Sunday, December 22, 2013

Youngman's Politico Article

This year journalist Sam Youngman left Reuters and returned to his native Kentucky to write for Lexington's Herald-Leader.  Youngman was an occasional panelist on Washington Week in Review, and prior to Reuters he wrote for Washington D.C. based The Hill.  

On Wednesday Youngman published an article on Politico, "Take this job and shove it," which has caused a stir among the journalistic set.  He paints a rather dim picture of the Washington press corp and his involvement with it.  In the article he recounts his job history but does not mention his early experience as a political reporter at PoliticsPA in 2004.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Non-Profit Football League

While reading some other postings on Daily Kos today I ran across a posting on the NFL.  This isn't an organization I've thought much about but the NFL is a non-profit organization.  This just seems unbelievable to me.

Read more about this in "How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers," by Gregg Easterbrook (8/13/2013) on The Atlantic's site.

Apparently I'm not the only one, as noted in "Senator, activists attack NFL's tax exemption," by Fredreka Schouten in USAToday (12/18/2013):

 Liberal activists and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, have found a common cause: Trying to strip the National Football League and several other professional sports organizations of their exemptions from paying federal taxes. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I don't read national blogs often  but I've found an interesting series of posts on Daily Kos; they tend to be weekly, and list accident shootings across the country.  There's always at least one from Pennsylvania.  In the latest list there are three.

To follow the posts, look for the GunFail subject listing:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Epi-Pen Legislation

A note from our friends at the Education Policy and Leadership Center:

House Bill 803 (Rep. Richard Stevenson, R-8) would establish a new section in the Public School Code to permit a school entity to authorize a trained school employee to administer anepinephrine auto-injector to any student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction, and to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors prescribed by a physician in the name of the school entity. The bill provides for storage of the injectors, designation and training of responsible individuals, and notification of parents. HB 803 was unanimously approved on December 10.

State Rep. Roebuck gets LOOP-y

from the inbox:

 State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., is urging longtime homeowners in Philadelphia to look into a city tax-savings program before the Feb. 17 deadline."The city is now implementing the Longtime Owner Occupants Program, also known as LOOP. If you've owned your home for at least 10 years, you may be eligible for savings on your property taxes over the next decade," Roebuck said.  There is an income limit based on household size. That information and additional eligibility requirements are available  

Jared Solomon Campaign Announcement Video

Jared Solomon officially kicked off his campaign on Sunday, December 8th.  A video of his remarks is now available on his campaign website:  Solomon is running for the 202nd state house seat.  The newly drawn 202nd district represents Castor Gardens, Oxford Circle, Wissinoming, Burholme, Lawncrest, Lawndale, and Summerdale.

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Yorker Article on Merck

In the December 9, 2013 issue of the New Yorker there is an article entitled "The Big Sleep," by Ian Parker.  It is on Merck's research and development of a new sleep aid; the working name for it is suvorexant.  Merck's work to get the drug through the FDA is the focus of the article, along with a brief history of prescription sleep aids, such as Ambien.

I noted three interesting geographic mentions in the article:

For months, in rooms across Merck's archipelago of mismatched buildings north of Philadelphia, [David] Michelson had taken part in role-playing rehearsals for the F.D.A. meeting.

One reason this was such a priority:

The company was impatient.  A factory in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, was ready to start production.

 As for the active ingredient, the aforementioned suvorexant, "Merck synthesizes it in Ireland, and ships it across the Atlantic in hundred-and-twenty-litre drums."

Given the large number of community colleges and universities in this area I don't quite understand why this area cannot provide the trained workforce this work would require.  Wouldn't it be easier to have everything, executives and scientists, and manufacturing in one general area?  While this medication, if approved, would be shipped all over the world, moved the main ingredient from Ireland to Puerto Rico sounds expensive and risky.  If it were all in one place there would be less opportunity for loss or damage.

There might be room for one or more manufacturing plants in several locations around the Philadelphia area.  It's too bad it can't all be done here.

[Blogger's note:  Big Bang Theory fans take note -- a retired medical professor named Dr. Daniel Kripke.]

City May Have Record Low Homicides

Good news from today's Inquirer ("Philly on track for fewest homicides since 1967," by Mike Newall, Dylan Purcell and Craig R. McCoy, 12/15/2013):

With an extraordinary decline in homicide already posted so far this year, the city appears poised to end 2013 with about 250 slayings, the fewest since 1967.
Barring a burst of violence in the last days of the year, the final tally should see 80 fewer deaths compared with 2012 - an unprecedented 24 percent fall.

Philly isn't the only city with such good news.  Note this from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook on Sunday:
Yale criminologist Andrew Papachristos publishes a review of historic Chicago crime trends, with good news for Mayor Emanuel. Chicago is on track to have the lowest violent crime rate since 1972, and lowest homicide rate since 1967. And Chicago rates 19th in violent crime rates among large cities as of 2012, at similar levels to Houston and Minneapolis. See the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies' "48 Years of Crime in Chicago": 3-page executive summary ... 20-page paper

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rasmussen Poll Call on Saturday

Saturday afternoon we were called for a Rasmussen phone survey.  It was one of those annoying automated surveys; no actually person to person contact.  The recorded voice reads a question and offers options for answers (example:  Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no, press 3 for no opinion).

Here are my notes from the call; apologies in advance for any errors:

Is the country headed in the right direction:

How would you rate President Barack Obama?


