Archive: March, 2010
|Michael T. Regan|
Remember how we told you a Tea Partier was running for Congress in the 1st District against Bob Brady, but then she wasn't?
Well, Pia Varma may be back. Last night, she informed City Paper that she filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, challenging the Commonwealth Court decision to kick her off the ballot because she didn't acquire the requisite 1,000 signatures. She claims that she wasn't properly served. Sez the appeal:
[Dominic Demuro of the Philadelphia Writ Service] indicated he had a picture of Ms. Varma and approached her and said to her, "You've been served." Although Mr. Demuro said he served her, there was no testimony or statement by him that he actually handed any document to her, nor did he describe what he handed to her.
Ms. Varma, who was not present at the hearing, would testify she has no recollection of being served anything and only recalls walking into the news conference and being greeted by someone she thought was from Fox News.
In fact, more than 1,500 Temple Hospital staffers are striking today at noon.
So how does a hospital continue to run without them? According to Young Philly Politics, the hospital is hiring nurses from HealthSource Global Staffing at a cost of more than $10,000 for each RN per week. If true, that's an exorbitant amount of money.
Head over to YPP for a good summary and video and what's gone on thus far (including the rally we told you about last Friday), and keep your eye on this one, people. I have a feeling it's gonna get ugly.
Contaminated mud from Marcellus Shale gas drilling spills in state forest; Rendell may be changing mind on additional leasing
|Constance Merriman, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)|
Just a week ago, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a budget which relies on more than a $100 million in revenue from new leasing of state forest for drilling in the Marcellus Shale (a third of the state forest has already been leased for drilling).
That decision, as I reported in February, ran contrary to the advice of former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Michael DiBerardinis, who warned shortly before resigning that further leasing would "scar the economic, scenic, ecological, and recreational values of the forest," as well as overburden the Department's limited staff.
Among the dangers associated with Marcellus Shale drilling is the potential for spills a danger heightened by the rapid pace at which the industry has developed.
Yesterday, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported that 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of contaminated mud were spilled at Sproul state forest in Clinton County, Pa. a site operated by Anadarko E&P Co. Inc. that was part of the governor's most recent lease of forest land for drilling, in January.
While about half of the mud spilled over the boundary of the well pad, it didn't spread far enough to contaminate any surface waters, ground water or wetlands in the area, said Mr. Spandoni. A contractor began cleanup work Friday night. DEP officials have taken mud samples to determine a proper disposal method.
The mud is used as a cooling agent in drilling operations. Since the mud that spilled is synthetic-based, it doesn't contain any diesel fluids as some other agents do, said Mr. Spandoni.
This certainly isn't the first case of "errors" resulting from hydraulic fracturing operations: There were 56 "illegal discharges" in 2008 and 2009.
Nor is this the first spill affecting state forest land: City Paper has learned of two more incidents (confirmed with the Department of Environmental Protection) at a site adjacent to state forest in Clearfield County. In August 2009, a drilling pit utilized by EOG Resources Inc. leaked drilling fluids into a nearby spring; in October, there was a spill of "a water/chemical mixture used for cleaning wells" at an adjacent well, also operated by EOG.
These spills resulted in impacts to Alex Branch and Little Laurel Run streams, which are wild trout fisheries, and a freshwater spring used by local hunters.
Representative Greg Vitali, working with a coalition of environmentally-minded House representatives, has sponsored a bill calling for a moratorium on the leasing of more state land for drilling.
Despite what he says was a deal made between House "green dog" Democrats, who opposed such leasing, House leadership, and Governor Ed Rendell, the governor came out in favor of leasing additional land for this year's budget.
But, according to the Times-Tribune, he was singing a different tune yesterday:
Mr. Rendell expressed optimism Monday the state can meet next year's revenue target without leasing additional acreage of state forest land. He said more details will be forthcoming. Mr. Rendell also said for the first time he supports a moratorium bill.
If this is true, it's big news. Maybe Rendell has decided he doesn't want his legacy to have been pillaging the state forest to plug budget holes, after all.
This is the one of the most fun-sounding protests we've heard of in a while:
Join Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE) for a drag show style action. This public performance will show SEPTA that its transgender/genderqueer riders demand respect and attention, we will not... stay quiet while SEPTA ignores its promises for a safer transit system.
