Thursday, February 25, 2016


George Matysik, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, is encouraging supporters to contact Mayor Kenney and express their appreciation for Kenney's interest in investing in parks and recreation.  On twitter use the hashtag #FeeltheFern

Philly School Substitute Numbers

Our friends at NewsWorks have put together a very useful list of daily substitute teacher fill rate by school.  Some schools only get 1% of the substitute teachers they need, other get nearly 80%.  Take a look.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Zivtech Launches New App

Philadelphia is home to a number of innovative tech firms. One of them, Zivtech, an open source web and app development agency, launched a new app this week.  Here is an abridged press release:

Zivtech,  is proud to announce the launch of a new web development tool that changes the game for the whole team. Probo, a continuous integreation app, allows a team to deploy features quickly, with no negative impact on an already functioning system. The people driving the request, such as business owners, project managers, marketers and IT, are now part of the process from the beginning.

Probo CI grew out of a need to accelerate the development process internally; once the product was built, there was a demand to share it with a greater audience. Probo is also much less expensive than other CI tools. Not only is the open source code available at no cost, but a basic account with 1 GB of disk space is free. With a total of five pricing tiers, there’s a size that works for every business, from startup to enterprise.

Probo is different from other CI tools on the market in that it does not tear down your environment, but instead posts a link so that the entire team can review new features or bug fixes. Project manager can always see how tasks are progressing and developers can get immediate client feedback. Probo is designed to be easy to extend and easy to wire into a broader devops ecosystem. It’s the only automated testing tool with quality assurance (QA) and user acceptance testing (UAT) built right in.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Patrick Murphy to be Sworn in as Undersecretary of the Army

Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq War veteran to serve in Congress, represented Pennsylvania's 8th district (Bucks County and part of Montgomery County and Philadelphia) for 2 terms,  This Wednesday he will be sworn in as the 32nd Undersecretary of the Army and Chief Management Officer.  He was confirmed as Undersecretary by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year.  On January 7th, President Obama asked him to serve as Acting Secretary of the Army.  He is currently responsible for a $143 million dollar budget and approximately 1.4 million soldiers and Department of the Army civilians, which would rank as a Fortune 10 company and behind only Wal-Mary in total personnel.

As Acting Secretary he has testified before the Senate and has traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Texas, and other places, as well at the Walter Reed National Medical Center, to visit with military personnel. The Undersecretary serves as the Army’s principal adviser on matters related to the management and operation of the Army, including development and integration of the Army Program and Budget. As the Chief Management Officer (CMO) of the Army, he advises the Secretary on the effective and efficient organization of the Army’s business operations and initiatives for the business transformation of the Army.  Whle in Congress he co-authored legislation including the 21st Century GI Bill, the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and Hire Our Heroes legislation

Emerge PA Women on the Ballot

Emerge Pennsylvania is an organization dedicated to recruiting and training Democratic women to run for office in order to increase the number of women in public office.   The first Emerge state group started in 2001.  Over that time, of the Emerge graduates who ran for office, 70% won.

The Emerge Pennsylvania women on the ballot in 2016 are:

•       Mary Ellen Balchunis - 7th Congressional
•       Carolyn Committa - 156th State House
•       Barbarann Keffer - 163rd State House
•       Elaine Schaefer - 165th State House
•       Diane Cornman-Levy - 168th State House
•       Movita Johnson-Harrell - 190th State House

Friday, February 19, 2016

Montco Walkability Study

from the inbox:

The Montgomery County Commissioners adopted Walk Montco, a new countywide walkability plan, at their February 18 meeting. The plan corresponds to the goals of Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, Montgomery County’s new, award-winning comprehensive plan. Montco 2040 advocates for more sidewalks and pedestrian-oriented developments to improve transportation quality and expand options. 

 Walkability continues to be a key aspect of the growth and redevelopment of downtowns, residential neighborhoods, office parks, and retail destinations in the county. Walkability is not only good for the built environment, but essential for physical health. Walkable streets help decrease local traffic volumes, increase access to available public transit, and increase opportunities for healthier lifestyles. They support mobility for everyone throughout all stages of life and create safer communities, especially for children, the elderly, and those with mobility limitations. Walkability also has positive environmental benefits in that a reduction in vehicle trips equates to fewer vehicle emissions.

The entire study is lengthy, a little over 80 pages, and is available here:   It's a thorough, well done plan, with a lot of illustrations and graphs.  Walkability is an important concept; as a relatively new diabetic I can attest to walking as one of the easiest, and certainly the cheapest, form of exercise around.  The best way to incorporate walking into a daily routine is for it to be a part of that routine - walking to work, to public transit, to the store, to school.  For that to happen there need to be safe walkways between these points.

