Saturday, December 26, 2015

PA in the WSJ

Pennsylvania - related items I noticed in the last two weeks of the Wall Street Journal:


Two Pittsburgh residents are quoted in “Yes, Mom, there is a Santa,” by Clare Aksberry (12/23).  Nickie Manning talks about her holiday plans. An unidentified man discusses Santa.

Three Pennsylvania residents are mentioned in “A secret to great hair (and sales):  stop shampooing,” by Anna Marie Chaker 12/23.  Krista Huxta Bradley of Philadelphia and Lauren Scheiber of Pittsburgh discuss their hairstyle routines.   Christine Cummings is president of Turbie Twist of Butler, a company making turbans and shower caps. 

Susan McHale, a professor at Penn State is quoted in “Is he son-in-law material?” by Sue Shellenbarger (12/16)


The Budweiser Clydesdales appeared at a parade in Ambler earlier this year.  Approximately 20,000 people came out the see them.  See “You can lead horse fans to beer, but can you make them drink?” by Tripp Mickle (12/23).  Though she isn’t mentioned in the article, I feel sure that Mayor Jeanne Sorg was involved or at least there.

“Apartments rising in Philadelphia,” by Matt Hudgins (12/16)

Longwood Gardens and plant designer Jim Sutton gets a mention in “Spring flowers bloom months early,” by Bart Ziegler (12/26-27) 


“RV sales revive, but without frills,” by James R. Hagerty (12/23) includes information on Cooper’s RV Center, near Pittsburgh, and quotes general manager Paul Willis. 

Adam Fein of Philadelphia/s Pembroke Consulting is quoted on tracking drug distribution in “Valeant taking title to drugs already on shelves at Walgreens,” by Jonathan D. Rockoff (12/22)

“Steelworkers face tough talks,” by John W. Miller (12/21) focuses on union negotiations between Pittsburgh based United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel Corp, Allegheny Technologies Inc., and Arcelor Mittal. 

“Baby, it’s warm outside,” by Jim Carlton (12/17) quotes Mark Daubert of Jack Frost ski resort.


“Impasse on budget continues in Pennsylvania,” by Kris Maher (12/24)

“Sen. Mitch McConnell, in discussion the 2016 elections, says ‘What we decide to allocate floor time to in the Senate, to be quite candid with you, is going to be to some extent … dictated by concerns I have about places like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin and Illinois’.”  See “Republic leaders set low bar for 2016,” by Siobhan Hughes (12/21)

Rick Santorum gets a mention in “Long-shots emphasize security,” by Reid J. Epstein and Rebecca Ballhaus (12/16)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Another PA Budget Embarrassment

I haven't said much about the state budget situation, simply because there are very few things to say.  It is a national embarrassment, a disaster, and is causing real harm to the commonwealth's schools and social service agencies.  As I said on twitter, when / if this is solved, the first state senator or representative that brags about the budget gets hit with a spitwad.

Today's addition to the budgetary swill comes to us from PennLive ("With budget deadlocked House Repubs try to squeeze Tom Wolf," by John Micek, 12/20).  The article points out emails sent from one House Republican to another planning ways to ensure money for government is paid but money for schools is not necessarily paid.

Just infuriating!!!!

We are past the point where any solution is a win for anyone.

Note From Patrick Murphy

This message was sent out from the Center for American Progress, signed by Patrick Murphy, recently confirmed by the Senate as Undersecretary of the Army:

Late on Friday I was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve once again in the U.S. Army.

As a third-generation veteran, it has been clear to me, since the day I was born, that there is no greater honor than serving in our nation’s military. It is a humbling honor to continue public service as Under Secretary of the United States Army—the #2 civilian position and the Chief Management Officer. I thank President Obama, Secretary Carter and Acting Secretary Fanning for their trust and confidence and also the United States Senate for their confirmation. Making sure that we have the best Army possible to defend our nation, and that our brave warriors have every tactical and technical advantage over our enemies, is a mission that I accept with extreme dedication.

I also want to take a moment to thank my family for their support and many sacrifices—I wouldn't be who I am without them. And to my friends and colleagues, your unwavering support is a constant source of inspiration—I hope to continue making you proud of my efforts. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Go Army!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Patrick Murphy Confirmed as Undersecretary of the Army

Patrick Murphy, who represented Pennsylvania's 8th district (Bucks, and bits of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) in Congress, was confirmed today as the Undersecretary of the Army.  You can find the video of his confirmation hearing before the Senate's Armed Forces committee (two other people nominated for other positions were testifying as well) online.  The same site has a 50+ page document with prepared questions and Murphy's answers.  I'm not sure how long the document and video will be up and available.

The Inquirer has a short article about his confirmation, "Senate confirms Murphy for Army job," by Jonathan Tamari, posted today.

This press release arrived in today's email:

Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden released to following statement after former CAP Senior Fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was confirmed to be undersecretary of the U.S. Army today:
Today, the Army and the nation are lucky to have former Rep. Patrick Murphy confirmed as undersecretary of the U.S. Army. When he was a member of Congress, CAP was proud to work with Rep. Murphy on issues he championed, such as the Affordable Care Act, and as he led the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. As a Senior Fellow, Murphy contributed greatly to our work by leading on issues that affect 21st-century fighters, and he will no doubt do the same for the Army. Murphy served the country twice, first in the Army and later as the first Iraq War veteran to serve in Congress, and we know he will bring the same service to the Army once again.

Driving on I-80

Yesterday I drove halfway across the state on I-80.  It was the first time I've been on that highway.  It rained quite a bit of the time but here are a few impressions:

Trucks.  Lots of trucks.  If it weren't for the trucks I would have gone for miles without seeing another vehicle.

