Thursday, March 31, 2011

SEPTA Talks New Payment Technology

Tomorrow, Friday, April 1 SEPTA is holding an information session on their proposed new payment technology proposals. Riders can browse displays and watch presentations, and SEPTA officials will be onhand to answer questions and provide information. The session is scheduled for 11:30 - 2:00 at the SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market St, Philadelphia.

This is not an April Fool's joke.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Philly Spring Cleanup

This Saturday is the 4th annual Philadelphia Spring Cleanup. You don't have to live in the city to participate. All are welcome. You can find a project near you at:

Not So Fast!!!

I haven't jumped into the school funding fracas as yet, waiting to see how things shake out. However, something in today's Inquirer caught my eye. Dan Hardy writes "Local control sought on charter conversion." One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:

For a public school to be converted to a charter school now, a school board must approve the change, and more than 50 percent of the school's teachers and parents must agree. The proposed law would allow boards to approve the change by a majority board vote without endorsement by parents and teachers.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola and a press release on his website that confirms that information (italics mine):
The legislation would create a statewide commission, independent from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to be charged with oversight of charter and cyber charter school functions, such as the ability to serve as a depository of best practices. The commission would also serve as an independent authorizer of charter schools. Additionally, an advisory committee would be created to review and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding the thorny issues involving the funding of charters.

Senate Bill 904 would also allow institutions of higher education to approve the creation of a charter school, and an intermediate unit or local board of school directors would be allowed to create or convert an existing public school into a charter school. Moreover, the bill would modify the application and appeals procedures for the state's charter schools by streamlining administrative processes by which these schools are formed, evaluated, and renewed.

I can't find SB 904 on the state government's bill finder and it wasn't included in the state legislative email listing bills acted upon or introduced on March 28th (the day Piccola says the bill was introduced), so I can't read the actual bill language. Update: It is on the state's website but is 145 pages long, so reading it through for the relevant section will have to wait.

If local control is important then the more the better, yes? Why take away the parents' ability to approve the switch to a charter school? Or the teachers? Ask yourself if you want your school board making that decision all on their lonesome. Or the intermediate unit, whose leadership you have no control over at all.

Do you want to wake up one morning and find out that your local school board has decided to make your public school a charter school, with no input from parents or teachers?

I do not.

This is bad legislation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Schwartz Hosts Grant Workshops

Congressman Allyson Schwartz is again hosting grant workshops. Sitemeter tells me these are very popular. If you're in the grantwriting business or want to be, mark your calendars:


On Wednesday April 6th and Thursday April 7th, the office of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz will host two half-day seminars in Philadelphia and Blue Bell to provide local non-profits with information and resources about funding opportunities. The seminars, entitled "Government, Corporate, and Foundation Research," are targeted to staff, board members, volunteers of local non-profits, and those seeking to start non-profits.

These seminars will help organizations learn how to navigate the federal grants system, which offers more than 1,000 grant programs and access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards. The agenda also includes a comprehensive overview of navigating federal search engines, conducting foundation and corporate research, tailoring proposals to specific funding sources and an introduction to local Foundation Centers' resources.

Both events are free and open to the public. The seminars will provide the same content, but are held in two different locations to better serve individuals.

For more information, or to register for the event, please contact Schwartz’s Montgomery County Office.

For contact information see the Congresswoman's website:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Anne Covey and the NJ Supreme Court

Anne Covey is the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. I've been reviewing her personal data questionnaire.

One thing that caught my eye was one of the five cases she lists as "the most significant litigated matters which you personally handled ..." (q.13, p. 6 of the pdf). The first one she lists is a real estate case, and she mentions she represented herself. I don't remember seeing this before in judicial candidate questionnaires. Being mindful of the old saying about doctors being their own patients, I took a closer look at the case (Panetta v. Equity One). The case lasted several years and went all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The opinion is available online at:

Voters are encouraged to read it for themselves. As I understand it, having no legal background whatsoever, someone owned a lot of land along a New Jersey waterfront. His family also owned the riparian land just in front of the water. He took out a mortgage on the larger plot and then defaulted on the loan. The bank held an auction on the land. One bidder wrote his bid for just the land with the mortgage. The other two bidders, including Ms. Covey, wrote theirs to include the waterfront land. Covey's bid was the largest but the bank awarded it to the man who bid was just for the part with the mortgage. Years of litigation ensued.

The court opinion includes the address for the land and looking at google maps you can see the little property division line for the waterfront. Of course, google maps didn't exist when the case was brought.

The case wound through the courts until it reached the New Jersey Supreme Court, which overturned the appellate court and ruled in favor of the man whose bid was just for the mortgaged land.

The court opinion includes these phrases (part III B 2):

"Covey's argument to the contrary is simply not correct."


"Covey argues that the deed language shows that a riparian grant is a lesser interest in property because, if separated from the uplands, it reverts to the State. Covey misapprehends the import of that language."

New Jersey is not Pennsylvania and some will discount the court opinion for that reason. However, if I were running for a judicial position I would not chose as one of my exemplary or significant cases one in which I represented myself, especially if I eventually lost the case, and the final court opinion specifically stated how wrong I was.

But that's just me.

Obama's Speech on Libya

from the inbox, text as prepared:

Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya – what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved. Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda around the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, as are all Americans.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt – two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant – Moammar Gaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world – including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Gaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”

Faced with this opposition, Gaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our Embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. We then took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Gaddafi’s aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of the Gaddafi regime’s assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Gaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.

Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League, appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution that authorized a No Fly Zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.

Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Gaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.

At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gaddafi declared that he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we had seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now, we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi – a city nearly the size of Charlotte – could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Gaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit his air defenses, which paved the way for a No Fly Zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gaddafi’s deadly advance.

In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies – nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey – all of whom have fought by our side for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibility to defend the Libyan people.

To summarize, then: in just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a No Fly Zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.

Moreover, we have accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation, and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.

Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the No Fly Zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi’s remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role – including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation – to our military, and to American taxpayers – will be reduced significantly.

So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: the United States of America has done what we said we would do.

That is not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Gaddafi regime so that it is available to rebuild Libya. After all, this money does not belong to Gaddafi or to us – it belongs to the Libyan people, and we will make sure they receive it.

Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than thirty nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve. Because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.

Despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Gaddafi does leave power, forty years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and – more importantly – a task for the Libyan people themselves.

In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home.

It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful – yet fragile – transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Gaddafi and usher in a new government.

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do – and will do – is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners as they’re in the lead to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Gaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Gadaffi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I have made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests. That is why we are going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

That’s the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States – in a region that has such a difficult history with our country – this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, “We are your friends. We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies.”

This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer. Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently in different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns addressed.

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one’s own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.

Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith – those ideals – that are the true measure of American leadership.

