Sunday, June 29, 2014

PCN to Broadcast Events at 151st Anniversary at Gettysburg

from the inbox:

The Pennsylvania Cable Network will provide exclusive televised and online coverage of the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, beginning Tuesday, July 1, 2014 through Thursday, July 3, 2014.    

The PCN production crew will be on site to record 19 new “Gettysburg Battlewalks,” and “Key Moments,” programs that teach viewers about key historic moments on the battlefield through guided tours by Gettysburg National Military Park rangers and expert historians.      
PCN began exclusive coverage of the commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1996 and has aired over 200 Gettysburg Battlewalks and Key Moments through the years.    
All Gettysburg programming will be available on the network, online, and on the PCN Select mobile application.  For more information about this year’s exclusive coverage, please visit  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Leslie Richards to Head DVRPC

from the inbox:

Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie S. Richards has been elected to a one-year term as chair of the board of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC).  Richards, who had been vice chair of DVRPC and is also vice chair of the county commissioners, is the just the third woman and the second Montgomery Count representative to serve as chair of the regional planning organization.
                Before becoming a county commissioner, Richards worked in the planning and engineering fields for the two decades. She worked as a senior project manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm, and is experienced with managing a wide range of infrastructure projects such as bridge rehabilitation, road repairs, street scape improvements, trail and park development, environmental assessments, and feasibility studies.

                In addition to her duties as county commissioner and with DVRPC, Richards is chair of the Montgomery County Board of Elections and a member of the SEPTA board of directors.

                The DVRPC board is an 18-member body having the authority and responsibility to make decisions affecting the entire organization as well as the nine-county region.  In its capacity as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the region, the board establishes regional transportation policies, determines allocation of available transportation funds and prioritizes transportation projects for the region. In addition to transportation planning for highways, transit, airports and freight, the agency develops plans and policies for other regional physical planning elements such as land use, air quality, housing, water supply and water quality.
                DVRPC is dedicated to uniting the region's elected officials, planning professionals and the public with the common vision of making a great region even greater. Shaping the way we live, work and play, DVRPC builds consensus on improving transportation, promoting smart growth, protecting the environment, and enhancing the economy. DVRPC serves a diverse region of nine counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer in New Jersey. 

Summer 2014 White House Interns With PA Connections

adapted from a press release:

The White House Internship Program announced today the participants for the Summer 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 Political Strategy and Outreach, 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.

Interns from PA or attending PA colleges:

Hailsham Jr., Larry Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA; Allegheny College, PA
Kier, Jaclyn Hometown: New York, NY; The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, PA
Knell, Savannah Hometown: Brooklyn, NY; Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, PA
Merves, Hannah Hometown: Philadelphia, PA; Harvard Business School, MA
Mittal, Urja Hometown: Potomac, MD; University of Pennsylvania, PA
Rauterkus, Erik Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA; Swarthmore College, PA
Saltzman, Elena Hometown: Philadelphia, PA; Brown University, RI

Fed Money for PA Job Training

Adapted from a press release:

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced grants totaling $154,757,547 awarded to 32 states, Puerto Rico and the Cherokee tribal nation through the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program. The funding will be used to train workers who lost a job through no fault of their own for jobs in high-demand industries.

The funding announced today will help create or expand employer partnerships that provide opportunities for on-the-job training, Registered Apprenticeships or other occupational training that result in an industry-recognized credential. Funding will also be used to provide services, such as career coaching and counseling, as well as assisting with job placement that help connect laid-off workers, including the long-term unemployed, with available jobs.
In addition to expanding work-based learning strategies – which recent studies show increase employment and earnings outcomes – grantees are also expected to develop strong partnerships between workforce and industry organizations and align services with other federal, state or local programs and agencies, such as Unemployment InsuranceTrade Adjustment AssistanceTemporary Assistance for Needy Families and economic development agencies.

