Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama Administration Kicks Off Mortgage Modification Conversion Drive

from the inbox:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today kick off a nationwide campaign to help borrowers who are currently in the trial phase of their modified mortgages under the Obama Administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) convert to permanent modifications. The modification program, which has helped over 650,000 borrowers, is part of the Administration's broader commitment to stabilize housing markets and to provide relief to struggling homeowners and is a primary focus of financial stability efforts moving forward. Roughly 375,000 of the borrowers who have begun trial modifications since the start of the program are scheduled to convert to permanent modifications by the end of the year. Through the efforts being announced today, Treasury and HUD will implement new outreach tools and borrower resources to help convert as many trial modifications as possible to permanent ones.

“We are encouraged by the pace at which trial modifications are now being made to provide immediate savings to struggling homeowners,� said the new Chief of Treasury's Homeownership Preservation Office (HPO), Phyllis Caldwell. “We now must refocus our efforts on the conversion phase to ensure that borrowers and servicers know what their responsibilities are in converting trial modifications to permanent ones.� In her new role, Caldwell will lead HPO’s conversion drive efforts.

“Encouraging borrowers to move through the process of converting trial modifications to permanent modifications remains a top priority for HUD,� said HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing and FHA Commissioner David Stevens. “As a part of our continuing efforts to improve the execution of the HAMP program, HUD is committed to working with servicers, borrowers, housing counselors and others dedicated to homeownership preservation to improve the transition of distressed homeowners into affordable and sustainable mortgages.�

With tens of thousands of trial modifications being made each week, the Administration is now working to ensure that eligible borrowers have the information and the assistance needed to move from the trial to the permanent modification phase. (All mortgage modifications begin with a trial phase to allow borrowers to submit the necessary documentation and determine whether the modified monthly payment is sustainable for them.) As the first round of modifications convert from the trial to permanent phase, the Administration has identified several strategies for addressing the challenges that borrowers confront in receiving permanent modifications.

In addition to the conversion drive that kicks off today, the Obama Administration has already taken several steps to make the transition from trial to permanent modification easier and more transparent by:

* Extending the period for trial modifications started on or before September 1st to give homeowners more time to submit required information;
* Streamlining the application process to minimize paperwork and simplify the submission process; meeting regularly with servicers to identify necessary improvement to borrower outreach and responsiveness;
* Developing operational metrics to hold servicers accountable for their performance, which will soon be reported publicly;
* Enhancing borrower resources on the website and the Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline (888-995-HOPE) to provide direct access to tools and housing counselors.

The Mortgage Modification Conversion Drive will include the following:

* Servicer Accountability. As part of the Administration’s ongoing efforts to hold servicers accountable for their commitment to the program and responsibility to borrowers, the following measures will be added:
o Top servicers will be required to submit a schedule demonstrating their plans to reach a decision on each loan for which they have documentation and to communicate either a modification agreement or denial letter to those borrowers. Treasury/Fannie Mae “account liaisons� are being assigned to these servicers and will follow up daily as necessary to monitor progress against the servicer’s plan. Daily progress will be aggregated by the end of each business day and reported to the Administration.
o Servicers failing to meet performance obligations under the Servicer Participation Agreement will be subject to consequences which could include monetary penalties and sanctions.
o The December MHA Servicer Performance Report will include the data on permanent modifications as well as the number of active trial period modifications that may convert by the end of the year if all borrower documents are successfully submitted, sorted by servicer and date.
o Servicers will be required to report to the Administration the status of each modification to provide additional transparency about situations where borrowers face obstacles to moving to the permanent phase.

* Web tools for borrowers. Because the document submission process can be a challenge for many borrowers, the Administration has created new resources on to simplify and streamline this step. New resources include:
o Links to all of the required documents and an income verification checklist to help borrowers request a modification in four easy steps;
o Comprehensive information about how the trial phase works, what borrower responsibilities are to convert to a permanent modification, and a new instructional video which provides step by step instruction for borrowers;
o A toolkit for partner organizations to directly assist their constituents;
o New web banners and tools for outreach partners to drive more borrowers to the site and Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline (888-995-HOPE).

* Engagement of state, local and community stakeholders. Through the conversion drive, the Administration is engaging all levels of government - state, local and county – to both increase awareness of the program and expand the resources available to borrowers as they navigate the modification process.
o HUD will engage staff in its 81 field offices to distribute outreach tools. HUD will also encourage its 2700 HUD-Approved Counseling Organizations to distribute outreach information to participating borrowers.
o By engaging the National Governors Association (NGA), National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo) the Administration is connecting with the thousands of state, local, and county offices on the frontlines in large and small communities across the country who are hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. These offices will now have the tools to increase awareness of the program, connect with and educate borrowers and grassroots organizations on how to request a modification and take the additional steps to ensure they are converted to permanent status; and serve as an additional trusted resource for borrowers who are facing challenges with the program.
o In partnering with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors and the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators, state regulators will now have enhanced tools to assist borrowers who are facing challenges in converting to a permanent modification and to report to the Administration on the progress and challenges borrowers and servicers are facing on the ground. Regulators will also be empowered to work directly with escalation and compliance teams to ensure that HAMP guidelines are consistently applied.

More information about the Obama Administration’s mortgage modification program can be found at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Are Your Smarter Than a Former Deputy Speaker?

This Tuesday, State Rep. Josh Shapiro is sponsoring a game of political quizzo. I'm not quite sure what that entails (Mr. DeWeese in the rotunda with a candlestick? or I'll take gerrymandering for $500?) Nor am I sure if Shapiro will be playing himself or just orchestrating. But if you want to test your political knowledge against one of the state's whiz kids, this may be your chance. Details at

Chris Doherty Campaign Website

One of the many Democrats running for governor, Scranton mayor Chris Doherty, now has his campaign website up and running:

Sestak in Philly Mag

The December issue of Philadelphia Magazine has a long profile of Joe Sestak by writer Jason Fagone. Check out Run, Joe, Run, in the print issue or at

A Brief Personal Note on October and November

This fall seemed more hectic than usual and I’m not sure why. In October I took the kids up to the Poconos for a weekend. On the way someone hit the back of our van. That led to a lot of paperwork and inconvenience. The rest of the weekend had some serious ups and downs as well. The Ford Fusion I had for a week waiting for repairs to be finished was a pleasure to drive, though the rear window could be a little bigger. We will probably be in the market for another car in the next year or so and the Fusion is one on my list to investigate. The car I had included satellite radio and was set to the Coffee House channel which I really enjoyed and the screen readout listed the artist and the song playing. Very cool.

While in Stroudsburg we went to the Christmas shop. Mr. J and I have been looking for a nativity scene for a few years, to add to our household Christmas decorations. I found one that looked like it would fit our tastes and our house. When we unpacked it this past weekend we realized that it didn’t include any animals. Mr. J grew up on a farm and said it just wasn’t right to have the Wise Men, a shepherd, an angel and the Holy Family but no animals. It is a manger after all. We put the shepherd in a tube sock to keep it from getting scratched and went out shopping. After looking around in a few stores we found an ox and a goat (creatively named Ox and Goat) that match the rest of the figures. The scene now seems complete.

In October we started a room overhaul in the house, replacing carpet and getting some new furniture. Every possible thing that could go wrong did go wrong. It was a disaster. About 10 days ago it all got sorted out (except for one chair that is yet to be delivered, and a $700 carpet refund that, for some reason, is being delayed).

We all had a four day weekend over Thanksgiving. We ate, rested, played board games, moved some furniture back, sorted through papers, got used to the new look of the house, planned out Phase II, and admired the nativity scene (including Ox and Goat). We also did some pre-holiday planning which will help make December more peaceful and less hectic.

I hope you and yours had an equally restful holiday, with much to be thankful for.

And now back to politics ….

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sestak on Education

Joe Sestak, current Congressman and candidate for Senate, was one of the CEO's and policy makers the Wall Street Journal invited to discuss four issues, one of them being education. The article "An Educated Work Force" was published in Monday 11/23's special section "How to Rebuild Global Prosperity. Sestak makes four points:

1) Learning is continuous. "No longer can you just learn a trade; that trade is going to change over time."

2) "Early intervention is absolutely critical, too." He points out that for ever $1 spent on pre-K we get $7 back.

3) Need to focus on minorities. "Today, only 3% of all business that have revenues over $1 million are owned by a person who's a minority. And yet, by 2050, they will be 50% of our population." later "Probably about 1 out of every 12 African Americans can do fractions at the age of 17."

4) accountability. Bush was right with No Child Left Behind. We need qualified teachers for math and science.

