Friday, February 28, 2014

Pennsylvanians Among Spring White House Interns

From the inbox:

The White House Internship Program announced today the participants for the Spring 2014 session. The mission of the program is to make the White House accessible to future leaders around the nation and to prepare those devoted to public service for future leadership opportunities.

A White House Internship provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Communications, the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Office of Presidential Personnel, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the White House Counsel, and the Office of White House Fellows.
Additional information about the White House Internship Program is available here:

White House Interns with Pennsylvania connections:

DeFranceschi, Gabrielle Hometown: Garnet Valley, PA; University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Ekhator, Chukwufumnanya Hometown: Philadelphia, PA; Dartmouth College, NH
Limbachia, Vinay Hometown: Edison, NJ; University of Pennsylvania Law School, PA
Lynch, Kaelyn Hometown: West Chester, PA; American University, DC
Semerdzhian, Marika Hometown: Los Angeles, CA; The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, PA and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, MA

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Flower Show Note for SEPTA Riders

The Philadelphia Flower Show brings a lot of business to the region and is a bright, sunny event.  Regular SEPTA riders, or at least this one, notice the increased traffic on the trains during the show.  SEPTA has released a memo on sharing the trains with visitors.  I know it can be a little disconcerting but let's welcome all these nice people who want to spend their money here.

- The Philadelphia Flower Show (March 1-9) is always a popular event bringing throngs of horticultural fans to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and our Regional Rail service. This year we’re expecting even more people will want to get an early glimpse of spring, so riders need to be prepared for bigger crowds on Regional Rail trains. In anticipation of the increased ridership during the week of the Philadelphia Flower Show, SEPTA is asking its regular commuters to help welcome the new and infrequent riders. 
 “Company’s coming and we want to remind our customers that there will be many new faces on regional rail trains,” Kim Heinle, SEPTA’s Assistant General Manager of Customer Service and Advocacy said. “We recognize that many visitors are infrequent riders who may only take the train once a year or are taking it for the first time.”  
The extra traffic will bring inconveniences for our regular customers as people not familiar with our riding rules and regulations board the trains.  
Regular SEPTA commuters can welcome the new and infrequent riders by: 
 -Using overhead racks for large carry-on items 
-Accommodating other customers that wish to use the middle seats 
-Yielding priority seats to riders with disabilities and seniors 
-Being courteous and patient with unfamiliar riders  
We know that many of our regular riders love our QuietRide car. Our crews will be focused on safety, fare collection and announcements, but we’ll do our best to keep things from getting too noisy.  We’re asking our regular riders to anticipate some conversation and commotion during this heavy travel period.  
SEPTA Ambassadors will be on-hand at Market East Station to assist new riders, but a little common courtesy and a heavy dose of understanding will help when regular riders see the brigade of potted plant stand bearers heading for their train.  
The 2014 “ARTiculture – Where art meets horticulture” will attract thousands of visitors. Held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the annual Philadelphia Flower Show is the oldest and largest event of its kind. SEPTA’s Independence and Family Independence passes offer a convenient, economical way to travel into Center City for the show. Visitors can also purchase discounted admission tickets to the Flower Show at SEPTA sales offices, Regional Rail ticket offices and online at

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cickay in State Senate 10th District

Steve Cickay is challenging State Senator Chuck McIlhenny for the Pennsylvania State Senate seat in the 10th district (Bucks County).  Cickay is currently the Communications Chair of the Bucks County Democrats.  He has been active in community organizations, including his synagogue, for many years.  A more recent interest is rescue dogs.  Locally he may be best known for his op-eds and letters to the editor of the Bucks County papers. 

You can read more at "Newtown Democrat to Challenge McIlhenny," by James McGinnis, Bucks County Courier Times, 2/26/14.

No campaign website but reportedly one is underway.

Here is the introductory press release:

At the Bucks County Democratic Committee’s Endorsement Meeting on Saturday, February 22, 2014, in Southampton, Steve Cickay, Democrat and resident of Newtown since 1985, declared his candidacy for the Pennsylvania District 10 Senate seat, now occupied by Senator Chuck McIlhinney. Steve spent a lifetime dedicated to public service as a federal employee in the Departments of Army, Navy, Labor, and Treasury and ended his career as a member of the Senior Executive Service in the field of information technology, managing over 600 employees and providing service to over 35,000 customers.
“I am appalled at the direction Governor Corbett and his Republican legislators have taken Pennsylvania over the past few years, “ said candidate Cickay. “Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling, investments in our children’s education have been drastically cut, and our precious environment is being destroyed by greedy energy corporations who fail to pay their fair share of taxes. “ Candidate Cickay also expressed dismay over the failure to support Medicaid expansion, which has hurt Pennsylvania’s working poor and turned away millions of federal dollars from Pennsylvania that could have stimulated our economy.  “Failure to raise the minimum wage, failure to support marriage equality, and failure to support women’s freedom and pay equality make Pennsylvania seem like a state that is heading backward instead of forward into the 21st century,” said Mr. Cickay.

 Mr. Cickay feels that a Democratic governor will definitely be elected in the fall and that, therefore, it is critical that a Democratic Senator be elected in District 10. Otherwise, he feels we will simply see a period of obstruction and inaction from the legislature during a critical time where action is necessary on a variety of critical fronts. Mr. Cickay is looking forward to meeting with voters all across District 10 over the next few months to assess their dissatisfaction with the current Republican leadership and hear directly from the voters their ideas for moving Pennsylvania forward.

