Marc Stier's blog

Nine percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country tonight.

I haven't had to write an essay examination question in about a year and a half.

But I want to write one today.

Nine percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country tonight. Who are they and why are they satisfied?

Extra-credit: How will they affect the Presidential election?

Health Care Policy On The Air

Today, at noon, I'm going to be appearing on Labor to Neighbor, the radio show hosted by my friends Pat Eiding and Janet Ryder of the AFL-CIO on WURD 900 am

I will be talking about the Health Care For America Now campaign, about the McCain and Obama health care plans, as well as about health care reform efforts in Pennsylvania.

You can listen on the web at

Rally on Thursday: Can you count on your health insurance?

Everyone—except those at the higher reaches of the conservative movement in America—acknowledges that far too many Americans do not have health insurance. And most people understand that this has costs for all of us. Nationwide, about twelve percent of our insurance premiums go to cover the costs of the uninsured.

But that problem might not be the most severe problem with health insurance in America today. A deeper issue may be the efforts of insurance companies to deny coverage care to people who actually have insurance.

Health Care For America Now (HCAN) is holding a rally tomorrow to address this issue. For more on HCAN see my earlier post.

11:30 am
Independence Blue Cross
1901 Market Street

Health Care For America Now! Which Side Are You On?

Hope, Change, and Health Care

Whatever their party and whatever their preference between one candidate and another, most Americans have been supporting change in this election year. And they have been embracing hope for the future, hope that our government can once again address our deepest problems with innovative solutions that serve us all.

We know, however, that real change won’t occur just by electing a new President and Congress. Powerful forces stand in the way of the change we need. A new President and Congress will need a movement of people committed to real change in order to overcome that opposition.

So, I’m asking you to join, a new movement for one of the changes we need, Health Care For America Now (HCAN)!

The Critical Importance of the Health Care Issue

Health Care For America Now! Kickoff Today!

Today, July 8, in Washington and about 50 cities around the country, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Erie, a new movement for health care reform will be born, Health Care for America Now! (HCAN).

The Philadelphia HCAN kickoff will be held at 1 pm in the Caucus Room (Room 401), at City Hall. Confirmed speakers include

• Liz McElroy, political director, AFL-CIO Central Labor Council.
• Randy Barge a Presbyterian minister and board member of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.
• Carolyn Banks, a member of Acorn who has had issues related to access to health care.
• David Grande, MD, of National Physician’s Alliance

We have invited the members of City Council, and Philadelphia State house and Senate members.

Barefoot Doctors and the Republican Health Care Plan

Reprinted with permission, The Morning Call 2008, June 24, 2008

In 1965, Communist China was one of the poorest countries of the world. Chairman Mao Zedong created a program known as ''The Barefoot Doctors'' to provide health care for impoverished people. The Barefoot Doctors offered basic care to people for whom no other medical care was available.

In 2008, we live in the world's richest country. Yet the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans have taken a page from Chairman Mao. Rather than help the uninsured purchase affordable health insurance, they are calling on volunteer physicians and oversubscribed health clinics to give medical care to 334,000 Pennsylvanians.

Their proposal is absurd.

Encouraging News from SEPTA

That is the title for a blog post I've wanted to use for years.

SEPTA has named a consumer advocate, Kim Scott Heinle, who is going to focus on msking the agency "available, responsive, honest and open."

Details are here:

I was a little skeptical of the appointment of an insider, Joe Casey, to replace Faye Moore as General Manager of SEPTA, although I said at the time that I have found most of the SEPTA managers I've worked with to be honest and responsive individuals who seem caught up in a system that too often was unresponsive and prone to dissembling. I knew Joe Casey just a little but he seemed like a decent guy.

The Sound You Heard on the El Today Was The Fat Lady Singing

The transfer issue is finally, totally over. Today was the last day for SEPTA to file an appeal of last month's Commonwealth Court decision that kept transfers in place. (Technically the Commonwealth Court declared that SEPTA's appeal of Judge DiVito's decision to block it from eliminating transfers was moot because SEPTA had already adopted a different fare plan, one that kept transfers.)

