BY JOE SHAHEELI/ Former Gov. Ed Rendell broke the jinx which for two generations had branded any statewide candidate from â€œPhiladelphia Co.â€ a loser.
Since then we have been looking for State Sen. Mike Stack (D-Northeast) to break that jinx in his primary bid for Lieutenant Governor.
Voters casting ballots for statewide candidates â€” judges, Attorneys and Auditors General, Treasurer, Governor and Lieutenant Governor â€” know from which county comes the individual for whom they are voting. â€œPhiladelphia Co.â€, under our hometown candidateâ€™s name, often made that name offensive to Pennsylvanians from other counties. We can understand, since we often are blamed for woes around the state.
Periodically, some of our cityâ€™s elected officials have what it takes to wage a creditable campaign statewide: money, charm and popularity from a job well done. But they know they are in a gamble, with odds against them. So they often shy from the opportunity and the challenge and elect to hold onto their safe seats.
Philadelphia is the loser, since we know the stateâ€™s elected leaders always favor their home counties whenever possible.
Presently, only our caucus members in the General Assembly can run without having to resign from their seats. Examples abound. In this primary, two are Stack, running for Lieutenant Governor, and State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast), for Congress.
The City Charter, our constitution, requires any of our city officeholders to resign if they wish to seek a seat other than the one they now hold.
Thatâ€™s unfair. It also puts them at a disadvantage. They have to break the jinx, unless theyâ€™ve had lengthy exposure on state wide television.
Republican Councilman at Large David Oh understands the jinx still remains an unlucky charm.
Oh, who always has his sights on bringing in business from the rest of the world, understands the power of statewide officeholders in this respect. Luckily, Gov. Tom Corbettâ€™s business trip to Brazil focused on the cityâ€™s port, resulting in new Brazilian shipping to this port starting in June and creating more port-related jobs.
Oh is right when he explains, â€œResign to run lessens our voice in all matters where we need support and cooperation from Harrisburg including public education.â€
Of course, a prophet has no honor in his own camp, so Oh doesnâ€™t have the support of his party, which is limited to three votes in City Council and one in the State House.
Joe DeFelice, the partyâ€™s executive director, â€œCity Council wants to change [the rule] so they can campaign for a different office while the tax payers are paying them to do their job.â€
None of Councilâ€™s Republicans â€“ Oh, Denny Oâ€™Brien and Brian Oâ€™Neill â€“ who voted to support Ohâ€™s resolution â€“ attended the meeting of GOP ward leaders.
If the voters wisely vote in the change, it will not go into effect until 2016.The policy wonâ€™t change until 2016, so it won’t impact the 2015 Mayorâ€™s race; and candidates will still be barred from running in two different races at the same time. The primary effect of the latter provision is that Council Members wonâ€™t be able to simultaneously run for reelection and for Mayor.
State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.) has had his differences with State Rep. Jim Roebuck (D-W. Phila.), Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee, when it comes to charter- and public-school policies. But make no bones about it, that difference exists only in policy and not in allegiance.
Williams was among the leaders on board at Roebuckâ€™s opening of his campaign headquarters last Saturday at 4535 Baltimore Avenue. Also in attendance and in support was Dolores Jones Butler, former Mayor of Yeadon, who is Roebuckâ€™s campaign manager.
State Rep. James Clay, Jr. (D-Kensington) last week chaired a policy hearing on stronger regulation and guidelines for recovery houses, which are constantly being mistaken for rooming and boarding homes. Thatâ€™s no small feat for a freshman legislator.
The 179th Dist. legislator had HB 2173 on the agenda at Simpson Rec Center within the district of State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast). The freshman legislator has learned quickly how to work with and get support from both sides of the aisle for issues that benefit quality-of-life issues for constituents.
Lifetime Holmesburg resident Mike Tomlinson announced his candidacy for the State House seat being vacated by incumbent Mike McGeehan (D-Northeast) to a large group of Republican supporters at the Holmesburg Rec Center. Tomlinson, a father of four daughters and a licensed CPA, believes he brings a fresh neighborhood-oriented vision for the district which stretches from Wissinoming through the Far Northeast. He is lucky he doesnâ€™t have to sweat out a primary which pits two labor-supported Democrat candidates against each other in the May 20 primary.
Tomlinson will be paying attention to what Mike Driscoll and Dennis Kilderry have to say about themselves and maybe about each other, in what promises to be a close battle. Both have the support of labor groups.
