Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PCN Interview with Kathryn Boockvar

Kathryn Boockvar, endorsed Democratic candidate for the Commonwealth Court was interviewed by PCN's "On the Issues" on April 20th. I watched on pcn+ (go to, pcn+, election 2011) and these are my rough notes. This is not intended as a complete transcription and I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions. Interested voters are encouraged to watch for themselves.

Q: Tell us about the election coming up

KB: the election is 5/17.

Q: Who is your opponent?

KB: Primary opponent is Barbara Ernsberger. It is a seat that Doris Smith Ribner held then she stepped down to run for another office. Judge Johnny Butler held since then

Q: Tell us about the court?

KB: primarily an appellate court but also has original trial jurisdiction in some kinds of
cases. Such as election cases.

Q: As a practitioner did you appear in front of commonwealth court

KB: earlier in my career quite a few unemployment cases, but never did an argument in front of the court. My cases were all by brief.

Q: Why run?

KB: I feel that this court and this time, a lot of paths in my background converge here. I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of different things in a lot of areas, such as labor and employment (unemployment compensation is largest type of cases the court hears right now), public records law, election law, land use, zoning cases. I’ve practiced in those areas. I don’t just want to be judge but judge of commonwealth court.

Q: Tell us about your background?

KB: for the last three years did voting rights work. Terrific opportunity, allowed me to work with individuals and organizations and really hear what groups and individuals were seeing in their communities, trial lawyers and unions talk about what they are seeing and what they want to accomplish. I was one of the few lawyers active in the Advancement Project, a coalition. Really ranged across everything you can image across voting law. Voting fraud was not a problem we saw much of if any. There is a law in PA about voting machines, what happens when they break down, etc. In 2008 machines would break down and in some places they gave out paper ballots and in others they would wait in line for hours; others were told to go home and come back later. Not being treated equally. Number of organizations in coalition concerned. Now the rule is that you need to distribute paper ballots when machines broken, if more than 50% of machines not working.

Q: You published op ed on rights of those incarcerated to vote

KB: in PA if convicted of a felony cannot vote while in prison, if misdemeanor can. Felons can vote after leaving prison. There used to be a 5 year waiting period, no longer the case. Partly because of past law there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Helped train parole agents.

Q: Rating from PA BAR, recommended

KB: There are 3 levels, highly recommended almost always reserved for sitting judges, most get recommended, and there is also not recommended. Very proud of the language used in their evaluation, bright, strong advocate for clients, communicate well, integrity to serve as judge

Q: Many endorsements?

KB: I’m honored and thrilled with support receiving. Endorsed by PA Democratic Party, tremendous network of volunteers around state. Need 1000 signatures to get on ballot, we turned in over 6,000, with more than 100 signatures from 17 counties. Endorsed by PA SEIU which represents 80K working families across state, Equality PA, and a lot of other organizations, Philly AFL-CIO and PA UAW (actually a former UAW member)

Q: Commonwealth court a statewide court, running statewide

KB: really a terrific experience. People often ask me how I feel about the election of judges. I believe in voters being engaged in the process. Appreciate voters having a say in that branch of govt. If I’m seeking a bench in one part of the state it is helpful to actually have been there, have a sense of the community. It broadens us as judges. I feel honored to have this opportunity.

Q: Can’t talk about particular cases or rules?

KB: You can talk about personal opinions and beliefs. Get a lot of questionnaires, one of my biggest missions is explaining why this court matters. Sometimes you get asked a question that feels less like personal opinions than “how would you rule” and you don’t want a judge who will tell you hypothetically how they would rule but listen to each case on its merits. Not everyone wants to hear that, try to keep in in personal opinion area

Q: Commonwealth court a consensus court with a large docket

KB: Like the fact that even if not on the panel, all the judges have to review decision and sign off. It means there’s more than just the 3 judge panel that hears the case. I went to American University law School. One of the things they taught us is client centered counseling and really hearing, listening. I feel that’s something I’ve always done. Whenever you have advocacy there’s always a chance that people will talk past each other and I’ve found one of the things I can do well is really listen to all sides. I was often able to serve as a bridge. You’re hearing both sides of an argument and people on the bench are bringing all different backgrounds. Being able to hear and bridge what all those people are saying is a good quality.

Q: Trained as a mediator?

KB: Yes, I wish there was more mediation that happened across the system, to empower people to come to a decision themselves and it saves so much time and money and energy and angst among all parties. Mediation training has been very useful. Communication is half the battle. How many times do you … it’s not the underlying issues it’s how they’re talked about

Q: If you win primary you could be facing another Bucks County woman?

KB: We do not have enough elected women in general in PA. We are not effectively electing women in PA. As often as I can I encourage women to run. There is a tendency for women not to put themselves forward unless someone encourages them. In 2007 someone asked me to run for an office; otherwise I would not have thought of doing that. We should put forth strong qualified women as often as we can. It says something for Bucks County that we have a terrific Bar Association and have qualified candidates.

Q: Why it matters, why should people vote

KB: The Commonwealth Court is called The People’s Court. It hears all kinds of cases all across PA, a lot of the issues, labor and employment, labor, gas drilling – land use and zoning go to Commonwealth court, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, voting rights cases, public records requests. The thing about a court, they may decide a case, and that can affect other cases because of the value of precedent. Can affect not only us but our children and grandchildren. A lot of what I’ve been doing going around the state is telling people why this court matters. I wish our system worked better in educating people on these matters. Because of my background I really have experience substantively and also broad geographic area, went to Penn, then American Law School, then to Legal Action Center, hired for sole legal services person for Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties, supervisor in Scranton, lovely area, moved to Lehigh Valley Legal Services, opened own practice and husband joined her, for 11 years, a lot of areas, pensions, benefits, insurance. In 2008 hired by national civil rights organization to do statewide voting rights. Met people all across the state. It’s been a tremendous opportunity.

Planned Renovation of Wayne Junction Station

[adapted from press release]

On April 27th, SEPTA representatives, joined by elected officials and community leaders, will officially accept a $3.98 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) competitive grant from FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff. The funds are for SEPTA’s extensive Wayne Junction Station renovation project. Wayne Junction Station serves more than 190,500 SEPTA riders annually via five Regional Rail lines, one trackless trolley route and two bus routes. SEPTA’s three-year renovation project is expected to begin in fall 2011 and will make the historical register-eligible station state-of-the-art and fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New World Class Website

World Class Greater Philadelphia has launched a new website:
On Thursday, April 28th, the organization is also hosting a press conference:

What would you do today if you knew how our world will be 15 years from now – in 2026? The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia will present 4 “future histories” as part of its World Class Greater Philadelphia launch. This multi-year initiative works toward making Greater Philadelphia a world class place to live, work, and play by 2026 -- the 250th anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence.