Here is Sestak's press release on the subject:

Addressing more than 100 of the world’s top CEOs, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) outlined critical improvements needed to prepare our next generation for economy prosperity. Congressman Sestak spoke at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council forum Rebuilding Global Prosperity, which was convened to develop an urgent action plan for ensuring long-term global prosperity, with an emphasis on the shared responsibility of business and government. He focused specifically on training our workforce for the high-value manufacturing jobs for the 21st century, such as green energy technology.

“To compete in the market with other countries, our schools and colleges will need to work with businesses and industries to develop experience-based curriculum that train people for advanced manufacturing fields,” said Congressman Sestak. “In addition to mentorship, this requires an increased focus on improving the performance of our young people in math and science.”

The Congressman referenced a 2005 National Academies of Science report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which highlighted the causes of the erosion of the United States advantages in science and technology. Specifically the study found only 68 percent of U.S. eighth grade students received math instruction from a teacher with no math certification or degree and 92 percent of fifth through ninth graders were taught physical science by a teacher with no science degree of certification.

The Congressman advocated for the reports recommendations to: increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education; sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research; develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.

“One important area to encourage greater innovation is in alternative energy technology,” said Congressman Sestak. “In 2006 alone, the renewable energy and efficiency industries generated 8.5 million jobs and nearly $970 billion in revenue in the United States. Alternative energy companies will never fully prosper in this nation, however, if we do not prepare our students for the jobs these businesses need.”

In addition, Congressman Sestak discussed the need for a stronger commitment to early education to improve opportunities for our students. He cited studies showing its benefits. For example, in Chicago, students enrolled in pre-K programs were 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school when compared to their peers who did not attend prekindergarten. Moreover, an evaluation of Maryland's early-learning programs showed that fifth-graders who attended pre-K were 44 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those fifth-graders who did not. According to University of Chicago researcher James Heckman, every dollar spent on getting very young children ready to learn saves taxpayers seven dollars in foregone social costs.

“We must enhance our early education programs, such as Head Start, particularly by ensuring that we train well-qualified teachers for pre-Kindergarten jobs and providing them the resources they need to succeed in those jobs,” said Congressman Sestak.

Sestak also released this information on a bill he is sponsoring:
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak announced plans to introduce the Accountable Performance in Schools Act on Monday, which will encourage states to use longitudinal growth models to track individual student achievement, instead of traditional methods of determining average yearly progress (AYP). Under current law, students' high-stakes test scores are measured against the same age group from previous years. This approach ignores differences between cohorts of students and fails to reward or encourage significant progress made by teachers and students during the school year. By contrast, growth models track individual students' progress throughout the school year and between grades, providing valuable feedback to and better evaluation of teachers.

"Only by ensuring real accountability for our nations teachers and students can we truly leave no child behind," Joe said. "By promoting the use of growth models, we will actually measure students' progress, allowing better evaluation of teachers and providing them with useful tools to enhance their ability to teach."

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has recognized the benefits of growth models, starting with a two state pilot program in 2006. USDE has since approved requests from 15 States to utilize growth models as their primary source of measuring AYP. In January of this year, Pennsylvania's request to utilize growth models was approved in January of 2009 for the 2009-10 through 2012-13.

Specifically, Congressman Sestak's legislation will allow States to use the results of longitudinal growth models to satisfy AYP under the No Child Left Behind legislation. To assist in the implementation of these programs, States will be eligible for grants to develop these longitudinal data systems. The growth models would be required to incorporate:

* A unique, statewide student identifier and identifier that remains stable over time;
* Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information;
* The ability to match individual student's test records from year to year;
* Information on untested students, including why they were not tested;
* Information on student attainment in high schools,
* A statewide audit system to ensure the validity and reliability of data;
* A unique statewide teacher identifier that remains stable over time and matches student records to the appropriate teacher;
* Teacher-level education, demographic, and program participation information;
* Information on student participation in and performance on college admissions and/or college-level assessments;

The legislation builds on the Congressman's February 2009 Education Summit where he heard from employers, school administrators, educators, parents, policy directors, and education experts on the benefits and need for expanded growth model programs around the country. At the Summit, experts highlighted a January 2009 USDE report which found that "states can effectively manage longitudinal data and implement growth models," but "are likely to be applied in addition to the existing status model rather than separately alongside the existing status model."

"By establishing a clear definition for appropriate longitudinal growth models-- and providing federal funding-- states will be able to invest in robust state-wide growth model data systems, knowing that the federal government will acknowledge their accountability systems moving forward." Joe added. "Under current law, states that implement growth model systems under the USDE's pilot program, risk losing their authorization when the temporary program ends."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Note

Today it is customary to express thanks for all of one's blessings, and I am surely blessed.

As the day ends, however, what is utmost in my mind is that the Grace Kelly version of "High Society" is nowhere near as good as the Katherine Hepburn version. After spending the morning in the kitchen and the afternoon eating I rounded out the evening with TCM and the Kelly version was broadcast. It's just not the same.

But, nonetheless, I am most grateful for all the good fortune and grace that surround me on a daily basis.

Schwartz Lauds Legislation

Catching up, this is from last Thursday:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz voted in support of legislation today that will ensure fair and adequate payment for physicians who participate in Medicare. Ensuring fair reimbursement for doctors who accept Medicare is vital to protecting access to doctors for seniors and people with disabilities.

The Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009, which passed 243 to 183, prevents a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians that would take place at the end of 2009 if Congress does not act.

“As we work to strengthen Medicare, this legislation is a critical component. Our plan permanently reforms the way Medicare pays physicians by repealing a 21 percent pay cut that is both unreasonable and unsustainable,” Schwartz said. “These cuts would lead to significant challenges with seniors being able to access health services. It is imperative that we take a long-term approach to reforming the physician payment formula so that health care providers and their patients will not have to worry about these cuts every year.”

H.R. 3691 replaces the 21 percent cut with a 1.2 percent increase for next year; replaces the current Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula with more realistic and reliable spending targets; promotes access to primary care providers by providing higher growth allowance for primary care services; and integrates care so that doctors can communicate better about the care they provide.

This legislation will also help protect access for our men and women in uniform and their families since physician payment rates in TRICARE are tied to those used by Medicare.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PA Turkeys in DC

The title of this blog post does not refer to any of our elected officials. Please note the bolded sentence in this press release from the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Welcome to the White House. On behalf of Sasha and Malia and myself, we're thrilled to see you. I want to thank Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Joel Brandenberger, its president, for donating this year's turkey. His name is "Courage," and he traveled here from Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he was raised under Walter's own precious care.

(Turkey gobbles.)

THE PRESIDENT: There you go. (Laughter.)

Now, the National Turkey Federation has been bringing its finest turkeys to the White House for more than 50 years. I'm told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys. You can't fault them for that; that's a good-looking bird. (Laughter.) President Kennedy was even given a turkey with a sign around its neck that said, "Good Eatin', Mr. President." But he showed mercy and he said, "Let's keep him going." And 20 years ago this Thanksgiving, the first President Bush issued the first official presidential pardon for a turkey.

Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha -- because I was planning to eat this sucker -- (laughter) -- "Courage" will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate. Later today, he'll head to Disneyland, where he'll be grand marshal of tomorrow's parade. And just in case "Courage" can't fulfill his responsibilities, Walter brought along another turkey, "Carolina," as an alternate, the stand-in.

Now, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will take two of their less fortunate brethren to Martha's Table, an organization that does extraordinary work to help folks here in D.C. who need it the most. And I want to thank Jaindl's Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating those dressed birds for dinner. So today, all told, I believe it's fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys. (Laughter.)

You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this -- (laughter) -- where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland. (Laughter.) But every single day, I am thankful for the extraordinary responsibility that the American people have placed in me. I am humbled by the privilege that it is to serve them, and the tremendous honor it is to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military in the world -- and I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to every service member at home or in harm's way. We're proud of you and we are thinking of you and we're praying for you.

When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow, just like millions of other families across America, we'll take time to give our thanks for many blessings. But we'll also remember this is a time when so many members of our American family are hurting. There's no question this has been a tough year for America. We're at war. Our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery. But there's a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

In more tranquil times, it's easy to notice our many blessings. It's even easier to take them for granted. But in times like these, they resonate a bit more powerfully. When President Lincoln set aside the National Day of Thanksgiving for the first time -- to celebrate America's "fruitful fields," "healthful skies," and the "strength and vigor" of the American people -- it was in the midst of the Civil War, just when the future of our very union was most in doubt. So think about that. When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever.

This is an era of new perils and new hardships. But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength. We're the heirs to a hard-earned history and stewards of a land of God-given beauty. We are Americans. And for all this, we give our humble thanks -- to our predecessors, to one another, and to God.

So on this quintessentially American holiday, as we give thanks for what we've got, let's also give back to those who are less fortunate. As we give thanks for our loved ones, let us remember those who can't be with us. And as we give thanks for our security, let's in turn thank those who've sacrificed to make it possible, wherever they may be.