Age range



How often do you vote?

Identify as Democrat or Republican

Would you vote for a Republican or Democrat for Congress?

What is your top priority:  national security, economic, domestic (social security), cultural (abortion, gay rights), fiscal issues?

How would you rate President Barack Obama on health care, on social security

Have you followed the NSA / Edward Snowden story?

Do you view him as a heroic whistleblower, a traitor, something in between, or is it too early to tell?

Regardless of how you view Edward Snowden, do you think is it good or bad that we know more about how the NSA operates?

Are the continuing NSA disclosures hurting the US?

To stop these disclosures should we stop prosecuting Snowden in exchange for getting all the information back?

Are you a conservative, moderate, or liberal?

Have you followed the health care story closely?

Should the government require all Americans to buy health care?

Do you know if your state has set up an exchange or if it is using the federal exchange?

Have you set up health care through the exchanges?

Question on income range

Do you work for a government agency or a private company [blogger's note:  there were other options here but I didn't catch them]

Are you part of the Tea Party?

Whose judgment do you trust more the American people or American political leaders?

Has the federal government become a special interest group that looks out for itself?

Do government and business work together in a way that hurts consumers?

Results of the survey will be available at:

Patrick Murphy "Taking the Hill" on MSNBC Sunday

recently noted:

MSNBC contributor Patrick Murphy returns as host of a one-hour conversation about veterans issues live from 30 Rockefeller Center on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. ET. Murphy, a former Congressman (D-PA) and Iraq War veteran, continues to examine issues affecting the veteran community as they navigate their postwar lives. MSNBC will also premiere “Wounded: The Battle Back Home” – the second hour of its “Taking the Hill” documentary series produced by Flow Nonfiction in conjunction with Wounded Warrior Project to commemorate the organization’s 10th anniversary. This new installment introduces Angie Peacock - an Iraq War Veteran who returned from combat suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Wounded: The Battle Back Home” shares Angie’s story of determination as she fights toward recovery.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Philadelphia NOW Officers

from the inbox:

The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW), a key feminist advocacy group in the region has elected its new slate of Officers for the 2014-2016 term. Nina Ahmad, Ph.D., co-owner and Executive Vice President of Government Affairs of JNA Capital, Inc. has been elected as the President of the Chapter. Dr. Ahmad brings a wealth of experience in engaging diverse audiences through community outreach as the Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs of Philadelphia and is involved with a host of other organizations including serving on the Board of Women’s Campaign International, which focuses on women’s equality through building skills that help women become effective agents of change. Dr. Ahmad stated, “As a mother of two daughters I am alarmed at the current regression of women’s rights in our country; hard-fought rights earned with blood, sweat and tears. Our future generations should not have to fight these same battles.” She further stated, “I envision our Chapter being engaged in ensuring the promise of equal opportunity for all women by leveraging our collective assets. To that end, I am committed that our chapter membership will be multigenerational and diverse, and from all walks of life.”
In addition to Dr. Ahmad, the following slate of Officers was voted in for the 2014-2016 term:
Executive Vice President: Natalie Catin, Principal for Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School is a fierce advocate for enhancing educational opportunities for all children and furthering the feminist agenda.
Vice President for Finance: Kathy Black, Health and Safety Director for AFSCME DC47 is also the Philadelphia Chapter President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, will continue to fight for women’s rights.
Vice President for Membership: Sharon Hurley, computer specialist with extensive administrative experience is focused on engaging our membership in feminist issue areas and on creating strong member network.
Secretary: Melody Lam, recent graduate of Temple University with a Bachelors of Science in Biology, is eager to leverage her organizational skills and experience in civic engagement/minority empowerment.
Treasurer: Louise Francis, the Consulting Principal and founder of Francis Analytics and Actuarial Data Mining, Inc. is a long time member of the Chapter, who has been engaged in advocating for feminist issues.
Delegate to the State Board: Karen Bojar, Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Philadelphia, is a longtime feminist activist, past President (2001-2009) of Phila-NOW and looks to strengthen the relationship between Philadelphia NOW and Pennsylvania NOW.
Delegate to the State Board: Sharon Hurley (see above) will liaise with Pennsylvania NOW.
Delegate to the State Board: Sharon Williams Losier, practicing attorney and owner of Losier & Associates, is a civil rights activist engaged in furthering the feminist agenda and will liaise with Pennsylvania NOW .

Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

The Pennsylvania State House has a Women's Health Caucus, and today that caucus announced a series of bills which form the Pennsylvania Agenda for Womens' Health.  The list of legislation is available on Rep. Dan Frankel's website (and pasted below).  Only one of the bills (HB 1796) is available on the state's legislation website so I can't read the actual bills and comment on them.

I also can't find a list of legislators on the caucus, other than piecemeal notes about individual members (the state site lists standing committees but not caucuses).

However, there was a flurry of press releases about the agenda.  You will find excerpts from some of them below.