Barbara McDermott Runs for Philly Court of Common Pleas

Barbara McDermott is running for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Her campaign website is: She also has a YouTube channel with some short introductory videos.

According to her bio:

On May 17, 2011, the citizens of Philadelphia will have the opportunity to elect Barbara McDermott as a Democratic Candidate to the Court of Common Pleas. For twenty-seven years Barbara has worked tirelessly for the people of Philadelphia, first as an Assistant District Attorney and then as an attorney defending the poor. Barbara has championed the rights of all citizens of Philadelphia, and now, after having tried thousands of cases from all sides, is ready to put her experience to work for you resolving tough issues as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.

Phildelphia voters are encouraged to investigate further.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ifill Accepts Cronkite Award for Newshour

Today The Annenberg School at the University of Southern California awarded the PBS Newshour the 2011 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. Newshour Senior Correspondent Gwen Ifill and Political Editor David Chalian accepted the award on the show's behalf.

I've been a fan of Ifill's for many years. In 2006 she came to a Pennsylvania political event that I attended. When I went over to say hello and tell her how much I enjoyed her work she asked my opinion on a few Pennsylvania races and districts, and actually seemed interested in my answers. When the Washington Week in Review went on the road a few years later I went to the Philadelphia taping.

The show sent out a copy of Ifill's prepared remarks. Apologies for the all caps but that's how the remarks arrived.






















PA Judiciary Committee Approves Shapiro Bill

from the inbox:

The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation (H.B. 924), originally sponsored by state Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, which would make it a felony offense for a teacher or school employee, coach or counselor, to engage in sexual relations with any student.

Currently state law protects children by criminalizing sexual contact with children under the age of 16 by a school employee or volunteer. Unfortunately, the law does not provide the same protections for all students.

“It’s plain and simple – this is a loophole in our law that must be fixed,” said Shapiro. “Those we entrust to educate and watch over our children should not engage in any sexual activity with them at any age. This commonsense legislation affords the same protections to all children in schools and extracurricular activities from any adult who violates their position of trust. This commonsense bipartisan legislation will protect our children.”

Under H.B. 924, an employee or volunteer of a school or a child care center who engages in sexual contact with any student commits a felony of the third degree, which could be punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

SEPTA's New Parkside Bus Loop

I'm cutting and pasting this from a longer SEPTA press release:

SEPTA was awarded a $2.2 million competitive grant from Federal Transit Administration for the project. These funds will cover the vast majority of the $2.4 million estimated costs.

The Parkside Bus Loop serves routes 40, 43, 64 and 52 at 49th Street and Parkside Avenue, where it has been for some 90 years. The infrastructure is long past its useful life, and changes in the neighborhood have made the location obsolete for a bus loop. The new facility on North 50th Street will be near the heart of recent development, including the Park West Town Center.

Construction is expected to take approximately eight months, with major work completed by December 2011. The new facility will include state-of-the-art passenger amenities, safety features and will be fully accessible, per Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements

Fiscal Note on SB1

from our friends at the Education Law Center:

The Education Law Center has analyzed an official Senate report detailing the cost of tuition vouchers for private and religious schools under Senate Bill 1. The "Fiscal Note" for SB 1 anticipates only a small percent of the vouchers will be used by students currently attending the 144 public schools identified as failing by the bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee officially attached the Fiscal Note to the bill on April 11, revealing that most of the vouchers are expected to go students already attending private and religious schools.

The Education Law Center has closely examined the data in the SB 1 Fiscal Note, which for the first time allows the public to see official details about the number of students expected to utilize vouchers and the cost of the voucher program:

- The cost of vouchers for tuition at private and religious schools will be more than $1 billion in total over the first four years.

- Only 7.6% of all vouchers will go to students from the 144 "worst" public schools.

- 65.3% of all vouchers will go to students already enrolled in private and religious schools.

- Only 9% of eligible students from the 144 "worst" public schools will be able to gain admission to a private or religious school and actually use their voucher. The annual cost will be $50 million.

- 100% of eligible students currently enrolled in private and religious schools will be able to use their voucher dollars, since they are already admitted. The annual cost will be $225 million.

Senate Democrats say that the Fiscal Note still underestimates these costs and that even fewer students at failing public schools will gain admission to a private or religious school in order to actually use the vouchers.

The battle over vouchers in Pennsylvania has focused for months on claims repeatedly made by voucher supporters that Senate Bill 1 will not be costly and will help students get out of failing public schools. Opponents of SB 1 have disagreed, emphasizing that the bill will cost more than $1 billion and transfer most of these tax dollars to private and religious schools for children who are not enrolled in a failing public school.

The April 11 Fiscal Note shows that SB 1 opponents were correct. "SB 1 is not really about school choice for families trapped in failing public schools," said Baruch Kintisch of the Education Law Center. "Instead, the bill is an expensive gift of taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools for the tuition of students who are already enrolled in those schools."

Joseph Bard of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools said, "In this time of billion dollar budget deficits, our state cannot afford a massive giveaway program to private and religious schools. Public money should be used to improve public schools, not to pay for the tuition of students currently attending private and religious schools."

The full Senate is expected to vote on SB 1 in the next week or two. Negotiations are going on behind the scenes to win the votes of senators who are on the fence. The latest changes being made to the bill divert even more of the voucher program away from needy students in struggling schools. For example, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended SB 1 to create a new kind of voucher for middle class families.

"The first priority of state policy for education should always be the best interest of disadvantaged students and their public schools, not political favors for private interests," said Kintisch.

Conshohocken Passes Human Relations Ordinance

Conshohocken has joined a number of other communities in the Commonwealth and passed an ordinance stating:

According to language in the bill, the borough “finds that it is of high public importance to adopt appropriate legislation to ensure that all persons, regardless of actual or perceived ethnicity, race, color, ancestry, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, martial and familial status, age, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals or mechanical aids and/or source of income enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and are afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing, public education and public accommodation.”

For more information see "Conshohocken council passes Human Rights Ordinance," by Jenna DeHuff Times Herald (4/22)

I wrote a longer post on this general topic in January. So far every township that has considered such an ordinance has passed it except Abington; Hatboro's council passed the ordinance but the mayor vetoed it. The race is on to be the last community in Pennsylvania to recognize the rights of all its citizens.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Allyson Schwartz's Women in Politics Event

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz hosted her annual Women in Politics event on April 20th. Her special guests were Cecile Richards (President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund) and Stephanie Schriock (President, EMILY's List).