SEPTA continues to insist on the use of M/F gender stickers on its fare cards, subjecting transgender, genderqueer and other gender non-conforming riders to questioning and harassment when their sticker doesnt match their perceived gender.
SEPTA says that they dont want their riders experiencing unnecessary discrimination due to their gender. In October, SEPTA committed to taking steps to set up a way for riders to report incidents resulting from the gender sticker policy, promising that they would address these complaints to ensure more safety and respect for transgender riders. Its been five months and SEPTA has not taken a single step to follow through on what they promised.
It's also for a good cause: SEPTA's insistence on not getting rid of its M/F gender stickers seemingly to discourage people from using their opposite-sex friends' and family members' fare cards as their own, as if that's really a disincentive is insensitive and pointless.
The protest will go from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m., at the plaza across from City Hall.
Lara Coleman here with your morning afternoon fix:
On Friday, Facebook proposed a new feature called "place," which allows users add their locations to their Facebook page. Creepy.
President Obama returns this morning from a "surprise visit" to Afghanistan to meet with President Karzai to discuss the Afghan government, as well as to greet and praise American troops.
More than 35 people are dead in Russia after two unknown female suicide bombers set off explosions during Monday's morning rush hour at two subway stations in central Moscow.
As technology threatens their livelihoods, 18,000 rickshaw drivers in India remain loyal to their jobs despite urges from police and action groups to end this mode of transportation.
Philadelphia explores the idea of implementing modular, or factory-built, houses in order to cut the high costs of housing and also to keep up with the growing demand for homes.
Put down the SunnyD. Dr. JoAnn Manson at Brigham and Women's Hospital believe that studies linking Vitamin D to good health may be incorrect, or at least very exaggerated.
The NCAA Final Four are in: Michigan State, West Virginia, Butler and Duke. Go team.
The cafeteria of West Philly's Harambee Charter School on North 66th Street doubles as a nightclub on Saturday nights. Officials are discussing the issue today.
We need jobs, dammit.
Jobs, I say, not . . . those creamers that don't require refrigeration but taste kind of funny. Jobs not . . . public radio fundraisers! Jobs, not . . . slightly more expensive pickled green tomatoes at the Reading Terminal Market! Jobs, not another season of The Office!
Jobs, not . . . hmm . . . oh! Jobs, not the soda tax!
There. Having vaguely equated things I don't like with massive job losses, I will now go ahead and join "Save Philly Jobs. Not Taxes," the recently-formed coalition that's been a vocal opponent of the mayor's proposed sugary beverage tax.
"Philly Jobs. Not Taxes." It has a nice, caveman-ish ring to it, don't you think?
I just hope none of "Philly Jobs. Not taxes" members don't mind if nothing they say makes any sense. 'Cause I'm not sure it does.
The only remotely plausible job loss scenario Big Beverage has been able to muster in its efforts to destroy the soda tax is that Philadelphia residents working at the local Coke bottling plant could lose their livelihoods if we pass the soda tax.
Dutifully reported the Inquirer recently:
Area retailers, Teamsters, and beverage companies recently created a Web site, www.savephillyjobs.com, to press their slogan, "Philly Jobs. Not Taxes."
"If the mayor was successful in passing this new bill, I believe we will lose about 50 percent of our members in soda today, because less sales equals less volume, and less volume means loss of jobs," said Danny Grace, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 830.
About 1,500 of his members work distributing soda, he said, including those at the Coca-Cola bottling plant at 725 E. Erie Ave, the Pepsi plant on Roosevelt Boulevard, and at Canada Dry Delaware Valley in Pennsauken.
Fifty percent, huh?
No one, so far, has bothered to point out that the coke plant in question is a giant regional supplier and that you'd probably have to have a tax covering the entire northeastern United States to make much of a difference there.
(I'm not, by the way, sold on the soda tax yet myself. The science linking higher beverage prices with less consumption is sound, but the tax, as its written now, doesn't force retailers to increase the price of their sugary beverages. If they wind up distributing the cost to all of their products, it doesn't work, I think.)
But come on: if the media's going to quote such claims, let's check whether there's a shred of truth behind them.
