Archive: October, 2010
The Clog just got word from the Committee of Seventy that several local voters have gotten their absentee ballots mailed back to them, instead of sent to the Board of Elections. The League of Women Voters have been told the same thing.
The problem is, the deadline for absentee ballots has already passed: It was 5 p.m. on Friday, and so the Committee is worried that these people's votes won't be counted because of what is believed to be an innocent postal service error. (The Committee also says that people voting with alternative ballots, including the elderly and handicapped, may have their voting rights obstructed because of this problem. Their deadline is 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.)
They are therefore asking the city commissioners and law department to seek a court order on Monday that would extend the deadline so that everyone and anyone with returned ballots may vote.
"No one should be disenfranchised because of a problem with the postal service, especially when the problem was discovered before the election, when there is an opportunity for corrective action," says Ellen Kaplan, Committee of Seventy's vice president and policy director.
The Clog reached out to the city commissioners and the law department, but has not yet heard back. We'll update as we learn more.
Because, why the hell not.
Of course, we're not really going to bet, because that would be illegal. But, I am going to give you my predictions as to Tuesday's elections, and in the comments, you tell me how wrong I am and what's really gonna happen, and then on Wednesday, we'll compare notes. Cool?
To help you out, here are a few good polling and analysis sites, so we're all cribbing off the same cheat sheets:
All right, let's do this (and bear in mind, this is what I think will happen, not what I want to happen):
House of Representatives: 239-196, Republicans control. This would mean a pickup of of 59 seats, a massive GOP win; more so than most of the pollsters forecast. Locally, all of the Republicans in tight races Gerlach, Meehan, Fitzpatrick pull it out; Meehan, Gerlach and Fitzgerald with 4-to-6 point wins (think 52/53-48/47). Over in the Jerz, I gotta go with Adler over Runyan, but barely. John Boehner will be the speaker of the House, and by the time the next presidential election rolls around, he'll be a little less popular than Gingrinch was in 1999.
U.S. Senate: 52-48, Democrats control. This would mean a net pickup of 7 Republican seats: Arkansas, North Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, and, yes, Pennsylvania. Much as I loath to say it, I have to go with Toomey, and probably larger than the polling indicates: 55-45. Joe Manchin will hold on, albeit barely, in West Virginia; and Chris Coons will embarrass Christine O'Donnell, 58-42. Cali, Washington, Oregon and Connecticut will remain blue, and Chuck Schumer of New York will be your next majority leader.
Oh, and Corbett will be our next gov. 58-42.
The comments are all yours. Fire away.
Straight out of the inbox, direct from Councilman Goode's office, and passed along without comment:
Philly will benefit from more than 60 GOODE Laws
Youngest At-Large Councilmember has proven track record
(PHILADELPHIA, October 28, 2010) City Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. has introduced sixty-three bills that have been approved by Philadelphia City Council since taking office in January 2000. The last three bills which were introduced this fall, concerning fair lending and community reinvestment, will soon be signed into law. Goode's background as an economic development administrator from 1992-99 has given him a policy edge in City Council on economic issues. The 45 year-old Chairman of Council's Commerce and Economic Development Committee formerly served as Vice President of Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation and as Economic Development Administrator for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce.
In eleven years on City Council, Goode has introduced over sixty ordinances with measurable impact: employment tax credits to create thousands of new jobs; job preferences for local residents for civil service positions and City projects; the local minimum wage standard raised from $5.15 per hour to $10.88 per hour; business diversity goals for City contracting improved from less than 5 percent to 25 percent; small business lending in working class neighborhoods increased from 40 percent to 55 percent; fair lending and community reinvestment goals required for City depository banks; and $30 million in tax credit partnerships for neighborhood economic development.
After receiving a National Achievement Award from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Councilman Goode continues to craft landmark economic opportunity legislation.
Common Cause Pennsylvania just released the latest numbers on gas industry donations on MarcellusMoney.org Corbett raked in at least $835,720 (incidentally, he doesn't think Shale driller should be taxed at all; wonder why that is?), while Onorato has received at least $112,800 but those numbers aren't even the only cause of concern: As pointed out by both Common Cause and an article in yesterday's DN, both candidates are having problems disclosing their contributors' employment information, which means, well, there could be more money pouring in from Big Gas that we just don't know about. Corbett's latest report isn't perfect (he failed to disclose employer information for about 3 percent of his large individual donors), but it's nowhere near as egregious as Onorato's he provided employer information for barely a third of his individual donors.