My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas – when the news is filled with conflict and change – it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I have said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength at home. That must always be our North Star – the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring of our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer and brighter if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity. Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward; and let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Wagner on Tobacco Settlement Money

from the inbox:

Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls For Hearings On Reallocation of $370 Million In Tobacco Settlement Funds

HARRISBURG, Mar. 28, 2011 – Auditor General Jack Wagner today called for statewide hearings about how tobacco settlement dollars should be spent to determine if the money should be used according to the original intentions, such as providing subsidized health insurance for low-income Pennsylvanians, or if new priorities should be established.

The Tobacco Settlement Act, proposed by Gov. Ridge and passed by the General Assembly in 2001, specifically mandated how the state should use the annual tobacco company payments, including providing funding for smoking cession and prevention programs, adultBasic health insurance and cancer research. But Wagner’s recent special report found that, over the past six years, those mandates were superseded by language inserted into the state budget that diverted the funds to other categories.

Wagner’s special report determined that the General Assembly diverted $1.34 billion, or 30 percent, of the Tobacco Settlement Fund payments the commonwealth has received since 1999.

“There should be extensive public discussion bringing all of the parties to the table to determine how tobacco settlement dollars should be spent and then the General Assembly should make a final decision,” Wagner said. “It should not be done by putting a paragraph or two in the budget each and every year, taking the majority of the funds and putting them somewhere else.”

Wagner made his remarks during testimony today before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pennsylvania was one of 46 states that settled litigation in 1998 with five major tobacco companies to recover medical expenses for Medicaid enrollees with tobacco-related illnesses. Under the Master Settlement Agreement, the tobacco companies agreed to pay Pennsylvania beginning in 2000 and each year thereafter approximately $370 million through 2025.

Wagner said that in 2000, then-Gov. Tom Ridge issued Pennsylvania’s Health Investment Plan, which proposed several health initiatives to be funded by the tobacco settlement money. The Tobacco Settlement Act followed, outlining the principles in the Health Investment Plan, which included making Pennsylvanians healthier. Wagner voted for the law as a state senator.

The Tobacco Settlement Act mandated that annual tobacco settlement payments be used according to these percentages: 8 percent deposited to an endowment account for the future, 30 percent for adultBasic and Medicaid for workers with disabilities, 18 percent for health research, 13 percent for home- and community-based services for the elderly, 12 percent for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, 10 percent to reimburse hospitals for uncompensated care, 8 percent to expand the PACENET prescription drug program, and 1 percent for cancer research.

Wagner said that the programs were funded as mandated until 2005 when Pennsylvania started its “redirections” that year and every year thereafter. He noted that the commonwealth will still receive annual payments of about $370 million for next 14 years, and said that the public should have some say in how those dollars are spent.

“We are at a point of reckoning for the Tobacco Settlement Fund,” Wagner said. “Now is the time to determine priorities for this money going forward.”

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s website at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three Books on Religion and Politics

Recently I’ve read three books on religion and politics, all with a different viewpoint and tone.

Running God’s Way: Step by Step to a Successful Political Campaign by Vicky Hartzler (Enumclaw, WA: Pleasant Word, 2008). Hartzler knows whereof she speaks. She served in the Missouri State House and was just elected to the US House of Representatives. This is a terrific guidebook. Even if you don’t agree with Hartzler’s religious beliefs her excellent descriptions of campaigns provide good advice. The narrative is easy to read and to the point. Practicality is her strong suit. There are even worksheets that candidates can use to plan their own campaigns. She also includes sample ads and scripts. The book covers all aspects of campaigns, developing and delivering a message, fundraising, getting out the vote, even what to wear. While Biblical references and examples are scattered throughout the political viewpoints are not dependent on it.

How Can a Christian Be in Politics by Roy Herron. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2005). Herron served in the Tennesse State House and now in the Tennessee State Senate. His book is philosophical, discussing how religious beliefs of candidates can affect their actions. He frequently uses examples from his own life, personal and political, to illustrate his points. It is an interesting book to read and although, short, very thought provoking.

What Sex is a Republican by Terri McCormick (NY: IUniverse Inc., 2008). McCormick served in the Wisconsin State House for six years. Her books is more of a polemic, and does not deal overtly with religion. McCormick issues a call to action for everyone to pay more attention to politics. She discusses the political process, primarily with examples of her own campaigns and her own life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Newsworks Posts List of Non-Filers

WHYY's Newsworks has filed a "Right to Know" request to get the names of Philadelphia city council candidates who did not file the required paperwork with the city's board of ethics. For details see Dave Davies' "Come on, kids."

Those watching the mayoral race might enjoy Philadelphia Weekly's article on Republican candidate John Featherman. See "Republican candidates betrayed by their own party," by Randy LoBasso (3/23)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

John Featherman's Campaign Paperwork in Order

WHYY's Newsworks site's Dave Davies has posted "More than 40 candidates stiff ethics board." The article does not list the campaigns that are and are not in compliance with the city's election rules.

To winnow things down I'm reaching out to campaigns that have added me to their press release list, asking if their paperwork is in order.

Republican candidate for Philadelphia mayor, John Featherman, assures us his campaign paperwork has been filed with the city board of ethics.

Thanks for Mr. Featherman and his campaign for crossing the aisle to answer my email.

Pelosi on Women and the Affordable Care Act

from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (via twitter):

This week marks the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act – a law that ensures all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and significantly reduces long-term health care costs. The Affordable Care Act benefits women by:

Ensuring being a woman will no longer be treated as a “pre-existing condition,” with insurance companies banned from denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” beginning in 2014. Currently, many women are denied coverage or charged more for such “pre-existing conditions” as breast or cervical cancer, pregnancy, having had a C-section, or having been a victim of domestic violence.

Banning insurance companies from dropping women when they get sick or become pregnant, as of 2010.

For women in new plans, providing free coverage of important, life-saving preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, as of 2010.

Improving the care of millions of older women with chronic conditions, by providing incentives under Medicare for more coordinated care.

Banning insurance companies from requiring women to obtain a pre-authorization or referral for access to ob-gyn care, as of 2010.

Ending the common practice of “gender rating,” charging women substantially higher premiums than men for the same coverage, beginning in 2014. According to a recent study, the women on the individual market pay up to 48% more in premium costs than men.

Ensuring that children up to the age of 19 cannot be denied coverage due to a “pre-existing condition,” as of 2010.

Providing greater access to affordable health coverage for women, with the establishment of new Health Insurance Exchanges for the millions who do not have health insurance through an employer, beginning in 2014. Currently, less than half of America’s women can obtain affordable insurance through a job.

Philadelphia Election Resource

The Committee of Seventy has a list of Philadelphia City Council districts, with a brief description of each, and the names of those running to represent those districts (with a section on at large council representatives). Some of the candidates have completed a questionnaire, and those responses are linked to the candidate's name. Check it out at:

Biden Calls for More College Graduates

A lengthy press release from Vice President Biden arrived in the inbox today. The first paragraph gives the gist:

Vice President Joe Biden today issued a call to action to boost college graduation rates across the country and help the nation meet President Obama’s goal for the United States to have the best-educated workforce and the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Speaking at the first annual Building a Grad Nation Summit, Vice President Biden – who has made college affordability and accessibility a key priority in his role as chairman of the Middle Class Task Force – called on each Governor to host a state college completion summit, released a new college completion tool kit for states and Governors to draw ideas from, and announced a new grant competition focused on helping institutions of higher education boost completion rates.

