Sunday, July 10, 2005

Young Philly Politics Has Moved!

Young Philly Politics has moved off of blogger. Please update your site, and check us out at www.youngphillypolitics.com.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Site Maintenance

We are undergoing some site maintenance for the next day or so, in case things looks weird.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Turning PA Blue: Volunteer Opportunity Tomorrow

One of the longer-term projects that all Dems in PA have to focus on is getting the Stae back to where it should be: in the hand of Democrats. In a State where we have way more registered Democrats than Republicans, it makes no sense that we have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Majority of Republican Congressman. Turning the PA House blue will help us immeasurably with much of this, because redistricting is just 4.5 years away.

As Anne Dicker said in an email:
With the Republicans in control of the state senate and house, Democratic Philadelphians are restricted in what they can do for the city: from preventing gun crime to regulating a fairer tax structure. Winning back our state legislature is the key to helping our city (not to mention the rest of the state)! And the deficit is only 11 members in the house.

To that end, I want to let everyone know about a really great volunteer opportunity for tomorrow: Linda Minger, candidate in a special election in the PA House, needs help with phone banking. Can you spare some time?

The details:
Junco & Grouse Bookstore
Sunday July 10th
6pm to 8 pm
716 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

It is sponsored by the Young Democrats of PA. Check out more details here.

It will surely be a small turnout race, in a really small district. A few volunteers can make a really big difference.

Rep. Bob Brady and Seth Williams

There were two interesting items in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. Both are part of the weekly political roundup done by the staff reporters. The first is a rumor that US Rep. Bob Brady is considering a run for Mayor of Philadelphia. Brady is the chair of the Democratic City Committee and widely thought to be one of the most powerful politicians in Philadelphia.

Interestingly enough, he also the only white congressman in the entire country who represents a district that is mostly people of color. While this might seem like a meaningless statistic, I think it is actually pretty significant. A hallmark of Brady's style has been building diverse political coalitions and working with lot's of different people. If he did decide to run for mayor, it would be an earthquake on the already crowded landscape.

The second blurb is about Seth Williams and his upcoming fundraiser.
Seth Williams defied the Democratic establishment when he challenged District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham in the May primary, but there are no hard feelings.

The host committee for a fund-raiser aimed at retiring Williams' $35,000 campaign debt includes Mayor Street, party chairman and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah, five members of City Council, and the leaders of 17 wards.

Most of those on the bill publicly supported Abraham, the primary winner. "It's a testament to the campaign we ran: a clean campaign, based on the issues, with no race baiting," Williams said. "We're looking good for four years from now."

The event, with tickets at $100, $250 and $1,000, is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 28 at Finnigan's Wake, the political watering hole in Northern Liberties
What exactly does this mean? I actually think the article lays it out quite well. Williams ran a good campaign and is being rewarded for it. He is a legitimate guy who has a bright political future.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Johnny Doc Doesn't Get It

Last week, Dave Davies wrote a column in the Daily News, talking about an odd conversation that he had with John Dougherty, the head of the electrician's union, the treasurer of the Philly Democratic Party, and general Philly mover and shaker. In the column, Davies said that Dougherty both threatened him, and said that Dougherty said that he had Councilman Jim Kenney's phone records. (He likely does not really have the phone records.)

The main point of the Davies column was that Dougherty, a likely candidate for mayor, was acting like a bully. Who says they have a rival politician's phone records, and use it to threaten one of the most respected local journalists we have?

In today's DN, Dougherty responds. And, fundamentally, it is a good example of why Dougherty is going to have a lot of trouble running for mayor.

He starts the letter by saying:
IN LAST week's column, Dave Davies got one thing right. Buried deep in his attack, he acknowledged my exemplary work ethic, passion for worthy causes, and the charity and community work conducted by IBEW Local 98. Let me first address the worthy causes:
Dougherty then goes on listing his causes, and discussing his work ethic. And, hey, Dougherty does have his union do some very worthwhile things. They donated labor to Live 8, they were almost solely responsible for boathouse row being re-lit when it was. And, given how he has turned the local IBEW into a political force, I have no doubt he has a strong work ethic. But, and this is a big but, that was not that point.