There aren't a lot of exits.  There also aren't rest stops like the rest stops on the Turnpike.  These rest stops just have bathrooms (men on one side of the building, women on the other) and vending machines (in the middle), no restaurants, no stores, no seating, no gas pumps.  I stopped at one rest area, and as I was leaving I noticed that there was a height strip on the door, like the ones in convenience stores and banks.  It marks feet and half feet (4' 4 1/2', 5' 5 1/2', 6', etc) so it is easier to give a good description of suspicious characters you see standing near the door.  This was not reassuring.  I paused inside to check my phone for accumulated emails.  I was the only person in the rest stop until a man stepped in.  He looked startled to see me and I could see his eyes dart to the height strip behind me.  Five feet, two and a half inches, big guy, and perhaps less dangerous than you seem to think.  I left so he could have the place to himself.

At the Turnpike rest stops there are usually opportunities to stretch your legs.  If nothing else you can walk around the parking lot. On I-80 the parking lots aren't large enough for that.  The one I was at was surrounded by woods, with no visible walking paths.  The indoor rest stops weren't large enough to do anything but a tight circle around the vending machines.

It might have been the weather but the landscape looked desolate, sort of like the English moors but with more trees.  The mountains are impressive but intimidating.  Perhaps at other times of the year the landscape is more inviting but this December, in rain and fog, with alternating stretches of empty road and herds of big trucks, it was not.

This might also have been a function of the rain, but it was hard to find radio stations.  For quite a while the clearest station I could find was talk radio.  The host was outraged over a proposed regulation mandating paid sick leave.  He would rant for a bit, then open the phone lines.  All the callers were in favor of paid sick leave.  Then he would rant a bit more and open the phones, and all the callers would be in favor of paid sick leave.  It was mildly entertaining but I was glad when I could find a station with Christmas songs.

It was an interesting experience.  I'm not sure I'd want to make that trip on a regular basis, though.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Brian Gordon in Philly Mag

The cover story in the December 2015 Philadelphia Magazine, "Racial Profiling on the Main Line," by Steve Volk, mentions Brian Gordon, one of the Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2nd district (Philadelphia).  Gordon is currently a commissioner in Lower Merion.  Here are two quotes referencing Commissioner Gordon:

It was Gordon, a corporate attorney who convened a packed community meeting at the PALM Senior Center to deal with the controversy.  Citizens, mostly African-American lined up to speak.  "What got me were the stories," remembers Gordon.  "Person after person.  And they were just so moving." (p. 84 of print copy)


Lower Merion commissioner Brian Gordon is a white progressive.  he told me he wants to make sure regular meetings are held in Lower Merion on the subject of race. (p. 123)

The entire article is interesting, and alarming.

PA in the WSJ

Pennsylvania-related mentions I found in this week’s Wall Street Journal

“Inheriting the holidays from mom,” by Clare Ansberry focuses on the Allen family of Bethel Park (12/10)

Marc Porter, who recently moved from Christie’s International auction house to Sotheby’s, assisted in the sale of the painting “The Gross Clinic,” to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.   He is the subject of “Sotheby’s hires deal maker from Christie’s,” by Kelly Crow (12/08)

University of Pennsylvania neurologist Anjan Chatterjee is quoted in “Is it beautiful?  How our brains judge art in seconds,” by Robert Lee Hotz (12/08)

Dr. Wanda Filer, a family physician in York, is quoted in “The new boundaries between doctors and patients,” by Andrea Petersen (12/08)

Joseph Schwartz, Temple University professor, is a vice chairman of the national Democratic Socialists organization.  The group held a convention in Pennsylvania in November.  See “Socialism network finds new friends,” by Peter Nicholas (12/12-13)

“Concealed-carry requests jump,” by Ashby Jones references the increase in concealed carry gun requests in Allegheny County.  (12/12-13).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gordon Releases Environmental Policy

Brian Gordon, a Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district (parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County), the seat currently  held by Chaka Fattah, has released an environmental policy.

Gordon is a Lower Merion Township commissioner (yes, he's Commissioner Gordon).  You can read more about him on his campaign website,

Friday, December 11, 2015

Information Sheet on Pennsylvania Drug Control

The White House has issued an update on drug control policy and the increased use of heroin and the resulting overdoses.  One quote from the press release:

More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes. The new 2014 CDC data show continued sharp increases in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. According to law enforcement reports, the rise in fentanyl-related deaths is predominantly from increases in illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
You can find a White House statement on the official plan to address prescription drug abuse and heroin use here:

The page for the Office of National Drug Control Policy is here:

One of the links on the page let you find an information sheet for each state.  The one for Pennsylvania is at:

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Wakabayashi to head Emerge Pennsylvania

from the inbox:

Today the Board of Emerge Pennsylvania announced it has named Anne Wakabayashi as the organization’s new Executive Director. 

Wakabayashi comes to Emerge after having spent years working on campaigns across Pennsylvania.  Before joining Emerge Pennsylvania, Wakabayashi served as the Campaign Manager for Allan Domb’s campaign for Philadelphia City Council and Anne Lazarus’ campaign for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She also has extensive experience working on legislative races, serving first as the Political Director and later the Communications Director for the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Wakabayashi will serve as Emerge Pennsylvania’s first Executive Director.  

"While more than 50 percent of the state's population are women, women make up less than 18 percent of our legislature,” said State Rep. Tina Davis, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Emerge Pennsylvania. “Having a democracy that is not representative of the people is holding our state back. I'm tired of it, and it is time for a change. We're so excited to have Anne join Emerge Pennsylvania as our first Executive Director and kick-start the program to train more Democratic women to run for public office - and win public office!"

"Emerge America has a fantastic track record of success in 14 other states where hundreds of alumnae are now in office. Pennsylvania absolutely needs this program,” said State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Emerge Pennsylvania. “Emerge has changed the culture of other state legislatures, and Harrisburg demonstrates time and time again that it is desperately in need of an evolution. Anne is a great addition to our Emerge team and we're thrilled that she's bringing her statewide political experience to our program."