Alex Kaplan, Project Coordinator for Common Cause, tells The Clog that he doesn't think the holes in the report are intentional obfuscation, but rather, carelessness due to the quick pace of the campaign. Nevertheless, he says, disclosure is important especially in Pennsylvania, where there are no contribution limits. Kaplan said that disclosure is crucial in understanding âthe size of the influenceâ of any one donor. Technically, the candidates are breaking state law by failing to disclose employer information for any campaign donations over $250, but it's not likely any legal action will be taken, Kaplan says.
Part of the problem is that we're still living in the dark ages: Pennsylvania doesn't require computerized filing for candidates, which is the main reason these reports aren't readily accessible to the public, according to the DN. Kaplan says Common Cause has been working to change this for a long time, but the legislature (shockingly) hasn't gone along. Similarly, Common Cause has been working to set contribution limits for over two decades, but since that's proving nigh impossible, Kaplan said the organization will focus on disclosure âin a big wayâ next year.
So, let's, uh, be optimistic, shall we?
Fracktrack is CP's ongoing coverage of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. For updates, bookmark this link or join our Google Group to receive email notifications.
At a press conference in Penn Treaty Park yesterday, Governor Rendell signed an executive order placing a moratorium on leasing more state forest land for natural gas drilling.
This author did readers the disservice of calling the event "a huge victory for environmental groups." That is simply not the case.
In fact, Rendell's order marks a largely-symbolic act, delivered too late to make much of a difference and only after the governor himself authorized several leases of state forest for drilling, over repeated warnings from his own forestry officials to the potential impact to Pennsylvania's award-winning forests of doing so.
(In fact, after being warned against leasing a proposed 40,000 acres of forest in 2009, Rendell doubled the request to the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, asking for 80,000 acres instead).
Rendell's power to enforce this executive order ends the moment he ceases to be an executive â I think we've got about 80 days.
Efforts to impose a meaningful moratorium on further forest leasing have to happen in the state legislature, where a small core of environmentally-minded legislators â among them Democratic House representatives Greg Vitali (above, far left) and Dave Levdansky â have fought a so-far losing battle to protect the sensitive forest land that hasn't been leased.
The key part of this equation is a decades-old provision in state law known as the Oil and gas Lease Fund, masterminded by longtime forest steward Maurice Goddard who is legendary for reviving Pennsylvania's forests during his tenure from coal and gas industry-devastated wastelands to some of the most expansive forests east of the Mississippi.
The law said this: if you lease forest land for oil & gas exploration, you put the profits of the lease back into the forests. The law not only allowed forest stewards to balance competing interests in the forests, but â most importantly â prevented the governor and legislature from using the state's forests as one big, green slush fund for their own budgets.
That precedent held for more than fifty years until, under Rendell's leadership, it was broken: last year, the state legislature raided the Oil & Gas Lease Fund for the state budget â largely in order to plug the hole left by Rendell himself when he backed down on imposing the tax on gas production that now, as a lame duck governor, he finds himself begging from a legislature with its eyes on the next executive.
What's more, an obscure provision in the FY09-10 fiscal code imposed a cap on the amount of money the DCNR may take in from gas royalties â effectively stealing for the state money that was suppoed to be earmarked for conservation, recreation, and new projects.
As DCNR's budget gets slashed year after year, the agency, rather than using the proceeds of gas drilling in its own forests for the restoration or expansion of forestland elsewhere, is increasingly forced to use that money just to fund its basic operations.
In a few words: the DCNR is increasingly becoming dependent on hand-outs from the legislature, whose members increasingly demand forest land for drilling as a condition for those hand-outs. If nothing changes, those charged with protecting our forests will increasingly be forced to sell them off.
Without new laws in place this â more than any moratorium â will be Rendell's lasting environmental legacy.
|Courtesy of Zimbio|
Former Prez Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama will visit Temple University this week for get-out-the-vote rallies. Sadly, though, they won't do so at the same time: Clinton will be there tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Temple Beach the Bell Tower. And Obama will be at the Student Pavilion on Saturday at 10 a.m. (click here to RSVP).
