Who's counting? Philly schools and the ??? budget deficit

Mayor Nutter and Supt. Arlene Ackerman call a press conference to say "Keep movin' folks. Nothing here to see":

Mayor Nutter and School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said in a hastily arranged conference call Tuesday night that they did not know the amount the district would need to make up in next year's budget. Ackerman called any figures other than the stimulus money "purely speculative."

"I don't feel comfortable actually discussing this with the press, beyond the $234 million, as we are internally trying to look at a variety of scenarios," Ackerman said. "I really think it's unfair to report on budget exercises that may or may not be going on here."

Nutter and Ackerman called the news conference after The Inquirer began asking questions about the budget.

"We don't want to spend a lot of time speculating," the mayor said, acknowledging that the district, "like every other governmental entity, has some budget challenges."

$200 million, $400 million, half a billion - hey who's counting? And while the press mulls over why they were scolded for daring to speculate, most of us wonder whether speculation and budgets ought to really be called PRACTICAL FINANCIAL PLANNING.

After all, it's not like the District didn't know the stimulus was going to run out, or that a Republican sweep of the legislature and governor's office wasn't a likelihood, or that there was no guarantee the education funding formula would hold.

So yeah, that where we are. After surviving civil rights violations, exorbitant salaries, and now facing bankruptcy, the lesson to be learned is let's not think about it so much. Keep movin' folks.

Foxwoods Victory Party Monday night!

Not sure what to make of the deafening silence on this site... might be just stunnedness, it is for me.

I and a lot of you have a lot of writing to do about the revocation of the Foxwoods license but most importantly I would like to get everybody going to the party. This is a big deal. As with everything else wonderful about the anti-casino movement, it should be one of those few magical moments where you get Port Richmond, Society Hill, Pennsport, Chinatown, West Philadelphia, Queen Village, and many other neighborhoods in all in one place!

This is really EVERYONE's victory. And I mean the whole city. CFP once did a great cost-benefit report on the net cost to the city in terms of lost property values, extra police, emergency, traffic management, addiction services, lost opportunities for local business, etc, and for two casinos it came out to a whopping $52 million per year. AFTER you take out the tax revenue. Bad idea, but, um, I suppose we all learn by trying.

Thank goodness we all got together to write that that awesome alternate plan!

Civic vision of the Delaware - Penn Praxis City Planning Commission

Back to the Drawing Board with the BPT

It seems that the hearing and vote on Sanchez/Green scheduled for today won't happen. Negotiations with the Nutter administration will begin, outcome uncertain. People who think tax policy is important, which should be all of us, stay tuned.

Coincidence? Adjuncts start collecting union cards, Temple "lays off" 76% of a program

It sucks to be an adjunct sometimes.

Families spend tens of thousands of dollars to send each of your 15, 20 or 30 students to college, yet you stand before them, representing that institution, making less than some kids do at part-time jobs, always afraid of getting sick because you don't have health insurance.

Temple adjuncts are attempting to remedy this situation, collecting cards for a union, as their friends at Community College of Philadelphia, who have health insurance, had done long ago.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Spring 2011: Temple told 45 of the 59 adjuncts it's employing this semester to teach First-Year Writing that they won't be returning next semester, despite Temple's running the same number of sections it ran in Spring 2010.


“It is true that this will make it harder to unionize. We could all be gone permanently or be having this conversation in three years,” says adjunct instructor Frank Fucile in Rosella Eleanor Lafevre's informative story in Temple News. Check out the details.

This is big news for the City's largest university (27K+ enrollment compared to Penn's 24K+).

More than 50% of Temple's faculty are adjuncts.

As an institution receiving state funds (though not enough), local state government has the right to look into this matter. Since the City relies so heavily on Temple, City government might investigate it as well. I, personally, would welcome such inquiry.

Supporters of the Temple 45, and anyone who generally supports workers' rights, ought to raise their concerns and their voices about what seems to be Temple's unprofessional behavior.

Renee Tartaglione Resigns, Philly Elections Impugned

Why did Chief Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione, a city employee for 27 of her 55 years, resign?

She says she wants to spend more time "to do the things I want to do when I want to do them."

But it so happens that prior to her resignation, a 14-month investigation by the City's Ethics Board found Tartaglione, the highest-ranking non-elected official at the City Commissioners' office, had been actively politicking during the 2007, 2008, and 2009 elections, in violation of the Home Rule Charter.

The City Commissioners are Philadelphia's electoral board, charged with everything from registering voters to counting the vote.

Tartaglione's husband, 19th Ward Leader Carlos Matos, was then serving time for bribing Atlantic City officials. Tartaglione appears to have stepped in and assumed his partisan electoral duties, despite her status as a city employee, despite her serving in the office charged with assuring fair elections.

Her electoral duties in 2008 apparently included printing and distributing ballots deliberately designed to mislead supporters of State Representative Angel Cruz by instructing voters to press the wrong button.

Tartaglione also allegedly collected contributions from the City Democratic Party electoral committee and distributed street money to workers in the 19th Ward and the 61st Ward, where her mother, Marge Tartaglione, is Ward Leader.

