Monday, December 31, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 31

The Daily Numbers: 1 month on electronic home monitoring for former Penn-Delco superintendent Leslye Abrutyn in the Quick Start scandal.

11 months on probation. 0 days in jail. Lots of unhappy residents.

15,000 fine she’ll also pay for her role in the scandal that shook the district and cost her the job that paid her $206,000 a year.

2 teens killed in a crash early Sunday morning when their car slammed into several trees on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia. The driver was the son of a Philly police officer.

25 mile chase as cops pursued a man who had barricaded himself in his Pottstown house before fleeing in his car. The chase ended in a shootout in West Norriton. He’s now in the hospital.

107 years of tradition that will kick off once again tomorrow morning when the Mummers are due to strut their stuff on Broad Street, weather permitting.

4 DUI checkpoints that will be in place by police in Delaware tonight. Similar measures for New Year’s Eve will be set up in a couple of locations in Delco.

2 days inside a furniture store in Ridley for a hawk before a wildlife specialist managed to trap it and then set it free.

10 percent tax on all alcoholic drinks served in bars and restaurants in Pittsburgh starting at midnight. Maybe last call tonight will be 11:59.

29 hearses lined up in Philadelphia to mark another deadly year.

391 homicides that have been recorded in the City of Brotherly Love with one day left in 2007.

41 murders recorded in Delaware County.

2 team records set for Brian Westbrook yesterday, including most yards from scrimmage and receptions. The guy is a legitimate MVP candidate.

8 wins, 8 losses for the Eagles. A mediocre season.

3 straight wins to end the season. So is there reason for optimism for next year?

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
2008 will kick off on a decidedly down note. The NFL kicks off its playoffs on Saturday. The Eagles will not be there. Instead the Birds will clean out their lockers today and lament what coulda, shoulda, woulda been this year. It’s going to be a long winter.

I Don’t Get It: Why exactly is it people find the need to shoot off guns tonight at the strike of midnight? I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: No, we haven’t had a championship parade in this town in 25 years. Not since the Sixers brought everyone to Broad Street in 1983. Of course, we do have our own special brand of parade. Happens every Jan. 1. We call it the Mummers.


Quote Box: “It is really very sad that a woman of her intelligence and professional status will be remembered for these allegedly illegal actions instead of for the good that was done in her first years as superintendent.”

-- Penn-Delco School Board Member Carol Cannon, on the plea entered by former Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn.

A pound of flesh?

That’s 364 down, one to go. Yes, it’s the final day of 2007. Time to look back. And look ahead.
We spent much of the weekend in the print edition looking back. It was a year dominated by the almost surreal antics in the Penn-Delco School District.
At least one chapter came to a conclusion at the Media Courthouse on Friday when once-distinguished Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn was sentenced for her role in the Quick Start scam that engulfed the district.
That Abrutyn was finally meeting justice was greeted with sighs of relief in the district. But what happened inside that courtroom didn’t go down nearly as easily.
Clearly, after enduring what they went through in the past year, residents were seeking a pound of flesh. They didn’t get it. And they’re not particularly happy about it.
Abrutyn entered a no-contest plea and was sentenced to one-12 months imprisonment. But don’t look for her to spend any time behind bars. That’s not going to happen.
Instead, the woman for whom a wing of Sun Valley High School was once named instead will spend a month on home monitoring and the rest of her sentence on parole. She also must do 120 hours of community service and pay a $15,000 fine.
The sentence was met with howls of outrage from many in the district, most considering it a slap on the wrist.
One local official who e-mailed me called it “a slap in the face to the good people of Penn-Delco School District who suffered the most harm. The ex-superintendent didn’t bite the dust; she took a big bite out of the pie of privilege!”
Of course, there is one other aspect to Abrutyn’s sentence. As part of her plea deal, she will testify against the man who authorities allege masterminded the Quick Start scheme and managed to get her to go along with the plan.
That would be former school board President Keith Crego. It will be very interesting to see if Crego actually goes to trial, or looks to cut himself a deal of his own.
In the meantime, residents seeking retribution for what went on in the district must bide their time.

