Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PA Progressive Summit

This February 10-12 Philadelphia will host the annual PA Progressive Summit.  Early registration is available through Dec. 15th.  More information available at:  Something to think about when planning ahead. 

Schwartz Introduces Health Food Financing Initiative

from the inbox:

As our nation struggles with an increasingly hungry and obese population, access to healthy, affordable food remains one of the biggest obstacles to reducing obesity. More than 24 million Americans live in “food deserts,” defined as either urban areas lacking access to a supermarket within one mile, or rural areas lacking similar access within 10 miles.
To address this growing economic and health problem facing America, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress today introduced legislation to create a national initiative to expand access to healthful, fresh food choices in underserved communities. The bill takes a market-based solution to address the fact that high start-up costs and limited access to credit often prevent local grocery operators from opening new outlets in food deserts, even though many that have opened in these communities have been commercially successful.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative, introduced today by U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), encourages supermarkets and other fresh food retailers to open new stores or expand their fresh food offerings in underserved communities through flexible grant and loan financing. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the Senate today as well.
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative would have a major economic impact by creating and retaining good-paying, steady jobs; revitalizing communities by developing and renovating neighborhood retailers; and generating local tax revenue by strengthening commercial corridors. On average, a 50,000 square foot supermarket creates 250 full-time jobs, associated construction work and expanded opportunities for American farmers.
“The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a public-private solution to help address one of the most severe public health issues facing America, the growing obesity epidemic,” said Schwartz, who has championed this initiative since 2009 and serves as vice chair of the New Democrat Coalition’s Health Care Task Force. “By establishing healthier food options in underserved areas, millions of Americans will have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, saving billions in health care costs. This is a vitally needed effort from a public-health standpoint, and just as importantly from an economic perspective. This initiative would stimulate local economic development, strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work.”
“Families from communities across the country, which have been hit hardest by the economic downturn not only struggle to find jobs, but also with the option of healthy foods for their families, “said Burgess, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and is Chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus. “The availability of healthy food options is vital to help curb preventable diseases and increase the quality of life in some of our country’s most vulnerable populations. This legislation intertwines two of these basic needs: secure jobs and healthy food options, and will benefit not only these communities, but our country as a whole.”
“More and more Americans are suffering from dietary diseases – like obesity and diabetes – because they don’t have easy access to fresh, healthy foods in their communities,” said Blumenauer, who recently released a report entitled Growing Opportunities: Family Farm Values for Reforming the Farm Bill.  “A nationwide Healthy Food Financing Initiative would make low-interest loans available to bring quality grocery stores and farmers’ markets to underserved neighborhoods. This initiative helps support local businesses and jobs and will give families the opportunity to make healthier choices when it comes to food.”
“Obesity and diabetes rates are reaching crisis proportions in our country and it is time to take aggressive action,” said Gillibrand, who, as the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, is helping lead the fight in the Senate to combat child obesity and promote good health.  “Millions of New Yorkers do not have access to fresh, healthy food.  By building new grocery stores in underserved areas across the state we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”
“Supermarkets and grocery stores represent more than healthy food choices – they are also about creating jobs, supporting community businesses and revitalizing neighborhoods,” said Judith Bell, PolicyLink’s President. “The bills introduced today represent a powerful next phase in the effort to create equitable access to healthy food across America.”
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is based on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which has helped create public-private partnerships to maintain or expand access to healthful, fresh food in more than 30 communities.

Onorato Endorses DePasquale

from the inbox:

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato today announced his endorsement of State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D,York) for Pennsylvania Auditor General.
“Eugene is clearly a bold reformer who will aggressively identify waste and inefficiency in the government,” said Onorato.  “He helped pass one of the strongest open records laws in the country, and was the first legislator to post his expenses online.”
“I am honored to receive Dan’s support and endorsement,” said DePasquale.

Geek Note: Scalzi Tweets LOTR

For my geek buddies:  Science fiction novelist Jon Scalzi (Old Man's War, Little Fuzzy, and others) watched a Lord of the Rings movie marathon recently.  As he went he tweeted random thoughts.  One example:

OSHA clearly has no jurisdiction in Moria.

If this makes you smile check out the full list of tweets at:

Wondering what the heck this post is about?  That's how I feel when reading posts / tweets about sports.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Local Film Festival Seeks Entries

One of my cinematic buddies sent me this:

It's that time of year again! The Roslyn Film Festival Committee is once again seeking your original short film submissions for screening during our 6th Annual Roslyn Film Festival. Regardless of your experience as a filmmaker-pro, semi-pro, amateur, or hobbyist-the Roslyn Film Festival is one of our community's most popular events, and a great way to get your work seen by a live audience. We encourage you to submit your film today!