Marge Tartaglione, of course, is also the longtime chair of the City Commissioners, the top elections official in Philadelphia.

Check out more details in Marcia Gelbart's Inquirer story.

Renee Tartaglione's resignation gives ammunition to critics of Philadelphia's City Commissioners, who argue that partisan politicians -- such as ward leaders -- should not be charged with counting the vote and assuring fair elections.

In other news: duh.

Critics of patronage hiring practices can have at it as well.

Philadelphia deserves a better way of conducting elections. Costs may be saved, as well. Committee of Seventy and the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority are right to call for alternatives.

The lack of support from City government, including the mayor's office, is disappointing.

Is it time for the School Reform Commission to call it quits?

MO-St Joseph - Big rubber stamp

Because what’s the point of this entity anymore?

The issue confronting Ackerman's staff was how to secure SRC approval of the project most effectively. Instead of using the walk-on resolution, procurement chief Byars devised a plan to introduce the funding under the procurement umbrella, sources said. As a result, the $7.5 million directed to IBS appeared as Exhibit A on the seventh and final page of the procurement resolution, presented to the SRC at its Oct. 13 planning session. The SRC was asked to ratify the award because work had begun.

At that meeting, Ackerman spoke briefly about the importance of the project, noting that "camera enhancements were needed at persistently dangerous schools."

"That was discussed," she said, "at the SRC presentation group Project Safe Schools." The work, she said, had to commence before the next SRC meeting because of the tight timetable.

Commission Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. asked her, "How many schools are considered persistently dangerous?"

Ackerman said there were 20 (including South Philadelphia), and she reminded Archie that the commissioners had heard about the need for improved surveillance.

A week later, at its voting meeting, the commission approved the $7.5 million award to IBS.

Following a year of violence at South Philly High, task force reports, and multiple campaigns to pledge to fight school violence, it’s not just galling that the SRC chair only asked this one question, but that the chair did not know the answer.

I’m not questioning the intentions of the SRC commissioners as individuals, some of whom over the years I have known personally. But despite their intentions, this particular installation has failed to address two of its key responsibilities:

  1. They are public servants who carry a public duty.
  2. Their primary goal is fiscal oversight and management of the District.

You couldn’t tell that from their public presentations. SRC meetings are infamous for the lack of questioning by commissioners. While things have improved marginally, it’s probably one of the last places to find inquisitive or substantive dialogue. The SRC meets for hours behind closed doors. In response to a Notebook story I wrote about the SRC passing contract resolutions after the work had already gotten underway, and in some cases, was already completed, the District called these contract ratifications “rare exceptions.” But as the Notebook reports, contract ratifications remain de rigeur in the District, including the example featured in the Inquirer above.

The SRC also forgets that it needs to smooth out this Superintendent’s many rough edges. In a story where the District is cast as not caring one whit about school safety but instead is focused on PR deflection, the SRC needs to provide a clear voice that school safety is a priority concern and mission.

At the end of the day, the District may feel it's OK to dismiss the concerns of the local media, but that's a dangerous game to play when Harrisburg is involved.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Endorses Sestak, Calls Toomey "Much More Conservative" Than Santorum

Not that you, dear blog reader, are likely to base your e-day decisions on the those of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial board; but on the one hand, it's nice to read a Sestak paean from our commonwealth's more midwestern metropolis (i.e., it's nice to be reminded that people who are different from you can come to the same useful conclusions you do, traveling different routes), and on the other, it's interesting to note that our determinedly temperate neighbors have come to so scathing a verdict on Pat Toomey:

Yet Mr. Toomey, the father of three, is a soft-spoken, amiable candidate. He lacks the bark of a Rick Santorum, but he would easily replicate the former senator's voting record. An analysis last May by Pollster.com said Mr. Toomey was more conservative than 98 percent of all members of Congress since 1995 -- and much more conservative than Mr. Santorum. Which raises the question, do Pennsylvanians really want to turn back the clock?

My advice: use some of this next time you encounter a fence- or couch-sitter reluctant to vote for Joe in November.

Google the following: How Google is Ripping Us All Off

And I thought that all of our deficit problems are due to those damned public employees who want to be paid a living wage and have pensions.

The smell of fascism brewing

You're not invited to this party.

Big News: Once Again, When It Counts, Sestak Takes the Lead!

Joe Sestak, the hardest working man in Pennsylvania politics, has two come-from-behind upset victories under his belt, so no one was counting him out, but his Senate fight with right wing uber-extremist Pat Toomey has presented his toughest challenge yet: that Wall Street derivatives specialist and nutty Club For Growth chair has floated for months on a seemingly inexhaustible sea of money and an endless stream of aggressively underhanded tv ads.

So this latest poll, showing Sestak with a 47-44 lead among likely voters, is welcome news, but only insomuch as it shows that once again Sestak can win, and that he's got momentum just when he needs it.

But this race is far from over. All good progressives, indeed anyone to the left of Rick Santorum, are advised to help Joe win the country's most ideologically divided Senate contest, and send a message to PA and the US that we reject the tea party agenda and the Republican takeover.

