Monday, January 31, 2005

From Hallwatch: Reading what you write... into law.

Hallwatch, the Philly and PA political and ethical watchdog, has something right now on the practice of the PA legislature to pass 'stealth legislation.' Basically, as with the "Leave No Billboard Behind Act," members of PA House or Senate will thrown an awful amendment onto a bill at the very last second, not telling the other side of the aisle what the amendment means, and giving people less than hour to debate it. It is an awful, awful process that needs to be changed.

Important State laws should be debated publicly, not ramrodded through in the dead of night. Go to Hallwatch and see what you can quickly do to help end this awful practice.

And yeah, I am not at work today, and have a little too much free time.

From across the River: Codey not running for NJ Gov.

Richard Codey, who took over as NJ Gov. after the McGreevey scandal, will announce today that he is not running for Governor. I do not know much about Codey, other than the fact that he seems like a good guy, and that when idiot radio host Craig Carton (an ex WIP-er, no less) made awful jokes about Codey's wife and her battles with post-partum depression, Codey confronted Carton (way younger than the Guv), and threatened to take him outside. I grew up listening to Carton do nights on WIP (and get fired for making stuff up about Eric Lindros), and I have to say, Codey may have made a lot of people happy if he what he threatened to do.

Codey is not running because Jon Corzine is leaving the Senate to run for the job. Corzine is popular, can raise money, and can spend his own fortune. He has seemed to be a pretty decent Senator, and will hopefully be a good Governor. That said, I hope we see Gov. Codey again, maybe in Corzine's current seat.

Slots for SEPTA?

Tim Kearney, who ran against (and unfortunately, lost badly to) John Perzel, made an interesting suggestion in a Q&A in today's Daily News. He suggested that before the State sells any slot parlor licenses, they should write into law that the first 300 million dollars worth of profits (of an estimated 1.6 billion dollars) goes to mass transit.

He says:
The advantages are: 1) The Legislature doesn't have to pass any new taxes to fund mass transit. Every politician up there hates to raise taxes and be known as the guy who raised taxes. 2) We are not taking money away from anybody. This new rule - dedicating the first $300 million to mass transit - would be put into the law before the 14 slots-parlor owners are chosen, so they know about it going in.

3) Most of the money that will be gambled away in slots parlors will come from roughly the same group of people who use mass transit. I used to work for Action Alliance of Senior Citizens, and I know that a lot of seniors who ride on SEPTA will be gambling in the slots parlors. So with my proposal, if they lose money gambling, at least some of that money will help the mass-transit system that they depend on.
I mentioned before,\ that I am not a big fan of bringing gambling into PA, because the slots are effectively a tax on the poor anyway. But yeah, Kearney's idea (which would have to be tied to inflation) is not bad one. Now if he could only knock off John Perzel...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Making SEPTA cool

The cover story of the City Paper this week is 33 ideas to make SEPTA better, and even 'cool.' It is worth a look. They list some common sense (and cheap) things SEPTA could do, as well as some more expensive ones, and some that will not happen in this lifetime.

Some of the basic, or "duh" ideas... "Duh" not because the suggestions are stupid, but because they are so common sense that you wonder why SEPTA has not done them already.

My comments in parentheses:

Idea #4: Take plastic. (Everyone excepts credit cards today. Join the modern age)
Idea #9: Make the Web site useful. (This would take what, hiring a kid for one day?)
Idea #17: Adjust services to fit the ridership. (In other words, do I really have to jostle in the aisle when I go to work, when there are empty buses on other routes, or can we adjust how many busses go where?)
Idea #20: Make tellers give us change. (Duh.)
Idea #21: Place token machines at every subway stop. (Duh)
Idea #22: Make sure the token and ticket machines work. (Duh.)
Idea #26: Give us a sign. (Yeah, how hard is it to post schedules so we actually know when a bus is coming?)
Idea #27: Tell us when the next train is coming. (Actually telling people when the next subway is coming? Preposterous! You see, this is why I call them the "duh" suggestions.)

Actually, I have a really great story about #21 and 22 that involves my lawyer father, turnstile jumping, and a last second escape from SEPTA cops. But that, and the rest of my family's arrest history with SEPTA is a story for another day!

Ideas that are feasible, and smart:
Idea #1: Skip a corner or three. (There really is no reason for so many stops, at all. The bus I take to work stops at every single damn corner on Market St. Every one.)
Idea #2: Set artists loose on the subway stations. (Anything to spruce them up.)
Idea #7: Offer premium services on suburban rails. (Considering some of the far-flung riders are on the train for an hour, does not seem like a bad idea at all. Whether people would pay for it, I have no idea.)
Idea #31: Give bikers a place to lock up. (Have lockers where bikers can safely park their bikes, just as you have lots for people parking cars. And this does not mean a bike rack. This means a locker, where your seat will not get stolen, and your bike will not be subject to inclement weather.)

Ideas that are great, but will never happen:
Idea # 12: Create a "Museum District Loop." (By this they mean build a subway spur down the parkway, a la the Champ-Elysees. It would be wonderful. It would also cost billions. Ain't happening. However, a bus that runs down the Parkway, with stops at all the museums, and then Boathouse row would make a lot of sense, and, make this rower happy.)
Idea #14: Extend the subway to the rest of the city. (See above.)
Idea #32. Lower the fares. (Should happen, but, certainly will not. The idea that they charge for a transfer though, is quite awful. If the idea is to get you some place, and to do that you have to take more than one bus, why are you penalized?)
Idea #33: Stop charging riders. (Yeah, that is a more fundamental question for society. I don't think the SEPTA board can really tackle that.)

They also suggest that SEPTA should run the regional rails later, which I agree with. At the very least, one thing I think they could instantly do is run targeted night-bus routes. For example, when I was in Dublin, and living outside of the City Centre, I would never, ever take a taxi home after a night out. I would take a night bus. I think SEPTA could turn this into a real money maker, in fact. For example, why not a bus route that runs until 3 or so that goes from N Liberties, to Old City, and then down Market St to Penn or Temple? I bet you would find quite a few riders. Or, send a bus from downtown up the Roosevelt Boulevard, so people living reasonably close could use that. It would not only make money, but it could change the image of SEPTA, and create future riders.