Now, before this turkey gets too nervous that Bo will escape and screw up this pardon -- (laughter) -- or before I change my mind, I hereby pardon "Courage" so that he can live out the rest of his days in peace and tranquility in Disneyland.

And to every American, I want to wish you, on behalf of myself, Malia, Sasha, and Michelle, the happiest of Thanksgivings. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)

The Demographics of the Fox News Audience

Catching up on some reading and found this, from the Nov. 2, 2009 issue of the New Yorker. In "Talk of the Town," a segment titled "Chin Music"

In 2008, half of the people who watched the Fox News Channel were over sixty-three, which is the oldest demographic in the cable-news business, and, according to a poll, the majority of the ones who watched the most strident programs, such as Sean Hannity's and Bill O'Reilly's shows, were men. All that chesty fulminating apparently functions as political Cialis.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

First Time Home Buyers's Tax Credit Expansion

From last Friday's inbox:

Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) joined local realtors and homebuyers to announce the expansion of the first-time homebuyer tax credit to help more hardworking families in Bucks County and across the country achieve the American dream by owning their own home. Emma Ahedo, a Morrisville resident and first-time homebuyer taking advantage of the $8,000 tax credit, addressed reporters at the site of the new home she just closed on.

Congressman Murphy proudly supported the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, which includes an extension of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit through April 30, 2010 and provides a $6,500 credit to new purchasers who have lived in their current residence for five years or more. It also helps military families struggling to make mortgage payments by making those payments tax-exempt. This legislation will create 350,000 construction jobs across the country, and allow more families to achieve the dream of home ownership while strengthening the economy.

“This homebuyer tax credit creates thousands of jobs for homebuilders, renovators, and realtors,” said Rep. Murphy. “Times are tough, but this tax cut will help get our economy moving again.”

The Bucks County Association of Realtors would like to thank Congressman Murphy for his ongoing strong support of real estate and housing in Bucks County ,” said Elise Haferl-Lykins, President-Elect of the Bucks County Association of Realtors. “Extending and expanding the home buyer tax credit will enable even more families to take advantage of current low interest rates and affordable prices to invest in their future through home ownership.”

Under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act:

* The first-time homebuyers tax credit will be extended to April 30, 2010 for first-time homebuyers who enter sales contracts by that date and close within 60 days
* A new $6,500 credit is included for current homeowners buying a new home, as long as they have lived in their homes for five consecutive years
* Individuals can claim the credit on their 2009 tax returns, meaning they will see the credit quickly
* The income cap for qualifying for the credit will be raised to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for married couples (up from $75,000 and $150,000)
* Homes sold for up to $800,000 are eligible for the credit

Eligible 8th District resident are encouraged to contact their local realtor or contact Congressman Murphy’s office for more information on utilizing the first-time homebuyer credit.

PA Receives $7M for Smart Grid & Energy Storage

From the inbox:

Energy Secretary Chu announced today that the Department of Energy is awarding more than $7 million for 2 Pennsylvania projects to demonstrate advanced Smart Grid technologies and integrated systems that will help build a smarter, more efficient, more resilient electrical grid. This announcement is part of $620 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will support 32 demonstration projects across the country. These projects will include large-scale energy storage, smart meters, distribution and transmission system monitoring devices, and a range of other smart technologies and will act as models for deploying integrated Smart Grid systems on a broader scale. This funding will be leveraged with $1 billion in funds from the private sector to support more than $1.6 billion in total Smart Grid projects nationally. In Pennsylvania, this funding will support a total of nearly $14.5 million in projects.

Secretary Chu also released a video on YouTube today, which explains what investments in the Smart Grid can mean for American consumers. To view the video, visit HERE.

“These demonstration projects will further our knowledge and understanding of what works best and delivers the best results for the Smart Grid, setting the course for a modern grid that is critical to achieving our energy goals,” said Secretary Chu. “This funding will be used to show how Smart Grid technologies can be applied to whole systems to promote energy savings for consumers, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

These efforts will provide invaluable data on the benefits and cost-effectiveness of the Smart Grid, including energy and cost savings. An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that implementing Smart Grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030. That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country, and $730 million for Pennsylvania alone -- or $58 in utility savings for every man, woman and child in Pennsylvania.

The demonstration projects announced today will also help verify the technological and business viability of new smart technologies and show how fully integrated Smart Grid systems can be readily adapted and copied around the country. Applicants say this investment will create thousands of new job opportunities that will include manufacturing workers, engineers, electricians, equipment installers, IT system designers, cyber security specialists, and business and power system analysts.

The funding awards are divided into two topic areas. In the first group, 16 awards totaling $435 million will support fully integrated, regional Smart Grid demonstrations in 21 states, representing over 50 utilities and electricity organizations with a combined customer base of almost 100 million consumers. The projects include streamlined communication technologies that will allow different parts of the grid to “talk” to each other in real time; sensing and control devices that help grid operators monitor and control the flow of electricity to avoid disruptions and outages; smart meters and in-home systems that empower consumers to reduce their energy use and save money; energy storage options; and on-site and renewable energy sources that can be integrated onto the electrical grid.

In the second group, an additional 16 awards for a total of $185 million will help fund utility-scale energy storage projects that will enhance the reliability and efficiency of the grid, while reducing the need for new electricity plants. Improved energy storage technologies will allow for expanded integration of renewable energy resources like wind and photovoltaic systems and will improve frequency regulation and peak energy management. The selected projects include advanced battery systems (including flow batteries), flywheels, and compressed air energy systems.

Looking at the list of projects, here are the two for Pennsylvania in the energy storage category; there were none for the smart grid category:

Lyon Station / East Penn Manufacturing Co. / Grid-Scale Energy Storage Demonstration for Ancillary Services Using the UltraBattery Technology - Demonstrate the economic and technical viability of a 3MW grid-scale, advanced energy storage system using the lead-carbon UltraBattery technology to regulate frequency and manage energy demand. This project will entail the construction of a dedicated facility on the East Penn campus in Lyon Station, PA that will be used as a working energy storage demonstration for UltraBattery modules. / Lyons Station, PA $2,245,523 (recovery aid funding) / $4,491,046 (total project value)

Pittsburgh / 44 Tech Inc. / Demonstration of Sodium Ion Battery for Grid Level Applications - Partner with Carnegie Mellon University to demonstrate a new, low cost, long-life, highly efficient, environmentally friendly, stationary energy storage battery that uses a proven and fully novel cell chemistry. Specifically, an aqueous sodium-ion based electrolyte is used in conjunction with simple highly scalable electrode materials housed in low cost packaging. / Pittsburgh, PA / $5,000,000 (recovery aid funding) / $10,000,000 (total project value)

Kudos to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on ACORN Coverage

Editor & Publisher has published an article on the media coverage of ACORN, "Have the media 'falsely framed' ACORN," by Christopher R. Martin and Peter Dreier. There is an interesting section on the Pittsburgh newspaper:

Ed Blazina, who works on the local news desk at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had a similar experience. “It was a national issue,” Blazina said about the allegations of voter registration fraud. “When we checked locally we found there were some concerns.” But, after contacting the director of the Allegheny County Elections Division director and local ACORN representatives, they found that “ACORN people weren’t encouraging people to commit fraud,” Blazina said. “In fact, they were turning in false ones for Allegheny County, and separating them into two piles”—one for good registrations and one with bad registrations they flagged. The Post-Gazette ran a front-page story the day before the election reporting the election director “said concerns nationally about ACORN producing thousands of improper voter registration cards barely caused a blip here.”

Instead of presenting the conservative framing of the story, perhaps with competing truth claims, the three local newspapers went directly to county election officials and verified the most essential facts of the story—whether the accusations against ACORN were true and whether any of the alleged voter registration problems would have an impact on the election. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, the national news media didn’t do this. However, the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Minneapolis newspapers, using sources outside of the D.C. Beltway and in their community to verify the story, were much less susceptible than the national news media to the “panic” about voter fraud.

This kind of local coverage is what we lose when city newspapers cut staff or close.

(h/t Suburban Guerilla)

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Green Bucks

From Friday's inbox:

Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) announced over $1.2 million in federal funding for green energy initiatives in Bucks County . Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Rep. Murphy proudly voted for, Conservation Works! received $1,211,011 in federal grants to go toward green energy projects that will create jobs and lower energy costs for Bucks businesses and families.

“These green grants are exactly what Bucks County needs to continue to lead Pennsylvania and the nation in green technology,” said Rep. Murphy. “I’m proud to fight for funding that creates jobs and lowers energy costs for Bucks small businesses and families.”