Summary of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health (from Rep. Frankel's site):

  • Workplace accommodations for pregnant women: H.B. 1892, sponsored by Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1209, sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny. This legislation would require a covered employer to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the employer's operations.
  • Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers: H.B. 1895, sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space for employees who need to express breast milk. It would fix two main loopholes in federal law. It would apply to all employees, including those that are exempt from federal overtime provisions. Secondly, it would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space for mothers to express milk beyond one year after birth. The legislation mirrors the federal provision that exempts small employers from these requirements if they would present an undue hardship to the employer.
  • Ensuring access to health care facilities: H.B. 1891, sponsored by Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1208, sponsored by Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Phila. This legislation would create 15-foot buffer zones around health care facilities where picketing, patrolling or demonstrating that blocks patients' access to the facilities would be banned. Some cities such as Pittsburgh and some states such as Colorado and Massachusetts have passed such laws already.
  • Pay equity legislation: H.B. 1890, sponsored by Reps. Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny, and Brian Sims, D-Phila.; and S.B. 1212, sponsored by Sens. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, and Anthony Williams, D-Phila. This legislation would clarify and update the legal standards for pay-equity lawsuits.
  • Increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings: H.B. 1900, sponsored by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would allow women between ages of 30 and 65 to qualify for the state Healthy Woman Program if they meet all other applicable requirements.
  • Equitable protections for domestic violence victims: H.B. 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would ban municipal ordinances that penalize crime victims for calling for help.
  • Stop intimate partner harassment (ban "revenge by invasion of privacy"): sponsored by Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks; and S.B. 1167, sponsored by Schwank. This legislation would ban publishing any photo or video identifying another person, who is naked or engaging in a sexual act, without that person’s consent.

This comment is from State Rep. Mark Painter:

State Rep. Mark Painter has introduced legislation that would establish the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
 Under Painter's bill, it would be unlawful for a covered employer to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.
 Painter said this year marks the 35th anniversary of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or similar related medical conditions.
 "Today, unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. In the majority of cases, the accommodations women need are minor, such as permission to sit periodically, the ability to carry a water bottle, or help lifting heavy objects. Those women who continue working without having these medically advised accommodations risk their health and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications," said Painter, D-Montgomery.
 "Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority, and wages. These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences."

From our friends at the Womens Law Project:

 The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, commend the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as it unveils the first phase of a comprehensive Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, the Caucus is taking a proactive, positive approach to helping women by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality. 

Each component of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health arises out of the struggles of real women in Pennsylvania. The first phase of the agenda includes legislation protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring that women’s health centers are safe and accessible, strengthening the equal pay law and prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement. 
“Although we’ve made progress over the years, it’s a well-documented fact that women’s health and well-being are still not a priority in Pennsylvania,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “This legislation will address real problems that real women have every day, solutions as simple as enabling a pregnant woman to carry a water bottle during her shift and ensuring that women earn the same amount as a man doing the same job. This legislation is the beginning of a full-scale effort by the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus focused on leveling that playing field for good.”
“This new legislative focus on real women’s real health needs is long overdue,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office. 
“For far too long, the Pennsylvania legislature has obsessively focused on restricting women’s access to reproductive health care. That is not what women want or need. We want sensible laws that improve the lives of women, not more roadblocks to women’s health.”  

from our friends at the Family Planning Council:

 Family Planning Council released the following statement of support in response to the announcement of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health earlier today by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania State Legislature. 
 “We applaud the Women’s Health Caucus for tackling these important issues and proactively pursuing positive legislation to advance women’s health in Pennsylvania.  As a public health organization committed to providing a safety-net for women, it is refreshing to see this whole body approach to women’s health.  Pennsylvania families are stronger and more stable when women are healthy and adequately protected by Pennsylvania laws, and this package is a major step in the right direction.
We understand and have seen the far-reaching implications of not having these protections in place already - ranging from lower wages to lack of access to adequate accommodations for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  As Pennsylvania’s HealthyWoman Program (HWP) provider in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we also know how critical early detection is to surviving breast or cervical cancer and we fully support increased eligibility for these programs.
After the recent onslaught of attacks on women’s health, Family Planning Council is proud to support a proactive agenda that actually protects women and aims to improve the health and well-being of women and families in Pennsylvania.”      

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gun Death News

Mark Follmon has posted an article on the Mother Jones website.  In "At least 194 children have been shot to death since Newtown," he outlines how and where these children died.  For example, most were shot in their own homes and more were homicides than accidents.  When parental carelessness led to an accidental shooting death they were very seldom prosecuted.  Here is one excerpt:

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, research has shown that when doctors consult with their patients about the risk of keeping firearms in a home, it leads to "significantly higher rates" of handgun removal or safe storage practices. Here, too, the NRA has done battle: It backed the so-called "Docs vs. Glocks" law passed in Florida in 2011, which forbid doctors from asking patients about firearms.
That law may have come with a price: Among the 194 child gun deaths we analyzed, 17 took place in Florida. Seven were accidents, including three involving unsecured weapons in homes. "The children were covered in blood," a shaken witness told a reporter after toddlers in a Lake City home played with a gun and fatally shot an 11-year-old boy in the neck.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teahouse Films Aims for May Premiere at the Kimmel Center

A group of Villanova students have created a film company, Teahouse Films.  Their first feature, about a village in India and its struggles, is slated to premiere at the Kimmel Center in May.   A short clip is available on their website:  I wish the students all the best with their documentary.

Race for New 74th State House District

The newly formed 74th state house seat (formerly in Clearfield County, now in Chester County, encompassing Downingtown and Coatesville).  There are three interested candidates for the position (see "New state representative district added," by Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News 12/08/13).