Kudos, Montco!

Spring 2016 White House Interns

from the inbox:

The White House Internship Program announced today the participants for the Spring 2016 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 Presidential Personnel Office, 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 President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Additional information about the White House Internship Program is available 

Interns with a Pennsylvania connection:

Arango, Jeffrey Hometown: Long Beach, CA; University of Pennsylvania, PA 
Egan, Brian Hometown: Exton, PA; American University, D.C.
Gray, Antione Hometown: Queens, NY; University of Pennsylvania, PA
Kist, Gregory Hometown: Williamsport, PA; London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
Powell, Ebony Hometown: Philadelphia, PA; Temple University, PA
Scoratow, Jessica Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA; Georgetown University, D.C.
Williams, Joshua Hometown: Jim Thorpe, PA; The Pennsylvania State University, PA

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Waxman Makes Ballot in 182nd

Ben Waxman, who is a Democrat running in the 182nd state house district, has filed 1,000 signatures, three times more than needed, to be on the ballot.  The Democratic incumbent, Brian Sims, has ended his campaign for the 2nd congressional district and now plans to focus on re-election to the state house.  Those wondering if Waxman would drop out rather than primary Sims may have their answer.

Sims to Discuss Gerrymandering

Pennsylvania is one of the states listed by the Washington Post as examples of gerrymandering ("America's most gerrymander congressional districts," by Christopher Ingraham, 5/15/2014).  This Monday legislators from three states will unveil plans for congressional redistricting reform.  State Rep. Brian Sims of Philadelphia will represent Pennsylvania.  The event will take place in Baltimore.  Maryland De. Kirill Reznik of Maryland and Del. Mark Sickles of Virginia will also present plans.

Lifecycle Report

Lifecycle WomanCare (formerly called The Birth Center) has released the State of Womens' Health Outcomes Report, a 12 page document based on their State of Womens' Health Symposium held last year.  I was shocked at one of the statistics -- that 74% of Philadelphia women whose deaths were pregnancy related between 2010 and 2012 were Black.  That's an astounding number.  We definitely need to do something about that.

Kathryn Boockvar is the executive director of Lifecycle WomanCare. A second State of Womens' Health Symposium will be held this September.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New App from Access Matters

A note from our friends at Access Matters:

In the midst of National Condom Week, AccessMatters today launched a new mobile app called “It Matters.”  The “It Matters” app, developed by AccessMatters with app developer Damien Leri of Big Yellow Star, Inc. in consultation with youth advisors, is free and provides teens and young adults ages 14-24 with accurate, timely information about sexual and reproductive health. 

Healthy relationships and sexual health are integral to overall health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, many teens and young adults receive inadequate levels of sexuality education in school, forcing them to turn to friends or the internet for information that may not be accurate.  Designed and developed with input from teens and young adults, the “It Matters” mobile app aims to address this problem by establishing a user-friendly source of information about health topics, videos, a health center finder featuring AccessMatters’ Network health centers, and other interactive elements. 

Users can find answers to common questions on topics such as relationships, birth control options, LGBT health, STDs, and more.  The app even features a video explaining what to expect during a visit to a health center, featuring local youth from Philadelphia. 

WalletHub Analysis Reports

Our friends at WalletHub have been sending me a lot of emails.  I'll post a few sentences about each link.

In a study of African American political involvement by state, Pennsylvania ranked 21st overall, (Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and History, Art & Archives - United States House of Representatives.)  Read the full report.

WalletHub reviewed presidential candidates' personal finances.  Read the full report.

In a review of how dependent states are on the gun industry,here is how Pennsylvania ranked:
Pennsylvania’s Dependence on the Gun Industry (1=Most Dependent; 25=Avg.) 

  • 27th – Number of Firearms-Industry Jobs per Capita
  • 18th – Average Wages & Benefits in the Firearms Industry
  • 27th – Total Firearms Industry Output per Capita
  • 41st – Total Taxes Paid by the Firearms Industry per Capita
  • 35th – Gun Ownership
  • 23rd – NICS Background Checks per Capita
  • 18th – Gun-Control Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
  • 32nd – Gun-Rights Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
Read the full report.