Notice what Dougherty does not say in the letter? He does not say, for example, the conversation did not happen that way. He does not say, "I lost my temper, and I apologize." No, he just lists his accomplishments, and leaves it at that. But, that kind of attitude, where because you have used some of your considerable power for good, you can act like a bully, will not get you elected mayor. People are not going to vote for you because you demand they do, they are going to do it because they want to see you every day for four years, because they like you.

The considerable power of John Dougherty will undoubtedly make him a player in the mayoral race, and will get him the support of a lot of local politicians. But, unless he understands that people want to like their leader of their City, not fear him, he will not win in 2007.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Conservative Christians take on the Statehouse

Evangelical and conservative Christian organizing in Pennsylvania is nothing new. However, the Christian right has apparently formed a new Pastor's network to target our beloved General Assembly in earnest. According to a tucked-away piece in Saturday’s Inquirer (which you can read in its entirety here):

The new Pennsylvania Pastors' Network already has signed up about 100 ministers, most from the Philadelphia area. It was created by Let Freedom Ring, a West Chester nonprofit, with assistance from the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Urban Family Council.

Former Chester County Commissioner Colin Hanna founded Let Freedom Ring last year to promote conservative causes.

The pastors' network furthers Let Freedom Ring's work during the 2004 presidential campaign to equip pastors to speak out on social issues while abiding by tax rules that require churches to be nonpartisan.

Pastors in the new network will get alerts and material so they and their congregants can press legislators toward conservative stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, gambling, and other issues, said Deborah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Let Freedom Ring.
Luckily, the left has great people like Rabbi Carl Choper of Temple Beth Shalom in Mechanicsburg on our side who has been working to reinvigorate the statewide Interfaith Alliance. This national group has chapters in many states and Rabbi Carl is trying to get Pennsylvania’s progressive faith community organized. So far this year they have worked to influence Senator Specter on the filibuster issue and will hopefully delve into state level politics soon.

Progressive faith-based organizing is sometimes a low priority of the PA and Philadelphia Left, but when Focus on the Family is funding the other side to influence our state’s policies and laws it should be a wakeup call for all of us to get in touch with Rabbi Carl at the Interfaith Alliance and figure out how we can help.

More on Michael Nutter and Trolleys

I received an email from Jim Foster, author of the previously discussed op-ed on Michael Nutter and trolleys.
As the author of the opinion piece regarding the Route 15 trolley, Michael Nutter and SEPTA, let me clarify a couple of points that may be missed in reading the abbreviated version of my commentary. (For those interested google Chestnut Hill Local and read the two separate opinions on this issue in my columns “Off Center” by Jim Foster. They were printed June 2, and June 29.)

The larger issue here is that $84 million was spent on a transportation system that was well researched, planned, and completed with testing and operation already de-bugged. It was also one whose operational start date was advertised well in advance to the neighborhood. SEPTA knew full well that the street in question (two blocks of 59th Street) had been illegally converted to both side parking by the neighbors and Nutter admits it has been used illegally that way. SEPTA, not without a history of poor community relations, did try and get Nutter to have the street made one way in essence to help legalize an existent non-conforming use, a typical process in Philadelphia usually accompanied with political influence. Campbell saw this as an opportunity to blackmail SEPTA by waiting until a day or two before the publicized start date and went on record that the neighbors would not move the illegally parked cars and they would not accept a one-way street. This was all carefully choreographed with Nutter part of the plan. He denied being a part of that process in a recent phone call, but a reading of his quote in the City Paper last October 6, tells a much different story.

