Saturday, April 29, 2006

Friday Agriculture Factoid

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Spring is the peak season for foaling. This year, the PA thoroughbred horse racing industry is anticipating the birth of 1,200 to 1,400 foals and the harness racing industry expects 1,000 standardbred foals. PA is home to more than 600 farms breeding racehorses, including the world’s largest standardbred farm, Hanover Shoe Farms in York Co.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Chestnut Hill College buying Sugar Loaf

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Chestnut Hill College plans to buy Sugar Loaf and expand its campus and student body; Sugar Loaf is an estate across the street from their campus in the “far northwest” section of Philadelphia. The College’s plans for growth began in 2003 when it went co-ed. Since then, enrollment almost doubled to 625 full-time undergraduates from 312. The school is projecting 700 full-time undergraduates for next year and has a goal of growing to 1,500 undergrads by 2012. The school's plans for the estate include using the existing mansion for conference/classroom space and the small hotel’s 32 overnight rooms for student accommodations. It would also look to construct additional student housing. It already has plans for a new residence hall that would cost up to $12 million to build and house up to 200 students. That building is expected to open in 2008.

Friday, April 21, 2006

PHA Receives Honor

The National Association of Homebuilders has recognized the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Martin Luther King development in South Philadelphia as this year's "Best Affordable Apartment Community."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Condos: Near Chinatown this Time

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, The Pearl Condominiums will be constructed on what is now a surface parking lot on the fringes of Chinatown at 9th and Arch streets. The six-story facility will include 90 units, 10 retail spaces and a 120-space parking lot. Project completion expected by July 2007.

Thornburgh Leaving Economy League to Head National Group

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, David Thornburgh - executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League's Southeast office since 1994 – is moving on to become president and chief executive officer of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, which will be relocated to Philadelphia. The mission of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship is to foster collaborative multi-sector (government, business, & non-profit) regional stewardship as a means for advancing economic, social, and environmental progress, while maintaining a sense of place, in America’s metropolitan regions.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Funny Bumper Sticker

Seen on a Prius driving towards the City on Kelly Drive:

"Never Thought I'd Miss Nixon"

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Agricultural Factoid: Eggselent

According to the Department of Agriculture, our state produces more than 6.5 billion eggs annually, ranking us third in the nation. An average of 23 million hens produce approximately 300 eggs each year, for a total value of almost $340 million annually, and that's no yoke.

Mayoral Campaign Contribution Limits

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial
April 14, 2006
Don't evade; reform

The city's would-be mayoral candidates should stop thumbing their noses at Philadelphia's new limits on campaign contributions. If it takes a court battle to make them mind their manners, so be it.

Thanks to a government watchdog group, the Committee of Seventy, that court fight has been joined.

On Tuesday, a member of that group filed suit against six men regarded as likely contenders for Mayor Street's job next year. A second lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Councilman Michael A. Nutter - the only candidate fully abiding by the donor limits - turns up the heat [emphasis added].

According to Nutter, nearly $1 million in combined over-the-limit donations have been raised by the targets of his lawsuit: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), former City Controller Jonathan A. Saidel, and electricians union chief John Dougherty. In its lawsuit, Seventy named those four, as well as Nutter and self-financed millionaire candidate Tom Knox.

The best outcome of the suits would be for the courts to clarify when the city's limits kick in. Is it only upon a candidate's formal declaration, or when any exploratory committee begins raising funds?

But the suits could backfire. There's the risk a court could find fatal flaws in the city's 2003 law, which capped annual giving by individuals at $2,500 per candidate and $10,000 for political committees. When the law was enacted, critics contended it was preempted by the state election code, which sets no donation limits.

It would better to get voluntary compliance with the limits, avoiding a court fight. The likely candidates who are evading the limits contend the delay of their formal announcements gives them leeway.

This may be technically accurate. From the standpoint of good government and citizen confidence, though, it stinks. Philadelphia needs politicians who aspire to uphold higher standards, not to finagle technicalities.

Remember the backdrop to this campaign reform: the city's pay-to-play political culture, where big donors often are rewarded with city business. A federal probe of City Hall has tripped up two dozen people - including Councilman Rick Mariano, convicted in March.

