#PHL2015 Candidates Have a “Duty to Respond” on Stuff They Can’t Do Anything About

This op-ed by James Lytle is Exhibit A in the case for not spending too much time talking about education in the 2015 Philly Mayoral race, even though that’s the issue most people seem to want to debate next year.

Titled “Education issues to consider in the mayoral race,” the op-ed proceeds with a list of very important, but overwhelmingly state education issues that were already considered in the 2014 Governor’s race, or need to be considered in the 2016 state legislative elections.

Then at the end there’s a list of stuff that city policy touches on somewhat, but most of which would still need to be signed off on by the state-controlled School Reform Commission – to which the Mayor gets two of the five appointees.

How can services to special needs students, recent immigrants, and English language learners be improved? Is it possible to have more school closings or employee givebacks to reduce budget problems without reducing educational quality? What can be done to satisfy middle-class families with young children who threaten to abandon District schools? How should schools be held to account? Is high school completion more important than test scores? Should charter schools be required to publish detailed annual budgets and audit reports? How can the city’s extraordinary higher education, medical, cultural and community resources contribute to educating school-aged children?

Of course the Mayoral candidates should say what they think should happen with all of these important issues, but if you really want to hold elected officials accountable for this stuff, you need to ask Tom Wolf and the relevant state legislative leaders what they want to do, because that’s whose opinions are ultimately going to carry the day here.

The sad fact is that the Mayoral candidates just don’t have very much in the way of real control over education policy, and it would be totally nuts to spend the campaign season having essentially a symbolic debate about what the direction of state policy should be. Hearing all the candidates talk about this stuff so far, to a person, the pitch is basically “I’ll be the best education lobbyist to the state for Philly, because x, y, z.

That’s crazy. If we want a lobbyist, let’s hire a lobbyist. If we want more effective political communicators for the message local education activists want delivered to Harrisburg, then let’s elect some more state lawmakers with decent political communication skills – currently a small minority of the Philly delegation.

But let’s hire a Mayor to do the things that the Mayor actually controls and manages on a day to day basis like transportation and planning, police and fire safety, economic development, and so on.

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

Takin Mah Toys and Goin Home

Translation: Cynical contrarian posturing is more important to me than proactively assessing my actual level of agreement with either of the political parties’ platforms.

Posted in Elections

#PASen: Bob Casey to the Right of Michael Krancer and the Voters on Climate

(Been hangin’ out with this guy too much)

Five years off from reelection and Bob Casey is already getting irritable bowel syndrome on climate politics – an issue that has yet to claim the political career of any Democrats, and especially not any with famous political dynasty names.

Casey went whining to President Obama about his plan to use the EPA’s authority to cut power plant emissions from dirty coal-fired plants, saying it’s unfair to Pennsylvania. As a Democrat, he’s making the necessary noises about the need for bold action on climate, but once the throat-clearing is over, you see that he’s really against bold action for the fifth highest CO2-emitting state.

What’s remarkable is that not only is Casey tacking to the right of the voters on this issue (a new Hart poll found 66% of Pennsylvanians support EPA action cracking down on power plant polluters), he’s actually to the right of ex-Corbett DEP head Michael Krancer too.

And y’all know about Krancer.

Back in July, Krancer published an op-ed in Forbes touting the benefits, and even potential for electricity savings, from Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and even agreeing with Tom Wolf that Pennsylvania should join its neighboring states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – the regional cap and trade program.

What does it say about Casey’s political compunction that he’s taking more right wing positions on climate than a gas industry flack?

Posted in Elections, US Senate

Your Crow Sandwich, Mr. Fitzpatrick

Mark Kleiman:

Any pundit or politician who helped promote the Benghazi! hoax, and who doesn’t fully retract and apologize now that a Republican-dominated House committee has fully debunked all the accusations against the Administration other than having paid attention to what turned out to be inaccurate initial reports from the intelligence agencies, should from now on be conclusively presumed a fool and a scoundrel.

Anybody wanna ask Mike Fitzpatrick about this, considering the amount of energy he spent stomping his feet for the committee?

Posted in Elections, US House

Derp: Larry Ceisler Thinks Lynn Abraham is #PHL2015 Frontrunner

LOL. Has PoliticsPA ever been less essential?

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

No Child Pornos, Turns Out

Still pretty gross. Why would a grown man send another grown man a picture of a little boy looking into a little girl’s underpants? Y’all are so weird. Can we see who got CC’d on that one?

Posted in Ethics

The Philly Mayoral Race So Far

Education activists: Anybody but Williams

Planning activists: Anybody but Clarke

Budding conflict over whether to back Ken Trujillo or Terry Gillen as the non-stupid alternative to the two big jawns.

Lynne Abraham re-announcing every time somebody new gets in the race, or mentions maybe getting in the race.

Anything else?

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

Lame Duck Corbett Trying to Sabotage Real Medicaid Expansion

Tom Wolf thumped Tom Corbett on Election Day running on, among other things, real Medicaid expansion.

But apparently Corbett didn’t get the message the voters sent him, because he’s apparently planning to spend his remaining months in office trying to lock in his fake Medicaid privatization plan, and make it harder for Tom Wolf to keep his promise to bring Pennsylvania the real thing.

This plan is much more expensive than simply accepting the real Medicaid expansion, but apparently running up a $2 billion structural deficit wasn’t satisfying enough for our failed Governor.

Posted in Elections, Governor, Health

#GOPorno Scandal – Now With Kids!

This doesn’t sound like child pornography exactly, but it seems we have not reached the upper bound of how gross this is going to get. No wonder Frank Fina wanted the courts to turn off the firehose of humiliation.

Posted in Ethics, Issues

“I Bought This Property With the Expectation That…”

…is never really going to be a valid argument in any land use debate.

Just because some people invested (translation: bet) their money on a certain outcome doesn’t mean public policymakers have some responsibility to those people not to do anything that changes the prospects (good or bad) of return on that investment, or changes the character of the neighborhood.

You invest with a reasonable expectation of what things are probably going to be like in the future, but that doesn’t give you some right to freeze in time the whole neighborhood, and it definitely doesn’t bar other democratic actors who prefer a different outcome from winning elections and changing the relevant laws.

Prior to 2009, some people invested in hospitals expecting big returns as health care costs were projected to rise onward and upward forevermore. Then we passed the Affordable Care Act, and that’s expected to squeeze hospital profit margins.

People who invested in hospitals made a bet on a certain outcome, and they’re going to make less money than they thought. Did the government have a responsibility to their investments? Of course not, they had a responsibility to further the public interest of universal health insurance. You can change the law even if it hurts some people’s investments.

In the Royal Theater case, sure it would be better if we had rule of law, not of man, and a pretty liberal allowance for density on South St combined with a pretty strict adherence to the letter of the zoning code.

But there’s nothing inherently illegitimate about the Councilmanic rezonings, because it’s all just politics. The root cause of the problem is that people don’t want to zone South Street in a way that makes the economics of mixed-use developments pencil out by-right, so we get all these legislative rezonings through the district Council offices and variance requests.

Any way you look at it, the process is legitimate, although clearly a stricter rule-based process such as Ori Feibush prefers would be best, since it would result in fewer process-based redevelopment obstacles, a faster pace of new construction, and lower barriers to entry for national and international development firms to work in Philly.

Posted in Economic Development, Economy, Issues, Land Use