The Conservation Works! grants were awarded to 4 sites in the 8th District: Richland Township , Lower Makefield, Warwick , and St. Mary Medical Center. Richland Township received $500,000 for the installation of 1,350 photovoltaic solar panels that will generate $119,346 in renewable energy credits; Lower Makefield Township received $250,000 to update current traffic and parking lights with new, high-tech LED models fixtures. Warwick Township received $211,011 to replace over 270 existing streetlights with energy efficient LED lights, and St. Mary Medical Center Foundation received $250,000 to improve the hospital’s chilled water plant to help cool outpatient care areas, which will result in a reduction of 25% of energy consumption and will reduce air pollution by 1.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

Finding Info in Senate Health Care Bill

From Mike Allen's Politico Playbook on this past Saturday, a little indexing of the senate health insurance reform bill:

CORRESPONDENT DAN PFEIFFER REPORTS ON THE WHITE HOUSE BLOG: 'Speaking of page numbers... Since some opponents of reform seem too obsessed with the length of the Senate health insurance reform bill to even bother looking at what's in it for American families, we thought we'd make it a little easier for them to find some key of provisions they're working so hard to kill: On page 78 you'll learn that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ends discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. On page 17, it makes preventive care completely free, with no cost-sharing. (This might be of particular interest to those who have chosen to seize on concerns about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on mammograms to spread baseless myths and advance their own political agenda.)'Flipping back to page 16, you'll find that insurance companies are prohibited from dropping your coverage or watering it down when you get sick and need it most. Also on page 16, you might notice that it puts an end to lifetime caps on coverage. Page 18 is where the bill extends family coverage eligibility for young Americans through the age of 26. On page 83 it requires insurance companies to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full - that means they can't refuse to renew your coverage just because you get sick. Page 307 is home to tax credits for small businesses to help them afford insurance for their employees. And folks looking to scare our senior citizens about what reform means for them might be interested to check out page 923 and learn that it provides a 50% discount on drugs for seniors in the so-called donut hole.'

Sibelius: Health Care Reform Benefits for PA

From the inbox:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the release of a new report highlighting the benefits of health insurance reform for Pennsylvania. Health Insurance Reform and Pennsylvania: The Case for Change is available now at

“Families, seniors and businesses are all suffering under the health care status quo,” said Sebelius. “Our new reports demonstrate how health insurance reform will improve health care for all Americans.”

The report provides specific details on the benefits of reform for Pennsylvania. Under health insurance reform in Pennsylvania:

* 1.3 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 683,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.
* 904,000 residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
* 2.2 million seniors would receive free preventive services.
* 393,000 seniors would have their brand-name drug costs in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” halved.
* 151,000 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.

The full PA report is online at:

Toeplitz on Toomey

Shira Toeplitz has an interesting article on Pat Toomey in Roll Call. Read "Is Toomey Edging to the Center?"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Congressional Spending Habits: PA Version

I was in DC over the weekend for a conference and a friend, who knows my proclivities, gave me the 3 vol. July - Sept. Statement of Disbursements of the House. I'm told this information will be going online in the vaguely near future but for now is only available in paper. The quarterly spending is spelled out in detail (Paul Kanjorski is leasing a car? really?), down to what bottled water companies they use. Some list more than one water company, which may imply a difference between DC and district offices. All but two of Pennsylvania's congressional representatives use Deer Park; the dissenters are Shuster and Pitts. It is not a matter of which office building they are in so it must be something else.

In addition to the quarterly detail, year to date figures are given for several categories and totaled. Different offices report things in different columns so it will take more work to tease out all the nuances and details, but looking at some of the information and the totals, here are some tidbits. Sometimes I rounded up to the nearest dollar sometimes I didn't so if you go back to double check and that last digit is one off, well, math was never my strength.

Total cost: this varies widely with Joe Sestak spending the least so far this year: $690,031; though that may in part be a reflection of his running for senate next year and not re-election to the House. Allyson Schwartz came in second, spending a total of 852,403. Bob Brady is the most expensive: $1,043,504. Sestak also wins the Ruby Red Slippers Award ("There's no place like home!") for spending the least on travel, at 7,081, though some travel may have been paid for his senate campaign. Fattah wins the Talk to the Hand award, for spending the least on franked mail (those nice glossy flyers you get in the mail); Brady comes in second here at 2,295. That may be a reflection of their relative lack of serious opponents (apologies to Adam Lang who ran against Fattah in 2008). Jason Altmire, who may be a little nervous, spent 101,451 for franked mail so far this year. However, that doesn't necessarily explain why Tim Murphy came in second, spending 105,912.

More on this later.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jack Wagner in DiStefano's Column

A few months ago I discovered Joseph DiStefano's "PhillyDeals" column in the Inky. Somewhat surprisingly it is a great source of political news. Today's offering, "Not all towns back an interest-swap ban," is on PA Auditor General and gubernatorial candidate Jack Wagner's plan to bank interest-rate swaps. It's a long detailed article.

In other Wagner news, he wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Patriot-News last week, on state contracts. Read "Competition lacking in state contracts."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Murphy to Receive Kennedy Award

Kudos to Congressman Patrick Murphy. From the inbox:


Cambridge, MA – Monday, November 23, Caroline Kennedy will present the sixth annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award to U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, the first veteran of the Iraq War to serve in Congress, and Rebecca Onie, co-founder of Project HEALTH, a national organization that mobilizes college students to provide assistance to low-income patients at urban hospitals and health centers.

The ceremony will take place at 4:00 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University ’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) to honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service. The awards are presented annually to two exceptional individuals whose contributions in elective office, community service, or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.

Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and member of the IOP’s Senior Advisory Committee, will present Murphy and Onie each with a ship’s navigational compass in a wooden box bearing the inscription: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier…. I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.” – John F. Kennedy.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dent and Gerlach Targeted

Belated note from the inbox:

Following the passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act in the U.S. House of Representatives last Saturday, Organizing for America (OFA)-Pennsylvania, a project of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), announced today that its volunteers would be called on to drop by the offices of Republican Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), who voted against health reform but whose constituents voted for President Obama in the historic 2008 election. OFA volunteers in Pennsylvania are being asked to drop by the offices beginning as early as tomorrow through the middle of next week to remind Reps. Gerlach and Dent that Pennsylvanians in their districts voted for change in 2008 and urge them to reconsider their position when the House votes again on a final bill later this year. The office visits are being organized nationwide through an email from OFA Director Mitch Stewart sent to OFA supporters in 32
Republican Congressional Districts where President Obama won in 2008. The email can be found at the bottom of this release.

Volunteers and supporters of health insurance reform in both the 6th and 15th Congressional Districts will join together in a show of support by visiting each representatives office to ensure Reps. Gerlach and Dent know that their constituents support President Obama’s plan for reform that would achieve three goals; provide more security and stability to people who have insurance; provide more quality, affordable options to those who don’t; and lower the cost of care for American families, businesses, and the government.

“Last fall, voters in Pennsylvania’s 6th and 15th Congressional Districts voted for President Obama and sent Reps. Gerlach and Dent to Congress. Americans here in Pennsylvania made it clear they wanted change and were tired of Washington’s partisan bickering,” said OFA PA State Director Elizabeth Lucas. The House’s vote offered a choice to members; stand with your constituents and support reform, or side with the insurance companies by voting against reforming our broken health insurance system. Unfortunately, Reps. Gerlach and Dent made the wrong choice.”

News From the Economy League

From the November issue of the Economy League's Citizens' Business:

Dr. Wendell E. Pritchett, Chancellor of Rutgers University at Camden (top right), has joined Dr. Steven M. Altschuler, President & CEO of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as a co-chair of the World Class Greater Philadelphia initiative. The addition of Dr. Pritchett as a co-chair means the leadership of World Class Greater Philadelphia now represents two of the largest industries in our region - health care and higher education - and institutions from both sides of the Delaware River.

11 PA Cities on Milken List

The Milken Institute has released its 2009 list of the 200 best performing cities. There are 11 Pennsylvania cities on the list of large cities, and 4 on the list of small cities.

PA in New Blue Green Alliance Report

From the inbox:

The recommendations included in a report by the Blue Green Alliance, Building a Clean Energy Assembly Line: How Renewable Energy Can Revitalize U.S. Manufacturing and the American Middle Class, outline policies for market building, market reforms, financing, innovation and capacity building to create clean energy jobs. According to the report, renewable energy technologies provide three to six times as many jobs as equivalent investments in fossil fuels when manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance jobs are taken into account.

The report is 20 pages long, and mentions Pennsylvania in a number of places, including a short case study in a PA wind turbine manufacturer. Page 11 has a really cool graphic of supply chain firms, primarily CSP, capable of manufacturing components for the renewable energy sector in Pennsylvania.

Also note this quote:
Scaling up renewable energy will pay big job dividends in the industrial Midwest. Of the states with the potential to create the most renewable energy jobs, six of 10 are in the Midwest, including Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana,
Wisconsin and Michigan.