Steve Cickay has been married to his wife Susan for over 33 years and raised two children through the Council Rock School system. He is currently retired and very active in local Newtown and BCDC politics, as well as various volunteer activities.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Director of Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission

from the inbox:

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Tuesday announced the appointment of Scott Brown as Director of the Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission.
A U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brown has spent more than a decade in service to veterans. As a volunteer at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Brown has expedited claims processing and worked with Doctors Without Borders. He is a Service Officer at Southwest Philadelphia American Legion Post 959 and serves as a board member of the nonprofit Bringing Up Down Syndrome (BUDS). Brown will be formally welcomed to his new role during Council’s Stated Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Councilman At-Large David Oh, the only veteran on City Council, will present a resolution declaring 2014 the Year of the Veteran. Representatives from organizations including the VA Medical Center and the Veterans Multi-Service Center will join City Council to announce an initiative to end veteran homelessness in Philadelphia by the end of 2014.

Sean Sullivan in the 175th

Sean Sullivan is running a primary campaign in the 175th state house district against an incumbent.  The 175th is in Philadelphia and contains the Queen City, Old City, Chinatown, and Kensington neighborhoods.   The district is currently represented by Michael O'Brien.

Sullivan's website, has a number of issue statements and policy papers.

Jed Grobstein Leaves Race

Well, that was quick.  From the inbox:

Jed Grobstein stepped back in the interests of party unity today to throw his support behind long-time Tredyffrin Township resident and Phoenixville developer Marian Moskowitz in the race for the Pennsylvania State House, 157th district. In a statement posted on his campaign facebook page and website, Jed said,
 “I regret to announce that I am withdrawing my name from contention for the State House in the PA 157th. Over the last several weeks it has become clear that the Democratic Party has rallied around the campaign of Marian Moskowitz. With her endorsement at the County Convention she deserves all of our support. I believe that Marian’s achievements as an entrepreneur and as a prime architect in Phoenixville’s redevelopment make her exactly the sort of leader we need in Harrisburg.” 
Further, he urged his supporters to focus on November, saying, “I look forward to supporting [Marian] as we all focus on defeating Warren Kampf, Tom Corbett and their ‘governance by crisis’ in November.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kelly Green New Montco Voter Services Director

Montgomery County has a new Voter Services director.  The full announcement is on the county website, but here is an excerpt:

Kelly L. Green has 20-years’ experience working in and leading non-profit organizations, and has been extremely active in community service organizations and projects. She has contributed her time to many civic endeavors, including the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia, which she led from 2006 to 2011, and served as a board member of that organization for a dozen years. She has also been a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association Judicial Selection and Review Committee for the past 11 years. 
I've met Ms. Green a few times in passing.  She's very impressive.

Democratic Candidate for 7th Congressional District

At the Delaware County Democratic Convention, Mary Ellen Balchunis was endorsed for the 7th congressional district, to challenge Rep. Pat Meehan.  I haven't been able to find any other mentions of her candidacy.  Balchunis is a political science professor at LaSalle University.

Nutter on National Obamacare Call

Tomorrow, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will host a press conference call on the importance of enrolling the African American communities in Memphis, Philadelphia, and Sacramento in affordable health care (Obamacare).  Joining her will be Mayors A C Wharton (Memphis), Michael Nutter (Philadelphia) and Kevin Johnson (Sacramento).

Corbett Commercial: It's A Man's World

As I was watching tv this evening a commercial for Gov. Tom Corbett came on.  It shows Corbett talking with groups of people, with shorter interspersed clips of him talking to individuals or two or three people at a time.  The larger groups look like they take place in a variety of settings, one looks like a living room, another looks like a business of some sort (perhaps a bar or a barbershop).  One of the individuals is in a hardware store.

What I noticed is that in the clips with individuals all the individuals are men, when two people are present, both are men.  In a setting of three one is a woman but, to me, it is implied that she is married to one of the men (they walk closely together in a married sort of way).  In the group settings there is at least one woman in each group, but she (or they) are very outnumbered.

Corbett talks about how he has cut government payroll, cut welfare waste and fraud, and not raised taxes.  To me it was a commercial clearly aimed at men, and mostly white men at that.  Gov. Corbett does not seem to be appealing to female voters much at all.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shapiro New Convention Center Vice Chair

from the inbox:

The Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority (PCCA) today elected Josh Shapiro to serve as the board’s new Vice Chairman. Shapiro replaces John J. McNichol, who is assuming the role of President and CEO of the authority. 
 Shapiro serves as Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and previously served as State Representative for the 153rd Legislative District in the state House for seven years. As a State Representative, Josh wrote and passed the farthest-reaching ethics laws in a generation to create greater transparency in Pennsylvania government. He established strict new financial controls over state spending and has earned a national reputation as a bipartisan consensus builder. 
“I believe in the great promise of the center and the central role it plays in the city and our suburban counties,” said Shapiro.  “I look forward to continuing my work of advancing important reforms to help the Center thrive.” 
Josh graduated magna cum laude from the University of Rochester, earned a law degree from Georgetown University, and is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.  Josh Shapiro was raised in and lives in Montgomery County. He and his wife Lori reside in Abington Township and have four young children.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Krueger-Braneky Announces State House Race

from the inbox:

Swarthmore businesswoman Leanne Krueger-Braneky on Tuesday formally announced her candidacy for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 161st Legislative District. Krueger-Braneky, Director of Fellowship and Alumni for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), is a nationally renowned economic development professional who specializes in socially responsible business practices. In announcing her first bid for public office, Krueger-Braneky cited the need for greater investment in public education, job creation and support for small and locally-owned businesses.
 "The residents of the 161st District are being hurt by the policies of Governor Corbett and the Republicans in Harrisburg,” the 37-year-old Krueger-Braneky said. “Our current elected officials are failing us. We need new leadership to ensure a fair, sustainable public education funding formula and real support for local business in order to create jobs and make our economy work for the people of Delaware County and the rest of the Commonwealth.” 
Leanne has received national attention for her work in economic development, advising the White House Business Council on the needs of local businesses.  For eight years, Leanne served as the first Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN), creating a 500-plus member business organization working to build a just, green, and thriving economy in the Southeast Pennsylvania five-county region. Leanne’s efforts to reshape economic development practices were recognized when SBN was named Regional Economic Development Program of the Year by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in 2011.
 “As a parent, I want the same thing for my son that everyone wants – good schools and a safe and healthy environment.  Governor Corbett and the House Republicans have cut millions from public education while handing out tax breaks to large, out-of-state corporations. Delaware County has the highest asthma hospitalization rate among the four counties outside of Philadelphia while the State has gutted environmental protection over the last three years.  I will make sure Harrisburg fights for our children’s future instead of helping make millionaires richer.”
 Leanne holds an MBA from Eastern University and a Bachelor’s from Rutgers University.  She is also a BALLE Local Economy Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program and a 2009 Pennsylvania Fellow of the Center for Progressive Leadership.  Among the honors and recognitions she has received are: 40 Under 40 by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Next Generation of Leadership Rising Stars; and the Green Power Award from Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.  Leanne lives in Swarthmore, PA, with her two-year-old son Wendell and husband David Braneky and is a proud member of the Swarthmore Co-Op.
 The 161st Legislative District includes Aston, Brookhaven, Nether Providence, parts of Ridley, Rose Valley, Rutledge, part of Springfield and Swarthmore.

Happy Birthday, SEPTA!

SEPTA turned 50 today!  They've posted a brief history of the transit authority.  You can read more at:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Affordable Care Cats

If you missed Valentines Day there is still time to find a great card.  Organizing for Action has prepared Valentines cards with an Affordable Care Act theme.  Very cute.  My favorite is the kitten photo, but there are puppy, badger, and panda options as well.

See them at:

Run, Ladies, Run!!!

It's that time of year again.  Candidates will be collecting petition signatures.  Petitions are due on March 11.  Candidates for the state house must be at least 21 years old, reside in Pennsylvania for at least four years, and reside within the district for at least one year.  Candidates for the state senate must be at least 25 years old, reside in Pennsylvania for at least four years, and reside within the district for at least one year.

Pennsylvania has a deservedly bad reputation for electing women, and studies show that women don't run for office unless asked and asked more than once.

So, ladies, consider this the first ask.  Please consider running.

This call is not just to Democrats, but to Republican woman, too.  The more women in office, regardless of party, the better.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wadud Ahmad Supports Katie McGinty

Kate McGinty's campaign sent out a list of people on her finance committees (Philly, Pittsburgh, and national).  McGinty is one of the Democratic candidates for governor.  The first name on her Philadelphia committee is Wadud Ahmad.  While I have long admired Ahmad & Zaffarese's law firm ads on the regional rail trains (now Ahmad, Zaffarese, and Smyler), I had no idea he had political interests.

Ahmad has updated and expanded the bio on the law firm's site.  Turns out he has an artistic side, with credits as a musician and poet.  He also served on Seth William's transition team and was recently named to the Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Investment Board.  Who knew!!????  I thought he was just a lawyer with intriguing posters on the train.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Matter Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project

from the inbox:

As you are waiting for the El or the Broad Street line, you may see yourself staring at a new, bold advertisement that reads “Your Sexual Health Matters.”  These new advertisements are part of a unique marketing campaign geared towards teens ages 14 to 19.  The campaign, launched by Family Planning Council’s I MATTER Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project, focuses on sending positive messages to teens about their sexual health.  The messages encourage teens to make appointments for sexual and reproductive health services including free or low-cost birth control and pregnancy, STD and HIV testing. 
 “If we are going to curb teen pregnancy in our city, we can’t be afraid to talk openly about sex,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, Executive Director ofFamily Planning Council. “Our teens need to know there are resources out here to help them take control of this important aspect of their health.” 
The campaign, created for teens with messages from their peers, encourages teens to visit an I MATTER Health Center for free or low-cost, confidential sexual and reproductive health services.  I MATTER Health Centers offer free or low-cost birth control, free condoms, and pregnancy, STD and HIV testing for teens.  Advertisements direct teens to visit the website or to call 800-848-3367 to reach CHOICE, a confidential, reproductive health care hotline that refers callers to a family planning provider that best meets their needs. 
 “I feel as though this campaign could be an influential and powerful change for teenagers all over since teens need more motivation from other teens instead of hearing the adult’s point of view,” said Kennay DeShields, a teen who lives in West Philadelphia. “We are doing something positive by letting teens know there are people in this world who actually do care about their health and well-being,” 
I MATTER Health Centers partner with the Family Planning Council’s I MATTER project, which works to reduce teen birth rates in West and Southwest Philadelphia. I MATTER is funded through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH), and is one of nine projects nationwide participating in President Obama’s national Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. 
The #YourSexualHealthMatters campaign will run during February and March with radio advertisements on 107.9 FM and advertisements on SEPTA platforms and in subway cars on the Market Street EL and Broad Street line.  Social media outreach and traditional street outreach in targeted neighborhoods and schools will supplement the SEPTA and radio advertising.  I MATTER Health Centers are actively working to improve teen services and receive ongoing specialized training and assistance to help ensure their health centers are teen-friendly.  I MATTER community partners are promoting the campaign in their day to day activities by distributing posters, postcards, and flyers throughout West and Southwest Philadelphia.    
Messages on social media also will encourage teens to learn more about long-acting reversible birth control methods so that they are fully informed and can choose what is best for them.  Long-acting reversible birth control methods including intrauterine devices (IUDs) are highly effective, and do not require teens to remember to take action each day like with birth control pills.  They are more effective than other methods including withdrawal and birth control pills which have a higher failure rate due to improper or inconsistent use.  
 Both the CDC and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognize long-active reversible birth control as safe and effective birth control options for teens.  The campaign emphasizes the importance of condom use and STD and HIV testing since long-acting reversible birth control methods protect against pregnancy, but do not protect against STDs and HIV. 
“Getting teens comfortable coming in for services or answers to their questions is at least half the battle,” said Weiler Gerber.  “Once teens are there, we make sure that high-quality health care providers are trained to work with teens in a sensitive and confidential manner to discuss their sexual health.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Notes from Jan. 26th Forum for Democratic Candidates in 13th District (Arkoosh, Boyle, Leach)