The room was very crowded and about half of the people there had to stand. Also the acoustics were not very good and my seat was behind a column near the back so I could neither see nor hear well. Thus my notes are very sketchy. Even so, I had a great time. This is an event I had wanted to attend for years and this year the stars aligned correctly. It is a little more expensive than the events I usually attend ($150) but I would recommend it to anyone interested in local Democratic politics. A lot of people came out for it and I had a chance to say hello to a number of candidates. There was a lot of networking going on.

Candidates / Officials in attendance (apologies for those I missed -- I was going on scanning nametags and recognizing people. The congresswoman recognized candidates in the room but I couldn't jot down all the names fast enough.)

Philadelphia City Council
Sherrie Cohen
Andy Toy
Bill Green (running for re-election)
Jeff Hornstein

Statewide Judicial Office
Kathryn Boockvar

Montgomery County Office
Linda Hee, recorder of deeds
Ann Thornburg Weiss
Leslie Richards, County Commissioner
Diane Morgan, county controller

Bucks County Office
Diane Marseglia, County Commissioner (re-election)

Philadelphia Mayor
Michael Nutter (re-election)

State Senator Daylin Leach
Rick Taylor, former state representative
Bryan Lentz, former state representative
Doug Pike
Ruth Damsker

Introduction by Cynthia [did not catch last name], currently Allyson Schwartz is the only woman and only Jew representing Pennsylvania in the federal House or Senate. For the past 30 years each election brought more women to Congress, except the last one. There are now fewer women congressional representatives than there were before the 2010 election.

Schwartz spoke about her efforts in Washington. (A group of people behind me were very loud and I could not her the congresswoman's remarks.)

Stephanie Schriock of Emily's List. 60% of those on Medicare are women. More women than men on Social Security. In the first 10 days of the new congress a series of bils were introduced that are anti-women and anti-families. These bills would have eliminated funding for family planning, let hospitals allow women to die rather than do a medically necessary abortion; the Republicans dug in their heels and were prepared to shut down the federal government rather than continue to fund planned parenthood. These bills were often debated with no women present.

Cecile Richards (daughter of former Texas Gov. Anne Richards), president of Planned Parenthood. In a recent (CNN?) poll 2/3 of the American people opposed cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Among those under 30 over 80% were in favor of continuing to fund it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prez O on Fiscal Policy

Meant to post this last week, from the inbox:

April 13, 2011


George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

1:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Please have a seat. Please have a seat, everyone.

It is wonderful to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons that I worked so hard with Democrats and Republicans to keep the government open was so that I could show up here today. I wanted to make sure that all of you had one more excuse to skip class. (Laughter.) You’re welcome. (Laughter.)

I want to give a special thanks to Steven Knapp, the president of GW. I just saw him -- where is he? There he is right there. (Applause.)

We've got a lot of distinguished guests here -- a couple of people I want to acknowledge. First of all, my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, is here. (Applause.) Our Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, is in the house. (Applause.) Jack Lew, the Director of the Office of Mangement and Budget. (Applause.) Gene Sperling, Chair of the National Economic Council, is here. (Applause.) Members of our bipartisan Fiscal Commission are here, including the two outstanding chairs -- Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson -- are here. (Applause.)

And we have a number of members of Congress here today. I'm grateful for all of you taking the time to attend.

What we’ve been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it’s about more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future that we want. It’s about the kind of country that we believe in. And that’s what I want to spend some time talking about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there’s always been another thread running through our history -– a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.

And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire new industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we’re a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we’re all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves. And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities. We’re a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments.

Now, for much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. Everybody pays, but the wealthier have borne a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well -– we rightly celebrate their success. Instead, it’s a basic reflection of our belief that those who’ve benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more. Moreover, this belief hasn’t hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale. They continue to do better and better with each passing year.

Now, at certain times -– particularly during war or recession -– our nation has had to borrow money to pay for some of our priorities. And as most families understand, a little credit card debt isn’t going to hurt if it’s temporary.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation’s deficit -- three times. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush, then made by President Clinton, by Democratic Congresses and by a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. But they largely protected the middle class; they largely protected our commitment to seniors; they protected our key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program -– but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts -– tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our nation’s checkbook, consider this: In the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

But that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit, annually, was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more.

In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pocket. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that’s how our fiscal challenge was created. That’s how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means. We have to reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and helps us win the future.

Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you, particularly the younger people here -- you don't qualify, Joe. (Laughter.) Some of you might be wondering, “Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?”

Well, here’s why. Even after our economy recovers, our government will still be on track to spend more money than it takes in throughout this decade and beyond. That means we’ll have to keep borrowing more from countries like China. That means more of your tax dollars each year will go towards paying off the interest on all the loans that we keep taking out. By the end of this decade, the interest that we owe on our debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion. Think about that. That's the interest -- just the interest payments.

Then, as the Baby Boomers start to retire in greater numbers and health care costs continue to rise, the situation will get even worse. By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt. That’s it. Every other national priority -– education, transportation, even our national security -– will have to be paid for with borrowed money.

Now, ultimately, all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy. It will prevent us from making the investments we need to win the future. We won’t be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads -– all the things that create new jobs and businesses here in America. Businesses will be less likely to invest and open shop in a country that seems unwilling or unable to balance its books. And if our creditors start worrying that we may be unable to pay back our debts, that could drive up interest rates for everybody who borrows money -– making it harder for businesses to expand and hire, or families to take out a mortgage.

Here’s the good news: That doesn’t have to be our future. That doesn’t have to be the country that we leave our children. We can solve this problem. We came together as Democrats and Republicans to meet this challenge before; we can do it again.

But that starts by being honest about what’s causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but like the stuff that it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political instincts tell me that almost nobody believes they should be paying higher taxes. (Laughter.)

So because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse. You’ll hear that phrase a lot. “We just need to eliminate waste and abuse.” The implication is that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or politicians suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1 percent of our entire federal budget.

So here’s the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget -- two-thirds -- is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Two-thirds. Programs like unemployment

insurance, student loans, veterans’ benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20 percent. What’s left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That’s 12 percent for all of our national priorities -- education, clean energy, medical research, transportation, our national parks, food safety, keeping our air and water clean -- you name it -- all of that accounts for 12 percent of our budget.

Now, up till now, the debate here in Washington, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington, have focused exclusively on that 12 percent. But cuts to that 12 percent alone won’t solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.

A serious plan doesn’t require us to balance our budget overnight –- in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we need a phased-in approach –- but it does require tough decisions and support from our leaders in both parties now. Above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road.

Now, to their credit, one vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. It’s a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

These are both worthy goals. They’re worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we’ve known throughout our history.