Campaign Website Updates

For those keeping score at home, there are some new websites and twitterers to follow.

State Rep. Bryan Lentz, who recently launched his campaign for 7th district congressman, has a new campaign website up:, and you can follow him at

Joe Hoeffel's gubernatorial site is: and you can follow him at:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two New Information Resources

A few new information resources for your browsing pleasure:

Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families, has compiled a report, "Show Us the Stimulus," analyzing states' transparency in the use of stimulus funds, at least as far as state websites and availability of information. Pennsylvania does very well in most, if not all, categories. (h/t aa)

Want to see national geographic trends in congressional voting? Check out

Brett Mandel Update

Brett Mandel, who was a candidate in Philadelphia in the primary, sent around a note updating people on what he has been doing. He spent time with his family and has now moved on to a new job:

I am now leading the work of the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, a Congressionally recognized nonprofit organization that works to help local school districts utilize newly established mechanisms for interest-free financing of school construction and renovation. After so many years of advocacy in Philadelphia, this new position will allow me to dust off my public-finance education, gain some new expertise, and broaden what has been a hyper-Philadelphia focus to consider a much larger world. All will be good for me personally and professionally.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview with Dr. Manan Trivedi, Democratic Candidate for the 6th Congresstional District

Dr. Manan Trivedi is one of two Democratic candidates for the 6th congressional district. This is an open seat as the incumbent, Jim Gerlach, has decided to run for governor. Dr. Trivedi grew up in Berks County, went to medical school, served in the Navy with one of the first battalions to cross into Iraq in 2003. He campaigned for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Dr. Trivedi is currently a primary care physician in Reading.

Recently Dr. Trivedi was kind enough to do an interview via email. I found his answers to be thoughtful and show curiosity and compassion. Perhaps my favorite passage in the interview was his response to my question on the future of the 6th district, not of the people but the shape of the district, given that redistricting will take place after next year's census. He said, in part:

This race is not about my long-term career goals or ambitions - and when you serve in our nation's armed forces, you quickly learn that nothing is guaranteed in life. There are many serious challenges facing our nation that need immediate attention. All that I am focused on is earning the opportunity to represent the 6th so that I can do my part to make things better. If I'm fortunate enough to earn a victory in this election, I will remain focused on representing the best interests of my constituents

I've had the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with Dr. Trivedi once and found him to be soft spoken but confident, quick, with an air of intelligence but not arrogant. It is difficult to really gauge a person after one short exchange but he is one of the few candidates I've met that I would like to really talk with. Not only would he have a lot of interesting stories to tell but I think he would be an excellent conversationalist as well.

On your website you say you will fight for quality affordable healthcare for all. Does this include a mandate that everyone must have insurance?

I believe that an individual mandate is the best way to assure healthcare coverage for all Americans. However, I am opposed to such a mandate if Americans do not have an alternative to choose outside of private insurance. Without a public option, a mandate would force Americans into paying whatever the private insurance industry wants them to.

You talk about investing in community health. What exactly do you mean by that and what role would Congress play in your view?

What I mean by community health is the things we do every day to stay healthy and avoid illness and chronic disease. I believe we need to focus on health and wellness every day—not just the days we are at the doctor’s office or the hospital. There are many ways that Congress can help increase our investment in community health. And, I should add, I truly believe this investment would pay for itself in the long-term by producing a healthier populace and decrease costs of healthcare overall. Some examples include modernizing and expanding our public health departments, having more local and national health education campaigns on wellness and preventive medicine and assuring that health promotion programs in schools and worksites are fully funded.

One suggestion that has been made for health care reform is allowing insurance companies to work across state lines. As a doctor, do you think that would be a solution or cause more problems?

While this solution sounds good, the problem with this is that different states have very different rules and regulations on private insurance. Legislation that has been proposed to allow insurance companies to work across state lines allows insurance companies to adopt the lowest standards of any state they operate in and apply them across the board. This would, in effect, dismantle years of work some states have done to assure that insurance companies act somewhat responsibly in their coverage of patients.

Your wife has a very impressive resume in her own right, and, having run for a student government office in college, has more actual electoral experience than you do. What, if any, role will she play in your campaign?

Surekha is not only impressive on paper, but in person as well. I am lucky to have a wife and best friend who is so smart, talented, and supportive. She is quite engaged with the campaign and will continue to be. Her insight and instincts have already proven to be very helpful. I feel fortunate to have a person of Surekha's character and wisdom to support me, challenge me, and make me a better candidate.

Manufacturing is the 6th largest industry in the district; with your emphasis on new technologies and green jobs, do you see this industrial base as growing or shrinking?

If we can get a true investment in alternative energy and clean manufacturing jobs, I see this industrial base as growing. When we hear about President Obama's new Green Economy, it's important to define what that specifically means for my friends, family, and neighbors who I've grown up with here in the 6th District. The people in the 6th are smart and they're hard workers. We have more than enough talent to address the challenges at hand. As a nation, we must adapt to changing times, and here in the 6th, that may mean developing new skills or building upon old ones - either way, I'm confident that with the right leaders in Washington, we'll make the necessary adjustments and bring home the necessary resources to build a new, innovative, green and long-lasting industrial base for many years to come.

The 6th district is oddly shaped and often mentioned as one that might be re-made or disappear entirely in the redistricting after the 2010 census. Are you concerned about running for a seat that might not be there in 2012?

No. This race is not about my long-term career goals or ambitions - and when you serve in our nation's armed forces, you quickly learn that nothing is guaranteed in life. There are many serious challenges facing our nation that need immediate attention. All that I am focused on is earning the opportunity to represent the 6th so that I can do my part to make things better. If I'm fortunate enough to earn a victory in this election, I will remain focused on representing the best interests of my constituents.

Tourism is a small industry in the 6th district. Would you like to see this grow and if so how would you encourage tourism in the area?

I definitely would like to see the tourism industry grow here. The 6th District is a great place to live and visit -- from French Creek and Marsh Creek State Parks to the Reading Public Museum and the great shopping and restaurants in Lower Merion, there are so many wonderful attractions in the 6th District.

One of the most important factors that must be addressed to encourage tourism in the area is our need for better public transportation throughout some of the more rural parts of the district - this would encourage tourism and create jobs. It's been discussed in the past, but we need leaders with the political will to make it happen.

Your mother campaigned for Obama in the 2008 election and, when phone banking, encountered some resistance, presumably because of her accent. While Indian Americans are playing a more visible political role in the country (example: Bobby Jindal), have you heard any untoward comments regarding your background?

No, I have not heard of or know of any negative comments regarding my India American ethnicity. I am grateful for my heritage and I am active in Indian American cultural activities. At the same time, I am a proud American and dedicated to service. These are not mutually exclusive. In fact, that blending of cultures, ideas and ancestries is what makes America great. I think people, in this day and age, recognize that.

In late 2007 you wrote this on the Asian American Action Fund blog:
Most of us are sons and daughters of immigrants if not immigrants ourselves. We contribute in so many ways to make this nation, our nation, great. We need our stories to become part of the immigration debate. We need to make it evident that if the Tancredo wing of the Republican party was in control, America would be a lot less well-off. If, thirty years ago, we adopted the policies that Tancredo and his cronies are now pushing for, think of how different America would be. Forget about the technology boom in the late 90s. And wipe away the massive advances in medicine and research over the last two decades. Plus, you could virtually kiss the science and math departments of our major universities good-bye, just to name a few.
If elected to congress what reforms would you work for?

I would work towards streamlining the process for visa applicants who have job skills in sectors where the U.S. has a labor shortage (agriculture, medicine, engineering, science, etc.). Right now there are too many hurdles and red tape to go through for those who want to be productive members of American society and work in needed areas of the job market.

On your website you write about the need for public transit. Would you see this as more of a regional effort or a municipal effort within cities and towns in the 6th?

I believe the entire country needs a better, more robust public transportation system. This would reduce our dependence on foreign oil, decrease our carbon emissions and unclog our highways. The 6th district would greatly benefit from a better public transit. In particular, I am strongly in favor of a rail system along the Schuylkill expressway that would diminish traffic on this congested corridor and better connect Philadelphia with its surrounding communities in Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties.

You were part of a team that worked on a Rand report on post-traumatic stress disorder, and one topic discussed in particular was the need to lessen the stigma attached to soldiers and their families who ask for help. How would you accomplish this?

Stigma is clearly one of the biggest problems in this realm and our research confirmed this. I think simply talking about mental health problems more openly and investing more in research in this topic is a strong step in the right direction. However, to truly get to the heart of this problem, we need more education and training programs for our military leaders—officers and senior enlisted—so they can understand and recognize problems early, be more accepting of mental health diagnoses and more willing to allow their men and women serving under them to get checked out when there are concerns.