Josh Maxwell, mayor of Downington, is one of those three, and formally announced his candidacy today.  Campaign website:  Here is part of his official announcement:

Elected as Downingtown's Mayor in 2009 and re-elected in 2013 with 68% of the vote, Democratic Mayor Josh Maxwell today announced his attention to run for the 74th State House District.
 “I am running for State Representative because we need to grow our economy, fight for our schools, and ensure everyone gets a fair shake,” Josh Maxwell said. 
"After growing up in a twin on Jefferson Avenue with my brother and two sisters, I understand what it means to have to work hard to make ends meet. A top-tier education system and sustainable economic growth can make a difference for our families. In order to meet these challenges and secure a brighter future for our community we need strong leadership that can bring results. That leadership is lacking in Harrisburg, which is why I proudly announce that I will be running for State Representative." 
Democratic Mayor Josh Maxwell was named the Best Young Politician in the area by Philadelphia Magazine in 2011. Re-elected in 2013 by nearly 40 points, Democrat Josh Maxwell has repeatedly touted the importance of our education system in the community. "Creating more opportunities for working families and businesses starts with two things: a strong, properly funded School District and an environment conducive to strong economic growth that allows businesses to open, hire and grow." 
Mayor Maxwell restarted the Downingtown Main Street Association, which has helped grow our economy by facilitating partnerships between residents, businesses, and elected leaders. He served as President of that organization, and currently serves on the Board of the Downingtown Community Education Foundation.

PHAN Response to Gov. Corbett's Health Care Proposal

from the inbox:

 Today the Corbett Administration held a press conference on Healthy PA.Antoinette Kraus, Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network issued the following statement in response:
“Every state surrounding Pennsylvania has accepted Medicaid dollars to expand health coverage to working adults. Meanwhile, in the 11th hour, Pennsylvania has put forward a complicated waiver proposal that could take up to a year to implement.Delaying another year means forfeiting much needed revenue to our state and forcing low-income Pennsylvanians to gamble with their health.
By expanding Medicaid on January 1st 2014, Pennsylvania would allow hundreds of thousands of workers to finally have access to quality, affordable health insurance. It would also save taxpayers $522  million in 2014 and keep us on track to create 35,000 new, good-paying jobs.
The job-search requirement aims to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and creates an unnecessary administrative burden and cost to the state. Census data tells us the overwhelming majority of those who would qualify for expanded coverage are already working.
Hundreds of thousands of low-income workers, parents, and veterans will be left without health coverage on January 1st. Our economy needs the much-needed boost that creating new jobs and revenue would bring to our state. Pennsylvania needs these Medicaid dollars now more than ever. There is no more time for delay.”

Sandy Hook Memorial Events in PA

from our friends at Cease Fire PA, a list of Sandy Hook memorial events in Pennsylvania:

Audit of County Pension Plans

modified press release:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today announced the release of $320 million in funds for municipal pension plans and volunteer fire relief associations in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

The total dollar amount in municipal pension funds for 2013 is $248 million being distributed to 2,542 local government pension plans. An additional $72 million is being released for nearly 1,950 Volunteer Fire Relief Associations (VFRA) to purchase equipment, training, insurance and pay death benefits.
Under state law, the Department of Auditor General distributes the funds to municipalities to help defray the cost of various police, fire and municipal pension plans. Funding is allocated through the municipalities to volunteer fire relief associations.
State pension aid for police, paid firefighters and non-uniformed municipal employee pensions is provided from a two-percent tax on out-of-state casualty insurance premiums; a portion of the out-of-state fire insurance tax is designated for paid firefighters.
On an annual basis, municipalities provide the Pennsylvania Employee Retirement Commission with the number of employees, payroll and the actuarial costs of their pension plans. Municipalities also certify this information with the auditor general’s office. The data is used by the auditor general to compute the amount of state aid that is due to the municipal pension fund.
In addition to distributing state aid, the auditor general’s office audits nearly 1,950 volunteer fire relief associations and 2,542 local government pension plans, which include 963 police officer plans, 81 firefighter plans, and 1,598 non-uniformed municipal employee pension plans. A report detailing the amount of state pension aid distributed to each municipality and funding for VFRAs is online at

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Jared Solomon Launches Campaign

Jared Solomon officially launched his campaign for the 202nd state house district today.  The 202nd includes Castor Gardens, Oxford Circle, Wissinoming, Burholme, Lawncrest, Lawndale, and Summerdale.

The campaign bio that accompanied the press release is:

Jared Solomon is a lifelong resident of Northeast Philadelphia who is firmly dedicated to serving his community and his country. An Army JAG Reserve Officer, community leader, and good government advocate, Jared has the courage and integrity to fight for the Northeast in the halls of Harrisburg. Jared has a strong history of representing the people of Lower Northeast on the front lines—and getting results. Concerned about his neighborhood, Jared launched a community group, Take Back Your Neighborhood (TBYN), out of his mother’s kitchen five years ago. Today, more than 500 members strong, TBYN is a thriving organization responsible for everything from block clean-ups, to youth programs, to reducing crime in collaboration with local police.
 Raised in Castor Gardens, Jared always remembered the neighborhood that brought him up.  Jared has remained committed to “bringing out the best” of the Northeast, starting with investing in its youth through local schools, recreation centers, and libraries.  Jared has helped spur investment on major commercial corridors—organizing cleanups and securing investments in infrastructure improvements and adding trash and recycling receptacles.  In short, while other politicians talk—Jared does. 
A graduate of Swarthmore College and Villanova Law School, Jared worked as a top strategist for Congressman Joe Sestak, after years of public service for Controller Alan Butkovitz and the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus. Jared is a skilled attorney with experience in education law, securities and antitrust, election reform, and human rights.  Jared is running for the 202nd Legislative seat to bring real leadership to the Lower Northeast and to Harrisburg. 