Whatever loopholes are in the campaign law, its spirit is crystal clear: Candidates should not take large sums from contributors, because that piles up the political debts that spawn pay-to-play and erode confidence in government. That's why city business leaders and the Philadelphia Bar Association urged their colleagues not to give more than the limits.

How can candidates claim to be all about cleaning up City Hall when their campaigns are perpetuating a key flaw of pay-to-play politics?

How Refreshing

"I’m just not qualified. You’re mistaking celebrity for credibility.”

A quote from Martin Sheen, explaining why he turned down an offer to run for the U.S. Senate from his native Ohio after the show ends, from the New York Times on 4/10/06.

Philadelphia: We'll Be OK When the Oil Crisis Hits

Philadelphia ranks fifth among the 50 largest U.S. cities in terms of our preparedness to cope in the event of an oil crisis, according to SustainLane - a website focused on sustainable living. Cities were ranked by commuting patterns, availability of public transportation, sprawl, congestion, local food and wireless network access. Also, Philadelphia was the #1 city for the highest combined per capita rate of farmers markets and community gardens.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Register to Vote!!

Monday, April 17 is the last day to register to vote in the May 16 primary. Go to the Commwealth's website for more information.

Governor Rendell Likes PhillyCarShare

Philadelphia’s favorite and only vehicle sharing provider - PhillyCarShare - has won the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, which honors Pennsylvania businesses and organizations for implementing programs that address environmental problems in ways that stimulate the economy, enhance revenues and engage citizens in a renewed commitment to community investment.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Meet Councilman Michael Nutter

Michael A. Nutter was elected to City Council in 1991, and is now serving his fourth term. He represents the 4th District which includes the neighborhoods of Wynnefield, Overbrook, Roxborough, Manayunk, East Falls and parts of North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and West Mount Airy. And, he has served as the 52nd Ward Democratic Leader since 1990.

In 2001, Michael Nutter was appointed to the Board of City Trusts. The Board of City Trusts manages all money or other property left to the City of Philadelphia. The Board administers over 110 separate trusts for a wide variety of charitable purposes, the most significant being Girard College and the Wills Eye Hospital.

Michael Nutter also serves as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority Board. He was appointed to this position in February 2003. As chairman, he crafted a pivotal labor- management agreement which was signed July 2003; and, he is now spearheading a $630 million expansion project for the Center. Under his leadership, the Convention Center has recruited professional, experienced management staff; increased bookings; and, created a business-like environment for convention customers and attendees.

Prior to his public service, Michael Nutter worked as an investment manager at Pryor, Counts & Co., Inc., specializing in municipal finance.

Michael Nutter was born and raised in West Philadelphia. He graduated from Saint Joseph's Preparatory High School in 1975, and from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1979. He resides in Wynnefield with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Olivia, who attends a Philadelphia public school. His son, Christian, lives and works in New Jersey. Michael Nutter is a member of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.

The following is an abbreviated list of affiliations:

• Black Elected Officials of Philadelphia, Vice-Chair
• African-American Democratic Ward Leaders of Philadelphia, Vice-Chair
• Leadership, Inc., Graduate 1988
• Urban League Leadership Institute, Graduate 1989
• Southern Africa - United States Center for Leadership and Public Values (operated by University of Cape Town and
Duke University), Fellow of the Emerging Leaders Program, 2004-2005
• Philadelphia Outward Bound Center, Founding member
• City Year Philadelphia, Boardmember
• Gesu School, Boardmember
• Governor's Commission on College & Career Success, Commissioner

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Penn Breaks Wind...Purchasing Record, that is

According to KYW, Penn - currently the largest university buyer of wind energy in the nation - will be tripling its purchasing volume. In the future, Penn will buy 112,000 mega-watt hours annually from state wind farms

Commonwealth Posts Record Breaking Tourism Year

Pennsylvania’s travel industry sold a record 26.2 million hotel rooms in 2005, according to Smith Travel Research. The number was 2% more than 2004 and five percent more than in 2000, the industry’s benchmark year.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Good Government Forum

There's going to be a "Good Government" panel discussion on April 11th. This forum will be held between 6:30 and 8:00 pm at Huntsman Hall (main auditorium) 38th and Walnut, UPenn campus, Philadelphia.

The panelists are:

State Representative Greg Vitali who will speak on "campaigning with integrity."

