Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ruth Damsker Update

Ruth Damsker, former Montgomery County Commissioner, and one time candidate for state senate, is running for Upper Gwynedd tax collector.  The other Democrats running for office in the township are Joe Morris and Rob Wilkinson for Township Supervisor.  The slate website is:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Family Planning Council Receives Grant

from the inbox:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier today that Family Planning Council will receive a three-year $15.7 million Title X Family Planning grant to continue providing reproductive health services throughout the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania service area. 
With this funding, Family Planning Council’s network of 64 health centers will continue to provide accessible, confidential sexual and reproductive health services.  These life-saving and life-changing services include: affordable FDA-approved birth control, pregnancy planning, breast and cervical cancer screening, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV testing, and referrals for other services like prenatal care and primary care.

“We are honored to be able to continue supporting our network of high-quality family planning care providers while introducing new and innovative ways to reach people who need our services the most,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, executive director of Family Planning Council. “The Affordable Care Act is a game changer.  At Family Planning Council, we are excited by the many opportunities it presents, and are poised to embrace this moment and increase our impact in communities.” 
Family Planning Council supports provider agencies throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.  Its network includes the area's major teaching hospitals, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally funded community health centers, and the Philadelphia Department of Health. 
“For over 40 years, the strength of our family planning program has been the skill, expertise, and unwavering commitment of our staff and provider network,” said Weiler Gerber.  “We always remain focused on the health and dignity of the women, men and teens who rely on our services.”

The grant, about $5.23 million annually, affords Family Planning Council the opportunity to expand collaborations and community-based services emphasizing teen outreach, health literacy, and improved health outcomes throughout the five-county region.  These partnerships will increase Family Planning Council’s capacity to work in high-need communities where sexual and reproductive health disparities persist. 
“Family Planning Council has always been creative and innovative in its ability to bring resources to the community,” said Donna Torrisi, executive director of Family Practice and Counseling Network, which has a long-standing partnership with Family Planning Council.  “We are excited to be one of many local health care providers to continue this collaboration and ensure that everyone can access the confidential, high-quality reproductive health care they need and deserve.”

Prez O on Climate Change in Pennsylvania

an email from the White House Press Office:

On Tuesday, the President delivered remarks at Georgetown University, laying out his vision for a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it.  You can read the President’s plan HERE and view today’s state reports on the impact of climate change HERE.

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged, and by taking an all-of-the-above approach to develop homegrown energy and steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our kids’ health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations.  Climate change impacts including severe weather, asthma attacks, prolonged allergy seasons, and sea-level rise are affecting our security, our economy, and our communities.  In 2012 alone, the cost of weather disasters exceeded $110 billion in the United States, and climate change will only increase the frequency and intensity of these events.  Today, we already set limits for arsenic, mercury and lead, but we impose no limits on how much carbon pollution our power plants release.  Carbon pollution is contributing to a higher risk of asthma attacks and more frequent and severe storms, floods, heat waves, and wildfires, driving up food prices and threatening our communities.  The President’s plan is a comprehensive approach to cutting the pollution that causes climate change and threatens public health, setting us on a path to make our communities healthier, safer, and more resilient.

In 2011, power plants and major industrial facilities in Pennsylvania emitted more than 150 million metric tons of carbon pollution—that’s equal to the yearly pollution from more than 32 million cars.
Recent incidents provide a reminder of the impacts to our public health and costs due to extreme weather in Pennsylvania.  Although we cannot say that climate change is responsible for any individual event, climate change is already increasing our risks from these events.
Ø  Pennsylvania has had 13 major disaster declarations in just 10 years from severe storms, including Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and Tropical Storm Lee. These disasters have resulted in the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in public assistance to support recovery and rebuilding efforts. Superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast in 2012, costing 130 lives, tens of billions of dollars in damage and requiring over $9.9 million in federal assistance for recovery and cleanup efforts in Pennsylvania alone.

Ø  Changing temperature and precipitation patterns can affect the life cycle and distribution of insects, many of which transmit disease that already pose problems to public health in Pennsylvania.  In 2010, there were 3,298 cases of Lyme disease in the State.
Ø  In 2010, the US Department of Agriculture designated 16 counties in Pennsylvania as natural disaster areas because of severe damage to corn, forage crops, soybeans, oats, and wheat crops due to drought.
Northeast states can expect more climate change related heat waves – with significantly more days above 90oF – and flooding from sea level rise and extreme precipitation events.  Even low-end projections anticipate that historical 100-year coastal floods will happen as often as every 22 years by the end of the century.  There is $2.3 trillion of insured coastal property at risk in New York State alone.  Northeasterners are already experiencing increased heavy precipitation.  Extreme heat and declining air quality are expected to increase risk associated with respiratory problems and heat stress, both of which pose increasing problems for human health, especially in urban areas, and can result in increased hospitalizations and even premature death.  Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide concentration increase pollen production and prolong the pollen season, increasing health risks for people with allergies.  Agricultural production, including dairy, fruit, and maple syrup, are likely to be adversely affected as favorable climates shift, while the center of lobster fisheries is projected to continue its northward shift and the cod fishery on Georges Bank is likely to be diminished.