A 70 percent cut in clean energy. A 25 percent cut in education. A 30 percent cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s the proposal. These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kinds of cuts that the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kinds of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America that I believe in and I think you believe in.

I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them.

Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. They’re scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but on biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the American people, the United States of America -– the greatest nation on Earth -– can’t afford any of this.

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

It’s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody’s grandparents -- may be one of yours -- who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are -- the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President. (Applause.)

This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know.

The America I know is generous and compassionate. It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share. We’re a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. That’s who we are. This is the America that I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.

To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.

So today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table -- but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week. That step alone will save us about $750 billion over 12 years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments that we need to grow and create jobs. We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training. We will do what we need to do to compete, and we will win the future.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. Now, as Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is America’s debt. So just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. And we can do that while still keeping ourselves safe.

Over the last two years, Secretary Bob Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but we’re going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Now, here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer. Their plan essentially lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid.

We will change the way we pay for health care -– not by the procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we’ve proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional $1 trillion in the decade after that. But if we’re wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, then this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.

But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security. While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that’s growing older. As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we have to do it without putting at risk current retirees, or the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. And it can be done.

The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code, so-called tax expenditures. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can’t afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, from homeownership to charitable giving, we can’t ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 but do nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn’t itemize. So my budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans -- a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over 10 years.

But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple -- so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.

I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the fiscal commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there’s enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

So this is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. It’s an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in tax expenditures -- spending in the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, protecting our commitment to seniors, and protecting our investments in the future.

Now, in the coming years, if the recovery speeds up and our economy grows faster than our current projections, we can make even greater progress than I’ve pledged here. But just to hold Washington -- and to hold me --- accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe. If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy -– if we haven’t hit our targets, if Congress has failed to act -– then my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America -- a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children.

There will be those who vigorously disagree with my approach. I can guarantee that as well. (Laughter.) Some will argue we should not even consider ever -- ever -- raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It’s just an article of faith to them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without and that some of you would not be here without.

And here’s the thing: I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to their country, a country that’s done so much for them. It’s just Washington hasn’t asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn’t even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. These are mostly folks in my party. I’m sympathetic to this view -- which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit, so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn’t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, out of fear that any talk of change to these programs will immediately usher in the sort of steps that the House Republicans have proposed. And I understand those fears. But I guarantee that if we don’t make any changes at all, we won’t be able to keep our commitment to a retiring generation that will live longer and will face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have an obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe the government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works -– by making government smarter, and leaner and more effective.

Of course, there are those who simply say there’s no way we can come together at all and agree on a solution to this challenge. They’ll say the politics of this city are just too broken; the choices are just too hard; the parties are just too far apart. And after a few years on this job, I have some sympathy for this view. (Laughter.)

But I also know that we’ve come together before and met big challenges. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously, disagreed on just about everything, but they still found a way to balance the budget. And in the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts.

And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country. We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.

So I believe we can, and must, come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach that I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit and get it done by the end of June.

I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. This a democracy; that’s not how things work. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I’m sure the criticism of what I’ve said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all make an effort to bridge our differences and find common ground.

This larger debate that we’re having -- this larger debate about the size and the role of government -- it has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one that we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and it gets more vigorous. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates that we can have.

But no matter what we argue, no matter where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made these liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility -- to each other and to our country -- this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or a Republican idea. It’s patriotism.

The other day I received a letter from a man in Florida. He started off by telling me he didn’t vote for me and he hasn’t always agreed with me. But even though he’s worried about our economy and the state of our politics -- here’s what he said -- he said, “I still believe. I believe in that great country that my grandfather told me about. I believe that somewhere lost in this quagmire of petty bickering on every news station, the ‘American Dream’ is still alive…We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain… We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on.”

“I still believe.” I still believe as well. And I know that if we can come together and uphold our responsibilities to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, we will keep the dream of our founding alive -- in our time; and we will pass it on to our children. We will pass on to our children a country that we believe in.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Patrick Murphy Announcement: Campaign Release

from the inbox, the message sent to Patrick Murphy's campaign email list:

Dear Friend,

Right now I’m emailing you from the Patrick Ward Memorial, in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.

I’m actually named after Patrick Ward. He was a helicopter gunner in Vietnam who was killed in action. He was also my mom’s best friend.

Growing up, my parents pointed to Patrick Ward as the example of service and sacrifice. His life was dedicated to protecting others. So when I decided I would run for Attorney General of Pennsylvania I knew I would make my announcement here.

I also wanted to make the announcement standing with my family. My father was a police officer in this city for 22 years. His dedication to law enforcement inspired me to go to law school and later serve as a prosecutor. My mom, who grew up down the street, taught me the importance of family and hard-work. And my wife Jenni, my daughter Maggie, and my little boy Jack are here supporting me, too. They are a constant reminder of why we fight so hard.

My path to this day started when I signed up for the Army ROTC program in 1993. After law school, I joined active duty, where I served as a prosecutor. Later I was asked to join the faculty at West Point, where I taught cadets Constitutional Law. After 9/11, I volunteered for overseas deployment. I went first to Bosnia, and then to Baghdad. In Iraq I served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, and prosecuted terrorists bent on murdering Americans. After I returned home, I ran for Congress. There I fought to crack down on fraud, abuse, and waste, for equality, and to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight crime.

Today we start a new campaign together. I am running for Attorney General because the people of Pennsylvania deserve an advocate. They deserve an Attorney General who will combat crime wherever it exists – on the streets, in corporate boardrooms, or in Harrisburg. With your help, I will be that Attorney General.

Over the next few weeks and months we’ll continue to build our campaign across the state. This race will surely be tough. But when we fight together, we’re pretty tough to beat. With your help, we’ll get this done.

Stay tuned to our website for updates, and thank you as always for your incredible friendship and support,


Patrick Murphy Announcement: Press Release

from the inbox, Murphy's press release:

Patrick Murphy Announces Candidacy for Pennsylvania Attorney General

Iraq War Veteran, Former JAG Officer, Former Congressman Enters Race With Strong Support

(Philadelphia, PA) - Iraq war veteran and former Congressman Patrick Murphy released the following statement today:

“I’ve spent my entire life protecting American families. I’m running for Attorney General because I want to continue that important work and make sure that the people of Pennsylvania have an advocate who will fight crime wherever it is – on the streets, in corporate boardrooms, or in Harrisburg,” said Patrick Murphy.

“Working families across the state are struggling. They deserve an Attorney General who will stand up for them. That means rooting out corruption and fighting against powerful special interests to protect hard-working taxpayers,” Murphy said. “As an Iraq war veteran, I prosecuted terrorists bent on killing Americans. I won’t back down from the challenges that face our Commonwealth.”