Marian Schneider, a CPL fellow, attorney and cofounder of the Chester County chapter of the Coalition for Voting Integrity, will focus on the problems with electronic voting machines.

Councilman Michael Nutter who will speak about ethics reform and integrity of elected officials once in office.

Zack Stalberg, CEO of the Committee of Seventy, will moderate the panel discussion.

The Center for Progressive Leadership - a co-sponsor of this forum - believes that government should be a powerful force for creating justice and equity in our society. Your participation in this forum will ensure that the emerging political leaders in Pennsylvania will have the necessary tools and knowledge of this topic to further the cause of good government.

The event is co-sponsored by the Fels Institute. (See

Friday Agriculture Factoid

Over 2 million acres of crops will be planted this Spring across the Commonwealth's 7.7 million acres of farmland. This includes wheat, corn, oats, barley, sorghum and soybeans. Farmers are predicted to plant 450,000 acres of soybeans, which will be the highest soybean planting in state history. This is good news, as I'm a vegetarian and depend on soy products for sustenance.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

But of Course: Rendell Leads

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, Governor Rendell has a ten percentage point lead over Republican challenger Lynn Swann - 47% to 37%. Relatedly, Pennsylvania created 60,000 new jobs last year - the highest annual increase in five years - according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Philadelphia added nearly 21,000 net new jobs, a five-year high. Here's the thing...Eddie's doing a great job; the State's economy and employment is healthier than it's been in years, tourism is up, and government efficiency is peaking. His opponent has no experience, no vision, and no plan. In the end, we'll have four more years of the most effective governor Pennsylvania has seen in decades.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Toyota to Introduce Hybrid Technology to Entire Lineup

According to the Associated Press, Toyota plans to introduce hybrid technology across its entire lineup. The manufacturer has a goal of 1 million hybrids sold globally by 2012. In order to use the technology in less-expensive models, Toyota is concentrating on lowering production costs and will strive to keep the price differential between hybrid and conventional cars to less than $2,550.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Regional Choice Policy Article from the Public School Notebook