This year's screening will take place on Saturday, March 31, 2012. The early entry fee is only $15 for submissions received by February 1, 2012. (The standard entry fee is $25 for all films submitted from Feb 2 until March 1, 2012.) Proceeds from the entry fees, ticket cost, and sales of raffle tickets and concessions at the event benefit the Roslyn Volunteer Fire Department.

 Go to for further information!

FEC Report Round Up: 1st Quarter 2011

The last FEC report round up I posted was the pre-general in 2010.  What happened to them? I do the quarterly FEC reports. The absence is in part this was because I didn’t have reliable Internet access, in part because life just got busy.  But I’m hoping to get caught up.  Since the post general and year end reports can be messy, I’ve left those off for now and just picked up with the first quarter of 2011.  I might go back later and pick up on specifics and unusual items in the post general and year end.  The other two 2011 quarterly reports should be along shortly.

1st Quarter 2011 FEC Reports

Okay, here we go again.  First off, you can browse these reports yourself at  As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.  I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, just an interested observer and these thoughts should be taken as such. 

This report covers January – March, 2011.  Where there are two numbers in a category the first is for the quarter, the second is for the election cycle total.

All but one unelected candidates from the last election have terminated their campaign committees (Dee Adcock in 13th district,  Bryan Lentz in the 7th, and Patrick Murphy in the 8th), so I haven’t included any information about them here.  The 6th district challenger, Dr. Manan Trivedi has declared his candidacy for the 2012 election so his report is included.

Watch the itemized (over $250 donations), unitemized (smaller donations), and PAC ratios.  Generally, you will find unitemized to be about 10% the amount of itemized and PAC’s either a half or quarter the amount of the itemized donations., at least for incumbents.  In open races or in challenger’s reports, there are usually fewer PAC donations.  They like to stick with people they are fairly certain are going to win. 

Just about everyone posted reports in alphabetical order, which makes them easier to deal with.  My thanks to those preparing the reports for that.

6th Congressional District 

Manan Trivedi, Democrat 

Total of Contributions from Individuals 0.00  / 1,109.87
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.): 1,551.05  / 1,635.05
Total Receipts: 1,551.05 / 2,744.92
Operating Expenditures: 2,405.43 / 60,055.43
Other Disbursements: 500.00 / 500.00
Total Disbursements: 2,905.43 / 60,555.43
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 23,521.58
Total Receipts  1,551.05
Total Disbursements   2,905.43
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  22,167.20

There is a $1,300 receipt on the list of receipts that is not reflected in the summary.  There may be a reason for this that I don’t understand but it does make me wonder if an amended report will be forthcoming.  Since refunds are listed here but none on the detailed listings it is possible that the amount was put on the wrong line.

Jim Gerlach, incumbent Republican

Itemized  76,700.00
Unitemized 8,786.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals 85,486.00  /  85,896.00
PACs  146,185.00 / 146,208.67
Total Contributions: 231,671.00 / 232,104.67
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.): 400.00 / 643.27
Other Receipts:  153.78 / 665.99
Total Receipts: 232,224.78 / 232,224.78
Operating Expenditures: 119,569.78 / 192,434.38
Other Disbursements: 2,950.00 / 39,650.00
Total Disbursements: 122,519.78 / 232,084.38
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 128,070.33
Total Receipts  232,224.78
Total Disbursements  122,519.78
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  237,775.33

Of the 62 individual itemized contributions, 13 were from out of state.  Occupationally there were a lot of attorneys and corporate executives, as well as one prosperous farmer.  Seven people have maxed out their donations for the entire election cycle, three have donated $2500, two $2400 and one over $2400.   In the PAC donations, there were clusters in finance, medicine, and pharmaceutical groups.

Pat Meehan, Republican

Itemized  207,305.00
Unitemized 11,525.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals 218,830.00  / 238,180.00 
Other Political Committees 400.00 / 1,600.00
PACs  114,800.00 / 128.750.00
Total Contributions: 334,030.00 / 368,530.00
Transfers from Other Authorized Committees: 4,219.60 / 4,219.60
Other Receipts:  0.00 / 466.00
Total Receipts: 338,249.60 / 373,215.60
Operating Expenditures: 66,704.31 / 376,006.42
Contribution Refunds: 0.00 / 8,000.00
Other Disbursements:  /
Total Disbursements: 66,704.31 / 384,006.42
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 44,941.68
Total Receipts  338,249.60
Total Disbursements 66,704.31  
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  316,486.97