Anyone else have any other suggestions, be they of the duh variety, or anything else?



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Freezing to death. Literally.

The Philadelphia Gas Works has a a problem: Something like 8 percent of their customers are not paying their bills. It is hard to function with out big losses when you are losing that much money. Still, this is really an awful thing. The State has given PGW the ability to shut off people's heat, in the winter, without State approval. Why is this so awful? From the Article:

An arctic chill had enveloped Western Pennsylvania in January 1976 when Sophia Easer's body was found in her house in the Pittsburgh suburb of Munhall. She had huddled beneath a rug, trying vainly to escape the subzero temperatures.

Easer, 82, froze to death in an unheated home. Two weeks earlier, the local utility had shut off her gas because of unpaid bills.

Easer's death spurred the state Public Utility Commission to adopt strict limits on cold-weather shutoffs. But this winter, one key restriction - that the PUC itself approve any winter shutoff - became the latest casualty of the troubles at Philadelphia Gas Works.

Under a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Rendell, utilities can shut off service to all but their poorest customers at any time of year.

No PUC approval is necessary.
If PGW is hemorrhaging money, which it assuredly is, there are a few things they could do. First off, join the 21st century and let people pay their bills online. Second, lobby for a streamlined process that at least has some protections for those who cannot protect themselves. (Ms. Easer, the woman who froze in Pittsburgh actually had a sealed envelope for the gas company sitting to be mailed, and plenty of money to pay it. They suspect she simply had alzheimers, and forgot. And for that, she died.)

PGW forced the State's hand last month:

To emphasize its point that unpaid bills cost all its customers, the Gas Works last year proposed a monthly surcharge to cover them.

That was enough to convince House Speaker John M. Perzel, a Northeast Philadelphia Republican, that it was time to crack down.

"What they wanted to do was come back to my people who are paying their bills and attach a $67 surcharge," Perzel said in an interview. "It's a matter of fairness."

During the summer, Perzel won House passage of a bill he says would have addressed PGW's billing needs, not only by dropping barriers to winter shutoffs but also by blocking schemes that some customers use to dodge payments throughout the year, such as switching an account to a new name.

Rendell said he agreed to the bill only after winning concessions that maintain crucial protections for the poor and for households with young, elderly or ailing residents.

But he echoed the argument that the PUC's approach left utilities with too little leverage.

"The old rules protected the vulnerable, but they also opened the door to widespread abuse," Rendell said.
As someone who was ready to choke on my dinner when I saw the size of my gas bill (for a one bedroom apartment, no less) I understand and agree that I, and you, cannot be subsidizing people who can pay, but are not. I cannot afford to waste that money each month. That said, I do not see the effective safeguards that the Governor talks about. And I worry that the only thing that will put those safeguards into place will be people dying, be it in fires caused by space heaters or by a few people freezing to death. Literally.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Wiring (sort-of) of Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Weekly discusses the Street effort to enmesh the entire city with Wi-fi internet access. (For those who were unaware: The City announced plans to provide city-wide wireless internet access. Verizon then tried to pass a state bill to quash the abilities of municipalities to do so. The end result was that the bill passed, but with a Philly exemption.)

From the article:

Wi-Fi can be rolled out with gigabyte speed, Neff says. (A skeleton crew deployed the West Powelton network, which covers a five-block radius, in two months.)

Neff expects Street to sign off on a final plan next month. By March 1 the city can start soliciting bids from private companies interested in building, operating and maintaining the system. Neff hopes to be negotiating contracts 60 days later.

Over the summer individual Wi-Fi cells will be mounted on streetlights, creating a wireless mesh. It should cost about $10 million to complete the city's wireless infrastructure, and Neff estimates it will require $1.5 million to operate the system annually. Basic technical support--taking calls from users when they reset passwords or experience signal failure--is a huge financial drain.
So, it will cost money. But, generally, so does everything important. The city and Mayor Street are thinking ahead here, and they should be applauded for doing so. This could be a huge boon to the City, and a huge step in bridging the so-called digital divide that is only growing larger.

What, for example, can better and broader internet access do? How about this:

For instance, 13,000 people signed up to receive federal earned income tax credits after learning about it on Beehive. In the past six months 7,000 people enrolled their kids in state Children's Health Insurance Programs after learning about them on Beehive. And some 10,000 people have written business plans using a tool on the website.
I don’t know whether whom they interviewed was an unrepresentative sample, but I was very surprised at the negativity some of the people interviewed. For example:

And some media activists are as enthusiastic about government-sponsored Wi-Fi as they are about spam and pop-up ads. These critics contend that community wireless initiatives, like the one in West Powelton, provide greater benefits because they allow local residents to tailor the systems to their particular needs.

Instead of spending $10 million to build a citywide infrastructure, community organizations should assess their needs and design their own networks accordingly, says Anthony Townsend, an urban planning professor at New York University.



"It's paternalistic for City Hall to determine what's best for neighborhoods, when each has its own needs," says Townsend, a co-founder of NYCwireless. His volunteer group built popular community Wi-Fi networks throughout Manhattan, and teaches others how to set up public hotspots, or locations for wirelessly logging onto the Web. (Last year the Public Internet Project mapped more than 13,000 places in Manhattan where signals from home or business wireless connections could be "borrowed.")

Townsend speculates that Philadelphia will invest millions of taxpayer dollars to build a wireless backbone--only to ultimately hand the network over to rich telecom companies. "The big ISPs won't build in poor neighborhoods, so what Philly is doing is subsidizing private companies," he says.

So, the fact that the city of Philadelphia is actually taking some initiative, and going to provide affordable internet access (under $20 per month) to the hundreds of thousands who are priced out of high-speed access is a bad thing? Say what?