CeaseFirePA Event on Saturday

from Saturday's inbox:

Today, CeaseFirePA joined Bucks Against Gun Violence, Bucks Safe, Buxmont Coalition for Peace Action, Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy, Heeding God's Call, Lower Merion United, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Villanova University Center for Peace and Justice Education in a moving program to remember and honor the victims of Sandy Hook, and all the gun violence victims and survivors before and since that tragedy.  Mixed in with the solemn memorial was a stirring call for Pennsylvania to take action to make our communities safer.
Many speakers noted that we have become too skilled at observing the anniversaries of gun violence tragedies. As Lori Haas, mother of a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting, noted, "Every day is a tragedy for some family whose loved one has fallen victim to gun violence.  Real action is what we need to prevent these mass tragedies and reduce the incidences of every day gun violence.  All families deserve to live free from gun violence."
 Former Governor Ed Rendell urged the crowd to use the power of citizen action to make Pennsylvania a leader in the gun violence prevention movement.  "You have the power," he explained, "the elected officials in Harrisburg must listen to the commonsense of the voters who put them there."
 The call to action focused on growing support for House Bill 1010, which would expand background checks to cover the private sale of long guns and would essentially mean that all gun sales in Pennsylvania would be subject to a background check.  The goal is to gain more cosponsors and move this bill from the Judiciary Committee to a full vote in the House, and then onto the Senate.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Margolies in Politico

Marjorie Margolies, one of the Democrats running for the 13th congressional district, is profiled in Politico magazine.  Read "The Clinton-in-Law," by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood, 12/04/2013.

Paul Simon on Nelson Mandela

not sure how I got on this email list, but here is Paul Simon's statement on the death of Nelson Mandela:

"Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the twentieth century.  He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should reignite a worldwide effort for peace."

Tom Wolf Donate In Lieu of Reception

from the inbox, a note from Tom Wolf

My candidacy is grounded in the idea that I am a different kind of leader -- a non-traditional candidate -- a businessman who has never run for public office.

I built my successful business on doing things differently. The organizations that I have been involved with have survived and grown in the toughest of times because we overcame challenges by working together to better our community.
It is in this spirit of community and in the spirit of the holiday season that my wife Frances and I will be breaking with the contemporary campaign tradition of hosting a reception during the Pennsylvania Society weekend in New York City. 
Food should never have to be a question, but just before Thanksgiving, more than $5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program went into effect, hurting more than 47.7 million Americans who are already struggling to put food on the family dinner table. 
In Pennsylvania alone, these cuts to food stamps affect more than 1.8 million of our neighbors and friends. For a family of four, these cuts mean 20 fewer meals per month -- and as a result, charitable food banks are struggling to meet a sudden surge of demand. 
So instead of doing what is expected of a campaign and spending upwards of $15,000 in New York City, we have decided to contribute our time and money to Pennsylvania food banks so that others who are not quite as fortunate as many of us may enjoy a brighter holiday. 
It is our hope that by taking this different approach, that all Pennsylvania families will be united in the bonds of friendship.
If you'd like to join us in this effort by donating your time or money to a food bank in your area, please visit
With warmest regards for a joyous and peaceful holiday season,
Tom Wolf

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Update on Philadelphia Land Bank

from the inbox:

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7thDistrict), and the Philly Land Bank Alliance on Wednesday announced they were ready to move forward on Bill No. 130156 authorizing creation of a land bank. Final passage of the bill is expected before the holiday break.
 “Philadelphia is making history. Today, we get a step closer to creating a new tool to repurpose vacant, tax-delinquent properties and grow the city's tax base,” said Councilwoman Sánchez, the bill’s prime sponsor. 
“I would like to thank my partners in City Council, the Nutter Administration, the Philly Land Bank Alliance and members of the community for being part of this collaborative process. It was frustrating at times for some, but I feel strongly that building the foundation for an efficient, well-resourced land bank – as opposed to just a signed bill – should always have been the goal,” said Council President Clarke, a sponsor of the legislation. 
Philadelphia’s land bank would have the authority to acquire vacant, tax-delinquent properties through sheriff’s sale and begin the process of consolidating title of and making available for sale the 9,082 vacant properties currently owned by the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s land bank would be the largest municipal land bank in the nation. 
Council President Clarke continued: “The opportunity to consolidate land under single ownership will certainly provide a better customer service experience for applicants. We must now continue the conversation about developing policies to incentivize the development of vacant land for the purposes of generating jobs, growing businesses, producing more revenue for our schools, and creating safe and enjoyable spaces for the public.” 
“We’re very pleased the bill sponsors on City Council and Alliance representatives have reached agreement that will allow the land bank ordinance to be passed by the end of the year,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. 
“This legislation as amended strikes the appropriate balance between transparency, fairness, efficiency and accountability in the process of getting publicly owned vacant land under one title and available to the private market,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of Philadelphia LISC. 
The Philly Land Bank Alliance includes the following non-profit and for-profit stakeholders: the Building Industry Association; City Wide NAC Alliance; Community Design Collaborative; Design Advocacy Group; Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors; Philadelphia LISC; Next Great City/PennFuture; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Regional Housing Legal Services; and Sustainable Business Network.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Prez O's Executive Action on Gun Violence

