Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Pennsylvania Author

I recently ran across another Pennsylvania author, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, whose works have won the Sibert Award and the Newberry Honor.

More on Wounded Warrior Program

Those interested in the Wounded Warrior Program, which hired veterans to work in congressional offices, may enjoy these two resources:

"Wounded warrior from Easton area has a new mission," by Josh Drobnyk, Morning Call, 3/10/2009

U.S. House Chief Administrative Officer

WHYY Impact of War (audio file)

All of these focus on Dan Lasko who is working in Rep. Allyson Schwartz's office.

Monday, March 30, 2009

End of Fundraising Quarter

Tomorrow marks the end of a campaign finance reporting quarter for many races. If you are so inclined, toss a few dollars are your favorite congressional, municipal, or judicial candidate.

Bill to Streamline County Government

This is interesting but I'm not sure it will get a lot of traction in the Pennsylvania House. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D-31) plans to introduce a bill that will allow counties to streamline their government. Among the possible changes:

Santarsiero’s legislation would allow second-class counties to abolish the office of Jury Commissioner and consolidate the offices of Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts by way of county ordinance or ballot referendum.

Further, the legislation would regulate the payment of benefits to county solicitors, assistant solicitors and row office solicitors by prohibiting such benefits for solicitors working fewer than 35 hours per week. Santarsiero said the bill also would make the process of retaining outside counsel more transparent.

Schwartz Water Quality Bill Passes House

From the inbox on 3/12:

The House of Representatives passed today a plan sponsored by U.S Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) to study the presences of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the U.S. water supply.

The proposal was approved as an amendment to the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009 (WQIA).

Schwartz, along with Representatives Carolyn McCarthy, Tammy Baldwin and Jay Inslee, fought to include this provision in the bill as a follow up to an effort last year to bring national attention to an Associated Press report that traces of pharmaceuticals were found in the drinking water of more than 41 million Americans. Although no pharmaceuticals were found at levels that threatened human health, their presence raised many concerns from environmental and public health advocates.

“Clean, safe drinking water is a right for all Americans,” Rep. Schwartz said. “The presence of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water is deeply troubling. My amendment will hopefully serve as a starting point for all stakeholders to find innovative ways to clean our water.”

The amendment would specifically require the Environmental Protection Agency to report back to Congress on the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products on human health and aquatic wildlife. The report will also include recommendations on ways to control, limit, treat, and prevent these elements from entering our ecosystem.

The WQIA, which passed the House by a vote of 317 to 101, would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This EPA-administered program provides assistance to local and state governments to improve storm and wastewater systems.

WQIA and Schwartz’s plan must now be passed by the U.S. Senate before they can be sent to the President to be signed into law.

Specter and SEIU

While Sen. Arlen Specter has said he is not supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, you can still let him know how you feel about it.

From our friends at SEIU, here are are few communication links:

Send Sen. Specter an email.

Send letters to the editor of local papers near you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Briggs Sponsors Earth Hour Resolution

Newly elected State Rep. Tim Briggs(D-149) sponsored House Resolution 154 honoring Earth Hour. This climate change advocacy campaign, initiated by the World Wildlife Fund, encouraged individuals and governments to turn out or dim their lights for one hour (8:30 to 9:30) on the evening of Saturday, March 28th. The dome lights on the Pennsylvania state capitol were turned off for that hour ("Capitol dome lights to go dark for Earth Hour," Times Leader Local News 3/27.

Over 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries participated in the event, according to Earth Hour.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stimulus Money for PA Community Health Centers

From the inbox:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the release of $9.4 million to expand services offered at community health centers in Pennsylvania. The money was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes as more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured.

“More Americans are losing their health insurance and turning to health centers for care,” said Health Resources and Services Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N. “These grants will aid centers in their efforts to provide care to an increasing number of patients during the economic downturn.”

The Increased Demand for Services (IDS) funds will be distributed to 36 federally qualified health center grantees in Pennsylvania. The health centers will use the funds over the next two years to create or retain approximately 180 health center jobs.

Grantees submitted plans explaining how the IDS funds would be used. Strategies to expand services may include, but are not limited to, adding new providers, expanding hours of operations or expanding services. The funds will provide care to an additional 59,603 patients in Pennsylvania over the next two years.

The IDS awards are the second set of health center grants provided through the Recovery Act. On March 2, President Obama announced grants worth $155 million to 126 new health centers. Those grants will provide access to health center care for 750,000 people in 39 states and two territories.

To see a list of grantees by state, go to http://www.hhs.gov/recovery/programs/hrsa/idsgawards.html. To find a health center near you or to learn more about health centers, visit http://bphc.hrsa.gov/.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Willow Grove Naval Air Station Update

There is general agreement that no one wants to see the runways at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station used to commercial or cargo flights. In 2011 the Navy and the Marines will be leaving. What will then be known as the Joint Interagency Installation is slated to become a homeland security base, available for military and emergency services use.

In May, 2008 Congress pass a bill to prevent the base being used for commercial and cargo reasons. According to the Associated Press (via Navy Times, h/t Democratic Underground)

Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Patrick Murphy introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act to outlaw such use. The amendment, which passed the House on Thursday night, says the airfield can only be used to aid the mission of the installation.

As an additional safeguard the state legislature can pass a similar bill. Legislation introduced last year did not make it through the process. This year State Representative Rick Taylor (D-151) introduced a bill, co-sponsored by, among others, Tom Murt (D-152). HB 111 which provides even stricter guidelines on who may use the base, and ensuring that private businesses pay local taxes. Stewart Greenleaf has introduced a similar bill in the state senate.

Taylor’s office distributed his remarks on the legislation. Here is an excerpt:
Some are quick to point out there is already a federal law that is clear on the issue - no flights outside the mission. In a briefing legislators had a few weeks ago we learned the law is already working. The program manager of the Horsham JII was approached by a discount airline to use the space with $100M in potential revenue. It was immediately rejected because their proposal was outside the mission and the federal law clearly bans the use of commercial flights.

However, any legislation can be repealed. That is why we need to have the belt and suspenders approach to ensure that if the federal legislation is repealed it will not be at the state level.

Furthermore, our legislation speaks to appropriateness of who is an allowable tenant or associated user. Let me be clear: if you are not making the U.S. a safer place to live you've got no business setting up shop at the Horsham JII. And this legislation spells that out. I understand this base could be a real cash cow, even if we could make a ton of cash we should not let just anybody in. It's all about quality of life, quality of life and quality of life.

There is some disagreement over the specifics. As noted in “Officials join efforts to limit use of airspace,” by Rich Pietras, in the 3/21 Intelligencer:

If anything speaks of the potential fight ahead, it may be the news of one prospective tenant for the base, Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Although Teva, which is the largest generic drug company in the world and is located in Montgomery Township, has only engaged in preliminary discussions over moving onto the base, Greenleaf, as well as Horsham officials, do not believe it fits the base's mission or model.

Rendell disagrees.

Bradley Vasoli in the 3/25 Bulletin (“Greenleaf, Taylor bills to prevent civilian flights) notes another point of contention in the region:
They introduced a similar measure last session, but it did not pass. Some of the opposition came from Delaware County lawmakers who view Willow Grove as an airfield that could lift some air-traffic pressure off of Philadelphia International Airport, much of which currently flies over Delaware County.

