Dan U-A's blog

The stupidity of DROP

I am so glad we have this program!

The city's Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, gets some people's goat because it allows politicians to collect large, lump-sum payments when they retire. Six City Council members stand to collect $2.1 million from the program by 2012.

But less talked about is how the city rarely puts DROP to use for one of the most important reasons it was drafted.

DROP was supposed to allow the city to plan to replace employees when they retired - largely because those employees must pick a retirement date four years in advance. That gives managers up to four years to groom replacements.

By all accounts, this doesn't happen with any regularity.

I am stunned that City Council doesn't get just how tone deaf their defense of DROP is...

Daily News Article on McCaffery

We need to have a real focus on the issues of the DA's race. But, given the ballot challenge and all of that, it is worthy to note that on Saturday, the Daily News asked whether Dan McCaffery violated Pa Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.8, which is as follows:

(a) A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:

(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and
reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client;

(2) the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel on the transaction; and

(3) the client gives informed consent in a writing signed by the client, to the essential
terms of the transaction and the lawyer's role in the transaction, including whether the lawyer is representing the client in the transaction.

The explanatory note further states that it:

...applies to lawyers purchasing property from estates they represent.

A lawyer, or an almost lawyer like me, accusing someone of violating the Pa RPC is a big deal, and is not something you do based on an article in the paper, even if it is written by a couple of journalists who I really respect.

It is important to note McCaffery has denied wrong-doing in the matter:

"There's nothing there," McCaffery said. "This was a knowing and voluntary transaction between two savvy, sophisticated business people [Goldstein and Jaffe] who knew each other and trusted each other. . . . The fact that I made money off it, some people may want to make that into a negative. I think most voters would prefer to make that into a positive. . . . I've been successful and I'm not shying away from that."

I note that 1) it is curious that the DN ran this on Saturday when no one reads it; 2) that I have no clue whether the first part of McCafery's defense is legit, and for all I know it may be; and 3) that the last part of his defense, that voters will like it because he made some money, seems odd.

Meanwhile, the candidates debate the issues tomorrow, 7PM, on Fox...

We, too, will get our focus back on the very real issues that the candidates face.


That didn't take long. Seth is back on the ballot, and Judge Tereshko's order is reversed.


As we await a ruling...

YPP commenter Portia has noted that, whatever your take on the income stuff in Seth Williams’ case, Judge Tereshsko was still wrong, because of the holding in the case of my bff Greg Paulmier, which said you can amend your statement of financial interests. It is yet another indicator of just how ridiculous this decision was, and it played a big role in the oral arguments before the Commonwealth Court today.

On the income though, after some digging, I thought I would point out the following:

From candidate Michael Nutter’s expenditure reports, we see the following payments made in 2006 to... Michael Nutter. (Info on page 309 of a 389 PDF.)

1) $2939.17, 6/19/2006, Travel Expense.
2) $126.07, 9/28/2006, Reimbursement- Supplies

So, Mike Nutter, like many, many candidates, had thousands of dollars of ‘expenses’ that were reimbursed.

Guess what else we found? Michael Nutter’s Statement of Financial Interests (sorry it is upside down):

Nutter SFI 2007 (2)(3)

And, under sources of income, did Nutter list those reimbursements as expenses? Of course not.

In other words, as we await a ruling that I believe will be favorable to Seth (as does the Inquirer), it is worth remembering that Mike Nutter, someone who everyone would agree is smart and is generally into that whole campaign finance law, would have been kicked off the ballot had he been challenged.

I asked the Mayor's office to comment. They declined, citing that the case was ongoing.

Campaign Roundup

1) In the race for Controller, Brett Mandel picks up some institutional support:

Upstart candidate Brett Mandel announced yesterday that he has the backing of four local elected officials in his uphill campaign to unseat Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

State Sen. Larry Farnese, State Reps. Tony Payton and Kathy Manderino, and City Councilman Frank DiCicco, Mandel said, are backing him in the May 19 Democratic primary.

The endorsements from the four Democrats are significant in that Mandel's candidacy is tantamount to taking on the political establishment.

Butkovitz, elected controller in 2005, is a ward leader who as an incumbent is virtually guaranteed the backing of the Democratic City Committee.

He's also an ally of Local 98 of the electricians union, which has access to a wealth of political funds and election-day foot soldiers.

2) Seth Williams' appeal will be heard this morning:

Argument scheduled for 4/8/09 @ 11:00a.m. (Panel) in the En Banc Crtrm. No. 1, 9th Fl., Widner Bldg. 1339 Chestnut St., One S. Penn Sq., Phila.

