Dan U-A's blog

That Sweet City Council!

This is painfully embarrassing. Today, City Council approved the Zoning for Foxwoods. And yet, as Helen has noted, Foxwoods has no money to build this thing. They have no plans to look at. They haven't been approved by the Gaming Control Board to move. They don't even have an agreement with the other tenant of the building.

But yet, away we go:

That comes, even though Foxwoods doesn't have a lease to open in the former store and has not asked the state Gaming Control Board to approve its relocation from a South Philly location. And a dispute between the two companies that control the former department store has not been settled.

"That's an issue that the two parties have to deal with," DiCicco said of the dispute just before the start of Council's session. "I'm not going to be a player in that issue."

That's a change from one month ago, when zoning to convert the former store to a Commercial Entertainment District was approved by a Council committee. DiCicco warned on May 13 that the zoning would not go forward for a final vote until the outstanding issues were settled. The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which wants to lease the store to Foxwoods, has not settled a dispute with Gramercy Capital Corp., which controls the building's upper floors.

Even if you are pro-slot parlor in Chinatown, which the majority of people are not, how can anyone be happy that Council approves something this big in the middle of the City, without even seeing so much as a sketch?

The Sestak Push

As Sean notes, there is an extensive article today in the Daily News about Joe Sestak, and his run for the US Senate. And yeah, it includes Ed Rendell at his most charming:

Gov. Rendell thinks that Sestak would "get clobbered" in next year's Democratic primary, ticking off the reasons why Sestak has "practically no chance" against Specter, who is well-known across the state and likely will have an inexhaustible supply of campaign cash.

"What in God's name is he doing?" Rendell exclaimed.

You have to love Big Ed. It is not that the Guv doesn't think Sestak has a chance. Of course he has a chance. It is that the Guv can't understand why someone would run when the Guv says not to. As Ed knows, no one can ever upset someone in a Democratic primary:

Buoyed by a tide of hometown popularity, former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell captured the Democratic nomination for governor over Auditor General Bob Casey Jr. after the most expensive primary campaign in Pennsylvania history.

With 99 percent of the state's vote counted, Rendell was headed to a landslide win, 56 percent to Casey's 44 percent.

After receiving a ritual call of concession from Casey, Rendell entered a Center City ballroom crammed with cheering suporters. The strains of the Democratic anthem, "Happy Days Are Here Again," competed with shouts of "Eddie, Eddie," as he worked his way to the stage.

"Change must come to Pennsylvania," Rendell declared as he launched into a capsule version of his standard stump speech.

Of course, that was a Democratic primary with two actual Democrats. This would be a Democratic primary with one Democrat, and one Arlen Specter. And already, as Chris Bowers has noted, Specter's support may not be that strong:

Sestak already leads among voters who know both candidates: Perhaps the most remarkable number of all in this poll is that Joe Sestak is already leading Arlen Specter among the 30% of voters who know both candidates (p. 4-5):

Among voters that know Sestak (mostly in the Philadelphia inner suburbs) he enjoys an 18 - 4 favorable-unfavorable ratio, and among voters who already identify both candidates, Sestak actually leads Specter in the initial head to head 52 - 44 percent.

With numbers like these, claims from Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell that Sestak has no chance are unmasked as either absurd or desperate. Sestak is already winning among Democrats who know both candidates. Rendell might have even seen this poll before he made those remarks, since it was completed ten days beforehand.

If Arlen Specter almost lost to a little known Pat Toomey in a Republican primary, he can certainly lose to a well funded Congressman in a Democratic one.

The commercials write themselves:

So, yes, there is plenty of room for Sestak. However, Sestak has to work for this. Right now, unlike Patrick Murphy, he still has failed to make a strong statement on the public option for healthcare. If Sestak doesn't, he will fail to activate the activists who will do the hard work to get his message across. But if he does that? Then yes, he has a very real shot.

Let's Play a Game!

Let's play a game. I took screen shots last night from Philly.com, NYTimes.com and WashingtonPost.com. Which one of these is not like the others?

New York Times:

They are talking about Obama's role in healthcare, recovery of bodies from the Air France crash, an article about torture and the DOJ, etc.

Washington Post:

They are talking about the Virginia Governor's race, Obama's Normandy speech, and Gordon Brown's battle to keep control of the British government.

And Philly.com:

They are talking about... celebrity mug shots. Actually, they aren't even talking about them, because there isn't even a news story. Just galleries of celebrity mug shots. They do note a couple of news stories- the Phillies, and a family barbecue for the young woman who was sexually assaulted in Kensington. But, what is by far the most screen real estate for? Lot's of celebrity mug shots. I guess it is understandable. Who would feel like they got their money's worth without a mug shot of Jennifer Capriati from 1994?