Check out Chris' Kos post, then come out for a Philly For Change canvass or one of the other critical GOTV events to put Joe over the top and keep the Republicans from sliding us back to Bush.

Michelle Rhee to announce resignation as D.C. schools chancellor on Wednesday

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of this month, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but that also became a central issue in an election that sent her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, to defeat.

Rhee survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement and one of the longest-serving school leaders in the city in two decades. Student test scores rose, and the teachers union accepted a contract that gave the chancellor sweeping powers to fire the lowest-performing among them.


Please join us for our first joint NOW/CLUW Happy Hour

Please join us for our first joint NOW/CLUW Happy Hour:

Host: Philadelphia NOW & CLUW
Location: Tavern on Broad (formerly Zanzibar Blue)
200 South Broad Street (at Walnut)
Philadelphia, PA 19107 US

When: Thursday, October 7, 5:30PM to 7:30PM FEMINIST AND LABOR MOVEMENTS:
How we can work together to achieve full equality for women

Special Guests

Erin Matson, Vice President for Action
National Organization for Women

Kathy Black, Philadelphia President
Coalition of Labor Union Women

Karen See, National CLUW President

Other Invited Guests:

Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses
and Allied Professionals

For more information, contact:

Karen Bojar, kbojar1@verizon.net
Emily Randle, emily@phillyjwj.org

Half-priced drinks and appetizers

John Baer's Column: Isn't Marcellus Shale a wide receiver for Tennessee State?


John Baer: In Pennsylvania, tax on rock could be a gas

By John Baer
Philadelphia Daily News

WITH YOUR Legislature back (however briefly) from its oh-so-deserved summer break, the question of taxing Marcellus Shale sits atop its in-box.

Here, then, a Q & A on the issue, assuming that the only gas known to Philly folks is that emitted from the DRPA, the PHA and City Hall.

Q. Isn't Marcellus Shale a wide receiver for Tennessee State?

A. You're no doubt thinking of Cris Shale, Bowling Green's 1990 All-America punter, drafted and then cut by the Redskins in '91.

Q. So who the heck is Marcellus Shale?

A. Not who, what. It's dark sedimentary rock across two-thirds of Pennsylvania, mostly northern and western counties, from the surface to a mile below.

Q. Where'd the name come from?

A. Marcellus, N.Y., population 1,800, about 10 miles east of Syracuse, where an outcropping of the rock was visible.

Q. Why tax rock?

A. Because this rock traps natural gas, apparently enough to fuel the state forever.

Q. Really? How much?

A. Estimates are 50 trillion cubic feet, almost double the amount the U.S. uses annually, and slightly more than comes from the DRPA, PHA and City Hall combined.

Q. You said "trapped." How do you get it un-trapped?

A. Drill, baby, drill - down and sideways.

Q. Wait, is this the drilling that the state spied on its citizens about?

A. You betcha. State squandered $103,000 of your dough on a no-bid contract with some "anti-terrorism" firm to crush the constitutional rights of anybody who raised questions about this issue or watched the documentary "Gasland" about its dangers or ever tasted a granola bar.

Q. Why?

A. Because Gov. Ed was too busy analyzing football and appearing on every cable-TV talk show there is, and because the people he hired couldn't think of a better use of tax dollars.

Q. Well, what's the concern about drilling?

A. Use of high pressure to force millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals down to fracture the shale and release the gas.

Q. Chemicals? Like what?

A. Oh, practically harmless stuff such as hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, ammonium chloride.

Q. Sounds pretty toxic; what happens to the water?

A. Don't ask.

Q. I am asking.

A. Industry says it's reused or recycled, treated, cleaned up and made safe enough to serve to your mother-in-law. Others say it poisons watersheds, sickens or kills livestock and greatly increases sales of bottled water.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/dailynews/columnists/john_baer/20100920_John_Baer_...
Watch sports videos you won't find anywhere else

Elizabeth Warren will lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an Assistant to President Obama

A new sheriff is coming town, and times are about to get a lot harder for villainous bankers.

Indefatigable consumer champion Elizabeth Warren indeed will lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is her brainchild, overcoming countless expert predictions that her agency could never pass Congress, and that she herself was too controversial to lead it.

The Obama administration will bypass a potentially protracted confirmation battle in Congress by appointing her a special assistant to the president, and a special adviser to Treasury secretary Tim Geithner, charged with overseeing the creation of the bureau and choosing its permanent director, a role she is not precluded from assuming herself.

This is welcome good news for consumers and progressives, and yet another good reason for keeping Congress in the hands of Democrats.

Financial reform may have only just begun.

Pat Toomey Wants Big Oil and Other Corps to Pay No Taxes While You Pay Your Full Share

Check out the Sestak campaign's latest ad.

It should warm the hearts of those who have railed for years against tax inequities, as well as the irresponsibility of corporations and the politicians who shill for them.

Philly For Change and other progressive groups are ramping up their GOTV work, as Labor Day heralds the advent of the fall election season.

I urge anyone reading this to get out and work for Joe Sestak and other worthy Democrats running in tight races.

Come November, it's us against the oligarchy that Toomey represents, and we need to win.