The Reading Hospital and Medical Center is the district’s largest employer. Vanguard is another large employer. What would you say to the management and workers at these places to encourage them to support you?

First of all, I would say that I relate to them because I am one of them – I work as a doctor at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center. So for my co-workers at the hospital I would ask for their support because I recognize firsthand the inefficiencies in the healthcare system. We all spend too much time on administrative tasks and non-patient care related issues and not enough time on the things that really matter—making sure that our patients get better. Supporting me will assure that meaningful health reform initiatives will be led by someone who truly understands healthcare from the inside.

For those at Vanguard, I would ask for their support because I recognize that our economic recovery and the revitalization of the financial industry sector relies on the creation of new and sustainable jobs. That is what one of my main focuses would be as a Congressman.

While serving in Iraq you offered medical care to injured Iraqis who had been involved in a firefight that left one of your fellow soldiers dead. Is there an analogy here to bipartisanship or was that a peculiarity of being a doctor in battle?

During my time in Iraq I treated fellow Marines, Coalition forces, Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war. This was the right thing to do. Under our mission and Department of Defense orders, we provided care to those who needed it under no prejudice or reservation. War is a horrible thing but even in the grimmest times I think it is important to maintain humanity. This is what separates us from our enemies and what makes our country so great.

What exactly did you do as a health policy advisor to the Obama campaign?

I did whatever they needed me to do. Initially, I helped narrow the focus on the key healthcare issues that were going to be relevant in the campaign and assisted with the writing of articles on health reform. Later, I transitioned into leading the healthcare op-ed rollout in Pennsylvania and provided region-specific healthcare information to those that needed it. I also assisted with the field and GOTV [get out the vote] efforts in Berks County and the greater southeastern PA region.

Other than raising money what do you see as the greatest challenge in this campaign?

I feel if voters get to know me, hear my story and learn of my background and dedication to service that I can overcome any challenge – financial or otherwise.

What question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?

Several people have asked me why I did not announce my candidacy earlier. Until August 31st, I was on active-duty with the U.S. Navy and wanted to make sure that I adhered to the regulations set forth by the Department of Defense for political activity. I have great respect for the U.S. Navy and am honored that I had the opportunity to serve. I would have never done anything to tarnish that.”

My thanks to Dr. Trivedi for taking the time to answer my questions.

Joe Biden Gets the Last Laugh

During his first presidential campaign, in 1987, Joe Biden took a lot of heat for not crediting British politician Neil Kinnock when quoting or paraphrasing some of his remarks. Yesterday Robert Pear noted in the New York times ("In House, many spoke with one voice -- lobbyists'") that a number of congressional representatives added remarks to the Congressional record, remarks that were written by a lobbyist. There were two basic statements prepared, one for Republicans and one for Democrats.

The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the “author” of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

The only Pennsylvania name mentioned was Rep. Bob Brady.

Mr. Brady’s chief of staff, Stanley V. White, said he had received the draft statement from a lobbyist for Genentech’s parent company, Roche.

“We were approached by the lobbyist, who asked if we would be willing to enter a statement in the Congressional Record,” Mr. White said. “I asked him for a draft. I tweaked a couple of words. There’s not much reason to reinvent the wheel on a Congressional Record entry.”

Excluding the fact that the Congressional Record is supposed to be the official record of what happens in Congress, is there anyone out there who could call their congressional rep, ask for something to be placed in the Record, and have it happen?

(h/t Elbendera on twitter)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Willow Grove Base Deal Falls Through

This was posted to The Reporter Online today, "State pulls outof Willow Grove base," regarding the Willow Grove Naval Air Base:

Governor Edward Rendell announced Thursday that Pennsylvania has withdrawn plans to continue operations at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NASJRB) in Willow Grove, according to a press release from his office.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz released this statement:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz issued the following statement in response to Gov. Ed Rendell’s decision to withdraw plans for the proposed Horsham Joint Interagency/Installation for Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today, Gov. Rendell announced that without a commitment from the federal government to be a partner in both the operation and funding of the installation, the federal property should not be transferred to the state for ownership.

“Earlier today, Gov. Rendell notified Secretary Gates of his decision not to proceed with what I believe would have been a valuable homeland security installation for Southeastern Pennsylvania and the United States.

“I am disappointed with this decision. I intend to continue working with the state and federal government, as well as the community, on future issues pertaining to the base and any future possibilities for the site.”

PA Leads in Legislators in Uniform

Our friends at the National Conference of State Legislatures posted a note on their The Thicket blog about a survey on state legislators serving in the military. Take note of this:

A total of 34 state legislatures currently have at least one member serving in the military (see Table B). Pennsylvania leads with five legislators serving in the military; South Carolina has four legislators, while Iowa, Missouri, Washington, and Wisconsin all have three.

Grand Jury Report on Perzel, et. al.

If you want to read the full grand jury report that Attorney General Tom Corbett (also running for governor) announced today, it is available on the state's website. The 187 page document is broken up into three files.

PA State Legislature on Health Care

Our friends at the National Conference of State Legislatures have put together a list of state bills, well, this is how they word it:

As part of state-based responses to federal health reform legislation, members of at least 11 state legislatures are using the legislative process to seek to limit, alter or oppose selected state or federal actions, including single-payer provisions and mandates that would require purchase of insurance.

Their entry for PA is:

HB 2053 by Rep. Baker
Proposed statute "providing for the rights of individuals to purchase private health care insurance and prohibiting certain governmental action." States, "The people shall have the right to enter into private contracts with health care providers for health care services and to purchase private health care coverage. The legislature may not require any individual to participate in any health care system or plan, nor may it impose a penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan."
(Filed and sent to Insurance Committee, 10/21/09)

50% both legislative chambers

Fed Funding Work on I-81

From a press release on recovery transportation funding (italics mine):

In the last week, the DOT has approved hundreds of additional transportation projects across the country, topping 10,000 projects. In Florida, a $71.2 million Recovery Act funded project will construct a new four-lane highway to relieve traffic congestion in the Jacksonville area. In Kentucky, a $25.5 million project will reconstruct approximately 5 miles of US 150 through Rockcastle County. A $37.6 million project in Lee County, North Carolina will widen the 1.8 mile Sanford Bypass to ease congestion on one of the state’s most critical highway corridors. In Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, a $22.9 million project will repair and replace pavement along I-81.

Lentz Announces Congressional Campaign

From the inbox:

Standing with his wife and son, Representative Bryan R. Lentz today announced his candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District at a 10:00 AM press conference at American Legion Post 214 in Upper Darby. Lentz, who made his candidacy official just one day after Veteran’s Day, was joined by an enthusiastic crowd of over 120 supporters at the event.

“We need a Congress that is willing to stand up against the powerful special interests and stand on the side of regular people,” Lentz stated. “If you send me to Washington, I will put the interest of Main Street ahead of the interest of Wall Street. I will fight to create jobs and to keep jobs in this district. I won’t work for any party or any party boss, I will work for you.”

Lentz has already built a top-flight congressional campaign team that spearheaded the victories of Congressman Joe Sestak, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Governor Ed Rendell. Lentz has won strong support for his candidacy even before the announcement today. He has raised more than $250,000, earned the endorsements of over seventy elected and local Democratic officials as well as the Delaware County AFL-CIO.

Speaking at the event today was Lieutenant Colonel Mark Busbee. “I served with Bryan and I can attest to his character, leadership and sense of public service,” Busbee stated. “I called Bryan back in 2004 and told him that we needed a leader to guide a battalion of 141 soldiers into battle in Iraq. Bryan didn’t have to go, and most people would be reluctant to do so, but Bryan didn’t hesitate. He is a leader and he knew that our battalion needed his leadership.”

A life-long resident of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Lentz has made service to his community and country his life’s work. In 1986, after graduating from Valley Forge Military College and Georgetown University, he became an Airborne Ranger, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg North Carolina. He then attended law school at Temple University and served for six years as an assistant prosecutor. Lentz continued his service in the military as an Army reservist serving in Bosnia and volunteering after 9/11 to lead soldiers in Iraq in 2004. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House in 2006.

The 7th Congressional District includes most of Delaware County, along with southwestern Montgomery County and eastern Chester County. In 2006, Joe Sestak defeated Congressman Curt Weldon by twelve percentage points and in 2008 he easily won reelection by twenty percentage points. President Obama also won the district with fifty-six percent of the vote in 2008.

Lentz’s State House District lies entirely inside of the 7th Congressional District. He defeated a 28-year incumbent in 2006 in one of the most expensive and closely watched State House races in the entire Commonwealth. In 2008, voters overwhelmingly reelected Lentz to a second term in the State House.