It is bizarre to me that a so-called activist does not see that there are certain times the free market will not equitably serve the whole public. Yes, the private companies may not be building these technologies in the inner-city. So, as a result, the City is going to make up for that gap, and do it in a way that is economically smart and feasible. (I certainly would sign up with them for 20 bucks a month.) The winners will be the people of Philadelphia. It is wonderful what the people in Powelton did, building their own small network. But that simply is not happening in the rest of the city. The bizarre attitude that this is a bad thing makes as much sense as Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of Donovan McNabb.

In fact, I think Mayor Street and Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas should try and think even bigger here. For example, in the 21st century, a child simply must have internet access to succeed. The amount of information that is available, and the simple self-learning that goes on when children use computers is vital to help kids develop skills that they will need to succeed later in life.

So, if I was the Mayor, here is what I would do: Go to all the big foundations (Ford, Pew, etc), as well as tech companies known for some level of charitable giving (Microsoft, Dell, Google) and come up with a plan to get computers into 20,000 of the 50,000 homes in Philadelphia that have at least one poor child. How could this be done? Well, you can provide a basic, capable computer that can surf the net, use Microsoft Word, etc, for 300 dollars. What if these foundations promised a $150 subsidy to split the cost with these households? Could they collectively come up with 3 million to make it happen? They are spending tens of millions on the Barnes museum, so I would hope they could be persuaded.

I know it sounds pie-in-the-sky, but think of it: You could create a whole generation of kids in Philly that are technologically savvy. On the streets of North Philly may live the next Michael Dell or Bill Gates. And for companies like Dell and Microsoft, you get great publicity, and you are creating a whole series of future customers. (And, in fact, you could employ high schoolers in Philly to makes some of those computers. That idea is not very “out there” because there used to be high schools that actually did just that.)

Will it happen? Probably not. Could it? I think so. And the result would be powerful.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Believe my friends, believe.


The Daily News gets it right again. Posted by Hello

(Picture property of the Daily News.)

4th District PA State Senate Special Election

I’ve just gotten word that Leanna Washington got the unanimous support in the Ward leader election to run in the special election this May to fill the 4th District State Senate seat vacated by Allison Schwartz, who is now the U.S. Congressperson in the 13th CD. Of course, in an area like Germantown, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, and Montgomery County, whoever gets the Democratic nomination will be the winner of the special election in May, which is just a formality.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More candidates for office

These are not particularly breaking, but nonetheless, they should be noted:

Tom Knox announces for Mayor
Tom who, you say? Well, I say the exact same thing. Apparently, Knox, the CEO of United Healthcare, has decided to throw his hat, and his wallet, into the ring. Knox said he is willing to put up 15 million dollars of his own money. As the Inquirer says, this run can be summed up as the "Michael Bloomberg effect."

Knox does have some experience in City Government. He served as a deputy mayor under Rendell, taking a salary of 1 dollar a year. That said, the idea that he is going to buy his way into City Hall is not something I particularly like, even if Bloomberg and New Jersey's Senator Corzine have proved that self-funded candidates can be pretty good.

Chuck Pennachio for Senate
On Tuesday, I wrote that Bob Casey is edging closer to running for Senate. And while I think that Casey should do this, I want to make sure we do not miss Chuck Pennachio. I, frankly, do not know much about him, other than he is a professor, passionate about grass-roots organizing, and compares himself to Paul Wellstone. Check out his website here.

There has been a lot of discussion about this candidacy at DailyKos, including a pretty interesting discussion that involved questions and answers with the candidate himself. Pretty interesting stuff...

Whether he can win or not, having a progressive, grass-roots political organizer talking to PA residents over the next 2 years will be a good thing.

One thing I am going to do as this website continues to grow, and as elections near, will be to ask candidates if they would like to write a letter, directly to all of us reading and writing on the site, about their candidacy. I will do this for all of them, including Pennachio, Seth Williams, and any other declared, Democratic candidate.

Tim Tagaris, from the Swing State Project, is working for Pennachio. I will ask him if he or the candidate is interested in discussing his run a little more. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ride or Die: Take SEPTA this Thursday

Tomorrow is "Ride or Die Day" in Philly. Whether it is to School, work, anywhere, take a ride on SEPTA tomorrow. Show the State your support for decent Mass Transit by joining the 800,000 SEPTA riders tomorrow.

For more info, check out the Carla Anderson column (link embedded in post title), or www.phillytransit.org.

Spread the word, and get on the bus.

Again, it is good to see the Daily News devote story after story to this. Over the past month, they have certainly done their part.

Come Watch The Corporation

The Philadelphia chapter of Billionaires for Bush presents: The Corporation

a film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan

Wednesday, January 26
doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
215-573-3234

http://www.billionairesforbush.com
for more info contact iona dot thinktank at billionairesforbush dot com

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Here come the candidates:

The past few days have seen a lot of political candidate news. Here is a quick summary....

Jonathan Saidel announces run for Mayor.
I simply do not know enough about Saidel to have a strong opinion on him. I do know that he was being investigated by the feds for some shady dealings, which seemed to go away right at the same time as Mayor Street's investigation came to light. I certainly am not implying Saidel had anything to do with anything, but it was strange. But generally, can we please have a politician who has not been under investigation by the feds? Anyway, now he is running, and assembling a team for his run. I need to hear a lot more from him on what he stands for, because I have no idea.

Seth Williams announces for District Attorney
Saying that the system for prosecuting cases is "broken," former Assistant D.A Seth Williams announced that he is running for D.A. against his former boss, Lynn Abraham. Williams has an idea to decentralize the D.A. system so that a D.A. is responsible to certain neighborhoods, rather than the system now, where numerous D.A.'s handle different parts of the case. (I think it is a good idea.) More from the Inquirer:


In his announcement speech, timed for what would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 76th birthday, Williams accused Abraham of "outdated thinking and failed leadership," saying he would decentralize the D.A.'s office to put prosecutors in police precincts.