Climate change is a long-term problem, but we can make substantial progress through a series of steady and responsible steps.  The President’s plan builds from progress already underway to work with states, local communities, and the private sector to reduce carbon pollution and to prepare our Nation for the impacts that cannot be avoided.  Since 2009, President Obama has taken a number of common sense measures to combat carbon pollution, including:
Ø  Investing in Clean Energy: During the President’s first term, the United States more than doubled its use of renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.  In Pennsylvania, renewable energy generation from these sources increased more than 60 percent.  Since 2009, the Administration has supported tens of thousands of renewable energy projects throughout the country, including more than 1,100 in Pennsylvania, generating enough energy to power more than 170,000 homes and helping Pennsylvania meet its own goal of generating 18 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021.

Ø  Improving Efficiency: Using less energy to power our homes, businesses and vehicles is critical to building a clean and secure energy future.  President Obama has made essential investments in research and development for energy efficiency advances, and set new standards to make the things we use every day – from cars to microwaves – more efficient. 
·         President Obama established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history.  These standards will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025, saving the average driver more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a 2025 vehicle and cutting carbon pollution.

·         Since October 2009, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have jointly completed energy upgrades in more than one million homes across the country, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.

·         As part of the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, Pittsburgh committed to reducing energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 in 1.9 million square feet of its buildings. Allegheny College in Meadville committed to reducing intensity by the same level for its 1.3 million square feet of building space.
Ø  Preparing Communities for the Consequences of Climate Change: The Obama Administration has worked since its earliest days to strengthen the Nation’s resilience to climate change impacts, including investing in critical science and tools, developing the first-ever Federal agency climate adaptation plans, and directly partnering with communities.  For example, the Federal Transit Authority is funding a  detailed analysis of past service disruptions, future climate scenarios, risks, and adaptation options for a SEPTA commuter rail line in Pennsylvania.

Extra SEPTA Service on July 4th

from the inbox:

SEPTA will run extra service on July 4th to get people to-and-from the Wawa Welcome America celebration.
The annual event includes an afternoon festival along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and ends with the night-time fireworks display over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To accommodate holiday revelers, SEPTA will run extra service on the Broad Street Line, the Market-Frankford Line, City Trolley Routes and Regional Rail.
Market-Frankford Line: A total of 10 extra trains will be deployed to provide service every five-to-seven minutes starting at 4:25 p.m. These extra trips will run through the night to help customers get home after the event. The 15th Street Station provides riders access to the festival site on the Parkway.
Broad Street Line: Eight extra trains will be dispatched to provide service every five-to-seven minutes starting at 4:28 p.m. These service levels will remain in effect throughout the night. Several Broad Street Line stations are within walking distance of the event, including Spring Garden, Race-Vine and City Hall.
Regional Rail: SEPTA will extend its Regional Rail service for customers leaving Center City after the fireworks. A total of fifteen trains will depart from Suburban Station between 11:30 p.m. and 11:50 p.m. Trains will make all local stops. An Independence Day Late Night Service Schedule is available at
Trolleys: Additional trips will be added on Routes 10, 11, 13, 34 and 36 after the fireworks as needed.
SEPTA would also like to alert bus riders to detours that will be in place for road closures related to the July 4th festivities on the Parkway and other events. Details about bus detours are posted on the System Status section of SEPTA’s Website at System Status lists information for all scheduled bus detours, and will also include updates on any unexpected service adjustments.

Call About Expanded Medicare

My email tells me that the state legislature is working this weekend, trying to decide whether or not to expand Medicare in Pennsylvania.  If you have strong feelings please call your state rep's Harrisburg office and leave a message; it will be heard.

This is the takeaway my inbox:

An expanded Medicaid helps everyone in PA. Patients, hospitals, doctors, businesses and taxpayers. The federal government is ready to give PA $4B to expand. If we say no, that money goes to other states. Those are our federal tax dollars. PA citizens deserve to see them used to make us a healthier, more productive state.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BET Panel on Gun Violence

from the inbox:

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 24, 2013 – According to the Children’s Defense Fund, homicide is the leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-old African Americans. As we face these staggering realities, today, the League of Young Voters Education Fund (LYVEF), Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg) and BET Networks announce a partnership to further address the issue of gun violence in black communities across the country. 