SEPTA did not appeal.

I don't know why SEPTA made this decision, since they typically play everything out to the end. I suppose one reason is that they saw that they were unlikely to prevail.

But I'm going to be an optimist today and hope that SEPTA's decision is a sign that SEPTA is going to be a better partner for the city and for transit riders.

Save The Broad Street Buildings

Yesterday, the State Department of General Services (DGS), which is building the Convention Center Expansion, ignored a ruling by the State Historical Commission, and started demolishing two historic buildings that stand in the path of the new building.

This is doubly disappointing. It is important that we save these buildings. And the way in which the DGS, and our political leaders, are acting is truly despicable. Evidently it was too expensive to violate the trust of the people the way we usually do them in this state--which would have meant that the demolition would have started at 2 am. Instead, the state has acted at the next most nefarious time, when the holiday season is upon us and we were celebrating, among other things, a decision that we thought would protect these buildings.

The whole story is below. Read it. And then email Governor Rendell and ask him to order the DGS to stop destroying our heritage.

The World Has Been Made Safe for Transfers: City Wins in Commonwealth Court

The Commonwealth Court ruled today against SEPTA in its appeal of Judge DiVito’s injunction against SEPTA’s decision to eliminate transfers. And, as I will explain below, it was not just the great legal work of Mark Zecca and Stella Tsai but also the opposition of citizens to the elimination of transfers that made the difference.

The Labor Dispute at the Convention Center

The city woke up to some good news in the Inquirer—Governor Rendell is evidently going to try to broke a compromise on the Convention Center labor dispute. So Council is not likely to adopt Frank DiCicco’s proposal to open the expansion of the Convention Center to non-union contractors

This is a tough issue for those of us who are both pro-labor and pro-minority. There is no question that many of the building trades have fewer minority and women members than they should, given the demographics of the city and region. And there is no question that racism is a main reason for these low numbers.

And yet, while I don’t doubt the good intentions of Frank DiCicco and the other supporters of this proposal, opening work at the Convention Center to non-union contractors is not a good solution, for many reasons.

Neighborhood Networks Holiday Party

A year and a half ago, a small group of people, chastened but activated by the result of the 2004 election and by our frustration with politics in Philadelphia, called a meeting to start a new group, Neighborhood Networks.

To our surprise, over two hundred and thirty people attended our inaugural event.

Since then, we have played a critical role in enacting ethics reform charter changes and in pushing for gun control. We helped lead the fight to raise the minimum wage and we supported a slate of progressive candidates in the 2007 Democratic primary. We have been a mainstay of the Philadelphia Campaign for Housing Justice and we have called for an end to the war in Iraq. We have fought against casinos and for the Cohen wage tax rebate.

Inclusionary Housing Update

Not long ago, we held an interesting debate here about Inclusionary Housing with some of us (including me) seeking a bill that directs most of the money to those with the lowest incomes in the city and others (including Ray) worried about the difficulties for those in the middle of the income scale.

The wonderful world of Philadelphia politics has brought us a compromise to please everyone.

Help Get Health On The Move in Harrisburg

The members of the Pennsylvanian’s United for Affordable Health Care and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network met with policy staff of the Rendell Administration and the policy chair of the Democratic caucus, Todd Eachus last week. From what we heard, the administration and the caucus are working together to forge a bill to extend health insurance to most of those with out it. The bill has a chance of being passed by the House of Representatives this year—that’s right, before the session ends on December 19.

Why you should care about the Inclusionary Housing hearing on Wednesday.

This Wednesday, November 28th at 11:00am in Room 400 of City Hall, a critical hearing on Darrell Clarke’s deeply flawed Inclusionary Housing bill will be held. The Philadelphia Campaign for Housing Justice urges all progressives and community activists to attend the hearing

To learn more about how Clarke’s bill differs from the bill drafted by the Philadelphia Campaign for Housing Justice (PCHJ), and why the PCHJ bill is superior to Clarke’s please visit our website:

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