"I am thrilled that Anne will join the Emerge network as the founding Executive Director of Emerge Pennsylvania. Her experience working on state and local campaigns across the state, as well as her fundraising and communications background, will be critical to advancing the Emerge mission in Pennsylvania," said Andrea Dew Steele, Founder and President of Emerge America.

“I’m excited to work with Reps. Daley and Davis and entire Emerge Pennsylvania Board to bring this much-needed program to Pennsylvania,” said Emerge Executive Director Wakabayashi, “I’ve worked across the state and I’ve seen firsthand the importance of electing smart, qualified women to every level of government. Women bring a unique and essential voice to public service and we need to do more to ensure that voice is heard across the Commonwealth.” 

Wakabayashi continued: “It’s worth noting that when the federal government shutdown in 2013, it was the women in the Senate that got our nation back on track. I think we can all agree that Harrisburg, which has now gone 160 days without a budget, could benefit from more women.”

Pennsylvania is ranked 39 out of 50 for the percentage of women elected to its state legislature. While Pennsylvania has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last six presidential campaigns, it has never elected a female governor or U.S. senator, something Emerge Pennsylvania will work to change. The Emerge program will bring an intensive 70-hour training curriculum to a cohort of Democratic women who want to run for office. Applications are open now and can be found here. Women of all ages, backgrounds, and communities across Pennsylvania are encouraged to apply.

Since the first Emerge state was launched in 2002 Emerge has trained more than 1,500 Democratic women to run for office to date. Fifty-two percent of Emerge alumnae have run for office or been appointed to local boards or commissions. Of those who have run for office, 70 percent won. Additionally, Emerge has a strong record of diversity - forty percent of alumnae are women of color. Follow Emerge Pennsylvania on Facebook for more updates on the program. 

New SEPTA Schedules

Our friends at SEPTA are releasing new regional rail schedules on Dec. 13th, and some of the newly printed schedules have errors.  Use the online schedules instead.  You can read more here:

Sunday, December 06, 2015

PA in the WSJ

Pennsylvania related items I noticed in this week's Wall Street Journal


Carnegie Mellon prof Jeff Galak gets a shoutout for a study he co-authored with Yang Yang (U Florida) about the sentimental vs economic value of gifts; see “What economists fail to see in the act of gift giving,” by Melvin Konner 12/05-06

“The Seacrests,” by Laurence Lowe (Wall Street Journal Magazine, Dec 2015 – Jan 2016) features Ryan Seacrest and his parents, both of whom grew up in southern Pennsylvania.

“Less sleep can feel better than interruptions,” by Sumath Reddy (12/01).  New parents take note:  researchers at Pitt “show sleeping fewer hours with no interruptions is better than longer time with interruptions.  Prof. Kristine Wilckens is mentioned specifically.


Broad Street Ministry’s partnership with local restaurants, specifically the Rooster Soup Company, gets an entire article in the Dec 2015 / Jan 2016 Wall Street Journal Magazine.  See “Eat, pay, give,” by Howie Kahn. 

Hershey is among the companies trying out the SmartLabel initiative, which allows shoppers to use smartphones to get more data on what’s in their food.  See “Food firms tackle labeling,” by Annie Gasparro 12/03

Good news here:  “American Eagle’s earnings surged in quarter,” by Josh Beckerman 12/03

Lynne Waymon, co-owner of Contacts Count, networking consulting firm in Newtown is quoted in “At your next party, have a conversation exit plan,” by Sue Shellenbarger 12/02

Endo Pharmaceuticals of Malvern, purveyors of Valtaren Gel (used for knee arthritis) is mentioned in “A way to fight pain and skip the pills,” by Laura Johannes 12/01

Storeroom Solutions of Radnor and executive Carlos Tellez are mentioned in “Firms shy away from spending “ by Eric Morath (12/01).  The company sells systems or organize and manage supplies.


Former PA Senator and occasional presidential candidate Rick Santorum gets a mention (as the candidate appealing social conservative working class voters), in “Trump forges a coalition:  Blue-collar not religious,” by Aaron Zitner and Dante Chinni 12/05-06

Congressman Tom Marino (R – 10) is quoted in “Washington divided on fix for Puerto Rico debt woes,” by Nick Timiraos and Aaron Kuriloff 12/04


Wharton is included in a graph in “Stanford tells M.B.A.s to wait on startups,” by Lindsay Gellman 12/03

The May Amtrak crash is mentioned in “Amtrak operating loss widened in fiscal year 2015,” by Andrew Tangel 12/02

Dan Hirschhorn Update

Mike Allen's Politico Playbook column today contained a note of interest to long-time PA political readers:

Dan Hirschhorn promoted at TIME, becomes its director of news. "Dan will coordinate our news efforts, working with editors and reporters in New York, London, Hong Kong and elsewhere, ensuring that our reporters and editors work seamlessly with their counterparts in video, photography and audience engagement."

Dan was a reporter at the Bulletin, then PolitickerPA, then started and ran  Looks like he's hit the big time now.    

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Latino Health Care Rate in Philadelphia

A note from our friends at Enroll America

Two years after the start of Obamacare enrollment, the uninsured rate for the Latino community in Philadelphia is 16%-- four percentage points higher than the overall uninsured rate in Philadelphia of 12%.
To help Latinos get the health coverage that they qualify for, Get Covered America is hosting a series of bilingual Obamacare enrollment events every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1pm to 7:30pm until the end of open enrollment.