Open government advocates declared a small, but significant victory last week: The New Jersey Supreme Court lowered its fees for copies of records, from as high as 75 cents per page to no more than 7 cents per page, in accordance with the open-records bill Gov. Chris Christie signed last month. What's encouraging is that the ACLU pushed the court on this in September, and it gave in just a month later. According to the ACLU:
The lowering of copy costs, long-sought by open government advocates including the ACLU-NJ and New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG), ameliorates the exorbitant fees for copies of documents, which acted as barriers to transparency for residents of New Jersey.
"The Supreme Court's changes to its fee schedule not only provide consistency in fees for public records in the State, but also enable greater access to court records and information," said Bobby Conner, staff attorney for the ACLU-NJ Open Governance Project.
In Pennsylvania, things aren't so peachy: Copies can run up to 25 cents per page for most local and state agencies; some offices, like the Recorder of Deeds, can charge even more up to $1.50 per page. Not to mention, our state Senate recently passed a bill (that is dead for now, thank God) that would've charged people to look at just look at! public records.
Damn, it doesn't feel good to lose to Jersey.
|Michael T. Regan|
Remember Pia Varma, the young Tea Partier who (sorta) attempted to challenge Congressman Bob Brady this spring, but then didn't get enough signatures, and didn't show up to a court date in which the Democratic City Committee challenged her ballot petition?
Maybe she flaked out because she was busy writing her memoirs (the perfect time to write them is at the discerning age of 27, after all), titled Brotherly Love: A Cautionary Tale of Naivete, Deceit and Corruption, which just came out online. According to the press release:
This is the memoir of a twenty-seven year old woman named Pia Varma, who ran for Congress in the First District of Pennsylvania against one of the most powerful men in the state, Robert Brady. Full of intrigue, this story exposes the relationship between the two political parties that run the Philadelphia political machine.
We haven't read it, so we have no idea if it's complete schlock or a serious look into the sliminess of Michael Meehan, Brady or the Philadelphia Parking Authority. For what it's worth, HuffPo dug it (either that, or they just respected Varma's Facebook game):
Varma, who was heavily recruited to run for Congress by the PA State GOP boss Robert Gleason, ended up a patsy. She found out the hard way that Canuso and Meehan like to do things their own way and color outsides (sic) the lines of their own party. She summed it up in her book during a curt chat with then GOP City Chairman Vito Canuso at the May 11 City GOP Banquette at Philadelphia's Cannstatter Volksfest-Verein, a private German-American club:
"Vito, why don't you care about Congress? If not me, at least find someone else. We can't just let (Representative Bob) Brady go uncontested."
Canuso said, "Pia, talk to me after the Primary."
Not that I would ever submit myself to the late-night torture known as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, but some people, masochists and old folks, I presume, still do, and apparently, Chris Rock went on there at some point and made a funny about Michael Vick's dog situation: âWhat the hell did Michael Vick do? Pitbulls ain't even real dogs! Dogs have never been good to black people!â
Problem for Rock: He was in the running to play the legendary Richard Pryor in a biopic on the late comedian's life. Pryor's widow, however, is a dog lover, and she didn't take well to Rock's comments:
In an open letter to the star, Jennifer [Pryor] fumes, âFor your information, Chris, what Michael Vick did was to torture, drown, electrocute and murder dogs all for fun and for profit! He went to prison for felony animal cruelty! That's what he did! These types of comments only encourage abuse and misunderstanding of this breed, as well as actual dog-fighting. Clearly this part of your latest stand-up routine would not make Richard laugh!â
Now, the Interwebs tell us, Marlon Wayans will be taking over the lead role, which means, based on our experience with Marlan Wayans films, well â¦ I mean, can we trust the brain behind White Chicks and Scary Movie 4 to do justice to Richard Fucking Pryor? Ugh.
As we tipped you to last night on the CPFacebook, your humble correspondent biked home last night on the newly repaved Spruce Street (it and Pine, the sites of the much ballyhooed/grumbled-over east-west bike lanes, had been stripped last week). The line repainting was still in progress, but the bike lanes which were billed as something of a temporary test when they were laid just over a year ago, were being repainted as well.
Though the original plan called for both streets to be repaved in the spring (and boy did they need it), and the determination about scrapping the lanes or making them permanent to be made then, the process got pushed back.
In our conversation with deputy mayor for transportation and utilities Rina Cutler for her Big Vision Issue nod, she confirmed that, yes, at long last the streets were being repaves, and the lanes were, indeed, to be made permanent.
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