POLS ON THE STREET: Wolf Running Hard in Pennsylvania’s ‘Tee’

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In the first week of “holiday summer,” when the average voter could care less who will be elected governor of Pennsylvania in November 2018, political insiders here are thinking about little else but.

There had been speculation first-term Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf was losing interest in re-election after his first two years of getting beaten up by the Republican General Assembly at every turn. He has now dispelled that suspicion. Apparently he is not yet ready to go back to making kitchen systems.

In an orderly, persistent campaign that began in January, Wolf tapped key players to mount a nonstop two-year operation staffed by his most-trusted operatives, some of whom he pulled out of his administration to tackle a task he deemed more important.

On his day job as governor, Wolf has been motoring around the Keystone State at least half the time, with special emphasis on the “Tee” – the bulk of counties between the increasingly liberal Southeast and Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, which have been shifting away from Democrats in recent years even as the commonwealth’s two great cities have tilted toward them.

Rain did not dampen spirits at the Korea Memorial Day Service on Dock Street. Veterans Court Judge Patrick Dugan, R, emceed. He was joined by City Council Members Mark Squilla and Helen Gym, 4th and 5th from R, as well as former Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, 3rd from R. Korean-American War Veterans Association members lined up with their President Oh Young Lee, 2nd from R.

In just his latest stop, Wolf last week pursued his “Jobs that Pay” tour at the Dura-Bond Industries steel-pipe plant in McKeesport, a mill town upriver from Pittsburgh that has not enjoyed a post-industrial resurgence. Times are tough there. Headquartered in Export in neighboring Westmoreland County, Dura-Bond announced in January its acquisition of the former US Steel Tubular Products pipe mill in Allegheny County, which it anticipates will create 100 new jobs.

“Dura-Bond tells an incredible story about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, thanks to the company’s legacy of manufacturing in Pennsylvania, its proximity to our steel-making centers, and our state’s abundant natural gas supply,” said the governor.

Before it closed in 2014, the former US Steel Tubular Products operation in McKeesport had produced the pipe used in projects that included the Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East project.

In 2016, Dura-Bond acquired the plant, announcing its plans to reactivate the operation to manufacturer smaller, midstream pipe.

Wolf used this photo-op to promote not just Dura-Bond, a small Southwestern Pennsylvania manufacturer, but allies like McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko; State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny), a former mayor of that city; and State Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland). McKeesport was just the first stop of a three-day trip by Wolf to announce jobs, tour economic-development projects, and visit the Erie VA Medical Center. Expect more of the same over the next 16 months.

It’s not just the visits. Grants are being gushed forth into Pennsylvania’s Trumpland. In his latest announcement, Wolf announced seven new project approvals through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, totaling more than $20.7 million in funding, to support business growth in Pennsylvania that will lead to the creation and retention of more than 1,145 jobs, if all works out as planned.

GROUNDBREAKING for touted new workforce housing in E. Poplar took place last week. Its goal is to provide below-market family units for moderate-income households, L-R, Mo Rushdy of BMK Properties, Council President Darrell Clarke, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Director Gregory Heller and Lawrence McKnight of Urban Renewal Builders. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“Projects like those approved today not only propel business-development efforts across the state, but they also enhance the quality of life of Pennsylvanians, all while creating and retaining jobs,” said Wolf. “Specifically, through our new Pipeline Investment Program, we are finally able to provide access to low-cost, clean-burning natural gas to unserved areas in Susquehanna County, saving families and businesses thousands each year and giving the area an advantage when attracting new business. Today’s approvals are a win for these regions – and a win for the commonwealth.”

Susquehanna Co. got a $442,274 grant to Leatherstocking Gas Co. for the extension of a gas line to serve the Borough of Montrose and Township of Bridgewater. The project, with a total estimated cost of $884,548, is anticipated to create 100 jobs and retain 80 jobs. Blair County won close to $225,000 to fix an abandoned auto-sales lot in Martinsburg.

Chester Co. Industrial Development Authority got a $2,153,570 grant and a $3,230,357 loan to help Coatesville do acquisition, environmental remediation, demolition, roads, streets, excavation and grading, utilities, landscaping and engineering. The project, with a total estimated cost of $21,637,305, is anticipated to create 90 jobs.

Clarion Co. got a $1,033,214 grant and a $4,256,952 loan to assist in the redevelopment of the former Clarion Owens-Illinois glass plant. The project, at $39.7m, may yield more than 100 jobs. Lackawanna County’s BlakelyRidge, LLC was awarded a $2,918,510 loan for the acquisition of land and the development of the NEPA Wellness Center in Blakely Borough, for $4m and 250 jobs.

