March 2- 8, 2006
political notebookWhat's in Ed's Head
The group was founded more than 10 years ago by Eric Weinberg, nephew of Marty Weinberg and former legislative director for Sen. Vincent Fumo, and David Urban, former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, as a way to engage the 25- to 35-year-old demographic in the political arena. (Urban later nudged the high end of that demographic up to 40 years old.) Both Urban and Weinberg left YAP long ago and are now successful lobbyistsWeinberg's firm, Hill Solutions, has merged with Buchanan and Urban is now with the American Continental Groupbut their YAPfests continue with Patricia Byrnes, a government relations consultant for Buchanan currently serving as YAP president.
While most in the crowd waiting for the Guv to show up were youngish, some over-40'ers in denial attended. Arriving once the event was in midswing, Rendell took the podium for a candid Q&A session and addressed a wide range of questions. Here's a sampling:
· On the 10-year real-estate-tax abatements: Rendell wants the program extended. While new construction is still receiving the abatement, the first properties in the program are now starting to pay the full rate. So the long-term gains are here.
· On campaign finance reform: Mixed feelings. It would be hard to change the system in Harrisburg because lobbyists are the ones who contribute the largest amount of campaign funds. And, as is the case on Washington, D.C.'s K Street, they hold considerable sway. Though he was once opposed to them because he thought voters could trim dead wood if they so desired, Rendell said he would consider term limits for offices that don't currently have them. "When an incumbent is well-funded, it's very hard for a challenger to win. And with the redistricting plan, it's very easy for House and Senate to get re-elected," he said. "It becomes their whole career. Me, I can only be governor for eight years but they can go on indefinitely."
· On bringing the 2016 Summer Olympics to Philadelphia: Not that thrilled with the idea. He thinks Philly is a long shot while New York, fresh off an unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Games, has a considerable head start. "It would be great for the city, but it would suck up a lot of money from the state, just like the Republican National Convention did in 2000," he said. "It took us over a year to recoup our money from that, but this will cost over $300 million and we would have to build special venues and housing. Then what would we do with it?"
· On Dubai Port World's potential takeover of six U.S. ports including the Tioga Marine Terminal: He says the 45-day investigation period will expose problems for the United Arab Emirates-based company. (For example, UAE refuses to recognize the state of Israel.) They won't be used, he predicted. "It won't affect us at our port in Tioga because we have a [request for proposals] out for a new management company," he said. (For more, see Philly Blunt on the previous page.) "Karl Rove is a very smart guy and if he knew what the president was up to with the ports, he never would have allowed it."
· On the looming U.S. Senate race: "Of course I support Bob Casey, but I am not a Rick Santorum basher. Rick has done a lot for this state, but Casey is the better choice. I asked Barbara Hafer and Joe Hoeffel to get out of the race for Casey. And then people asked me, 'How can you, a pro-choice Democrat, support the pro-life Casey?' I said that you will never find someone you agree 100 percent with. You can agree 18 out of 20 for Casey and five out of 20 for Santorum."
· On raising the state minimum wage: Rendell wants hike it to $6.25 the first year of a potential increase and $7.15 the second year. "It's not just teenagers flipping burgers. It's people over 20 and parents."
· On retaining local talent and attracting immigrants: "We need to hold on to our young people here after college and retain those of us, like myself, who came here from New York to go to Penn. I like Councilman Jim Kenney's plan for [recruiting and supporting] immigrants."
· And finally, offering praise for President George W. Bush: "I went to the White House on Sunday and the president gave the best speech I ever heard about immigration."