Patrick is supported by a broad range of Pennsylvanians from all walks of life and all over the state. They believe that he has the skills and experience to protect the Commonwealth and fight for working families.

“Patrick Murphy has demonstrated courage as an Army officer in war-torn Iraq and rare courage as an elected official. He has fought for his country, and he fights every day for what’s right,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. “He has demonstrated the leadership, energy and integrity to fight corruption, protect our families and keep our streets safe. Patrick Murphy is uniquely qualified to serve with distinction as Pennsylvania’s next attorney general.”

“Patrick Murphy is a working-class guy who didn’t forget where he came from. As a veteran and the son of police officer, he really understands what it takes to fight crime and protect Pennsylvania families,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Holden. “His integrity and dedication to public service is just what we need in our next Attorney General and I’m proud to support him.”

"You couldn't have a more qualified candidate. And, based on his performance as a United States Congressman, you couldn't elect a more dedicated public servant. Patrick Murphy will make an excellent Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Joseph Dougherty, Ironworkers Local 401.

"As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, I know that Patrick Murphy has the experience and leadership to be the chief law enforcement officer for the Commonwealth,” said Chris Asplen, former Assistant U.S. Attorney. “Patrick has proven as a JAG officer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney that he is smart, tough and dedicated to fighting crime. That is what it takes to protect Pennsylvania families and that is why Patrick will make a great Attorney General."


Elected Officials

Chaka Fattah, U.S. Rep.
Tim Holden, U.S. Rep.
Jason Altmire, U.S. Rep.
Ron Klink, Former U.S. Rep.
Kathy Dahlkemper, Former U.S. Rep.
Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Executive
Daylin Leach, State Senator
Chelsa Wagner, State Rep.
Dan Frankel, State Rep.
Tony Payton, State Rep.
Josh Shapiro, State Rep.
John Galloway, State Rep.
Mike Carroll, State. Rep.
Tina Davis, State Rep.
Steve Santarsiero, State Rep.
Tom Leighton, Wilkes-Barre Mayor
Brad Koplinski, Harrisburg City Council
J. Richard Gray, Lancaster Mayor
Mark McCracken, Clearfield County Commissioner
Connie Kough Pittenger, Huntingdon County Commissioner
Rick Vilello, Mayor of Lock Haven
Democratic Party Leaders
TJ Rooney, Former Chair, PA Dems
John Cordisco, Chair, Bucks County
Marcel Groen, Chair, Montgomery County
Greg Stewart, Chair, Centre County
Chris Tarsa, Chair, Lebanon County
Susan Hartman, Chair, Huntingdon County
Roger Lund, Chair, Adams County and State Committee South Central Caucus Chair
Frank Rosenhoover, Chair, Blair County
Greg Specht, Acting Chair, Juniata County
Bob Kefauver, Chair, York County
Don Hilliard, Chair, Jefferson County
Rick Thomas, Chair, Union County
Jesse Bloom, Chair, Lycoming County
Larry Kriess, Chair, Butler County
Rick Daugherty, Chair, Lehigh County
Sally Lyall, Chair, Lancaster County

Labor Leaders

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776
PA Conference of Teamsters
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
Sprinkler Fitters Local 692
Plumbers Union Local 690
Ironworkers Local 401
Boilermakers Local 13
Boilermakers Local 19
American Postal Workers Union Local 7048
Communications Workers of American Local 13000
Steamfitters’ Local Union 420

Patrick Murphy’s Biography

Patrick Murphy is a husband. A father. The son of a police officer. A native Pennsylvanian. And his lifetime of experience has made him ready to be our state’s next Attorney General.

Patrick has law enforcement in his blood. He grew up in a row house in Northeast Philadelphia, where he learned the importance of public service at an early age from his father Jack Murphy, who was a Philadelphia police officer for more than 22 years after serving in the Navy.

Patrick has committed his life to protecting American families. After 9/11, he volunteered for combat to bring those who would harm Americans to justice. And whether it was prosecuting terrorists and leading convoys in Iraq, enacting tougher consumer protection laws at home, or putting child molesters and other dangerous criminals behind bars, Patrick has been dedicated to doing what it takes to keep our families safe and our neighborhoods secure.

After serving first in Bosnia, Patrick deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a paratrooper in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division. In Baghdad, Patrick successfully prosecuted three Central Criminal Court cases, two of which convicted terrorists bent on killing Americans. Patrick was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.

Returning home, Patrick tried criminal cases in one of the Army’s busiest jurisdictions. He prosecuted multiple felony courts martial at both jury and bench trials.

Prior to his time in combat, Patrick was an assistant professor in the Department of Law at West Point, where he taught Constitutional and Military Law. Patrick also gained valuable experience as a prosecutor, both as a Judge Advocate and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In these roles, Patrick helped convict criminals of robbery, drug offenses and sexual assault.

Patrick’s experience as soldier and prosecutor in the Army gave him important perspective as a member of Congress. Patrick demanded better accountability from government and stronger penalties for those who take advantage of taxpayers. As a member of Congress, Patrick:

Passed a law that helps crack down on mortgage companies and big banks that take advantage of servicemembers.
Led the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory policy that prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military. Now, everyone has the same opportunity to serve our nation in uniform.
Created the Office of Financial Protection for Older Adults, which helps prevent the financial exploitation of seniors.
Worked to make government more efficient and less costly through the IMPROVE Act, which closes loopholes that lead to Medicare fraud
Introduced and passed the Improper Payments and Recovery Act, which will help eliminate $98 billion in wasteful spending every year.
Authored the Officer Daniel Faulkner Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act, which provides federal scholarship money to the children of first responders killed in the line of duty. The bill was named after Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia cop who was murdered on the job.
Helped constituents like Emma DeVita. After she lost her retirement savings to Bernie Madoff’s infamous ponzi scheme, Emma and her son Michael came to Patrick for help. Patrick was able to recover $500,000 for the DeVitas.

As Attorney General, Patrick will stop at nothing to make sure law enforcement officials have the tools they need to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and protect families. As a member of Congress, he did this by fighting for funding that provided local cops with state of the art equipment and more resources to prevent gang violence.

Patrick graduated from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, where he enrolled in the Army ROTC program and was commissioned as an officer. He later graduated from Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, where he worked at the Civil Law Clinic providing legal aid to those in need.

Patrick is currently a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia. He also teaches at Widener Law and is active in the Wills for Heroes program, which provides free legal services to police officers, fire fighters and other emergency responders who risk their lives on the job.