PA in the WSJ

The papers have stacked up for a few weeks but here are the PA related stories I noted in recent issues of the Wall Street Journal


Miranda Rosenberg, a third year medical student at Penn, is the lead author in a study on the price of prescription drugs for skin conditions.  “Prices of skin drugs climb, study finds,” by Ron Winslow, 11/27

Judge Jan DuBois of Philadelphia is working to reduce the mandatory life sentence of a street-level drug dealer, saying that the average federal sentence for murder was less than that.  Read “Judges rethink sentences,” by Joe Palazzolo 11/24 blogger Amy Wright Glenn is interviewed about meditating with her four year old son in “Families that meditate together de-stress together,” by Sue Shellenbarger 11/18

Dr. John M. Maris, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is quoted in an article about genetic predisposition for pediatric cancers.  “New light shed on cancer mystery,” by Ron Winslow 11/19

Robert Thornton wrote a paper on occupational regulations and is quoted in “License law is nixed in D.C.” by Eric Morath 11/14-15

Michael Ramsey is the geologist mentioned in “Between a rock and a renovation:  a Pittsburgh geologist uses his expertise to transform an old office into a modern loft,” by Nancy Keates 11/06

“After an accident, a couple’s path to rebuild together,” by Clare Ansberry tells a sweet story of Philadelphia couple Kirby Smith and Suria Nordin

Carnegie Mellon economist Saurabh Bhargava’s study on how people pick health care plans is mentioned in “Algorithms help workers pick health plans,” by Rachel Emma Silverman 11/11

Penn state accounting prof J. Edward Ketz is quoted in “The new $2 trillion hit:  leases,” by Michael Rapoport 11/11

Unnamed Penn State researchers studied the effects of siblings on social relationships, as discussed in “A sister helps a boy’s confidence in romance,” by Ann Lukits 11/10

Nehal Chopra,  a Wharton alum, is the focus of “A hedge fund prodigy takes $300 million hit,” by Rob Copeland 11/09


Timothy Puko and Ryan Dezember write about the Utica Shale Basin, which includes most of Pennsylvania, in “Gas market hit by gusher of woe,” 11/27

“Urban outfitters’ sales fall short of estimates,” by Maria Armental and Miriam Gottfried mentions the company’s purchase of the Vetri restaurant group (11/17)

Cybergenetics Corp, based in Pittsburgh, is mentioned in “DNA software riles defense,” by Joe Palazzolo 11/19

Valeant is mentioned in “Drug prices draw more scrutiny,” by Peter Loftus 11/07-08, and the US Attorney for the Eastern District of PA is also mentioned

The Smith Island Baking Company was founded by Brian Murphy, Wharton alum, is the focus of  “When trapped on a dessert island, keep on baking,” by Josh Zumbrun 11/07-08

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel reports a loss, in “U.S. tariffs target Chinese Steel,” by John W. Miller 11/04


Swarthmore is used as a comparison to Princeton in “Liberal arts yield low pay,” by Andrea Fuller 11/04

The Philadelphia School District is one of the schools mentioned in “Cost woes plague common-core rollout,” by Michael Rothfeld 11/03

Monday, November 30, 2015

Waxman in the 182nd

Okay, let's try to follow the bouncing ball.

Congressman Chaka Fattah, facing charges, is still running for re-election for Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district.

A handful of Democrats have announced campaigns to challenge Fattah.  Among them is State Rep. Brian Sims (D-182; state house campaign site, congressional campaign site, legislative site).  PoliticsPA is reporting that he will run for re-election in the state house while he runs for Congress.

To fill that void, Ben Waxman is running for Sims's state house.  Waxman is the spokesman for State Sen. Vincent Hughes.  The Penn Dems (University of Pennsylvania student Democratic organization) is listed him as a candidate in the announcement for their Dec. 2nd meeting.  Prior to that the Citified blog at listed him as a potential candidate and the site is live.

Get your scorecards ready!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stollsteimer's Drug Market Intervention Initiative

Jack Stollsteimer, an announced candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General, has released a drug market intervention initiative.  It is a four page document available on his website.  He has a three-pronged approach and spells out specific actions he would have the department and community partners take.  It's a pdf and doesn't allow me to cut and paste.

This initiative is related to the increase in misuse of prescription pain killers and the increased use of heroin.

data related to the dispensing
of Schedule II controlled substances by pharmacies
and doctors in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dwight Evans Wants You to Wear Pants

from the inbox, a note from Dwight Evans:

Every day, it seems like the Republicans in Washington, D.C. are making it harder for folks to get by -- and now they seem to think people don't even have a right to the dignity of wearing pants:

"You don't have a right to pants, you don't have a right to health care, you don't have a right to water." -- Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Well, I have a message for Senator Paul:

People do have the right to health care. They do have the right to clean drinking water. And people do have the right to get up in the morning, put on a pair of pants, and feel the pride and security that comes from a good job.

I'm running for Congress to help end this nonsense so we can get to work on a new national plan for America's cities, building up every neighborhood. And that starts with investing in people -- raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, and jobs that can support a family.

I put on my pants just like everyone else: one leg at a time, and I'm going to get up every day and fight for Philadelphia, block by block, just like I've always done.

Faleschini on Restrepo

Jake Faleschini has a good article in yesterday's Huffington Post, "Senate Obstruction of Restrepo Nomination is Simply Inexcusable."  Luis Restrepo has been a U.S. District Court judge for two years.  His nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (both in PA) has been on hold for a year.  

Local Blogger Has a New Podcast

Marisa McClellan, who blogs at Apartment 2024 and Food in Jars, is part of a new podcast:

Food mavens Joy Manning and Marisa McClellan have created Local Mouthful, a podcast focusing on all things local and tasty.

Check it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mary Ellen Balchunis Campaign Update

Mary Ellen Balchunis, Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district, has announced some changes to her campaign.  For one, her campaign website has a new address, still works, but you can also go to -- both will take you to the same site.  Her twitter handle is the catchy @me4congress .

Secondly, she announces a new campaign manager, Brad Koplinski, who has a lengthy political biography himself.