I'm late with this post -- snow, broken bones (not mine), and assorted other issues have delayed my work on it.  These are my notes from the 13th congressional district Democratic candidates’ debate, held on  January 26th, 1:30 to 3:30 at the Upper Dublin Township Building.

These are my notes from that event.  It is not intended as a full transcript.  I do my best to catch the gist of an answer but there were a few spots where I just couldn't catch what was being said.  Should readers have any questions they are encouraged to contact the campaigns for clarification.  As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.  

The debate is online so interested readers can view it for themselves.

Participants:  Dr.Valerie Arkoosh, State Rep Brendan Boyle, State Senator Daylin Leach

Moderator:  Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News

Sponsors:  MontgomeryCounty DFA and Area 6 Democrats

MC:  Beverly Hahn of Montgomery County DFA

The room was packed; I would estimate over 200 people, perhaps close to 300 were in attendance

Hahn led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.  She said it was heartening to see the room so full.  
  She acknowledges the organizations sponsoring the event and thanks Upper Dublin Township for use of the facilities.  The event is being livestreamed by WeActRadio (1480 AM), and the video will be posted on YouTube

Candidate and former congresswoman Marjorie Margolies was asked several times (three requests to her campaign and two requests directly to her) to participate, but she declined.  (see her statement on the event at

The order in which the candidates are seated, and give opening and closing statements was decided by drawing lots.  The moderator will ask the questions and enforce restrictions; a timekeeper will let candidates know how much time they have and blow a whistle if they go noticeably over time.  Candidates will have three minutes for an opening statement, two minutes to answer questions, and two minutes for closing statements. 

The candidates came into the room at 1:42 and were seated (Arkoosh, Leach, Boyle).  Hahn introduces Will Bunch and notes that he was scheduled to work at the Philadelphia Daily News today but they released him to moderate the debate.

WB:  flattered to be here.

Opening Statements

VA:  Thanks sponsors, moderator, and the other two candidates.  I am running because I believe our democracy should work for all; it isn’t doing so now.  Most of my working life is around moms and babies.  I hear stories of people losing their homes and falling through the cracks.  My father had a small business and put his kids through college.  Communities do better when we all do better.  I studied economics and then went to medical school.  I moved here in 1987, became chair of my department and had to make hard budget decisions.  I went back to school for a Masters in Public Health, and worked on health care reform.  We are sending too many career politicians to Washington.  I solve problems.

BB:  Thanks all.  Events like this are an important opportunity to interact with candidates.  I am a first generation American.  My father came to America when he was 19, worked at an ACME warehouse and then as a janitor at SEPTA, where he still works.  My mom is a crossing guard.   They worked hard so my brother and I could have a better life.   I went to Notre Dame and then Harvard, then my brother and I both won seats in the state house.  I am an advocate for higher minimum wage, campaign finance reform, and endorsed by most labor unions in the state.  My wife is a teacher in Montgomery County.  I opposed Gov. Corbett’s education policy.  I am running because the American dream is at stake.  Income equality, millionaires and billionaires are paying lower taxes than cops and firefighters.

DL:  Thanks all.  I was born in Northeast Philadelphia.  My mom and dad were married but my dad left soon after I was born.  My grandmother got sick and moved in with us.  My mom had to quit her job to take care of my grandmother.  I still remember when my mom said she couldn’t afford to take care of me.  I went into the foster care system.  People invested in me with great public schools and libraries, and Pell grants.  I now pay more in taxes than I received in student aid.  I want to take the toughest issues.  I’ve been in state government for 12 years, and have fought for marriage equality and other issues.  I’m running for Congress to make sure the opportunities given to me are given to others.

Q:  Ending income inequality; how do we make that into policy?

DL:  This is one of my main issues.  I don’t have any problem with people making money.  A few have so much and many have so little.  It used to be that a CEO made 50x the average worker, now it’s 500x.  The 1%’s income has tripled but for those at the bottom income has not gone up at all in the last 30 years.  I support paid family leave, increasing social security benefits, student loans, a “pay it forward / pay it back” system for student loan repayment, reinstating the cash assistance program that Gov. Corbett cut, and restoring Adult BASIC, also cut by Gov. Corbett.