3) Bob Brady is putting some serious discipline on the party's judicial selection process. It has thus far meant that a really good candidate- Leon King- has withdrawn, in hopes of getting a party endorsement in the future.

If Brady wants to enforce discipline, all the power to him. The ridiculous process of 'consultants' like John Sabatina and the late Carol Campbell earning tens of thousands of dollars for judicial elections is ridiculous. It forces more and more money into a system that shouldn't have money in it begin with.

However, if he is serious about this level party discipline, and it will basically mean an automatic win for a judge, he should also be totally open and clear about the process by which people get the endorsement of the party, and it should be a much higher standard than "servicing the party."

Starting the Week: Dan McCaffery Goes After Seamus, Arlen Goes After Himself, and More

Starting off the week:

1) The Inquirer Editorial board points out the absurdity of Dan McCaffery's ballot challenge by noting that by his standards, not only would he himself be kicked off the ballot, but so would have his brother, Seamus:

McCaffery's finances also have raised questions. He received more than $3,400 in campaign reimbursements that he, too, failed to disclose on his financial statement.

McCaffery said the money came from a political action committee set up by his law firm, as reimbursement for political contributions he'd made with his own money on behalf of the PAC.

The McCaffery camp said that if Williams had a problem with McCaffery's expenses, he should have challenged them in court. A more rational point is that reimbursed expenses shouldn't be considered income for either candidate.

Even McCaffery's brother, Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, reimbursed himself and his wife for thousands of dollars in expenses from his campaign in 2007.

Considering that McCaffery's entire campaign is based on his brother being well-known (he is even using the same exact campaign logo to try and ride Seamus' name recognition), it is funny that by the standards of his own challenge, he and his brother would have been removed from the ballot. This only gets obviously more absurd.

2) Arlen Specter is now sending emails highlighting his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (h/t Daily Kos).

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) opened his first campaign email to supporters highlighting his decision to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), signaling the senator will play up his opposition to the bill ahead of an expectedly tough primary battle.

After already taking it to his likely opponent, Club for Growth Chairman Pat Toomey, the first item in Specter's email touted his decision to oppose EFCA (or "card check"), a prized piece of legislation for organized labor.

"Last Tuesday, Senator Specter announced his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as Card Check," the inaugural "Specter 2010 Campaign Update" read. "In a speech on the Senate floor, the Senator spoke out against the bill. Later, Senator Specter said, 'I won't support legislation that takes away the secret ballot.'"

Um, Arlen didn't just vote for the EFCA last time. He was a co-sponsor.

Not only is he cynically selling out labor to cover his own ass, but he is apparently hoping that PA Republicans have the memory of goldfish. He will lose by at least 10 points.

3) More bad stuff from Philly cops...

4) Continuing his go-go push for Casinos, Mayor Nutter is bringing Sugarhouse into City Hall for an 11:30AM press conference on some changes they are making to their design. Super.

LGBT People in Iowa Get Marriage Equality. In PA? Not So Much.

This morning, with a nod to humanity, equality and dignity, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously overturned the state's ban on LGBT marriage:

The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.


Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past


Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, our LGBT friends and family not only can't affirm their relationships as they see fit, but can still be fired from their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation. What is wrong with this picture?

Dan McCaffery's Best Day Ever!

When thinking of Dan McCaffery, he of the idea-less campaign for District Attorney, I am reminded of this clip from City Slickers:


Mitch: So, what was your best day, Phil?
Phil: Believe it or not, my wedding day.
Ed: You're kidding!
Phil: No, seriously! Arlene looked great; those water pills really helped. I looked out and saw my old man sitting there, and he winked at me. It was like, I've made it. I'm not a goofball anymore. I made it. I felt like a man!
Mitch: What was your worst day?
Phil: Every day since is a tie.

Friday was Dan "City Slickers" McCaffery's best day in his run for DA, as he knocked off the front runner of the race from the ballot (with a justification that would have also knocked McCaffery himself off.) Since then, as the utter stupidity of his challenge came to light, and as groups coalesce around Seth Williams, the days haven't been so good for his ambitions to be the DA.

On Tuesday, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia realized what was happening, and immediately endorsed Seth for DA:

The group was not deterred by the fact that Williams currently won’t get a spot on voting ballot on May 19. Reverend Terrence Griffith, director of the Black Clergy’s Political Action Group, believes that Williams’ position will be restored. Griffith called the court decision “a travesty of justice” and “nothing more than a cheap political trick.”

Last night, Philly for Change, amidst a raucous and tense debate between the candidates for City Controller, held its (our?) endorsement vote. And, like the Black Clergy, PFC endorsed Seth. I expect more groups to follow.

Today at 11, Seth and others will be holding a rally at Dilworth Plaza at City Hall, to demand that democracy be served, and that the people deciding this election are the... voters.