The department awarded additional funding of up to $175,000 to all of the grantees. This additional funding will enable these applicants to undertake activities in one or more of the following areas to better serve dislocated workers under this grant program, and  federal job training programs in general:
  • Increasing consumer access to training outcomes and information
  • Developing more effective electronic employment tools
  • Expanding employer engagement, and
  • Enhancing customer and employer satisfaction
The grantees have committed to documenting their experiences under the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program and identify and share promising practices and lessons learned with the workforce system.   

Funding for the grants was made available through the Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Worker National Reservefund.

Pennsylvania will receive $6,175,000 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Free HIV Testing

adapted from a press release:

AccessMatters, formerly Family Planning Council is teaming with Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, and Greater Than AIDS, a leading national public information response to the U.S. domestic epidemic, to offer free HIV testing at select Walgreens stores in Philadelphia, PA. The testing events are taking place June 26-28 in support of National HIV Testing Day.

AccessMatters, along with state and local health departments and AIDS service organizations across the country, is coordinating testing and providing results on-site at participating Walgreens locations, as well as supporting community outreach.

AccessMatters will be providing free HIV testing at Walgreens, located at 1809 E. Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia, on June 26thand June 27th from 3:00pm to 7:00pm and on June 28th from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

This marks the fourth consecutive year Walgreens has teamed with Greater Than AIDS and local organizations to help offer free HIV testing to communities. This year’s effort doubles the number of participating markets from last year.

According to the Philadelphia AIDS Activities Coordinating Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 19,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia.  Philadelphians are being infected with HIV at a rate five times the national average with over 700 new cases diagnosed each year.

For other locations see:

Personal note:  I was tested for HIV years ago as part of a preconception checkup.  Men and women who are thinking of having biological children should have an HIV test done.

Life, Death, and the Bastardization of HB1796

In 1997 one of my cousins was murdered by her estranged husband.  He threw gasoline on her and set her on fire.  Someone sent me the tape of a television news report that showed a patrol car dash camera clip of my cousin running from the house and collapsing on the grass outside, holding her arms and legs off the ground as much as possible.  Anything touching the burns, even grass, would have been excruciating.  She lingered in the burn unit for a month; the doctors amputated one leg and one or both breasts but to no avail.  She died, age 34, leaving two teenaged children.  It was a particularly gruesome way to die.  Her husband was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. 

In college I worked with a woman whose daughter was murdered.  She was shot to death by her estranged husband in front of their preschool-aged children.

These are just two of the many many stories of spousal or domestic partner murder.   It is important to make sure that legislation is not only proactive in helping people in dangerous situations, but also that legislation does not harm them. 

Case in point, laws that allow landlords to penalize tenants if there are repeated police visits to the residence.   This is to deter crime in neighborhoods but it also deters endangered spouses and partners from calling for help. 

And so, in October, State Rep. Todd Stephens introduced HB1796, which prevents municipalities or other government bodies from penalizing people who are victims of assault for calling the police.  The bill was amended in the House, passed by all voting members of the Local Government Committee, and by all voting members of the full State House.   Then it went to the state senate, to the Senate State Government Committee. 

There it was amended again :
HB 1796, PN 2870 (Stephens)-Amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in preemptions, providing for protection for victims of abuse or crime.  Senator Eichelberger offered amendment # A05863, which adds language prohibiting local government from imposing leave provisions and other labor related policies to private businesses.  The amendment passed on a strict party line vote of 6 to 4.  The bill was reported as amended by the same 6 to 4 vote. 

Yes, Sen. John Eichelberger, added a significant section on a completely different topic.  This new section would prohibit municipalities and local governments from requiring businesses to provide sick leave.  It might do other things as well, but that is one impact of the new amendment.  Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the amendment; Democrats were opposed.  The amendment passed on March 11th; it was laid on the table on March 17th.  And there it sits.

When I found out about this I thought about my cousin and the daughter of the woman I had worked with.  While this law would not have helped them there are other people out there now who might not call the police for fear of losing their house.    And these Senators decided to play politics with a bill that would have helped them:

This sort of thing is why people don’t like politics or politicians.