There is a state by state list of graduation rates and goal rates by 2020. The college completion tool kit is also available online.

Roslyn Film Festival This Weekend

From the inbox:

5th Annual Roslyn Film Festival on Saturday, March 26, 2011
Roslyn Fire House - Bradfield Road in Roslyn
(near Susquehanna Road)

Come join us for Year 5 of the Roslyn Film Festival, benefiting the Roslyn Fire Company and our community. Screenings begin at 7PM sharp, but we welcome you to arrive at 6:30PM when the doors open and we begin our opening Red Carpet festivities. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR. The cost of admission is only $5.00. Please come early if you can, as seating is limited!

Refreshments will be available for sale and we've got some great door prizes as well! Come join the fun and be a film critic for the evening by voting for your favorite short film.

NEW! Announcing this year's film lineup:

1. The Father's Gift (by Reid Carrescia)
2. Peculiar (by Ally Robinson)
3. Alley Pop (by Jeff Fowler and Jeremy Stegura)
4. Laugh Zombie Riot (by Jeff Fowler)
5. Don't Wear Your Status on Your Sleeve (by James L. Leh, Jr.)
6. Picture Perfect (by Scott Kaufman)
7. Clara te Foevo (by Justin Fortmeier)
8. Jeffrey Bignowski's Fabulous Snow Day (by Zario DeCola-Heller)
9. Serviette (by Rocki Alt)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Howard Treatman's Campaign Paperwork in Order

WHYY's Newsworks site's Dave Davies has posted "More than 40 candidates stiff ethics board." The article does not list the campaigns that are and are not in compliance with the city's election rules.

To winnow things down I'm reaching out to campaigns that have added me to their press release list, asking if their paperwork is in order.

Tonight another candidate in Philadelphia's 8th city council district, Howard Treatman, is checking in. Their campaign paperwork is in order.

Newsworks has another story today on the 8th district city council race. See "Three challenges tossed out in eighth district race," by Patrick Cobbs.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bass Campaign Says Paperwork in Order

WHYY's Newsworks site's Dave Davies has posted "More than 40 candidates stiff ethics board." The article does not list the campaigns that are and are not in compliance with the city's election rules.

To winnow things down I'm reaching out to campaigns that have added me to their press release list, asking if their paperwork is in order.

A campaign staff person at Cindy Bass's campaign for Philadelphia City Council in the 8th district assures me that their campaign has filed the appropriate paperwork. Someone from the campaign attended one of the City of Philadelphia Ethics Board training sessions to make sure they had everything in order.

I'll report more information as it becomes available.

Happy Birthday HCR!

long note from the inbox:

As One Year Anniversary of Health Reform Law Approaches, White House Report Outlines Benefits for Pennsylvania

As the Obama Administration marks the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the White House today issued a report highlighting the benefits of health reform for Pennsylvania residents. Signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act has given Pennsylvania residents more freedom and control over their health care choices.

The Affordable Care Act is:

Reducing costs for seniors and strengthening Medicare.

More than 247,438 Pennsylvania residents who hit the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” received $250 tax-free rebates, and will receive a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole this year. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole completely. And nearly all 44 million beneficiaries who have Medicare, including 2.1 million in Pennsylvania, can now receive free preventive services – like mammograms and colonoscopies – as well as a free annual wellness visit from their doctor

Offering new coverage options.

Insurance companies are now required to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 without job-based coverage on their insurance plans. An estimated 32,100 young adults in Pennsylvania could gain insurance coverage as a result of the law. Additionally, most insurance companies are now banned from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. An estimated 657,000 kids with a pre-existing condition in Pennsylvania will be protected because of this provision.

Lowering costs for small businesses.

The law provides $40 billion of tax credits to up to 4 million small businesses, including up to 178,505 in Pennsylvania to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees and make premiums more affordable.

Improving the quality of coverage.

All Americans with insurance are now free from worrying about losing their insurance due to a mistake on an application, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick. The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014. This will protect 7.7 million million Pennsylvania residents with private insurance coverage from these limits.

Providing flexibility and resources to States.

The Affordable Care Act also gives States the flexibility and resources they need to implement the law in the way that works for them. Under the law, States have received millions of dollars in Federal support for their work to hold down insurance premiums, build competitive insurance marketplaces, provide insurance to early retirees, and strengthen their public health and prevention efforts. So far, Pennsylvania has received $80.8 million from the Affordable Care Act. Grants to Pennsylvania include:

· $1.1 million to support a consumer assistance program
· $1 million to plan for a Health Insurance Exchange
· $1 million to crack down on unreasonable insurance premium increases
· $22.5 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
· $48.1 million in Therapeutic Discovery Project Program Tax Credits and Grants
· $1 million for Medicare improvements for patients and providers
· $3.4 million for demonstration projects to address health professions workforce needs
· $436,542 for Nursing and Home Health Aides Training Programs
· $2.2 million for Maternal, Infant and Childhood Home Visiting

To read the complete report, visit:

Schwartz Hosts Census Info Workshop

from the inbox:

On Thursday, March 31st, the office of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz will host a hands-on presentation with representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau to better inform Philadelphia-area businesses, non-profits, and civic associations on how to identify and access valuable economic, demographic and social data available from the census enumeration. The workshop is free and open to the general public, and is geared toward helping businesses and non-profits better understand how Census data can inform strategic planning decisions and how to best utilize online Census data.

The event, The Census and You: Accessing 2010 Data, is an overview of key highlights and features of the 2010 Census and American Community Survey. Presenters from the Census will work through detailed information on how to access publicly available Census data, including being able to export and download information.

Civic associations and individuals can view a statistical portrait of their community, as well as the numerical basis for distribution of federal funds for infrastructure and services.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

More Magazine: The Babushkas of Chernobyl

An article in the April issue of More Magazine is more timely than the editors could have thought when it went to press. "A Country of Women," by Holly Morris is on the old women who have moved back to their home near Chernobyl. Their stories are amazing. One is quoted as saying "The main thing is that we have pig fat and vodka." The women are old enough to have lived through, and survived, the Stalin years and the Nazi invasion. They raise crops and catch and eat animals in the area, disregarding the fact that the food is contaminated with radiation.

Other, younger, people have also moved back home to the area but the article, and the accompanying photographs by Rena Effendi, focus on this group of women in their 70s and 80s. These are tough old ladies. The article doesn't sugar coat the physical problems the women have and the risks they take; it also touches briefly the emotional problems of people who were evacuated and lost their sense of place and social networks. It also includes a little information on what happened to the workers who were on site when the nuclear plant there exploded, and those sent in to help with clean up (some offered a short stint at Chernobyl as an alternative to going to war in Afghanistan).

It would be a gripping read at any time but with increased impact following the events in Japan. The article isn't online but the issue is still on sale. [update: The article is now online: .]