Joe Biden noted a new post on the White House blog, listing 23 executive actions the President has taken to reduce gun violence.  You can read more about the White House plan to reduce gun violence at:

State Rep McCarter on Endangered Species Bill

from the inbox:

 Citing legislation on both the state and now the federal level, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery/Phila., denounced the industry-driven effort to end legal protection of endangered species and the designation of wild trout streams.
“These bills were troubling enough when we saw them at the state level, but now we’re seeing similar legislation introduced at the federal level,” McCarter said. “It’s clearly an all-out assault on the environment and endangered species perpetrated by big industry that doesn’t want to deal with legal protections of wildlife hampering their profits.” 
In Pennsylvania, H.B. 1576 and S.B. 1047, dubbed the Endangered Species Coordination Act, would aim to make it more difficult to designate an endangered species and protect wild trout streams by giving the final decision-making process to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the legislature.  
IRRC is made up of bureaucrats, not biologists,” McCarter said. “Removing scientists and adding bureaucrats causes one to become suspicious about the actual intent of these bills.”
At the federal level, a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, S.B. 1731, which would end protection for most species that are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bill's most extreme measure would require every species to be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species every five years until Congress passes a joint resolution renewing their protections for another five years. The process would then repeat. The species would have no legal protections between the expiration of their classification and the passing of the congressional joint resolution. 
“The strength of both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Pennsylvania Endangered Species Act — in fact all of our nation’s environmental laws — comes from the requirement that science, not politics, guide the protection of our wildlife, air and water,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These bills would allow extreme ideologues in Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature to veto environmental protections for any protected species they wanted, just so they could appease their special-interest benefactors.”

“The legislators who have introduced these bills are not giving proper thought to the long-term consequences of their actions,” McCarter said. “Many of the animals on our endangered species list serve a vital purpose in their individual ecosystems that will be undoubtedly altered in a negative way – with no way of turning back the damage that has been done. These are very serious bills and everyone needs to pay attention to what is really going on here.”

Jeremy Sturchio In Politico Playbook

A  local note from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:

USTR [United States Trade Representative] DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Jeremy Sturchio drafted and cleared one final memo last week, his last as USTR executive secretary. The former director of speechwriting will take his trade chops and great stories to the growing team at Visa Inc., where he starts today as Business Leader for International Government Relations. Like many in Obamaworld, Sturchio started at the grassroots back in '08, as a field organizer in Bucks County, Pa. (where he grew up), running phone banks and voter canvasses out of the Boilermakers Hall in Bensalem.

Notes from Nov. 21 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum

On November 21, 2013 Philly Speaks Out held a forum at Temple University for gubernatorial candidates.  It was a non-partisan event, not a debate.  Gov. Corbett was invited but did not attend.  The moderator was Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church.  Rev. Tyler is a founding member of POWER, one of the sponsoring organizations.

In addition to POWER the even was sponsored by:  1199C/AFSCME, 32BJ SEIU, AFSCME DC 47, Action United, Fight for Philly, PA Working Families, PASNAP, PCAPS, and SEIU Healthcare PA

Candidates attending:
Former DEP Secretary John Hanger
State Treasurer Rob McCord (campaign site:
Former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz
Former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf

I did not attend in person but watched the webcast of the event.  These are my rough notes from the forum.  It is not intended as a transcript.  As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.  Interested readers are encouraged to visit candidates' website for further information on the candidates' views and policies.  A few personal observations are given at the end.  

Instructions for candidates:  3 minutes each to answer questions.  Please don’t thank us – go right to the issues.  Introduces candidates.  Corbett invited but did not respond. [blogger’s note:  on the last question candidates were only given 2 minutes to respond]

Four issues, first testimony from audience, then framing of comments, followed by candidates’ responses.   [note:  I did not take notes during the audience testimonies as it was primarily personal stories]

First issue:  Education

Q:  1) Reversing problems requires bold leadership and policy changes, “equitable” funding formula, 2) increase revenue for public education and social services, cut corporate tax loopholes, drilling, 3) charter school accountability, 4) invest in schools not prisons, and 5) abolish the School Reform Commission.  Will you support these items and what will your agenda be?

Schwartz:  Pleased to be here, not pleased that Corbett is absent.  Not a surprise; he has been absent on our values.  PA has great resources yet Corbett has led us to 49th place in job creation.  We cannot be a great state without leadership, vision, and a commitment to the state.  I have high goals, high expectations, and have always found a way to move forward.  We have to start with public education.  My mother was an immigrant.  She arrived here alone at age 16, and was sent to Philadelphia because the city had great public schools.  She graduated from Girls High and went to Temple but could not afford to finish.  My sons went to Central High School, a public school in Philadelphia.  As governor I would make public education a priority.  I would support your agenda, abolish the SRC, rein in charters, fair funding, pre-school and full-day kindergarten.  Invest in public education; invest in the future.

Wolf:  I am from York County.  How can we allow this (references tweet from parent about no school librarian) to happen.  Tom Corbett has taken education off the front burner, off the stove.  I love learning, and have a PhD from MIT.  Daughters got a great education in York County.  We are all in this together.  Public education is a shared enterprise.  As governor if we are going to have a bright future we must have great schools.  We need fair and equitable funding, tax shale, universal pre-k, charter accountability, good education equals good jobs, connect higher education with worlds of work.  As an employer I understand we must have an educated workforce. 