I know the Inquirer isn't the Times or the Post. But, if your interaction with the paper was strictly through Philly.com, you might think it was a print version of the Smoking Gun, only with a lot of dated material.

So, which one of these is not like the others?

Off with Shane Creamer's Head! Nah, no thanks.

One of the million things I haven't written about in my two-week post election stupor is the strange saga of Shane Creamer, the head of the Board of Ethics, who was fined by... the Board of Ethics. The deal is that Creamer violated the confidentiality piece of the ethics code, because he told a reporter "off the record" that Seth Williams would not be fined 16k by the Ethics Board. You can read the short story here, or the Ethics Board's longer version of facts here.

The basic gist is that according to Creamer, a reporter asked him about a 16k fine for Seth for the same old errors we kept hearing about, and he said 'no comment,' but was worried that his 'no comment' would be perceived as a yes, and result in a story running that would falsely make claims about Seth. So he called the reporter back, and told him 'off the record' that if Seth were fined it would be a lot less. He then thought he violated the confidentiality clause of the Ethics Law, and so went to his Board and Seth's campaign. And the Board decided he did violate the law, and fined him 500 dollars.

My take on it was that the confidentiality piece of the agreement, which seems to constantly ensnare everyone, really needs to be changed. (Along with a number of other provisions of the law.)

But, in response (sort of), Councilwoman Marian Tasco is now blustering with all of her might, and calling for Creamer to resign.

I AM EXPRESSING MY OUTRAGE AND THAT OF OTHERS WHO ARE OFFENDED BY MR. CREAMER’S RECKLESS BEHAVIOR.

THE GOOD GOVERNMENT ADVOCATES, LIKE ZACK STALBERG AND THE COMMITTEE OF 70, WHO ARE USUALLY VERY VOCAL WHEN THEY PERCEIVE PUBLIC OFFICIALS HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG, HAVE BEEN UNCHARACTERISTICALLY SILENT ABOUT THIS ISSUE. ONCE AGAIN, IS THERE A TWO-TIERED STANDARD OF ETHICS?

I HAVE EXPRESSED MY CONCERNS WITH THE MAYOR AND AM AWAITING HIS RESPONSE.

IF WE ARE TO MAINTAIN A BOARD OF THE HIGHEST ORDER AUTHORIZED TO ENFORCE OUR ETHICS LAWS, WE MUST PRESERVE THE PUBLIC TRUST. THEREFORE, MR. CREAMER MUST BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY FROM HIS POSITION AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ETHICS BOARD.

IN FACT I BELIEVE HE TENDERED HIS RESIGNATION WHEN HE DECIDED TO ENGAGE IN UNETHICAL CONDUCT.

I say that Tasco was 'sort of' responding to this incident, because she isn't responding to the incident above so much as to her much bigger desire... to get rid of Shane Creamer. And as one of the biggest supporters of Seth Williams, the guy who would have been hurt by this, I call bullshit. (Again, if you haven't, I would really encourage you to read the Settlement Agreement here.)

Simply put, many people in City Hall, even those people who you and I like as politicians, hate the Board of Ethics and they hate Creamer. They would love to get rid of him and put in someone a little more 'friendly.' They now have their hook. Wellllll, no thanks. This is crap, and it is a facade that is obscuring a very real issue: that we still need changes to our campaign finance and ethics laws, so that they actually make sense. For example:

  • We need to change donation limits so that they go by campaign cycle, rather than calendar year.
  • We need a clear process from the Board of Ethics where they outline how they decide whether to release settlements before or after elections.
  • We need a reworking of a confidentiality clause that everyone seems to have so much trouble with.
  • We need to make it so that if you double the campaign spending limits with a big self-donation, a la Tom Knox and then Dan McCaffery, that you cannot then have that donation paid back as a loan.

But, what we don't need to do is to take steps backwards, and to use this as an excuse for what City Council really wants to do: get someone friendly and compliant to head the Board of Ethics.

Our campaign finance laws and its enforcement body have taken us in the right direction. Ousting Creamer is not the way to keep that going.

Joe Sestak to Run for Senate

According to Talking Points Memo, Joe Sestak will run against Arlen Specter for Senate:

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) is privately telling supporters that he intends to run for Senate, TPMDC has confirmed.

"He intends to get in the race," says Meg Infantino, the Congressman's sister, who works at Sestak for Congress. "In the not too distant future, he will sit down with his wife and daughter to make the final decision."

...