Monday, June 23, 2014

WaPo Mentions Patrick Murphy for VA Post

Josh Hicks and Colby Itkowitz wrote an article for the Washington Post on May 30,"Who will replace Shinseki in the long run," outlining the list of potential candidates to replace Eric Shinseki for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  The list has six names, including Patrick Murphy, former congressman for Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district (mostly Bucks County, some Philly, and then a sliver of Montco).  Murphy is currently in private law practice and has a monthly show on MSNBC focusing on veterans affairs.  Murphy was the first Iraq War veteran elected to congress and took the lead in ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military.

Itkowitz is a native of Lancaster, PA and used to write for the Morning Call.

Lynn Yeakel Suppors Mary Ellen Balchunis

from the inbox, a note of support for Mary Ellen Balchunis, Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district, from Lynn Yeakel:

As many of you know, I have been working for decades to get more women into elective office, including having run three times myself at the federal and state levels. We need more women in government to represent the views and voices of our half of the population, and Pennsylvania is among the bottom 10% of states in the nation in electing women.

I applaud Mary Ellen Balchunis for challenging the incumbent in PA's 7th Congressional District and am personally supporting her candidacy. Mary Ellen is a Professor at La Salle and has worked hard as a volunteer for other Democratic candidates, including me. She also is a champion of women's health concerns and has been active in efforts to end sexual assaults on college campuses and to increase public awareness of human trafficking. These are issues I care deeply about.
Running against an incumbent is a daunting task, as I well know. So Mary Ellen needs help, especially with funding for her campaign. A filing deadline is coming up on June 30 and I hope you will join me in making a contribution before that date.

Thanks for your consideration.
Lynn Yeakel

Sunday, June 22, 2014

2014 Comic Con Report

This is my annual Philadelphia Comic Con report.  The name is somewhat misleading.  It is about more than comics – all manner of science fiction and fantasy is represented, from old school Star Trek, to current series (books, television, graphic novels) like Game of Thrones. 

I can’t remember if I’ve been going three years or four; let say it’s four.  It feels like four.  This year for the first time I bought tickets in advance.  It is actually more expensive to do so, but only by a couple of dollars per ticket and it does save time.  This year, also for the first time, I bought a photo op.  Actually that wasn’t for me but it was on my credit card, so, close enough. 

The photo ops are very expensive, and the price for a photo with more than one actor in a show is more than doubled.  Additional prints or a digital download were available for $15.00 each.   Someone was selling plastic protective sleeves for $5.00.   At this point I started humming “Master of the House” from Les Miz.    And yet, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so we ponied up for a dual photo op.    Some birthday and Christmas money was involved there. 

Even with advance tickets getting in to the event is time consuming.  One problem is that we arrived just as it was opening.  For future reference, it would be better to arrive after the initial rush.  As with previous years I was impressed with the overall tenor of the convention.  People are just well-behaved.  They wait in line quietly and are able to patiently follow the lanes marked on the floor in colored tape.    It still felt like a cattle chute. 

There are events and programs in smaller rooms.  One I noticed this year was a panel discussion of the regional game development industry.  The abstract in the program booklet said there were 35 such companies in the Philadelphia area.   There was a session on women in comics but it looked like all the panelists were men (or had male sounding names). 

The vendor area took up one of the large exhibit halls.  The acoustics are terrible so phone calls are nearly impossible.   I enjoyed wandering around looking at t-shirts, shoulder perching dragon puppets, kimonos, posters, lanyards, jewelry, comics, miscellaneous tchotchkes, and household goods.  A number of those attending dress in costume and are willing to pose for photographs.  There are other photo opportunities around the exhibit hall, either lifesize cardboard pictures of characters, or backdrops, or vehicles that were features in films or television.  For example, there were backdrops of the transporter room of the Starship Enterprise that people could photographic themselves in front of or people could sit in the DeLorean from the Back to the Future films.  There was a zombie shooting range, and an artist’s area.  A new item that caught my eye is a series of t-shirts with words spelled out in periodic table abbreviations, similar to the Breaking Bad logo.  One shirt said Brainy Chick, another said Wiseass.  Very cool. 

People at the convention are very well-behaved, no line jumping, no shoving,   The area to pick up pictures was especially chaotic.  The pictures are set out for the taking.  No one takes anyone else’s picture.  There are definitely crowds but no pushing or shoving. 