For the adventurous (and foolhardy?) there is information on how to visit Chernobyl. Morris hosts the PBS show "The Globe Trekker," an episode on the Ukraine is scheduled for April.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Philadelphia 57th Ward's St. Patrick's Event

This past Friday the Democrats of Philadelphia's 57th Ward held their first annual St. Patrick's Day event at Paddy Whack's Irish Pub (not the easiest place in the world to find). A number of candidates dropped by. While I was there Councilman Bill Green, Councilman Bill Greenlee, Andy Toy candidate for city council at large, Bobby Henon candidate for 6th district city council, David Wecht candidate for superior court, Mark Levy Montgomery County Prothonotary were in attendance, talking with people (some I could recognize, others I guessed at based on flyer photos). The tables had flyers for some of those running for office, as well as Sayde Ladov and Angelo Foglietta, candidates for judge of court of common pleas.

It was a little too loud to try and talk with people; I stayed and people watched for about half an hour. Other candidates / officials may have passed through before and after I was there.

[blogger's note: my thanks to the young man who sent me the invitation.]

New Yorker Retrospective on BP Gulf Oil Spill

The March 14 issue of the New Yorker has a great article on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Raffi Khatchadourian's "The Gulf War" is not available freely online (though an abstract is)but worth tracking down in print at your local library. Having watched Anderson Cooper report on the oil spill it was interesting to read this behind the scenes account that often referenced CNN's coverage. EPA boss Lisa Jackson also makes several appearances in the narrative. It's interesting to read a recap now that a little time has passed.

President's Remarks on Libya

from the inbox:


Tryp Convention Brasil 21 Center
Brasilia, Brazil

5:07 P.M. BRT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.

This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.

I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.

As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not -- I repeat -- we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation.

I'm also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.

I've acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shapiro and Richards on Comment Please

Comment Please by Univest on WNPV with host Darryl Berger hosted Democratic candidates for Montgomery County Commissioner today. State Rep. Josh Shapiro and Whitemarsh Township Supervisor Leslie Richards. (campaign site:

These are my rough notes from listening to the taped interview available on the WNPV website; only the first 45 minutes is the interview.

Berger is a wonderful interviewer. He frequently makes a subtle comment that steers the guests answer or has a short conversation intended to move the discussion forward or in another direction. It is difficult to catch all these verbal maneuvers so I frequently leave them out. Nor is this intended as a full transcript -- it is just my notes from listening. I just listened to it once through and typed phrases and notes; later I went back to smooth out the wording and use full sentences, so without doubt I missed quite a few things. I encourage Montgomery County voters to listen for themselves to get the full effect.

DB: Good afternoon, it is March 17, 2011, hope you have a great St. Patrick’s Day. No one on the show is Irish today but maybe we can ask our guests to answer in an Irish brogue. We have the two candidates for the Democratic nomination in the primary and they’re unopposed so they will go on to the general election for Montgomery County commissioner.

JS: can’t sport an Irish accent but am wearing green.

LR: I am willing to talk about my travels in Ireland. It is a friendly country. I rode bike trails along the peninsula. If you want to visit the pubs bikes are a good way to go from pub to pub. Great golf, very green.

DB: The Democrats have never held a majority in the board, or at least not in recorded history. Why this year different?

JS: People want to see their county govt do better. They want four fresh eyes. What Leslie has done in the private sector and what I’ve done in state government we hope to do in county government.

DB: Rendell said you were a rising star in politics. Why leave your state representative seat?

JS: It is an honor to serve Abington and Upper Dublin. A state representative represents around 70,000 people but as county commissioner I would represent nearly 800,000. Could affect things like roads and bridges and care for elderly. Apply skills learned in state govt to county level. And I have a heck of a partner in Leslie Richards.
DB: What is the political equation? Do you want to be governor?

JS: I want to be a Montco commissioner. Flattered by support across county. In life and politics you need to pick a job you want to do and do it well. Create luck and opportunities by working hard. In politics there are so many outside factor so you can’t ever count on going from to a to b to c.

DB: Leslie, you are currently a Whitemarsh Township Supervisor, what prompted you to get into politics and run for Montco commisioner?

LR: Had I known the opportunity existed this would have been an ambition. Asked to run for local office as many women are. Had been involved in community. Helped start Whitemarsh Twp day and enjoyed serving on that as well. Whitemarsh has a big identity, Erdenheim Farm is right in the middle of township but the township also borders on Philadelphia. Just a couple of turns you are in front of a 400 acre farm. The township covers 14 square miles. Work as a community planner, education in economics and regional planning. Entire life worked with communities on economic development, parks, trails, transportation issues. Traffic is always an issue. It has been very helpful to be able to discuss hard numbers and what can be done in long and short term.

DB: regional planning?

LR: That’s where county govt can make that a focus. Often good planning starts at a municipal border. Joint planning can go on. In Whitemarsh we have worked with our neighbors to pool resources to put together design and construction. The county should be proactive using county planning commission to help local planning commissions.

DB: Montco is a huge area, a quantam leap from township to county commissioner. How will running affect your job?

LR: professionally I’ve worked in all areas, rural, suburban, urban, very familiar with area. I’m currently a senior project manager at a civil engineering firm. I feel I’d be able to keep my hand in at least a few hours a week to see projects through.

DB: The governor has come out with budget, how will that impact Montco?

JS: it was an irresponsible budget. He campaigned on cutting spending and I agree with that. The problem I have with the budget is the priorities are all out of whack. He talked about the must haves and be nice to haves then he talked about the education cuts. It will be, for example, 10% of North Penn School Disctrict which will mean an increase in property taxes. I think one of the biggest issues I have is that rather than ask Marcellus Shale gas drillers to pay for the infrastructure they will crumble, he’s asking you and me to pay for it. In Sarah Palins’ Alaska they passed a severance task. If we did that here it would mean less cuts for education. I’ll stand with Sarah Palin and George Bush. Tom Corbett can stand on his own. The drillers aren’t going anywhere. The CEO of one of the largest drilling companies said they were prepared to pay a severance task. The plan that a lot of people agree with is a severance tax with a third to local govt, a third to environmental protection, and a third to the general fund. The group the governor established to look into this – if you added up how much money they gave the governor you can guess what the group will come up with.

DB: I think we are losing money.

JS: if you cut social services the way the governor has proposed but the need still exists, there will be an added burden on county taxpayers and on hospitals. More people are showing up in the emergency room. People who pay into their health insurance will pay for other people’s unreimbursed care. Corbett is proposing to cut higher education 50% . If you do that you get rid of in state tuition when everything goes up. The Republicans are in charge now of the state house, state senate, and governors mansion. He should be able to pass this but lately you see Republicans disagreeing. Republican State Rep Bob Godshall who represents North Penn School District might have some problems with that.

DB: There is currently a coalition govt in Montco. Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor are Republicans but Jim Matthews and Joe Hoeffel, the Democrat, formed a coalition and are running the show. As a Democrat you’d have to be thrilled by that.

