Monday, May 29, 2006

Pennsylvania's Job Count Reaches New Record

Governor Rendell announced last week that Pennsylvania's non-farm job count rose by 6,100 in April to a record high of 5,747,200 jobs! This is the seventh gain in total jobs in the past eight months. The Commonwealth has generated over 120,000 new jobs during Governor Rendell's tenure.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Agricultural Factoid

Next week is "Amusement Ride Safety Week". According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, The Commonwealth has almost 1,300 ride-safety inspectors covering more than 7,000 rides and attractions at more than 607 community fairs, carnivals and amusement parks - more than any other state or foreign country!

Rendell and Pennsylvania Grow Greener

Twenty-three Pennsylvania counties will benefit from a $17 million investment in land conservation projects that will preserve natural resources and open spaces across the Commonwealth. The money will fund 42 projects to help preserve more than 11,000 acres in Pennsylvania. According to Governor Rendell's office.

John Dougherty: He Said, He Said

John Dougherty having some trouble with the facts, from Gar Joseph's column in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:

"When anti-Frank DiCicco posters sprouted on utility poles last week, the city councilman quickly blamed Eddie Kirlin, whom he called "director of arts and crafts" for Local 98 of the Electricians Union.

Union leader John Dougherty told us last week that Kirlin hadn't worked for 98 in two years. But National Labor Relations Board documents show Kirlin was a consultant for the local, making $36,000 last year.

"He does information technology for us," Dougherty said. "He helps on our Web site and with marketing."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pennsylvania's Official Bumper Sticker Contest Underway

HARRISBURG — Sixteen slogans, including “I break for Shoo Fly Pie,” “Pennsylvania is for Roadtrippers” and “Honk if you like Roadtrips” are battling for votes at as the PA Tourism Office opens its search for an official bumper sticker.

Other candidates are uniquely PA with messages like, “Don’t follow me. Pick your own road.” and “Proud parent of a PA roadtrip.” Aspiring bumper sticker authors can also submit their own slogan and artwork for consideration.

Voting ends at midnight on July 1 and the winning bumper sticker will be announced on on July 4. Voters will be invited to visit a PennDOT Welcome Center this summer to pick up a free Pennsylvania bumper sticker.

To weigh in on the debate or for help in planning a roadtrip across the State of Independence, go to And before hitting the road, check out the Roadtrip Etiquette section for “rules of the road” for responsible and thrifty roadtrippers.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office recently launched the “Where You Want To Go” trip generator on, an online tool that not only provides directions but also allows visitors to pre-select from 10 travel activities, the results of which are plotted on interactive maps. Users can also pick lodging and dining options, along with attractions, shopping, nightlife, theatre and more, which are added to the map for a completely customized itinerary.

Travelers who might become lost along the way can also get directions – anytime – at any one of Pennsylvania’s Welcome Centers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Wild, Wild East

The National Geographic Adventure article, "The Wild, Wild East," highlights specific outdoor destinations within the Pennsylvania Wilds region including Cherry Springs State Park, Elk State Forest, Pine Creek and the Pine Creek Gorge, and Hyner View State Park. According to the article, "North-central Pennsylvania is a bona fide, 21st-century Eden. Or so says the Wildlife Conservation Society's Human Footprint report, which put the rugged woodlands on par with Brazil's Pantanal and China's Gobi as one of the last untarnished tracts on Earth. Only 1.3 percent of the lower 48 is as pure."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Judge Edward Becker Passes

Federal Judge Edward R. Becker climbed to within a step of the U.S. Supreme Court but never lost his touch for the regular guy. Becker, senior judge of the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, died after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 73 and lived with his wife, Flora, on Herbert Street in Frankford in the house where he lived as a child. He rode the Frankford El to work every day. "He probably just rode the El to heaven," said Third Circuit Judge Marjorie O. (Midge) Rendell. Becker was born in Philadelphia in 1933, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 and three years later from Yale Law School. Senator Specter called him "one of the greatest Philadelphians in our city's history."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Environmental Issues are a Top Concern for Philadelphians

