POLS ON THE STREET: Bipartisan, Bi-County Coalition Forms

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by JOE SHAHEELI/ The Boyle Brothers are at it again. This time they’ve reached across the aisle and the county line to form a coalition with Republican State Reps. Thomas P. Murt and Todd Stephens.

According to its chairman, State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast), the organization will call itself the Eastern Montgomery Co./Northeast Philadelphia Legislative Alliance with its mission  to foster greater regional and bipartisan cooperation between local and state elected officials in order to more effectively address issues that are of mutual interest to constituents of both counties.

We wonder what will happen if a party-line vote affecting their areas were to be ordered in caucus. Would they split?

Murt is serving as Vice-Chair. Other members of the organization include State Reps. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast), Stephens and Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), as well as former House Speaker and current City Council member Dennis O’Brien (Republican).

“Northeast Philadelphia and Eastern Montgomery Co. do not exist in a vacuum,” said Brendan Boyle. “These regions, while separated by municipal borders, have a great deal in common. When living in this area, residents do not recognize arbitrary boundaries as they shop, attend religious services, work, and utilize transportation and government services. As legislators, we must likewise reach across both party and county lines, and move past these boundaries to recognize the many commonalities our communities possess.”

He added, “The EMC/NEP Legislative Alliance will bridge the divide that exists due to these borders and focus on local and state issues relevant to both areas.” Murt reiterated the need for bipartisan, bi-county cooperation. “There are challenges unique to Montgomery Co. and Philadelphia, and they will require bipartisanship to tackle,” Murt said. “That’s why I was happy to join Rep. Boyle in this mission, and I am optimistic that what we are doing today will stand as an example to others in the state that problem-solving can be accomplished if we unify in our purpose.”

SUNNY WEATHER and enthusiastic teamwork had Republicans out collecting petition sigs in N.E. Phila. last weekend. From left are YR Chairman Steve Boc, John Katrina, City Commissioner Al Schmidt, Ward Leader Phil Innamorato and Controller candidate Terry Tracy.

SUNNY WEATHER and enthusiastic teamwork had Republicans out collecting petition sigs in N.E. Phila. last weekend. From left are YR Chairman Steve Boc, John Katrina, City Commissioner Al Schmidt, Ward Leader Phil Innamorato and Controller candidate Terry Tracy.

ALVAREZ ADDRESSES PENTECOSTAL CLERGY

Normally, one would consider the Pentecostal Clergy, headed by Bishop Leonard C. Goins, as vote territory belonging to DA Seth Williams. But Danny Alvarez, who has the GOP endorsement for District Attorney and will be Seth’s challenger in November, doesn’t believe that.

He is the group’s guest speaker as it celebrates its 13th anniversary with a prayer and fellowship breakfast, Mar. 23 at 7:30 a.m., at The View, 800 N. Broad Street. He’s the first of a series of candidates who are being invited to address the group. Candidates interested should call Bishop Goins at (215) 738-9739.

Alvarez is a newcomer to the political game played here, but not so naive he doesn’t understand his is a long, winding road uphill if he hopes to cut into the eight-to-one registration advantage enjoyed by Williams, who also has the endorsement of Congressman Bob Brady’s Democratic City Committee and its vote-getting power.

Expect Alvarez to make more such moves. He will be thinking outside of the box. This campaign won’t be waged by him in the traditional way.

Danny shares with Seth the fact both are former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys. Danny served over eight years in the DA’s Office as a Gun Court prosecutor and as a member of the Gun Violence Task Force, among other units, before starting his own legal practice. He successfully prosecuted various gun crimes, including gun trafficking as well as cases ranging from attempted murder and drug offenses, to economic crimes.

Danny earned his BA from the Virginia Military Institute and his JD from the American University-Washington College of Law. A resident of the Somerton section of the city, Danny and his wife Michelle have two children, six-year-old Jake and three-year-old Annabell.

His family attends Mass at St. Albert the Great. Danny also frequently attends church at Calvary Chapel.