Lastly, she has added some names to her finance committee, including John Kane, business manager of Plumbers Local 690, and the wonderful Bev Hahn of the Montgomery County DFA

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Patrick Murphy Hosts Veterans Day Program

from the inbox:

Fox Rothschild partner Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress where he served two terms, will cohost a one-hour primetime TV special on Veterans Day about the 2015 Triumph Games in which 12 spectacular veteran-athletes vie in adaptive sports for $240,000 in prize money.

Jody Simon (Los Angeles), who chairs the Production Practice in Fox Rothschild’s Entertainment Department, served as general counsel for the show, which was produced by Our Vets Success.
The program will air on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. ET and again at 10 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Fact Sheet on Health Communities Challenge for Philadelphia

from the inbox:

FACT SHEET: Healthy Communities Challenge for Philadelphia

As the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions have taken effect, 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage, and, since 2010, we’ve reduced the uninsured rate in this country by 45 percent.  The nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever. But still, in communities across the country, 10.5 million people eligible for Marketplace coverage remain uninsured.

Today, we are launching the White House “Healthy Communities Challenge” to engage key communities with large numbers or high percentages of uninsured in states across the country where strong federal, state and community collaboration can have a meaningful impact on reaching the uninsured. Through this challenge, we are calling on community leadership to build outreach efforts to reach these remaining uninsured and help them gain coverage. 

At the end of this third open enrollment period, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with State-based Marketplaces, will publish tallies of new Marketplace signups in participating communities. These tallies will be compared to HHS estimates of the number of eligible uninsured people at the start of open enrollment to see which communities made the most progress during the challenge. 

The victorious community gets bragging rights, a healthier community, and a visit from President Obama to celebrate their success in helping ensure every American has health coverage.

Based on particularly high opportunity for impact, the White House reached out to local officials in each of these 20 communities, including Mayor Michael Nutter, who embraced the “Healthy Communities Challenge” to get their uninsured constituents covered.

Philadelphia Health Insurance Marketplace for 2016

  • Health insurance coverage is affordable.  On June 30, 2015, 397,967 people in Pennsylvania were covered through its Health Insurance Exchange, or Marketplace. 

    • In Pennsylvania, 69 percent of people can find a plan for $100 or less, 63 percent for $75 or less, and 55 percent for $50 or less for 2016. 
    • The average monthly premium in Philadelphia for the second-lowest cost silver plans will increase by 3 percent from 2015 to 2016 before tax credits.

    • Tax credits matter.  In 2015, 80 percent of Marketplace enrollees – 320,162 people – in Pennsylvania received a tax credit, and consumers saved an average of $220 per month.

  • Consumers have a choice

    • In Pennsylvania, 12 issuers are offering individual health plans in the Marketplace in 2016.

    • Issuers are offering an average of 31 plans per county in Pennsylvania in 2016.

    • In Philadelphia, 4 issuers are offering individual health plans in the Marketplace in 2016.
  • It pays to shop

    • In Pennsylvania, 92 percent of Marketplace consumers who switch to the lowest-cost plan within a coverage level could save on average $38 per month, or $450 per year, on their premium costs in 2016.

    • About 21 percent of 2014 enrollees in Pennsylvania switched to a new plan in 2015, saving $603 per year – and $17,578,294 in total statewide – on premium costs.

  • While progress has been made, more work is needed to cover the uninsured.

    • In Pennsylvania, the adult uninsured rate dropped from 11 percent in 2013 to 7.7 percent in the first half of 2015. 

    • In Philadelphia and the surrounding region, there are 178,000 uninsured who are eligible for the Marketplace.
      (The number of the uninsured is for the Designated Market Area that includes Philadelphia.)

Sekela Coles Announces Candidacy in PA House 164th

This weekend Sekela Coles announced her candidacy for the PA House of Representatives, in the 164th district.  The district contains Millbourne, East Lansdowne, and parts of Upper Darby, and is currently represented by Democrat Margo L. Davidson.

In 2013, Coles was the first African American woman elected to the 7th district of the Upper Darby Township Council.  She was part of Gov. Tom Wolf's transition committee.  She graduated from Central High School and has a bachelor's degree in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, an MBA from Penn State, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University.

The Delaware County Times has a lengthy article by Linda Reilly on Coles's campaign announcement.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Dan Clifford's Video

Dan Clifford, candidate for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, is a former head of the Family Law section of Pennsylvania Bar Association.  During his term he led a project to create a video to help judges learn or improve their skills in interviewing children. A short trailer is available on youtube.  The actual video, also on youtube is over an hour long.  Clifford's law firm posted a note about the video.  Here is an excerpt:

The video was produced and edited by Clifford who saw the need to create a film that could help new judges, divorcing parents and professionals working with children in custody disputes learn how to interview children in a sensitive way.    

A Quick Look at Sean Kilkenny

SeanP. Kilkenny, Democratic candidate for sheriff in Montgomery County, grew up in New York.  His father served in the Army and in the Suffolk County Police Department. As an undergraduate at Villanova in 1994 he ran for studentoffice and listed, among his campus involvement being a resident assistant, an ROTC commander, volunteering with Catholic Worker Program in the Campus Ministry, and being an athlete escort for the Special Olympics.  For law school he attended Temple, and then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.

Kilkenny is or has been the solicitor for several municipalities or townships in Montgomery and Bucks County, including for the Montgomery County Controller’s office.  He has also been a member of the Judge Advocate General Corp.  This has included time in SouthKorea in 2002 where he prosecuted an American serviceman in the death of two teenage Korean girls killed when his vehicle hit them.  He also served in Kosovo and Iraq; the last was part of a yearlong active duty tour.   In his six weeks in Baghdad he successfully  prosecuted a sexual assault case, in the same courtroom in which Saddam Hussein was tried. 