Earlier today, a Sestak volunteer and contributor received a handwritten note from Sestak himself, announcing his intent to run and asking for a contribution. The source provided TPMDC a scan of the letter:

Good.

Like everyone else on the Obama list, I got an email last week from Joe Biden about his "friend," Arlen Specter. Mr. Vice President, please, from me to you, butt out. The conversation that needs to happen is between Arlen Specter and Democrats about why he switched, not between you and us. If Specter is really a Democrat, he has the next year to show it.

If not, well, an actual Democrat appears to be entering the race.

Mayor Nutter: Make the City Safe for Cyclists

We have talked about bikes in the city before, including riding on West River/MLK drive. That discussion, which focused on whether or not cyclists should be trying to ride fast on the drive seems both relevant and silly based on what happened at the end of the last week:

A father-son bike ride on an idyllic spring morning ended yesterday with a nightmarish car crash on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said a 29-year-old man and his 4-year-old son had been pedaling on a tandem bike when they entered a crosswalk on the Parkway near 23rd Street, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, about 9:10 a.m.

One motorist stopped, allowed the father and son to cross - and then watched in horror as a 2000 Lexus SUV immediately struck the bike, Vanore said.

The boy suffered a fractured skull and fractured pelvis. He was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was listed in critical condition, Vanore said.

In case you aren't catching that: A dad was riding with his kid, and someone stopped for them in a crosswalk. Then, an asshat of a driver behind the stopped car, pulled around the driver, and ran over the dad and his kid. Yesterday, I was out for my own father-son bike ride yesterday, with big poppa UA. We met on West River drive, and we were talking about the accident, right at the spot where a 'ghost bike' sits, commemorating where a six year-old was struck and killed while on the path.

As the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia has noted, there is only one real solution here, and the Mayor, and Commissioner DiBerardinis need to get started: Making MLK drive back into a road that is a piece of the park, rather than an expressway.

They have specific solutions:

It is time to make MLK Drive safe for park users by:

  • Traffic calming by reducing MLK Drive to one lane, inbound and outbound, for its entire length
  • Installing bike lanes to further calm traffic, allow for unimpeded two-way trail traffic across the MLK Bridge and make the trail safer by allowing faster bicyclists to ride on the street
  • Closing the entire length of MLK Drive for recreational use on Saturday and Sunday from dawn to dusk and therefore avoid conflicts with cars at the crossing during peak trail use times

The Mayor wants Philadelphia to be the leading green city in the Country. That cannot happen when riding your bike in the city has you feeling like you are constantly tempting fate.

Go the BCP's site, and send a letter to the Mayor, asking him to make our city safe again for people on bikes.

The Inquirer Embarrassment Continues

For those who haven't been paying attention, Brian Tierney's hiring of John "Crushing Kids' Testicles" Yoo continues to embarrass the Inquirer.

First, going after Daily News writer Will Bunch, the Inquirer's Harold Jackson gave us an ultimate "man shouts at clouds" defense of the move.

But that happens when your information comes from those bloggers who never let the facts get in the way when they're trying to whip people into a frenzy to boost Web site hits.

It's a shame that one blogger who disseminated poor information is actually a full-time journalist for a sister publication in The Inquirer building.

To set the record straight, no one tried to hide Yoo's becoming a regular columnist. He had appeared in The Inquirer occasionally since 2005, and his commentaries became a monthly feature about eight months ago.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Those 'bloggers' and their internets tubes! Hey Harold, a blog is a tool, not a viewpoint. Shouting about blogs makes about as much sense as shouting about food processors. And considering that Jackson is going after Bunch, a guy who actually writes for a paper, it raises a question: If the problem is that fancy pants blogging, would Jackson feel better about if another reporter put it in the paper instead? That seems pretty strange.

Then yesterday, the National Lawyers Guild and others protested outside the Inquirer building.

The protest over hiring Yoo as a monthly contributor has to do with his tenuous voice as a legal expert and not his right to free speech, attorney Ryan Hancock of the National Lawyers Guild said yesterday.

"The Inquirer is paying John Yoo and offering him as a legal authority," Hancock said. "I don’t like a lot about what [Inquirer columnist] Michael Smerconish says but he’s just a pundit. When Yoo’s held out as a legal authority, that’s where it crosses the line."

And finally, further emphasizing the paper's status as a national laughingstock, the Colbert Report took a turn last night:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Extra! Extra! Bleed All About It!
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Gay Marriage

As I have said before, this is really just embarrassing the paper. There are a lot of good journalists there who are doing great work, and they don't deserve to have their work impugned by someone as morally depraved and totally unqualified as John Yoo.