With the ballot challenge, McCaffery has started to solidify the non-John Dougherty sections of the City against him, with the growing understanding that Seth will be the one who beats him. If and when Seth is restored, this race will begin to end. And what will have started the ball rolling with so much momentum? Dan "City Slickers" McCaffery's best day ever.

Vote for PolicyMap!

PolicyMap, the awesome mapping and data tool from my buddies in the Policy Group at the The Reinvestment Fund is up for a CNET Webware 100 Award . Basically, it is up for an award for cool internet stuff.

PolicyMap is a pretty ridiculously cool tool (and great way to procrastinate) that can help us all use a little more data in our arguments, and all of a sudden acquire GIS mapping skills that we would never have otherwise. (And for those people in government, in the non-profit world, doing policy stuff, etc., it can be incredibly useful.)

If you haven't seen it in action yet, check it out. And then go vote. Agreed? Super.

(I used to work for TRF and I am, without question, incredibly biased. But, even so, its a good kind of bias, you know what I mean?)

Philly Progressive Links

We are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to link up various parts of the Philly progressive blog world, in some sort of systematic way. Before we get there though, there are a few sites that I would encourage you to checkout and bookmark, if you haven't.

First, the Media Mobilizing Project has a series of blogs, including from immigrant rights group Juntos, from the Philly Student Union, from progressive Philly Labor, and more. Individually, each site has quite a bit of good stuff. For example, check out this video from Our City, Our Voices, the blog from Juntos, titled "Por Nuestros Hijos, Padres Inmigrantes Organizados/For Our Children, Immigrant Parents Organizing". It talks to a number of immigrant parents about their efforts to organize around their children's schools in South Philly.

Second, and also on the education side, is the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. Len Rieser, of the Education Law Center, explores the lack of input that went into picking the new members of the School Reform Commission (SRC), and whether or not that is still appropriate:

The three people whose appointments to the SRC were unveiled last week are, by all accounts, excellent choices. But why was there absolutely zero public input into the selection process?

The answer is simple. In 2001, then-Secretary of Education Charles Zogby declared Philadelphia to be a District in Distress – sort of like the damsel-in-distress of medieval tales, or the lady tied to the railroad tracks in old westerns. Under Act 88 of 2001, this declaration turned us into the object of a rescue operation, to be carried out by a commission (the SRC) appointed by the state and city. Since rescuers seldom consult with the victim about exactly how s/he would like to be saved, it’s not surprising that Act 88 allowed (and continues to allow) for peremptory, closed-door decision-making along the lines of what we saw last week.

But it’s 7 ½ years later, and time to ask whether rescue mode still makes sense.

State law allowed Secretary Zogby to designate a district as distressed if it was defaulting on its finances, failing to operate for the full school year, out of compliance with state laws, or in some other way doing seriously bad things. While Philly may have met some of these criteria in 2001, it's unclear that any apply now (although, like a number of other districts in this state, we certainly still have big problems).

And third, is SEPTA Watch. In fact, SEPTA Watch is the one blog that I have delivered to me by email, because it is short, to the point, and does something that I think most effective blogs of that sort do: It calls out obviously stupid things as stupid. For example, why is there so much trash at 30th Street? Or, why does the only transit expansion we get go to service casinos, and not say, the Navy Yard or something else?

What Philly-Centric sites are you reading?

Deep Thoughts from Ed Rendell

Here is our lovable Governor, extolling the virtues of merit pay for public school teachers:

Gov. Rendell said that the time is right to reward teachers based on what their students learn.

"I think teachers should negotiate their base pay through the collective-bargaining process, but there should be separate, additional merit-pay bonuses for teachers who succeed, based on the success of their students," he said Saturday.

In addition to test scores, Rendell said, bonuses could be based on factors such as attendance, and graduation and drop-out rates.

"Bonuses exist in virtually every other enterprise and seem to work well," he added.

Yeeeah, Uh, I am going to have to sort of disagree with you there, Ed. There was thing called Wall Street. And they had these things called bonu....

Anyway, you get the point.

The Surreal Story of the Camera Cutting Cops

When I google "Worst Person Ever," the fifth thing that comes up is State Rep. John Perzel. Rep. Perzel deserves that honor for the piss poor, underhanded, undemocratic, regressive and anti-Philadelphia way he managed the Pennsylvania State House. But for today, he gets a one day reprieve, because of these guys:

THE NARCOTICS officers knew they were being watched on video surveillance moments after they entered the bodega.

