Needed: A Compelling National Narrative

Beyond the "Why" and the "Who's to blame" for Republican Scott Brown's victory in Masachusetts, the most compelling question for Democrats in general, and progressives in particular, is "Where do we go from here?"

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne suggests, first of all, that we stop beating each other up (we're good at that) since it often leads to dithering (unfortunately -- as the Senate Finance Committee proved -- sometimes we're really good at that) and start taking responsibility.

Some blame falls on Congress and that Committee for dithering instead of passing health care legislation while the iron was hot.

Some blame also falls on the president who trusted Congress too much.

Dithering is what legislative bodies are best at, it's built into their system. Providing a compelling narrative, which is necessary for change, is not. Dionne notes:

More broadly, Obama also needed to create a national narrative that Democrats could proclaim with pride. The narrative has been missing, and conservatives have filled the vacuum.

The truth seems to be, in a nation where the majority has health insurance it likes, health care reform can be characterized effectively as either a hero or a villain, depending on who's got the compelling narrative at the moment.

In public opinion terms, think of a national health insurance plan as that really good coat you looked at in the store. If you considered it intelligently then bought it right away, you'll probably always value that coat and be happy with your purchase. Dither over it too much, come close to buying and walk away too many times, and you'll convince yourself you're better off without it.

Democrats need a compelling narrative, complete with heroes people outside the base can empathize with, and with villains they can boo.

Polls indicate Brown got mileage out of vilifying health care reform, but that he was less convincing re: getting people to empathize with big banks.

Continuing to vilify bad banks could be a start.

Every administration needs a defining journalistic voice to provide commentary, criticism and good advice.

After a good year, and especially after his thought-provoking column the day before the election, "What Obama Can Learn From Reagan," (avoid the Pavlovian response and check it out) I nominate Dionne.

Close The Door: Rest in Peace, Teddy Pendergrass

Pop music's greatest bedroom voice has been silenced, and Philly has lost one of its greatest icons.

Good night, one last time, to Edison High's Teddy Pendergrass.

Attached is the London Telegraph obit because, bizarrely, both Albert Stumm's Daily News memorial and Dan Deluca's piece in the Inquirer, while well-written and respectful, seem oddly insubstantial tributes for such an important cultural figure who was also a lifelong Philadelphian.

Far more than just the main voice (and main raison d'etre) of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Pendergrass is one of the defining figures of 1970s r&b ballad singing, one of the first African Americans to have five gold albums in a row (and he didn't follow his with Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants) and probably the most important solo singer to come out of Gamble & Huff's Philly International hit factory.

I hope angels throw underwear.

Interview relevant to test-based teacher merit pay and standardized testing

Hmmmmm. ...... "Strapped cities review corporate tax breaks"

So, we have heard many times that tax abatements are needed to keep Philly's buiness environment competitive with the business environment in other cities. So, then, what should Philly do as many other cities enact "clawbacks" if companies that recieved abatements fail to produce jobs as promised?

"We were told that we were going to ruin Topeka's ability to attract businesses; we'd give Topeka a black eye," said James Crowl, assistant county counselor in Shawnee County, where last year officials approved a settlement that calls for Target to pay $200,000 a year for 10 years after failing to create as many jobs as it had agreed to.

So what happened?

"Last year we opened a Home Depot distribution center right next door," said County Counselor Rich Eckert.

Are there companies in Philly that have received abatements based on projected employment that haven't brought jobs as promised?

Doris Smith-Ribner running for US Senate

Former Commonwealth Court judge Doris Smith-Ribner is running for Senate.

Her campaign appears to be just getting underway.

I don't know that much about her except that she is from the Pittsburgh although I think she has lived in Mt. Airy for some time. I don't know much about her positions on the issues.

But I can tell you from personal experience she was a smart, firm, and fair judge. She was the judge when Rosita Youngblood tried to knock me off the ballot in 2004. I was impressed not just with decision, with the how thorough and well written her opinion was but also with how she ran the trial.

Obviously her lack of name recognition makes this a tough race. It's not clear how much money she can raise.

But I have a feeling that she is, at the very last, going to make it a more interesting race.

West Philly High School kids hit the big time

This story rocks:

Eighteen months ago, Hauger set his students' eyes on what ought to be an absurd competition for a small, underfunded high-school club to enter: the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.

The competition requires entrants to create an affordable car that gets 100 mpg and can be mass-produced. They must also submit a business plan detailing where and how the car will be produced and how it will be marketed for sale.