LR: People are frustrated. County govt seems distracted and not trying to move things forward. The personality conflict distracts the county commissioners. I serve on split board in Whitemarsh, and was elected chair. It was my responsibility to listen to everyone and work together as a board. The board should be working together for the county and not worry about who is calling who a name.

DB: Matthews and Castor have a tremendous amount of personal animosity.

LR: They just seem more interested in name calling.

JS: People want to see competent good govt. Leslie can bring Republicans and Democrats together to get things done. In Harrisburg I have done that. I worked to get a Republican elected Speaker of the House. People want three commissioners to show up for work and get things done. We will work with Republicans whether we are in the majority or minority. People are sick and tired of the bickering and want to see results.

DB: What has been the effect of bickering, what has not done that should have been?

JS: County bureaucracy not as efficient as it should be. When you have 3 people at the top who don’t always talk to each other then how can you expect county workers to work together? When you have 3 commissioners listening and being respectful more gets done. People want new people with new ideas and a new approach to get things done. The county’s budget is $400Million. It can be more efficient. People don’t think about govt every day but when they have a problem they show up in my office. People want to know how to get an answer to solve their problems.

DB: Joe Hoeffel is a progressive. Some people say the county reflects his activist view. Castor follow s a Republican line of less govt is better govt. What should county govt be?

JS: I guess that depends on how you define activist. I disagree with some of what Castor says but do so respectfully. County has a AAA bond rating but what does that mean to a small business owner who can’t get a loan or someone who needs a social service? I do think the county govt has a role to play in those social services but needs to do so in a more streamlined and efficient way.

DB: What sort of increased efficiencies would you propose?

LR: Not a restructuring but better communication in govt, some departments don’t talk to other departments. Learned this working with Whitemarsh govt. When the police department wanted to upgrade their communications system we talked to other departments and upgraded the whole IT system. On county level it just hasn’t happened. People don’t know what other departments are doing. The leadership needs to come from commissioners.

DB: No pay increase for county workers in a while. Low morale

LR: I am hearing that as I talk with several staff. First we need to listen to county employees. They have some fabulous staff members. I’m very familiar with planning commission. They are so talented and their resources aren’t being utilized as much as they can be. Josh and I have talked about going out to municipalities to work with local planning commissions. Local planning commissioners are volunteers. County planners can help.

JS: County workers have reached out to us. Morale is low. Message we have sent back is we are not interested in balancing county budget on their back. Efficient govt works when we get suggestions from staff. They haven’t been asked. Dedicated workers want county to work better. We need to listen, ask them how we can save money. We want their opinion and advice. When we say that to county employees they get excited about it.

DB: need to restructure county govt. It is ridiculous that we are electing a prothonotary, register of deeds, etc.

JS: We’re going to reform county govt. We’re going to ask “why?” Why do we do things this way? The people elected to county offices are good people. But we need to ask why do we have, for example, 50 different departments. We are not part of Norristown culture so we can look with fresh eyes.

LR: I agree that many people don’t know what a prothonotary does or who the prothonotary is. He’s a great guy and has saved a lot of money and is doing a great job. Judges are also elected.

DB: I think this is something county govt should look at.

JS: Certainly these issues are on the table.

DB: What can people expect from this campaign?

JS: We’ve been all over the county and are seeing excitement for the election and our campaign. Our base is mobilized. An unprecented level of enthusiasm. My district is about 50% Republican but I got 70% of the vote in the last election. You can expect us to talk with everyone and run a substantive campaign but be respectful of the other candidates. Respect and commitment to the county.

LR: I love to talk with people as we travel around the county.

Berger thanks his guests.

PA Dems: Corbett Honeymoon Over

from our friends at the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:

A new poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that Pennsylvanians oppose Tom Corbett's recent budget cuts by a huge margin. Seventy eight percent of of Pennsylvanians oppose cuts to local school districts - which will likely raise property taxes - and 67 percent oppose cuts to public universities - which will likely raise tuition.

Corbett's budget ideas end honeymoon (Tribune Review) Heather Bohaning is tired of getting squeezed. The New Kensington woman has one daughter who will enter school next year and another in junior high school. She knows the state has financial woes, but she worries the education cuts Gov. Tom Corbett proposed in his budget would make things tougher on her girls, and she cannot afford the $16,000 annual tuition at the only nearby parochial school.

Poll: Two-thirds of Pennsylvania adults oppose budget cuts to education (Patriot News) Seventy-eight percent of Pennsylvanians oppose cutting funding to local school districts and 67 percent dislike the idea of slashing funding in half for the state's public universities, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll out today.

Poll: Pa. supports natural gas tax, not ed cuts (AP) Pennsylvanians are at odds with their new governor over two hot-button issues - whether to tax natural-gas drilling and if education funding should be cut, according to a statewide poll released Thursday.

Poll shows Pennsylvanians support drilling tax, more for cash for education (Times Tribune) Gov. Tom Corbett's push for education and Medicaid cuts and opposition to a natural gas extraction tax conflict sharply with what large majorities of Pennsylvanians want, according to a new statewide poll released Wednesday.

Poll: Don't make health, education cuts - tax drilling, voters say (Philadelphia Daily News) It hasn't gone unnoticed to Pennsylvanians that the natural-gas industry is drilling the Marcellus Shale without paying taxes, while Gov. Corbett has been drilling into education and Medicaid.

F&M poll: Pa. rates Corbett (Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era) A majority of Pennsylvanians are confident Gov. Tom Corbett can handle the state's budget problems, a statewide Franklin & Marshall College poll found

Schwartz Receives BIO Award

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz received Pennsylvania Bio's prestigious Federal Public Official of the Year award yesterday evening in recognition of her efforts to advance health care innovation, biotechnology and the life sciences at their Annual Dinner and Awards Celebration in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Bio, the only statewide association in the Commonwealth dedicated to advancing the bioscience cause, was established to ensure Pennsylvania remains the global leader in the biosciences by creating a cohesive statewide community that unites the Commonwealth’s biotechnology, medical device, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, research, and financial strengths.

“I am very honored to receive this award because I share PA Bio’s commitment to recognizing, promoting and growing biotechnology in Pennsylvania and across the nation,” Schwartz said. “Supporting more than 80,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone, this fast-growing industry is a key component of growing the economy of the future. From scientists and business leaders to doctors and researchers, every single day critical work is done in Pennsylvania in the field of biotechnology. We know firsthand that Pennsylvania’s biotechnology companies are transforming the field of medicine by developing life-saving cures and groundbreaking new and improved medicines. I am committed to ensuring that our companies are able to compete and grow in a 21st century economy.”

“Pennsylvania Bio is honored to name Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz as our Federal Public Official of the Year award recipient,” said Christopher P. Molineaux, President of Pennsylvania Bio. “Congresswoman Schwartz has long been an ardent supporter of the life sciences industry providing guidance and support in Washington D.C. for the companies and employees in Pennsylvania, especially those in the greater Philadelphia region, working daily to address unmet medical needs globally. Additionally, the Congresswoman recognizes the positive economic impact our industry has on the region and continues to push for policies and legislation that allow our industry to continue having a positive global impact.”