Joe the Coke Bottler is probably a long way from having to worry about this tax. It's King Sugar (not to mention the ambitious Prince Corn Syrup) who fears it and who bellows from atop his pile of gold: "Philly Jobs! Not Taxes!"
|Photos | Patrick Rapa|
|The ref on the left appears to be disrobing. I don't recall that happening.|
I usually catch one lacrosse game a year. Last night the Philadelphia Wings destroyed the Boston Blazers. First they outscored em, then they pounded em into the carpet. Funny thing about lacrosse fights. They're a little rarer than hockey fights, but, with no ice to slip on and refs less than eager to jump in, they go a lot longer. A couple of the battles at the Wachovia Center lasted for several minutes, and didn't so much end as exhaust themselves. There was blood, and the requisite Philly bloodlust. Good times.
|The Wings wore pink helmets because it was Breast Health Awareness Night.|
Back in November, we told you about a looming strike from Temple Hospital's nurses, and their brethren at the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP). At the time, their contracts had expired a month prior, and their complaints ranged from everything as predictable as wage issues to something a little more astonishing: the "gag clause."
Sez writer Joshua Fernandez:
According to a complaint PASNAP filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Oct. 30, the proposed clause within TUH's contract offer states that no employee will "criticize, ridicule or make any statement which disparages Temple, or any of its affiliates or any of their respective managers or medical staff members."
Many months later, Temple and its nurses haven't come to an agreement, and the March 31 negotiate-or-we'll-strike deadline is next Wednesday.
So today at noon, nearly 350 nurses, hospital staff and representatives from various Philly labor groups rallied today outside of Temple Hospital to give a taste, if you will, of the coming strike.
Emily Randle, PASNAP's communications and government relations specialist, said the event fostered a "great mood," but ulimately wasn't very successful. "We were there today to ask for negotiations this weekend," she says, "and we're not sure that's going to happen."
|Lawrence Kesterson, Philly.com online gallery|
Yes, Philly finally made the front page of the New York Times did we even get that for Phillies' WFCship? and it's for ... flash mobs.
The Times covered this as a national story, using Philly's recent incidents as an example of the way the flash mob has mutated from its pillow-fighting, silent iPod dance party origins.
The article was pretty bland, consisting largely of canned quotes from various public officials and youth advocates: the former blaming kids and parents; the latter blaming the public officials.
But there was, I think, a buried lead:
The flash mobs have raised questions about race and class.
Most of the teenagers who have taken part in them are black and from poor neighborhoods. Most of the areas hit have been predominantly white business districts.
It's true: and it's a point the mainstream has stayed away from so far with the exception of the Daily News' Stu Bykofsky, who brought up the topic in his column yesterday.
"Flash mobs" was the topic on "Tell Me More," NPR's newest attempt at having a non-white-people-focused show (I think their word is "multi-cultural," but it totally replaced "News and Notes"), and it was introduced with a tag line something like "Some see racism in the response" to the flash mobs.
I think that race and class, and systemic poverty and the various Big Issues that plague our city do matter in this discussion.
A particularly uncomfortable experience is viewing Philly.com's online gallery of the South Street incident, which juxtaposes scenes of bedlam full of black faces with scenes of white business owners and one (white) bruised worker.
I'm posting this in the hope (remote it may be) that I don't inadvertently invite a slew of racist comments. A discussion about these incidents is immature if we don't admit that race and class figure in somewhere. But, obviously, it's a starting point - not a destination.
I see two lines of predictable response shaping up.
There's the hard-line answer, as expressed by Mayor Nutter and Police Chief Ramsey, which goes like this: This isn't about race, class, opportunity, government, it's about bad parenting. And if you can't keep 'em home, we'll lock 'em up:
Said Nutter to the NYT: "There is no racial component to stupid behavior, and parents should not be looking to the government to provide entertainment for their children."
Said Ramsey at a press conference: "It's not the government's responsibility to raise your child. It's your responsibility. When we get involved as police, it's too late for the tears."
It strikes me as wishfully simplistic: all bark and no bite. If there's one thing the city can't enforce, it's good parenting. Nutter and Ramsey can wipe their hands of this all they want but they'll still have to answer to residents after the next incident. And unless something drastic happens, there will be another incident.
Which brings me to the second line of response: liberal denial.
This line of rhetoric emphasizes that these are just teenagers trying to have a good time, that the response has been overblown and the allegations of violence exaggerated.You want to point fingers? Point them at reduced library and pool hours, insufficient after-school programs, cuts in anti-violence programs.