BB:  It is an economic fact that the 1% in American are doing better than ever, but the middle class lost income.  It is the only time in American history that at the end of 10 years the middle class income went down.  The first thing I would do is raise the minimum wage, which would raise wages for all.  Secondly, legislation to attack discrimination against the long term unemployed.  Look at the under and unemployed.  The bill says you can’t discriminate against the long term unemployed.  Right now you see job ads that say anyone unemployed for a certain length of time should not apply.  Thirdly, CNN says the majority of those in congress are millionaires, for the first time in American history. 

VA:  I see consequences every day.  Moms who can’t buy healthy food, pay the rent, pay for transportation.  The 13th congressional district has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in PA.  Let’s raise the minimum wage; Obama plans to make it $10.10, the living wage for a single adult.  The living wage for an adult and a child is $19K / year.  Tax rates for the wealthy are the lowest in history.  It will be a hard fight.  We need to help people at home.  It will take all of us together. 

Q:  Long-term unemployment

BB:  Tea Party Republicans have done a disservice to the US by putting a singular focus on the deficit, not unemployment.  The deficit is 50% lower today than when Barack Obama took office, near the historic norm.  We should focus on getting people back to work.  Increase the minimum wage.  Focus on infrastructure.  This is the United States.  We should have high speed rail, etc.   I have stood up to the Tea Party that demonizes government.

VA:  I saw opportunity pass by when they passed the most recent budget and didn’t pass unemployment insurance.   We need to go back to the country my dad grew up in.  He was in World War II and took advantage of the GI Bill.  We need to restore investments in our country in the long run.  Infrastructure, roads, SEPTA.  I see patients who can’t get to the doctor because Paratransit doesn’t service a wide enough area.  Expand Medicare already.

DL:  Develop a better microphone moving structure [blogger’s note:  he is referring to the fact that all three candidates had to share one microphone that they had to pass around; since Leach was sitting in the middle he always had to hand the microphone around].  Corbett and Medicare – Corbett was confronted by a man who brother had died because he couldn’t get a transplant because he didn’t have insurance.  Corbett said no.  The GOP thinks the poor and unemployed are at fault.  The old economy is not coming back.  We need a new economy.  Green technology.  The New York Times reported that even Coca Cola is getting involved – they can’t find the water they need to make their product around the world.  Infrastructure.  Do big things again.

Q:  health care.  Obamacare – some glitches.  What can Congress do?  Are you in favor of single payer?

VA:  “Glitches” is being generous.   The rollout of the ACA was fraught with disaster.  It is slowly getting on track.   I’ve been watching this play out since I started going to Washington, DC in 2008.  We need to get governors to expand Medicaid or go to the public option.  Need to make it less expensive.  Look at Medicare prescription drug program.  We need to negotiate prices, which Bush made illegal.  I would support [bill #], which is single payer.

DL:  I’ve been thinking about health care a lot because I have kidney stones.  All big programs have rough rollouts.  Medicare Part D had a trouble rollout.  I support single payer.  Twenty cents out of every dollar goes to executive salaries.  Single payer will happen.  The right wants to chuck Obamacare because they know single payer is coming.

BB:  Most industrialized countries spend 8 – 9% of their GDP on health care; we spend 19% and will have 50 million uninsured.   We spend more for less benefits and lower results.  The GOP says let’s have a 45th vote to defund it.  I support the president but am disappointed that his program did not include public option.  People are happy with Medicare.  It is part of an evolution.  Now the 
government is forbidden to negotiate for drug prices.  We could save billions of dollars.

Q: national security, NSA and domestic surveillance.  Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?

DL:  Benjamin Franklin said if we give up liberty for security we deserve neither.  Civil liberties is important to me.  No evidence that the collection of data has helped with national security.  Snowden – the facts he revealed are important but I’m troubled that every 28 year old with a security clearance to decides on his own whether or not to reveal classified information.  Martin Luther King said don’t follow unjust laws but stay and face the consequences of what you’ve done.

BB:  Yes, it is the Letter from Birmingham, not Notes from Russia.  Why in a FISA court procedure is there no public advocate.  Having a public advocate would help keep FISA court honest.  From the start of the use there has been tension between security and liberty.  Post 9/11 it has gone too far.  Snowden – we don’t’ know yet what he has revealed because he left.

VA:  As a doctor I know privacy and trust is important .  We have the right to believe our government will treat our information the same.  The nature of threats are evolving so rapidly.  Total failure of congress  to insist on appropriate transparency.  Barack Obama took the first steps.  I want public advocate on every single case.  Rules on what we should be doing not what we can be doing.  Snowden – had to break the law to show what we are doing.  There should be a pathway for people to do that.

Q:  Iran and nukes, support sanctions?  Divest in Israel because of occupied territories?

BB:  The movement to delegitimize Israel is anti-Semitic.  Can’t compare Apartheid and Israel.  I was in Israel in March.  I want the peace process to succeed but divestiture and boycotts are not good.  How can you boycott Israel and not the other Middle Eastern countries because of their treatment of women?  Sanctions [missed this]

VA:  Iran must be prevented from making bomb.    Israel must be secure.  Negotiate with Iran because the sanctions are working.   We must give the negotiators a chance to do the right thing by lessening the sanctions.  We can reinstate them if negotiations don’t work.   Nothing Iran says will dismantle bomb-making equipment.  No divestment from Israel.