SEN. TARTAGLIONE GEARS UP FOR REELECTION

State Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Kensington) has kicked off her reelection campaign for 2014, hosting a meeting of her finance committee to gear up for her 2014 reelection campaign.

Joining the group were Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-W. Phila.) who reinforced the commitment of the Senate Democratic Leadership and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus to ensuring that Tartaglione has everything she needs as she seeks reelection.

“Sen. Tina Tartaglione is an important part of our leadership team,” said Costa. “We are asking everyone in this room to join Sen. Hughes and me in renewing their commitment to raising the funds necessary to fend off any potential opponent to Tina next year.”

“The Senate Democrats are on the cusp of taking the majority in the State Senate,” said Sen. Hughes. “The way we get to the majority is by making sure every one of our sitting Members comes back after the election. That begins with making sure that we are all there for Sen. Tartaglione.”

Among those in attendance were John Meyerson of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 and John Kane of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 690. State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.), along with Costa and Hughes, sent a letter in support.

Tartaglione has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd Senatorial Dist. since 1994. She serves as the Democratic Caucus Secretary and Democratic Chairperson of the Labor & Industry Committee.

KANE SEEKS TO END PAY-TO-PLAY

To her credit, the more we hear, the more we believe Pennsylvania has gotten itself an Attorney General who believes in cleaning up crime and corruption.

Just this past week, AG Kathleen Kane told a Senate Committee of her fear over the taking over of neighborhoods by Mexican drug cartels. Also earlier in the week, she called for the legislature to come up with a bomb of a law that would  ban individuals who give political campaign contributions from obtaining state contracts and banning those getting contracts from making political campaign contributions.

She has the open support of Barry Kauffman of Pennsylvania Common Cause, who seconds the effort, adding, “It’s got to be the law of the land!”

Triggering that call was her investigation into the Turnpike and the subsequent filing of state criminal charges against former State Democrat Majority Leader Robert Mellow, former Turnpike Commissioner Mitchell Rubin and six others. This investigation could finally move her suggested legislation to fruition, since past efforts have failed.

BUTKOVITZ’ HEAD IS PACKED WITH STATS

City Controller Alan Butkovitz filed more signatures on his nominating petitions than any of his opponents – 9,255 to be exact, almost more than the totals of his three challengers.

His biggest asset in this campaign as he challenges his opponents in four debates and at a dozen or more community forums scheduled during the primary is his knowledge of what is going wrong and what should be done to make it go right with city government.

It’s impossible for the challengers to come up with the answers he will have for questions hurled at him. The figures are in his head, drilled there by his intensive audits of the City’s many programs and its handling of the budget.

He is drawing torrents of applause when he addresses Actual Value Initiative reassessments, demanding the Mayor explain what formula was used by the assessors in setting individual house rates.

Butkovitz added to his achievement record this week an audit of the City’s Procurement Function that indicated nearly $12.2 million in annual savings could be achieved by implementing new technology and improving the method it contracts for services and equipment.

Of the total potential amount in annual savings, $7.4 million could be realized by replacing the City’s technology systems which are used for purchasing, maintaining inventory and procuring services. The current systems haven’t been upgraded in more than a decade and in fact are no longer supported for upgrades.

According to Butkovitz, replacing the current systems with a new eProcurement system would eliminate the requirement for manual, redundant, labor intensive and out-of-date business processes. An eProcurement system would also save an additional $750,000 through staffing reductions.

In the meantime, one of Butkovitz’ challengers, Brett Mandel, has opened two campaign offices, one in Mt. Airy at 6841 Germantown Avenue and the other in South Philly at 2227 Grays Ferry Avenue. He has scheduled two fundraisers in April, one on the 10th at Cherry Street Tavern and the other on Apr. 15, at the Prime Rib on Locust Street. Both start at 6 p.m.

CORBETT IS HELL-BENT ON PRIVATIZING L.C.B.

Even though polls continue to show Gov. Tom Corbett dropping heavily and quickly in the polls of likely voters, he continues to push for the privatization of the lottery and the end of the State monopoly of Liquor Sales and indicates he hopes to do the same with some of the operations of PennDOT.