Some celebrations we can do without

OK, don the party hats, make all the noise you want tonight.
After all, we only turn the calendar over once a year.
But there are two specific things no one should do at midnight. No, singing 'Auld Lang Syne is not one of them. In fact, everyone should give a full-throated version tonight as way to honor Dan Fogelberg, among the people we lost in 2007.
No, we're targeting a couple of other so-called traditions.
First, if you are planning to imbibe, do not get behind the wheel. Make sure someone in the group is tabbed to be the designated driver. Call a cab. Many nightspots actually will pay for the ride home.
We deal with enough sad stories here at the newspaper every day. We really don't need to kick off the new year with more tragedy, lives damaged or needlessly lost because someone decided they were "fine" and drove home when they had no business getting behind the wheel.
Need another reason? There will be lots of DUI checkpoints out there. Want to start the new year behind bars?
There's one other tradition we'll take a solid stand against. That would be the inance practice of firing off guns to ring in the new year.
Have you ever heard the old adage, "What goes up must come down?" Same goes for bullets.
There are more than enough gun problems plaguing our towns. Let's not add any more.
Here's hoping for a great -- and most of all safe -- new year!

The print column, the year of Penn-Delco

Here's a copy of my print column from this week, with my view on the dominant story of 2007. Can you guesss?
In just a few hours, we will put 2007 in the rearview mirror. I think I know some people who can’t wait. Those would be the overwhelming number of good, decent people who live and work in the Penn-Delco School District. They have suffered a year unlike any seen by a school district in this county in a long time.
They have watched as their school board became something of a merry-go-round, with members coming and going at blinding speed. They should have posted a turnstile at the entrance to their meeting room.
They suffered — not always in silence — as the whispers about what was going on in the district grew louder and louder.
Then, on March 20, the whispers became headlines. This newspaper reported that a county grand jury was investigating the school district’s business dealings with an entity called Quick Start Preschools LLC, a popular firm brought into Penn-Delco to offer pre-school and full-day child care.
It was like putting a match to gasoline.
Suddenly, the district was a conflagration.
Before it was over, the prim, seemingly ultra-professional superintendent of schools would resign her post without warning.
Eventually, Leslye Abrutyn and former board President Keith Crego would face criminal charges in connection with the probe. On Friday, Abrutyn entered a plea in the case. Crego still faces trial. Abrutyn has agreed to testify against him. The district’s longtime solicitor, Mark Sereni, would be ousted in a citizen revolt. Still, another board member, John Green, entered a plea to a single felony count on an ethics violation for failing to disclose that he earned commissions on some work the district awarded to the company that employs him. Quick Start, the company at the center of this mess, pleaded no contest as a corporation to felony charges of corrupt organization and theft by unlawful taking.
It was maybe the only thing that was not contested in this sordid story in the months this newspaper devoted to covering it.
Ironically, no officials from the firm were charged. As a result of the plea, the company will cease to exist. As our ace court reporter Marlene DiGiacomo put it in her story on the plea, Quick Start will have a fast finish.
It will not so quickly fade from the memories of district residents.
That was one of the things that fascinated me about this story. Everyone who commented and those we talked to, including a string of parents and community activists at a succession of school board meetings, had high praise for Quick Start, which had been brought in a couple years before to take over programs once handled by the Rocky Run YMCA.
As it turns out, the problem with Quick Start wasn’t in the services they provided, but the people behind it. Or, more correctly, as county investigators would later allege, the people who were secretly behind it.
It turns out Quick Start was about making a fast buck. And the allegations, as did much of the controversy and outrageous stories surrounding the school board, swirled around one man.
Keith Crego first really came across my radar screen, ironically, not on a story about Penn-Delco, but instead on another perennially troubled school system, Chester Upland.
Crego was a hard-charging new star of the Aston GOP, where he served as co-chairman. In July 2000, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Penn-Delco School Board. A year later, he was elected board president. Two months later, he was re-elected to the board in a rout.
But Crego, for whom the meeting room where the board held their meetings would eventually be named, had even bigger aspirations. He was a finalist to be the new CEO of Chester Upland. He lost out to a lifetime educator, Gloria Grantham.
In the meantime, investigators say Crego was busy back in Penn-Delco. They allege that he set up Quick Start, incredibly got Abrutyn to go along for the ride, and then started to rake in the money the firm was making.
For the life of me, I will never understand how Abrutyn could allow herself to be put in such a position.
Both eventually were criminally charged. Crego was slapped with 21 felony offenses and 11 misdemeanors; Abrutyn with a single felony and several misdemeanors.
The sight of the two of them, once leaders of a school district and community, arriving in court in handcuffs, remains one of the enduring images of 2007.
It is at this time of year that news organizations routinely compile their stories of the year. In fact, we published a special section in Sunday’s paper to do just that.
For me, figuring out the top story was not difficult. The Penn-Delco scandal easily topped my list.
Not that there weren’t other big stories. The county continues to battle the Federal Aviation Administration over the hated airport redesign plan. One of our own, Delco native John P. Foley was elevated to cardinal, a prince of the Roman Catholic Church. Longtime Haverford commissioner and county courthouse presence Fred Moran was convicted of bribery charges in connection with the Haverford State Hospital probe. Harrah’s opened a new era of gambling in the state with a slots casino in Chester. The city itself is in the midst of a startling economic renaissance. Democrats’ efforts to crack the stranglehold the GOP holds on the county courthouse were rejected by voters, who sent three more Republicans to County Council.
One thing we did not do was appoint a “person of the year.”
That does not mean I don’t have one. I do.
I nominate the people, employees, administration and families of the Penn-Delco School District. People like Janice Fromal, who tirelessly worked to bring the ugly truth of what was going on in the district to the light of day.
They likely are glad to bid 2007 adieu. Here’s hoping 2008 holds better news for a school district that deserves better.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This finale is for the Birds

