
Mrs. Obama -- close to saffron (Buddhist)
oldest Obama daughter -- purplish blue (Christianity / Judaism?)
younger Obama daughter -- orange yellow and pink (Hindu)

You can vote: interesting theory or tinfoil hat time?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Schwartz Vice Chair of Budget Committee

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has been named vice chair of the House Budget Committee. Full press release on her legislative website.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let's End This Tradition

At one of the televised inaugural parties President Barack Obama gestured to his wife, on stage with him, and asked the audience to agree that she looked great. When Bill Clinton was president he once asked an audience if they agreed that Hillary looked wonderful.

Can we stop this? The First Lady has little choice in these circumstances other than stand there and be examined by everyone in the room. Would anyone enjoy that? It is wonderful when long-married spouses still get a charge out of each other, but those sentiments are better suited for private settings.

A glamorous presidential wife is certainly a plus but Eleanor Roosevelt, admittedly no traditional beauty, accomplished a world of good. The First Lady's husband may rejoice in her physical attributes but the rest of us may have other priorities for the job.

Just my opinion.

In Case You Missed It, Part II

From the Inky's PhillyDeal$ blog on 1/15:

Bucks County's U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., got his second term off to a convincing start today when the House of Representatives in Washington voted 426-0 to approve his amendment that would force the Federal Reserve to explain how it hired BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, Pimco and Wellington Management to manage $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities, how much it's paying them, and how it's making sure they don't trade the MBS for personal advantage. Read the amendment here.

Murphy says he wasn't doing this at the request of other money managers or interested parties. "We have no idea how they found those managers. We don't even know how much they're getting paid," Murphy told me, echoing his speech on the House floor. The worst, he said, was getting blown off by the Fed when he asked for details -- even though it's legally responsible to Congress. "I taught constitutional law at West Point," he said. "I'm not going to stand for that."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Case You Missed It, Part I

Last Wednesday the Inquirer had a nice article on women in Congress, with a focus on Rep. Allyson Schwartz. Check out "The Young Mothers of Capitol Hill," by Nora Barry

Brief Inaugural Note

Like a lot of people I watched the inaugural at work, on a big screen tv. The group gathered around the tv was quiet, listening to Obama's speech. I thought it was a good speech, with a lot of impressive policy statements woven in.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama's Remarks at Philadelphia Train Station

From the inbox:

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for delivery
Inaugural Whistle Stop Tour
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 17, 2009

We are here to mark the beginning of our journey to Washington. This is fitting because it was here, in this city, that our American journey began. It was here that a group of farmers and lawyers, merchants and soldiers, gathered to declare their independence and lay claim to a destiny that they were being denied.

It was a risky thing, meeting as they did in that summer of 1776. There was no guarantee that their fragile experiment would find success. More than once in those early years did the odds seem insurmountable. More than once did the fishermen, laborers, and craftsmen who called themselves an army face the prospect of defeat.

And yet, they were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line - their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor - for a set of ideals that continue to light the world. That we are equal. That our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for the people can endure. It was these ideals that led us to declare independence, and craft our constitution, producing documents that were imperfect but had within them, like our nation itself, the capacity to be made more perfect.

We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. An economy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil.

And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives - from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry - an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.

That is the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago. I did so in the belief that the most fundamental American ideal, that a better life is in store for all those willing to work for it, was slipping out of reach. That Washington was serving the interests of the few, not the many. And that our politics had grown too small for the scale of the challenges we faced.

But I also believed something else. I believed that our future is our choice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not - then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.

This is what I believed, but you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, know that I will not be traveling alone. I will be taking with me some of the men and women I met along the way, Americans from every corner of this country, whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause; whose dreams and struggles have become my own.

Theirs are the voices I will carry with me every day in the White House. Theirs are the stories I will be thinking of when we deliver the changes you elected me to make. When Americans are returning to work and sleeping easier at night knowing their jobs are secure, I will be thinking of people like Mark Dowell, who's worried his job at Ford will be the next one cut, a devastating prospect with the teenage daughters he has back home.

When affordable health care is no longer something we hope for, but something we can count on, I will be thinking of working moms like Shandra Jackson, who was diagnosed with an illness, and is now burdened with higher medical bills on top of child care for her eleven year-old son.

When we are welcoming back our loved ones from a war in Iraq that we've brought to an end, I will be thinking of our brave servicemen and women sacrificing around the world, of veterans like Tony Fischer, who served two tours in Iraq, and all those returning home, unable to find a job.

These are the stories that will drive me in the days ahead. They are different stories, told by men and women whose journeys may seem separate. And yet, what you showed me time and again is that no matter who we are or what we look like, no matter where we come from or what faith we practice, we are a people of common hopes and common dreams, who ask only for what was promised us as Americans - that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.

We recognize that such enormous challenges will not be solved quickly. There will be false starts and setbacks, frustrations and disappointments. And we will be called to show patience even as we act with fierce urgency.

But we should never forget that we are the heirs of that first band of patriots, ordinary men and women who refused to give up when it all seemed so improbable; and who somehow believed that they had the power to make the world anew. That is the spirit that we must reclaim today.

For the American Revolution did not end when British guns fell silent. It was never something to be won only on a battlefield or fulfilled only in our founding documents. It was not simply a struggle to break free from empire and declare independence. The American Revolution was - and remains - an ongoing struggle "in the minds and hearts of the people" to live up to our founding creed.

Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union.

Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.

Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country.

Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning.

Join me in this effort. Join one another in this effort. And together, mindful of our proud history, hopeful for the future, let's seek a better world in our time. Thank you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More on Photovoltaic Industry

Those intrigued by yesterday's post on the Photovoltaic America conference might wish to read an article in the Dec / Jan issue of Fast Company. See "The Solar Industry Gains Ground," by Chris Turner.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Solar Industry Conference in Philly This June

The blog is still on hiatus. This is just an item from the inbox:

The city of Philadelphia will host PV AMERICA, the nation’s premier conference for the solar photovoltaic industry, June 8-10, 2009, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

"Solar photovoltaics will play a vital role in securing America’s energy independence, and PV America will showcase the fast-growing PV sector in the city of American independence," said Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). "The conference will bring together leaders from the technology, research, finance and business development communities to share the latest trends for photovoltaics, complementing the annual Solar Power conference that we co-host in October."

Organizers of the PV America 2009 program include SEIA, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Mid-Atlantic chapter of SEIA (MSEIA). IEEE will present its Photovoltaic Specialists Conference June 7 - 11, 2009, to coincide with PV America at the same location.

"We’re building a clean energy economy here in Pennsylvania," said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. "We’re opening new markets for solar energy and other renewable sources, we’re making strategic investments to attract some of the world’s leading solar developers and create jobs in this rapidly growing field, and we’re pushing to generate even more development in this industry. Hosting PV America 2009 is a great opportunity for us to showcase our accomplishments while also helping to shape the future of this industry and create an energy independent America."

Many industry observers feel Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland will rival California as the prime U.S. market for solar energy for the coming decade. With strong state policies and incentives in place, the region’s leaders have established a climate to attract PV companies, installations and jobs.

House Passes SCHIP Bill

Walk on from stage left.

A variety of press releases today on the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which passed the House today.

Allyson Schwartz

Today is a good day for American families.

“Today, we vote to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for the nearly 7 million children it covers and to expand coverage to an additional 4 million uninsured children.

“My commitment to ensuring health coverage for every child in our great nation is just as strong today as it was in 1992 when I successfully worked for the early creation of CHIP in Pennsylvania.

“Yet, today, 9 million children are still uninsured – more than 138,000 in Pennsylvania alone. And the number grows daily.

“As the economy continues to suffer and unemployment grows, more and more American families are losing their insurance coverage. Parents without coverage worry that their children will get sick or need to visit the doctor; and they simply do not have the money to pay.

“As we work to reverse the economic downturn, we can and should ensure that our children’s health will be protected, now and in the future.

“Strengthening CHIP for 11 million children is the right thing to do – and in just six days, we will have a President who – unlike the outgoing President – will sign this bill and achieve this goal for America’s children.

“Change is here. Today is a good day.”

Patrick Murphy
“As our economy declines and joblessness goes up, programs like S-CHIP become more important and are used more and more. Families are hurting and this is one way to improve the health of children and our nation’s overall public health,” said Congressman Patrick Murphy. “This is a critical program that helps hard working families keep their children healthy. I was proud to vote to re-authorize children’s health insurance again and am glad that the incoming president will sign this bipartisan bill.”

“This program has wide bipartisan support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents across the country – including governors and members of Congress. I am proud to fight for the thousands of parents in our district who play by the rules and just want to keep their kids healthy,” Murphy added.

Paul Kanjorski:
“This is a very promising day for American children,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “We are in tough times as people throughout the country are struggling from financial hardships. But, during such times it is especially important to ensure the safety and well being of our children, including guaranteeing that they have health insurance. This bill will improve health care for 11 million American children, enabling the future of our country to receive needed care at lower costs.

“While President Bush refused to extend the children’s health insurance program twice in the last Congress, I have great faith that after the Senate hopefully passes the bill, that President-elect Obama will do the right thing and sign it into law.”

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Schwartz Workshops on Energy Conservation

Just passing through again.

From the inbox:

With all of us concerned about the economy, the threat of a cold winter has many Pennsylvanians looking for tips and strategies on how to save money this winter on energy needs, especially home heating costs.

To help her constituents take more control over their energy expenses by making smart, efficient household changes, Congresswoman Schwartz will host two energy conservation workshops in Montgomery County next week. At these free workshops, experts from Montgomery County Weatherization Works will offer tips and strategies on how people can lower their overall energy use and save money on heating costs this winter.

Montgomery County Energy Conservation Workshops

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 7 p.m.
Lansdale Library
301 Vine Street
Lansdale, PA 19446

Friday, January 16, 2009, 10:30 a.m.
Abington Township Public Library
1030 Old York Road
Abington, PA 19001

For more details and registration information see the press release on her congressional website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Quick Patrick Murphy Update

I'm just passing through.

Congressman Patrick Murphy, just elected to his second term, is starting to blend into the woodwork a little. He's no longer the only Iraq War veteran in Congress. Incoming Florida Rep. Tom Rooney shares that distinction. Others may as well; I haven't done a thorough check. Murphy is now an old man of 35, not the congressional kid anymore. Incoming Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock is only 27. Rooney is 38; newly elected Ohio Rep. John Boccieri is 39. There are enough under-40's to form a caucus. (See Politics Magazine's "Frosh to Watch" for the source of some of this data.)