Patrick lives in Bristol, Pennsylvania with his wife Jenni, his daughter Maggie, his son Jack and their dog Chloe. A Pennsylvania native, Patrick’s relatives still live across the state in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Montgomery County, Luzerne County, Lebanon County and elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Executive PayWatch

from the inbox:

While the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania hovers at 7.8 percent, and legislators consider bills attacking the rights and pay of private and public sector workers, numbers released today by Executive PayWatch ( show that Pennsylvania-based chief executive officers haven’t had to worry about making ends meet.

Glen T. Senk, CEO of Urban Outfitters, Inc. based in Philadelphia, received nearly $30 million in total compensation in 2010 – 593 times more than what the average elementary school teacher made in 2009.

And excessive CEO pay isn’t just limited to Pennsylvania. Millions of Americans struggled to get back on their feet after the worst economic downturn in decades, yet CEOs of the nation’s largest companies got an average pay of $11.4 million in 2010 – a 23 percent increase in one year.

“The five highest paid corporate CEOs in Pennsylvania took home a combined $115 million in 2010. A state with an economy robust enough to allow corporations to pay five top executives $115 million should have no problem closing corporate tax loopholes that allow those same companies to avoid paying millions in corporate income taxes,” said Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

“CEOs here in Pennsylvania are making millions while the state legislature is introducing bills benefiting millionaires and CEOs at the expensive of average working Pennsylvanians. Doesn’t Governor Corbett think we should make sure corporate CEOs pay their fair share?” asked Henry Lipput, an unemployed worker in Pittsburgh.

The release of the searchable online data bank is part of a broad campaign by the AFL-CIO to strengthen Wall Street reform, close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that poor and middle class Americans are no longer required to pay for the greed of corporate CEOs.

Executive PayWatch’s searchable data bank enables users to get information by state, industry and top-paid CEOs and compare the pay of top CEOs with the median pay of nurses, teachers, firefighters and other workers. For the first time, Facebook users will also have access to the information and to participate in the campaign.

The AFL-CIO’s CEO pay estimate is based on 299 companies in the S&P 500 Index whose executive compensation data is available for 2010. The 299 CEOs received a combined total of $3.4 billion in 2010, enough compensation to support 102,325 jobs paying median wages. The median wage for all occupations was $33,190 in 2009, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tavis Smiley at WHYY

from the inbox:

An Evening With Tavis Smiley will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, at The University of the Arts' Levitt Auditorium at Gershman Hall, 401 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. Acclaimed PBS host, author, publisher, advocate and philanthropist, Smiley will discuss his life, inspirations, career and more during a WHYY-hosted interview with Marty Moss-Coane, host of WHYY-FM's Radio Times. An Evening With Tavis Smiley is part of a six-city tour celebrating Smiley's 20th year as a broadcaster. Tickets cost $15 for WHYY members (member number required) and $20 for nonmembers. Nonmembers may become members at the $80 level for one year and receive two tickets to the event.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Howard Treatman's Policy Statements

Howard Treatman, one of the Democrats running for Philadelphia's 8th city council district, has released seven policy statements. The seven subjects are: Economic Development, , Government Reform, Public Safety, Education, Unused City Owned Parcels, Public Transit, and the Environment.
His economic development statement has six points that he expands on:
Treatman's Vision for Philadelphia

Philadelphia's economic growth will be the unquestionable focus of Howard's tenure in office. Howard Treatman's plan for economic development will:

1. Re-think the tax structure to help small and large businesses start, expand and prosper
2. Ensure more effective and transparent public/private partnerships
3. Create opportunity zones in key neighborhood retail corridors
4. Encourage entrepreneurship and innovation
5. Capitalize on our district's arts and culture
6. Protect property owners and taxpayers by fixing the broken assessment system

The Government Reform policy has two main points: Making government more open and accountable, and Making elections fairer and more inclusive. Within these broad topics are some very specific statements, such as getting rid of city commissioners and ending the practice of government cars to city council members, increased city planning and random audits of groups that receive government funding. He also believes in 8 year term limits for city council.

In Public Safety he talks about increased community involvement, more policemen, and increased 911 response time.

Recognizing that educational funding is done at the state level, Treatman focuses on increasing the area’s economic base and resources and providing resources to support safe, healthy families.

Given Treatman’s involvement in renovating real estate his statement on unused city owned parcels is relatively short:
A key part of Howard’s strategy is to transform properties that sit abandoned and unused into property that either creates economic activity or strengthens a community. The city of Philadelphia has hundreds of parcels sitting on the books, earning no property taxes, adding nothing to our economy and in many instances scarring neighborhoods. Only Howard has the real estate experience to promote and sell these assets to responsible investors and community groups.

Like education, transit funding is decided at the state level and Treatman acknowledges that and includes lobbying Harrisburg. He also calls for SEPTA to avoid delaying the long-proposed fare card system. Harkening back to economic development he says he will “target development toward transit hubs and focus on job creation in places that are accessible by transit.”

In the Environment policy we learn that Treatman is an avid cyclist who supports expanding and maintaining the city’s biking routes. He wants to expand the recycling program to more apartment buildings and businesses. He also wants to have more trees planted and ensure that parks and playgrounds are accessible to all.

Paid Sick Leave

In most years I miss a few days of work for illness. This year, so far, I've been out five, for two bouts of stomach flu. I interact with a lot of people in an average day and I doubt any of those people would have wanted me sitting next to them on the train on those days, or at work, touching them and their stuff, using the same bathrooms, and the kitchen in the staffroom, let alone just breathing germs all over the place. Having been around people who sound like they're going to cough up an internal organ, or repeatedly blowing their nose, I wish they had stayed home.

But not everyone has a choice. Some people don't have paid sick leave so if they miss work they don't get paid and might lose their job. The City of Philadelphia is considering a bill that would require employers to offer paid sick leave.

The Daily News had a good op-ed on the subject. Read "Philadelphia City Council should pass the Promoting Healthy Workplaces and Families bill," by Amanda S. Aronoff and Carol Goertzel (4/14)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Planned Parenthood on H Con Res 36

from the inbox:

Statement by Dayle Steinberg, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania on Senate Vote to Reject H. Con. Res. 36, a Proposal to Bar Planned Parenthood from Receiving Federal Funds to Provide Preventive Health Care

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania released the following statement after the House passed and the Senate rejected H. Con. Res. 36, a proposal that would bar Planned Parenthood from providing preventive health services including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and HIV testing to patients who are covered by Medicaid and other federal programs.

“Yesterday, the US Senate listened to millions of American women and voted, 58-42, to reject H. Con. Res. 36, an extreme proposal to bar Planned Parenthood from providing preventive health service, including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI (including HIV) testing to patients who are covered by Medicaid and other federal programs.

“Planned Parenthood applauds the members of Congress who stood up for women’s health and voted against this proposal.