If it's Saturday, it must be time for the dreaded Eagles pick.

This one will be unusual for Iggles' fans, because it wil be the last one for this year. And not just 2007. The Eagles will be hanging up their shoulder pads after tomorrow's match with the Bills.

Yes, it is going to a long, cold January. The Eagles are not going to the playoffs.

And that should be the overriding theme of Sunday's game, that the season has been a huge disappointment.

But I kind of doubt that it will. Instead, what I fear coming is that the Eagles will play well, win fairly easily, thump their chest about their three-game win streak, a now-healthy Donovan McNabb and proclaim themselves ready, willing and able to return to the playoffs next year.

I'm not buying. Instead, I'll take a page out of Bill Parcells' playbook. The new boss of the Dolphins had a great response when asked for his assessment of his teams. "You are what your record says your are," he wold snap back.

The Eagles will win tomorrow, 26-13, over the Bills. That will make them 8-8. Sounds about right. Back in the summer, I was one of the few who wasn't buying all the hosannas being laid on this team. I just didn't think they were that good.

I still don't.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Life in the headlines

Tyreke Evans is used to seeing his name in the headlines.

That's what happens when you're one of the top high school basketball players in the nation. And make no mistake, the American Christian star is all of that.

That's why coaches from major colleges are knocking on his door, attending his games, and lusting to have his awesome talents as part of their basketball programs.

Evans was back in the headlines this week. But I'm thinking it's not something the hoops star especially wanted.

That's becase Evans is in the middle of a homicide investigation. He was the driver of a car from which a shot was fired, killing a teenager in Chester Township.

Evans has not been charged in the case. He is cooperating with authorities. His cousin, who was in the passenger seat of Tyreke's car, has been charged. He faces a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Marcus Reason.

What exactly happened when Tyreke and his pals left his aunt's house on Rainer Road and climbed into his SUV is not clear. One witness says a shot was fired at Tyreke's car. Another indicates only that shots were fired, with who shot first and who was shooting at whom not especially clear.

What is clear, at least to police, is this. This incident is rooted in bad blood, a turf war between two groups of young people, one from Chester Township, the other from Chester.

Now Tyreke finds himself in the middle of it. Family members, including his older brothers, have come to his defense, saying he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they have fears for his safety.

Security was beefed up for American Christian's appearance last night at the Pete Nelson Classic holiday hoops tournament at Widener.

It's ironic that Evans' family would indicate he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not the first time I've heard that claim in connection with this story.