Families in Center City Region gain priority in applying to schools within region next year.
Transfers within regions get preference, new policy says
By Paul Socolar
A controversial new policy on student transfers adopted by the School Reform Commission may make it easier next year for families in the District’s Center City Region to gain admission to any of the elementary schools in the region. A 3-2 SRC vote in February gave priority to pupil transfer requests that are within a region over transfers from outside. The vote left advocates for educational equity troubled that the District has not adequately addressed questions about who might lose access to Center City schools and whether the policy is fair to all regions. Center City has been the focus of discussion about the new transfer policy. The regional preference policy, as written, applies districtwide, but District officials say it will be implemented first in the Center City Region. It was strongly advocated by the Center City District, a community development corporation that was also influential in the District’s decision to create a Center City Region. In Philadelphia, students within a neighborhood school’s immediate catchment area are always guaranteed a seat. Under the old admissions policies, transfer applicants from the rest of the city competed on an equal footing for any remaining seats – normally through a lottery – no matter how far away they might live. The new policy states that the remaining seats at a school will go first to student transfers under the No Child Left Behind law’s school choice provisions. NCLB allows students to transfer out of certain schools that have been identified as needing improvement or persistently dangerous. Next in line for transfer slots are students transferring from other schools within the same region. Any remaining slots at schools will be open to students transferring from outside the region. Under School District desegregation guidelines, transfers are limited when they harm a school’s racial balance. In voting against the regional choice resolution, Commissioner Sandra Dungee Glenn argued that the District should first address the factors that are causing families from some regions to flock to other regions like Center City. Dungee Glenn said that until there is greater equity in educational quality among regions, it is unfair to narrow the options of families that feel they cannot find a good school option close to home. “We have some real disparities. There are many more of what I as a parent would consider good choices in some of our regions than in others,” Dungee Glenn explained. Len Rieser, co-director of the Education Law Center, who testified on the policy to the School Reform Commission, commented, “If we’re going to move to a system of regional choice, we need to look closely at the extent to which the regions offer equitable opportunities across the city, and that has not been done.” “No data was shared publicly until two days before the policy was adopted, and the data that was shared didn’t begin to address the issues this policy poses,” Rieser added. Defending the new transfer policy, CEO Paul Vallas pointed out that the Center City Region’s boundaries are broad and the population reflects that of the District as a whole. He cited a number of steps the District has taken to equalize resources between regions, including mandating extended day, accelerated and gifted programs in every school. He pointed to his administration’s commitment to providing quality options in every neighborhood by “mandating that each region have anywhere from three to six accelerated academies.” But a District chart on its “accelerated academies” – new magnet programs for K-8 students that are now being planned in over 40 schools – provided support for Dungee Glenn’s argument. While still more accelerated academies are to be identified, only one school has been identified for an academy in the Central Region in North Philadelphia, whereas the Center City Region has eight schools already named as accelerated academy sites. Dungee Glenn is pushing to amend the new transfer policy to couple it with a new commitment to equalization among the regions. The new transfer policy does not affect any students who are already enrolled, and sibling preference will continue to be offered in the transfer process. But some predict a significant change in enrollment at a few Center City elementary schools that now attract large numbers of transfer applications from across the city. At Greenfield School on 22nd and Chestnut, two-thirds of the students transfer in from other regions. At Meredith on 5th and Fitzwater, 47% of students are from outside the region. The Center City Region is the region with the highest overall percentage of K-8 students coming from outside it. District data show that 1,621 students in the Center City Region – more than one-third of its K-8 students – have transferred in from other regions. The data indicate that many of these students are transferring in from schools that have been chronically low-performing. Less than a tenth of the K-8 students in the region are transfers from elsewhere within the region. At the February 8 SRC meeting, proponents offered a variety of arguments for giving families within a region preference in transfers over those coming from outside:
• The president of the Center City District, Paul Levy, stressed the importance to Philadelphia’s viability of keeping the booming population of young professionals in Center City. He pointed to research projecting a 43 percent increase in the number of school-age children in Center City and predicted that with this new transfer policy providing a greater array of public school choices within Center City, “we’ll have a dramatic increase in parents who are choosing public schools.”
• Jeff Friedman, co-chair of the East Falls Schools Committee, suggested that the regional choice approach could provide a basis for building stronger school-community partnerships in every region. “Proximity between families, students and their schools fosters a sense of community and mutual accountability that is diminished if not eviscerated if students travel long distances to schools that their families never get to,” he noted. Friedman said that a model of structured partnerships involving businesses, communities and schools was emerging in Center City that should be replicated as part of a regional choice program in each region.
• Three McCall parents said that Center City preference would boost parental involvement at their Society Hill school. “We need parents that will show up to plant flowers, to control the chaotic playground and the newly erected jungle gym, to discuss how McCall will make AYP this year and every year after,” said parent Mary Jo Cannon. “We are convinced that if more local parents had a better chance of sending their children to McCall, the numbers of involved families would increase.” The neighborhood choice policy applies only to grades K-8, but CEO Vallas says he would support 25 percent regional set-asides at some of the District’s new high schools, though not at established special admissions schools such as Central and Masterman. “The regions want local set-asides, even for some of their new high schools,” Vallas stated. The Center City Region will see three new high schools with high-profile partners opening in the fall: one in partnership with the Franklin Institute, one with the National Constitution Center, and one (the Academy at Palumbo) with Central High School.
Contact editor Paul Socolar at 215-951-0330 x107 or

Representative Cohen: Poster Boy for Term-Limits

I don’t usually go in for populist policy initiatives, but I’ve become a big fan of term-limits for elected officials, both legislators and executives. Twelve years seems about right to me; you shouldn’t need any more than that. If you’re good, you’ll run for something else and win. To me, Representative Cohen is a poster child for why we need term-limits. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “over the last two years, the state has reimbursed the veteran legislator $28,200 on bookstore spending sprees.” Cohen has been in office an astounding 28 years, and doesn’t have a primary challenger this year…the Democratic machine made sure of that. Further, “Cohen's book bill for 2004 and 2005 is more than what the Philadelphia School District spent to stock library shelves at the two high schools and two middle schools in his legislative district. The four schools, which have a combined enrollment of 5,000 students, spent $21,600 on books and periodicals in that two-year period, officials said.” Wow…you’ve got to give the man credit for having chutzpa. Why the heck the state even has a reimbursement program for these kinds of purchases is another issue. I feel sorry for the people of Logan and Olney who have to suffer through this kind of representation; a legislator so aloof and arrogant that he thinks this kind of profligate spending on reading materials is acceptable.

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