Congressman Meehan is a red meat Republican.  About13 donors have maxed out at $5,000, which means they cannot donate any more during this election cycle, an additional 26 have donated $2,500.  Another 11 (or thereabouts) have donated more than $2400.  Only around 10% of his donors are from out of state.  One donor is listed as contributing more than $5,000, so an amendment may be in order.  The three Susquehanna Investment Group individuals who contributed so much to Anthony Hardy Williams’s gubernatorial campaign last year, and are strong proponents of charter schools, have donated to Meehan.  In PACS there are some notable GOP leadership and related PACS, two connection to Congressman Darrell Issa, Great Eight Committee and the Invest in a Strong and Secure America PAC.  Eric Cantor’s ERIC PAC, Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC.  Even the KochPAC donated, yep the Koch Brothers company gave Meehan money.  Congressmen Pitts and Gerlach donated.  The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers and National Beer Wholesalers donated.  One group that stood out was the Turkish Coalition NJ PAC; no idea what that’s about.  In disbursements you see the standard rent, fundraising expenses, accounting, etc.  A fundraising firm received over $12,000.  Meehan has hired Rick Santorum’s former communication person, or at least her firm.  Oddly, he paid Charlie Dent $225.00 in dues.  It doesn’t say what the dues are for.  The campaign is making car payments.  One item that jumped out at me – The Academy of Music is given a contribution of $4,400.  That might have been an event expense.  It was paid on January 26 so it might have been a thank you party, but it is listed as a contribution not an event.      

8th Congressional District

Mike Fitzpatrick, Republican

Itemized  93,000.00
Unitemized 27,819.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals  120,819.00  / 157,739.00 
Political Party Committees:  1,000.00 / 1,000.00
PACs  86,676.88 / 149,376.88
The Candidate:   /
Total Contributions: 208,495.88 / 308,115.88
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.): 256.30 / 256.30
Other Receipts:  17.60 / 41.21
Total Receipts: 208,769.78 / 308,413.39
Operating Expenditures: 91,204.80 / 252,632.29
Contribution Refunds: 0.00 / 2,960.00
Other Disbursements: 0.00 / 100.00
Total Disbursements: 91,204.80 / 255,692.29
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period  28,060.03
Total Receipts  208,495.88
Total Disbursements  91,204.80
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period  145,625.01

Congressman Fitzpatrick raised less money than the other incumbents in the first quarter, and has only one maxed out donor at $5,000.  His report is chronological not alphabetical so it is difficult to see how many others donated $2,500, etc, but glancing through the donations I don’t think he has had very many large amount donors.  Of the 124 individual donations listed, only 16 were from out of state.  Occupational clusters include finance and lawyers.  He has also won the support of a Lutheran minister.  Among the PAC donations there are clusters in insurance, banking and finance.  Like Meehan he received contributions from the Tuesday Group and Free & Strong America.  Rep. Spencer Baucus’s PAC, Growth & Prosperity PAC donated $5k.  The Mortgage Bankers Association also donated.  The Log Cabin Republicans contributed.  In disbursements, Mr. Fitzpatrick really used the plastic.  A lot of disbursements were put on Amex.  There are a lot of catering expenses.  A few other things that jumped out at me are an over $1,000 lodging expense at the Intercontinental Hotel in NY, but that may be associated with the Pennsylvania Society meeting.  In February the campaign spent $7k on catering and $4,600 on lodging at the Hyatt Regency in DC.  How many people are you putting up at a hotel to spend over $4K on lodging?   There is a $11K catering expense at the Temperance House and $12K on catering at Spring Mill Manor.  That’s not all of the catering expenses.  The campaign paid nearly $2k for photography and then another $200 to another photographer.  For a fiscal conservative Mr. Fitzpatrick has a lot of debt.  He owes $10K for polling, $15K for consulting, $16K for advertising, $20k to one fundraiser, and $13K to another fundraiser.   

13th Congressional District

Allyson Schwartz, Incumbent District (first elected 2004)

Itemized 301,765.63 
Unitemized  8,089.00
Total of Contributions from Individuals  309,854.63 / 317,504.63 
Political Party Committees 11.85 / 11.85
PACs  84,500.00 / 85,900.00
Total Contributions:  394,366.48 / 403,416.48
Offsets to Operating Expenditures (Refunds, etc.):  31.37 / 194.26
Other Receipts: 2,169.94 / 3,638.39
Total Receipts:  396,567.79 / 407,249.13
Operating Expenditures:  74,184.04 / 213,565.25
Contribution Refunds: 0.00  / 2,100.00
Other Disbursements: 300,770.00 / 303,295.00
Total Disbursements: 374,954.04 / 518,960.25
Cash Summary.
Cash On Hand At Beginning Of Reporting Period 1,405,093.07 
Total Receipts  396,567.79
Total Disbursements  374,954.04
Cash On Hand At Close Of The Reporting Period 1,426,706.82 

Of the over 280 itemized individual donations, roughly a fourth were from out of state.  About 40 people have maxed out contributions for the primary election, an additional 11 have maxed out donations for the primary and the general.  There are no celebrities or notable names in the donor list other than some political names that frequently show up (Connie Williams, Bob Borski). There are occupational clusters in the arts and the healthcare industry.  Among the interesting occupations in the list are horse trader, metal trader, and scrap dealer.  In PAC donations there are a lot of $1,000 to $5,000 donations from healthcare industry groups.  Other clusters are labor and finance.  The one donation that is larger than the others is a total $10,000 donation from a bipartisan group that promotes the relationship between the US and Israel.