The partnership goes live on June 29, 2013, during BET Experience at L.A. Live weekend in Los Angeles, CA. The League of Young Voters Education Fund, Snoop Lion and BET will host No Guns Allowed: Disarming Violence in Our Community, a roundtable dialogue on the impact of gun violence in urban communities. The League of Young Voters also enlisted the NAACP Youth & College Division and Casey Family Programs to join the cause and sponsor the event. 

Confirmed panelists for the roundtable include Snoop Lion, T.I., Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation Executive Director Melvyn Hayward Jr., writer and director of the critically acclaimed movie on gun violence Fruitvale Station Ryan Coogler and Executive Director of  New Generation Foundation, Brandon Jones. The participants will engage around practical solutions to the gun violence issue, the value of human life and community responsibility. LYVEF Executive Director, Dr. Rob “Biko” Baker will moderate the panel and lead the engaging discussion.  

“No Guns Allowed” was written about a very personal incident with my family which I talk about in the REINCARNATED documentary,” Snoop Lion said about the Major Lazer produced song that features Drake and his daughter Cori B. “I’m proud the song has sparked a movement and I’m excited about collaborating with the League of Young Voters and BET to spread the message.” Check out Snoop Lion’s thoughts on the collaboration here:

Revamped Boyle Campaign Site

State Rep. Brendan Boyle, also a candidate for the 13th congressional district (currently represented by Allyson Schwartz who is now running for governor), has revamped his campaign site.  Check

Monday, June 24, 2013

Growing Greener Grants

Growing Greener Grant applications are available. 

For more information about the grants, and to download a copy of the application, visit the Department of Environmental Protection's website ( and select “Growing Greener.”  The grant application period will run through August 16th.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

SEPTA Viaduct to Close for Repairs

from the inbox:

On Monday, July 8, 2013, SEPTA’s Bridgeport Viaduct — the bridge that carries SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) over the Schuylkill River between Bridgeport Station and the Norristown Transportation Center (NTC) — will close to allow crews to complete a track and timber replacement project and perform minor structural repairs. The Viaduct will be closed through November 2013. During this four month period, shuttle buses will replace train service between NTC and Bridgeport.

The Viaduct rehabilitation is necessary for SEPTA to be able to continue NHSL train service between NTC and Bridgeport. “The bridge was built in 1911 and is showing signs of deterioration like cracks, spalling concrete and corrosion,” said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s Deputy General Manager. “More importantly, the bridge ties that sit directly upon the steel structure and hold the rail in place are rotting and failing.”

A significant loss of capital funding over the last three years has forced SEPTA to defer major construction to the Viaduct despite designs for timber deck replacement and structural rehabilitation programs having been complete since 2011. Instead, SEPTA has implemented a targeted timber repair plan to maintain service via the bridge. These temporary repair measures included installing supplemental steel ties between existing ties and injecting epoxy into the voids of existing spike holes on all ties to secure spikes to the ties. SEPTA crews conducted daily track inspections and a 15-mile-per-hour speed restriction was instituted for trains crossing the bridge.

“We have exhausted all possible temporary timber repair measures,” said Knueppel.  “Without full timber replacement, we would have no choice but to permanently close the bridge.”

SEPTA had previously repaired the Viaduct twice before. In 1985, the bridge timbers, rail and power delivery system were completely replaced and the steel was painted and repaired. In 2009, the bridge piers were reinforced against scour. The current project will include the replacement of all bridge timbers, as well as the track level walkway and railing system and some structural repairs. The $7.5 million project will be completed by Railworks Track Systems of Sewell, NJ.

On weekdays during construction, trains will operate between 69th Street Transportation Center and Bridgeport Station. Shuttle buses will be used to transport customers across the Viaduct between NTC and Bridgeport Station.

On weekends, trains will operate between 69th Street Transportation Center and Hughes Park Station. Shuttle buses will serve Gulph Mills, DeKalb, Bridgeport and NTC.

Passengers using Hughes Park should remain on the train, as shuttle buses will not stop at that station.

The SEPTA buses will be stored adjacent to Bridgeport Station from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Normal construction hours will be Mondays-Fridays, from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., however, night work may be necessary to keep the project on schedule.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Campus Philly Job Opportunity Event

On Thursday, June 20th, Campus Philly is hosting a job opportunity event.  Employers and graduate programs will be present to talk with recent area college grads.  It starts at noon, goes until 3, and will be held in Houston Hall.  The list of employers is impressive (Vanguard, Comcast, etc).