During his previous campaign, for the same seat, Mike met with 56 businesses. Mike learned, â€œIt is clear that our elected officials act for the benefit of themselves and their special interests but to the detriment of the greater needs of our local economy.â€ Further, Mike informs, â€œI will propose legislation requiring the state and county governments to fund pension plans each year and stop pushing this, and other debt, onto our children.â€
Our advice to State Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Northeast) is not to show up when the Inquirerâ€™s editorial board invites him for a sit-down pre-endorsement interview session. Theyâ€™ve already tipped their hand they didnâ€™t like the fact he was endorsed by the Democratic City Committee â€œto avoid a legislative district primary battle.â€
Whatever they ask you, Ed, know theyâ€™ll figure out how to twist it against you, since we believe they will endorse Republican nominee Matt Wolfe for the vacant at-Large Council seat.
Matt has a lot going for him and he could put the publicity to good use. But our advice to Matt is: Donâ€™t consider that endorsement a stroke of good fortune. Itâ€™s failed to get endorsees elected often enough to prove Inkie readers donâ€™t comprehend that well â€“ or believe it is better to vote the other way.
That said, a core of high-information, independent-minded readers in key demographics would be reached by such an editorial.
State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-Northwest), facing a primary battle for the 194th Legislative seat, which takes in Roxborough along with chunks of East Falls and Lower Merion Township, is feeling the brunt of redistricting.
She says the Pennsylvania General Assembly must work to remove the inherent conflicts of interest that legislators bring into their process of state redistricting, said Every 10 years, following completion of the US Census, the General Assembly redraws Pennsylvaniaâ€™s state and federal political districts so that districts are equal in size and reflect changes in population.
â€œThe problem in the process manifests when legislators have the ability to draw their own district boundaries and often divide neighborhoods or groups of people in ways that benefit their own electoral needs,â€ said DeLissio.
DeLissio said she believes communities are best represented when their needs can be addressed by keeping communities and neighborhoods within a single district. Districts that maintain the continuity of these communities of interest result in more-accountable and responsive legislators, who can better meet the needs of their constituents.
â€œTo fix the process would be a â€˜heavy liftâ€™, as it requires amending the state constitution, and because the legislators, some of whom have a vested interest in not changing the process, will need to be pressured by their constituents to do the right thing,â€ she added.
State House districts include about 60,000 people; State Senate districts include about 250,000 people.
DeLissio said the new redistricting plan is still driven by politics to the detriment of the people. She said she has discussed redistricting at 32 of her 33 Town Halls over the past four years because of how integral it is to the development and passage of public policy that is for the benefit of the greater good and not simply politically expedient or favorable to special-interest groups who influence the process with significant campaign contributions.
Political columnist Nathan Shrader confirms research from Loyola University indicates in 44 states, â€œlegislatures have primary control over the congressional lines.â€
An important op-ed by Charles Blow in the Apr. 12, 2014 New York Times helps to underscore why redistricting â€œreformâ€ proposals present false hope for those who are disgusted with the federal governmentâ€™s inability to produce results. Although Blowâ€™s piece called â€œThe Self-Sortâ€ does not directly address the redistricting process, it does present critical data showing why many of our congressional districts are configured the way they are today.
Blow cites a 2013 report by two Stanford scholars and a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center which found Americans are electing to self-segregate by factors such as race and income. A 2013 study published in Education and Urban Society and a report from the Civil Rights Project presented data showing public schools were less racially segregated prior to desegregation than they are today. In short, people are choosing to live in close proximity to people who resemble themselves in a certain way. According to Blow, â€œThis kind of sorting has real-world consequences in terms of behaviors, empathy and socialization.â€ It makes sense to add politics and voting behavior into this mix as well.
Given that legislative mapmakers must follow guidelines which insist that districts are contiguous, compact, and keep â€œcommunities of interestâ€ together, is it any wonder that districts are becoming more homogenous when you also take the act of self-sorting into consideration? In other words, it is very difficult for a mapmaker to draw a politically competitive district that is also compact, contiguous, and preserves a community of interest, since people are clustering around attributes like race, income, and other likenesses that tend to be good predictors for political preferences and party affiliation.
As of Dec. 1, 2014, the 194th District will include the entire 21st Ward in Philadelphia (it currently includes 35 of the wardâ€™s 45 divisions), 10 divisions of Philadelphiaâ€™s 38th Ward (it currently includes one division), and all precincts in Lower Merionâ€™s Wards 3 and 9 and one precinct in Ward 13.
