Crazed Tyrant Tom Wolf Wants to Appoint Agency Heads Who Agree With Him

The way “Governor” works is that, to fulfill the agenda you laid out in your campaign, you appoint a bunch of people to the various executive branch agencies who agree with that agenda, you retain some people who agree with that agenda, and you replace people who don’t.

Governors don’t just govern by edict. They govern by appointing people to carry out all the stuff they promised to do.

So I really don’t understand Erik Arneson’s point that the executive branch offices are supposed to be independent from the Governor’s vision. That seems to me to be completely wrong, and totally antithetical to the concept of political accountability, where the things people promise to do while on the campaign trail are the things they try to do once elected.

The voters rejected Tom Corbett. They did not want him to be in charge of the Executive branch appointments or the policy direction anymore. That is why the Republicans did not convene a shame-duck session in January before Corbett left office. That is why Tom Corbett’s shady 11th-hour appointments to state agencies deserved to be rescinded.

Posted in Elections, Governor

The 67 District Plan for Repairing PA’s School Tax Bases

The state funding cuts are still the biggest problem facing local school districts but the second biggest problem many are having is that they are too small.

In the city centers and first ring suburbs, you’ve typically got some school districts without a lot of money. And then encircling those, you usually have some school districts with a whole lot of money.

Take an eraser and erase all the little school district boundary lines inside the county, and Voila! You’ve probably got a financially stable district.

That’s what Moody’s thinks is the most effective way to help distressed districts like Chester-Upland, Duquesne, and York:

Duquesne proposed sending all non-charter students to nearby districts, which would get tuition payments. But those nearby schools rejected the idea. Moody’s analysts say despite the opposition, those ideas seem like they’re more likely to improve education than the other districts’ strategy.

The main problem for this plan is the state lets local school districts make the call on whether to accept other districts’ kids or not, instead of bigfooting those decisions from the state level. We should have county-level school districts – 67, not 500.

School funding advocates who don’t like the York charter takeover plan should seriously consider making this the centerpiece of their alternative vision if they don’t want to see more takeovers.



Posted in Budget, Economy, Education, Issues

PPP: Toomey Approval Rating Only 28%

Rightwing Senator Pat Toomey manages to out-poll all the Democrats at this time, according to PPP’s first 2016 poll, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t vulnerable in 2016. Check out that 28% approval rating.

Four years into his first term, Toomey’s approval numbers aren’t terribly impressive. 28% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 35% who disapprove, comparable to the 31/34 spread he posted on PPP’s last poll in June. A plurality of voters- 37%- don’t have any opinion about Toomey at all. That level of anonymity with voters leaves his fate next year somewhat up to the political winds- if it’s another good year for Republicans like the last time he ran he may be alright, but if it’s a stronger Democratic year he’ll be in deep trouble.

Demographic shifts in Pennsylvania are making it harder and harder for Republicans, especially nutty rightwingers like Toomey, to win statewide elections and 2010 was probably the party’s high-water mark for a statewide race. With Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket in 2016, the Democratic candidate is going to have the wind at his/her back in this contest.

Posted in Elections, US Senate

Yo Tom Wolf: Fix the State Assessment Law

The only reason you’re seeing this spot assessment wave is that the state of Pennsylvania doesn’t require all counties to reassess properties on a regular and predictable schedule.

County commissioners shouldn’t have to vote to do this, that’s insane. It should be required of all counties, at least every 3 to 5 years so that assessments remain current and people are paying property taxes on what their properties are actually worth.

Posted in Budget, Economy, Issues

Tom Wolf’s Agenda is Popular

Hopefully the Fresh Start PAC will stick around to remind southeast Republican lawmakers’ constituents about this, since so many of them ran as liberals on this stuff:

Voters are generally supportive of Wolf’s progressive agenda. Wolf took a beating for proposing a progressive income tax during his campaign, but 58% of voters favor the tax. In addition, a solid majority of voters support raising the minimum wage, adding a 5 percent extraction tax on natural gas and increasing public school funding.

(via Abby Smithb)

Posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, Issues

Poll: Who Are You Currently Supporting in #PHL2015?

Time to weigh in.

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

Tom Wolf’s DCNR Pick Matters a Lot After Commonwealth Court Decision

Wolf can’t unilaterally stop drilling on state lands now. Not the end of the world, but this is now one important litmus test for Wolf appointees to DCNR.

Posted in Miscellany

The Littlest Leadership Crisis Befells Pretend Government

The top two officials of a 1300-person borough passed away within two weeks of one another, and now the borough is now in the throes of the cutest littlest leadership crisis you ever did see.

1300 people is much smaller than the territory covered by my neighborhood organization in Philly. Most of Pennsylvania’s governments are just glorified neighborhood organizations with essentially part-time security guards (who get military-grade weapons from the feds), volunteer firefighters, and thousands of teensy little pension funds that are investing in ???

This is like the Tea Party’s ultimate end-game for governance in America. I don’t understand why the state lets them play pretend government.