Painter on Tax Rebate

from the inbox:

State Rep. Mark Painter reminds area senior citizens and others eligible for the state's Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program that the deadline to apply has been extended until Dec. 31 and that a provision of the law could increase their rebate up to $975.
 Painter said the maximum rebate for most eligible Pennsylvanians is $650. However, due to high property taxes in Pottstown Borough and Pottsgrove School District, eligible recipients who pay more than 15 percent of their income in property taxes may be eligible for a supplemental additional 50 percent rebate, which could boost the amount to as much as $975.

For more information on specifics to your area, contact your state representative.

Patrick Murphy: Sen. Gillibrand is Right

Patrick Murphy's latest blog post at MSNBC is on sexual assault in the military.  Here's an excerpt:

The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military last year, a 34% increase from 2010. What’s worse, the percentage of victims who actually reported the crime dropped to just 9.8%. If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that the sexual assault problem is getting worse, while service members have lost faith in the military criminal justice system.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

DePasquale on Turnpike Debt

from the inbox:

 Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today released a special report on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s debt that shows without intervention rising Turnpike tolls will place an unfair burden on motorists and businesses using the roadway.
“Drivers will pay $50 to cross the Turnpike in 2021, and about $150 by 2057, if Act 44 remains unchanged,” DePasquale said during a House Transportation Committee today. “Act 44 obligations are causing the deterioration of the financial condition of the Turnpike, while placing an unfair burden on Pennsylvania motorists and businesses that rely on the Turnpike.”
Act 44 of 2007 was an attempt by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the former governor to find revenues for public transit agencies and road and bridge repairs. The original plan included tolling Interstate 80, transferring control of I-80 from PennDOT to the Turnpike, and requiring the Turnpike to make annual payments to PennDOT for 50 years.
The Federal Highway Administration ultimately denied the state permission to toll I-80; however, the Turnpike was still required to make the annual payments to PennDOT. Without the dedicated revenue stream of I-80 tolls, the Turnpike borrowed more than $4 billion to make PennDOT payments and continue its capital improvement projects. The Turnpike projects that at least an additional $11.4 billion in debt will be required to make future payments to PennDOT under Act 44.
“It is unrealistic to think about eliminating tolls on the Turnpike, but we do need to rethink the way we rely on the Turnpike to finance transportation projects because its current financial obligations are already unsustainable,” DePasquale warned, noting that even if the Turnpike’s Act 44 financial obligations are eliminated annual Turnpike toll increases will be needed for about a decade to cover the debt already incurred.
“Based upon our research and analysis, the Turnpike cannot sustain the level of debt Act 44 requires and, toll rates cannot become cost prohibitive for motorists and businesses,” he told the Transportation Committee members.
“Clearly, Act 44 is detrimental to the Turnpike’s financial condition, and payments should be phased out.  At the same time, the state must develop a comprehensive transportation plan that is self-sustaining, funds public transportation in all 67 counties, and provides PennDOT with the resources to fix our crumbling roads and bridges,” DePasquale said. “The plan must be based on stable, predictable and growing funding sources that are not overly burdensome to taxpayers. I know that is a tall order, but it is what the people of Pennsylvania want and deserve.”
The special report on Turnpike debt is available online at:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Newtown Six Month Anniversary

MomsRising has collected links to tweets and blog posts written on the six month anniversary of the Newtown school shooting.  Peruse and read at your leisure:

PA Tries to Repeal Sports Equity

from our friends at the Women's Law Project:

 On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee will vote on a bill to repeal provisions of Act 82 which require public high schools, junior highs, and middle schools to fill out a reporting form once a year showing how schools are doing in achieving gender equity in their athletic programs.  
Last year’s passage of the  reporting law was a victory for women and girls statewide who participate in athletics, and a sign of support more broadly for women and girls from a state legislature with a consistent track record and aggressive agenda of eroding women’s rights.
“We are stunned that repeal of this important bill is even up for a committee vote,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project,  “No one who supports equality for women and fair opportunities for girls as well as boys should support this bill.” 
The reporting law simply provides the taxpaying public with knowledge about whether their local schools are in compliance with or in violation of Title IX, which passed more than four decades ago. Federally-funded public school districts in Pennsylvania  are required to comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and Title IX.  
The annual reporting provisions in Act 82 are estimated to require high school athletic directors to invest no more than six hours a year to complete, a reasonable requirement to ensure female athletes in Pennsylvania’s schools are provided with the athletic opportunities required by law.
“This repeal effort is a throwback to the days when women were thought to be too fragile to play sports,” Frietsche continued.  “Many schools have not only failed to achieve equality in their sports programs, but overall, conditions have actually worsened for girls. This is the wrong time to be cutting back on parents’ and students’ access to basic information about the sports programs their tax dollars are paying for.” 
Last year’s passage of the  reporting law was a victory for women and girls statewide who participate in athletics, and a sign of support more broadly for women and girls from a state legislature with a consistent track record and aggressive agenda of eroding women’s rights.
“We are stunned that repeal of this important bill is even up for a committee vote,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project,  “No one who supports equality for women and fair opportunities for girls as well as boys should support this bill.” 
The reporting law simply provides the taxpaying public with knowledge about whether their local schools are in compliance with or in violation of Title IX, which passed more than four decades ago. Federally-funded public school districts in Pennsylvania  are required to comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and Title IX.  
The annual reporting provisions in Act 82 are estimated to require high school athletic directors to invest no more than six hours a year to complete, a reasonable requirement to ensure female athletes in Pennsylvania’s schools are provided with the athletic opportunities required by law.
“This repeal effort is a throwback to the days when women were thought to be too fragile to play sports,” Frietsche continued.  “Many schools have not only failed to achieve equality in their sports programs, but overall, conditions have actually worsened for girls. This is the wrong time to be cutting back on parents’ and students’ access to basic information about the sports programs their tax dollars are paying for.” 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Assortment of Statements on Corbett Budget

Today's inbox contained a number of statements about the GOP state budget:

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward issued the following statement on House passage of a 2013-14 budget bill (HB 1437) today:
“We are disappointed with the House budget. It reflects the wrong priorities for Pennsylvania. It chooses tax cuts for profitable corporations over funding for public schools and makes permanent almost 85 percent of the cuts enacted two years ago.
“Some lawmakers continue to blame temporary federal funds for Pennsylvania’s education cuts. The fact is that in 2011 the General Assembly made a choice to restore expiring federal funds for prisons but not for education.
“At a time when our economy is lagging, Pennsylvania should be making investments that move us forward. New tax cuts have cost educational opportunities for our children and jobs in our schools.
“We hope the Senate will make the prudent decision to delay a scheduled corporate tax cut that is unaffordable and can only lead to deeper cuts to education.”

Representative Brendan F. Boyle (Philadelphia/Montgomery Co) releases the following statement in response to the House passage of Governor Corbett’s budget:

“Once again Governor Corbett and the Republicans in the state legislature have forced their draconian cuts and slash and burn agenda on the people of Philadelphia.  At a time when schools across the region are in dire straits and facing closures, Governor Corbett’s budget, which has now passed the House, is misguided and his priorities are misplaced.  Governor Corbett and the House Republicans are irresponsibly advocating for cutting taxes for big corporations by over $350 million, while at the same time doing nothing to help our struggling schools.

Since 2010 the Philadelphia School District has seen a total reduction of $256 million in basic education funding, or a reduction of $29,000 per classroom.  These numbers include any proposed increase from the GOP.  The results of these drastic cuts have led the School District of Philadelphia to announce layoff notices for 3,783 employees, or almost 20% of the district’s total workforce.   This is potentially the largest layoff of school district staff in 40 years. We can do better than this.

Our schools are in trouble.  The success of our educational system is tied to the growth of our regional economy and the innovations put forth by our society.   We need the state to reverse these cuts and make the education of students our top priority. Their future, and ours, depends on it."

State Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery, today voted against the House Republican state budget proposal because it shortchanges education and will lead to higher school property taxes across the commonwealth.

"Tomorrow's work force is today's public school students and this budget does not provide adequate funding toward ensuring that we will have a well-educated work force in the years to come," Painter said.

"The claim that this budget does not raise taxes will ring hollow for residents in the local school districts that I represent because the fact is that property taxes go up when school funding goes down," he said.

Under the Corbett administration, annual state contributions have been cut by $742,870 to the Pottsgrove School District, $1.43 million to the Pottstown School District and $907,261 to the Spring-Ford School District, according to figures from the Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee.

"A top priority of my constituents is property tax relief and the Tom Corbett/House Republican budget plan does not provide any such relief. Contrast that with the more than 60 residents who responded to my robocall today inquiring if they are eligible for a property tax or rent rebate. We need to do more for these people and for taxpayers across the commonwealth and this budget falls woefully short of that goal."