As State Representative, Lentz serves on the House Veteran’s Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Transportation Committee, and is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal State Relations for the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. During his time in the state legislature, Lentz has fought to create jobs, fought for tougher sentencing laws when violent crimes committed against the elderly, tightening parole regulations for repeat violent offenders, and promoting the local economy through clean energy initiatives.

Yeakel Endorses Sestak

As expected Lynn Yeakel, the Democratic candidate for Senate in 1992, has endorsed Joe Sestak.

Sestak's press release is on his site.

PA2010 has a longer article on the event.

Patrick Murphy on OFA Blog

Congressman Patrick Murphy was featured on the Organizing for America blog, congratulating him on his vote for health insurance reform.

Race for the Top

Today Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a conference call to announce the official start of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund competition. Race to the Top represents the largest-ever federal investment in school reform.

Potential funding amount for PA: $200-400 million

Brief Book Review: A Table in the Presence

Cash, Lt. Carey H. A Table in the Presence. Nashville, TN: 2004.

There are a number of first person accounts of the Iraq War in print, but this one is unusual as the author is a chaplain. Cash was with the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, which he describes as:

“Our unit was the first ground combat force to cross the line of departure into Iraq, saw the first man killed in action at the hands of enemy gunmen, and fought what many believe to have been the most decisive battle in the taking of Baghdad (xi-xii).

I had not given much thought to chaplains and how they might serve in active combat. They are not allowed to carry a weapon and so a “religious program specialist” is assigned to them to help with administrative matters and also serves as a bodyguard and sometimes driver.

The book is written in chronological order, with flashbacks thrown in to provide some background on the author or other people mentioned in the book. As one might expect of a chaplain, Lt. Cash throws in Bible verses and spiritual allusions. He talks about the religious beliefs of the men he serves with, and recounts events that he considers miraculous. This is not to say that he glosses over the grim details of war. His regiment saw heavy fire and he does not spare anything in his descriptions of what happened. Here is one of the less action-packed passages (195):

The blast caused the vehicle’s Halon fire retardant system to engage, pouring noxious chemical fumes into the lungs of the shell-shocked marines. Choking, gasping for air, vomiting, they crawled up and out of the hatch, falling on the ground, oblivious to the continual enemy fire around them. They didn’t care – they had to breathe.

A couple of days earlier, someone had been smoking and had inadvertently set off the Halon system, emptying its bladder of over half of its supply of fire retardant. Horton recalled later that, if the providential smoking mistake had never happened, some of those Marines would never have made it out of the compartment before choking or being suffocated.

Just then a burning Iraqi troop carrier exploded, sending shrapnel and debris all over the Marines who by now were positioning themselves to kick down the front door and storm the mosque. Lance Corporal Benjamin Wetzel took a piece to the face, leaving a burning hole in his jaw. He found on, not realizing that his face was smoking.

He also writes touchingly of the men, one searching for a photo of his wife that had fallen off the dash of his vehicle, the regret of past misdeeds, and the worries of going into battle. In answer to the question of why some live and some die he offers the contrast between Daniel, who was protected in the lion’s den, and Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr. He writes:

Daniel and Stephen both remained true to their calling; both walked faithfully no matter the cost. For one, that calling would be affirmed through the power of divine protection. For the other, it would be illuminated through the heroism of sacrifice. (p. 241).

His descriptions of the landscape and of the Iraqi people are also interesting. In one vignette he tries to find the gestures to indicate that he wants to meet the children of an Iraqi man who is helping them, and then shows the man a photo of his own family.

The day to day aspects of his job, having communion with limited equipment, using a lowered truck tailgate as a staging area, counseling soldiers, leading prayers, and providing appropriate spiritual guidance to those of other faiths, are included.

I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it those who enjoy first person accounts of the war.

A current Pennsylvania candidate served with Cash, but I wanted to have a separate post on the book itself, and a second post on mentions of the candidate, so, stay tuned ...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Remarks from PA Officials

The inbox was overflowing today with Veterans Day press releases.

Congressman Patrick Murphy held a Veterans Day event in Washington Crossing Park, but I don't have any details on it yet.

Joe Sestak, currently the 7th district congressman and candidate for senate, has a video message for Veterans Day.

Doug Pike, one of the Democratic candidates for the 6th congressional district, has this to say:

"Today, I salute every veteran who has served. The commitment to serve and sacrifice for our safety deserves our admiration and praise every day, but today is special and I encourage everyone to thank a veteran today for service to our nation."

"I want to say a special thanks to my dad for serving our nation as a Marine Corps pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II. His service continues to be an inspiration to me and our family."

Jack Wagner, one of the Democrats running for governor sent this statement:
In honor of Veterans Day, I salute and thank the brave men and women who have served in the military, past and present. These outstanding citizens make the ultimate sacrifice by putting their lives on the line to protect our freedoms in this great country.

As a Vietnam combat veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps, I share with you our motto – "Semper Fidelis," or "Always Faithful." We owe our everlasting and unwavering gratitude, loyalty, and dedication to the servicemen and women who faithfully serve with dignity and honor.

Today, and every day, please take the time to remember those who have fallen in combat, honor those who currently serve, and take care of those who have returned from combat.

Thank you veterans.

President's Remarks on Veterans Day

From the inbox:

Thank you, Secretary Shinseki, for the generous introduction -- more importantly, the extraordinary bravery in service to our country, both on and off the battlefield. I want to thank our outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and his wonderful wife, Dr. Jill Biden, for being here today. We want to thank the Bidens for their son, Beau's, service as well; we're glad he just got back from Iraq.

We want to say a special word of thanks to Brigadier General Karl Horst, who's the Commander of the Military District of Washington, for being here, and for your lifetime of distinguished service to our nation. To Gene Crayton, president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, thank you for being here. And to all the veterans’ service organizations for the extraordinary work, day in, day out on behalf of our nation's heroes.

To the members of our armed forces and the veterans who are here today: I am deeply honored and humbled to spend Veterans Day with you in this sacred place where generations of heroes have come to rest -- and generations of Americans have come to show their gratitude.

There are many honors and responsibilities that come with this job. But none is more profound than serving as Commander-in-Chief. Yesterday, I visited the troops at Fort Hood. We gathered in remembrance of those we recently lost. We paid tribute to the lives they led. And there was something that I saw in them; something that I see in the eyes of every soldier and sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman that I have had the privilege to meet in this country and around the world -- and that thing is determination.

In this time of war, we gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made. In an era where so many acted only in pursuit of narrow self-interest, they've chosen the opposite. They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self; many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way. And for the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places; they have protected us from danger; and they have given others the opportunity for a better life.

So to all of them -- to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families -- there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice.

This is a place where it is impossible not to be moved by that sacrifice. But even as we gather here this morning, people are gathering all across America, not only to express thanks of a grateful nation, but to tell stories that demand to be told. They're stories of wars whose names have come to define eras; battles that echo throughout history. They're stories of patriots who sacrificed in pursuit of a more perfect union: of a grandfather who marched across Europe; of a friend who fought in Vietnam; of a sister who served in Iraq. They're the stories of generations of Americans who left home barely more than boys and girls, became men and women, and returned home heroes.

And when these Americans who had dedicated their lives to defending this country came home, many settled on a life of service, choosing to make their entire lives a tour of duty. Many chose to live a quiet life, trading one uniform and set of responsibilities for another -- doctor, engineer, teacher, mom, dad. They bought homes, raised families, built businesses. They built the greatest middle class that the world has ever known. Some put away their medals, stayed humble about their service, and moved on. Some, carrying shrapnel and scars, found that they couldn't.

We call this a holiday. But for many veterans, it's another day of memories that drive them to live their lives each day as best as they possibly can. For our troops, it is another day in harm's way. For their families, it is another day to feel the absence of a loved one, and the concern for their safety. For our wounded warriors, it is another day of slow and arduous recovery. And in this national cemetery, it is another day when grief remains fresh. So while it is important and proper that we mark this day, it is far more important we spend all our days determined to keep the promises that we've made to all who answer this country's call.

Carved into the marble behind me are the words of our first Commander-in-Chief: "When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen." Just as the contributions that our servicemen and women make to this nation don't end when they take off their uniform, neither do our obligations to them. And when we fulfill those obligations, we aren't just keeping faith with our veterans; we are keeping faith with the ideals of service and sacrifice upon which this republic was founded.

If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that there have been times where we as a nation have betrayed that sacred trust. Our Vietnam veterans served with great honor. They often came home greeted not with gratitude or support, but with condemnation and neglect. That's something that will never happen again. To them and to all who have served, in every battle, in every war, we say that it's never too late to say thank you. We honor your service. We are forever grateful. And just as you have not forgotten your missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. Our servicemen and women have been doing right by America for generations. And as long as I am Commander-in-Chief, America's going to do right by them.