Williams said it is wrong that Abraham has five prosecutors devoted to welfare-fraud cases and 18 chasing auto-insurance cheats but does not have a unit dedicated to gun trafficking - even though 80 percent of the homicides in the city last year involved guns.
He vowed to use a nine-year-old state law allowing prosecution of those who illegally sell guns used in a crime. "It won't take me 14 years and the prodding of the legislature," Williams said.

Moreover, more than 50 percent of felony arrests in the city are thrown out of court because prosecutors are not ready for trial, Williams said.
For more on Williams, check out this cover story from the Philadelphia Weekly, that ran a few months ago. Generally, any time a young, dynamic person makes a run at office, the City benefits.

Casey edging closer to run against Santorum
As people have been speculating for a while, Bob Casey, Jr. appears to be moving closer to a Senate bid. Check out the John Baer column on the whole thing. Apparently, an insider poll put Casey up by 14 points in a hypothetical matchup with Santorum. The Senate race deserves a whole post in of itself, and will get one soon. There is another candidate out there, invoking Paul Wellstone, which also deserves a closer examination.

More candidates tomorrow.

Inauguration Events

This was posted on Music for America today and I thought I'd pass it on...

Jan. 20
Let your voice be heard on the day of Bush's inauguration.
If you can't make it to D.C., then come on out and show them
that Philly doesn't support this administration! There will
be TWO marches in Philadelphia, both ending at a rally on
the west side of City Hall.

MARCH 1: Temple University Bell Tower
Between 12th and 13th Streets, along Berks St. (not actually
on Berks, as it stops for 2 blocks through campus.

MARCH 2: Southside of the Market St. Bridge
29th and Market Streets.

the marches will meet at 3:15
the rally will begin around 4:30

_________________________________________________________
Jan 22

SAT.01.22.05 @ 5:30pm:::Inaugurate This! Philly show
::::The Rotunda, 4101 Walnut St.
($5-10 donation suggested, not required. No one turned away!)

FEATURING MARX in SOHO(@5:30)
Bob Weick brings Karl Marx back to life through Howard Zinn’s play Marx in Soho. Learn More.

Also featuring BITCH (NYC), Sini Anderson (San Francisco), Athens Boys Choir (Georgia), Grover (Asheville), Pamela Means (Boston), Gina Young (NYC), mz.imani (Maryland), Stevie B (Oakland) and SkyBear. (Boston)

Inaugurate This! is a radical spoken word and music event to coincide with the Inauguration of the next President of the United States in DC.
MARX in SOHO @ 5:30
Food / Rock & Shop @ 6:30
Music @ 7pm

If you would like to sell items or distribute literature, tables will be available for $10-$15 (15 for selling). For more information or to reserve a table,


occoalition@hotmail.com

www.phillyaction.org

Monday, January 17, 2005

Philly honors Dr. King like no other

As I am on my way out to do my tiny part for the holiday,it is worth noting that according to the Daily News (and something I have heard elsewhere, as well), Philly is # 1 in the Country for its participation in honor of Dr. King.

And, although I had never heard his name until now, a hell of a big shout out goes to Todd Bernstein, a former aid to Senator Wofford, and the organizer of this day. He seems like the engine that makes this day what it is in Philly.

From the article:

Here in Philadelphia, the day starts early and ends late. King Day projects include:

• Sewing infant-sized quilts for children infected with HIV, a Green Street Friends School Parents Association effort.

• Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania will sponsor "Kid's Carnival," which includes a reading corner with local celebs reading MLK stories to kids.

• Students from the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy and the Perelman Jewish Day School will pack and sort food for MANNA, a nonprofit that delivers meals to people living with HIV/AIDS.

• The Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Wynnefield will refurbish an emergency response center it is establishing.

Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, who along with Georgia Congressman John Lewis co-authored the federal legislation in 1994 that created the national King Day of Service, says much of Philadelphia's success belongs to Bernstein.

"For any place to make this day a big one, you have to have a fully dedicated, on-the-job organizer that sticks with it, day in, day out, year in, year out," said Wofford, who mentored Bernstein while he worked for the senator. "Philadelphia is lucky that Todd Bernstein has been ready to do this."

Gov. Rendell's office also recognizes Bernstein for making the city's celebration special.

"Philadelphia's effort is extraordinary," said Karen Kaskey, executive director of the Governor's Office of Citizen Service in Harrisburg. "It's recognized as the preeminent Martin Luther King Day of Service in the country. And partly for that reason is why I contacted the initiators for that day to take their prized program statewide."

Meet a few neighbors, enjoy your day, and if you do something, and you want to write about, post it in the comments.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Sometimes, a picture says it all...


The Daily News has it right. (Also, worth saying a disclaimer, that this picture is property of the Daily News, and Knight-Ridder.)  Posted by Hello

Excellent column on City corruption

We learned today that Mayor Street is being subpoenad to testify by the defense in one of the City corruption trials. Super. Nothing says clean politics like the Mayor being brought into court.

While I don't think Street will go down in all of this, it seems a lot more likely than it did two weeks ago. With people plea barganing, and former City officials saying Street knew what was going on, it is getting a little more damning every day. At this point, whether he did anything or not, it is clear that he knew what the culture was, and let his friends, and especially his brother, make huge profits from taxpayers as a result.

It is one thing to sort of keep your eyes closd to it all, and tell yourself that is just how it goes in Philly politics. But when your scoundrel of a brother makes 30,000 bucks a month off our backs,there is a real problem. Read the Elmer Smith column (and generally, read all of Elmer Smith's columns) for a very good take on all of this.

When John and Milton Street first came into politics, they were rough, loud, and most of all, reformers. Now...

I think if the John Street from 1980 saw himself today, he would be ashamed of the actions of his brother, people within his administration, and maybe himself, as well.

Impromptu Happy Hour in Philly?

This plea for drinking partners was just posted on MyDD:
I need large amounts of alcohol. Well, there is a need, and there is a want. I need drinks because of all this Bush news today.
First, the need. I mean, I think it is time for God to end his little experiment of seeing if one person so dumb and feeble could really destroy the world in 8 mortal years. Only alcohol can numb the pain that is George W. Bush.