After we first published the details of Reason's murder, with police indicating their belief it was rooted in gang violence, I received several passionate calls from family members who insisted Reason was not connected to any gang activity, and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now Tyreke Evans, who is very used to being in the spotlight, finds himself in a light I am sure he no doubt would rather do without.

What happened on that street is now up to the cops and courts to decide.

I can feel for both sides in this story. I know how they feel. I often find myself "caught in the middle" between people who have clearly different visions of how stories should play out.

What I know is this. Marcus Reason is dead. Jamar Evans has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly firing the fatal shot. Tyreke Evans was driving the car in which Jamar was sitting.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure of one other thing. It is not the last time we've heard of turf wars, bad blood, young people, and guns.

Those are the headlines I wish I didn't have to write.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 27

The Daily Numbers: 1 person of interest being sought in murder of an Upper Darby cab driver on Christmas Eve.

500,000 dollars or more police believe the former payroll coordinator in the Ridley School District ripped off from her employer. They say Carol Ackley blew it all at casinos.

1.5 billion dollars expected to pour into the state’s coffers each year from those slots casinos that opened earlier this year.

2 kids found safe and sound in the back seat of a BMW that was stolen Wednesday night. The kids’ mother left the kids in the car with the engine running while she ran inside.

600 million dollar project for two casinos in Philadelphia back in jeopardy again after several state legislators filed suit claiming the city usurped the state’s authority because the sites are planned over the submerged banks of the Delaware River.

1 man in custody in the stabbing of a customer inside a Starbucks in South Philly early Sunday.

2 buildings that will not be demolished, at least not for now, as part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center project. A judge granted the reprieve sought by some preservation groups.

24, age of police officer in Deptford Township, N.J., who was critically injured in a head-on crash Wednesday night.

20 foot wall surrounding the lair of a tiger that somehow got free at the San Francisco Zoo. The tiger attacked three people, killing one.

9 cars vandalized, including having their tires slashed, by vandals in the area of Eighth and Shunk streets in South Philly.

6 people slain in Carnation, Wash. It includes members of three generations. All were shot to death on the rural property.

5 million dollars being paid by Aqua America Inc for its latest acquisition, Western Hancock Utilities in Indiana.

96 points for the Sixers last night as they topped the Miami Heat.

12 wins for the Sixers, against 16 losses, good for fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Kudos to Sheldon Brown. The Eagles corner spoke candidly yesterday about the season and the fact that the team is now playing well. Too late, according to Brown. The team expects to make the playoffs each year, the DB said. They didn’t get it done this year. Good for him.

I Don’t Get It: I didn’t get it on the day after Thanksgiving. I surely will never get why people feel the need to rush out the day after Christmas to buy more stuff simply because it’s on sale.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to all those involved in the Pete Nelson Classic, the high school hoops tourney that will tap off for the first time tonight in Chester. It honors the memory of Floyd “Pete” Nelson, father of former Chester High standout Jameer Nelson. Pete passed away in a tragic accident last year. But this tourney is a great way to keep his memory alive, and honor both his memory and the continuing legacy of Jameer Nelson.


Quote Box: “This cab driver was assassinated.”

-- Upper Darby top cop Michael Chitwood, on the murder of a township cabbie on Christmas Eve.

Goodwill toward men?

We speak of the season of peace, of goodwill toward men.

And then watch glumly as the murder count continues to rise.

You would think that at a minimum the mindless violence that plagues so many of our neighborhoods would take a break on Christmas Eve.
Sadly, you’d be wrong.

Witness what happened this week in Upper Darby. Gregory Cunningham was trying to make a living. The cab driver was nearing the end of his shift. He took one last call.

It would be his last.

Police believe someone placed the call to County Cab Co. as a ruse for a robbery.
Cunningham dutifully answered the call. That’s how he made his living. But when he picked up the fare in the 7400 block of Rogers Avenue around 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve, something decidedly un-Christmas-like happened.

Police say the cabbie was shot in the back of the head. His cab was found nearby. His body was found dumped in a walkway at the Park Lane East Apartments. Not only that, but the person used the cab’s radio to boast about the shooting.