I don't buy that, either. First of all, these are teenagers - not little kids. They don't want to go to a library, they want to party and be obnoxious (like a lot of us did and were). That's fine it's the violence that changes everything.
Because, despite what I hear from a surprising number of progressive-types, these incidents have been violent disturbingly, sickeningly violent. Last May, a 54-year-old man was pulled from his bicycle and critically beaten; a cab driver was assaulted. On Market Street a month ago, youths knocked over pedestrians. At least a few people seem to have been beaten in last weekend's incident on South Street. Sorry: but victims come first.
I don't think this is just about a lack of things do to: there's something deeper and much scarier at work here. I think that you have to connect these incidents to the attack at South Philadelphia High and to Greek Picnic, and to a disturbing number of cases of kids committing violence en masse.
Frankly, I suspect something terrible is building. I don't like to say it. But, on the eve of another hot Philadelphia summer we'd better be ready for it.
How? I dunno. But here's my two cents:
Have a couple police dedicated to monitoring social networking sites to look out for this stuff.
- Do what we do for adult white drunk weekend people: We know where they gather, and we post a ton of cops. Philly teens gather at predictable locations, if not at predictable times, right? How hard can it be?
- Consider closing off South Street and 40th street for a few blocks on weekends. You can hardly get through anyway, there's no parking, and the congestion of cars only makes it harder for cops to keep track of anything (especially bike cops, who are pretty effective on South Street).
- Give a serious and un-cowardly look at City Controller Alan Butkovitz' suggestion to curb students' use of city-issued SEPTA trans-passes. His suggestions are intelligent, reasonable, and unlike yelling at parents or espousing social theories immediately practical.
- Enlist SEPTA workers (insanely busy as we all know they are not giving change) to alert police to high numbers of teens getting on the system.
- Consider posting city-employed non-police security officers (a la University City) at a few corners along South Street to alert cops to developing problems. If the city won't pay, maybe South Street businesses can chip in enough to hire a couple of guards.
Enough: What do you think?
- This will be the Phillies first season with opening-day starter/bona-fide ace Roy Halladay. Do you remember who the Phils' OD starter was the last three years? Yup, Brett F. Myers. Barring injury (knocks on wood), this'll be the first time since the Schilling years that the Phils have had a hands-down No. 1 starter. And he'll be followed by a guy in Cole Hamels with the potential to be a No. 1a.
- Legit contact hitter Placido Polanco will be batting second and will ostensibly add "productive outs" to the lineup's repertoire.
- Moving Shane Victorino to the bottom of the order provides something like a secondary lead-off hitter to the bottom of the lineup.
- The additions of Danys Baez and Jose Contreras to the bullpen provide depth and experience (though quality is not a given).
- The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation is between a 47-year-old who spent much of the offseason in the hospital and a 25-year-old with a high hit rate and a low strike-out rate
- The first lefty out of the bullpen until/if J.C. Romero is healthy (other than Moyer if he doesn't win the fifth starter job) is Antonio Bastardo, who is talented and has an awesome name, but is very very raw.
- Brad Lidge remains the biggest X factor on the team.
- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are all a 365 days further into their "peak" years than they were last spring.
- Ruben Amaro's propensity lock up with guaranteed contracts players he doesn't need to lock up and for more money than the market's calling for (Brian Schneider, Juan Castro, Ross Gload, Ibáñez, Polanco) may have cost the Phillies the opportunity to go into 2010 with Hallady, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in the top three spots in the rotation.
- The Mets remain a mess, or, if you'd rather, the Mets remain the Mets.
- The Braves will start 20-year-old super prospect Jason Heyward in their outfield this season and have added former Phillie/Phillies punching bag Billy Wagner to close
- The Marlins young pitching is always terrifying.
- The Cardinals inked mid-season aquisition Matt Holliday and... Brad Penny
- The Yankees have bolstered their 2009 juggernaut by adding OBP machine/walking injury Nick Johnson, 20/20 threat Curtis Granderson and starting pitcher Javier Vazquez (who, it should be noted, has already flamed out as a Yankee once).
- The Red Sox have added perpetual enigma Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro to their lineup and Angels ace John Lackey to hold down the No. 3 spot in the rotation
- The Mariners now have what could be the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee in addition to adding Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and Casey Kotchman.
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