DL:  As a young Jewish boy with the last name Leach I heard some things.  Jewish people need a place for sanctuary.  I’ve been to Israel, once with Brendan Boyle, though not just the two of us, that would be creepy.  Boycott – no.  Israel is the only Middle Eastern county that supports women.  Negotiate in good faith.  I don’t believe war is the only option.  I’m willing to go the extra mile to prevent American boys and girls from going to war.  We can always reinstate sanctions.

Q:  energy & fracking?  Moratorium?  Go slow until we get it right?  Keystone pipeline?

VA:  I am opposed to the Keystone pipeline.  I was born and raised in Nebraska, and know how important the Oglala Aquifer is.   I view the struggle with energy and environment as our generation’s moon shot.  Surely we can figure out how to end dependence on carbon based energy.  Fracking – congress ignores data and facts.  Let’s get rid of the Halliburton Loophole.  Fracking release methane, which is a bad as carbon dioxide.

DL:  I read Silent Spring as a boy and became an environmentalist.  I introduced a bill for a moratorium.  It must be environmentally sound.  We are building wells and cutting inspectors.  We are not allowed to know what chemicals are used.  Doctors can know but are not allowed to tell patients or insurance companies.  Corbett has said I’m his least favorite senator.   I oppose the Keystone Pipeline.  It doesn’t create jobs, only profits for industry.

BB:  We must include climate change.  I’m in the Green Caucus, and joined 12 academics for an event.  Pennsylvania produces 1% of the nation’s pollution.  The ten hottest years on record all happened in this century.   The environment is a health and economic issue.  The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators meets a few times a year.  It is a false dichotomy to say we have to choose between the environment and economic growth.

Q:  War on drugs

DL:  In introduced a bill to legalize marijuana, but not for kids.    We are spending $300M a year on criminal justice [missed this word].  $500M spent on marijuana.  Every dollar of legal money on pot is one dollar less for gangs or a cartel.  Corbett wants to increase by 10 times the number of places to buy alcohol but no marijuana for sick kids.

BB:  Drugs are a problem in Northeast Philadelphia where I grew up.  Urban neighborhoods are destroyed.  States are laboratories of democracy.  Let’s see what happens in Colorado, etc.  Medical marijuana – I co-sponsored the bill.

VA:  The war on drugs became a war on our neighborhoods.  No effects.  Lifelong difficulties for non-violent offenses.  Mandatory minimums must go.  Need to solve poverty.  Don’t let selling drugs be the most viable career path.  Make treatment programs available.  Support medical marijuana.  Will let us collect data to decide about recreating marijuana.  As a doctor I’m hesitant about inhaling any burning substance in the lungs.

Audience Question:  Common Core Standards.  Public Schools.  Vouchers.

BB:  My wife is a public school teacher.  We just had our first baby three weeks ago.  I’m proud of my record on public education.  I voted against Corbett’s budgets.  For 80% - 90% of school districts things are going well.  In school where I grew up the graduation rate is 30%.  We can’t deny those  parents additional opportunities. 

VA:  Education is a fundamental right, and it fuels innovation and growth.  Have dropped the ball entirely.  I went to public schools.  Teachers let me believe I could become a doctor.  I favor universal pre-k.  Teaching children to be lifelong learners not test takers.  My kids – not about memorizing tests but learning context.  They go to a private school, following their father’s tradition.  No public school money for private school.

DL:  I led the fight against the voucher bill.  Only kids eligible were in failing schools.   Took money from public schools to private schools.  Kids left have less resources.  Vouchers are not enough to go to most private schools, only Catholic schools, money goes to the diocese.  Can’t teach with 50 kids in a class, or no computers.  Use funding formula.

BB:  Let’s be clear.  I have stood up and voted for every single public school bill.  The problems in the Philadelphia schools are budget related.  There was a single mom crying in my office because her neighborhood school is dangerous.  The Main Line can’t tell urban parents their kids can’t have the same opportunities.

VA:  Against vouchers.

DL:  I live on the Main Life.  My kids should not be part of this debate.  Where they go to school is my and my wife’s concern.

Audience Q:  If you accomplish one thing what would it be?

VA:  Make sure everyone in the US has access to quality health care and to get health care costs under control.  Study – if people don’t have good health care access the chances of graduating from high school, so does life expectancy.  30% of the money spent on health care is unnecessary, unnecessary testing,  duplicate tests.

DL:  Gerrymandering, destroying our country [long answer that I was not able to accurately record].  Political incentive to govern by crisis.  If the concern is a primary challenge then no incentive to reach across the aisle.  Our elections becoming like Soviet elections.

BB:  Hope to get to vote for a Democratic Speaker.   Raising the standard of living for all Americans.   In Pennsylvania we have the Delaware Loophole, 70% of Pennsylvania companies pay no taxes.  Get back to where we all grow together.

Audience Q:  Social security, Medicare.  Marjorie Margolies was asked about cuts and said everything is on the table.

DL:  Social Security is FDR’s most valuable program.  Before Social Security 50% of seniors lived in poverty.  Have to make promise believable.  The chained cpi is a way to cut benefits.   We need ecpi (elderly cpi) to keep Social Security vibrant.  Remove the cap on the amount of income taxed for Social Security.  Need to increase benefits.  If we lift or remove the cap we could make lump sum payments to retirees, especially as pensions are going away.

BB:  Disagree with Mrs. Margolies on this.  Before Social Security poverty among seniors was 46%, not 6%.  This is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs.  The Republicans fought against Social Security.  GOP says to save Social Security we will reduce benefits and raise the retirement age.  Years ago there were only two advocates for raising the age to 70, Marjorie Margolies and Rick Santorum.  Lifting the cap moves the problem to year 2100. 