“This vote is a major victory for women’s health and the millions of women who go to Planned Parenthood for health care.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country made their voices heard in support of Planned Parenthood and opposed this radical proposal by calling Congress, writing and e-mailing their elected officials, and attending rallies. The grassroots support for Planned Parenthood was extensive.

“This extreme proposal was rightly rejected by Democrats and Republicans. In addition, members of Congress who support abortion rights, as well as those who oppose abortion rights, voted against this proposal, which would have denied women family planning and would have resulted in an increase in unintended pregnancy.

“Even though the House Republican leadership insisted on forcing an up or down vote in the House and Senate on this extreme proposal yesterday, all their political maneuvering accomplished was to show that the House leadership is willing to sacrifice women’s health to advance a narrow ideological agenda.

“While we are outraged that the House voted to pass H. Con. Res. 36 by a vote of 241-185, the outcome of that vote was not a surprise.

“Any member of Congress who voted for this extreme proposal just cast a vote against women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings and birth control.

“More than 90 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides — and 100 percent of the care it provides through federal programs — is preventive. We do not want one woman to be diagnosed with advanced cancer that our health centers could have detected early through screening, and we’re appalled that a fringe element of Congress would continue to put its narrow political agenda ahead of women’s health and safety.

“Thankfully, the Senate has made clear this extreme proposal is unacceptable and rejected it.”

Schwartz on IPAB

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement announcing her support for the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act (H.R. 452). The legislation would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), created as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to assume responsibility for reducing the rate of growth in Medicare without Congressional approval.

Under previous law, changes to Medicare reimbursement rates were recommended by MedPAC but required an act of Congress to take effect.

“Congress is a representative body and must assume responsibility for legislating sound health care policy for Medicare beneficiaries, including those policies related to payment systems. Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or an unelected commission, would undermine our ability to represent the needs of the seniors and disabled in our communities.

“As we work to rein in spending in the Medicare program, the promise of Medicare coverage to our seniors must not be broken.

“I cannot condone the implementation of a flawed policy that will risk beneficiary access to care. We can and will address the unsustainable rate of growth in health care spending. Repeal of IPAB will allow us to focus our efforts on the promotion of thoughtful innovations that will achieve cost savings by incentivizing efficient, high quality care for all Americans.

“Since Medicare’s inception, Congressional oversight of the program has ensured transparency and an open dialogue with our constituents that allow us to assess the needs and address the concerns of beneficiaries. We cannot impose a financial burden on patients and providers to conceal inherent flaws in our health care system through arbitrary cuts.

“Furthermore, last month the Congressional Budget Office projected that, under current law, the IPAB mechanism will not affect Medicare spending during the 2011-2021 period, thereby negating its purported value as a cost saver.

“I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Prez O on HR 1473

Statement by the President on H.R. 1473

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1473, the "Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011".

Section 1112 of the Act bars the use of funds for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States, and section 1113 bars the use of funds for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met. Section 1112 represents the continuation of a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests. The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us. Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.

With respect to section 1113 of the Act, the restrictions on the transfer of detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries interfere with the authority of the executive branch to make important and consequential foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances such transfers should occur in the context of an ongoing armed conflict. We must have the ability to act swiftly and to have broad flexibility in conducting our negotiations with foreign countries. The executive branch has sought and obtained from countries that are prospective recipients of Guantanamo detainees assurances that they will take or have taken measures reasonably designed to be effective in preventing, or ensuring against, returned detainees taking action to threaten the United States or engage in terrorist activities. Consistent with existing statutes, the executive branch has kept the Congress informed about these assurances and notified the Congress prior to transfers. Requiring the executive branch to certify to additional conditions would hinder the conduct of delicate negotiations with foreign countries and therefore the effort to conclude detainee transfers in accord with our national security.

Despite my continued strong objection to these provisions, I have signed this Act because of the importance of avoiding a lapse in appropriations for the Federal Government, including our military activities, for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

Nevertheless, my Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.

Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President. The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority. The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.

Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.

Busy Week

Trying to write a blog while maintaining a day job and keeping up with house, husband, and kids, has given me a renewed appreciation for candidates and officials whose schedules are even more demanding.

This was a busy week. Saturday night there was a community thing. Monday evening there was a kid thing. Tuesday evening there was a kid thing. Wednesday there was a kid thing. This evening I went to a community thing. All events were fruitful and I had a chance to catch up with some old friends and acquaintances. But now I'm tired. Posting should pick up next week.

Nutter on Obama's Budget

This is from a press release on a call with mayors in support of President Obama's message. Statement from Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia:

"President Obama has proposed a pathway to a more sustainable Federal budget founded upon a principle that has made our nation great. In hard times or periods of plenty, Americans have always pulled together, sharing the pain and the promise with fairness toward all. The President’s approach calls upon each of us to share the responsibility of reducing our common debt without placing an undue burden on those Americans who can least afford the cost. The time for partisanship is past. We must invest in the future, grow our middle class, educate our young and meet the competition of a global market place. The President’s balanced approach is the road map to that brighter future."

SEPTA's Sports Express This Weekend

SEPTA has extra service ready for fans heading to the Sports Complex for a big weekend, highlighted by Flyers playoff action and a three-game set pitting the Phillies against a division rival.

“Sports Express” trains will supplement regularly scheduled service on the Broad Street Line for the Phillies-Marlins series and Saturday’s Flyers-Sabres playoff game. SEPTA looks forward to welcoming regular game-day riders, as well as new customers looking to avoid hassles on the roadways around the Sports Complex.

These kind of event-filled weekends always bring major traffic jams to South Philadelphia. For the foreseeable future, however, motorists should expect added complications due to I-95 construction near the Sports Complex. Fans are urged to give their cars a rest, let SEPTA do the driving, and take advantage of the following services:

• Friday: Sports Express trains will supplement regular Broad Street Line service, with trips every 10 minutes starting at 6:08 p.m. for Phillies-Marlins game at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies 7:05 p.m. start-time coincides with kick-off for the Soul game next door at the Wells Fargo Center, so football fans can also take advantage of SEPTA’s extra service.

• Saturday: Sports Express trains begin running on the subway at 3:55 p.m. for the 5 p.m. Flyers-Sabres playoff game. Extra service kicks in again at 5:55 p.m. for the 7:05 p.m. Phillies-Marlins game.

• Sunday: The busy weekend closes with the 1:35 p.m. Phillies-Marlins game. Sports Express service starts at 12:18 p.m.