In disbursements, Schwartz has paid $300K to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  The campaign paid $17K to a DC fundraising firm, $1,200 to a website hosting firm, $3,000 to the PA Democratic Party for a voter file, $2,000 for postage, health insurance for her staff, city, state, and federal taxes, and continuing payments on a car for campaign use. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cry Me A River, Union Pacific

This weekend's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article, "Skilled jobs are difficult to fill," by Ben Casselman (11/26-27). It focuses on the problem some companies have hiring skilled technical workers -- people who aren't required to have a four year degree but do have some training above the high school level. One of the story threads follows a recruiter for Union Pacific as she tries to hire installation technicians. The job involves climbing 50 foot towers or utility poles, being away from home half the time, and working outdoors in a variety of climates. The salary starts at $48K and there is possibility for overtime. Workers pay 15% of their health care benefits. There is a union and the job has a pension attached. I don't know anything about the job other than what is in the article but I wonder if someone could physically do that kind of work long enough to get to retirement / pension age.

The article says that time away from home is one reason the company has trouble filling the jobs. I noticed something else. When people apply there is an initial screening. Those that pass are invited "to take a $25 aptitude test at their own expense." Twenty-four people were invited to take the test, 18 did, and 13 passed. Of those only two accepted an invitation to interview.

This is what struck me -- people had to pay to take an aptitude test; it cost a total of $450 to pay for those 18 people to take that test. This is after an initial screening. Why didn't Union Pacific pick up that cost, especially if they have trouble hiring for that job?

As a contrast, the CEO of Union Pacific, Jim Young, earned $12 million in 2010, including a bonus of $3.7 million (see "Union Pacific CEO's compensation grows to $12 million," by Josh Funk, AP 3/26/2011). What do you think the odds are that he had to pay $25 out of pocket to take an aptitude test before he was hired? I wonder if he pays for 15% of his health care insurance.

One rationale given for the high rate of pay for corporate executives is that these are talented people who work hard at difficult jobs and you have to pay them a lot. I don't disagree with that; corporate executives do work hard and the job is difficult. But it isn't easy being up on a 50 foot tower in a Wyoming winter either. I think the least Union Pacific could do is pay for the aptitude test for job applicants that have already passed a preliminary screening.

In any event, I don't have much sympathy for Union Pacific in this regard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SEPTA's Santa Express

On Friday, Nov. 25th SEPTA's Santa Express arrives at the Gallery at Market East at 10:24.  (Next year the local papers, moving their offices to the Gallery, will be able to cover the event almost right from their front door.)  There will be a parade through the gallery to start off the holiday (e.g. shopping) season.  Some of Santa's helpers will be riding other trains to the event.  This is the 21st annual Santa Express.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: Making It in the Political Blogosphere

From time to time people send me info on new books they've written or are promoting and would like me to read and blog about.  If they fall into my general blog wheelhouse, are easily findable, and look interesting I try to oblige.

Findable is tricky.  As a general rule I don't accept freebies, and accepting a physical book means giving out an address, which I'm wary of doing.  This week, however, an author sent me information about a book and also a digital copy, so I didn't have to buy or borrow it.  It's in my wheelhouse and looked interesting, so, here goes.

Making It In the Political Blogophere by Dr. Tanni Haas.  (Cambridge:  Lutterworth Press, 2011)

The subtitle of this book, "The World's Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success," tells you the general gist of it.  The use of the word "world" is a little misleading.   Much like the baseball teams in the World Series, the bloggers in this book all write in America.  Success is defined in terms of readership and overall influence.  Thus, the bloggers interviewed all tend to cover national topics, which does kind of broaden your readership.  Haas is to be credited for including four women in his list of 20 bloggers.

Haas writes a general introduction and then provides interviews with the bloggers, followed by a final chapter in which Haas summarizes the pathway to success as he views it.  The questions are standardized although there are also questions specific to blogs / bloggers, and follow up questions.  I don't know if these are full transcripts or if Haas edited the interviews.  If he discussed that in the introduction I missed it. 

It's interesting from a readers' standpoint to see what these folks have to say.  There are some themes, as Haas picks up on in his conclusions.  Many of the bloggers recommended that beginners start by commenting on existing blogs or by posting at group blogs.  If these posts and comments are well-received then the write can move on to their own blog.  Another suggestion is to find a niche that isn't being covered and start a blog on that subject, provided the writer knows something about it or is willing to learn. 