The redirection of flights bound for Philadelphia International over Delaware County was intended to reduce delays, but it has increased aircraft noise for the county’s residents, and adding runways to the airport currently is on the drawing board. This would further increase the airport’s capacity beyond current air-traffic levels.

This has Delaware County legislators concerned.

The wording of legislation is always important but in this case it is especially so. The phrases “should be related to the mission of …” and “must meet the primary mission of ...” can make the difference between a company or organization being allowed to use the runways or not.

This is an interesting situation and definitely one worth watching.

PA Energy Efficiency and Conservation Funds

From the inbox:

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects in U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, and Native American tribes. This includes $102,508,400 for state, county and city efforts in Pennsylvania. A detailed breakdown is below.

Today’s announcement builds on an investment of $352,477,062 in Pennsylvania weatherization and energy funding announced by the Administration on March 12th and detailed at energy.gov/recovery.

“These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country,” said Vice President Biden. “Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work – but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use.”

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide formula grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

The funding will support energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections, and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements. Other activities eligible for use of grant funds include transportation programs that conserve energy, projects to reduce and capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, renewable energy installations on government buildings, energy efficient traffic signals and street lights, deployment of Combined Heat and Power and district heating and cooling systems, and others.

To ensure accountability, the Department of Energy will provide guidance to and require grant recipients to report on the number of jobs created or retained, energy saved, renewable energy capacity installed, greenhouse gas emissions reduced, and funds leveraged. Funding is based on a formula that accounts for population and energy use.

“The Block Grants are a major investment in energy solutions that will strengthen America’s economy and create jobs at the local level,” said Secretary Chu. “The funding will be used for the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy technologies we have – energy efficiency and conservation – which can be deployed immediately. The grants also empower local communities to make strategic investments to meet the nation’s long term clean energy and climate goals.”

Funding for state, city, and county governments in the state includes:

Pennsylvania Total Sum City, County, and SEO Allocations

All $102,508,400

Pennsylvania State Energy Office $23,574,800

Abington City $500,400
Allen City $1,038,800
Altoona City $205,700
Bensalem City $576,600
Bethlehem City $702,100
Bristol City $492,500
Cheltenham City $147,400
Chester City $156,000
Erie City $1,031,500
Harrisburg City $256,200
Haverford City $190,000
Hempfield City $168,400
Lancaster City $575,900
Lower Merion City $587,600
Lower Paxton City $185,200
Manheim City $160,600
Middletown City $189,200
Millcreek City $491,600
Northampton City $160,800
Penn Hills City $181,400
Philadelphia City $14,108,700
Pittsburgh City $3,403,000
Reading City $791,000
Scranton City $718,500
State College City $194,100
Upper Darby City $695,600
Wilkes-Barre City $192,300
York City $190,200

Allegheny County $8,094,300
Berks County $2,973,200
Bucks County $3,906,600
Chester County $4,615,800
Cumberland County $2,207,300
Delaware County $3,668,300
Lancaster County $3,795,900
Lehigh County $2,032,100
Luzerne County $2,542,200
Montgomery County $6,183,000
Northampton County $2,190,900
Washington County $1,924,400
Westmoreland County $3,006,500
York County $3,501,800

More information on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program is available on http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/wip/block_grants.cfm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sestak and Snarlen on Twitter

Fellow Twits, you can now follow two of our national elected officials:




Lest you mistake your place in the universe, be assured that this is one-way communication. They are not interested in reading your tweets.

However, you might be able to get some traction with


PA Dems --- In the Dark?

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is having a lights out party this Saturday and want to you sign up to join them at www.padems.com:

Can you turn out your lights for one hour to help save our Earth? Of course you can! And this Saturday, you'll get your chance. On March 28 at 8:30 p.m. (local time) people around the world will be shutting off the lights in homes and buildings for one hour to show solidarity in reducing our global use of fossil fuel sources.

It's called "Earth Hour" and for this year's event we want to see how many Pennsylvania Democrats commit to turning off their lights for just one hour.

Schwartz on the Budget

From the inbox:

Today the House Budget Committee unveiled their fiscal year 2010 budget resolution. The budget resolution establishes the top-line amount of money that will be spent in this year’s appropriations bills, as well as putting forth policies and goals for deficit reduction.

As Budget Committee Vice Chair, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) has been a vocal advocate for a fiscally responsible budget that makes deficit reduction a top priority, while ensuring that we make smart, innovative investments in healthcare, energy, and education.

Schwartz’s opening statement follows below.

“I thank Chairman Spratt for his important work on the budget before us – embracing the President’s goals to rebuild the economy, restore fiscal integrity and giving Congress the ability to make investments needed for our future prosperity and security.

“First, we understand that President Obama and this Congress inherited the results of eight years of failed Republican fiscal and economic policies – an economy in recession, and a federal budget deeply in debt.

“President Obama and this Congress have already taken action to rebuild our economy by providing tax relief to 95% of Americans; creating jobs by assisting small businesses and states; investing in needed infrastructure; and investing in energy independence, health IT, and education.

“This budget builds on these essential actions and enables Congressional action to lead us to future economic growth.

“First, by restoring fiscal responsibility with an honest budget that anticipates expenditures for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for domestic natural disasters, for tax relief and obligated entitlements.

“This budget also restores fiscal balance by committing to cut the deficit in half in 5 years.

“Second, this budget makes responsible, significant investments in three areas, enabling Congress to define the specific means and the specific ways to accomplish these goals.

“These investments build on the actions we have already taken and are essential to our economic recovery and our economic growth.

“Simply, we will not be prepared, nor we will not be economically competitive if we do not tackle these three key challenges.

“One, education. This budget puts resources in early childhood initiatives, in basic education for K-12, and better enables Americans to afford to go to college with grants and tax credits – ensuring an educated, skilled workforce of the future.

“Two, energy. This budget sets aside a revenue neutral reserve fund which calls on Congress to find a way towards energy independence through alternative, home grown, cleaner fuels and energy efficiency.

“Three, healthcare. This budget sets aside a revenue neutral reserve fund with reconciliation language to ensure that Congress contains the unsustainable costs in the public and private sectors that improves quality and efficiency so Americans get the very best, appropriate care they need, and extends access to meaningful, affordable health coverage for all Americans.

“This budget calls for action that responds to the concerns of American families and American businesses.

“It enables the Congress to define the many details through debate and hearings here in Congress and with our constituents – the American people.

“Support for this budget is support for fiscal responsibility and support for the investments needed for the health and well being of Americans and the economic prosperity and security they deserve.”

Rate Cap Legislation

Remember last year when Gov. Rendell was trying to persuade the state legislature to pass bills on the use of smart meters and other energy matters? And there was a lot of talk and debate and nothing happened? The chickens are coming home to roost.

From the inbox:

On Thursday, March 26, the House Consumer Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on House Bill 20, a proposal that would give consumers like you the ability to choose how electricity rate hikes will impact your energy bills when rate caps expire. Consumer advocates, power suppliers and industry experts are all expected to offer testimony, and you can watch it LIVE online starting at 9 a.m. at www.pahouse.com.

The legislation, introduced by House Speaker Keith McCall and Majority Leader Todd Eachus, would cap rate hikes at no more than 15 percent per year for a three-year period, allow customers to choose to pre-pay – and earn 6 percent interest on those payments – to reduce the impact of increased rates, and prohibit power companies from putting the burden of recovering long-term rate recovery costs on consumers.