Not Winning an Election Stinks

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours at a poll in Fairmount, across from a daughter of one of the DA candidates, and was instantly transported back to 2007, as my old man ran for City Council. Running for office is a tough, tough thing, that doesn't just consume you, but consumes your supporters, your friends and your family.

So as someone who was on the very personal end of a campaign that fell short two years ago, I just wanted to say 'well done' to the campaigns that didn't get where they wanted to be last night.

To Dan McElhatton, Mike Turner, Brett Mandel, Joyce Eubanks, John Braxton, Dan McCaffery, Brian Grady and others... and more importantly, to their families, supporters, and their campaign staffs, thank you for running, and for being a part of the democratic process.

Election: Over. Back to the Budget.

From 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM at the Independence Visitor's Center, Young Involved Philadelphia, The Center for Progressive Leadership, The Committee of Seventy, The Institute for the Study of Civic Values, and UrbanPhilly.com Professional Network are hosting a forum to talk about taxes. The info is below.

I have to warn you though. The moderator of the panel is a few french fries short of a happy meal.

Demonstration against John Yoo today

The National Lawyers Guild will be participating in a demonstration at the Inquirer against John "The President Can Crush a Child's Testicles if he Feels Like it" Yoo. This will go down at 5pm today.

Today, the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild will participate in a demonstration against the Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent decision to hire John Yoo as a monthly columnist. The demonstration's purpose is not to limit John Yoo's First Amendment right to speech, but to voice our disapproval with the Inquirer’s decision to present Yoo as a legitimate legal authority, despite his actions to the contrary.

The Polls are open, and they are EMPTY. Can you help?

I just sent around this email. Can you do the same? The polls are really, really dead, and it might lead to a pretty shitty result. I am confident that with turnout this low, a couple of races will be decided by a very small amount of votes.

Hey-

So the polls are open, and they are empty. West Philly is dead. In Fairmount, 20 people voted by 9 o’clock. In Germantown, it was about a third of that. This is a really crazy situation, where sitting at home could lead to really bad consequences for our city. When we sit at home, the tired old machine gains a lot of power to choose our leaders....

Once More with Feeling: Seth Williams for District Attorney

Tomorrow is election day, and the chance to elect Seth Williams as District Attorney.

Many of us have spent time talking about why we support Seth Williams and his candidacy for District Attorney so I will not bore you with you a ton more persuasion. If you want to know why I support Seth, you can read this, this, or this.

Put simply, I strongly believe that in a field of five candidates, Seth is the strongest candidate, will be the best DA, and presents the best chance we have to transform the justice system in our city.

In the last week, the race has been changed quite a bit by Dan McCaffery pumping in hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he has used to run distorted, misleading and gross negative ads. Please don’t let his big dollars ruin our huge opportunity for change. We cannot pass this up.

If you have even a few hours tomorrow, come out and help us all make a big, fundamental change in our government. Sign up here to GOTV, and to help change Philadelphia’s understanding of what we expect from our justice system.

Tell your friends. Put up a facebook message. Knock on doors. Yell from the windows. 24 hours to go.

My Vote for Controller

I don't have time to give this any real sort of treatment it deserves, but in the Controller's race, I am voting for Brett Mandel.

I don't think Stan's concerns are without merit, and I too have been a vocal opponent of a lot of the anti-tax work that Brett did at Philadelphia Forward.

So why am I voting for Brett? One reason: I think he would be really good at the job.

Sometimes, it really is that simple. I would like to see what he can do, and what he can save us, as Philadelphia's Auditor-in-Chief.

Superior Court: Good Candidates, Especially Anne Lazarus

Continuing on my own personal list of judicial votes. I am coming to my votes with the same approximate rationale for my Common Pleas and Municipal Court picks.

I don't know enough about the Commonwealth Court candidates to have made any real decisions, and there is no real Supreme Court race to vote on. So, I have only really thought through Superior Court, where you get three picks. There are a least that many good people running. If you want to bullet these, vote a couple. I am still not totally decided...

First, whatever I do, I will vote for Judge Anne Lazarus to move from the Court of Common Pleas to Superior Court. She is reputed to be a very smart, very good judge. Check out these comments from the NLG:

  • Thoughtful judge, liberal Democrat
  • bright, very well prepared, thoughful, problem solver, respectful of parties and counsel
  • Judge Lazarus is a very fair and reasonable jurist. She balances legal and equitable considerations well.
  • She is a strong advocate for legal services and pro bono work.
  • was competent, reasonable and compassionate.
  • it'll be a loss to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas if she wins, but intelligent, liberal, compassionate judge.

She is also endorsed by just about everybody, and is rated 'highly recommended' by the PA Bar. So, to me it is a no brainier. I will be voting for Judge Lazarus.