From my perspective as a blogger for a limited geographic region there were a few topics that were not discussed.  Take, for example, the title of the conclusion, "How to Plan, Produce, and Promote a Successful Political Blog."  One of the recommendations is to write a local blog, yet by Haas's definition, readership and influence, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a local blog to be successful.  Two examples or suggestions are covering a neighborhood in New York or the city of Detroit.  The New York blog is referenced as bringing in about $1,500 a month in ads.  That really isn't enough to live on so whoever writes that blog must either reside in a cardboard box or have a second job. 

That leads to another topic that was barely covered in the book, the amount of time needed to keep a blog going.  Some of the bloggers write about the time needed to manage a blog -- answering emails, etc.,  but few talk about the time to put together good meaty posts, though they do reference the need to be credible and accurate.  Only one discusses the hardship of balancing a blog and a day job.  None talk about the balancing a job and a blog and a family, especially children.  All but the one of those interviewed seem to make a living from their writing, however none talk about the administrative aspects of managing advertising.  They do talk about the issues surrounding the management of comments and contributors but not the business issues.  Most have writing or government backgrounds, although a few discuss previous jobs in more mundane areas. 

Broadening out the definition of success or discussing the challenges of writing a local or regional blog, or the challenge of blogging with a day job, would have added more to the conversation, but there's no doubt I'm prejudiced in this regard.

The bloggers interviewed cover a full spectrum of political beliefs and a few who cover issues from a nonpartisan view or a broad range of political viewpoints.  Their advice to potential bloggers tends to be similar regardless of political bent.

Those interested in the background of many of the better known national political bloggers will enjoy this book.  At 179 pages, it is a quick read, and it is possible to dip in and read one or more of the interviews at a time and then set it aside for a few days before picking it up again.  It would certainly be a good holiday gift for the politico on your list. 

The book is available via Amazon in paperback and as an ebook.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SEPTA Emergency Drill Today

Every year SEPTA conducts an emergency drill in accordance with the federal mandate requiring passenger railroads to conduct a full-scale emergency simulation each calendar year. The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate SEPTA’s capability to execute its Passenger Train Emergency Preparedness Plan under a variety of scenarios and to ensure coordination with emergency responders.

Today the annual drill was held at the Miquon Train Station in Whitemarsh.  The scenario involved a disabled passenger train and diesel work train on a sabotaged rail and in contact with a car.  The car was on two wheels and leaning against the back of a train.  Rescue workers had to use the "jaws of life" on the car. 

Some transit workers and volunteers from the community acted as rail passengers.  Each was assigned a specific injury and vital signs.  Some roles included behavioral instructions (hysterical or unresponsive).   Rescue workers came through and evaluated the passengers, some were led off the train via the stairs, others were strapped to a backboard, handed through the emergency window, and placed on a gurney. Most (all?) years a simulated passenger is in a wheelchair to give rescue crews practice working with physically disabled riders. 

I feel safer as a rider knowing SEPTA does this kind of training.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Prez O Said in Hawaii

A remark President Obama made in Hawaii at the APEC CEO Business Summit has been quoted out of context.  Here are his full remarks:

- "The United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture. But we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America."

Planned Parenthood in the New Yorker

The Nov. 14th issue of the New Yorker has a long in-depth article on the history of Planned Parenthood, "Birthright," by Jill Lapore.  It is behind a paywall (I'm a print subscriber) but worth tracking down.

A few quotes:

P. 46:  "a report published in 1965, ... , found that ninety-four per cent of women who died in New York City from illegal abortions were either black or Puerto Rican."

p. 47:  Sen. Jon Kyl's "not mean to be a factual statement" comments notwithstanding, "Planned Parenthood reported that abortions make up less than three percent of it's services ..."

p. 48:  "If a fertilized egg has constitutional rights, women cannot have equal rights with men." 

p. 49:  on Margaret Sanger's 1917 trial:  "But the judge ruled that no woman had 'the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.'  In other words, fi a woman wasn't willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn't have sex."

The article also traced the politicization of the issue, noting that until that "Republicans were more pro-choice than Democrats up until the late 1980s."

Green Transit Funding for SEPTA

from the inbox:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 46 innovative transit projects chosen for their capacity to help cut the nation’s dependence on oil and create a marketplace for 21st century ‘green’ jobs will share $112 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
“These grants will put thousands of Americans back to work building sustainable, energy-efficient transit vehicles and facilities across the country,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to investing in the cutting-edge transportation projects that will keep our economy moving forward.”

Projects were selected through the FTA’s competitive Fiscal Year 2011 Sustainability Initiative, which includes funding from two FTA programs: the Clean Fuels Grant Program and the TIGGER III (Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction) Grant Program.