Caps on electricity rates for customers of PPL expire at the end of the year, and caps will expire for PECO, First Energy and Allegheny Energy on Dec. 31, 2010.

Tivo Alert for Judge John Younge

Recently I spoke with someone on John Younge's campaign staff; he is running for state Superior Court. She was very impressive. Campaign staff and volunteers often reflect the candidates, so it is not surprising that Younge is able to attract capable and effective people.

If you would like to learn more about Younge, you might be interested in this note from the inbox:

Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate Judge John Younge will be a featured guest on the nation’s largest faith television network, starting this Friday, March 27!

Host Alan Box and the judge discuss the role of mental health in the courts on WGTW-TV’s “Joy in Our Town.” The segment will air at 1 p.m.

As a mental health advocate and volunteer for nearly three decades, the judge provides perspective and insight on the issue from both sides of the bench.

WGTW-TV is a Trinity Broadcasting Network-owned television station that airs on Channel 48 in the Philadelphia area; check your cable or satellite provider for additional listings. TBN is cited as the nation’s largest and most-watched faith channel, with 24-hour programming geared toward a variety of denominations.

The half-hour interview will re-air at the following times:

· Saturday – 3:30 a.m.
· Monday – 11:30 a.m.
· Tuesday – 3:30 a.m.
· Thursday – 3:30 a.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fourth Quarter 2008 FEC Report Round Up

Okay, here we go again. First off, you can browse these reports yourself at www.fec.gov. As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misinterpretations. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, just an interested observer and these thoughts should be taken as such.

This quarter covers Oct – Dec of 2008.

The 4th quarter of election years there are actually three reports filed. The pre-general covers Oct. 1 – Oct. 15th. The post-general covers Oct. 16th – Nov. 24th. The year end coverts Nov. 25 though Dec. 31. That is just too much info to handle in the usual format for quarterly FEC report roundups. I just put together some basic financials and noted anything that struck me as interesting. I encourage you to review all of the reports for your district.

For challengers I will only be noting when a final report was filed, if one was, and anything else that looks interesting.

Sometimes I note salary payments or reimbursements from campaign funds to someone on an incumbent’s congressional staff. It occurred to me that I only knew the names of some of the Democratic congressional representatives staff and that was not a fair and equitable examination. To rectify this I looked at the list of people on the campaign payroll and then compared it to a publicly available list of people on the congressional staff. All of the incumbents in the region: Dent, Gerlach, P Murphy, Schwartz, and Sestak have paid congressional staff for some campaign work. The staff list I had to work with was compiled before some of the FEC reports were filed so it is possible that congressional staff had left that job, if even temporarily, to work on the campaign. It is also possible that congressional staff were doing minor consulting work for the campaign and the campaign was, correctly, paying them for it. The amounts varied. Oddly, neither of the Philadelphia congressmen, Brady and Fattah, showed any paid campaign staff at all in 2008, though this seems very unlikely. There were fundraising and media consultants but no paid staff.

In most reports, there were sizable expenditures in the year end reports; one might speculate that expenses were deferred until after the election to keep numbers strong. Also interesting, most reports did not indicate a rush of donations in the year-end, which was surprising. I thought PACs would rush in to donate to the winners. I expect those will show up in the next round.

Keep your eye on individual donations vs. PAC’s

6th Congressional District

Jim Gerlach, Incumbent Republican

In the 2008 election cycle he raised: $2,379,714.04, spent $2,268,244.59. The amount raised included $1,117,436.45 from individuals and $1,173,985.20 from PACs. In the year-end report, Gerlach raised $68,321.05 from PACs. Cash on hand at the end of December: $71,061.55

Bob Roggio, Democrat

Over the election cycle Roggio raised $666,092 and spent $607,241. The campaign owes the candidate approximately $80,000 in the form of personal loans. In late October, the candidate transferred over $30K to the state Democratic party.

7th Congressional District

Joe Sestak, Incumbent Democrat (elected 2006)

In the 2008 election cycle he raised $2,768,193.44 from individuals and $1,010,646.45 from PACs. He spent $995,059.57 in the 2008 cycle. In the post-general report Sestak donated $96,500 to the DCCC. In the year-end report the campaign spent $154,587.77 for operating expenses. At the end of December Sestak had $2,937,140.09 on hand.

Craig Williams, Republican

Over the 2008 election cycle Mr. Williams raised $546,020.83 from individuals and $53,100.00 from PACS. He spent $566,458.69. The year-end statement shows an additional $32,390.37 in operating expenditures. To his credit Mr. Williams has paid off all of his campaign debts.

8th Congressional District

Patrick Murphy, Incumbent Democrat (elected 2006)

Actor Ben Affleck made a donation; some other Hollywood names also appear in the donor’s list. In the 2008 election cycle Murphy raised $2,726,003.66 from individuals and $1,206,017.95 from PACs. Operating expenditures for the election cycle came to $3,755,821.07, with an additional $91,565.07 listed in the year-end report. There was a $10,000 donation to the DCCC, and $115,000 to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. The campaign buys a lot of pizza and donuts. My kind of place. Murphy has over $100,000 in debt to a handful of campaign vendors. At the end of December the campaign had $146,956.92 on hand.

Tom Manion, Republican

In the 2008 election cycle Manion raised $890,098.39 from individuals and $223,290.00 from PACs. He spent $1,099,316.26 in operating expenditures. An additional $33,034.02 was listed for operating expenditures in the year-end report.

13th Congressional District

Allyson Schwartz, Incumbent Democrat (elected 2004)

In the 2008 election cycle Schwartz raised $1,976,541.58 from individuals and $1,091,960.00 from PACs, spending $1,349,940.82 in operating expenditures. There are several payments to various Philadelphia ward committees for election day services. There is a $25,000 donation to the Democratic City Committee, $50,000 to DCCC, and $10,000 to the state Democratic Party. In the post-general report there were 13 individual donors employed at Teva (total $8300) plus a cycle total of $5000 from the Teva PAC. The year-end report shows for the next election cycle donations of $23,358.50 and $62,279.13 in operating expenditures. At the end of December she had $1,980,215.91 in cash on hand.

Marina Kats, Republican

This campaign committee terminated in December. Last January I wrote a post noting the fact that this committee’s campaign finance reports went from online to pdfs of printed reports; you used to be able to view reports online and now you can only view a pdf of a printed report. This seems to be very unusual. I’ve never seen it done before.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Philadelphia Budget Game

If you aren't happy with Mayor Michael Nutter's proposed Philadelphia budget, you can create your own. The Economy League, with funding from the Lenfest Foundation, has developed a computer simulation that lets you use realistic data to balance the budget, deciding what to cut, what to keep.

More detail from the inbox:

Technology constraints meant that including every department and every possible item was not practical for this online simulation. Best efforts were made to strike a balance of choices that include “hot buttons,” such as libraries; departments with large budgets, such as police and fire; and general administrative areas. In all, there are 5 revenue categories and 10 spending categories, each with several options among which to choose, including several from Mayor Nutter’s March 19 budget address.

To inform the decision-making, the pros and cons for each option appear as well as factual backgrounders for more detailed information. In addition, a number of online resources are linked from the Challenge, among them a Roadmap to the Philadelphia Budget Process describing its components and key points in the process of creating it.

The Economy League recognizes that there also are long-term constraints to the city’s budget. The Challenge, however, focuses primarily on short-term actions that can be taken immediately or nearly immediately. Challenge-takers have the chance to express their views on long-term, fundamental restructuring at the end of the Budget Challenge.