“Congresswoman Schwartz is a national leader in developing and championing public policies that promote the continued success of America’s life sciences sector,” said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “Her efforts have helped pave the way for the research and development of breakthrough new therapies for patients and renewable energy sources while driving job growth in the life sciences across the nation. We particularly applaud Representative Schwartz’s leadership on the Therapeutic Discovery Project Program, which provided much-needed capital to small biotech companies working on promising research. We congratulate her on this well-deserved award.”

BIO is the world's largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,100 members worldwide. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

Congresswoman Schwartz has a well earned reputation as one of Congress’ most influential leaders on biotechnology. One of her key legislative initiatives was a groundbreaking tax credit to help promote innovation. The Therapeutic Discovery Project Program – a $1 billion tax credit program for small biotech companies – encourages investment in new therapies that treat diseases. By offering small biotech companies (less than 250 employees) a tax credit or grant it encourages investment in new medical therapies for life-saving diseases. This program is already providing small biotech businesses in Southeastern Pennsylvania and across the country with much-needed capital to bring their innovative treatments to the marketplace.

Because of the Therapeutic Tax Credit:

* Nearly 3,000 U.S. companies received federal tax credits to create new therapies, new devices, and new cures;
* 158 companies in Pennsylvania received more than $48 million in grants; and
* Four companies in the Commonwealth got the advantage of $1.22 million in tax credits.

In the 111th Congress, after years of static resources, Schwartz worked to add:

* $10 billion to National Institutes of Health for basic research;
* $19 billion for Health Information Technology; and
* $1 billion in tax credits and grants to support development of new medical therapies by small biotech companies.

Additional Leadership by Schwartz on Biotechnology:

· Introduced the GREEN JOB Act to encourage the next generation of biofuels.

· Introduced the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act of 2010, which provides tax incentives for small and mid-sized businesses to invest in life sciences research and development on a targeted basis.

Three Interesting Stories

A trio of interesting reads gleaned from twitter feeds:

"Tobacco raid: A fund for health should not pay for business loans," editorial from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"47 Criminals running for city office," by Dave Davies, on WHYY's

"State's poorest schools will be hit hardest by budget cuts, advocacy group says," by By Monica Von Dobeneck, The Patriot-News

Do Corporations Pay Taxes?

PolitiFact investigates the claim that some large corporations pay not taxes at all. Check out the answer at:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Convergence of Sources on the Economy

Yes, that is a very boring blog post title but it's late, I'm tired, and it's the best I can do. Today a number of resources on the same topic came across my screens or table. They all tie together nicely. A more talented writer would be able to write a nice analytical post that covers all the points. But if you want something done that well you'll have to buy a paper or read media sources with full time staff. As a hobbyist this is the best I can do.

We all know that the rationale for cutting government spending, you know, all that money we're wasting on teachers, health care for the poor and middle class, and social services, is that the government is broke. One good question, as posed by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in the Washington Post on Monday, is "What if we're not broke?" One excerpt:

In both cases [remarks by John Boehner and Scott Walker], the fiscal issues are just an excuse for ideologically driven policies to lower taxes on well-off people and business while reducing government programs. Yet only occasionally do journalists step back to ask: Are these guys telling the truth?

The admirable Web site examined Walker's claim in detail and concluded flatly it was "false."

Donna Cooper at the Center for American Progress created a visual aid, a chart, to demonstrate the trade-offs and the choices we have made. Take a look at "Infographic: Tax Breaks vs. Budget Cuts."

Paul Breer and Kevin Donohoe at Think Progress write something similar, with a local focus in "REPORT: In 12 States, GOP Plans To Slash Corporate Taxes While Increasing Burden on Working Families " Pennsylvania is one of the states on their list. Here's an excerpt from the Pennsylvania section:
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) presented a budget last week that would cut taxes for corporations, while freezing teacher salaries, cutting dental care for Medicaid recipients, and eliminating more than half of the state’s universities.

State Rep Mike Sturla takes one Pennsylvania spending items and gives his perspective on the choices made. Read his Commonwealth Common Sense blog post, "Pouring salt in the wound," (3/16). The short version:
Less than a month after adultBasic was terminated funding that would have gone to help pay for the health care program for working Pennsylvanians, instead was diverted to another fund, one run by the governor to dole out loans to business friends.

Joseph N. DiStefano's "PhillyDeals" column in the Inquirer often has good political news and today is no exception. He writes about the state's natural gas industry, which is not taxed, comparing the oil and gas industry here with that in Texas, and also comparing the real estate environment in Houston with Philadelphia's. The column also discusses the current US tax rates which are the lowest since 1950, according to Tom Block, whose father founded H&R Bloch. DiStefano is very good at putting things in perspective.

Civility at the Nat'l Constitution Center

This is modified from a press release received today:

The National Constitution Center and filmmaker Ken Burns and PBS will announce on Friday an initiative to foster a national conversation about “Civility and Democracy.”

David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, and filmmaker Ken Burns, whose upcoming film, “PROHIBITION,” will serve as a starting point for the conversation, will make the announcement. Burns also will participate in the National Constitution Center’s “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” on Saturday, March 26, along with other participants from across the country, including former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton, former Dept. of Justice Official John Yoo, and PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan, among others. The conference is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures program.

Sickbed Reading II: Fundraising the Dead

Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly is another book I read while sick with a cold. I picked it up because it is a mystery that takes place in Philadelphia. Connolly used to work at a Philadelphia non-profit (and also worked on two statewide political campaigns). This is a "cozy" mystery -- not a lot of gore and most of the characters are well-behaved. It's a great read when not feeling well, on a train or plane, or as a break from more academic reading.

The main character works as a historical museum / library in Philadelphia. One of the staff dies under questionable circumstances. Readers might be able to identify the culprit about half or two thirds of the way through but, as with many cozies, the characters are more important than the crime. It held my attention through to the end.

Living in the Philadelphia region made it more interesting. When the main character visits Rittenhouse Square or talks about Chester County estates, I have a feel for what she is describing.

This is the first book in a series and the second, Let's Play Dead, takes place in a Philadelphia children's museum and is due out in July. I plan on picking that one up too.

Sickbed Reading I: All Clear and Blackout

I've had the creeping crud or whatever you want to call it -- sore throat, raspy voice, and very tired -- and was home sick most of last week. I'm still not back up to full speed. One nice thing about being sick and unable to do much is the pleasure of reading solely for the pleasure of it.

A college friend with broad reading interests had sent me two Connie Willis novels, Blackout and its sequel All Clear. Willis is a science fiction writers and I've read some of her other works. Some of her characters or themes appear in more than one of her works. One recurring theme is time travel. Blackout and All Clear concern British time travelers from 2060 who are researching the early years of World War II. Once there the three main characters realize they can't get back. Stuck in London during the Blitz they struggle to adapt to the dangerous environment, and find themselves being drawn into the lives of the people they intended to study for a brief period.