In a study of the 2015uninsured rate, here is how Pennsylvania ranked (read the full report):
Health Insurance Coverage in Pennsylvania:
  • Obamacare reduced the children’s uninsured rate by 0.46 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • Obamacare reduced the adult uninsured rate by 19.23 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate for whites is 45.22 percent lower than that for blacks.
  • The uninsured rate for whites is 64.84 percent lower than that for Hispanics.
  • The uninsured rate for higher-income households is 71.26 percent lower than that for lower-income households.
  • The rate of publicly insured is 30.98 percent.
  • The rate of privately insured is 69.02 percent.
  • The rate of employer-based health insurance coverage decreased by 0.09 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate pre-Obamacare was 10.16 percent and has fallen to a current rate of 8.46 percent, with 206,603 persons gaining health insurance coverage.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Muroff Starts Tour of Gun Violence Sites

Dan Muroff, attorney and past president of CeaseFirePA, is a Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district, currently held by Chaka Fattah.  Today Muroff started a series of stops in areas that have been the site of gun violence in the past year.  He plans to talk with people to see how they are impacted by gun violence.  His first stop was on the 8300 block of Gilbert Ave where three people were shot during an Eagles watch party this past December.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

New Resource on New Hampshire Primary

This sounds really interesting, a note from the inbox -- local pol, late Sen. Arlen Specter is included: 

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has acquired New Hampshire Public Radio’s digital collection of interviews and speeches by presidential candidates from 1995-2007. The entire collection—nearly 100 hours of content—has been digitized and is now online, along with other presidential campaign content from the AAPB collection, in a new curated, free presentation, “Voices of Democracy: Public Media and Presidential Elections” at 
AAPB, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation, preserves and makes accessible the most significant public television and radio programs of the past 60-plus years. 
“Voices of Democracy” features historical interviews, panel discussions, speeches and debates among presidential candidates from 1961 to 2008. These historical materials document the evolution of issues and presidential candidates’ positions on important election topics including the American economy, education, religion, civil rights, foreign policy, climate and the environment, labor and unions and campaign and election reform. The materials also document public broadcasting’s coverage of the process of elections and voter rights, as well as commentary and analysis of campaigns. The presidential elections presentation was curated by Lily Troia, a graduate student at Simmons College. 
A centerpiece of the presentation is the new content from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR). “We are fortunate to live at the epicenter of the political universe every four years. It is from this vantage that we are able to capture and keep some of the most memorable and historic moments in the past 35 years of our democracy,” offered Betsy Gardella, president and CEO of New Hampshire Public Radio. “Knowing that this archive can now be tapped and used by anyone with internet access is an extension of our public service mission realized, we are grateful for the AAPB.” 
Candidates featured in the New Hampshire collection include Lamar Alexander, Gary Bauer, Joe Biden, Bill Bradley, Carol Moseley-Braun, Sam Brownback, Pat Buchanan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Christopher Dodd, Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole, John Edwards, Steve Forbes, Al Gore, Mike Gravel, Orrin Hatch, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunt, John Kasich, John Kerry, Alan Keyes, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Barack Obama, Dan Quayle, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, Bob Smith, Arlen Specter and Tom Tancredo. 
AAPB in October officially launched its Online Reading Room, which now features 2.5 million inventory records and more than 11,500 audiovisual streaming files of historical content dating back to the 1940s, from public media stations across the country. The Library of Congress, WGBH Boston and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in collaboration with more than 100 stations and archives, have embarked on an unprecedented initiative to preserve historical public television and radio programs. This extraordinary material includes national and local news and public affairs programs, local history productions that document the heritage of our many, varied regions and communities and programs dealing with education, environmental issues, music, art, literature, dance, poetry, religion and filmmaking on a local level. The project ensures that this valuable source of American social, cultural and political history and creativity will be saved and made accessible for current and future generations. 

More information is available at

Monday, February 01, 2016

Two Endorsement Notes

A few interesting endorsement notes.  Normally I don't pay much attention to endorsements, as so few are anything unusual, but these two caught my eye.

Kathy Boockvar, who was the Democratic candidate for congress in the 8th district (Bucks Count) in 2012 has endorsed Steven Santarsiero, one of two Democrats running in 2016.  The other is Shaughnessy Naughton; she ran in the 2014 primary as well, but was defeated by Kevin Strouse, who then lost to incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

State Rep. Margo Davidson (D-164, parts of Delaware Co) faced primary challenges in 2014 but this year she has lost the endorsement of the Delaware County Democratic Committee.  The committee instead endorsed Upper Darby Councilwoman Dr. Sekela Coles
The Delaware County Democrats deciding against making an endorsement in the 164th state house district. The incumbent, Margo Davidson, was not endorsed, nor was primary challenger Dr. Sekela Coles. My apologies for an incorrect posting yesterday; I misread a press release.