I tweeted half a dozen photos I took of costumed women.  Press reports and convention publicity tends to focus on women who wear skimpy costumes.  I saw a number of women in costumes that did not display a lot of skin or were not skin tight.  There was a female Dr. Who, Indiana Jones, Thor, and Capt. America.   They looked great, and ready and able to take on all foes.    Some women created costumes that weren’t based on characters, others came as characters from a variety of media formats.   Interestingly there were more men in form fitting costumes this year than in past years.  Spandex, generally speaking, is equally (un)flattering to men and women. 

This is a good convention.  I think it was more crowded this year than past years.  A few vendors I asked said they thought attendance was up but they weren’t certain.  I enjoyed it but may not revisit the paid photo ops.  They are expensive and the pick up area needs some rethinking.  I’ll probably be back next year.    

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bucks Candidates Oppose Fracking in Parks

Tomorrow, June 21st, several Bucks County Democratic candidates (Steve Cickayk Kevin Strouse, Karen Chellew and a representative from Jack Hanson's campaign will hold a press conference in Nockamixon State Park to talk about keeping fracking and oil rigs out of state parks.

Dead is the Doorman

Every new blogger follows a few existing blogs just to watch someone else practice their craft, even is the subject matter is completely different.  One of the non-political blogs I used to read frequently was The Doorman,(Clublife) also called Standing On A Box.  It was written by a bouncer at a NYC club.  The blogger was often angry and wrote about the foibles of the club clientele.  But I watched how he interacted with readers in the comments, how often he wrote, the way he structured posts, and other general blogging qualities.

The Doorman wrote about getting a book deal based on his blog, and then working in the editorial field.  Gradually I read less and less often, until I stopped altogether.  Today, for whatever reason, I checked in on him.  He died last month, age -- early 40's, no cause of death listed.

RIP The Dooman / Rob Fitzgerald / Robert Ihlendfeldt

Thursday, June 19, 2014

David Oh and Vocational Training

Two notes from Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh's Facebook page:

On behalf of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Councilman Bobby Henon, I'd like to thank the employers who attended this morning's meeting on establishing a VET (vocational education & training) Program in Philadelphia. VET offers a high school degree and a certificate in a vocation based on hands on experience & training with an employer. The student is paid while employed and must pass a vocational test to receive a certificate. It is a very competitive program and offers students up-to-date training with the latest technology and skills with an employer who will most likely hire the student when the program is completed. Based on this morning's feedback, we will move forward with trying to establish a pilot program.


Participants included: Councilman Oh; Councilman Henon; Ben Brock, Councilwoman Blackwell; Michael Cooper, Office of Manufacturing & Technology; Chris Beck, University of Penn Health System, Dr. Robert Beck, Fox Chase Cancer Center; William Carter, Gilbane Building Company; John Clayton, Independence Blue Cross; Alexander Fazzini, L.F. Driscoll Company; Jackie Green, B&G Manufacturing Company, Inc.; Jon Hood, CHOP; Jerry Moser & Amy Hennessey, Subcontractors Association of Delaware Valley; Steve Herzog, Philadelphia Energy Solutions; David Holmes, AgustaWestland; Keith Howard, Philadelphia Airport Marriott; Dawn McEleney, AT&T; Ron Manos, TMK Produce; Nick Piergallini, Lockheed Martin; Dorothea Renner, Day&Zimmermann; John Russell, Allied Barton Security; Bill Ryan, Einstein Healthcare Network; Bill Simmons, Honeywell; Erika Spott, UGI Corporation; and Greg Stafford, The Inn at Penn, Hilton. 

New Wasting Our Waterways Report

Our friends at PennEnvironment would like to call our attention to a new report:  Wasting Our Waterways:  Toxic Industrial Pollution and Restoring the Promise of the Clean Water Act.  It is a 71 page pdf, listing the top polluters per state (note some names on the list with political overtones).  There are also tables showing the most polluted watersheds, and a list of chemicals frequently found in the water.  It's a little over my head from a technical standpoint, but good to know it's out there.