Each of the three had a specific study population. One was working with children evacuated to the countryside, another London shopgirls, and the third everyday heroes such as the people who used their boats to evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk. Willis goes into detail about the British war strategies (decoy inflatable tanks?) that really draws the reader in.

Willis is a demanding author. There's a lot going on and you have to keep up. The What happened to Sir Godfrey? Will there be another book with more info on Colin? We know generally what happened to Eileen and the vicar but that would be a good unto itself.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Montco Petition Numbers

A facebook note from Jason Salus, Democratic candidate for Montgomery County Treasurer:

Countywide candidates need 250 signatures to get on the ballot. My general election opponent filed with 436. Commissioner/former DA Bruce Castor filed with 628. GOP "rising star" Commissioner candidate Jenny Brown filed with 727. The next Montgomery County Treasurer, yours truly, filed with 896 signatures.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Adult Basic Lawsuit

from the inbox:


** Pennsylvania state government’s failure to fund health insurance program violates the Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Act and the Pennsylvania Constitution **

Pittsburgh, PA – Today the Caroselli, Beachler, McTiernan and Conboy law firm, on behalf of the Pennsylvania residents harmed by the destruction of the adultBasic program, filed a class action lawsuit against Governor Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Senate, and the Pennsylvania State House for failing to provide funding for the program as required by law.

AdultBasic was created to allow low-income workers to purchase health care insurance at a minimal cost. The suit states that by illegally zeroing out tobacco settlement monies from their intended and mandated purpose, Gov. Corbett and the Pennsylvania Legislature violated the Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Act and the Pennsylvania Constitution.

“Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania legislature are in blatant violation of the law and the only way to hold them accountable is to take them to court,” said attorney William Caroselli, of Caroselli, Beachler, McTiernan and Conboy. “Pennsylvania receives significant payments from the tobacco settlements every year, and state law mandates that those proceeds go toward making Pennsylvanians healthier, and that a portion be specifically directed to fund adultBasic. When adultBasic ended in February, it left 41,000 people all across Pennsylvania without health insurance. Thousands of Pennsylvanians are suffering because their own government broke the law, and that is inexcusable. We’re going to work to make this right for them.”

The defendants in the suit are Governor Tom Corbett; Budget Secretary Charles Zogby; the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Speaker of the House Samuel H. Smith; the Pennsylvania Senate; President Pro Tempore of the Senate Joseph B. Scarnati, III; and the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury.

The plaintiffs in the suit are seeking declaratory, mandamus and injunctive relief on behalf of all similarly situated individuals in Pennsylvania. The complaint was filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

According to the complaint, Pennsylvania receives annual settlement payments from tobacco companies, which amounted to more than $340 million in fiscal year 2009-2010. The Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Act provides that the tobacco settlement monies would be “used to make Pennsylvanians healthier and provide for the health of future generations of Pennsylvanians,” and specifically that 30% of the proceeds would be shared between adultBasic Insurance and Medicaid for workers with disabilities.

However, as of February 28, 2011, funding for the program ceased. 41,000 enrollees were left without health insurance, and another approximately 500,000 low income working Pennsylvanians were removed from the waiting list.

The defendants are being charged with violating the Tobacco Settlement Act and with violating Article III, Section 1, 2, 3 and 4 and Article IV, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

“I know how important is it to have health insurance, and I relied on adultBasic for my coverage,” said Sheryl Sears, a plaintiff in the complaint. “Unfortunately, that’s the only coverage I can afford. Even though it was protected by law, it’s now gone. I’m afraid my only option is to live with the risk of being uninsured.”

Overheated Rhetoric and Shapiro's Response

An employee in Pennsylvania's Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources used some overheated rhetoric in describing Gasland, a documentary on Marcellus Shale drilling. He compared it to Nazi propaganda. Naturally this set off a backlash; for example at the Huffington Post ("Gasland Director Josh Fox Slurred by Pennsylvania Energy Official," by Alison Rose Levy).

State Rep. Josh Shapiro has responded:

State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, at a press conference today called on Gov. Tom Corbett to condemn the recent statements of a senior member of his administration that compared opposition to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania to Joseph Goebbels and Nazi propaganda.

Last week the Intelligencer Journal and Lancaster New Era reported on comments made by Teddy Borawski, chief oil and gas geologist for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. When asked about the documentary “Gasland,” which portrays natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania as harmful to the environment, Borawski stated, “Joseph Goebbels would have been proud…He would have given him the Nazi Award. That, in my opinion, was a beautiful piece of propaganda.”

“While I recognize there may be differing opinions of that documentary, there is absolutely no place in society--let alone in the Corbett Administration--for such insensitive and ignorant rhetoric,” said Shapiro. “There is plenty of room in the public discourse for people to disagree, but there is no room for a senior government official to compare someone to a Nazi just because they have different views. I urge the governor to immediately condemn Mr. Borawski's comments and take appropriate action against him.”

Shapiro has been a leading advocate for balancing the economic benefit of natural gas drilling with the need to protect the environment and natural resources of Pennsylvania. Last week, Shapiro joined as a lead cosponsor of H.B. 150, a bill to put a three-year moratorium on leasing any additional state forestland for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. Shapiro and 79 other state legislators have also sent a letter urging Corbett to honor the executive order signed by former Gov. Ed Rendell on Oct. 26, 2010, which imposed a moratorium on any further leasing of state forestland for oil and gas development in the state.

Moreover, Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state that does not have a drilling tax or fee. With no excise tax in place, the Commonwealth’s taxpayers currently bear the burden to repair the local roads and bridges damaged by the heavy equipment of natural gas drillers, and the environmental impact of clearing forests and the millions of gallons of chemically treated water taken from the rivers and streams.

For more information read "Shapiro not satisfied by Corbett’s response to Nazi comparison," by Scott Detrow on State House Sound Bites

Local Blog Updates

A few notes from the local blogosphere: seems to be rebooting; there are some new blog entries. You can also follow them on twitter, pa2012news

The University of Pennsylvania Democrats are also restarting their blog: Demsblog (

There is also a Montco Dems blog but it is someone's personal blog and not an official communication outlet for the county Democratic party organization:

The Chief Cultural Officer of the City of Philadelphia has a blog: You can also follow him on Twitter at

And, once again, if you aren't reading the Morning Call's Capitol Ideas blog you don't have the full picture of Pennsylvania politics.

Howard Treatman's Office Opening

Howard Treatman, candidate for Philadelphia's 8th city council district (there are a number of candidates for this district), held an office opening this afternoon. I was in Germantown visiting friends and noticed someone on the sidewalk holding up a Treatmen sign. Thinking that there might be free cookies involved I trotted up the stairs to the second floor office.

Having written this blog for a number of years now I've been in a lot of campaign offices. The people who work there might have personality but the offices themselves often don't. Treatman's campaign office has some zing. The walls are a nice color. Someone had attached a few balloons to the wall, either with tape or static electricity. It's a small office suite and I could see it getting crowded if a lot of people come in for phone banking or mailing preparation but the people were very genial and that always helps in those situations.