Second, I will be voting for John Younge. He is endorsed by almost everybody, and the NLG comments say the following:

  • excellent, committed, smart, understands issues
  • A good trial judge, committed to fairness and quality. Historically a progessive, he would be sensitive
  • to the needs of all participants in the process

So, he gets my vote.

And third, there is Robert J. Colville, who I don't know a ton about. But, he too is endorsed by a lot of good organizations, like Liberty City, recommended by the bar, etc. I simply don't know a ton about him. I will probably vote for him, too?

My Votes in the Judicial Elections

I thought I would tell people which Judges I am voting for. First, here is how I came to my decisions. I start with only those recommended by the Bar Association. Second, I looked at feedback from the National Lawyers Guild. Third, I looked at questionnaires, such as those from Liberty City. Fourth, I asked people I trust and who have some knowledge about it. And fifth, I looked at the endorsements of groups such as Liberty City and Philly for Change. (And thank you Thomas Taylor! I used this list quite a bit.)

These are my picks for Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court.

For Common Pleas, you can vote for seven. I will likely vote for five, but may add in one more. I know there are many good choices out there. But, here are mine...

I will first be voting for three judges who were appointed by Gov. Rendell, and must now stand for election. I would really recommend voting for all of these:

Dan Anders- Judge Anders is the first second out LGBT Judge, starting to end one of the last remaining ways our judicial body remains non-diverse. He comes across as a very smart guy, and comments from the NLG survey say things like this:

  • already pushing his own ideas in the court system despite short tenure. A keeper.
  • experience has demonstrated competence and commitment to the job, very bright, caring, thoughful, prepared, respectful of clients and counsel
  • Judge Anders is extremely knowledgeable and fair. He gives all parties opportunity to speak and he listens to argument. He is open-minded and obviously willing to consider all sides.
  • Sits on bench now by appointment, great judicial temperment, his decisions are well reasoned

I sort of suspect that Judge Anders will be appointed to a federal seat at some point. Let’s keep him as a CP judge as long as we can.

Angeles Roca- Judge Roca is a really impressive person with a really impressive story. While raising a family, she put herself through college, going part-time for a number of years. Then, with the support of her family, she followed that up by going to Villanova Law School. When she graduated, she opened up a family practice on Girard Ave. She has a lot of experience with Family Law, which we really need more of on the Court. She is reputed to be good already, she is endorsed by just about everyone, and through word of mouth, everyone I know seems to be supporting her.

Joyce Eubanks- Judge Eubanks spent 20 plus years as a public interest law, as a Public Defender. I am pretty biased towards people who spend whole careers in public interest law. Plus, those I know who worked with her came away very impressed. Good civil rights lawyers in Philly support her. She is recommended by everyone. The NLG comments are very impressive. Plus, she smacks down people on blogs. What else is there?

I will then be voting for the following two candidates:

Greg Coleman
- First, to state this up front, one of the reasons why I am voting for Mr. Coleman is that my old man got to know him well on the 2007 campaign trail, and was impressed by him. And he is from Germantown, so, come on, what is not to like? OK, more seriously, he is endorsed by most of the progressive groups running, he is deeply involved in his community, and he has a background in mental health law, which would be a real boost for our Court.

Diane Thompson- Like Judge Roca, Diane Thompson is an impressive woman with an impressive personal story, who put herself through law school later in life. Prior to going back to school, she was a public school teacher, and worked in the Courts. She is deeply involved in her community (Olney), she is endorsed by almost every progressive group, and she has impressed me both in her questionnaires and her temperament when I have met her. Again, she just strikes me as an impressive woman who would understand the power imbalance that we often see in Philadelphia courts.

I might vote for one more.

And quickly, for Municipal Court, I will be voting for the following three:

Dawn Segal- I think she is an impressive candidate. She will be one of the only out women on the bench. She was President of the board of Women Organized Against Rape. Member of Congregation Mishkan Shalom, but, I won’t hold that against her (I kid, I kid). She is endorsed by just about every progressive group.

Christine Adair- She is a former defender, and the NLG surveys call her ‘brilliant,’ ‘very bright,’ ‘thoughtful,' and 'smart, dedicated, even handed and fair.’ Sounds pretty good to me.

Charles Hayden
- He has a very varied, extensive background, including working as a Defender, and for the EPA. Hayden is another one of those who, through word of mouth, is supported by a lot of people who I really respect.

(That said, Mr. Hayden went to Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota. Anyone who goes to Carleton probably could have gone to Macalester. Making such a poor decision might make me vote against him. Again, I kid!)

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