Another redistricting edge for incumbent lawmakers is their mailing privileges, which some complain are an unfair advantage. Because the new State House and Senate redistricting maps will be in effect in the coming election cycle, some sitting lawmakers seeking reelection must appeal to areas they donâ€™t currently represent. But because those lawmakers are allowed to mail certain things to people living in the new areas of the district â€“ even though the legislators donâ€™t technically represent those people yet â€“ the leading complaint is the mailing privilege gives the lawmakers an unfair advantage against any political challengers.
City Commissioner Stephanie Singer believes because County Commissioners do the day-to-day work of running their counties â€“ providing 911 services, balancing budgets and much more â€“ tthey have a lot of common experiences even if they have a wide variety of political views.
â€œOne of the great privileges and opportunities open to me since you helped me get elected in 2011 is membership in the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania,â€ she said.
â€œCuriosity took me to my first CCAP conference in early 2012. What keeps me invested in the organization are the relationships I am solidifying, not only with Democrats from all over the Commonwealth but also with Republicans who represent a large number of our fellow Pennsylvanians. I believe Philadelphians have a great opportunity to form stronger bonds with our suburban and rural colleagues.
â€œRecently, I was part of a team of CCAP members from both parties who banded together and stymied an attempt to push an inappropriate, anti-union plank (supporting HB 1507 and SB 1034, bills to end certain union payroll deduction by governments) into the CCAP platform. This effort succeeded not because the membership of CCAP is mostly pro-union â€“ theyâ€™re not! It succeeded because of the across-the-aisle relationships and respect fostered by CCAP. We need more across-the-aisle (and across the rural-suburban-urban divide) relationships in this Commonwealth in order for Pennsylvania to develop and prosper in the 21st century.â€
In March, Pennsylvaniaâ€™s unemployment rate went down to 6% (from 6.2% in February) â€“ its lowest point since October 2008 â€“ compared to the national rate of 6.7%, which remained unchanged from the prior month. The State Dept. of Labor & Industry reported Marchâ€™s employment figures, which continued a string of decent employment news for the Commonwealth. The stateâ€™s civilian labor force â€“ those working or looking for work â€“ continued to grow (up 12,000, to 6,442,000, from February) while resident employment again grew (by 19,000, for the third-straight month of 10,000-plus increases) and the stateâ€™s unemployed population fell by 8,000 (down to 390,000).
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-Northeast) made four gubernatorial campaign stops in her 13th Congressional Dist. Smart thing to do, since it has been her base where she became familiar with many of those voters.
As expected, reports show she walked in to actual applause.
6th Dist. Councilman Bobby Henon escorted Schwartz through two diners, where she frequently did not require introduction. Several customers thanked her for work done from her constituent office and several more assured her of their support in the Democratic primary for Governor.
Schwartz, the early frontrunner in this race, is now second to Tom Wolf in nearly every poll.
Philly votes for her will be make or break and a test of whether a handshake is more memorable than a television commercial.
Often criticized for his refusal to support charter schools, State Rep. James Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, this week released a report showing about one in six charter schools in Pennsylvania is high-performing. The report also addresses hot topics such as overpayments, whether universities should be able to authorize charter schools, greater scrutiny of cyber charter schoolsâ€™ performance and funding, and a state commissionâ€™s recent recommendations on special-education funding for charter schools.
â€œI would like the number of high performers among charter schools to be larger, but itâ€™s important to ask what these schools have in common and what we can learn for use in other tax-funded schools, both traditional public ones and other charter schools,â€ Roebuck said.
â€œWhile the overall academic performance of charter schools and particularly cyber charter schools is disappointing and trails the academic performance of traditional public schools, there are many examples of charter schools that are successful in terms of academic performance and in being innovative in their approach to educating students,â€ Roebuck said.
Roebuckâ€™s bill would make clear a person who serves as a founder, a board of trustee or an administrator of a charter school, as well as an administrator or executive of the educational management service provider of a charter school, could not receive any payments for approved reimbursable annual rental for leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter-school use.
It would also require any charter schoolâ€™s application for lease reimbursement to include a copy of the signed lease agreement for the building and a copy of the deed for the building. This is a requirement the Dept. of Education had in place in the 2009-10 school year.
Finally, Roebuckâ€™s bill would require the Dept. of Education to seek full repayment from any charter school that received inappropriate lease reimbursements.
â€œWith millions of dollars in state tax money at issue, this must be addressed in any charter-school legislation that passes both the House and Senate this year â€“ and not with a study, but with requirements that have teeth in them,â€ Roebuck said.