The Lenfest Foundation funded the Philadelphia Budget Challenge. Key partners in the project include the Fels Institute of Government and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, both of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Philadelphia Budget Office and the Managing Director’s Office.

The Economy League licensed the prototype from Next 10, a Palo Alto organization that in 2005 created its "California Budget Challenge" to engage more Californians in the budget process. The original software was developed by Red Hill Studios, and additional development for the Philadelphia Budget Challenge was created by Rock River Star, Downingtown, PA.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Money Predicts PA Housing Recovery

In the April issue of Money Magazine, Amanda Gengler writes "When will home prices hit bottom already?"

Some of the data used is from West Chester-based Moody's Economy.com and their chief economist Mark Zandi is quoted.

In the areas mentioned as recovering first, by the end of 2009, the only Pennsylvania city listed is Pittsburgh. Allentown represents the commonwealth in the second group, predicted to recover in the first half of 2010. Philadephia (and neighboring city Camden, NJ) are in group 3, which is the second half of 2010 or later.

Mark your calendars and we'll see how accurate the predictions are.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dumb, Dumber, and Just Really Annoying

Capital Ideas had an excellent post today that included a note on faux news produced by the House Democratic caucus, and a link to the clip itself. Note:

The audio clip you just heard was created earlier this week by state House Democrats and made available to radio stations around Pennsylvania as a way of getting the word out on Stimulus-funded transportation spending.

In every way that matters, that audio "actuality," as it's known in the business, sounds exactly like any news report you might hear on your local station as you're driving into work in the morning.

But there's one critical distinction: At no point will you hear a disclosure that the report is actually a taxpayer-funded piece of propaganda produced by the House Democratic Caucus.

He does say that House Republicans and both Senate caucuses do similar things. Radio and television stations are also sent video and audio clips from organizations and special interest groups. These all air, often without any notation that they information was produced elsewhere by people who might have a bias of some kind. People could also least include a "from the inbox" note.

In today's Inky, Angela Couloumbis writes in "Rendell seeks PR aid on stimulus money,":
Despite his call to drastically slash budgets to deal with a worsening recession, Gov. Rendell is paying $100,000 to a Philadelphia political strategist and media consultant to help him with publicity.

The administration has hired Ken Snyder on a monthly retainer of $9,090 between now and Jan. 31 for part-time work, or a minimum of 30 hours a week. Snyder will assist Rendell's Communications Office in the Capitol with media strategy, with a focus on helping provide information about the billions of dollars in federal stimulus aid coming to Pennsylvania.

You know, the federal government is doing pretty well at disseminating information about the stimulus. I get an email from some branch of the feds something like four days a week. They are also very good at niche marketing as many of these emails are directly related to Pennsylvania, with links to further information. I see similar information showing up in various newspapers so they probably get the same emails. There is an omnibus website, www.recovery.gov.

I'm not sure I want any more of my tax money going to pay someone else to distribute the same information. Fellow residents of Pennsylvania, I post as many of these state-based emails from the federal government as possible, in hopes that no additional state monies will be spend on this. So, there you have it, check this blog every day and we can save $9,000 a month for the rest of 2009.

Mark Your Calendars: Woman One

This is advance notice but for those who don't have anything on the calendar for Monday, April 27th, consider going out to the Woman One awards. Jane Pepper of the Horticultural Society, is being honored this year. Woman One is part of the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership at Drexel's College of Medicine.

From their website:

WOMAN ONE is a year-round program that provides multi-year scholarships to talented underrepresented minority women studying medicine, with preference given to those who are committed to serving disadvantaged communities. The WOMAN ONE Award is presented annually to the woman who, by the influence of her actions and the excellence of her example, inspires women of all ages to reach for the highest standards of health and human behavior.

The Institute is headed by Lynn Yeakel, who ran for Senate some years ago and gave Arlen Specter a run for his money.

The Press I: The Effect of Newspapers

The Thicket, the National Council of State Legislatures blog, has a great piece on "The Effect of Closing a Newspaper," by Ed Smith. Here's an excerpt:

Two researchers from Princeton have at least a partial answer. A study released Friday by Sam Schulhofer-Wohly and Miguel Garridoz of the Woodrow Wilson School found that closing a newspaper can have a negative effect on participation in public life. The economists attempted to gauge what effect closing The Cincinnati Post had on the northern Kentucky suburbs, where it was widely circulated. They concluded that the closing of the paper at the end of 2007 “reduced the number of people voting in elections and the number of candidates for city council, city commission and school board in the Kentucky suburbs, and raised incumbent council and commission members' chances of keeping their jobs.”

We need to keep as many newspapers going as we can.

Happy Birthday, Girl Scouts!

I am late in wishing a happy birthday to the Girl Scouts. The organization turned 97 on March 12th. A little history from the inbox:

Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouting in 1912 in Savannah, Ga., with one troop of 18 girls, and since then more than 50 million girls have built leadership skills through Girl Scouting. Research shows that Girl Scout alumnae now represent 70 percent of women serving in Congress, 64 percent of women listed in "Whose Who in America" and 53 percent of women business owners.

Illustrious alumnae include Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States; Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State; Eileen Collins, the first woman space shuttle commander; Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University; and Katie Couric, the first woman to anchor a network evening newscast.

Those who have not delved into the details of the group may not know this but the Girl Scouts have an advancement track that is similar to, but not an exact replica of, the Boy Scouts Eagle Scout track. Junior Girl Scouts (roughly grades 4-6) can earn the Bronze Award, Cadettes (7-9) the Silver Award, and Senior Girl Scouts (10-12) the Gold Award. Colleges are paying more attention to these accomplishments, as evidence of ability and ingenuity.

If a girl within your sphere of influence is looking for something an activity to get involved in, she could do worse than the Girl Scouts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Veterans Update II: The Feds Fold

Good news from the inbox:

Statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the President’s Strong Commitment to America’s Veterans:

The President has consistently stated that he is committed to working with veterans on the details of the 2010 VA Budget Proposal. The President demonstrated his deep commitment to veterans by proposing the largest increase in the VA budget in 30 years and calling VSO and MSO leaders into the White House for an unprecedented meeting to discuss various aspects of the budget proposal. In considering the third party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans; however, the President listened to concerns raised by the VSOs that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families’ ability to access health care. Therefore, the President has instructed that its consideration be dropped. The President wants to continue a constructive partnership with the VSOs and MSOs and is grateful to those VSOs and MSOs who have worked in good faith with him on the budget proposal.

I believe that the acronyms VSO and MSO stand for veterans service organizations and military service organizations.

Veterans Update I: Schwartz and Murt

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13) held a teletownhall meeting this evening. I'm not sure what topics were covered but she did get a surprise when State Rep. Tom Murt (R-152) asked a question. The call must have been in his wife's name because Schwartz said there was a question from Maria and he came on the line, saying he was Maria's husband. He started out by saying how helpful the congresswoman's office staff had been and how well they had worked together. Then he commented on the federal proposal to have reservists and National Guard to bill their private health insurance to pay for injuries received while on active duty. Murt is an Iraq War vet.

Schwartz replied that in a budget meeting this morning she had asked about rumors of that proposal and made it clear she would not support it.