And there is the want. The Philadelphia Eagles will be dispatching with the lowly Minnesota Vikings and the scumbag Randy Moss this Sunday, and I must celebrate.

So if any MyDDians wish to join me in Philly, post a comment
I'm not in town, but I assume that some of you might be down for some drinks...

A Very Good Reason To Support Simon Rosenberg For DNC Chair

Last month I posted here on the need to reform the Democratic Primary system, as have many others. One of the major reasons that I was only luke-warm to Kerry was that I felt that I didn't get any say in his being picked as the Democratic canidate.The recognition of the need for Democratic Primary reform was one of the main reasons why I endorsed, over at Music for America, Simon Rosenberg for DNC Chair.

The other popular blogger choice for the position is Howard Dean. I never could understand the Left's adoration (I would say "cultish hero-worshipping") of the guy (I was a Wesley Clark fan), and his screaming flame-out in the primaries should, in my mind, preclude him from any prominent positions within the party for the foreseeable future. But that said, I would support Howard over anybody in the race not named Simon.

today I was given another great big reason to support Simon over Howard for DNC chief when Dean told the Des Moines Register (via MyDD):
"I don't believe that the system's going to be changed or that the order is going to be changed," Dean said. "You're going to have to show me a reason to change. I'm just not going to change it for change's sake."
So the constant backward march of the primary season, and the resentment of the rest of the states over Iowa and New Hampshire's prominence isn't a good enough reason to change the system? Forget that- we need to change the primary sytem, and Simon has come out strongly in favor of this badly needed reform.

As the article notes:
Rosenberg said Thursday the traditional calendar, which has put the caucuses and the New Hampshire primary at the front of the order, must be changed. He prefers a system where states with larger and more diverse populations have equal influence as the traditional lead-off states.

"Whatever they end up with, whatever the formula is, the aspiration should be to have more states and more people involved at a co-equal setting with Iowa and New Hampshire," said Rosenberg, president of the centrist New Democrat Network.

[...]

Advocates of change, including Rosenberg, have said the party must allow states with higher populations of racial and ethnic minorities to weigh in on their party's nominee first.

Critics say Iowa and New Hampshire are too small, rural and homogeneous to wield as much influence as they do over the decision of the party.

"We need to involve the great diversity of this country in the early stages of this process in a way that allows more people to have a voice in the nominating process," Rosenberg said.
Does it strike anyone else as absurd that Dean would spurn his supporters in the biggest of the Blues in this debate for reform? Even though I like Dean, I really hope that Simon can use this against Dean at the DNC meetings. We need reform- badly- and we need someone at the head of the DNC who is comitted to it. So, yet again, Simon Rosenberg for DNC chair!.

On a side note, if any of you would like to blog from within the Eastern regional DNC meeting in NYC, Driving Votes will suposedly help, but make sure you tell them you'rea Deniac, I don't think they like people who aren't part of the Dean cult.

Evening Bulletin

I read about the release of a new daily paper called the "Evening Bulletin" in the Inquirer a while ago. The Evening Bulletin was the best paper in Philly for most of the twentieth century. It ended its reign in 1982, but was a really great paper before that. (I don't remember this, I've learned it as a Philadelphia Librarian)
So, an ex-editor of the Main Line Times (who is quite conservative, apparently) started this afternoon paper and took the name of the great paper of the past. I'm just wondering if anyone out there has been keeping an eye on it -- it's not for sale in West Philly anywhere, but it's all over Center City.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"It is easier to build a momument than a movement."

I will undoubtedly, get much of this story wrong, but, bear with me. And if it is preachy, well, sorry.

Last night I saw the last 15 minutes or so of a PBS American Experience on the life of Dr. King. It was pretty amazing. What really struck me was that they had all this home video of him just hanging out, joking around, being depressed- ie, being a normal person. You saw him getting poked fun at, etc. He was not a God. He was an extraordinary man, put in an extraordinary situation.

The crazy part was on the last few months of his life. At the time, he was being ruthlessly attacked for coming out strong against Vietnam, and his poor people's campaign was not going well. He had been accused of starting, and then running from violence when a march got out of control... He was tired, beaten down, and depressed. And so, he was in Memphis on April 3, 1968, to stand in solidarity with dehumanized and striking African-American trash collectors. The night of the 3rd he was supposed to give a speech, but given how worn down he was, the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition was going to send Ralph Abernathy to give the speech instead, so that Dr. King could rest. But when the SCLC leaders saw that there was a huge crowd gathered, ostensibly to hear Dr. King, they told him he had to go and at least say a few words. So he did.

The speech that he gave, as has become legend, mimicked Moses' call to the Israelites that he may not get to the promised land with them. And as he went on in the speech, and became more and more animated, the SCLC people describe him as getting more and more excited, and almost rejuvenated. Whether he had made peace with the fact that he could never be a total savior, or whether he simply just somehow knew what was to come, they describe him as happier than he had been in months.

The next day, he was horsing around in his hotel room, throwing pillows at people, as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Then, of course, he went out on his balcony to check the weather, and, the rest is... awful.

The SCLC people discussing the assassination had such prescience. They said they knew that although the Poor People's Campaign would go on, they were in trouble. Not necessarily because there were not people who were still committed to the civil rights movement, but because, as one woman so eloquently put it, "It is a lot easier to build a monument than a movement." And today, when every state in the U.S. celebrates Dr. Kings birthday, while at the same time cutting programs like Pell Grants, or healthcare for the poor, that statement really does ring true.

That whole story is a long way of saying that this Monday is Dr. King’s birthday. And I plead with you, for this one day of the year, celebrate Dr. King with honor. Take part in the thousands of service opportunities that abound everywhere. Less honor the man, and more honor the movement, by doing something to help your City.

