Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: Making Ideas Matter by Dwight Evans

Making Ideas Matter:  My Life as a Policy Entrepreneur by Representative Dwight Evans with William Ecenbarger.  Philadelphia: Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, 2013.

State Representative Dwight Evans is currently the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, defeating incumbent Chaka Fattah in the primary. This book was published before his congressional run, but after previous unsuccessful runs for higher office. It is a slim volume (181 pages with an index) providing a history of State Rep. Evan's political career.  The first chapter is biographical, telling the story of his childhood and upbringing. He points out that after getting a part-time job in high school he didn't take money from his mother again, allowing her to focus on his younger siblings.

The rest of the book concerns his work as a state legislator and his personal life is not really mentioned again. Most of the chapters concern a particular subject -- one on education, another on the importance of access to healthy food choices. Others are on aspects of political culture -- there is a chapter on Walking Around Money (WAM) and how it can be used to leverage cooperation from political colleagues.

Evans outlines a number of projects he worked on,priorities he followed, strategies he used to reach out to fellow Democrats as well as Republicans, and how he developed rapport with legislators from other parts of the state to overcome overall hostility towards the Philadelphia area.

There is a focus on his work as chair of the Appropriations Committee, and his disappointment when he lost that position. He writes about his own personal values and how they informed his behavior, expectations of staff, and political behavior, and what happens to politicians who lose their moral compass.

He writes a lot about developing and maintaining relationships, not only with political allies but as ways of reaching across the aisle or to the far corners of the state. He writes about empowering staff (including giving staff the ability to tell him no), and holding them accountable for their work and ethics as well.

Evans only seems to write about one fault and that is the inability to tell his story effectively when running for mayor or governor. He wishes he could have continued as chair of Appropriations and that he could have helped a non-profit he had worked with maintain control of his district's main high school.

This book does explain how State Rep. Evans created some of the coalitions that passed legislation he wanted. It is a first person account and therefore does not include some of the context or reflection that a third person account might have. The writing is fast paced and easily read. The book could easily have gotten bogged down in self-congratulation or unnecessary details. As you might expect from a policy wonk, there are a lot of acronyms, but otherwise it avoids many of the pitfalls that other books of this kind fall into. Co-author William Ecenbarger is a former reporter and I credit his influence with a great deal of the book's readability.

Baring some sort of disaster Mr. Evans will be elected to Congress in November and his tenure in the state legislature will end. I hope that at some point a scholar writes a definitive history of his time there. I'm sure there are a lot more stories to be told. The book left me wanting more, which is surely the sign of a well-written book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SEPTA Updates

from the inbox:

 New schedules for SEPTA’s City, Suburban and Victory Transit divisions go into effect beginning Sunday, September 4 and Tuesday, September 6, 2016. Most timetable adjustments are minor and are designed to account for seasonal changes in ridership and to improve customer service. However, SEPTA would like to alert passengers to the following service changes:

 • Route 15: Trolleys return to service between 63rd Street and Girard Avenue and Frankford and Delaware Avenues following summer bus substitution due to a track renewal project. Buses will continue to operate on the portion of the route between Frankford and Girard Avenues and Richmond and Westmoreland Streets.

• Route 40: Added morning and afternoon weekday service. • Route 56: Added morning and afternoon weekday service.

• Routes 201, 204, 205 and 206: These routes will continue to operate on their current schedules as published online at Schedules are subject to change with Regional Rail interim schedule changes and will be updated online.

• Norristown High Speed Line: Trains will operate on the current summer schedule until the end of the service day on Sunday, September 18, when the Radnor Station improvement project will be completed. A new schedule will go into effect beginning at the start of the service day Monday, September 19. Service information will be published on the System Status section of SEPTA’s website ( prior to September 19.

New transit schedules are available at SEPTA customer locations and online at Riders can also access real-time service information by using the official SEPTA App available as a free download for both Apple and Android devices, and by following the @SEPTA Twitter feed. #

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shaughnessy Naughton Update

Shaughnessy Naughton, who was a primary candidate for the 8th congressional district, sent out an email announcing her new professional direction.  Here is part of her statement:

In the months since the primary, I’ve reflected on what we achieved together and the work that lies ahead.
I ran because I believed that we need new perspectives in Congress. As a scientist, entrepreneur, and business leader, I didn’t fit the template of a conventional politician. And public service, like business, wasn’t my first career choice.
But I saw a deficit of leadership that remains unfilled. For decades, Congress has shortchanged NIH funding, ignored climate change, and listened to special interests instead of scientists.
My mission to advocate for STEM priorities didn’t end in April. That’s why I’ve joined the board of 314 Action, a grassroots organization founded to empower the STEM community to affect public policy.

Rite of Passage: Students Become Voters

The American Association of State Colleges & Universities sponsored a report, released last April, called Graduating Students Into Voters.  Ideas42 prepared the report, a 25 page pdf, outlining reasons college students may not vote (not sure of the process, don't know how to register, feel disconnected), and how to increase political participation among college students.  It is very interesting reading.  (The pdf can be found here:

In my house voting is a requirement of anyone over 18 living at home or taking parental money for college.  It's a form of rent.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Latest EpiPen Issue

Nearly three years ago I wrote two posts about the increasing price of EpiPens (post in Oct 2013 and in Nov 2013).  The topic is back in the news as the price has continued to go up.  One issue is that there is no generic equivalent for an EpiPen.  Mylan, the company which produces the EpiPen, raised the price again recently, just before a generic was expected to be approved ("Mylan raised EpiPen's Price Before the Expected Approval of a Generic," by Andrew Pollack, New York Times 8/24),  However, the generic was not approved.  Matt Egan of CNN Money reports that one may be available next year.

The CEO of Mylan, Heather, Bresch, appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box to try to diffuse the bad press (see video embedded in linked Slate article).  What I found most startling in her remarks was her comment that "we have passed legislation in 48 states ...." Really?  Mylan passed legislation?  Who elected Mylan to do anything?  What she meant, of course, is that Mylan lobbied for legislation and perhaps even wrote it.  There would have been campaign donations to key state legislators.  So, yes, Mylan probably does feel that it passed legislation.  And that should give us all pause.

On a personal note I refilled our family's EpiPen prescription this week.  It still just costs me $10 for a 2-pack. I work in a union shop and we have good health insurance.  With Mylan's increase, though, it is no doubt costing the insurer a lot more and that will mean higher premiums all around.