Funding for PA Senior Nutrition Programs

From the inbox:

Vice President Joe Biden announced today that the Department of Health and Human Services will award $4,485,834 in Recovery Act funding to provide meals to low-income seniors in Pennsylvania. The funding is expected to provide nearly 14 million meals nationwide.

“Across the country, older Americans depend on senior centers and home delivery programs for regular, healthy meals. Today, more senior citizens are in need, but the programs they depend on are on the brink of reducing their services or closing down,” said Vice President Biden. “The Recovery Act will help ensure older Americans are not forced to choose between paying bills and buying food.”

Nationwide, the Recovery Act provides $65 million for congregate nutrition services provided at senior centers and other community sites, $32 million for home delivered nutrition services delivered to frail elders at home and $3 million for Native American nutrition programs. The funding will be awarded to 56 states and territories and 246 tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. States will award the funds to organizations that provide nutrition services in their communities. Funding for nutrition programs for seniors in the Older Americans Act was initially authored and championed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The Recovery Act funding comes as budget constraints have forced states and tribes to limit community-based services and critical Older Americans Act related services, including home-delivered meals. Across the country, organizations that serve senior citizens have scaled back services and limited the number of meals served per week.

The economic downturn has also made it difficult for many seniors to afford the right foods to keep themselves healthy and active. Additionally, many seniors may be too impaired to prepare nutritious meals for themselves. Without regular nutritious meals, the health of many older Americans declines; they become more susceptible to illness; their ability to manage their chronic diseases is reduced, and they may lose their ability to remain at home, independent in their community.

For more information about senior nutrition programs and to see a state-by-state breakdown of funding for senior nutrition programs, visit www.hhs.gov.

For more info see www.recovery.gov

SB 514

This is part of a press release that arrived in the inbox today. I can't find it online to link to the entire thing and it's a little long to post in it's entirety. Here is the excerpt:

A coalition of voting rights organizations expressed alarm over a proposed Pennsylvania bill that seeks to require all voters to show photo identification at every election. The voting rights advocates, including Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization with voter protection efforts in Pennsylvania , strongly oppose the legislation, and urge state policymakers to challenge the bill and hold public hearings before taking any action to move this legislation.

On March 2, Sen. Jane C. Orie (R-McCandless) introduced Senate Bill 514 (SB 514), which would require all voters, at every election, to provide a government-issued photo ID, or two forms of other approved ID, one of which must be a photo ID. This bill has now been listed on the March 24, 2009 agenda of the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee. If passed, the bill would infringe the voting rights of Pennsylvanians, particularly those among historically disenfranchised communities, including elderly, low-income, disabled, and minority citizens who often do not possess these types of identification.

“Many people, including legislators, may not realize that as many as 25 percent of African Americans, 18 percent of American senior citizens, and 15 percent of low-income Americans simply do not have the types of current photo ID required by this bill,” said Kathryn Boockvar , Advancement Project’s Pennsylvania senior attorney. “As nonpartisan advocates across the state, we believe that Pennsylvania should be making it easier for our citizens to vote and increasing voting access rather than constructing additional hurdles, as this bill does.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SB 608

State Senators Wozniak, Fontana, Alloway, M. White and Boscola have introduced SB 608. The text of the bill is relatively short, the gist being:

No child or mother of a child, when applying for or receiving benefits concerning the child, shall be eligible for benefits from a State program unless the mother of the child provides to the department administering the benefits a copy of the child’s birth certificate that shows the names and Social Security numbers of the child’s father and mother.

No exceptions are listed. None. A woman who decides to continue a pregnancy conceived through a rape cannot ever receive government benefits for that child, unless the rapist is caught and she can manage to get his social security number and his name. I can think of a few other scenarios that could require an exception but that is the primary one.

My guess is that this bill is designed to prevent the children of illegal immigrants from receiving government benefits but it applies to a lot more situations than that one. The wording is very poorly thought out.

This Won't Help Recruitment

CNN is reporting ("Senators slam plan for wounded vets to use private insurance," by Adam Levine 3/10:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.

The story was updated today. "Veterans groups irate at Obama's private insurance proposal," also by Levine:

Veterans groups are angry after President Obama told them Monday that he is still considering a proposal to have treatment for service-connected injuries charged to veterans' private insurance plans.

When we're in the middle of a war and troops are stretched thin, trying to skip something as fundamental as treating war-related injuries is not going to help recruitment efforts any. I'm astonished at this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Few Updates

While everyone is digesting the Fumo verdicts, here are a few updates to previous blog posts:

Women's Voices, Women's Votes would like everyone to take a look at a new report by Ruy Teixeira on the changing demographic of the electorate, and they note the rising importance of single women.

The Economy League has a quick fact sheet and link to a longer report on transportation related projects in the region's stimulus funding.

Earlier this month the Food & Water Watch announced their intention to generate over 100 calls to Sen. Casey, as part of their Know Your Milk campaign. They exceeded their goal and look forward to further encouraging the senator to support rBGH-free milk in public schools.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has named their new online newsletter Blue Banter.

Judicial candidates that have been endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party for the county Court of Common Pleas have a new joint website: www.JudgesWeCanBelieveIn.com

Sighting at HUP

As you may have read, Vice President Biden's mother had surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Sighted near there were five(?) large black vehicles and a number of men with those wires in their ears.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spreading Rumors

Dipping into usage statistics is always an adventure. You just never know what you will find. One of the more interesting things to check is the search engine terms that lead people to the blog. There have been a fair number of hits from people searching for josh shapiro senate lately, understandable as he is mentioned as a possibly candidate for that office.

The weird ones though, are seldom just mildly weird. I can tell you that one of my regrets regarding the blog is having once written a blog post about inappropriate ads on a network devoted to animated features primarily aimed at children. There is a neverending stream of people searching for the name of the network and a three letter word starting with s and ending with x. It brings in traffic but it's not traffic I want.

There are speculations on people's sexuality. The general populace has an alarming lack of understanding on what office people hold, but the general tendency is to elevate state reps to congressional reps and congressional reps to senators. Some people, seemingly in frustration, just type in a candidate's name and various insults. It's once reason I don't include profanity in blog posts -- it would just widen the possibilities for this kind of traffic.

Today, however, the weirdness hit a new level. To the person who was concerned about this enough to google it, there is no evidence that governor Ed Rendell has a wooden leg. Granted I've never kicked him in the shins but my guess is that if Ed had an artificial limb we'd know.

Rest assured that while I can often see what search terms people used I can seldom tell anything about the person doing the searching.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PA Notes in 9th ed of Congress Reconsidered

The 9th edition of Congress Reconsidered, edited by Lawrence D. Dodd and Brice I. Oppenheimer, was recently published by CQ Press, 2009.

There is some interesting PA trivia in it. Have a read:

In "The Whip Systems of Congress," by C. Lawrence Evans and Claire E. Grandy (189-216), we find on p. 192:

In keeping with longstanding party practice, the regional whips were elected by the Democratic memberships from their region. For example, during the 110th congress, Patrick Murphy, D-Pa, was one of two regional whips for Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky, and Hilda Solis, D-Calif, was a regional whip for the southern portion of California. The regional whips were responsible for canvassing the members within their geographic area."

This chapter also mentions former Pa Congressman Robert Walker.

From Kathryn Pearson and Eric Schickler, “The Transition to Democratic Leadership in a Polarized House,” p. 182

Although Tom Cole only arrived in Congress in 2003, he already had years of political experience, including a sting as the executive director of the NRCC. That experience, combined with his prolific fund raising in the 2006 cycle, helped him defeat Pete Sessions, Texas, and Phil English, Pa, in the race to chair the NRCC at the start of the 110th congress.