Interesting Thoughts on Gun Ownership: Self-Defense or Problem?

There is an interesting online discussion at Quora, including comments by a number of gun owners and firearm trainers.  The topic was whether owning a gun for self-defense was more of a problem than it was worth.  There are a lot of thoughtful comments, often based on where exactly the person in question lived, and an emphasis on the need for regular training and gun maintenance.  It's well worth a read (h/t John Scalzi)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PA Premiums for Affordable Care Act

from the inbox:

Enroll America Pennsylvania State Director Bill England issued the following statement in response to the Department of Health and Human Service’s announcement that the average Pennsylvanian pays just a $60 premium for a silver plan through the Affordable Care Act. 

“Today’s announcement proves what we’ve been telling the uninsured throughout the enrollment process – these plans are quality and affordable. In fact, 68% of Pennsylvanians who enrolled through the Affordable Care Act are now paying less than $100 per month for a plan that covers preventative care, emergency room visits, prescription drugs, and much more. This is the information that the Get Covered America campaign is working to spread, and we know that public education plays a key role in helping uninsured Pennsylvanians statewide take advantage of their new coverage opportunities.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PA GOP in Whip Race

In Political 4/16, "Pennsylvania GOP Could be Crucial in Whip Race" by Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan , we find this paragraph:

The Keystone State’s 13 lawmakers are meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m. to hear from Roskam, Scalise and Stutzman. The state’s lawmakers are discussing voting as a bloc, and want to hash out who they might support. It’s a tough state to read, as Republicans represent the moderate suburbs of Philadelphia and deep red pockets in the western and middle part of the state. If Pennsylvania sticks together and votes for one candidate, it could easily sway the race in that person’s direction.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Telling Transit Stories

This year SEPTA turns 50, and is celebrating both its history and future with a series of events.  On  Thursday, June 19th, SEPTA will commemorate its 50th Anniversary with a “Throwback Thursday” event featuring a sidewalk display of our oldest buses, vintage uniforms and other memorabilia. The public is invited to view the displays and share their own transit memories by bringing SEPTA-related
mementos such as photos, patches and other items.  The event will take place at SEPTA HQ, 1234 Market St., from 11 am to 3 pm

There will be a "Storytelling Station" where rider's can record a video of their SEPTA memories, which will be posted on the SEPTA website (  Donated memorabilia will be included in a public display at the SEPTA Transit Museum. The Transit Store will also feature the debut of new collectible 50th Anniversary items including a poster, mugs and other items now available for purchase.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

SEPTA Strike Halted (For Now?)

It looks like the SEPTA Regional Rail strike is over, at least for now.

A note from SEPTA:

SEPTA has received notification that a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) has been created. With the official establishment of the PEB, the BLET and IBEW union employees who walked off the job early this morning are required to return to work.
 As long as these workers show up for their regularly scheduled Sunday shifts, Regional Rail service will restored to full Sunday operations in the morning, starting with the first scheduled service trains runs on all of our 13 commuter rail lines. 

And this from the White House:

 Today, pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order creating a Presidential Emergency Board to help resolve an ongoing dispute between the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and some of its employees. 
The Presidential Emergency Board will provide a structure for the two sides to resolve their disagreements.  The Presidential Emergency Board will hear evidence and, within 30 days, will deliver a report to the President recommending how the dispute should be resolved. 

President Obama also announced that he intends to appoint the following members to Presidential Emergency Board No. 246:

·         Richard R. Kasher – Chair, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246
·         Ann S. Kenis, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246
·         Bonnie S. Weinstock, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246

President Obama said, “I appreciate that these dedicated individuals have agreed to devote their talent and years of experience working on labor-management disputes to help reach a swift and smooth resolution of this issue.”