He is the former president of the Jenkintown Borough Council, and is or has been on the boards of the Hiway Theater and the Montgomery County Community College

Sunday, November 01, 2015

PA in the WSJ

A few Pennsylvania-related notes in this week's Wall Street Journal:

“Valeant flap puts focus on sales pacts,” by Jeanne Whalen (10/31), notes that the Philidor company was based in Pennsylvania.

“At this luxury cabin, it’s game on,” by Don Steinberg (10/30), highlights a 7,000 foot cabin in Huntingdon County, owned by Brian Crowe, owner of Crowe Transportation.  It’s beautiful.

Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is quoted in “Grads rate Black colleges higher,” by Douglas Belkin (10/28)

Yes, it’s here too, “Runaway military blimp soars over Pennsylvania, lands in rural county,” captions a photo of the blimp with an Amish horse and buggy in the foreground. (10/29)

Andrea Halpern of Bucknell University is quoted in “The science of why a song sticks in your head,” by Melinda Beck (10/27)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Montco DA Debate (Sort Of)

I listened to what was a scheduled debate between candidates for Montgomery County District Attorney.  One candidate was not able to attend.  The interview is now available online at the program's website and I encourage interested voters to listen for themselves.  I took rough notes, provided below.  They are not intended as a full transcript.  As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.  Please visit the candidates' websites or contact the campaigns for further information.

A few personal comments are provided at the end. 

WPNV 1440 Comment Please, West Main Diner in Lansdale, October 28, 2015

Scheduled debate between candidates for Montgomery County District Attorney

Bruce Castor, Republican, had to cancel due to a family medical emergency

Kevin Steele, Democrat, had the entire hour to himself

Darryl Berger, interviewer

Opening Statement

KS: God, country, family come first.  I hope everything is okay with Castor.  I’ve been with Montco DA office for over 20 years, currently first Assistant DA.  Husband, father, coach kids sports, vp of local fire dept, president of Penn State alumni association right now.  Running because it is important to have a DA who will serve victims, stand up for victims, proud of the fact that we’ve been able to take politics out of the office, work with 146 people who come to work every day to do the right thing.

Q:  Penn state question.  James Franklin stay or go?

KS:  hope he stays.

Q:  Bill Cosby.  What is your take, you put out a commercial on this

KS:  The commercial outlines some of the differences between me and my opponent, talks about my record in the office and his record in the office.  Something people should be thinking about when they vote.  Former DA failure to prosecute when he had the opportunity.  Talks about some of the comments that have been made.  Something voters should look at.

Q:  Is it an open case?

KS:   can’t get into that, but that doesn’t prevent others from getting into that, victim’s attorney has made some comments and she is free to do that.

Q:  what was available when this was filed originally?  Were there other statements or only rumors?

KS:  if you look at Castor’s own press release back then he said he reviewed statements from others who had made accusations, other victims got things from Castor’s own file, also did a commercial saying he didn’t have other victims and I should have done something about it.  That commercial has been taken down.  In his own release he talked about other statements he had reviewed, other victims mentioned back in 2005. In terms of I should have done something.  That’s an interesting and tricky statement.  I’m not currently the DA.  I can’t speak about past or ongoing cases.  Maybe that’s something he should have thought about before he went on tv and talked about the victim.  Others can talk about it.  Victim’s attorney has been talking about it. 

Q;  Decision not to prosecute made in office by a group including current DA?

KS:  Castor was the DA.  He released a statement saying he decided not to prosecute.  Now we’re in a place where he’s trying to conceal what he did in that case by throwing a victim under the bus.  He has said things about this lady in the national media.  When you’re publicly dishonest about people you face ramifications.  I understand he is now in a civil lawsuit over statements he made about not prosecuting.

Q:  Did that compel Cosby to testify in civil case?

KS:  again revisionist history.  He’s taking claim for a settlement made in a civil case.  That’s not a role for a prosecutor to take credit for, getting a paycheck for a victim.  He’s indicated that he had a role in this somehow because he got involved in giving Cosby immunity.  Let’s break that down.  If you give someone immunity, that’s on behalf of the plaintiff in the civil suit.  Mentions an interview Castor did with Harry Hairston.  Victim's attorney said she had never met him.  Then to say that’s something he was party to.  Not only did he go to the press about declining prosecution, he didn’t go to the victim before he made that announcement.  It’s all revisionist history.

Q:  Castor said he sent a notification to attorney and they didn’t get it because of a faulty fax machine.

KS:  Maybe if you have contact with people and not send things out on a fax machine.  You have to talk with victims.

Q:  Castor’s lack of sensitivity.  What is role of DA in terms of relating to victims and families?

KS:  in the DA’s office we have a special role as ministers of justice.  We represent the victims, the community, the police.  There are things are in place in PA that represent our obligation to victims.   That’s part of what we have to do in working with victims.  We work with a number of agencies to make sure victims are taken care of.

Q:  you worked with Castor, what do you think of him as a DA

KS:  Turn to where we are now.  Back when he was DA he did a fine job but things change over time.  You said in an earlier interview that he doesn’t need science and to say that now is irresponsible.  At a crime scene now we work with science and technology to do what’s right and take that before a jury..  I’ve been on the cutting edge of that.  I’ve worked on best practices committees.  We’re a model because of things we’re doing now. 

Q:  You are the lead prosecutor in case involving Kathleen Kane.  What can you say about the case?

KS:  Not a whole lot.  I am the prosecutor assigned to this case, with partner in Bucks County Michelle Henry (first ADA in Bucks).  We have a hearing coming up.  We’re proceeding with that case on Nov. 10th

Q:  Why the decision to bring in Michelle Henry, former DA now first assistant DA in Bucks?

KS:  when talking with others about cases involving statewide issues.  We have a great partner working with me to bring justice.  Not unusual.  I’ve gone to other places and worked with other prosecutors.  I took vacation and went out to Adams County and prosecuted a case with someone there.  That’s what we do, work together. 