Three chapters mention Nancy Pelosi’s support of John Murtha for Majority Leader.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill” writes “Navigating Congressional Policy Processes: the Inside Perspective on How Laws are Made,” pp. 337-360.

On p. 344 we find this tidbit:
“And you never know what other ways you can make a connection to colleagues. The year before I was elected, I got married in my wife’s hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and that helped me establish a relationship with Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, who shares the same hometown.”

Fed Money for PA Weatherization

From the inbox:

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Chu today announced Pennsylvania will receive $352,477,062 in weatherization and energy efficiency funding – including $252,793,062 for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $99,684,000 for the State Energy Program. This is part of a nationwide investment announced today of nearly $8 billion under the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – an investment that will put approximately 87,000 Americans to work.

“This energy efficiency funding for states is an important investment in making America more energy independent, creating a cleaner economy and creating more jobs for the 21st century that can’t be outsourced,” said Vice President Biden.

The funding will support weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which will pay for itself many times over.

“Even as we seize the enormous potential of clean energy sources like wind and solar, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act makes a major investment in energy efficiency, which is the most cost effective route to energy independence,” Chu said.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200% of the federal poverty level – or about $44,000 a year for a family of four.

The State Energy Program funding will be available for rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects for clean electricity generation and alternative fuels; promotion of Energy Star products; efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings; and other innovative state efforts to help save families money on their energy bills.

The DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program allows low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient, reducing heating bills by an average of 32% and overall energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year.

Fed Money for PA Airports

From the inbox:

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today announced that Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County Airports will receive the first funding allocations for airport infrastructure projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"This is money that will create jobs now - but it's also an investment in the long-term safety of our airports and their economic vitality," said Vice President Biden.

"This is a critical investment in our nation's airport infrastructure that will boost the local economy by providing jobs for Pittsburgh-area residents," said Secretary LaHood.

"The Recovery Act is helping us accelerate funding to key projects and invest in the continued safe and efficient operation of our airports," said Acting FAA Administrator Lynne Osmus.

The FAA will allocate $10 million to Pittsburgh International Airport to repair Runway 14-32, one of four commercial service runways. The project includes grading, paving, marking signs, and lighting upgrades to the runway. Pittsburgh serves 4.8 million passengers per year.

The $2 million allocation for Allegheny County, a general aviation airport, will renovate a taxiway and relocate a ramp. The Allegheny County Airport Authority operates both airports.

About 3,400 airports designated as part of the national airport system are eligible to receive Recovery Act funds. The FAA is moving swiftly to Work with airport sponsors to ensure that eligible projects have completed or nearly completed, design and planning requirements.

Under the Recovery Act, the FAA received $1 billion to allocate to qualified airports on a discretionary basis. That funding will be allocated based on a project priority system that addresses airport safety and security, infrastructure, runway safety, increased capacity, and mitigation of environmental impacts. The Recovery Act also requires that 50 percent of the funds be obligated within 120 days, which is June 17, 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sam Bennett's New Job

From the inbox:

Women's Campaign Forum (WCF), the nationally recognized non-partisan women's leadership organization, announced today the appointment of former congressional candidate, Siobhan "Sam" Bennett as its new president.

Women's Campaign Forum's Board Chair, Margaret (Maggie) Kavalaris, said, "We are delighted that we have brought Sam and her wealth of experience, leadership and passion to the WCF team. She knows what it's like to be involved at all levels of politics from community organizing and volunteering to running for Congress. I know that Sam, as WCF President, will lead the organization into a new era of pro-choice women's leadership and member engagement. And she herself is an outstanding example of what women can do when their talent is matched with a dedication for public service." Kavalaris added, "Our search process was robust as we reviewed more than 100 candidate submissions, from many talented women managers and leaders. We welcome Sam who will be a special asset to WCF because she knows what it's like to walk the walk. She's excelled at business and grassroots campaigns, and her experience will be invaluable in her new role as leader of the WCF team."

In 2008, Sam ran for Congress in Pennsylvania's 15th district. She ran one of the most successful challenger campaigns in that district in recent history. Prior to her candidacy, Sam was a small business owner; founded a statewide non-profit community and economic revitalization organization; was a successful telecommunications corporate executive; and has been a dedicated community and political leader, and a wife and mother of three children. Throughout her career, she has been a tireless pro-choice advocate and supporter of women's issues.

"I am thrilled to be joining the Women's Campaign Forum," said Bennett. "This organization has a shining history of providing the tools necessary for pro-choice women of all political stripes to get involved in politics. We will be continuing our work to recruit and encourage pro-choice women candidates by endorsing and supporting them financially, while at the same time, we will continue to grow as the place where pro-choice women of all levels - from candidates to political experts to leaders in the women's community to those newly interested in politics - come together to pool resources and ensure that women are represented both in front and behind the curtain."

About Women's Campaign Forum:

A nonpartisan membership organization, WCF is unique among women's organizations. WCF recruits, advises, and supports pro-choice women to run for office beginning in their earliest days in politics. WCF is also engaging a growing national network of women voters, donors and activists whose efforts and venture capital ensure women's voices are heard at all levels.

Through its affiliated political action committee, WCF provides direct financial support to its endorsed candidates. And through its sister organization, the WCF Foundation, it dedicates its efforts to action-oriented research that educates women and helps them build the skills and infrastructure they need to become more effective leaders in public life, including the newest report, "Vote With Your Purse 2.0: Women's Online Giving, Offline Power."

How Happy is Your Congressional District?

Noted on CNN today:

In an unprecedented alliance for American health transformation, Gallup, Healthways and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) are providing a new national pulse of individual and collective health and well-being, as well as solutions for a healthy America.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being IndexTM, a unique twenty-five year partnership in research and care, is an on-going daily survey that began in January 2008. It surveys 1,000 Americans 350 days per year.

One option for reviewing the survey data is by congressional district, (map).

The 7th, 8th, and 13th congressional districts all rank in the 4th quartile (60-80%). The two Philadelphia districts are in the cheeriest group.

Billy, Don't Be a Zero!

Billy, don't be a zero
Don't be a fool with the files
Billy, don't be a zero
Try to keep some sense of style
As you're starting to go
Don't keep the road low
Billy don't be a zero
Let the files free

(with apologies to Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods)

Rep. Bill DeWeese, former leader of the PA House Dems, is blocking the release of legal files from the firm hired to defend the Democratic caucus in the Bonusgate allegations. He is claiming attorney client privilege. Read more here, and here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Twitter Friends (and Foes)

I added some new twitter friends today. Please consider adding them to your twitter file also:

Pennsylvania Democratic Party (www.twitter.com/padems)

Pennsylvania Cable Network (www.twitter.com/pcntv)

Brian Lockman (PCN honcho and some time host) (www.twitter.com/brianlockman)

For those across the aisle (or those who want to keep track of them), consider:

Pennsylvania Republican Party (www.twitter.com/parepublicans)

Pennsylvania House Republicans (www.twitter.com/pahousegop)

And of course, you can follow my tweets as well, though they are few in number (www.twitter.com/aajane). If you are interested in Pennsylvania politics you should definitely consider Capitol Ideas (www.twitter.com/capitol_ideas)

Stimulus Map

The Economy League has been posting a lot of good information resources on twitter recently. Today they noted an interactive map of stimulus projects in the region, prepared by those nifty folks at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC).