Richard R. Kasher, Appointee for Chair, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246Richard R. Kasher has been a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators since 1983 and a full-time arbitrator since 1978.  He was the National Mediation Board’s first General Counsel from 1971 to 1975.  He is the sole neutral member of the Health and Welfare Fund, established by the Nation’s railroads and unions representing approximately 190,000 employees, and has served on many rosters of arbitrators, including the American Arbitration Association, the National Mediation Board, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the Pennsylvania public employee arbitration/mediation agencies.  Mr. Kasher has been appointed ten times by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush to serve as either Chair or a Member of a Presidential Emergency Board.  He received a B.A. from Queens College and an M.L.L in Labor Law from New York University School of Law. 
Ann S. Kenis, Appointee for Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246
Ann S. Kenis has been a professional arbitrator for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and American Arbitration Association since 1992 and a hearing officer for the Illinois State Board of Education since 1994.  She has arbitrated hundreds of disputes in a wide array of industries, including the railroads, manufacturing, automotive, education, transportation, postal service, public sector, service industries, trucking and transportation.  From 1984 to 1991, she was an associate attorney for Arbitrator Elliott H. Goldstein.  She began her career as an attorney representing clients in matters of employment and education at Kerr & Longwell from 1981 to 1984.  Ms. Kenis has been on the arbitration roster of the National Mediation Board for 20 years.  She is on permanent panels for the State of Illinois Department of Central Management Services and its various unions, the Chicago Transit Authority and ATU Locals 241 and 308, and Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers.  Ms. Kenis is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators and has served as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Association of Railroad Referees.  She received a B.S. from University of Illinois, an M.A. from Northwestern University, and a J.D. from Loyola University. 
Bonnie S. Weinstock Appointee for Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 246
Bonnie S. Weinstock has been a labor and employment arbitrator and mediator since 1981.  She is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators.  She is also on the arbitration panels of the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Mediation Board, and numerous state and local panels.  She has a nationwide practice and has served as an arbitrator in a variety of industries, including airlines, hotels and restaurants, health care, education, service, publishing, government, entertainment, and manufacturing.  Ms. Weinstock has served as a member of the Advisory Council for Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School and the President's Council of Cornell Women.  She was a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at Cornell University and helped to develop curriculum for arbitration training.  Ms. Weinstock is a former Member of the Port Authority Employment Relations Panel.  She received a B.S. from Cornell University and a J.D. and LL.M. from New York University School of Law.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Regional Rail Riders: Make an Alternate Plan

I am one of the 60,000 people who use SEPTA's Regional Rail on a daily basis.  As the ads say, it is better than driving.  I love SEPTA!  The possible Regional Rail strike, which could start this weekend, would have a major impact on the city, the suburbs, and life in the tri-state area generally.

So, like the other 59,999 regular train riders, I have to make an alternate transit plan.  SEPTA has set up a site that will let us do that.  Check out: -- it will let you know which buses, subways, etc. to take to get where you need to go, if it is possible to do.

The city lines (Broad Street, Market Frankford, Norristown High Speedline, trolleys, and buses) will still run.  SEPTA is making plans for more frequent runs and room for increased ridership on these lines.

Let's hope things get worked out and the trains still run, but just in case, plan ahead.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Daylin Leach Sets Up New PAC

An announcement from State Sen. Daylin Leach about his new PAC:

I last wrote you about starting up a Political Action Committee (PAC) that is dedicated to electing progressive candidates and furthering issues important to the progressive movement. 
 Today, we launched "Progressive America PAC."
 As we get things off the ground, Progressive America PAC will be building infrastructure, raising money, putting together a national grassroots network of volunteers, and tackling some of the most pressing issues that the progressive community cares about. 
 Our goal will be to provide early support, guidance, and money for the future progressive leaders that will fight for the issues that we all care deeply about. Then, to mobilize our grassroots network (that includes you!) to help them get elected.   
There are also progressive issues that are pregnant at the moment -- issues that, if we get together, we can change. There are two main issues that Progressive America PAC will turn its focus on in the short term (I'm not saying these are the only issues that we will be focusing on, just the ones that we are working on right now), and Pennsylvania is the perfect place to get started:
First, during my Congressional campaign, I spoke a lot about raising the minimum wage to $12/hour (with automatic cost of living increases) and eliminating the tipped minimum wage -- currently federal law sets the minimum wage for tipped workers at ONLY $2.13/hour -- so that everyone makes a livable wage. While the Congressional campaign, is over, this fight continues, and we MUST work to make sure that every American makes a livable wage.  
 Second, in Pennsylvania, gay and lesbian couples are allowed to get married (thanks to a court ruling), but they also face LEGAL discrimination. That's right, if an employer wants to fire someone for being gay in Pennsylvania, there is no legal recourse. We need to work together to change this -- a society cannot sit back and allow discrimination at any level.
Progressive America PAC will grow and develop, and I want to hear from you along the way. This is about our movement, this is about fighting for every American, and this is about all of us staying active and involved to bring about change. 
Finally, I was joined at the launch by two of our board members, State Rep. Brian Sims from Philadelphia who is Pennsylvania's first elected openly gay legislator, and State Rep. Mary Jo Daley from the Philly suburbs who is one of the true progressive leaders in the state. I'm looking forward to all of us working together. 
We can all bring about change.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Thank you letter from Brendan Boyle.