Q: Castor indicated he would shift gears and you would be the lead prosecutor on the case.

KS:  I’ve heard the comments made about reviewing the case.  I don’t think that’s an opportunity that he’s going to have.  I saw his comment about basically putting the Bucks Co office to the curb.  When I got over the arrogance of a statement like that, this is an important case that people have worked hard on over a period of time.  To say you’re doing to change gears mid-stream is naïve to the extent we are involved with.

Q:  Was there a political conversation about making you the lead case given the context of the race

KS:  There’s no politics in prosecuting.  There’s no politics in the office now, or over the last 8 years.  That isn’t something we look at.  We look at doing the right thing. 

Q:  You are suggesting politics played a role under Castor’s term as DA

KS:  He’s testified federally about doing politics in the office.  That was in existence during his administration.  Last time he won the role as DA a month later he was running for another office.  That’s a pattern of politics being there.  I started in office over 20 years ago.  I have not wavered in that.  Worked my way up, now second in command.  Not a politician.  Maybe I’ve been naïve to some of this process.  I’m doing this because I want to make a difference in people’s lives.

Q;  You used to be a Republican, when did you change registration?

KS:  My change in registration doesn’t look at a change in my views.  I’ve always been fiscally conservative, socially progressive, looked at what is around me, local politics around me.  Gotten to work closely with county commissioners Josh Shapiro and Val Arkoosh, seen what they’ve been able to do and what they’ve bene able to do in Montgomery County.  Like others in Montco looking at where we are and who represents us in the right way.  If the Republican Party is one of Castor and Trump I don’t want to belong.  Change not based on wish to run.

Q:  Changes made internally after review of how decisions being made, some of that in the wake of charges of Bob Kerns, GOP head.  What have those changes been and what has effect been?

KS:  That also illustrates in important comparison on how you deal with mistakes.  This was based on a mistake in the reading of a lab report.  We embraced that and made changes in how we did things.  We embraced the victim first and did everything we could to make sure justice was done.  We handed that case off and it was successfully prosecuted by another agency.  We’ve won an award based on this.  We’ve put in checks and balances on how we handle things.  Embrace mistakes and change things. Go back to Cosby.  Castor filed to prosecute case, given a chance to change things, won’t apologize, now he’s part of a defamation case.  Make things right.  That’s what we did.  His arrogance leads him to not apologize.  You have to apologize.

Q: You were on a heroin task force

KS:  This is one of our epidemics.  Most significant issues that we have moving forward.  I’ve been on the forefront.  There is a heroin epidemic in Montco.  Usually a pattern where someone is involved with prescription drugs and then moves to heroin.  The task force looks at ways to deal with those issues.  Narcotics Prevention Education, go to schools and talk to kids, I talk with them police talks with them, then a mother or sister talks about what happens when they go down that track.  How we’re getting these prescription drug boxes so people can safely dispose of prescription meds so they don’t’ get into kids’ hands.  Quick story.  One of our undercover detectives was making a buy for cocaine, the dealer wanted to sell him heroine.  He said he didn’t have a market.  Dealer pointed to nearby school and said give it away there and you’ll have a market.  We are focusing on this issue and making a difference.  Another issue is dealing with addicts.  Having narcan in police cars and first responders’ cars.  Using drug dealers’ money to put this in all the cars in montco.  I’m very behind treatment courts, one of which is drug court.  It’s hard.  You have to be in there a lot.  It’s making a difference.  Recidivism numbers going down.  There’s a lot of work to be done.  I’m in the best place to take this forward.  I was captain of our narcotics unit, trained statewide. 

Q:  state forfeiture law, change?

KS:  We’re talking about people involved in dealing drugs.  Part of the forfeiture law, funds confiscated, done in a conservative way in Montco, make sure it’s the right thing being done.  If we have this money we don’t need to use taxpayer money for overtime or training or equipment or programs we have out there.  Narcotics Overdose training, reached over 16K kids, paid for by forfeiture money.  Amount per year varies, not a budgetary item, depending on investigation.  We hear people don’t want to come to Montco to do crimes.

Q:  role of technology, social media, csi, etc.  how does that change what prosecutors do?

KS:  Quick example, in Pottstown, they were afraid to have their children sleep by windows because of gunfire going on, 16 or 17 shootings between warring gangs, people wouldn’t cooperate.  We used wiretaps and were able to get in and understand organization structure, using technology to stop crime.  There was one man a gang was lining up to kill twice and we were able to stop that.  We have to make the good people feel safe and they are coming out now.  Last Friday I was at Hilltown Hightop (?) High School on a vacation day to help clean up the community.  That’s helping the community.  We do appreciate criminals to be stupid enough to post things on social media.  There’s investigative uses, and rules, in everything and prosecutors sworn to follow the Constitution.  We have a lot of hoops we have to jump through.

Q:  how would you use office as bully pulpit?

KS:  I think I’m doing it now and hope my history is clear to people.  Narcotics Overdose Prevention – I’m in the schools and trying to make a different to them.  Tell them how much I care about them and how I hope they do great things.    We have an obligation to protect the public.  We’re out there trying to make a difference.  That’s why we do a lot of education.  As issues arise it’s the mission of a prosecutor to be out on the forefront and make a difference.

Q:  Norristown

KS:  working with law enforcement community there.  Rate has actually gone down.  Have a 100% solve rate from 2013 forward in homicide, nationwide about 64%.  We are doing extraordinary things in those types of cases.  We’re making a difference there.

Closing Statement

KS:  I’m running for DA to make a difference in people’s lives.  Hope they will join in and backing me for this position, like law enforcement has.  They know Castor and me well.  All of the FOP throughout Montco, the four that we have, are backing me.  21 DAs across the state have endorsed me.  I did not go and become a defense attorney.  Stayed in this office to help victims and work with people, to find justice in these cases.  Have a history of taking most egregious cases. 