Take a look here: http://www.dvrpc.org/asp/stimulus/map.htm

Go Green Expo

In March the Go Green Expo is coming to Philadelphia, March 13 - 15, at the Convention Center. The goal of the exhibit is to learn how green alternatives can positively change the way you impact the environment. Each of our small changes make a big impact.The description on their website is:

A truly unique event from the ground up, Go Green Expo will change not only the public's perception of environmentalism but also how events like this are produced and managed. Inviting companies large and small to showcase what they are doing to reduce their respective carbon footprint, consumers will have hands on experiences with "eco-friendly" alternatives to current everyday products and services.

Even the event itself is environmentally friendly utilizing a ZERO Carbon footprint approach to event production. Biodegradable trash bags, eco-friendly printing, table coverings, recycled signs, compostable sponsor banners and more. Event waste will be separated and sorted to ensure the least amount of refuse going to the landfills. Staff travel and a portion of every ticket that is purchased will be carbon offset.

The inaugural Go Green Expo took place in New York City in April of 2008 with 250+ exhibits, 50+ speakers, and eco-film festival & nearly 10,000 participating.

Go Green Expo invites both consumers & business owners to learn more about what is readily available so they can take steps to purchase earth friendly products & services to make our communities greener, one city at a time.

Full schedule here, Elected / city officials, and media presenting include:

Friday, March 13, Keynote Address, 1:00: Mark Alan Hughes, Philadelphia’s Director of Sustainability

Natalia Olson - Philadelphia Planning & Zoning Code Commissioner
Oliver Perry of the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club
Mark Neuville of the American Public Transportation Association
Senator Dinniman of the PA State Senate
Senator Larry Farnese of the PA State Senate

Sunday, March 15, GREEN IN THE MEDIA 11:00am
Terry Ruggles, Anchor on NBC 10
Sandy Bauer of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Wendy Warren of Philly.com
Sonja Sherwood of Philadelphia Business Journal
Brian Wentzel of Green Lifestyles Magazine

DVRPC was offering half-priced tickets, and if you were following the Economy League on twitter they had / have half-priced tickets as well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Allyson's Busy Day

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz had a busy day today. She had one press conference in Philadelphia and another in Washington, D.C.

First up:

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and U.S. Reps Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Robert Brady (D-PA) will discuss federal funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program on Monday, March 9. Byrne Grants are designed to help state and local governments control and prevent crime and further develop the criminal justice system. Pennsylvania received $72,372,843 in Edward Byrne Justice Assistance grant funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. The announced funding includes $13.544 million for the City of Philadelphia.

And then:

The Wounded Warrior Program was established to create fellowships that provide employment opportunities for wounded or disabled veterans within the House of Representatives. To date, 9 “wounded warriors” are currently working for Members of Congress as part of the fellowship program with a goal of having 25 fellows by the end of 2009.

Daniel Lasko, an Afghanistan veteran, is currently serving as a fellow in U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s office. After graduating Easton Area High School, Lasko enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was sworn in the morning of September 11th, 2001. In 2004, Lasko served in the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, whose mission was to find and capture Taliban insurgents north of Kandahar. Lasko has been awarded numerous medals, including: Purple Heart, Combat Action, Overseas, National Defense, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Good Conduct, Afghan Campaign.

Know Your Milk

From the inbox:

School Milk Campaign Wants Artificial Hormones Out of School Cafeterias
National “Know Your Milk” Day of Action Asks Senator Casey to be a Champion

Parents and concerned community members are participating in a national day of action, organized by Food and Water Watch’s School Milk Campaign asking Senator Casey to help get rBGH, a potentially dangerous artificial hormone, out of the milk served in public schools. The United States is the only industrialized nation that still uses rBGH despite major concerns about its safety, and as major retailers have moved away from rBGH, this risky milk is being dumped into our public school system. Philadelphia residents are taking a stand through the School Milk Campaign and will be generating 100 calls into Senator Casey’s office asking him to be a champion for children.


Philadelphia residents, proud that the School District of Philadelphia uses rBGH-free milk, are asking Senator Casey to give all public schools clear access to the same option. Although rBGH has been linked to higher risk of prostate, colon, and breast cancer, public schools continue to serve milk made with this potentially dangerous artificial hormone. This year, in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, Senator Casey has the opportunity to make the right decision for both children and cows and get rBGH out of public schools.

The Food & Water Watch is hoping to have all calls made on March 12th.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Another Community Bank Update

About a year ago I wrote a long post on community banks in Pennsylvania for Community Bank Week. In November I updated that post with a list of community banks (from the membership list of the in Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers) in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties that are traded on a stock exchange and included in The Motley Fool website. Seven banks fit that criteria. The November post listed those banks, their ticker, price that day and the 52 week high and low. I have rechecked those stocks and provide the same information, updated as of Friday, March 6th. I’ve also noted whether the stock was trading higher or lower than the S&P 500.

Abington Bank ABBC $6.39 / $6.31 – $12.40, higher (Nov 08 – $10.35 / $8.44 – $12.40)

Harleysville National Bank & Trust Co. HNBC $4.45 / $5.07 – $20.60, lower (Nov. 08 -- $14.18 / $10.24 - $20.60)

Bryn Mawr Trust Co BMTC $14.50 / $13.33 – $28.21, higher (Nov. 08 -- $19.01 / $16.13 - $28.21)

Alliance Bank ALLB $7.50 / $6.53 – $9.75, higher (Nov. 08 -- $8.01 / $6.53 - $9.75)

Beneficial Savings Bank BNCL $8.54 / $8.43 - $14.64, higher (Nov. 08 -- $11.85 / $8.73 - $14.64)

Prudential Savings Bank PBIP $10.13 / $7.50 - $12.74, higher (Nov. 08 -- $10.00, $8.32 - $13.00)

Republic First Bank FRBK $4.69 / $4.02 - $10.73, higher (Nov. 08 -- $9.00 / $4.20 - $10.73)

Three of the banks were trading at or near their 52 week low. However only one was doing worse than the S&P 500. I checked Mellon, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, US Bancorp, Citizens Republic Bancorp, First United Corp; all were trading below the S&P 500. JP Morgan Chase was right at the S&P. Those are the national banks that came to mind – you should check others to be thorough. Looks to me like community banks are doing better than the big guys. [Full Disclosure: My household owns a small amount of stock in one of these banks, which is one reason why I'm interested in the topic.]

Big Bloggy Welcome

There is a new state-focused issue blog joining the Pennsylvania blogosphere. Give a big bloggy hello to the new PA Employee Free Choice Act blog:

[Full disclosure: I'm an official in my union local, which is somehow loosely associated with the AFL-CIO.]

Celebrating Norooz at the Art Museum

After participating in the Big Canvas events last year I've been a little more conscious of the rich cultural life of the region. One aspect of the Big Canvas conversations was how the arts should be marketed and how people interact with it -- should it be the arts as a business, as an educational resources, as art for arts sake, or something else.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (www.philamuseum.org) displays many facets at once. This afternoon I took advantage of one of the family events, Celebrating Norooz. The museum hosts a number of these events throughout the year, geared towards families with young children, with age appropriate activities. The two kids I had with me (one of mine and a friend) were a little antsy at having to stand in line for about 20 minutes to get in. Quite a few people were there for the Cezanne exhibit; others were just taking advantage of the "pay what you wish" admission fee on Sunday.