A new poll of Philadelphia residents and business leaders found overwhelming support for protecting the City's environment and investing in infrastructure improvements, with 85 percent of those surveyed saying they would be more likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who made the environment a primary policy focus.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Make Tax Competitiveness a Priority

The Philadelphia Inquirer today had an editorial encouraging continued efforts to enhance tax competitiveness. The City’s projected budget surplus is $168 million. The state fiscal oversight agency PICA doesn’t think that the City’s budget plan "meaningfully" addresses its "uncompetitive tax structure." Mayor Street's thinks an additional one-year reduction of the City's gross-receipts tax on business is fine, while Councilman Michael A. Nutter offers a more effective plan, with five years of programmed cuts in the gross-receipts tax. Guaranteed tax-cuts give businesses a level of comfort that this City is headed in the right direction and encourages them to make commitments to growing. An even better advancement would be Nutter's proposed net-profits business tax cuts. Unfortunately, even after 11 years of progress, Philadelphia ranks highly among American cities with the highest taxes. Nothing generates tax revenue like adding jobs, particularly Center City office jobs. Let’s keep moving forward towards tax competitiveness.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tax Collection in Pennsylvania

According to the Pennsylvania State Data Center, information obtained through the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005 Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections showed that tax collections in Pennsylvania totaled $27.3 billion in 2005, an increase of $1.9 billion or 7.6 percent over 2004. Since 2000, tax revenue in Pennsylvania has risen $4.8 billion, or 21.3 percent. Pennsylvanians paid an average of $2,193 to the State in 2005, slightly above the national average ($2,192) and a per capita increase of $148 from the previous year. The Commonwealth ranks 17th nationally in per capita tax revenue growth since 2000 (up $363.92 per resident), but just 30th in per capita increase last year. Total tax revenue for all states grew 9.7 percent between 2004 and 2005, and since 2000, revenue has grown by 20.2 percent.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vote for Ethics in Tomorrow's Election!

Thanks to legislation passed by Councilman Michael Nutter, Philadelphians will have the opportunity tomorrow to pass a referendum creating Philadelphia's first independent ethics board. The ballot question - if approved - would establish an ethics board with the authority to investigate complaints, administer hearings, issue subpoenas/fines, and conduct ethics training for all City employees. The independent board would have jurisdiction over all officials and branches of City government, in contrast to the current board that only has authority over the executive branch. Board members would be unpaid and would serve five-year terms, with a two-term limit. Elected or appointed City officials, City employees and political party employees would be ineligible for service. If voters approve the referendum, the Mayor would still pick the board members - as with the current group - but appointees would require City Council's approval.
Why do we need a new ethics board?
Philadelphia's first ethics board was created in 1962, but lacked enforcement powers and met infrequently. In August 2004, as the federal corruption probe of City Hall's pay-to-play culture exploded, Mayor Street created a new ethics board and appointed its five members. However, because the board was created by executive order, its jurisdiction is limited to the executive branch. Also, the board's not so independent, given that its members are picked by the Mayor, without input from anybody else. This kind of self-policing, "fox watching the hen house" kind of arrangement just isn't effective.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

IssuesPA/Pew Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Dissatisfied with State Direction

May 10, 2006 (Harrisburg, PA) – A new IssuesPA/Pew poll shows that close to half (49 percent) of all Pennsylvanians are dissatisfied with the direction of the state, compared to just 43 percent who are satisfied with the state’s direction. These are the most negative ratings recorded in an IssuesPA/Pew poll since August 2004. These results also show the widespread nature of the dissatisfaction – reaching more than 50 percent in four of the six regions in the state; only one month ago, dissatisfaction was over 50% in only one region.

The poll also shows that rising gas prices are one factor behind Pennsylvanians’ growing dissatisfaction. Mentions of high gas/fuel prices as the most important problem facing the state have doubled in the past month (13 percent now versus six percent in March).

Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) conducted the poll for IssuesPA, the non-partisan statewide awareness project focused on raising the issues most critical to Pennsylvania’s economic future. Funding for the survey was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The margin of error is plus/minus three percentage points.

Views of the Legislature
When asked for a one-word description that best describes the legislature, the largest number of Pennsylvanians (69 respondents) said, “greedy.” Though the top ten list of responses includes some positive or neutral words like “good,” “okay,” and “fair,” most have a negative connotation such as “crook,” “poor,” and “corrupt.”

Only a quarter (26 percent) of Pennsylvania residents feel they can trust the legislature to do what is right just about always or most of the time. Nearly seven in ten (67 percent) feel they can be trusted only some of the time or never.

Pennsylvanians’ negative perception of the legislature might carry over into this year’s elections, as two-thirds (66 percent) of voters say that an incumbent state legislator’s vote on the pay raise should be a very important issue in this year’s legislative elections

“The well-reported furor over the Legislative pay raise appears to be having a lasting effect,” said Larry Hugick of PSRAI. “Pennsylvanians express low confidence in the state legislature as whole but have more positive opinions of their own state representatives.

Education has emerged as a key issue in the 2006 elections. Most voters (85 percent) say that making sure high school graduates have the skills they need for college or a career will be very important in determining their vote in the gubernatorial and legislative races this year. Eighty-one percent say that making sure children have a similar opportunity for a quality education regardless of where they live will be very important. Voters were asked to rate the importance of 30 different issues this spring. Only one other issue – providing health care for uninsured children – was rated “very important” by 80 percent or more of the respondents.

Across Pennsylvania, most residents (56 percent) agree that financing education should be the responsibility of the state government. However, a similar majority (53 percent) want local school officials to be in charge of ensuring that public schools provide a quality education.

Gubernatorial Race Still Wide Open
The poll asked Pennsylvania voters about their chances of voting for Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann in the November gubernatorial election. Based on their responses to two questions, three in 10 (30%) voters are likely to support Rendell, another three in 10 (29%) are likely support Swann, and four in 10 (40%) are classified as swing voters, not strongly committed to either candidate. The new poll shows more voters on the fence than the March 2006 poll; the number of swing voters has increased by six percentage points.

Other Findings
The IssuesPA/Pew poll also generated these findings:
* Three in four (75 percent) voters statewide say the candidates’ positions on how to best control state spending will be very important to their vote.
* More than two-thirds (71 percent) of voters say the candidates’ positions on how to best provide a tax system that is fair, adequate and pro-growth will be very important to their voting decision.
* About half (52 percent) think the issue of helping cities and towns solve their financial problems should be very important.
* Most Pennsylvanians (63 percent) do not think local communities without their own police department should be charged a service fee for state police protection.
* Residents have many reasons for disliking local property taxes. Even numbers of Pennsylvanians (21 percent) say their main complaint about property taxes is that they make home ownership unaffordable and don’t specifically take household income into account.
* In terms of reducing the property tax rates, the two least acceptable alternatives are expanding the state sales tax base (27 percent) and increasing the local wage tax (25 percent).
* More than a third of Pennsylvanians (38 percent) think that conditions affecting their region’s economic performance have gotten worse in the past four years.

“There are a number of issues that matter to Pennsylvanians, and many of them may be important factors in the 2006 elections,” said Steven Wray, Project Director of IssuesPA and Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League’s office in Philadelphia. “The candidates’ positions on taxes, jobs and education may be key in deciding what could be a very close race.”

About the Poll
The April 2006 IssuesPA/Pew Poll, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Economy League and The Pew Charitable Trusts, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Telephone interviews were conducted from April 17 – 26, 2006 with 1,503 Pennsylvania adults, age 18 and over, of which 1,191 identified themselves as registered voters. The results have been statistically weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The overall margin of sampling error for results is plus or minus three percentage points.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Agriculture Factoid: Two for the Price of One

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are 4,000 alpaca farms in the U.S. and the Commonwealth is home to 188 farms with 3,396 registered alpacas.