This is what a $30.00 dollar donation to Brendan Boyle gets you:

Thank you for your contribution to my campaign for Congress.  With your support, our campaign was able to decisively win our primary election with over forty percent of the vote, while also succeeding our nearest opponent by almost fifteen percent!  It was a win that was only made possible through the support of hundreds of volunteers and supporters over the last year, and your willingness to stand with me during this campaign has been a source of tremendous motivation.
As we look toward the November general election, we are continuing our work to make sure that we send a strong voice to Washington that will be an advocate for working families.  As a state Representative, it has always been my goal to be accessible to my constituents.  As a member of Congress, I will continue to work every day to ensure that families and communities across our region have a seat at the table.  This effort requires broad based support from every stakeholder in our community, and your contribution to our campaign is crucial in this effort.  
Thank you again for standing with me as I bring my fight for working families to Congress.  I am grateful for your continued friendship and support.
The capitalization on state Representative in the second paragraph seems a little odd to me, and I question the use of succeeding as a verb in the first paragraph.  He may be a policy wonk but I wouldn't vote him in a grammar nerd.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Phase Two of Women's Health Caucus Legislation

This is a mashup of two press releases on the same topic.

The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, commend the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, for today unveiling the second phase of a comprehensive Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, the Caucus took a proactive, positive approach to helping women by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality with the first phase of legislation, announced in December.
The bills in phase two of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health include:

·       Patient trust: H.B. 2303, to be introduced by Frankel; Senate version to be introduced by Sen. Mike Stack, D-Phila. This legislation would protect patients and providers from inappropriate, unscientific legislative intrusion into medical decision-making. It would protect the patient-provider relationship from statutory directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with the standard of care.
·       Requiring a "cliff effect" study: S.R. 62, sponsored by McIlhinney, would require the nonpartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the "cliff effect," where working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for various programs that allow them to work such as child care assistance, transportation, food stamps and free and reduced school lunches. The phenomenon often creates disincentives for poor families to achieve self-sufficiency.
·       Creating a task force on women veterans' health care: S.R. 262, sponsored by Sen. LeAnna Washington, D-Phila./Montgomery; House version to be introduced by Reps. Pamela DeLissio, D-Phila./Montgomery, and Kevin Schreiber, D-York. The task force would submit a report by Nov. 30 on health-care issues unique to women veterans, along with the quality of and access to care for women veterans.
·       Increasing Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits: H.B. 2305, sponsored by Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery. This legislation would increase the maximum TANF grant amount to 50 percent of the poverty guidelines published annually in the Federal Registry. Grants to families under the TANF program have not been increased in over 24 years, while inflation has dramatically eroded their buying power.
·       Exempt more earned income from TANF income limits: H.B. 2306, to be introduced by Rep. Michelle Brownlee, D-Phila.; Senate version to be introduced by Schwank. This legislation would raise the exemption from 50 percent to 75 percent to encourage people to work, acknowledging that low-income working families' expenses use up a large percentage of their take-home pay. At the current level, families in Pennsylvania often find themselves in roughly the same spot financially after they start working as they were before they started working, taking into account taxes, transportation, clothing and child care co-payments.
·       Ensuring fair pensions for widows of state and municipal employees: H.Bs. 2307 and 2308, to be introduced by Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks; Senate versions to be introduced by Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila./Montgomery. This legislation would require that a public employee obtain spousal consent for any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50 percent survivor benefit to the employee’s surviving spouse. The federal government and 27 states have a spousal consent requirement to protect spouses, usually women, from being blindsided after a spouse's death when they discover that they are not entitled to any of their deceased spouse's pension benefit. 
·       Protecting all employees from sexual harassment: H.B. 2300, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh; and S.B. 475, sponsored by Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. These similar bills would end the exemption from state sexual harassment law for those who employ three or fewer people.
 The first phase focused on protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring that women’s health centers are safe and accessible, strengthening the equal pay law and prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement.