Once we were in, though, the kids seemed to have fun. Norooz is the Persian New Year and, to be honest, I had never heard of it before. It was interesting to see the traditional table set and find out about the symbolism involved. The kids decorated egg shaped objects, colored in designs, made pictures based on tile patterns, and pasted traditional holiday objects onto drawings of the New Year's table. I looked at the calligraphy, the table on Zoroastrianism, and, my favorite, the traditional fabrics. They were hand-woven or hand-painted and in some cases handed down through generations. The craftsmanship was exquisite. One piece of light teal fabric had a hand-painted border with flowers, and a jaunty red bird.

We went through a few adjacent galleries, looking at paintings and sculpture. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The staff was helpful and patient.

For more information on Norooz, see wikipedia and the Norooz International Cultural Foundation.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Beverly Muldrow, Radio Alert

Beverly Muldrow, candidate for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, will be on Marvin Barrish's political call in radio show, on WIFI (1460 AM). Listen on the radio, or go to www.wifi1460am.com and click on "listen live."

Muldrow, a candidate for Common Pleas Court judge, will appear on March 8 and April 12 from 2 to 3 p.m. and May 3 and 10 from 3 to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Forever Younge

Another candidate for Superior Court of Pennsylvania is Judge John Younge. I've meet Judge Younge a few times. He has a sharp mind and a good memory. Younge is very smart and knows how to campaign well. While he can and does schmooze well he is also able to cut through extraneous conversation to get to the heart of the matter. He is definitely a candidate to watch.

Lazarus Rises Again

Anne E. Lazarus is a candidate for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. She ran two years ago and came within a whisker of winning the primary. I've had the opportunity to hear her speak in public and to exchange a few words with her twice personally. All encounters left a good impression.

Previous posts on Judge Lazarus:

Reading Judge Lazarus on an article Anne Lazarus wrote on guardianship.

Superior Court Judicial Candidate Lightning Round

The Pennsylvania Bar Association rates Judge Lazarus as "highly recommended." She is the Chair of the Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges.

For what it is worth, I like her and plan to vote for her. She's pleasant to talk to, no nonsense but nice, comes across as trustworthy and fair. She speaks well in public and writes well.

PA Finalists for White House Fellow

The White House has released the names of 108 regional finalists for coveted White Fellow positions. According to the press release:

During March and April 2009, Regional Finalists will participate in a rigorous interview process. Based on the results of these interviews, approximately thirty candidates will be named National Finalists. The President's Commission on White House Fellowships will interview the National Finalists in June 2009 and then recommend candidates to President Barack Obama for a one-year appointment as White House Fellows.

White House Fellows spend a year working as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors and trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally.

Pennsylvanians on the list:

Daniel P. Gallagher Havertown, PA
Rebekah E. Gee Philadelphia, PA
Mehret Mandefro Philadelphia, PA
Brett H. Mandel Philadelphia, PA
Raj M. Shah Philadelphia, PA
Laura I. Weinbaum Philadelphia, PA

Mandel has announced his intention to run for Philadelphia City Controller. I wonder what his name on this list means for his campaign.

Bill on Political Activity Introduced

In the daily email of legislative activity yesterday, this bill caught my attention. No idea what incident(s), if any, inspired it, but we do need clear cut rules on this. HB 693 seeks to amend current regulations.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. Section 905.2 of the act of August 5, 1941 (P.L. 752, No.286), known as the Civil Service Act, is amended by adding a subsection to read:

Section 905.2. Political Activity.--* * *

(d.1) Notwithstanding any other law, the following shall apply:

(1) A person holding elective public office at the time he or she becomes an employe in the classified service may continue to serve in that office.
(2) A person in the classified service may accept appointment to fill a vacancy in an elective public office while concurrently serving in the classified service.
(3) A person in the classified service holding an elective public office under paragraph (1) or (2) may not be a candidate for reelection to that elective public office in a partisan election.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Stoopville Road Project

From the inbox:

State Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero, D-Bucks, is pleased the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Board voted to include in its request for federal stimulus funding a critical road improvement project in the Newtown-Yardley area.

Over the last month, the Bucks County lawmaker has worked with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn T. Bush in an effort to convince the board to request $1.7 million in federal stimulus funding needed for improvements to Stoopville Road in Upper Makefield and Newtown townships.

Santarsiero attended the board's meeting Thursday and voiced his support for the project, which will improve slow-moving traffic for area residents and commuters, but also ease congestion for visitors traveling to the Washington Crossing National Cemetery, recently dedicated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans are expected to be laid to rest there beginning this fall.

"The upgrades to Stoopville Road will improve traffic safety for residents and visitors to the Washington Crossing National Cemetery," Santarsiero said. "I want to thank the efforts of our congressman and Ms. Bush in helping to get this project funded as part of the stimulus package."

The board's decision will allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to fund the project. The total project cost is estimated at $2.5 million and is the only project located in Bucks County to be approved by the board.

More information about the Washington Crossing National Cemetery is available online at www.cem.va.gov.

PA Legislature: No Speaking With Forked Tongue

In among the bills introduced in the Pennsylvania state legislature last week was HB 645, which regulates tattoo, body-piercing and corrective cosmetic artists; limiting tongue splitting; providing for powers and duties of the Department of Health; and imposing penalties.

Yes, you read that correctly, the state legislature wants to limit tongue splitting. Here are the specifics:

General rule.--A person shall not perform tongue splitting on another person unless the tongue splitting is performed by a physician or dentist licensed in this Commonwealth.

The bill has a number of good proposals in it, but the "forked tongue" reference in connection with politics was too good to pass up.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Schwartz in the News

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13) has been in the news a few times recently.

Those with a Roll Call subscription might enjoy reading "Reform Debate is Personal" by Stephen Langel, 2/24. I'm not so if someone who can read it wants to send me a synopsis I'm appreciate it.

Closer to home, John Baer of the Daily News wrote "A Senate Run for Allyson Schwartz? Don't Think So" on 2/26.

Education Hearings Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3rd, and Wednesday, March 4th, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Education, Dr. Gerald Zahorchak, will be testifying before the State House and State Senate appropriations committees about public education. One topic will be special education.

Funding of public schools, and especially special education, is a thorny subject. A group of organizations under the banner Reform Special Education Funding (http://reformspecialedfunding.org/ ) commissioned a costing-out study of special education and have posted an executive summary as well as the full report on their site.

Some key findings:

* Providing a basic, quality education for students eligible for special education requires, on average, more than twice the cost of teaching students without special needs.
* 391 school districts have inadequate funding for special education, averaging an annual shortfall of nearly $1 million per district.
* Statewide, the total gap in annual funding for special education is $380 million. The average per pupil shortfall is $1,947, based on a total of 194,862 students in districts with a funding gap.
* Raising special education resources to an adequate level for all students would greatly increase the ability of school districts to meet the basic needs of students with disabilities.
* Fundamental needs that often go under-served include: (i) adequate staffing, specialized personnel, and professional development; (ii) assistive technology devices/services; (iii) student support programs/services.
* Funding reforms will benefit families and communities by strengthening the education of all students, increasing instructional effectiveness, improving student performance, and lowering long-run societal costs.

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia has a recent, lengthy interview with Dr. Zahorchak.