The Broad Street Line provides quick, convenient travel for fans attending events at the Sports Complex in South Philadelphia, which is served by the AT&T Station. Other SEPTA services, including the Market-Frankford Line, Regional Rail and bus and trolley routes, offer connecting service to the Broad Street Line. This gives fans a number of easy travel options to-and-from games, concerts and other events.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PA Dems on Voucher Bill

from yesterday's inbox:

Today, Republicans are continuing to push a school voucher bill that will spend hundreds of millions on unaccountable schools with a record of mixed results despite widespread unpopularity for the proposal in Pennsylvania.

"At the same time that they're driving up school property taxes and hiking college tuition, Republicans are pushing an irresponsible piece of legislation that gives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. "It's no surprise that Pennsylvanians oppose the Republicans' plan by a wide margin. Republicans should listen to the people of Pennsylvania instead of trying to pass a budget busting bill that will benefit their special interest donors."

Poll: Most Pennsylvanians oppose school vouchers (Tribune Review) Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose creating a voucher system that would use tax dollars to pay private-school tuition, according to a public opinion poll released yesterday.

PA School is Race to the Top Finalist

The list of finalists for the Race to the Top program have been announced. The only Pennsylvania school on the list is:

Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, School for Creative and Performing Arts (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Knights of the Cheesesteak

HBO is launching its new series, "The Game of Thrones" this weekend. It is based on a series of books by George R. R. Martin. Like many science fiction authors Martin has a dedicated following. His strongest fans are part of an informal group called "Brotherhood Without Banner," which started in Philadelphia about ten years ago. He was asked to knight some of his fans and before doing so he gave them a quest, in this case to find Philly cheesesteaks. Those who returned with the prize were made Knights of the Cheesesteak. This started a tradition where Martin sends fans at conventions on a quest for local foods.

Who knew?

(For more information see Laura Miller's Just Write It! in the April 11th issue of the New Yorker.)

Kendall Brown Runs for Delco DA

from the inbox:

On Tuesday, M. Kendall Brown submitted her petition as a candidate for District Attorney of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Democrat Kendall Brown is an experienced litigator and advocate for victims of crime. She is a graduate of the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law and a former small business owner. Brown vows to be a check on the current one-party power system and an advocate for victims of crime.

As a litigator for several years at two major national law firms, Brown handled sophisticated commercial litigation and white-collar crime cases. Before practicing law, she advocated for the victims of child sexual exploitation as the Policy and Communications director of a non-profit law firm that lobbied on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for victims of sexual exploitation and also worked to help municipalities across the country enact laws to protect their citizenry from predators. In that role, Brown gained insight into the extraordinary responsibility prosecutors have to protect the public from crime. “Not only is it important to prosecute criminals; it is also imperative that a prosecutor work with legislators in their efforts to enact laws that protect the public,” Brown explained. “This can only be effective when there is direct communication between the District Attorneys Office, law enforcement and the legislature.” At the same time she was advocating for victims’ rights, she also created an organization that provided low-income single mothers with access to a crucial resources, including housing, legal assistance, medical attention, education and psychological counseling.

"Kendall Brown is a tough, smart, no nonsense lady and is exactly the kind of independent advocate the people of Delaware County need" said Upper Darby Democratic Chairman and former prosecutor Ed Bradley. "She will be a fearless prosecutor and is ready now to tackle street level crime and to root out corruption and fraud. I wholeheartedly endorse Kendall Brown and look forward to helping her put an end to one party rule in the Delaware County Court House."

Ms. Brown also started, owned and operated a small business, which she took from scratch to becoming one of area’s premier event design and planning firms. From that experience she gained a keen understanding of the myriad of challenges facing business owners, including the destructive implications businesses face when they fall victim to crime. “My experience as a small business owner adds significantly to my ability to be an effective District Attorney. It has given me insight into the crucial issues facing small businesses, particularly in these tough economic times. These implications go far beyond the individual businesses; they have a deep effect on the community as a whole – especially in Delaware County, which prides itself on being a healthy environment for small businesses,” Brown states.

Ms. Brown brings a unique blend of real-life community and legal experience to the race for the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office. Her extraordinary commitment to community, her advocacy skills, understanding of the special needs of small businesses, and experience for the benefit of crime victims make her uniquely suited to serve as District Attorney of Delaware County.

Ms. Brown graduated with highest honors from George Mason University. She earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was an editor of the Law Review and a Dillard Fellow. Since moving to Delaware County in 2001, Brown has been active in our community by serving as Vice-Chair of the Democratic Committee of Nether Providence, and organizing numerous charitable events, including the Race for the First Responders in Nether Providence Township as well as other events benefiting the American Heart Association, MANNA and the Ronald McDonald House.

Montco Dems Respond to Sheriff Appointment

from the inbox:

Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen today charged Gov. Tom Corbett “with interfering in the political process in Montgomery County” and said Corbett’s nomination of Eileen Behr to fill the vacancy in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office was “disappointing.”

Behr is the former chief of police in Whitemarsh Township, and is the endorsed Republican candidate for sheriff in this year’s election cycle. Robert Durante, a veteran of the sheriff’s department, is also seeking the GOP nomination. The endorsed Democratic candidate is William A. Holt Jr., who has 42 years of service with the Abington Township police department. The position of sheriff has been vacant since Sheriff John Durante died in February, 2010. Corbett’s nomination of Behr needs Pennsylvania Senate confirmation.

“Sheriff Durante sadly passed away more than a year ago,” Groen said, “and, by all accounts, the sheriff’s office has been managed competently by the first deputy. Now, as the primary election approaches, Gov. Corbett inserts himself not just into the general election, but the Republican primary as well.

“This is simply not the way these types of things are routinely handled, and it shows a lack of respect for the process and for the voters of Montgomery County,” Groen said. Groen also pointed to the fact that news releases from the Governor’s office and the Montgomery County Republican Committee were received by reporters nearly simultaneously as further evidence of the political nature of the move.

Holt said he also was disappointed in the Governor’s action. “I had great respect for Sheriff Durante, and from what I knew of him, I doubt that he would have enjoyed seeing his office being used in a political gambit,” Holt said.

Holt said he looked forward to matching his qualifications against whoever emerges as the GOP nominee, and letting “the voters of Montgomery County decide on their sheriff without the help of the Governor.”

Holt, retired from the Abington Police Department after 42 years of service. He has over 20 years of administrative law enforcement experience. He has extensive knowledge of hostage negotiation, crime and death scene investigation, incident command, and is certified to teach in the Municipal Police Officer Training Commission (MPOTC). Holt is the recipient of several awards and recognitions including induction into the Abington Senior. High School Hall of Fame and the Police Officers International Hall of Fame. Will's extensive police experience has been recognized with Police Officer of the Year awards from the Region 13 Pennsylvania State Detectives Association and the Lower Optimist Club of Montgomery County. He is a graduate of Abington Senior High and a Vietnam veteran.