Bills from phase one of the Women's Health Caucus agenda that have advanced include:
·       Equitable protections for domestic violence victims: H.B. 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery. This legislation would ban municipal ordinances that penalize crime victims for calling for help. This bill passed the House 197-0 in January but has been delayed by an unrelated issue in the Senate.
·       Stop intimate partner harassment (ban "revenge by invasion of privacy"). The Senate version, S.B. 1167, sponsored by Schwank, passed the Senate 49-0 in January and awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation would ban publishing any photo or video identifying another person, who is naked or engaging in a sexual act, without that person’s consent.

More information about the phase-one bills can be found at

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

SEPTA NIght Owl Service

from our friends at SEPTA:

SEPTA will launch a pilot program to offer 24-hour weekend service on the Broad Street and Market Frankford Lines with the start of summer transit schedules at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, June 15. This initiative is aimed at accommodating the demand for subway service among late night riders on
Fridays and Saturdays.

Trains will replace Nite Owl buses on weekends and holidays, including July Fourth and Labor Day. Buses will continue to operate Nite Owl service on weekdays. The service pilot will be in effect through the Labor Day Weekend for the “Made in America” festival. Other operational changes will include:
 SEPTA cashiers will staff major hubs and high ridership stations overnight on both lines. Where a
cashier is present, riders will pay at the entrance gate.
 At unstaffed locations, signage will direct passengers through turnstiles to the Owl boarding location,
where they will pay fares to the train operator at the head of the train before entering the train.
 Operators will accept exact cash fares, tokens, and passes. They will sell transfers, but will not give
out change.
 Trains will run every 20 minutes between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Arrival times at the City Hall/15th
Street Stations will be staggered by 10 minutes to accommodate transfers.
 Extra SEPTA police officers will be deployed to provide an enhanced level of security
 A passenger guide with additional information and tips for riding is available online at

SEPTA replaced overnight train service with buses in 1991 due to low ridership, and to allow a regular
window for safety and maintenance tasks to be performed. “Philadelphia has changed since that time,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. “Now with all of the restaurants, increased late-night activity, and people moving back into the city, we’re excited to be able to provide this service that city, business leaders, and customers have been asking us for.”

Nearly 10,000 riders currently use the Nite Owl bus service on weekends. SEPTA’s staff will evaluate
ridership, staffing costs, overall security, and other factors to determine whether 24-hour weekend subway service will continue beyond the pilot program.

Additional information about SEPTA, including maps & schedules, is available at

Update from CeaseFirePA

A note from our friends at CeaseFirePA:

Thanks to all your hard work yesterday, the "guns in parking lots" Amendment was ruled out of order and was not considered on the floor of the House.
But instead of getting to work on serious things, another Rep. has decided to attach the same amendment to a bill about certain electric vehicles scheduled to be voted on tomorrow. And we also know that the gun lobby is doing all it can to have its favorite bill -- the one that would allow gun owners to sue towns that enact ordinances like lost or stolen reporting (HB 2011) -- come to the floor.
We know Harrisburg heard from us yesterday, and we intend to keep sending the message that we want our Reps. to get their priorities straight.
They should be working on policies that will help make our communities safer, like expanding background checks.
As the games continue in Harrisburg, we’ll keep you posted about what’s happening and what we need to do to keep the lawmakers working for us.