Officer Jeffrey Cujdik told store owner Jose Duran that police were in search of tiny ziplock bags often used to package drugs. But, during the September 2007 raid, Cujdik and fellow squad members seemed much more interested in finding every video camera in the West Oak Lane store.

"I got like seven or eight eyes," shouted Officer Thomas Tolstoy, referring to the cameras, as the officers glanced up. "There's one outside. There is one, two, three, four in the aisles, and there's one right here somewhere."

For the next several minutes, Tolstoy and other Narcotics Field Unit officers systematically cut wires to cameras until those "eyes" could no longer see.

Then, after the officers arrested Duran and took him to jail, nearly $10,000 in cash and cartons of Marlboros and Newports were missing from the locked, unattended store, Duran alleges. The officers guzzled sodas and scarfed down fresh turkey hoagies, Little Debbie fudge brownies and Cheez-Its, he said.

Pretty terrible. But, in the era of the magical internets, it looks like today's worst person era had a real 'oopsie' moment:

What the officers didn't count on was that Duran's high-tech video system had a hidden backup hard-drive. The backup downloaded the footage to his private Web site before the wires were cut.

This is so bad that it is bizarre. Put it this way, when you make an officer alleged to be selling crack look good by comparison, you know you are doing a bad thing.

It has been a rough year or so for the PPD. With all the tragedies they have seen, and with the goodwill that Chief Ramsey seems to have engendered, the relationship of the police to the general public seems about as close I can ever remember it. Stories like these go a long way to destroying that.

And it is a reminder that oversight, both from the media and from the government, will always, always be needed.

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Removes Ed Rendell from Office! Is Mike Nutter next?

Guess what?

In 2002, in 2005 and in 2006, Ed Rendell received reimbursements from his campaign.

1. Edward G. Rendell
Philadelphia,&nbspPA &nbsp19129 5/15/2006 $348.89
Description: Reimbursement for Expenses
Filer/Payer: Rendell, Edward for Gov
Report: 2006 Cycle 3
Go to Top Go to Bottom

2 Expenditure Details 2
Recipient Date Amount
PHILADELPHIA,&nbspPA &nbsp19102 1/4/2002 $1,296.12
Report: 2002 Cycle 1
Go to Top Go to Bottom

3 Expenditure Details 3
Recipient Date Amount
HARRISBURG,&nbspPA &nbsp17120 4/26/2005 $230.74
Report: 2005 Cycle 2

Guess what else? I looked at the Governor's statement of financial interests that he filled out for 2005, when he refiled for his re-election run for Governor. And, ladies and gentleman, the Governor did not report the reimbursements as income. I know, I know, it is was a shock to me, too.

Therefore, it is my grave duty to announce that we must create a mass movement to recall the Governor from office, because Judge Tereshko's ruling has informed us that, in fact, the Governor should have been knocked off the ballot in the 2006 campaign. Someone alert Lynn Swann!

I hear Dan McCaffery will be leading the statewide movement to circulate the petitions.

Oh by the way, Mike Nutter reimbursed himself, too. After I see whether or not he listed those expenses as income, we will know whether the Mayor will join Governor Rendell as a person who should not be serving in office.

The Ruling

Judge Tereshko Kicks Seth Williams off the Ballot, and says 98 Percent of Candidates Are Retroactively Kicked Off

Seth Williams was just kicked off the ballot, in a decision that is so bizarrely ridiculous, that it will inevitably have to be overturned.

I will post the ruling soon, but in effect, the Judge said that Seth gets kicked off because he didn't report campaign reimbursements as income, as no other candidates ever, ever, ever do.

Let's be clear what this means if this ruling actually stands, which it will not: Just about every single candidate who has ever run for office should have been kicked off of the ballot. Why? Because almost any candidate who has ever run for office has laid out some money, somewhere for their campaign, and then been paid back. And you can bet they didn't list it as income.

THINK ABOUT THIS: Any candidate who has ever used their own personal credit card for their campaign, and then was reimbursed, would be kicked off by this logic. It is total insanity.

How in the world could the judge get to this crazy, crazy place? It appears that latched on to the fact that Seth called reimbursements 'campaign expenses,' instead of reimbursements. (Even though he made clear later what those were.) It is bizarrely stupid. It is bizarrely, bizarrely, bizarrely stupid and and makes a mockery of our system of laws.

As an aside, let's thank Dan McCaffery for his contribution to democracy for this. If you want to understand why McCaffery did this, I would suggest you check out spend some time looking at his issues page. Read it all. Don't worry, it won't take long, because it is a grand total of seven sentences. It does tell us he will be using strike forces to crack down on drugs. Because clearly, that has worked so well. Oh, and he thinks he will be using time sheets to track the hours judges spend in courtrooms. Genius!

This will be overturned.

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