The budget bill (H.B. 1437) moves to the state Senate for consideration. It must be passed by the June 30 deadline.

State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the budget bill House Republicans plan to pass today fails to restore about 90 percent of the K-12 education funding Gov. Corbett and Republican legislators cut two years ago.

"Where's the other 90 percent of the education funding that was cut? The House Republican majority blocked Democrats from offering an amendment to restore the education cuts over three years -- that's why Philadelphia schools are having to cut 3,800 jobs. Democrats in Harrisburg have been fighting to restore funding, and we will keep fighting," Roebuck said.

"Governor Corbett and Republican legislators cut nearly $1 billion from K-12 education two years ago, locked those cuts in last year and want credit for finally putting back just 10 percent of that. They can find hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate tax breaks – if that approach worked, Pennsylvania would not be 49th in job creation, as we are under Governor Corbett.

"Due to inflation, the small increase in education funding really only amounts to flat funding anyway. At this pace, it would take 10 years to get back to the funding level our children's schools had in 2010-11. Even the inadequate 1.9 percent increase is tainted because wealthier school districts would get larger percentage basic funding increases than lower-income districts. Philadelphia would get a 1.6 percent increase – less than the rate of inflation, after two years of cuts -- but some wealthier suburban districts would get percentage increases twice or more as much. This is after the school funding cuts fell disproportionately on the least wealthy communities.

"State basic education funding is supposed to foster greater education equality and opportunity between school districts, not make it worse, which is what the Corbett administration and House Republican budgets are doing," Roebuck said. "Philadelphia is far from the only community facing this problem -- due to the funding cuts of the last two years, more and more of our school districts are becoming financially distressed, and the vast majority of Pennsylvania school districts are getting ready to make a third round of cuts."

Roebuck also opposes the House Republican budget because it refuses to accept the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would provide health insurance to about 600,000 low-income working Pennsylvanians, create nearly 40,000 jobs and strengthen critical-access hospitals in Philadelphia and across the state.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three Pennsylvanians Honored at White House

On Wednesday, June 12, the White House honored twelve “Champions of Change” who have dedicated themselves to supporting children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers.  These individuals have worked on the front line to ensure that innocent children, nearly 2 million of whom have a parent who is incarcerated, do not suffer as a consequence of adult decisions.  The Champions have helped scores of children and their families by minimizing the potential negative impacts of having a parent who is incarcerated, including financial instability, changes in housing, and isolation due to stigma.

Among the recipients

Wilson Goode
Philadelphia, PA

In 2000, Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, Sr., who is known affectionately as the “father” of the Children of Prisoners Movement in the country, organized Amachi, an effective mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents. He began implementing the program in just four sections of Philadelphia, and soon thereafter it was replicated nationwide with the creation of at least 350 Amachi-modeled programs that have served more than 300,000 youth in all 50 states. Prior to Dr. Goode’s work with Amachi, he served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia, two terms as Mayor of Philadelphia and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.  Dr. Goode regularly offers his expertise through consulting and speaking engagements, for which he has received numerous awards, certificates, and honors.

Claire Walker
Pittsburgh, PA

Claire Walker began her career by obtaining her PhD at Columbia University.  She then spent the next 45 years organizing communities to advocate for urgent reforms to protect children and families in today’s world.  She led a neighborhood movement to protect people from needlessly languishing in jail after arrest in Reading Pennsylvania, created a successful agency to prevent and treat child abuse in Pittsburgh, and for the past decade has brought together all parts of the Pittsburgh community to address the needs of children whose parents are incarcerated.  She retired as Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation in December 2012 and continues to champion incarcerated parents’ rights to parent and their children’s rights to be parented through her recent appointment to the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board and participation in the work of the Children’s Roundtable of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. 

Ann Adalist-Estrin
Wyncote, PA

Ann Adalist-Estrin is Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated in Philadelphia. Under Ann’s leadership, NRCCFI has provided consultation to government and non-government agencies and community programs in 47 states including Connecticut’s state wide Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative; Sesame Street; Austin Independent School District, Prison Fellowship Ministries and The Red Heart Association of Taiwan.  She is author of The Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children in the Child Welfare System Curriculum (New Jersey Department of Children and Families, 2011)  Mentoring Children of Prisoners Curriculum (CWLA, 2004) Responding to Children and Families of Prisoners:  A Community Guide (FCN, 2003), and The Children of Incarcerated Parents Library available online at www.fcnetwork.  Ann is also a Child and Family Therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center in Jenkintown, PA; a trainer for the Healthy Steps for Young Children Program at Boston University School of Medicine; and adjunct faculty at Rutgers University, Camden New Jersey.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Literature Notes

A few literature and media notes:

BBC broadcast a wonderful 3 part show called "In the Flesh" which is now available in the US.  It is exceptionally well-written and acted.  The premise is that four years ago people who had died the previous year rose as zombies and wreaked havoc on society.  They are now referred to has having "partially dead syndrome" and are medicated and returned to their home communities.  As you might expect, not everyone is excited about this.  Personally, having read that the popularity of zombies in the media is related to a poor economy, I wonder if shows like this and the movie "Warm Bodies" is a sign of of economic recovery.

