Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mariano & Dougherty: Puppet and Master?

According to a December 25, 2005 Inquirer piece (authored by staff writers John Shiffman and Michael Currie Schaffer), recently indicted Councilman Rick Mariano and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“IBEW”) leader John Dougherty had an “interesting” relationship. A couple of the aspects of this relationship – according to FBI documents – are as follows:

  • Councilman Mariano didn’t even hire his own chief-of-staff, a political operative for “Johnny Doc’s” electricians' union (Local 98) took care of it. Amazingly - according to FBI documents – the indicted Councilman met his new top aide when his chief-of-staff reported for his first day of work.
  • Another Mariano aide told the FBI that he regularly briefed Johnny Doc "on all legislative, political and administrative activities that were going on within Mariano's office." "Whatever we know...is passed to Dougherty," the aide told agents.

According to campaign finance records, Local 98’s political action committee has been Mariano's largest contributor; Mariano's campaign has received $452,000 since 1998 - a third of all money raised and nine times the amount from the next largest contributor, Mayor Street's campaign fund.

Many speculate that Dougherty is interested in a run for Mayor in 2007, but – if the FBI’s characterization of this relationship with Mariano is accurate – he’ll be running, but only from his record. The drumbeat for a more ethical and effective government will only get louder as the Mayoral election approaches and it appears as though Mr. Dougherty is marching to a different beat.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from the staff at AHT. This photo was taken during the summer at Rickett's Glen State Park in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It's a reminder that some of the most beautiful things (and people) are very close by.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pennsylvania Agriculture Industry: More Random Facts - Holiday Edition

As AHT readers already know, Pennsylvania leads the nation in terms of Christmas farms; here's some more interesting, related info. According to the Pennsylvania State Data Center, the Commonwealth ranked fourth in number of acres devoted to Christmas tree ("holiday tree" if you're waging a war on Christmas) production (44,905) and fourth (1,724,419) in the number of trees harvested in 2002. Berks County hosted the most Christmas tree farms in Pennsylvania (114), while Schuylkill County had the largest acreage (4,064) devoted to Christmas tree production. The Christmas tree's little sister - the poinsettia - is also a significant part of our agriculture economy. There were 140 poinsettia producers in Pennsylvania in 2004, many more than our closest competitor, New York (104). The Commonwealth ranked sixth in the nation in both production of potted poinsettias ($3.7 million) and value of sales ($13.5 million wholesale) in 2004.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why People Choose to Live Where they Do

The Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project (MPIP") surveyed 1,000 residents from the Philadelphia region to ask them what factors they considered when deciding where to live. Results from the 2004 survey are presented in this chart. For individuals (as opposed to businesses), it’s apparent that taxes are not a primary factor driving relocation decisions. Rather, safety, value of the housing dollar, and school quality are factors given the greatest weight. But maybe that's too simplified. Maybe individuals articulate their primary motivations for living in one place or another differently than businesses, but are essentially expressing the same concerns; people - like businesses - place a great importance on getting value for their money or retaining wealth. For individuals, considerations are broader - they want schools, safety, quality of life, etc. Businesses, while their constituent workers may value the things that individuals do, are more narrowly focused on profits and the bottom line. So, I wouldn't conclude that taxes aren't important to individuals, the concern about value just manifests itself differently than in businesses. In the end, the concerns of businesses and individuals meld together; we as a City need to think about ways to create incentives for both to stay in Philadelphia, whether it be through targeted tax reductions/reform or enhanced services. The MPIP is administered by Temple University.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pennsylvania Agriculture Industry Leadership: Philadelphia Grown

Candace Moore, a 2005 graduate of Saul High School, was elected president of Pa.FFA (formerly the Pennsylvania chapter of Future Farmers of America). She is the first African-American female to serve as president of the 8,000-member organization. Candace has deferred her college career for a year as she represents Pa.FFA as its leader. Saul is Philadelphia's unique and successful agricultural high school. The photo above is of Saul's expansive campus in the Upper Roxborough section of Philadelphia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is Just Cool

Thanks to Philadelphia Forward, anybody with Internet access can text message their Councilperson; talk about direct democracy.

Friday, December 09, 2005

More Random Facts About the Commonwealth's Agriculture Industry

According to the Commonwealth's Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania is the number one state in the nation for Christmas tree farms, with 2,164. In 2003, approximately 723,000 trees were sold, generating $13.9 million in profit, ranking PA fourth in the country for revenue related to Christmas tree sales. Actually, Indiana County is often referred to as the "Christmas Tree Capital of the World."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Giving the Gift of Mean this Holiday Season

Representative Scott Boyd (R – Lancaster) is drafting an amendment to the Pennsylvania State Constitution that would deny gay/lesbian families legal recognition. Four other representatives have already signed on to this proposal called the “Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment”. On December 6, the Pennsylvania Family Institute sent an email urging their members to contact state legislators to support this amendment. If you’re not a homophobe, please contact your state representative and ask them to actively oppose this mean-spirited legislative initiative. By the way, homophobes in the legislature have already established in Pennsylvania law a prohibition against gay/lesbian marriage; this amendment is not necessary, and is only designed to add insult to injury.

If you’re heterosexual, the “Marriage Protection Amendment” would affect your family as well – not just families with same-sex partners. For example:

  • In Ohio, courts have ruled that unmarried people, including unmarried heterosexual couples, may not seek protection from abuse orders.
  • In Michigan, groups are challenging domestic partner benefits for employees.
  • Virginia’s recently enacted amendment is so broad that it may interfere with the rights of all Virginians to create wills, medical directives, powers of attorney, child custody and property arrangements, and even joint bank accounts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Robert Reich: How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?

Robert Reich was the 22nd Secretary of Labor. During his tenure, he implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), advocated against sweatshops in the U.S. and illegal child labor abroad, and spearheaded the Clinton administration’s successful effort to increase the minimum wage, among many successful initiatives. I’ve become a fan of his NPR spots and also just listened to a lecture he gave in Berkley entitled “How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap”, which I recommend.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pennslvania Agriculture Industry: Blue Chippers

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Commowealth chipmakers Utz Quality Foods and Herr Foods are leaders in the Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia markets, respectively. According to recent analyses of supermarket sales, totals for both companies ranked #1 in each market over the national leader, Frito-Lay.

BPT and the Chamber: Let's Seek Quid Pro Quo

Why not ask the Chamber of Commerce - as the organization ostensibly representing Philadelphia-area businesses - to put their money where their mouth is in terms of the argument that Business Privilege Tax ("BPT") cuts translate into increased employment, business expansion, and economic opportunity. Let's ask them - in exchange for BPT reduction or elimination - to create a quantitative, measurable array of economic benefits (e.g., more jobs) for the City of Philadelphia. A continued program of tax reduction could be tied to the prior period's performance (three to five years?). If positive results were not achieved, there'd be no further tax cuts, if job creation goals were achieved, then the tax cutting program would continue. This concept would be an expansion of the more targeted job creation tax credit programs that Councilman Goode has championed. Could it work?
Thanks to A Smoke Filled Room for helping to refine this concept.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

We Already Knew: Downtowns are Back

There’s a new report by the Brookings Institution that confirms what downtown boosters have known for years: downtowns are back – in a big way – as high-end residential and entertainment districts. The report also has some general advice for city leaders: it finds a “relationship between density and the ability to attract downtown residents.” The import of this finding is that cities should not build communities and housing that looks and feels suburban. That is, if people want suburban living, they’ll live there. Downtown residents are a different species; they want density, sidewalk dining, action, buses, culture, honking horns, and bikes on the sidewalk. In short, they want urban life.

eXTReMe Tracker