Also, Pennsylvania is home to 24 sod farms, totaling more than 2,100 acres grown.

Not so Much Turnover in the PA Leg

Here's a startling statistic, courtesty of Terry Madonna and Michael Young, of Franklin & Marshall College:

"The number one reason leaders in the Pennsylvania legislature leave office is retirement. This fact is unremarkable enough, but becomes more interesting if one looks at the number two, three and four reasons: number two is death; number three is resignation after legal problems; and number four -- and last -- is defeat at the polls."


Rendell Leads Swann in Latest Poll

Governor Ed Rendell has opened up a 55 – 33 percent lead over Republican "challenger" Lynn Swann, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This compares to a 47 – 37 percent Rendell lead in an April 5th survey by the same polling organization. Let's hope those numbers will give Democratic challengers some help in the November general elections in legislative races.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Voters Split on East Falls And River Slot Parlor Sites

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Two telephone public opinion polls conducted by Global Strategy Group, LLC on the attitudes of voters in the areas of Philadelphia being considered for casinos, commissioned by Trump Entertainment Resorts, were released today. One of the polls surveyed 600 voters in the neighborhoods surrounding the former Budd Plant site where Keystone Redevelopment Partners and majority partner Trump Entertainment Resorts (“Trump”) (NASDAQ NMS: TRMP) have an application pending. The second poll surveyed voters of the Delaware River area where there are four additional applicants vying for gaming licenses.

The results of the surveys showed that community support and opposition to be consistent surrounding the Budd Plant site and along the Delaware River, as less than half of the residents surrounding the former Budd Co. plant are opposed to the TrumpStreet Casino and Entertainment Complex (“TrumpStreet”) proposal. Additionally, the research found that a majority of residents who live in proximity to the Delaware River sites stand opposed to having two venues built in their area.

The research was conducted following the request of the Multi-Community Alliance, who asked representatives of TrumpStreet to conduct a poll to accurately gauge community sentiment towards the casino. The poll determined that 43% of those surveyed opposed building a casino, 44% favored and 13% were neutral or had no opinion. The Delaware River sites had approximately the same levels of opposition and support: 42% opposed, 45% favored and 13% were neutral or had no opinion.

Jefrey Pollock, President of Global Strategy Group, LLC said, "The data is very clear that support and opposition for the TrumpStreet Casino is virtually evenly split. There is no empirical evidence supporting the claims of the individuals opposing TrumpStreet that residents are overwhelmingly opposed."

Data from the TrumpStreet poll also revealed that African-Americans support the Trump casino application: 47% support, 40% oppose, with 13% having no opinion.

White voters, however, oppose the casino with 51% opposition, 38% support and 10% having no opinion. When asked what should be done at the Budd Company site, 21% of respondents stated a casino and entertainment complex, 13% wanted a shopping center and 12% preferred a park and recreation area.

When the 600 voters surveyed on the Delaware River areas were asked "Would you prefer that one casino be built along the Delaware River and one somewhere else in the City, or should both be built along the Delaware River, or should both be built somewhere else in the City?" Only 36% of those residents wanted to see both on the Delaware River. The remaining respondents wanted to see both casinos located elsewhere or preferred only one be built along the river.

Donald Trump, Chairman of Trump Entertainment Resorts, met with elected officials and neighborhood leaders to discuss the findings of the poll last week.

Mr. Trump said, "We are gaining momentum in educating the residents of the neighborhoods surrounding TrumpStreet as to the real story behind our application. We understand the challenges that will face our neighbors should we be successful and it is important that they know how hard we are working to address their concerns. This poll is proof our message is beginning to resonate and that residents are now beginning to separate myth from fact. ”

The Global Strategy Group poll was conducted between March 29 and April 5, 2006. The Trump Site survey was taken from a one and one-half mile radius of the location of the casino. The Delaware Avenue survey was taken in the First Councilmanic District

The overall margin of error is +/- 4% at the 95% confidence level for each survey.