Mystery fans -- Sue Grafton's next book in the Kinsey Milhone alphabet series, W is for Wasted, is due out in September.

Sci fi fans -- John Scalzi's latest book, the Human Division, is now available.  It takes place in the Old Man's War universe.

Joe Hoeffel on Logan Square in Norristown

One of my favorite politicians, Joe Hoeffel, has a letter in today's Inquirer, on the Lanning Square development in Norristown.  Please take the time to read it.

Montco Opens Parking Garage for U S Open

from the inbox:

The Montgomery County Commissioners announced today that the Cherry Street parking garage in Norristown, usually closed on weekends, will be open on Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16,  to accommodate golf fans planning to take the Norristown High Speed line to the U.S. Open in Ardmore.    The garage, located at Main and Cherry Streets in Norristown, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  The daily parking fee will be $6.  There are entrances to the garage from both Main and Cherry Streets.   The garage is two blocks from the Norristown Transportation Center.  Those parking in the garage should walk a block east on Main Street and a block south on Swede Street and they will reach the Transportation Center and the High Speed Line.

Montco to Participate in Block Grant Program

from the inbox:

The Montgomery County Commissioners last week voted to have the county participate in Pennsylvania’s Human Services Block Grant Program should the program be expanded to allow more counties to participate.

The pilot program established in the 2012 fiscal year by the Corbett Administration provided funding from the Department of Public Welfare to the counties in the form of block grants, instead of providing it in specific categories.  The program, which initially had a limit of 20 counties participating, was designed to give counties more flexibility on how to allocate human services funding.
After observing the program for a year, Montgomery County officials decided that the program does, in fact, provide greater flexibility to allocate funds, something that is important to the county because of the new Community Connections outreach program it is about to launch.  While the block grant program is now capped at 20 county participants, pending legislation in Harrisburg, supported by Gov. Corbett, would open the program up to all counties.

EPFP Fellowships Available

from the inbox:

Applications are available now for the 2013-2014 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).
 With more than 350 graduates in its first fourteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants. 
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization. 
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 12-13, 2013 and continues to graduation in June 2014. 
Applications are being accepted now.  
 Click here, on the EPLC web site, to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program, including the 2013-2014 schedule.  
Since space is limited to approximately 30 positions, it is advisable to submit an application as soon as possible.  The application may be copied from the EPLC web site, but must be submitted by mail or scanned and e-mailed, with the necessary signatures of applicant and sponsor.

Rubber Ducky to Visit Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh will be getting it's very own giant 40 foot rubber duck.  You can read more at "40-foot rubber duck coming to Pittsburgh," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/03/13.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

HIV Testing This Weekend

from the inbox:

SafeGuards, Family Planning Council’s (FPC) premiere LGBT health program, is partnering with University of Pennsylvania’s HIV Prevention Research Division (HPRD) as the first community-based organization in Philadelphia to offer the FDA-approved INSTI™ Rapid HIV Test.  This test, manufactured by bioLytical Laboratories, provides accurate results in 60 seconds.
 FPC’s SafeGuards program will be unveiling the INSTI™ Rapid HIV Test on the UPenn Mobile Unit at Philadelphia’s Gay Pride Festival at Penn’s Landing this Sunday, June 9th. The event attracts over 12,000 people annually.  “At large events like Pride, people often tell us they don’t have time to get tested for HIV,” said Brian M. Green, Director of SafeGuards. “As providers, saying ‘it only takes a minute’ helps people to stop and think “I can do this now.”’    
The FDA approved INSTI™ Rapid HIV Test in July 2012 for use in community-based settings.  Through the partnership between FPC’s SafeGuards program and UPenn, these local organizations can now bring this novel HIV testing option to one of Philadelphia’s highest-risk communities -- young men who have sex with men. This community has seen an increase in new HIV infections in the last few years.
 "This is an important development in Philadelphia’s HIV prevention efforts,” said Dr. David Metzger, Director of UPenn’s HPRD who wholeheartedly shares Green’s enthusiasm.  “We are thrilled to partner with FPC’s SafeGuards program to be the first in the city to use this technology.”  
In addition to the SafeGuards program, Family Planning Council offers HIV services to a number of at-risk populations throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Quincy Greene, HIV Services Manager at Family Planning Council who works primarily with young, African-American gay men, sees this test as an important way to make HIV prevention relevant to the younger generation.  
“These younger guys are used to instant answers, instant messaging, and instant connections with other guys,” said Greene.  “Having a 60-second HIV test speaks their language.”