An acquaintance of Cunningham said he “honestly loved his job” and that he did not believe he was in danger working the late shift.

Police now have a “person of interest” they want to talk to in connection with the case. They have charged Ramir Andre Steve, 19, with gun charges after they found a weapon in his home. Steve has not been charged in connection with Cunningham’s death.

Here’s hoping police are able to bring Cunningham’s killer to justice. The sooner the better.

Maybe next year we will embrace the too-often hollow words we mouth at this time of year: Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

It was a decidedly evil element that visited Gregory Cunningham as he drove his cab on Christmas Eve.

And further proof of how far we have to put meaning to the words we so casually fire off every year at this time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas traditions are worth preserving

Here's a copy of this week's print column, an ode I penned several years agao as a salute to my mother, who so dearly loved Christmas.

By Phil Heron, Times Editor
This column first appeared several years ago as a tribute to my mother, who held Christmas traditions in the highest regard. She passed those beliefs along to her son.

To my mother, Christmas was a state of mind. But make no mistake, to her there was a right way and wrong way to celebrate the season.

At the time I first wrote these words, a few years ago, Alzheimer’s and dementia had begun stealing my mother’s treasured Christmas memories. She imparted these rites to me. I, in turn, am trying to do the same with my kids. It is my sincere hope that all of you will do the same.

She no longer remembers the white house on the corner she took such care to decorate each year. For her, Christmas was about nothing if not tradition. She placed a single, clear candle in each window. On the front door would be a wreath adorned with a red bow and illuminated by a spotlight. Around the lamppost she would wrap live garland (heaven help anyone who suggested artificial).

Inside she would carefully unpack the boxes where she stored her decorations, recreating her special look year after year. Then there was the precious box that contained the addresses she used for her Christmas cards. To her the holiday was all about tradition, about marking another year, about family and friends.

There was a comforting familiarity about the holiday, one she built by establishing a routine and sticking with it year after year.

Now the father of two teens, I am today astounded at the lengths she went to in order to preserve her sense of the holiday. That meant there would be no tree in the house until Christmas morning. No hint of any gifts, either. Today I marvel at how exhausting it must have been for her and my father (who I don’t think was nearly as big a fan of these traditions) to uphold their yearly ritual. Their heads were no doubt hitting the pillow about the time we were waking up, eager to head downstairs to see what Santa had left.

There was Christmas Eve Mass at midnight (not the late-afternoon variety we celebrate today.) Santa always left a few “big” items unwrapped to dazzle the eyes of a child who had just raced down the steps. Also piled around the tree would be our other booty, all of which had magically appeared since bedtime the night before. I remember clearly the ecstasy of that first Christmas morning glance each year.

My mother no longer remembers the house she spent 46 years decorating each Christmas. She doesn’t even remember the apartment she was in last year.

In truth, there are days I’m not even sure she remembers me. This will be mom’s first Christmas in a nursing home. Each week I visit and ask her questions I know that she can’t answer. I ask her if she likes the way the nursing home is decorated and if she remembers the special way she celebrated each year.

The dementia and Alzheimer’s that have robbed her of her memories have left her no less happy.

When I visit, some members of the staff greet me by saying, “You must be here to see Sweet Pea.” They describe her as the happiest person in the building.

I like to sit and talk to her about the traditions she so clearly instilled in me. When I ask her if she remembers, she always says, “Oh, sure.”

As a father, I am trying to instill a sense of tradition in my children, who often don’t share my sense of being “imbued” with the holiday spirit. That’s why I chuckled last week when, during a discussion of our annual Christmas Eve dinner, my wife suggested maybe we change the menu.

The kids were horrified. They insisted we do the same thing we have done every year. They are more like me than they care to admit.


Once again this year, one new tradition I started a few years ago will be absent. I will not sit beside my mother and carefully recount my visions of Christmas past. But the Christmas traditions she held so dear live on in her son. And in his children. And, I hope, in yours.

Merry Christmas, Mom. Happy holidays, readers.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Playing out the string

Well, I of course could not have been more wrong about last week's encounter with the Cowboys.