Treatman greeted people and answered questions. He's in a suit on his website but today was wearing a tweed jacket and jeans. The hem of his jeans was frayed and his shoes were worn but polished. That provides a "man of the people" impression and he seemed very comfortable in his setting.

I haven't had a chance to look into city council candidates closely. Those interested in Treatman might enjoy reading an in-depth article on him in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

The people in Treatman's office were pleasant and easy-going. The event was well-organized (and, yes, there were cookies).

A Few Links from Recent News

I've run across a few interesting notes on twitter and from the papers. For your review:

Delaware County Democrats have endorsed candidates for county office. See details at "Delco Dems endorse candidates for county office," By Timothy Logue, Delaware County Daily Times, March 13th.

"Pa. Legislature places no special rules on surplus cash it says it piles up for budget battles," by Marc Levy, AP (link to Columbia, Indiana Republic) gives a good overview of the legislative slush fund that the state legislature is allowed to accumulate and carry over from year to year with little regulation on what it can and should be spent on. Really annoying when budget cuts to things like schools and education are made, but not cuts made to legislative fund when they clearly don't need that much money.

Great chart comparing cost of tax cuts and spending cuts. Would you rather cut early childhood education programs or do away with the estate tax? No sources are provided but thought-provoking nonetheless.

Joe Grace Update

According to this Facebook page, Joe Grace, candidate for the 1st city council district in Philadelphia, turned in over 3,000 petition signatures.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Assorted Philadelphia Updates

Here are a few assorted Philadelphia city council updates:

Howard Treatman, a Philadelphia native who has lived and raised a family in Germantown for the past 17 years, has declared his candidacy for the 8th city council district. He is the immediate past president of Germantown Jewish Centre and serves on the board and the real estate committee of Mt. Airy USA. Treatman's campaign turned in more than 2,000 petition signatures. campaign website:

Also in the 8th city council district, candidate Cindy Bass and her campaign worked to get over 5,000 petition signatures, more than six times the number needed. Bass is currently a Senior Policy Advisor on Urban and Domestic policy to Congressman Chaka Fattah. Bass also served as special assistant to State Senator Allyson Schwartz. She is a graduate of Temple University and Philadelphia Public Schoolscampaign website:

In the first city council district, candidate Joe Grace also filed thousands of petition signatures. Grace was the executive director of CeaseFirePA, the state's largest gun violence prevention organization. Prior to that he worked in government in a variety of ways, from being communications director for the City of Philadelphia to being an assistant district attorney. campaign website:

Congressional Redistricting Resources

For those who wish to play along at home in the congressional redistricting process, here are some resources:

1) chart of current Pennsylvania congressional districts, both statewide and individual districts

2) list of current districts, population change since 2000 and how many people each district needs to add or cut to meet the new state average (from the Morning Call's Pennsylvania Avenue blog)

3) interactive census map showing the 2010 state population by county, along with some information on demographic changes over the past ten years (for instance, the number of Hispanics in the state increased over 82%, which probably made State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's head explode)

Okay, now you can slice and dice, add and subtract, and carve out your version of the state's new congressional district, but remember, we are losing one, so you'll have 18 not 19.

Goolsebee at White House White Board on Patents

The newest White House White Board video features, again, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The topic is patent applications, the current application backlog, and the plan to speed up the process. The white board doesn't flip over in this one but there are some cool pie charts. Goolsbee's diagonally striped red and white tie reinforces the red color used in the charts in the white board graphics.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prez O on Oil

from the inbox:

The Obama Administration is working to increase the responsible and safe production of oil and gas in the United States to help consumers and support a comprehensive energy plan for the country. This builds on historic investments in clean energy and efficiency that will help to secure our long-term prosperity and cushion the American economy from fluctuations in oil prices. For example, the Administration established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks that will save consumers money at the pump while conserving about 1.8 billion barrels of oil. And beyond our efforts to break dependence on oil, we are working to diversify our energy portfolio with investments in clean sources like renewables including biofuels, wind, and solar. We are also investing in cutting edge R&D to help us achieve new breakthroughs and win the future.

Production: by the Numbers

Since 2008, U.S. oil and natural gas production has increased, while imports of foreign oil have decreased. As a result, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has declined by more than 7% in the last two years.

· Total U.S. crude oil production was higher in 2010 than in any year since 2003.

Ø In the last two years, oil production from the Federal U.S. Outer Continental Shelf has increased by more than a third, from 446 million barrels in 2008 to an estimated more than 600 million barrels in 2010.

Ø Oil production from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time high in 2010. The region accounts for most of the Outer Continental Shelf production, and 30 percent of total U.S. oil production.

Ø Oil production from onshore public lands increased 5 percent over the last year, from 109 million barrels in 2009 to 114 million barrels in 2010.

· Imports have fallen by 9 percent since 2008. Net imports as a share of total consumption have declined from 57 percent in 2008 to less than 50 percent in 2010.

· U.S. natural gas production is also increasing, reaching 26.9 trillion cubic feet in 2010, a 5% increase from 2008 and the highest level in more than 30 years.

The Obama Administration has offered, and continues to offer, millions of acres of public land and federal waters for oil and gas exploration and production

· Onshore: In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held 33 oil and gas lease sales covering 3.2 million acres. In 2011, BLM is scheduled to hold an additional 33 lease sales. Currently, just 45 percent of all total leases are actively producing.

Ø 41 million acres of public lands are currently under lease for oil and gas development, of which only 12 million acres are producing.

Ø In 2010, the BLM processed more than 5,000 applications for permits to drill (APD) on Federal and Indian lands. In 2011, BLM expects to process more than 7,200 APDs.

· Offshore: In 2010, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) offered 37 million offshore acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and production.

Ø 38 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf are under active lease, of which 6.5 million acres are producing.

Ø More than 70 percent of offshore leases are not producing.

Ø Since the Deepwater Horizon spill and the implementation of stronger safety standards, BOEMRE has approved 37 shallow water permits in the Gulf of Mexico. BOEMRE also recently issued its first deepwater permit since the new standards went into effect, including the requirement that operators demonstrate the ability to contain a deepwater blowout. BOEMRE has also issued 23 permits for deepwater activities that were not subject to the deepwater drilling suspensions.

Safe and Responsible Production

The Obama Administration has undertaken needed reforms to make oil and gas development safer and more environmentally responsible.

· The worst oil spill in American history made it clear that reforms to the safety and oversight of exploration, development and production were needed.

· DOI raised the bar for safety and environmental responsibility, setting standards and certification protocols for well design, testing, and control equipment and establishing rigorous performance standards to reduce workplace error and require comprehensive safety and environmental management. Operators must now submit well-specific blowout scenarios and revised worst-case discharge calculations. Deepwater operators must also show that they have the capability to contain a sub-sea discharge like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. These standards set a clear, achievable path for responsible offshore exploration, development and production.

You can also view this document online here.