SEPTA Schedule for US Open

from the inbox:

To accommodate the thousands of spectators traveling to and from the 2013 U.S. Open Championship at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA, SEPTA is expanding service with special schedules on its Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line and Norristown High Speed Line. The special schedules will be in effect for the entire duration of the championship tournament which will take place June 10th through June 16, 2013.

Spectators traveling to the Championship can take the Authority’s Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line to Rosemont Station. Passengers using other Regional Rail Lines can transfer to the Paoli/Thorndale Line at 30th Street, Suburban Station or Market East Station in Center City. Free shuttle bus service to and from Rosemont Station and Merion Golf Club will be provided. Spectators should plan for a 10 minute trip on the shuttle buses, depending on traffic.
Passengers requiring an accessible station should take the Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line to Radnor Station and make the train conductor aware so that he may advise the U.S. Golf Association (USGA). The USGA will provide shuttle buses to transport these passengers to Merion Golf Club from Radnor Station.
The service plan for the Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line is as follows:Monday – Friday:5:00 a.m. – 8:15 p.m. (Service every 25-30 minutes)8:22 p.m. – 11:52 p.m. (hourly train service towards 30th Street Station)Saturday and Sunday:6:00 a.m. – 7:45 p.m. (Service every 30 minutes)7:48 p.m. – 10:48 p.m. (hourly train service towards 30th Street Station)
Spectators Traveling to the Championship can also take the Norristown High Speed Line to the Ardmore Avenue Station. The station is within walking distance to the golf course. Directional signage will take spectators from the station to Gate 3 which is adjacent to the 12th hole. Passengers can connect to the Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, PA or the Norristown Transportation Center in Norristown, PA.
The service plan for the Norristown High Speed Line is as follows:Monday-Friday:5:00 a.m. – 6:45 p.m. (Service every 10 minutes)6:45 p.m. – 12 midnight (Service every 15-20 minutes)Saturday and Sunday:5:00 a.m. – 8:40 p.m. (Service every 10 minutes)8:40 p.m. – 12 midnight (Service every 20-30 minutes)
Parking lots at Ardmore Avenue Station will be closed during the U.S. Open and limited at Rosemont Station. As an alternate, Paoli/Thorndale Line customers may park at Villanova or Radnor Stations before taking the train to Rosemont.
Norristown High Speed Line Customers traveling to Ardmore Avenue Station, should park at Haverford, Ardmore Junction or Bryn Mawr Stations.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Payday Loans May Return to PA

A note from our friends at the Keystone Research Center:

In a closely divided 8 to 6 vote today, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved Senate Bill 975 legalizing payday loans with annual percentage rates of upwards of 300%. The bill moves to the Senate floor, despite the opposition of veterans, seniors, faith groups, and a majority of Pennsylvanians.

The Keystone Research Center issued the following statement on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Predatory Payday Loans in Pennsylvania:

"Senate Bill 975 rolls back the state's longstanding protections against predatory payday loans. Pennsylvania has been recognized by both the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Defense for having among the strongest laws in the nation to keep out predatory payday lenders. A 2010 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case held that loans made in violation of existing law are illegal, even when made online.

"Senate Bill 975 would undo those protections, harming working families across the state. With this bill comes a higher likelihood of bankruptcies in Pennsylvania, and payday lenders gaining direct access to borrowers' bank accounts. These are just some of the reasons that the bill faces opposition from a majority of Pennsylvanians."

The Coalition thanks those Senators who stood with Pennsylvanians to oppose this bill: Senators Michael Stack, Lisa Boscola, Larry Farnese, Anthony Williams, Patricia Vance, and John Rafferty. Democratic Chairman Stack made a passionate plea for the committee to do what veterans and others have asked: to reject this bill and keep our existing, strong consumer protections in place.

We are disappointed in those Senator who stood with payday lenders by voting yes on this bill: Senators Pat Browne, Don White, Mike Brubaker, Kim Ward, Jake Corman, John Eichelberger, Joseph Scarnati, and Jim Brewster. 

 Payday loans are bad news.