Among the projects funded:

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will receive two  grants, one for $5 million to replace diesel buses with hybrid buses that will reduce fuel costs and save money, and another for $1.4 million to install a “wayside energy storage system” on the Market-Frankford rail line, consisting of a battery that stores energy generated by braking trains. The stored electrical power can then be used later whenever energy is needed.

New SEPTA Payment Technologies

from the inbox:

The SEPTA Board today voted to award a contract of up to $129.5 million to ACS Transport Solutions Group for equipment and services for the installation of a modernized fare system under the New Payment Technologies (NPT) program.

The NPT program will upgrade SEPTA’s outdated fare payment and collection system. Current fare instruments such as tokens, paper tickets and magnetic strip passes will be replaced by contactless payment devices.

Customers will have a number of options for paying fares, such as bank cards, identification cards and smart phones. For those who prefer using cash, pre-paid SEPTA cards equipped with contactless payment technology will be available for purchase.

The NPT installation project will be divided into three phases. This work is expected to be completed within three years.

The first phase focuses on design and testing, with implementation following in the second and third phases. NPT will be rolled out first on buses and trolleys, followed by the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines, and then the Regional Rail system.

SEPTA will conduct an extensive, region-wide customer and community education and awareness program for NPT. These outreach efforts will allow SEPTA to fully explain the details of the system to the public, and demonstrate how it will be used by riders.

For the 90 percent of SEPTA customers who use buses, trolleys, the Market-Frankford Line and the Broad Street Line, the major change will be moving to a user-friendly fare system. NPT will retain some familiar transit fare elements while adding modern amenities. This includes upgrading fare boxes on buses and trolleys and turnstiles at subway stations to accept contactless payments. Customers will pay fares with a simple “tap” of their contactless device of choice upon entry to vehicles and stations.

SEPTA has devoted a section of its website to the NPT program, including details, updates and news about the initiative. Customers will find the section by following the “NPT” link at, or by going to

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Huntsman's Penn Connection

A brief note in the 11/14 New Yorker, "Those Huntsman Girls," by Ryan Lizza, mentions that one of Jon Huntsman's daughters, Liddy, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.  Huntsman is the former governer of Utah and former ambassador to China who is one of the Republican candidates for president.

Another Update on HR 822

The House has passed HR 822 (read the text on, search by bill number), which says that anyone with a photo id who could get a permit to carry a concealed weapon in one state could carry it in other states.  In effect, it would be a national permit to carry rule with the least restrictive state regulations setting the bar.  The id requirements are not as strict as those in many of the state level voter id bills that have been introduced in several states.  Here is today's statement from Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, co-chairs of the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, issued the following statement after House passage of H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act. The Senate defeated a similar provision in 2009 and is expected to consider the issue again soon.
“Ten months after a disturbed man carried a concealed weapon to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, six fatally, the House voted today to gut state laws on who can carry concealed, loaded guns in public. This was an absolutely embarrassing display of putting special interests and fund raising ahead of public safety.
“A majority of the House ignored the advice of police, prosecutors, domestic violence experts, faith leaders and more than 600 mayors who made clear that this measure will put police and communities at greater risk.  Many members also cast aside their usual respect for the authority of states to decide how to protect public safety in their communities.
“With unemployment over nine percent and Congress taking no action to create jobs, it is astonishing that catering to the Washington gun lobby is the top priority for House Republicans. The vast majority of actual gun-owning Americans oppose this bill: 82 percent of them want states, not Washington, to decide who can carry concealed, loaded guns in public.
“We applaud the Democratic leadership, particularly Chairman Conyers, for waging a principled fight against this bill, and offer thanks to Republican members who stood up for police and public safety, including Representatives Peter King, Michael Grimm, Bob Turner, Dan Lungren, Robert Dold and others.
“The debate now moves to the Senate, which had the sense to reject this measure in 2009.  We urge them to do so again.”

Schwartz Letter to Supercommittee

from the inbox, a letter Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz sent to the Supercommittee:

Last month, I sent a letter to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – signed by 117 Members of Congress – urging you to include a long-term solution to the broken Medicare physician payment system as an integral component of your deficit reduction proposal. As the Committee concludes its deliberations, I respectfully request your consideration of the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act proposal, which repeals the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and sets out a clear path toward comprehensive reforms of Medicare payment and delivery systems.
As you know, on January 1, 2012, physicians face a scheduled reduction in Medicare payments of more than 27 percent. We owe it to seniors across the country to end this perennial threat to Medicare beneficiaries’ access to medical services once and for all. The Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act proposal ensures patient access to physicians while promoting efficiency, quality and value in health care delivery by:
·                     Permanently repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate;
·                     Stabilizing the current payment system and providing positive payment updates for primary and              
            specialty providers;
·                     Instituting measures to ensure access to primary care;
·                     Aggressively testing and evaluating new payment and delivery models;
·                     Identifying best practices and developing a menu of delivery model options;
·                     Establishing a transition period for practice transformation;
·                     Rewarding providers for high-quality, high-value care;
·                     Ensuring long-term stability in the Medicare physician payment system; and
·                     Containing the rising growth in health care costs through delivery system reform
The SGR has created uncertainty and instability in the health care system and the federal budget for over a decade. True deficit reduction cannot be achieved without measures to address the Medicare program’s $300 billion debt that has resulted from this failed policy.
Through this process, Congress has an historic opportunity to implement sound fiscal policy in the Medicare program in the context of broad fiscal reforms.  I urge you to seize this opportunity and incorporate the broad reforms to the Medicare physician payment system contained in the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act proposal in your forthcoming recommendations.