Lancaster Co. won matching funds for a $4.5m development of Lime Spring Square, 210 jobs. In Northampton Co., the Green Knight Economic Development Corp. got one-third of its $5m startup need from commonwealth grants and loans to assist the development of an industrial park in Wind Gap offering 280 jobs. And so it must go. All Republican challengers against Gov. Wolf must follow him into these same counties. They must be prepared to offer better business deals to struggling upcountry constituents than the incumbent governor is offering. But that’s not so easy, when you don’t control the Harrisburg purse-strings your opponent does.

HONOREE State Rep. Martina White was NAMED #56 OF Pennsylvania’s “Power 100,” the 100 most-powerful people in the Keystone State. She was joined at a reception at SugarHouse Casino by Republican 58th Ward Leader Joe Giedemann.

Dems Poison Mango’s Entry into Guv’s Race

The latest entry to the Republican gubernatorial primary, Pittsburgh health-care magnate Paul Mango, can’t help but campaign on his own expertise, for better or for worse.

Mango called on Gov. Wolf “to stop playing politics and stand up for quality, accessible health care for all Pennsylvanians.” Mango, who bills himself as a “global expert in health care,” urged the Governor to work to lower premiums and deductibles, and seek waivers out or Obamacare. Premiums in Pennsylvania increased by 33% and by over 50% in Philadelphia this year alone.”

“The only feasible path out of the ObamaCare disaster is for states like Pennsylvania to step up and shape their own customized health care system providing greater access to quality, affordable health care; including affordable access for those afflicted with pre-existing conditions.  We cannot assume that Washington is going to solve Pennsylvania’s problem.  This can be done through waivers available today permitting governors to exercise much more flexibility to innovate and customize to manage chronic diseases, improve prevention, and increase transparency.  Yet Gov. Wolf has failed to seek these waivers and would rather have the federal government dictate the terms of health care for almost 13 million Pennsylvanians,” continued Mango.

Democrats retorted that McKinsey & Co., which is Mango’s shop, produced an internal report forecasting President Donald Trump’s latest proposed health-care reform would cause a “a 30% drop in health-insurance coverage.” They have been badgering him at every campaign appearance to confirm or deny this finding. He is not commenting.

Early polls show abysmal support (17%) for the latest Republican resurrection of Trump’s health-care proposal. It seems unlikely that even a Republican health-care pro can navigate this divide between conservative orthodoxy and popular fear of its everyday consequences.

In Mango’s favor is that most Pennsylvanians are focused on the goings-on in Washington right now and not on the fate of Harrisburg next year. His immediate task is to sell himself in a contentious Republican primary race.

ANNOUNCING a major investment in Wissinoming Park were, L-R, Debbie McCarty, Colin O’Mara, Councilman Bobby Henon, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Fairmount Park Conservancy Executive Director Rick Magder, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and Lamar Gore. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Pa. Budget Deal Close?

Quietly, a rare bipartisan consensus may be forming in Harrisburg this year on that most intractable of problems: the Pennsylvania budget deficit.

Sources say both parties have identified the components necessary to balance the budget, which currently faces a deficit of $1.2 billion. On the table are new imposts – ideally ones that can be called something other than “taxes” – and trims in major longterm commitments such as pensions.

Negotiations are underway with all key players and a deal could emerge as early as next week.

Judge Seeks Interns

College students and other keen-witted youths are invited to part in an internship program with the 1st Judicial Dist., Philadelphia’s court system. We share the following invitation:

“The Hon. Timika Lane is seeking motivated and dedicated judicial interns for the summer of 2017. The purpose of the internship is to provide students with substantive experience through working closely with the court system.

“Judicial interns are responsible for carrying out key functions of the chamber, such as completing written assignments and research projects. Interns will also have the opportunity to observe trials and motions in various courtrooms, attend field trips, and gain valuable insight from speakers.

“Field trips include visiting the Forensic Center, the Marine Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Eastern State Penitentiary. The program offers at least four to eight activities each week.

“Interns can be paid through their financial-aid package, earn course credits, or volunteer with a flexible schedule. All applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

“Please email a cover letter detailing your interest in becoming a judicial intern, along with a resume to Ms. Veale or Ms. Williams listed below. Be sure to include “Internship Candidate in the subject line.

“Asia Veale, Judicial Secretary to Hon. Timika Lane, 1216 Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107,(215) 683-70645/66, Asia.veale@courts.phila.gov.

“Phoenicia D. Williams, Esq., Law Clerk to Hon. Timika Lane, Phoenicia.williams@courts.phila.gov.”

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