The point is not that ward leaders or councilmen should not deal with local issues, they should. But here they had years to work out their differences with SEPTA regarding the depot at 59th and Callowhill, and no less than a year advance notice that trolley service was to resume. The trackwork had been long completed and the announcement that the newly rebuilt cars were being supplied to SEPTA began in 2003. The Inquirer published photos of the cars, the station at the Zoo and related data and now those involved say they were caught off guard - - - not a chance. This was a political power play pure and simple, crafted to have maximum impact. Councilman Nutter had a larger responsibility to take the bull by the horns, get the system operational, and then preside over resolution of other local issues. That is called leadership and prioritizing. It could have been a win-win if he had the guts; but he does not. Campbell runs the show out there, and he does what he is told.

As I stated in my piece, politics in Philadelphia is hardball without gloves. Councilman Nutter is proving he is not ready for that game.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kudos to John Street

I am not one to pull punches when I disagree with someone, as should be pretty self-evident for most of our readers. That said, when a politican does something that deserves credit, I try and note that too.

In that vein, I just want to say congratulations to Mayor Street for the 4th of July weekend. First, Live 8 went off without a hitch. (Unless, you, like me, think Rob Thomas, Josh Groban and Keith Urban are big hitches. But that ain't Mayor Street's fault.) The City, and all City workers, did one hell of a job getting the Parkway ready, keeping the peace, and cleaning up when it was done.

And, while I doubt that the City truly broke even on the event, I think it was certainly worth it. First of all, it was simply a big showcase for a City that can use a little publicity to our friends around the Country and around the world. But, more fundamentally, it was worth it because Philly played host to an event, that trying or not, probabaly did more to raise awareness about Africa than anything else this side of Blackhawk Down. Having Will Smith, with an audience of millions, snapping his fingers every three seconds to symbolize a child dying from poverty, is an unmeasurable good, and I am proud that Philly hosted it. Could it have done better? Yeah. Hyde Park, all singing along to U2, and Paul McCartney seemed to "get it" more. But, strictly in terms of the city itself, I am happy with our contribution.

Secondly, a few lines from this article, which was pretty useless, caught my eye:

The gala and concert's goal was $2 million - $1 million guaranteed to John's AIDS foundation, and $1 million to stay locally for AIDS education.

Tickets for the ball cost from $500 to $2,500.

About 600 guests ate pasta, poached salmon, turkey breast and grilled vegetables, and drank from an open bar. Singer Rufus Wainwright warmed up for John, who stood with tennis great Billie Jean King and acknowledged Mayor Street, Segal and Fumo. "This is an incredible step for a city to go through," John said. The city in effect turned over its annual July Fourth Parkway festivities to an AIDS benefit.
So, again, forgetting the party, the parade and fireworks, etc, Mayor Street turned July 4th into one huge benefit for AIDS charities.

Cheers, Mr. Mayor.

PA Budget Deal Reached: Some Medicaid Cuts Reversed

In their annual, "oops!, we forgot we have to pass a budget" session, the PA legislature and the Governor agreed to a budget deal late last night. And, the deal looks to reverse at least some of the draconian cuts that were being made to Medicaid:
Rendell said the deal would restore close to $200 million of the $383 million he proposed eliminating from the Medicaid budget in February. House Republicans, however, said last night that the number was closer to $150 million.

With federal funding drying up, higher health care costs and increased enrollment, Rendell said he had no choice but to impose limits on services this year.

The agreement would lift all caps on prescription drugs and hospital access for women and children, and mean no increase in co-payments.

"This is a tremendous victory for the people who are most medically challenged," Rendell said.

Health care advocates were concerned that the cap on doctors' offices would remain at 18 visits per year, which could be devastating for the disabled or chronically ill.

"If you keep the limits, they will end up in the hospital," said Jonathan Stein, chief counsel for Community Legal Services. "You only hurt the sickest people."

Rendell said he would meet with health care providers and advocates throughout the summer to identify ways to save money.
On the face of it, this looks like a clear victory. But, I guess I am curious as to what the full agreement spells out. Eliminating the caps on how many times really sick people can go to the doctor is such a basic thing.