This came along with the letter:

Quotes in Support of Congresswoman Schwartz’s Efforts on Medicare Physician Payment Reform
“The 132,000 internal medicine physician and medical student members of the American College of Physicians applaud Rep. Schwartz for her bill to repeal the flawed Medicare SGR formula, prevent devastating cuts while stabilizing payments to all physicians for the next five years, increase payments for undervalued services by internists and other primary care physicians, and create incentives for physicians to transition to new payment models aligned with value to patients, such as Patient Centered Medical Homes,” said Virginia L. Hood, MBBS, MPH, FACP President of the American College of Physicians. “We urge Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion to enact legislation based on this framework, and by doing so, put an end to the cycle of annual Medicare SGR cuts to doctors and their patients, once and for all.”

“On behalf of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians we represent, we applaud Representative Allyson Schwartz for her willingness to advance policies that will preserve access to quality and timely health care for our nation’s seniors and her continued leadership on the important issues of Medicare physician payment and delivery system reform,” said Martin S. Levine, DO, President of the American Osteopathic Association. “Congresswoman Schwartz’s framework is important because it not only eliminates the SGR, but it establishes incentives for physicians to transition their practices and care settings to more coordinated and integrated models, thus improving the quality of care that patients receive. The three step approach outlined in this framework is an appropriate manner in which to address the decade-old problems associated with the SGR. We call on Congress to act in a bipartisan manner to repeal the SGR. The framework proposed by Congresswoman Schwartz should serve as the foundation of this effort.”

“The American Academy of Family Physicians greatly appreciates the leadership of Rep. Allyson Schwartz in finding a way to address the unsustainable and inequitable formula that determines how physicians are paid by Medicare,” said Dr. Glen Stream, President of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “The AAFP congratulates Rep. Schwartz for her legislative proposal that would create a ten-year path to stability in payments and would help the complex health care delivery system better recognize the value of primary care. Only by stabilizing the Medicare physician payment system can we ensure that elderly and disabled patients will have access to the care they need, when they need it. Rep. Schwartz's proposal is a strong step forward to health care that will be better coordinated and more patient-centered. We urge Congress to pass this legislation that would prevent the looming 27-percent reduction in physician payments by Medicare.”

“ACOG is happy to applaud Rep. Schwartz’s attention to this pressing issue and the creative and positive approach it takes utilizing numerous meaningful ideas,” said Dr. Hal C. Lawrence, Executive Vice President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “We would urge serious consideration and further development of this framework.”

“The Society of Hospital Medicine, representing the nation’s 34,000 hospitalists, commends Representative Allyson Schwartz for the development of a legislative framework which would lead to the repeal of the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payment formula,” said Larry Wellikson, MD, SFHM, CEO of the Society of Hospital Medicine. “Representative Schwartz’s framework not only provides a fair mechanism to repeal the SGR formula, but also establishes a promising roadmap for replacing the current Medicare physician payment system. Under this proposal, the fee-for-service payment system and its inherent inefficiencies will ultimately be replaced with a more cost effective system that promotes quality and value through coordinated patient care.  Furthermore, this framework does not force all physicians into a one size fits all solution, allowing for broader support, innovation and a high probability of success. This proposal has great promise for reigning in health care spending, an ever increasing contributor to our deficit growth. We therefore support efforts to include Rep. Schwartz’s proposal in any deficit reduction plan that is developed by the Joint Select Committee.”

“The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has long supported Medicare physician payment reform and elimination of the problematic Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula,” stated Dr. Atul Grover, Chief Public Policy Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. “This framework is a good first step and creates a stable payment system with predictable physician payment updates as we test and transition to new reimbursement models, rather than simply providing a short-term patch financed with Medicare funds currently supporting other critical health care expenditures, including those that support the nation’s teaching hospitals. Thank you for your leadership in working to address this long-standing problem and the AAMC looks forward to working with you and Congressional leaders to address this important issue.”