If you live in G-Town, and want to work outside, email me, and I will hook you up with a morning's work cleaning a little slice of the park. Everywhere else, opportunities abound. Either way, skip the one day sale at Strawbridges, set the alarm, and join the 50,000 people who will be doing the same.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Things not looking so hot for the Mayor

This, my friends, does not look so good. It seems like the US Attorney ethics probes in City Government are getting closer and closer to Mayor Street and his top dog, George Burrell. It was reported in the Inquirer that well respected, ex-city finance director Janice Davis, will testify in court that she was ordered to award city contracts to those who were "reccomended" by Ron White. White, who recently died of cancer, was allegedly the all powerful go between with the Mayor's office and city contractors.

From the Inquirer:

Davis, now Atlanta's finance director, will testify that White often lobbied her to hire certain firms - and that Street had "instructed" her to favor those firms, prosecutors said. They said the defendants had sought to curry favor with White because they knew he had a "substantial degree of control" in city matters.

"Indeed, that is the only reason that they favored White; it is why LeCroy and Snell decided to break the law to give White $50,000, and it is why Carlson decided to lie about it to the FBI," wrote prosecutors Michael A. Schwartz, Robert A. Zauzmer, Joan L. Markman and Richard J. Zack.

The prosecutors wrote that LeCroy, for example, had told his colleagues that White "carries a lot of stroke with the city and looks out for our interests on an ongoing basis."


A second article, shows that Burrell thinks this is simply how business gets done in the city. At least he is somewhat honest.

Confronted yesterday with his own words from an FBI wiretap, mayoral aide George Burrell offered a blunt comment about how he assesses those seeking contracts from the Street administration.

Part of the test, Burrell said, is whether they "fall into the category of friends and supporters of the mayor."

In an interview, Burrell sought to explain a statement, secretly recorded by the FBI in 2003 and released yesterday, in which he talked with the late power-broker Ronald A. White about cutting out a bond firm because it had not given to Mayor Street's campaign fund.

On tape, Burrell balked at giving work to the firm, Janney Montgomery Scott, after noting that a Janney executive was barred by regulation from making campaign donations.

"All I know, he's at Janney Montgomery Scott, and he can't give us any money, and Janney doesn't give," Burrell said. "They don't even arrange for us to get money."
I don't think this is going to end well... It may however, shame the city into passing real ethics reform.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Maybe the Governor is giving them milk and cookies?

In case you didn't know, this evening Republican leaders are currently at the Governor's Mansion, holding a SEPTA summit. John Baer, of the Daily News, does not seem hopeful. And, since Baer is the Harrisburg veteran, I would defer to his skepticism. It is good to see the Daily News keeping up their coverage of SEPTA.

He gives us the ever strange nugget that the last time the governor held a summit at his mansion, Rendell greeted them all in gym shorts. And while that is a strange thought, as it is thinking that the Gov. may be reading John Perzel and Sam Smith "Goodnight Moon," it strikes me that this is a little besides the point. (Similarly to when the DN spent way too much damn ink discussing how many cold cuts that Gov. Purchased, at a time when he was saving the State millions.) So, back to the real point, John.

The mass transit fiasco is just one example of why we need new blood in the State Houses, and why we need a Democratic majority as soon as possible. (And why, someone like Josh Richard hopefully will run in 2006. We cannot continue to have status quo leadership in PA, because this State is lagging in too many different ways to keep on this road.)

(Update, 1/10/05, 11PM: It does not look like the meeting led to anything. Terrific. Way to keep the provincialism going strong, Rep. Smith.)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sunday Morning Thoughts

Who wants to go to Camp?
Camp Wellstone, the organization that came out of those who once ran Paul Wellstone's successful campaigns for Senate, is soon going to announce their schedule for 2005. Hopefully, they will come to Philly. The camp works with people participating in activities that focus one of three things: 1) Running for office yourself, 2)Helping to run a campaign or 3)Organizing your community. In their first year, they were wildly popular, and successful.

Paul Wellstone was the ultimate political, grass-roots organizer. The organization that bears his name has already shown that it is incredibly successful in its training. For example, in Minnesota, Camp Wellstone graduates almost single handedly gave the State House back to the Democrats. (Including the defeat of the Assistant majority leader by a 23 year old.)

If they announce the are coming to Philly, I will post it here right away. The camps fill up incredibly fast (and are cheap- $75 for three days, $35 or students and low-incomes). But if you want to do some organizing in the future, or if you want to help our generation start making our mark in Philly Politics, think about going.

Call Ed Rendell on Social Security
Our generation has the most to lose with Social Security destruction. Not only will the Bush plan saddle us with billions upon billions more in debt, but it will take the perfectly fine insurance program for our nation's senior citizens, and put it into the whims of the stock market. And why change a healthy, successful, popular program? Because right-wing nuts do not like the idea that a large, federal anti-poverty program can work so well. (For example, private insurance companies spend 20 cents of every dollar on admin overhead. Social Security? A penny. Think about that difference...)

Last week I wrote that the Governor needs to be a leader in the fight against Dubya and the privatization goons. Apparently according to some people in Harrisburg, he has heard very little. So please, if you get the chance, call him this week. It takes five minutes, but every call makes a big difference. Just tell whomever answers the phone that Social Security is healthy, successful and works well, and that for the good of all Pennsylvanians, we need to leave it alone... That alone will make a difference. His number is (717) 787-2500. Make sure he knows you are a constituent.

Similarly....

City Council should pass a resolution stating that the City of Philadelphia is opposed to the destruction of Social Security.
In the end, will it mean that much? Not really. But, I think it was a powerful statement when the council passed a law post 9/11 stating the City's opposition to the "PATRIOT" Act. When cities all over start doing the same thing, you are reminded that there is strong opposition to what Bush is doing. Hell, there might even be enough votes in the PA House to pass a similar resolution.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Progressive Forum Event Reminders

They no longer seem to be calling tomorrow morning's meeting "talking liberally," possibly because it sounded too much like "drinking liberally," who knows.

Anyway, below is an email from Philly for Change. I am going to try and go to the media group one.