Posted in Miscellany

Existing Jobs Vs. Different Jobs

Via WESA, Pew says Pennsylvania is a leader in clean energy:

The commonwealth ranked fourth in energy- and environment-related employment in 2011 with 136,000 jobs.

“That’s a pretty impressive number, especially when you recognize that it’s comparable to other energy industries in the state,” Lubetsky said. “So it’s an important sector for sure.”

She said Pennsylvania’s policies have helped encourage growth in the clean energy industry.

The implication is that strengthening our clean energy and environmental policies wouldn’t really be a job killer on net, because one of the main beneficiaries would be other Pennsylvania companies.

The idea that climate hawk policies are bad for the state’s economy overall, in a macro sense, is stupid. The clean energy fight here isn’t really about whether climate hawk policies would be a job killer – on net, they probably wouldn’t be. The issue is about jobs for whom, and where they’re located.

Posted in Economy, Energy, Environment, Issues

#PHL2015: What is the Nature of Michael Nutter’s Unpopularity?

The most straightforward explanation for Michael Nutter’s unpopularity is that by the last year of a second term, pretty much every incumbent Mayor is unpopular, especially if they’ve done a lot.

People often don’t remember how unpopular many of America’s favorite ex-Mayors were the way out of office, but whose reputations repaired with the passage of time.

I’ve always liked Michael Bloomberg’s idea (maybe not original, but I heard it from him first) that high approval ratings mean you’re not doing your job.

He says that if he leaves office with high approval numbers “then I wasted my last years in office.” To him, high approval rating “means you’re skiing the baby slope, for goodness’ sakes. Go to a steeper slope.”

As noted in that article, Bloomberg’s approval ratings were high at the time he said this.

So one possible interpretation of Nutter’s unpopular lame duck status is that people don’t like the actual stuff he didn. And there is some of that – library closings, youth curfews, homeless feeding changes, property tax increases and support for charter schools are some things some people are still really mad about.

Another thread is that Nutter succeeded in making a lot of reforms, and now there are a lot of people mad at him who liked things the old way.

Most of the obvious reform issues in Philly politics aren’t really about solving complex problems so much as complicated politics: we know what to do, but somebody powerful is benefitting from the status quo, and politicians don’t see enough upside in ruffling feathers.

I know from my little area of politics and policy that one of Nutter’s big initiatives was to modernize the planning, zoning, and redevelopment-related departments. It seems like he made some big gains in those places, but again, the flip side of modernizing is that there are always going to be some people, maybe powerful people, who prefer the old ways and they’re going to get mad at you if you change things.

Another variation of this explanation is that Nutter simply focused on process issues too much to really excite voters – zoning, AVI, land bank, reforming different departments and hiring good personnel, being personally free of scandals.

When I think about the really big Nutter policy wins, it’s mostly that type of stuff. These kinds of issues are popular with politics and policy junkies, but they’re all about long term gains, and some, like AVI, require some short term pain.

Maybe Nutter’s focus on this stuff was a function of his personal values, or his campaign themes, or maybe that’s just the stuff that really needed to get done first before he could tackle some other issues of interest. From Simon van Zuylen-Wood’s big Philly Mag piece on Nutter:

In the broad-strokes department, Philadelphia’s executive branch has evolved from a pay-to-play pigpen to an exemplar of high ethics (the courts and the row offices are another story), while the city at large has morphed into a creative-class Eden, replete with all the requisite New Urbanist attributes, from accessible waterfronts to bike-able corridors to well-executed sustainability plans. The area in which the city has struggled most — public education — is the one Nutter has had the least control over. “A lot of what this administration is about,” says Nutter’s old friend and adviser, Saul Ewing lobbyist Dick Hayden, “is embracing the notion of what a modern city in the United States should look like.”

I think what some of the Nutter staffers want people to appreciate more is how far off we were from having a modern city government when they started, and how much political capital its required to get the house in order.

There are a lot of popular things that fall into the category of things Nutter could take credit for, but isn’t getting any credit for.

Bike share will be popular and will be identified with Nutter and the city. Sister Cities and Cafe Cret on the Parkway too. Other parks have strong branding associated with other organizations. Dilworth Park is heavily identified with Center City District’s brand, and The Porch with University City District’s. The Delaware Waterfront Corporation has done amazing and popular work, but people probably think about that as independent from Nutter too. What about all the Schuylkill River improvements?

And then you have the long term accomplishments like zoning and planning reforms that take decades to really change the physical landscape. Maybe those process wins were too boring for mass consumption, even if they were important to do. But still, unfairly or not, many voters are probably left without a tangible sense of what Nutter’s really done.

The trouble for the still-pretty-pro-Nutter rump in Philly politics continues to be that the Nutter electoral path to victory is narrow, and can’t reliably produce citywide wins yet. Nutter hasn’t focused enough, in my opinion, on trying to get kindred spirits elected to City Council.

That’s still the main problem: Nutter brought the nerds into the executive branch, but the nerds still aren’t on City Council.

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015