McCord:   The most important thing for me to highlight is education, not just as policy but it is personal.  Think of a single parent who has a job but a bad job, mistreated by her employer but wants a good future for her kids – that is my mom’s story.  She went through a bad divorce when I was four.  I went from being a slow reader to a scholarship at Harvard.  Some have a poverty of purpose.  This is the #1 reason I am running.  Tom Corbett took $1 billion from the schools.  We need to review the funding system, fully fund higher education, repair the 529 plan, fund community colleges, allow unions to provide associates degrees, fully fund early childhood education.  Yield for decades.

Hanger:  Nothing wrong with public education but the governor is trying to privatize it.  I will stop this cold.  I arrived in the US at age 12 from Ireland.  Public schools prepared me.  We must attack poverty to prepare people for education.  As a law graduate I worked with low income families.  Start with charters, not preparing poor kids, stealing money from public education.  We need to shut down poorly performing charters, including almost all cyber charters.  It is an attack on unions to attack public schools.  I will abolish the SRC.  We need fair funding.  The real problem is the governor trying to privatize public schools.

McGinty:  One morning in September I was having coffee, reading the paper and saw the beautiful face of 12 year old LaPortia.  She died from asthma attack on a day when the school nurse wasn’t there.  She was the same age as one of my kids.  This is not the best for our kids.  Problem to solve.  Our kids deserve better.  Put the spotlight on what is working.  Pennsylvania is 4th in reading, 8th in math.  Taking a wrecking ball to public education is not right.  Put a tax in place to restore money to public education, fair formula, English language learning, property tax, reform charters so no double dipping.  Start early Head Start, pre-day, full day kindergarten, small classes.  Let teachers teach and students learn.

Second issue:  Retirement security.  PA has 4th oldest population in the US.  There are fewer employer retirement plans.

Q:  1) protecting pensions for public employees, 2) retirement benefits available to all workers.  California is offering plans all works can join.  [blogger’s note, this is the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program]  Working Families plan.

McGinty:  Yes I will support this.  I am the 9th of 10 kids, dad was a Philadelphia police officer for 35 years.  He died last year at 94, and never asked any of us for a penny.  He had a pension.  No one gave him anything; he earned that pension.  We must insist on these kinds of benefits, make retirement affordable, make health care affordable, can’t have property taxes go through the roof.  The Commonwealth is not paying for public education, leaving it to be supported by property taxes.

Hanger:   Anyone who has a pension has a legal guarantee that it will be paid.  I will not let pension funds be raided.  Many in the private sector are not organized or part of a union, and have no pension or retirement.  As a legal services attorney I saw retired people living on social security.  We need better jobs with higher income while working.  Jobs don’t pay for bills today let alone retirement.  Rich are getting a bigger piece; you are getting a smaller piece.  Raise minimum wage, stand with unions, help people join unions, so we don’t have to choose between heat, food and medicine.

Schwartz:  We need a Pennsylvania committed to hard work and achievement, that’s what built the great state we are.  I hope to live to retire and reflect on a fulfilling job.  Retirement is under threat.  Pennsylvania does have one of the largest senior populations.  Social security and Medicare are under threat.  In DC I have led the fight against privatizing social security.  Imagine if we invested in Wall Street in the recession.  We have work to do and I will keep working towards that.  Need to meet our obligations to retirees.

McCord:  If retirement and pensions are the issue I’m your guy.  No one in Pennsylvania has spent more time studying this than I have.  Proud defender of defined benefit plans.  Unions defend defined benefits, not just for members but for all.  Proud of how often I have fought back against Tom Corbett.  Defined benefits are more efficient that 401Ks.  Defined contribution associations say otherwise.  We need to embrace the plan in California.  It is a “pay me now or pay me later” world.  We can imitate the 529 plan.  Retirement is a woman’s issue – women are three times more likely to drop into poverty in retirement.  [he mentioned a woman in relation to the California plan but I can’t get the spelling right to find the correct person]

Wolf:  I’m an FDR Democrat.  We do not have a pension problem.  This is something we share.  In my company I work to make sure employees [missed this].  Lottery is part of the Department of Revenue, $1 million goes to help the elderly.  I worked to improve the lottery.  It went to property tax rebates, prescription drugs.  We need to protect public pensions.  Overall compensation issue.  If we want good public employees we must compete with the private sector.   Health care.  I have a 90 year old mom and 91 year old dad.  We need to ensure all is done to see that all Pennsylvanians have retirement.

Third issue:  Jobs

Question:  Good jobs, raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, like slaves asking Pharoah for straw to make bricks.  End payday lending.  Guaranteed sick days.  All people receiving tax money must pay workers (including subcontractors) a living wage.  Shift from corporate benefits to public education

McCord:  Everything in the governor’s race relates to jobs.  If we end defined benefits we lose as 90% of that money is spent in Pennsylvania.  Of course we need to increase the minimum wage, increases the wealth of the middle class, need sick days, that an efficient thing to do, protect prevailing wage.  We can trust safety and quality of well-trained Pennsylvania workers paid prevailing wage.  End payday loans.  Everything is about true economic security.  Reasonable wage.  Good benefits.  Protected workplace.