“Future cuts in payments are likely to discourage promising candidates from pursuing careers in geriatrics and may also exacerbate the loss of practicing geriatricians who are responsible for furnishing and directing care for our nation's growing number of frail, older patients with multiple and complex conditions,” said Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, President of the American Geriatrics Society. “Of concern, Medicare payments fail to keep up with inflation or cover many of the services -- such as care coordination - that are integral to providing high quality care to older adults. We need innovative models that incent and provide coordinated, patient-centered care, which is most likely to result in savings or, at minimum, reduced growth.  Congresswoman Schwartz, we praise your leadership on this issue and believe that this framework serves as a positive first step towards reforming our flawed payment system.”

Update on Mr. Blinky's Ties

Earlier this month I posted a note about a SEPTA conductor ("Mr. Blinky") who used to wear light up ties.  It turns out I had part of the story wrong.  Riders didn't start a petition to take his ties away.  They started a petition to let him keep the ties.  If you'd like to weigh in on the matter, you can use the SEPTA customer comment form will let you leave a comment one way or the other.  My apologies for the misinformation.  I have corrected the original post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brady Endorses McCaffery

Congressman Bob Brady today endorsed Dan McCaffery, one of the Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania Attorney General.  Here is the text of Brady's letter:

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. As I'm sure you're aware, in 2012 our party will have the unique opportunity to elect the first Democrat ever to the office of Attorney General. In a time filled with corporate greed, Ponzi schemes, white-collar crimes and financial fraud, never before has the office of Attorney General been more important to the hardworking people of Pennsylvania. We need a bold leader who is not afraid to fight the hard fight and bring those accountable to justice.  I am therefore asking you to join me in supporting Dan McCaffery for Attorney General.

Dan McCaffery is a seasoned prosecutor and trial attorney who has the qualifications and experience to win - not only the Primary, but the General Election next November as well. As a former Assistant District Attorney and soldier in the Army First Cavalry Division, Dan has the requisite experience and discipline to get the job done.

As a career trial lawyer, Dan will bring a lifetime of actual experience to this office, something no other candidate can say. I am proud to support Dan McCaffery for Attorney General and know that with your help, we can elect the first Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania's history.


Robert A. Brady, Chairman Philadelphia Democratic Party

Those unfamiliar with McCaffery can learn more about him at his campaign website:  He ran for Philadelphia District Attorney in 2009 and his campaign questionnaire Neighborhood Networks is still up on their site.  While it is for a different office there are some good questions and answer there.  This is one of my favorite passages:

I also believe that it is finally time to hold Philadelphia’s lenient and inadequate judges accountable for their judgments. It is an unfortunate reality that today, many judges are more accountable to the party machines that elect them then to providing justice to Philadelphians.

I was reading something about that just today in the paper ("Judge wins election despite money and ethics trouble," by Mark Fazollah, Inquierer (11/14).

But that's a side comment.  The primary is just 6 or so months away.  Voters should start reading up on the candidates and not wait for the last minute barrage of tv ads to make up their minds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

King of Jordan Calls on Syrian President to Step Down

This has nothing to do with Pennsylvania, but I reviewed the King of Jordan's book this past summer and have since been paying more attention to Jordanian news.  Today King Abdullah called on Syrian President Assad to step down.  This is news; he is the first Arab leader to do so.

Sand Shack in WSJ

Today's Wall Street Journal had a special small business article, "And the most innovate entrepreneur is ...."  One of the companies listed is based in Philadelphia.  Sand Shack LLC (say that three times quickly) originally sold coconut wood jewelry but has since expanded to include United by Blue, hoodies, purses, shirts, etc.  The company collects one pound of trash,  mostly on beaches, for every product sold.  United by Blue products are sold online (I like the blue windmills shirt).   Another cool addition to the local small business community.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Post-Election Study of County Official Gender Breakdown

Before the election I looked at the gender breakdown of candidates for county office in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.  Now that the elections are over, let’s check in and see how things stand.

In Bucks, the register of wills office had been held by a Republican woman and will now be held by a Republican man, otherwise there was no change in the gender ratios. So there will be one less woman in county office. 

In Chester County the gender ratio in elected county offices will remain the same.  One more woman will be on the Court of Common Pleas. 

In Delaware County a woman was elected to county council but the incumbent woman ran for another office so the number stays the same.  One more woman will be joining the Court of Common Pleas. 

In Montgomery, the number of women in county office stayed the same.  Leslie Richards (D) was elected to the Board of Commissioners.  However, incumbent Controller Diane Morgan (D) lost to Stewart Greenleaf, Jr. (R ), so it evens out.   Another woman, Cheryl Austin (D) was elected to the Montgomery Court of Common Pleas. 

So over the four counties, for elected office, there was one gain and one loss.  It's a wash.  On the county's Courts of Common Pleas there were three gains.