Friday, May 05, 2006

May is Beef and Egg Month in Pennsylvania

Gov. Rendell has proclaimed May as Beef and Egg Month. There are 28,000 beef producers in our state, raising more than 1.6 million cattle and calves that contribute $1.76 billion dollars to the economy. More than 7,000 poultry producers raise 23 million hens that produce 6.5 billion eggs annually - adding $340 million to the economy.

Friday Agriculture Factoid

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, trout season kicked off in April and lasts through September. The Commonwealth is home to 42 commercial trout growers, ranking us fourth in the nation. 1.52 million pounds of trout valued at $4.81 million were sold last year.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

PhillyCarShare and City of Philadelphia Named Finalists for Harvard “Oscar”

PhillyCarShare’s groundbreaking car-reduction initiative with the City of Philadelphia is among 18 pioneering finalists for Harvard’s prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, the “Oscar” of American government.More than 1,000 forward-thinking programs from across the country submitted applications to compete for the seven final $100,000 prizes.

PhillyCarShare’s project is among “the best and brightest, and represents government’s great capacity for creating positive change and achieving results,” says Gowher Rizvi, Director of Harvard’s Ash Institute. The project “takes a creative approach to a significant problem and demonstrates that [the] solution works.”

PhillyCarShare and the City of Philadelphia teamed in 2004 to create the first system worldwide in which government employees and local residents would share vehicles by the hour in a major car-reduction effort. Advanced technology facilitates easy independent access to vehicles 24/7, automated cost allocation, and unprecedented superb accountability.

The pioneering project has leveraged the City’s elimination of 330 vehicles, saving taxpayers nearly $2 million annually. Philadelphia residents have sold or avoided purchasing another 1,500 vehicles through the program. They drive 9.9 million fewer miles per year; walk, bike, and take transit 37% more; and save about $6 million annually versus owning cars, according to detailed participant surveys. All participants pollute 90% less while driving PhillyCarShare’s hybrid gas-electric vehicles.

The prize money is awarded specifically to support winning programs in the teaching of their model to other jurisdictions. “By celebrating and disseminating this kind of creative thinking at all levels of government, the awards program helps turn innovative ideas into commonly accepted practices,” said Patricia McGinnis, President of the Council for Excellence in Government.

Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Innovations in American Government Awards at the Ash Institute says, “When you learn about the variety of programs, the range of problems they tackle, and the creative ways they do it, it gives you a renewed confidence in the quality and commitment of our public servants. By shining a bright light on these innovators, we hope to encourage others in government to follow their amazing lead.”

Winners will be selected later this month following presentations they will make to the National Selection Committee at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on May 25, 2006. The seven final winners will be announced on July 10 at a dinner ceremony in Washington, D.C., during the 2006 Excellence in Government Conference.

PhillyCarShare is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 by five local Philadelphians, operates a rapidly growing fleet of hybrids, wagons, and fun vehicle models from 40+ locations in central Philadelphia and Mt. Airy. Each member receives a personal key and 24-hour access to the entire fleet. Then driving is easy: reserve online, hop in, and go! Affordable hourly and mileage rates cover gas, premium insurance, and reserved parking. Members enjoy the convenience of driving, without the hassles of ownership.

The Innovations in American Government Awards, founded in 1986, is a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The award is administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government in Washington.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Autobiography Project

The Autobiography Project is a public program that encourages Philadelphians to submit their own memoirs using no more than 300 words. At the close of the project, selected entries will be published in bus shelters throughout the City. The goal is the get Philadelphians writing and to have these stories be visible in public areas. The project launched on April 5th and ends on May 17, but the posters will be displayed throughout the summer.

For more info, check out their website. The Autobiography Project is being presented by 2 non-profit groups - the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary and One Book, One Philadelphia.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Philadelphia International Airport Shows Strong Growth

Philadelphia International Airport led North America in 2005 in passenger-traffic growth, with a record 31.5 million passengers getting on or off flights. That’s 10.5 percent more than in 2004, according to statistics released by the Airports Council International - North America.

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