Which does not change much about the season. It is still over, and I still do not udnerstand why Andy Reid is not playing all his kids in these last two games. Adn that includes rookie QB Kevin Kolb.

Of course, Reid has other things on his mind right now, just as he has for much of the season.

The hits won't stop coming on Sunday. Make it 27-13, Saints.

Ane one more week to go. With no playoffs to carry us through January.

How many days until pitchers and catchers?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The public xhimes in

Today I turn over this space to a person who dropped off their feelings about the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to go ahead with flight-path changes at Philly International.

To say the least, it is very interesting. I also think it likely accurately sums up the feelings of many Delco residents. Here it is:

We the People:

There's a street fight in the mix, a donnybrook as my Irish grandfather used to say. Counting our friends from New Jersey and Delaware, our side is way over one million strong, and you'd never know it, not yet anyways. Our oponent is the FAA, an entity that does what it wants, when and where it wants, with total disregard to our quality of life, our investments, our health.

The FAA is biting the hand that feeds it, us, the taxpayers. We own this pit bull, and yet it runs loose threatening our welfare. It's supposed to have out best interest in mind, a wtchdog if you will for excessive noise leels, safety violations, etc. ... and yet, it obviulsy belongs to the airlines and big business lobbyists.

So what do we do about it? Call the SPCA? We did, in the form of our local politicians. United and bipartisan, they boldly fight for us, doing everything they can, and still, our pit bull does what it wants as everything good we stand for cowers at the sight of our rebellious mutt's massive girth, foaming mouth and large yellowish-white fangs.

The FAA, they have a problem, they've allowed the carriers the freedom to book way too many flights. If you're interested, this Friday you can get on one of 38 flights to Fort Lauderdale. Thirty-eight flights? Are they all booked? Flying out half empty? That's only one destination and it's not even a popular business destination.

Throw a little bit of inclement weather into the fray, and voila, delays abound, and the almighty finger appears from a crack in the heavens and points toward airport designs in the mid-Atlantic regin.

"Find a solution. Make a solution," a thunderous, cavernous voice bellows from the sky, and a multi-million dollar, flawed study appears out of desperation to appease the Gods of Thunder and Jet fumes.

I still can't get the number of people out of my head, possibly over a million? As I contemplate the sheer volume of such a great amount of people, I can only wonder where the commnity activists are during all of this? Someone runs over a puppy and smiles about it, thousands would hit the streets to voice their opinions, and yet, when this ogre named FAA threatens to cost us everything we've worked so hard for, deafening silence resonates in the air, that is, until a fully fuled commercial jet banks sharply at 1,000 feet over Chester, or Ridley, or Swarthmore, or Media, or wherever they may roam, and vibrates grandma right out of her rocker, onto her fanny, giving her a premature myocardial infrarction.

Friends, family, fellow citizens of the tri-state area, this is a one-shot deal. We lose it, it's gone forever, FOR-EV-ER!. Black, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, whatever ethnic background, whatever your religion, this affects us all. Your quality of life, your health and your property value.

Religious leaders, community leaders, I call on you to unite and let our voices be heard. Make a peaceful demonstration.

Philly International ignores us. I choose to ignore it. I'm flying out of Atlantic City, Allentown, or Baltimore as long as the FAA threatens the health and welfare of my family and friends.

This is about principal and freedom. If you think your decision means nothing? You are only one person? You're wrong. We are an army of one, and we need to unite.

The Quiet Man.

No so quiet anymore. Amen, pal

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 20

The Daily Numbers: 2 new flight paths put into effect yesterday for departing planes at Philly International and taking them over Delaware County.

100 planes that took the new routes, including both Delaware County and Gloucester County in New Jersey

1 person found dead inside a burned house in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philly. Police say the woman had been shot to death. Another woman was injured in the fire.

10,000 dollars chipped into our holiday fund drive, The Merry Christmas Fund, yesterday by the folks at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack. Jingle all the way for the casino folks.

90 million dollar proposal for a movie studio that got several zoning approvals from Chester Township supervisors.

84,102 dollars that authorities are alleging was ripped off from veterans by a Berwyn man who has worked to publicize the work of his WWII colleagues. Earle Hart is 82, and he’s denying the charges.