VA:  Social Security is a promise to seniors.  With Medicare it allows seniors to live with dignity.  In the 13th district the average annual Social Security benefit is $14K.  Don’t use chained cpi but chained cpie, it includes money spent on health care.  When my dad grew up there were defined pensions.   Recently people have to forgo that.  Raise the cap to fund Social Security well into the future. 

Closing Statements

DL:  When I heard that Allyson Schwartz wasn’t running again I thought “is this right for me?  Am I the right person?”  The candidate must be a progressive, have a substantial record, evidence of creativity, boldness, spark and take on problems.  I am that person.

BB:  Thanks to everyone, including 2 of the 3 opponents for being here.  Be sure the candidate truly represents the district.  Fight to restore the American dream.  Work hard, play by the rules, and you will have opportunities and your children will have more. 

VA:  Thanks.  Whoever wins the primary must be sure a progressive Democrat represents the district.  Change comes from outside.  For a physician the patient comes first.  Constituents will be like my patients; they will come first.  Elect me and I will have Daylin’s and Brendan’s backs.  

The Doctor is In: Trivedi in the 6th

from the inbox:

Launching a new campaign for the now open 6th congressional seat in Pennsylvania, Manan Trivedi spoke of his commitment and career to public service. As an a Iraq War veteran, primary care physician and father, Trivedi presented an agenda designed to create economic opportunity in Pennsylvania.
 This election is an opportunity for the people of the 6th District to say no to political gridlock, and yes to ideas that strengthen and grow the middle-class. As a father, doctor in the community and Iraq War veteran, I'm tired of politicians who help themselves instead of the people they're paid to represent. As Congressman, I'll only answer to Pennsylvanians, not political insiders -- and work with local businesses to create jobs; provide strong support for public education so we prepare students to compete in a global economy; make sure we keep our commitment to our veterans and protect Medicare and Social Security for senior citizens.”

Trivedi has run for this office twice before against then incumbent Jim Gerlach.  This year, however, Gerlach is not running; it is an open seat.  Trivedi's usual campaign site is but it does not appear to be up and running yet.

I've written a number of posts on Trivedi over the years, including some event posts.  You can find a list of the posts by clicking on Trivedi's name on the right hand sidebar post label, or follow this link:

Monday, February 10, 2014

An AOL Million Dollar Baby

For those wondering just who those ultra expensive babies were that force AOL to curtail 401K benefits for all employees, Slate runs a story by one of the moms:

Read "My Baby and AOL's Bottom Line," by Deanna Fei (2/09/14)

And note that CEO Tim Armstrong was paid $12 million in 2012.

Jared Solomon Update

A note from Jared Solomon's state house campaign:

Late last week we filed our first campaign finance report for Jared’s campaign for State Representative in the 202nd District.  Nobody loves the idea of having to raise money for campaigns, but it is an essential part of any campaign. Well, today, I am pleased to tell you—because of you—we far exceeded the expectations, with over 450 individual donors to our campaign!  Not only that, but we have now built a 30-1 fundraising edge over our opponent, who has been holding his place office for over 40 years.

Payroll Deduction

The state legislature is considering a bill, HB 1507, that would prevent unions from deducting membership dues from paychecks.  This is concerning for a number of reasons.  One is that I'm a union member and I see this as a move to weaken the employee protections that unions guarantee, by weakening union membership.

Another is that this measure would affect other forms of payroll deduction.  My union has negotiated a benefit that allows me to have transit fees deducted from my paycheck.  Every year there is a charitable campaign encouraging employees to contribute to charities via payroll deduction.  Child support payments can be deducted from paychecks; in some cases this is done by court order.

I contribute to my retirement accounts via payroll deduction.

If one form of payroll deduction is eliminated by law, how can the others remain?  Is it because unions are involved in lobbying?  SEPTA employs lobbyists and I have the cost of my monthly trail pass deducted from my check.  The charities I contribute to, or most of them, employ lobbyists.  Some also have political arms that endorse candidates.

This is bad legislation.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Brian Sims Endorses Jared Solomon

from the inbox:

On Thursday, February 6th 2014, State Representative Brian Sims endorsed Jared Solomon for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s 202nd District.
"The issues of our time are too important to let broken politics paralyze our state government,” said Rep. Sims. “Representing the people of Pennsylvania in the legislature is an incredibly serious job which requires effective leaders like Jared Solomon who have a record of bringing people together.”
Sims, elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012 as the Commonwealth’s first openly LGBT legislator in its history, noted the importance of electing strong leaders who will help Philadelphia regain its political prestige.“Philadelphia has lost its voice in the capitol, and if we are going to get it back, we must elect energetic leaders like Jared Solomon to the State House,” said Sims. “I need a colleague like Jared Solomon in Harrisburg, who my colleagues and I can rely on to work hard to move our Commonwealth forward.”
Solomon, who has built an aggressive campaign on the theme of taking action, spoke about the importance of Representative Sims’ support. “It’s an honor to have the support of one of the trailblazers in the next generation of leadership in Philadelphia and Harrisburg,” said Solomon. “Representative Sims has demonstrated that the status quo can be overcome by hard work and integrity—two things I vow to bring to this campaign.  From Castor Avenue to the Capitol Building, I intend to work with Brian to get Pennsylvania on track.”
Representative Sims’ endorsement of Jared Solomon follows the endorsement of Admiral Joe Sestak, the highest ranking military official ever elected to Congress. Since announcing his candidacy before a packed house on December 8th, Solomon has held a series of “community dinners,” engaging hundreds of 202nd District voters.  Solomon also announced his campaign raised over $65,000 in its first finance report—an unprecedented amount for Democratic challengers in the 202nd District.
“This is not just a standard endorsement,” said Sam Shoap, campaign manager for Friends of Jared Solomon. “This is the building of a movement of the next generation of courageous leaders.”