That is my message to all veterans today. That is my message to all who serve in harm's way. To the husbands and wives back home doing the parenting of two. To the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war, and the children who wonder when mom and dad is coming home. To all our wounded warriors, and to the families who laid a loved one to rest. America will not let you down. We will take care of our own.

And to those who are serving in far-flung places today, when your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you will be home in an America that is forever here for you just as you've been there for us. That is my promise -- our nation's promise -- to you.

Ninety-one years ago today, the battlefields of Europe fell quiet as World War I came to a close. But we don't mark this day each year as a celebration of victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible. It's a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation -- generations of them -- who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals. Because they did, our country still stands; our founding principles still shine; nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom.

That is why we fight -- in hopes of a day when we no longer need to. And that is why we gather at these solemn remembrances and reminders of war -- to recommit ourselves to the hard work of peace.

There will be a day before long when this generation of servicemen and women step out of uniform. They will build families and lives of their own. God willing, they will grow old. And someday, their children, and their children's children, will gather here to honor them.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Schwartz Holds Veterans Expo

Tomorrow, Thursday, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13) will hold a veterans resources expo. More than 20 national and local organizations will be represented. The event will be held form 10 a.m. to noon, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Orleans Technical Institute, 2770 Red Lion Road, Philadelphia

Two Political Announcements Tomorrow

Writing tomorrow's news today! Two notable political announcements are slated for Thursday.

State Rep Bryan Lentz (D-151) is planning to kick off his campaign for the 7th congressional district seat. According to the press release:

Lentz is already winning strong support for his candidacy even before his announcement. He has raised more than $250,000, earned the endorsements of 70+ elected and local Democratic officials as well as the Delaware County AFL-CIO. Lentz defeated a 28-year incumbent in 2006 to earn a seat in the PA House of Representatives and in 2008, voters overwhelmingly reelected him.

Lentz is a good guy and I wish him all the best in the campaign.

Meanwhile, current 7th district congressman Joe Sestak, who is running for the senate, also has an event scheduled tomorrow (given his manic schedule there are probably several, but this is the only one I know about). From his press release:
Former Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and a Women's Way founder Lynn Yeakel will endorse Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak on Thursday at the ACORN Club in Philadelphia. She will join other women leaders and supporters to help kick-off Women for Sestak. Lynn is a leader in the Democratic party who has championed equal rights for women, serving as Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1994-2000 and as president and chief executive of the first and largest women's funding federation. At the event, Lynn will join Joe in calling for a new generation of leaders for Pennsylvania, particularly in the U.S. Senate, who will help shape the policies that ensure equal opportunities for success for young men and young women alike.

"I've known Joe for four years and he has the character and integrity to represent our party and our Commonwealth in Washington," said Lynn. "As one of Joe's constituents, I can attest to his exceptional dedication to his work as a Representative, both in Washington and Pennsylvania."

A Philly Blog Returns

One of my favorite Philadelphia blogs had been hiatus but appears to be back in business again. A warm welcome to America's Hometown,

A Cease Fire Update

CeaseFire PA would like us to know that all 12 of the PA mayors on the ballot who are in favor of reporting lost or stolen guns won.

In other news, the city of Braddock has become the 15th community in the commonwealth to pass gun legislation:

Braddock Borough Council last night voted unanimously to pass a law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police. With this action, Braddock joins forces with a growing group of 15 Pennsylvania cities and towns that have passed this commonsense reform to help police target individuals who buy handguns to sell to criminals and minors.

By a 6-to-0 vote, Braddock Council passed the lost or stolen firearms reporting ordinance at its regular meeting. Under the ordinance, firearms owners will have 72 hours to report a lost or stolen gun to the police after they have discovered it missing. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. The law applies to handguns and other short-barreled guns - not to shotguns or hunting rifles.

Braddock Council Vice President Matthew Thomas said, “We really need this reform in Braddock and I’m glad we are starting to pay attention to the problem of illegal firearms, because most crimes in Braddock are committed using illegally obtained handguns.”

Braddock joins Wilkinsburg, Clairton, Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Pittsburgh, Erie, Oxford, Allentown, Reading, Pottsville, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg in passing lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinances into law in recent months. These communities represent a broad, geographically diverse cross-section of Pennsylvania cities and towns that collectively represent over 2 million Pennsylvanians. The statewide movement toward reasonable handgun reform is growing every day and includes mayors, city councils, police chiefs, faith leaders, and citizens across the Commonwealth who have joined together to support this reasonable reform and urge legislators to address the epidemic of illegal handguns in our communities.

A Quick Look at Gail Conner

Today Gail Conner announced her candidacy for the 7th congressional district, joining State Rep. Bryan Lentz (who formally kicks off his campaign this Thursday) and Teresa Touey on the Democratic ballot for the open seat now held by Joe Sestak. Her campaign announcement can be found on her campaign website: (another site, seems to be primarily devoted to her book, Healing Parties, which is not political but focuses on her life philosophy).

Conner is a lawyer, specializing in environment law and real estate law. She also founded, owns and runs a company called G & C Environmental Services. The campaign site lists her participation in state advisory boards relating to environmental concerns. She was an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention last summer in Denver.

Ten years ago she described her business in this way:

The Newtown Square, Pennsylvania-based company provides environmental engineering and industrial hygiene services to commercial, governmental, industrial, municipal and institutional organizations.

Before a building can be remodeled or major construction performed, Conner and her 10 employees go in and assess for dangerous chemicals such as lead and asbestos, estimate the contamination and then recommend companies to do the cleanup. Oftentimes, her firm will go in where larger environmental firms have proved ineffective, correct the problem and then teach the client how to implement the new solution. (Hayes)

Her book, Healing Parties is summarized as:
This book has an underlying message of healing through reconciliation, and is a roadmap for those who are blessed to live in the 21st century. Indeed, Gail provides a message of emotional freedom for all of us - regardless of race, creed, color, economic status, or how you or your ancestors arrived upon this land that we love and cherish.
Gail shares her surprising coping mechanisms for handling life's challenges during desegregation in the rural south and the role it played in her future. Thus, Healing Parties was born and has merged her past and her future. She hopes that her unique experiences will encourage you to successfully manage the challenges in your life.

Conner has not held elective office before. Nor does she have a long record of political contributions, at least at a level that show up on reports. She donated to Obama and to one state level candidate; those are the only two donations I can find, though there may be others.

Conner’s work for Obama did bring her into contact with the local community and she has (or does?) have a nonprofit called Garden of Dreams, though I’m not sure what the organization’s mission was (is?). However, her business does 90% of its business outside of Pennsylvania (Hayes) which means she may not be able to count on her professional network for campaign donations. One of her in state jobs was at the Philadelphia airport (Burton), which may imply some political connections. More recently, even with her work for Obama, she was sometimes at odds with the state party, as witnessed by her comments on getting tickets for the inauguration:
Of course it wasn't cheap, and Conner bemoaned the price and lack of help from the state Democratic Party. Conner got her ticket by virtue of being a delegate, though it was just the one, and for the standing-room-only section in the back, at that.

"It's been like that in Pennsylvania -- if you worked for Obama, you got left out," said Conner, who ran the Small Business for Obama portion of the campaign in Pennsylvania, as well as outreach for numerous colleges and townships. (Rose)

Her interaction with the Small Business Administration has been mixed. In 1998, in Black Enterprise she said:
Nonetheless, Conner says other organizations did take her to task. "Our greatest challenge came from our local Small Business Association, 11 says Conner of the SBA office in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. "We would have been a $20 million company by now without the obstacles they put in the way. They steered contracts towards a distinct few firms, while discrediting my company. We [black people] end up fighting each other over the crumbs, and then it's the other ethnic groups who end up profiting from the benefits." (Hayes)

The next year, in 1999, the SBA changed the way small businesses were certified
As a small-business owner seeking federal government contracts, Gail Conner was bothered that some businesses were allowed to simply sign a form saying they were ``disadvantaged'' businesses. She had chosen instead to receive an 8(a) designation through a Small Business Administration program, which meant paperwork, verification, and working through the agency for bids - not just her word.

But starting July 1, self-certification will no longer be an option. And companies that had been self-certified as disadvantaged will have to apply for the designation when bidding on federal contracts. (Briggs)

Whether Conner can activate a donor network and cultivate a grassroots base remains to be seen, but her entrance into the congressional race does shake things up a bit. Her environmental background is intriguing and would be very valuable in Washington, if she can get there.


Briggs, Rosland, "SBA to certify 'disadvanted' small companies," Inquirer Jan 11, 1999

Burton, Cynthia, "N.J. firm to aid city in blight project," Inquirer, July 17, 2001

Hayes, Cassanda, "Business dynamos," Black Enterprise, August 1998

Rose, Alex, "A lucky few will get to attend festivities," Delaware County Daily Times, January 14, 2009