"Fight Bush's conservative agenda and build a more progressive Pennsylvania, participate in one of the Action Groups borne out of the Dec 11th forum:

Media Group:
Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 11:00 AM
First Unitarian Church - 1st Floor
2125 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Special Subjects: How to effectively frame the issues (starting with Social Security),
Rapid Response Network

Internet Group:
Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 2:00 PM
The Cafe at Barnes & Noble
18th and Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Special Subjects: Organizing an effective Pennsylvania Progressive Website

Organizing Group:
Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 1:00 PM
844 N 4th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Special Subjects: Neighborhood-level organizing"

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Run Josh, Run

Last night I went to the Philly for Change Meetup/Happy Hour. It was the first one I have ever been too. It is Philly, so I saw some familiar faces, even one of the "in theory" contributors to this blog. It was an interesting crowd, skewed a little older than I expected. I had some good conversations about framing, and met Chris Bowers of MyDD. While that was all good, what got me really excited was the long conversation I had with Philly for Change member Josh Richard.

In this past election, Josh decided to make a "quixotic" run for State Rep, against 24 year incumbent Republican Mario Civera, of Upper Darby. I put quixotic in quotes, because despite spending a grand total of... $1,500 dollars, here are the results:

RICHARD, JOSH (DEM)
11,409
CIVERA, MARIO J. JR. (REP)
14,202

In other words, in a State where incumbents do not lose, Josh spent $1,500 dollars, won 46 percent of the vote, and lost by only 2,800. That is an amazing showing.

How did he do it? Well, I (and others I talked to since last night) hope to hear it directly from him. But the short version is that he simply got out there, organized, and knocked on door after door after door.

Now Josh has to decide where to set his sights for 2006: State Rep. again, or Township Councilman. It is a question of aiming high and maybe losing, or aiming more locally and getting a definite foothold as a Councilman. That is only a decision that he can make. That said, this is probably the best chance in the entire state to take a Republican House seat. And to replace that Republican with a young, progressive, decent human being would be wonderful for Upper Darby, the Philadelphia region, and PA as a whole.

In my blathering last night, one thing I promised him was that if he did run again, he would have help. I know that Alex and the Music for America crowd would be interested in this race (right?). The Philly for Change people would be interested in the race. The question is, how many other social networks could be mobilized to help Josh win? I think numerous. This is exactly the sort of thing I think this website could be useful in doing.

Upper Darby is a working class, inner ring suburb with rapidly changing demographics that will only help our cause. That said, when you get 46 percent of the vote, people start paying attention, including your opponents. I guarantee that Rep. Civera will not be asleep at the wheel for this campaign. But, 46 percent... Imagine what could happen with candidate training from Wellstone Action. With a bigger organization, for which, he has already laid down the tracks. With volunteers.

Josh, email me to talk about it some more.

Alex, Charles, everyone else out there; if he runs, will you step up to help a young, progressive Democrat go to Harrisburg?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Clearchannel at the Boyd

So it seems that the Boyd will be reopened by Clear Channel. What a confusing bit of news to react to. Last I heard about a plan for the Boyd, the Goldenberg Group (famous for the Disney Hole) and Clear Channel were asking for like $10 million from the city and state for renovations. In the newly announced plan, Clear Channel is buying out Goldenberg, and will be paying for the whole thing. (Actually, Goldenberg still owns the lots next door, where they say they'll build shops).

On one hand, here are some pictures of the Boyd (or Sameric, as we know it). It's clearly a beautiful building, and would be much better as a theater than as a giant hole in the ground, or street level parking a la 8th and Market. A couple of years ago, when the Historic Commission inexplicably did not give the Boyd historic status, the Goldenberg Group was talking about possibly tearing down the theater, which seemed like a terrible idea, given that the Ritz is currently trying to find a site to place a movie theater near Rittenhouse Square.

On the other hand, Clear Channel is an incredibly terrible company. In addition to being generally evil (see Salon or ClearChannelSucks if you don't know why), according to the Inquirer article, Clear Channel has recently renovated big performance venues in Boston and Baltimore, and local theater owners there have been financially hurt by the new theaters. Do we really want Clear Channel to make more money at the expense of the Academy of Music (or even the Kimmel Center)? Hmm. I'm not sure. I'm skeptical of all things related to Clear Channel. But, in balance, this seems like a better solution than the other recent possibilities.

A side note: The thing that worries me most other than Clear Channel's evilness is the fact that this new theater will surely require parking, and I can't imagine that the parking situation here will be any more respectful of the needs of our good city as a place for pedestrians than other parking lunacy has been in this city. I hope they'll announce their parking plans soon.

A liberal Philly happy hour: tonight

What are you doing, in say, one hour?

From Philly for Change:

"January Meetup

Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 7:00 PM

Come along, socialize and learn what ACTIONS you can take to fight for rights against The Right. There will be lessons in fraiming which we will put to use at once and write letters to get the progressive message out. Upstairs at Ludwig's, 1315 Sansom St. (across the street from Fergie's)."

Is this is a sick joke?

This has nothing to do with Philly. But I though this was so bizarre, and so repugnant, that it should be posted and emailed everywhere. (Click on the link above for a much longer piece by Alex. I will ask him to write about it here, as well.)

CORE, or the Congress for Racial Equality, one of the nation's oldest civil rights groups is having a fundraiser. Guess who one of the honorees is? Karl Rove. Karl effing Rove. Karl "lets-systematically-disenfranchise-minorities" Rove. This is so bizarre that it seems like an internet hoax.

Who is next? Orval Faubus? You mean Bull Connor wasn't available?

Check out Alex's post.

(Update: I forgot to mention, the fundraiser is a "celebration" in honor of Dr. King... They are dancing on his grave.)

Gentrification and Philadelphia

A few weeks ago, someone posted about development happening in North Philadelphia. Reading through the Metro Commentary in the Inquirer, I came across an interesting op-ed about this exact subject. While the poster on YPP seemed to believe development was almost always a good thing, the author of this article was not nearly as charitable.
As I walked by 31st Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia one day recently, a developer's billboard grabbed my attention. "It's your turn," the text promised.
...
Westrum Development Co., to which the ad belongs, was, in effect, saying that young artists and professionals - particularly those who are white like me - have a right to spill over from upscale Center City and middle-class Fairmount into Brewerytown. We're being invited to gentrify this neighborhood of mostly small, two-story houses in North Philadelphia, where working-class people have lived for many years.
...
Brewerytown already is a well-established community of residents and businesses. An easy walk to Fairmount Park, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the location of the soon-to-be-relocated Please Touch Museum, residents are overwhelmingly African American, many of them homeowners. This community's turn is not over; it has been active for quite some time.