He must know something, the rest of us don’t. He must have figured this to be a formula to win him voter support despite the opposition of labor, especially the large union UFCW 1776, headed by Wendell Young IV, whose membership includes state liquor-store workers.

In recent days, two new polls have shown Corbett is in big trouble in 2014. He is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Republicans who plan to vote in the 2014 GOP primary want another candidate, and Pennsylvanians are ready to send Tom Corbett packing in the 2014 general election. But that is only what the polls say today, still two years out.

Corbett doesn’t believe any Republican challengers in the primary will give him a serious challenge. He expects they will only serve to get him more press coverage than normal when he wins easily.

But he needs to know his standings in the polls are revving up Democrats who see a strong challenge winnable. At least six well-known Democrats have indicated an interest led by Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-Phila.) and State Sen. Michael Stack (D-Northeast). Others include Treasurer Rob McCord, John Hanger, Kathleen McGinty and Tom Knox.

Not so well known is Max Myers, who claims he has been campaigning for the past 18 months. He officially kicked off his campaign at the William Way Community Center in Philadelphia. A minister with the Assemblies of God, a denomination of Pentecostal Christians, he runs a school for ministers in Mechanicsburg.

WILL THIS SUIT IMPACT JUDICIAL RETENTION?

A federal lawsuit challenging a law that requires Pennsylvania judges to retire by age 70 should be thrown out because higher courts have previously rejected similar claims, according to a filing by attorneys for Gov. Tom Corbett.

Filed late last year, the age-discrimination lawsuit argues forced retirement at age 70 violates judges’ constitutional rights to equal protection of the law and due process.

Two actions are pending, one in US District Court in Pittsburgh and the other before the state’s Commonwealth Court. In an 18-page brief, attorneys with the State Attorney General’s Office asked the federal case be dismissed because similar cases were rejected by the US Supreme Court and the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

BEWARE OF EFFORTS TO END JUDICIAL VOTING

Look for a deluge of efforts to take away the rights of Pennsylvania voters to pick their judges, from traffic, district, and higher courts up to and including the Supreme Court.

The drum and bugle corps heading the parade of the champions of disenfranchisement is Philadelphia-based Committee of 70.

Mentioned quite often are the Feds’ indictments of Traffic Court judges. Though retired Judge Fred Perri pleaded guilty, there is strong sentiment those indicted will weather the storm.

Look for a lot of misinformation to be fed to the general public to show why it is better to have a “select few” acting as the “selection committee” – appointed by elected officials and Bar executives – the only group endowed with the intelligence to pick judges for the courts of this state.

Looking at a Committee of 70 newsletter, entitled “The skinny on Local Judicial elections”, it mentioned, “Nearly 100 people have expressed interest in running for Traffic Court” (a BS figure) … but why this meaningless, fake statistic? Only 38 did run, in fact.

To advance its case, it continues, “If you feel overwhelmed, you’re in good company: The majority of Philadelphians have no clue about most, if not all, of the judicial candidates.”

To us, their willingness to run for Traffic Court is a clarion call for public involvement. Selection sets up a hierarchy and class above ordinary citizens and should not exist. Election process leaves it up to you the voter. By the way three ex-Governors are for selection … possibly because their candidates for Superior and Supreme Court failed the voters’ test.

TIM O’BRIEN: NEW G.O.P. TACK ON LABOR

In an interview with PhillyLabor.com, former Bail Commissioner Tim O’Brien is energizing the City’s GOP ranks. He’s actually suggesting the GOP adopt a pro-labor stance. O’Brien said good wages and health care benefits equal strong families.

O’Brien has wasted little time. He now chairs “The Philly Future Fund,” a political-action committee he said which will support “Pro-labor Republican candidates.” O’Brien also shared his ultimate goal: “To have a city union member step into the voting booth and have a hard time deciding between the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate, because they are both solid, labor-friendly candidates.”

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