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Jed Grobstein Runs for 157th

from the inbox:

Jed Grobstein today announced his bid for the Democratic nomination to the State House in the Pennsylvania 157th, saying “Warren Kampf has taken our residents for granted for far too long. Pennsylvania needs smart, proactive leadership in Harrisburg, and not just a gaggle of Corbett yes-men. As a teacher in the South Bronx, I learned how to listen, how to be a problem-solver, and how to bring people together, and I think we need more of that in Harrisburg.”  
Grobstein’s campaign, Jed for PA House, filed its 2013 annual report showing that it had raised more than $40,000 in just eight weeks. The campaign also reported having more than $51,000 on hand.
Grobstein noted that Warren Kampf “has worked with Gov. Corbett to cut $1 billion from education, and to make it more difficult for mothers to receive the health care they need. He unconditionally refused to support a bipartisan transportation bill and attempted to deny funding to critical transportation infrastructure, bridges, highways and our own Paoli Transportation Center.”
Grobstein served as a math teacher and a Democratic organizer, and he is proud to be running for office less than a mile from his childhood home. While teaching math in the South Bronx, Grobstein worked as the chairman of his department and founded the advocacy organization ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ to encourage parents, students and teachers to participate in their school’s governance. 
A graduate of Conestoga High School in Berwyn and Pomona College in Los Angeles, Grobstein received his Masters in Education from City College in New York. Teaching in the South Bronx, Grobstein served as chair of his Math Department and worked to develop new curriculum for the classroom while integrating assessment and instruction. 
When New York City began closing high schools in 2009, Grobstein organized and founded ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ (KOSA) to encourage stakeholders, parents, students and teachers, to participate in the city’s decision-making process. KOSA argued that the school closings were arbitrary and that the city had failed to engage essential stakeholders. The State Supreme Court agreed, and in 2010 it reversed the city’s decision, saying that the Department of Education had failed to gather sufficient community input.
Grobstein returned to Pennsylvania at the end of 2010 to pursue a career in the United States Marine Corps. When a shoulder injury prevented him from enlisting, Jed accepted a staff position with Organizing for America on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Following that election Jed served as campaign manager for Delaware County’s Democratic slate and produced historic gains in a county long known for its Republican dominance. 
Please visit for more information.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Mark Smith's Campaign Team

Mark Smith, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, has announced his campaign team.  From the inbox:

Andrew Eldredge-Martin, Smith's general consultant, is the Senior Media Director at Precision Network, where he leads digital media strategy for many of Precision’s political and advocacy clients.  Over the past decade, Andrew has worked at the forefront of Democratic electoral politics, managing and consulting for more than 100 campaigns, including one of the most surprising upsets of the 2006 cycle when he guided Chris Carney to victory in Pennsylvania’s rural 10th District.

Julian Mulvey, from the firm Devine Mulvey Longabaugh, has joined the campaign team as Smith’s media consultant.  DML message has been involved in some of the toughest political battles in American politics-- From Edward Kennedy’s tough 1994 senate victory over Mitt Romney, to Bernie Sanders’ landslide victory against his millionaire business opponent, to Chris Carney’s 2006 storybook win in PA-10.
Dave Beattie, President of Hamilton Campaigns, is Smith’s pollster.  Beattie has been named “Pollster of the Year” by the AAPC, and was named a “Mover and Shaker” by Campaigns and Elections magazine.  Mr. Beattie has served as an advisor to candidates or their independent supporters in several states throughout the US.  His firm has provided strategic research to US Senators, members of Congress, Governors, down ballot statewide office holders as well as private companies and interest groups since 1964.
Morton Brilliant, the campaign's direct mail consultant, is Vice President at the Strategy Group, which is one of the nation’s leading targeted communications firms.  They’ve worked for governors, state executives, senators and members of congress across the county, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.  In Pennsylvania, they have worked to elect mayors, state senators, city and state officials, and members of congress for over a decade.

Since beginning his campaign for Lieutenant Governor last February, Mark Smith has established himself as the leading progressive in the race for Lieutenant Governor.  Smith has raised a quarter of a million dollars and received the endorsement of thirteen labor unions, including three building trades councils in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and the Lehigh Valley.

Biden Transit Alert

As if the snow were not enough, our daily commute will be disrupted again this Thursday.  Vice President Joe Biden will visit 30th St. Station to talk about the important of infrastructure investment.  We love you, Joe, we really do, but I just know that's going to slow down the trains.  Your support of Amtrak, infrastructure, and transit generally are well-known.  It's great that are such a friend of Philadelphia and we are always glad to have you visit.  I begin to wonder, though, if the trains will ever get back on schedule.

Boockvar to The Birth Center

Kathy Boockvar, who was the Democratic candidate for the 8th congressional district in 2012, and subsequently became the general counsel for the state auditor general's office, has a new job.  She announced today that she will become the new executive director of The Birth Center, described on the organization's website as " a nonprofit that provides a midwifery model of women’s health care that is safe, satisfying, and personalized."  You can read more in "Boockvar gets new gig," by Gary Weckselblatt in today's Intelligencer.