The people of this neighborhood want improvement - rehabbed houses, shops and a supermarket - but this can't be done by a developer who believes that replacing the residents, or sending them intimidating advertising messages, is improvement. Such a developer does not have the interests of the current residents in mind, and the community understands this.

Brewerytown residents want to continue to own the real estate, institutions and culture of their neighborhood and to be actively involved in the rebuilding effort. What we should ask ourselves is: Why doesn't this community have the opportunity to determine its future as more affluent communities in this city do?
...
Unfortunately, Brewerytown is not the only working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia being targeted by real estate firms and speculators interested in profiting from the gentrification and displacement that inevitably accompanies so-called revitalization. Similar things are happening in neighborhoods in North, South, and West Philadelphia.

People of color also are not the only victims of gentrification. Fairmount, once largely white and working class, has been gentrified. Now, Fishtown and Kensington are dealing with ongoing development and displacement.
I tend to agree with the overall message of this article. Economic development and growth are both good things. However, it can't be done at the expense of working-class people who have lived in the city for their entire lives. Besides, which is better? Attracting a few more weathly people in various areas of Philadelphia or creating better jobs so the medium wage goes up?

House Legislators to Rendell: We will save SEPTA ourselves.

Yesterday, the Daily News put an unusual editorial from its head honcho, Zach Stalberg, right on the front cover. It said, among other things, that the Daily news had not been proactive enough in covering and thinking about Mass Transit. And, in its title, it admonished the State to "Fix Mass Transit... Dammit!" Well, today we may be seeing the start of the paper's new commitment. Both the Inquirer and Daily News are loaded with stories about that always entertaining local topic: SEPTA.

Most interesting is Republican leader, and Northeast Philly resident, John Perzel, who said not to worry, he and the Republicans will save SEPTA himself. From the Inky:

House Speaker John M. Perzel yesterday pledged to rescue SEPTA riders from the threat of fare hikes and service cuts but rejected as inadequate a $110 million statewide transit bailout plan endorsed by Gov. Rendell.
"We will come up with our own ideas if the governor does not," the Philadelphia Republican said in an interview. "We will not let it fail."
Perzel declined to say whether a mass-transit aid package would spur further increases in the gasoline tax. The legislature has historically raised gas taxes for road improvements as an incentive to persuade rural legislators to provide more transit aid.

John Perzel is the wonderful humanitarian who gave us, among other things, the State takeover (patronage grab) of the city's parking authority as well as the dead-of-night "Leave no Billboard Behind Act." He also seems to view Philadelphia public schools as a monster that must be put down. That said, he is not necessarily an ideologue, so he might see that SEPTA is important, and needs money. I don't know. In the article he does state that we need a permanent solution, not another temporary fix (which is what the Dwight Evans-Ed Rendell plan really is). My fear, though, is that he passes a "permanent" solution that is far short of what SEPTA needs in the long term, and then when SEPTA later says it needs more, he tells them to go away, because he already took care of it in 2005.

And, just in case anyone doubts the pure economic benefit of effective mass transit: it is not a coincidence that our two upcoming new skyscrapers, Cira Center and the Comcast Center, are located right next to two of our major transit hubs.


Monday, January 03, 2005

The Skyline is a changing

We already have a new 30 story building rising next to 30th Street Station (where, thanks to a stupid, stupid law, one of the richest city law firms is moving, and then the partners will pay zero city wage taxes). And now, we have the "Comcast Center," ready to start at 17th and JFK. When the building is completed, it will be the largest in the city, eclipsing Liberty Place I and II.

From the Inquirer:

The skyscraper, to be called Comcast Center, will be built on a site, already cleared, across 17th Street from Suburban Station on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. The project, to cost $465 million, includes a new entrance to the commuter railroad station that extends below a planned public plaza in front of the building.

The announcement comes after extended and bitter controversy over proposed tax breaks for the tower, which were rejected late last year by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and a subsequent $30 million grant provided by Gov. Rendell.

Owners of rival buildings turned off decorative lighting for a time last summer to protest the building, which they said would create a glut of office space in an already weak real estate market.

When finished late in 2007, the building will be, at 975 feet, the city's tallest. Comcast has signed a 151/2 year lease 534,000 square feet on 24 floors, or 44 percent of the 1.2 million square foot tower.

It has options to expand into virtually all of the space.



Media Consolidation is a bad thing. That said, if it is going to happen anyway, we mine as well have the behemoth have their headquarters located in our hometown. And, generally, I have to say that Comcast never really threatened to leave if they didn't get their 30 mil tax break, unlike a lot of big corporations. (Plus, they did start Comcast Sportsnet, the greatest channel in local television history.)

I do wonder though, in a city that still is losing more than its gaining, whether two new skyscrapers hurt more than they help. After the initial economic benefit of actually building them, a glutted commercial real estate market does not help our city.

(Update: This really will be a dramatic change to the skyline. Take a look here, and see just how much taller the building is than anything else.)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Event Notice: Talking Liberally

Philly for Change, which hosted a well attended post-election blues-fighting-forum, is holding another event this Saturday. The subject is 'talking liberally,' specifically communicating liberal ideas on all levels. It will have an eye towards effectively framing our values and issues, a la the work of Mr. Guru, George Lakoff. The topic will focus specifically on the upcoming battle over social security. The event is at 11AM, at the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St.

Obviously, given the previous post, social security is something I think we really must win on.

The meeting is a little bit later in the morning than the one in December, so hopefully everyone who wants to come is able to. I will definitely be there, though maybe a few minutes late.

Anyone else going?

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