My question, where is the other 180 million dollars coming from? Is Rendell going to find another source of revenue for the program, or are there still cuts that we are not seeing?

The problem with late night budget agreements is that no one knows any of the details, including most of our glorious State Reps.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Politics and trolleys: the rest of the story

Ben pointed me to a great Op-Ed in the Chestnutt Hill Local about Michael Nutter’s role in the 15 Trolley debacle.


My commentary in the June 2 edition of the Local focused on a bizarre political situation that has been festering for over a year, the outgrowth of a most unusual conflict between a West Philadelphia neighborhood, SEPTA, an $84 million taxpayer investment and a high-profile councilman who walked away from an important decision.
Michael Nutter, self-appointed dragon-slayer of all social ills, could not seem to bring himself to override the wishes of a ward leader in his district, even though those wishes include an illegal conversion and use of a street, and a costly reversal of progress for a surface transportation project fully funded, paid for and potentially operational. That project is the Route 15 Girard Avenue streetcar system that was to initiate similar upgrades and restoration for two other routes, one of them being our own Route 23 on Germantown Avenue. The start date for Route 15 was June 2004.

--snip—

The real story is that Carol Campbell, ward leader and secretary of the Democratic City Committee, sitting at the right hand of U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, is so powerful that she is seen as the kingmaker or career breaker in the next mayoral election. She is reputed to control so many inner city wards that a few phone calls could end or start careers. Nutter is genuinely afraid to cross her, and Brady will hide in the corner if told to do so — and he did so.

--snip—

The current SEPTA management seems to want to do all it can to remove itself from any obligation to run trolleys again, and for that reason has not taken a very aggressive position in trying to remedy the stalemate on Route 15. No wonder a full year has passed since the announced start date. Some feel that by keeping the spotlight off that trolley line, it precludes SEPTA from having to explain not only why the two other routes have languished, but why the agency has begun selectively dismantling the infrastructure it was supposed to maintain. Most of this “unofficial sabotage” began the month after the Route 15 startup was put off.


I think that we all know that Michael Nutter is eyeing the Mayoral seat in 2007, and one does not get there by pissing off party bosses. But I don’t think that it is necessarily that simple. First of all, Nutter, if he is as independent minded as people make him out to be, will never get the support from the party in the primary over Chakah Fattah and John Saidel, although I don’t think that Campbell is in the Chakah Fattah cheering section. But more importantly, believe it or not, this is how the Ward structure is supposed to work. Nutter has been known as one of the only District Councilmen to defer to their Ward Leaders about issues of the sort. In most districts, the old system where Ward Leaders actually controlled the destiny of their Wards is virtually non-existent.

I think that we also must note that this is not just about parking spaces. SEPTA has made it clear that they do not want to maintain Trolley lines. If you were living in West Philly, would you want to park somewhere else only to have that street have abandoned Trolley tracks that turn into blithe?

Nutter does not just have to worry about the Mayor’s race here. If he decides to back out then he will have to defend his Council seat. You don’t stay in office by pissing off your constituents, no matter how wrong you think that they are.

Race and Education in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an excellent source of information on the School District. Their summer report (found here) on racial inequities in the District is very interesting.

It is an analysis of new demographic data released by the District. The Notebook article finds that there are still “persistent inequities in resources and achievement” based on race in the Philadelphia's schools.

Among other important facts mentioned in the article is this:
A 2003 study conducted by Research for Action found that over a three-year period, gaps in the percentage of uncertified teachers between the District’s predominantly nonwhite schools and schools with more White students had actually widened. A recent analysis updating these trends found that gaps in certification, turnover rates, and teacher experience persist.

School CEO Paul Vallas is implementing an array of new programs, which he argues will “lift all boats,” but take a look at this article and see how much more slowly progress has been achieved for students of color.

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