The contest will award $5 million for the best four-door economy car. Two prizes of $2.5 million each will go to top winners in a two-seater category. West Philly submitted applications in both classes.

Of the 111 international contest entrants, 21 dropped out. The remaining 90 submitted plans to X PRIZE judges early this year.

Last month, the West Philly team was among only 43 given the green-light to remain in the contest. Their competition includes teams from Cornell University, Tesla Motors and Tata Motors, to name a few heavyweights with access to massive resources and funding.

MIT - ahem - did not make the cut.

"West Philly is the only high school in the competition," says X PRIZE spokeswoman Carrie Fox. "We're very excited to have them on board."

I don't have anything to add except thanks to our young people, their families and their teachers. Between the West Philly groundbreaking and this story about the Automotive Academy being one of 43 finalists for the $10 million X Prize competition, these youth are helping redefine the possibilities and opportunities of our youth. All of our hopes and good will go with you!

Oh yeah, and you can donate online to help them get to the final round. And, ahem, it'd be great if our electeds and other city officials took up that effort as well.

Cool: new tool to fight blight in your neighborhood

Philadelphia Conservatorship Workshop

Sponsored by
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations
Regional Housing Legal Services

December 2, 2009
2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Bar Association
11th Floor Conference Center
1101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
(Bring a photo ID and allow extra time for the building security process)

Is your CDC considering filing a conservatorship petition to rehabilitate or demolish a blighted building in Philadelphia? Learn from people involved in drafting the new law. Find out about the sample pleadings and the Philadelphia General Court Regulation now available on the Court’s website. Hear from practitioners about selecting a property and about the court process. Discover the potential pitfalls and practical considerations you need to know!

The workshop will cover:

An overview of the law and implementation progress to date
Review of criteria for selecting a property
Preparing the preliminary plan for work on the property
Facts and documents to provide to your lawyer (and finding a free lawyer)
What to expect during the Court process
Issues to consider during the development process
Liens and other title issues
Final disposition of the property after the Conservatorship process

Conservatorship is not a solution for every blighted building, but used selectively it can be a powerful tool for revitalizing communities. Please join us on December 2 for an informal discussion of the PA Conservatorship Law.

RSVP by Wednesday, November 25 to Sonya Karr at the Housing Alliance: or 215-576-7044.

For background information on conservatorship, visit the Housing Alliance’s website at and click on the Conservatorship Act Resource Center located under 'Information You Shouldn't Miss'.

A good first step on immigration

This is encouraging:

Mayor Nutter has signed an executive order getting the city out of the immigration enforcement business.

Perhaps stealing the thunder of his own announcement of a 2010 census push, the mayor told a standing-room-only crowd that he's been hearing that what he calls undocumented individuals worry they may be turned over to Immigration if they talk to police or access city services.

KYW gets a little too ahead of itself by saying the city is out of the immigration enforcement business. It most emphatically is not with Philadelphia selling a licensing agreement to ICE that allows them access to court records and other documents. But it is a good first step.

Philebrity Riff #2: Why Bob Brady was in the Huffington Post yesterday

First line:

« Alright, Which One Of You Convinced Bob Brady That He Could Talk About The Internet And Be Taken Seriously?

As an addendum to our post the other day about The People’s Republic Of Comcast, hear ye and know this: Comcast has not given up its fight against what Reasonable People of The World call “net neutrality.” Far from it in fact. Still smarting from the wrist-slaps doled out by the FCC after it caught Comcast trying to throttle file-sharers, Comcast is now enlisting the help of any and all pols to refute the FCC’s growing embrace of net neutrality...

For the rest, click link above, it's funny.

And here's Bob Brady in the Huffington Post:

Then you should go to and sign up to protect this incredibly valuable resource.

Philebrity "More Rumblings: the People's Republic of Comcast"

First line:

">>> What is it in the air today that some of Philadelphia’s most hated institutions — SEPTA, Comcast, Cole Hamels — seem to be firing on all of their crazy-bullshit cylinders at once? Jesus, one at a time, people. Incoming: Comcast is like this close to owning NBC Universal. Like, closer than it has ever been before. And here we must ask: Is Comcast even going to have any idea whatsoever to do with NBC once it does (sic) own it?"

Click the link above to read.

Stimulus plan needs some stimulation: Awarded $157M in fed funds, the city has spent just $1M, and saved only 52 jobs

Stimulus plan needs some stimulation: Awarded $157M in fed funds, the city has spent just $1M, and saved only 52 jobs