DB: Thanks Wayne Sharp for hosting.  Sorry both candidates can’t be here.  Scheduled well in advance so thought it best to continue.  We wish Castor well as he deals with a family issue.  I can only remember one other time when we only had one candidate.  Not unprecedented but unusual.  

Personal comments

Darryl Berger is a fantastic interviewer and is able to interject a follow up question or comment so effortlessly that it is hard to record when he spoke if it wasn't the start of a formal question.  Thus he actually had more to say than is recorded.

I've heard Bruce Castor several times over the years at debates and interviews.  In my personal opinion he has always been a bit of a publicity hound.  He seems to like the limelight.  Again, that's a personal view.

I've met Kevin Steele once, at a multi-candidate event.  I thought he was very sharp, very nice, and a little intimidating.  He had reminded me in some ways of people I know who have been police officers for years, keen-eyed and observant, slightly clipped speech, always aware of their surroundings.  Of course that was just one meeting.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Which State Representatives Make Their Expense Reports Public?

I've done this research before, and earlier this month posted a similar note on state senators.  State representatives have the option of making their office expense reports public, what they spend on rent, postage, staff, etc.  A list of state reps who do this are listed below.

I started with list of members of the PA state house from the state's web site, then used the caucus pages (, to find links to each state rep's page, then went through clicking on each link.  I scanned the links on the home page, and looked at the subject categories on the menu bars, mousing over them to see what options, if any, were on the submenu.  It is possible that expense listings are buried further on a site, but, honestly, if it takes more than two clicks to find it people aren't going to drill down far enough to find them.

Most state reps who list their expenses do so for months or years, some provide reports for all years they have been in office.  It is impressive.  Others list only the current month.  A few are in a separate "partial" category -- people who have some reports listed but aren't current.

As a Democrat I find the party distribution disheartening.  In this regard, it is clear, the Republicans are the party of transparency.  C'mon, Dems!, get it together and post your report!  It is also disheartening to see that some state reps I think very highly of don't make their expense reports public.

I make an effort to provide the due diligence necessary to provide accurate information.  However it is always possible that I missed something or made an error.  If so, I apologize.

Here is the list of state representatives who make their expense reports public:

House Representatives who list their expenses online

Madeleine Dean (D-153)
Jaret Gibbons (D-10)
Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-114)
Patty Kim (D-103)
Kevin J. Schreiber (D-95)

Stephen Bloom (R-199)
Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108), current month only
Bryan Cutler (R-100)
Russ Diamond (R-102)
Joe Emrick (R-137)
Harold A. English (R-30)
Mindy Fee (R-37)
Matt Gabler (R-75)
Keith Gillespie (R-47)
Keith Greiner (R-43)
Seth Grove (R-196)
Susan Helm (R-104) (last posted is June 2015)
David S. Hickernell (R-98)
Fred  Keller (R-85), current month only
Kate A. Klunk (R-169), June – Aug 2015 only
John Maher (R-40), his reports look a little different from other reports
Kurt Masser (R-107), last posted is June 2015
John McGinnis (R-79)
Steven C. Mentzer (R-97), current month only
Brett R Miller (R-41)
Mark Mustio (R-44)
Justin Simmons (R-131)

Jim Christiana (R-15), 2009-2014 (March?)
Mauree Gingrich (R-101), only April 2015
Kristin Hill (R-93), has links but they don’t work
John A. Lawrence (R-13), only July 2015
Jim Marshall (R-14), 2012-2014

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PA Progressive Summit Early Registration

Just a reminder, the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit is February 19-21, at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Early Early Bird rate is only $50. Rates go up this Saturday; save money by registering early. Senatorial candidates Fetterman, McGinty, and Sestak are confirmed.

SEPTA Special Schedule for Football Game

from the inbox:

As the region gears up for the national attention around the Temple vs. Notre Dame game on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., SEPTA will be making the following service adjustments:

·         Starting at 10:00am on Thursday, October 29th, SEPTA Bus Routes 17, 33, 44, and 48 will be detoured from Market Street between 5th and 8th Streets. These detours will remain in effect through 1:00pm on Sunday, November 1st due to ESPN’s College Game Day Live Broadcasts. Customers traveling to/from this area may wish to use SEPTA’s Market Frankford Line which has subway stops at 5th and 8th Streets along Market Street to avoid surface travel delays. Pedestrian access at 5th Street Station will remain unaffected by local street closures.
  • On Saturday morning, (4) additional trains will operate on the Market Frankford Line. These trains, departing from both 69th Street and Frankford Transportation Center will make all local stops. Riders heading to the Game Day Live broadcast can use 5th Street Station for easy access to Independence Mall. Riders connecting from Regional Rail trains can transfer at Jefferson Station to the Market Frankford Line at 11th Street Station. Free weekend parking is available at all SEPTA-owned Regional Rail Lots.
·         On Saturday evening, SEPTA will add (14) southbound train trips on the Broad Street Line beginning at 5:05pm. Operating in addition to regularly scheduled trains, these trains will make all local stops between Fern Rock Transportation Center and AT&T Station. The average trip time from Temple University/Cecil B. Moore Station is 19 minutes on local trains. AT&T Station is located adjacent to Lincoln Financial Field. Riders connecting from Regional Rail can transfer to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station from Suburban Station and at Fern Rock Transportation Center. Additional northbound Broad Street Line service will be available at AT&T Station after the game ends. Riders connecting to Regional Rail should check their line’s schedule for late-evening departure information from Center City and Fern Rock.

Customers are encouraged to pre-purchase fares in advance to avoid lines and delays when traveling to/from any of the weekends’ special events. For additional SEPTA travel information visit