Schwartz:  If we want to build a prosperous economy in Pennsylvania, steel, railroads, hard work and innovations, new cures the envy of the world.  Unions spread wages to workers, building industry, prosperity, innovation.  Rebuild Pennsylvania economy, rebuild and re-grow middle class, cannot succeed without a middle class.  Increase minimum wage, fair pay for women, prevailing wages, sick leave, use carrot and stick.  If public money is given to corporations we must push them to pay fair wages and benefits.  Use all natural resource to benefit all, use money for education, grow economic opportunities across the state.

McGinty:  Jobs.  I’m here to apply for a job.  As Secretary of Environmental Protection I wanted to create new good jobs.  We need clean energy and environment.  Let’s bring these jobs.  We were #1 in bringing solar and wind jobs, good jobs, pay, benefits.   Choosing between the environment and jobs is a false choice, as is saying wanting a good job risks your current job.  To grow the economy we have to put money in people’s pockets.  Living wage.  Increase minimum wage, index it to inflation.  Right to organize.  Invest in the US.  Job training and skills development programs.  These were cut and we need to restore them.  Families need to be able to afford education.  Colleges need to keep costs under control.  Public projects – jobs going to Pennsylvanians.

Wolf:  I’ve created good jobs.  Only PhD forklift operator in York County.  Bought my company, build it into one of the biggest in its field in the country.  Distributed 20 – 30% annually in profits to employees.  Sick days, living wages.  First thing we have to do is invest in education.  We need an educated workforce.  Recognize we can compete, even in manufacturing.  We can compete on price and quality.

Hanger:  More jobs and better jobs need community organization.  If we want paid sick days we need to mobilize.  It begins with education, 20,000 educators lost their jobs.  Expand Medicaid.  We could have four billion going to our hospitals, good paying jobs.  Green energy.  Create solar and wind jobs.  I know how to create these jobs.  People have trouble getting a job because of unfair convictions.  We are arresting too many people for having a joint in their pocket.  We should legalize marijuana.  Stop arresting African American men at  five times the rate we arrest whites.  That’s how we get schools to jails.

Issue:  Health care

Question:  1) expansion of Medicaid, 2) invest in family health care and maternity care, 3) stop corporatization of health care, 4) ensure quality care, and 5) ensure long term care

Wolf:  This has become about politics and it shouldn’t be.  The governor is trying to destroy the president’s health care plan.  We absolutely need to expand Medicaid.  It is bad for the economy not to have universal health care.

McGinty:  Some issues are hard but when the federal government offers you $4 billion to give citizens health care the only answer is yes.   Increase availability and affordability yes.  All issues on human dignity.

Schwartz:  Hard to talk about health care in 2 minutes.     Personal to all of us.  The governor turned down opportunities, not federal money but our money.  Unacceptable.  Take the money and use it to benefit Pennsylvania.  We have great hospitals, medical schools and nurses.  If you doubt I can do this remember my work on CHIP which became a national mode.  Let’s get it done.

Hanger:  Wrong for people in our state not to have health care.  It is a human right.  Yes to Medicaid expansion but not enough.  We need single payer health care.  My wife is a physician, trained in Philadelphia, and opened a community practice.  We need to include mental health treatment and addiction treatment.  My son committed suicide at age 23 from depression.

McCord:  Human rights, social justice, human dignity, also about efficiency.  Ridiculous not to take Medicaid expansion.  Your movement is fighting a company town program.  [missed something here].  Use new technology, associates degrees, cut costs, seniors able to stay in their homes.  Repair middle class.

Personal observations:  The candidates were very gracious.  In my opinion far too much time was taken up with announcements from the sponsoring organizations and individual comments ["testimonies"] from the audience.  There were a few hecklers in the crowd and at one point two people got onstage with a banner offering their views on a political issue.  The forum stopped for a few minutes while they were escorted off stage.  Of the candidates Rob McCord was the only one to step away from the podium.  Each time he got up to answer the questions he would take the microphone and stand next to it instead of behind it.  He is clearly an experienced and enthusiastic speaker.  

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Notes from the December Issue of Money Magazine

A few interesting notes from the December issue of Money Magazine.

The editor's column suggests an alternate way of managing the lottery:

"Enter the prize-linked savings account.  The idea:  You place money with a private of government institution,and in exchange for a slightly lower interest rate, you're entered into a lottery that could make you a lot.  You get the entertainment value of dreaming about a big score while still saving." (p. 11)

Sounds like a great idea to me.

the first student loan ombudsman at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Rohit Chopra, is a Wharton grad (p. 80).

Gratuitous Nerd Trivia

I've been reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey and have found it really fascinating.  It would be a great holiday gift for those interested in the subject matter.  I've ordered two copies, one for a relative and one for a friend (shhh, don't tell).  The book does a great job of showing us how things look different if we look at them through a different cultural lens.  I've learned a tremendous amount about first century Jewish life.

However, one sentence caught my interest for a completely different reasons.  In the chapter "The Blind Man and Zacchaeus," Bailey notes that the name of the blind beggar was Bartimaeus which can be translated "son of filth" (p. 173).  The name Bartimaeus seemed familiar.  Then I remembered the name of a character in Harry Potter, Barty Crouch.  A quick check showed that, indeed Barty is short for Bartemius.  Combining a forename which can mean "son of filth" with the family name Crouch seems an odd coincidence.  Potter author J. K. Rowling does take names seriously and chose them with care.  There's no way of knowing if she was aware of the meaning of Bartimaeus / Bartemius but it's an intriguing thought.

Okay, you may now return to your regularly scheduled activites.