March 9-15, 2006
political notebookQueen for a Day
Heavily guarded by the Secret Service, the tall, red-haired leader will host NATO governments in Riga this November for a summit.
Vike-Freiberga fled from the Soviet invasion of WWII and lived in Morocco and then Canada. After Latvia split from the Soviet Union in 1991, she returned to her homeland and, in 1999, was elected as the first female head of state in post-Communist Eastern Europe. Today, her tiny country of 2.3 million people has fewer than 200 soldiers serving in Iraq.
"We are gravely concerned at the escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq and the increasingly belligerent behavior of Iran, which insists on obtaining enriched uranium," she said. "But Iran's unacceptable recent conduct is just part of a series of recent events where we see a growing chasm between parts of the Muslim and Western worlds. It is alarming!"
Vike-Freiberga, who was appointed by U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan to serve as special envoy on the reform of the United Nations, announced that the General Assembly will form a new Peacemaking Commission "which I do hope will serve as an effective mechanism for diffusing long-lasting conflicts, because in earlier initiatives you would often find that four or five years after the conflict, root causes are still not addressed."
She added that the U.N.'s member states will soon agree to the transformation of the Human Rights Commission into a credible and effective human-rights council.
"Time has come to finally do something about it," she said. "Regarding the reform of the Security Council, Latvia supports the proposals by Germany, Brazil and India for the expansion of this important body, thereby rendering it more representative of the current situation in the world.
"The world needs a strong and effective United Nations. For only through a concerted effort based on consensus and cooperation will we be able to address such global concerns as warfare, terrorism and international crime, environmental degradation, poverty and disease."
Which Democrat will be the mahoff of the 175th state House district?
Four candidates, three of whom are politically connected and the other grassroot, are vying for a primary ballot slot in the race to represent a district that encompasses Old City, Queen Village, Society Hill, Port Richmond, Fishtown, Kensington, Northern Liberties and Bella Vista.
State Rep. Marie Lederer, having turned 79 years old, will not seek re-election.
Local politicos favor Lederer's former chief of staff, Michael O'Brien, who left Lederer's office in 2004 after 10 years to develop real estate. Having stayed in the loop, he says he has the support of all but one ward leader in the district and has the backing of powerful Local 98 leader John Dougherty, who lives in Pennsport, which is not in the district. But O'Brien says having Dougherty in his corner can only help.
His platform includes a call for requiring developers along the river to include public greenspace in their projects and he says he will continue to work to close down nuisance bars and businesses. (He helped Lederer and state Sen. Vincent Fumo close Delaware Avenue nightclubs and the GoInternet business in Old City.) O'Brien says he will seek Fumo's backing when the state senator returns from Florida.
While ward support in a Democratic primary for a district seat can often make or break a campaign, Terry Graboyes is not seeking the endorsement of the ward leaders, according to spokesperson Marty O'Rourke. Graboyes, a pro-choice activist, owns a commercial window company. She supports raising the minimum wage and opposes property reassessments.
O'Rourke says Graboyes is relying on independent voters and not the Democratic apparatus, but stressed that she does have the support of Councilmembers Michael Nutter, Jim Kenney and Marian Tasco none of whom live in the district. A press release says she also has the support of the building trades.
O'Rourke says Graboyes has raised more than $50,000 and will need up to $200,000 in a contested primary: "She is raising money from Ed Rendell's circle."
Peter Fiorentino, a private-practice lawyer who worked for City Council President Anna Verna, also wants a shot at the seat.
"With casino development a reality, I will make it my priority to represent the people of the 175th District in helping to pass nothing but the strictest legislation protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods," he said in a statement.
Anne Dicker, a co-founder of the Philly for Change arm of Democracy for America, is hoping to use grassroots organizing and blog support to reach voters who don't follow party politics. Her Web site www.annedicker.com says that her initiatives are coming soon.