1 teacher who is missing in Delaware County. Police say Martin Thomas Hacker of Chester Heights left his home 7:20 Wednesday morning, but never arrived at his job in Wilmington. They’re now looking for him and asking for the public’s help.

250,000 dollars ripped off from a Bucks County soccer club by a couple from Southampton. They’re now facing jail time.

7 years in a juvenile treatment center in western Pennsylvania for the teen who admitted planning a “Columbine” style attack on Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

46 age of the boy’s mother, who was harshly criticized by the Montgomery County judge for helping her son acquire weapons and allowing the situation to fester.

5 days and counting before Christmas. OK, it’s time to panic.

100 wins for Penncrest wrestler Chuck Mulloy. Kudos!

31 of March, that’s when the Phils open their 2008 campaign against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

85 points for the Sixers as they fell to their old coach, Jim O’Brien, and the Pacers last night.

0 chance of seeing rookie Kevin Kolb at quarterback for the Eagles Sunday against the Saints, according to Andy Reid.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Ya gotta love Terrell Owens. Go ahead, you can admit it. You miss him. T.O. yesterday said he wanted a ban on Jessica Simpson at Cowboys games because she was a distraction to her new beau, the guy who throws the ball to Owens. Tony Romo had a miserable day against the Eagles with his new squeeze sitting in a box with her pink Cowboys shirt.

I Don’t Get It: Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. She is 16. I don’t get it. She’s also Britney Spears’ younger sister. Oh, now I do.


Today’s Upper: Those folks at Harrah’s are on a roll. $200,000 for Chester students. $10,000 for the Merry Christmas Fund. Who are they going to give money to today?


Quote Box: “My nerves are shredded right now.”

-- Prospect Park resident Carla Irvin on the planes coming over her house as part of new flight paths put into effect yesterday.

Air Wars

Andy Reilly is not a happy camper this morning. Neither is Joe Sestak.

The Odd Couple, Reilly the Republican head of County Council and Sestak the upstart Democratic congressman, are licking their wounds after being rebuffed in court and watching as the FAA implemented the new flight paths for Philly International that they have been fighting with a passion.

They have lost the battle, but vow they will not lose the war. The county will continue its lawsuit in attempts to halt the program, which will allow planes to veer out over Delaware County at altitudes as low as 3,000 feet during peak travel times.

Some planes were routed on the new paths yesterday morning.

And residents were quick to call the newsroom to point out they noticed their new, and most unwelcome, neighbors.

Both Reilly and Sestak made a point of saying the FAA simply was ignoring the safety and other concerns of county residents.

Sestak will have more to say later this morning, when he holds a press conference with South Jersey congressman Rob Andrews, who also has opposed the plan.

Me? I kind of saw this coming all along. Similar airport design plans have been enacted – and fought – in other areas of the country. The legal challenges almost always fail.

But my concern lies not with the comments of residents or politicians yesterday.
Instead I was somewhat taken aback at what Don Chapman had to say. Who’s Don Chapman? He’s the local rep for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Chapman complained that his controllers were unprepared to implement the plan.
“There was never any live testing of this,” Chapman said. “The pilots are taking wrong turns.”

Now there’s a comforting thought. Allowing planes to go over heavily populated areas of the county and the guy who represents the men and women directing them saying there is confusion and wrong turns being made in the process.

Jim Peters, spokesman for the FAA, denied the claim and insisted the process used by the FAA is a safe one.

Stay tuned. This one is not going away anytime soon.

Jingle all the way

It truly is the season of giving.

Now, most people probably would not associate that with a casino. In fact, most folks likely would think just the opposite, that a casino is in the business of taking, as in watching you empty your wallet as you stand in front of one of their slot machines.

This week Harrah’s proved them wrong.

There was a lot of concern when Harrah’s, and all those one-armed bandits, arrived on Chester’s waterfront. The casino folks vowed to be part of the community, to give back.

Some rolled their eyes.
Not anymore.

On Monday Harrah’s announced a $200,000 scholarship fund for Chester kids to continue their education. Kids can get up to $10,000 if they have been accepted into a four-year institution of higher learning in Delaware County.

Perhaps Chester Upland School District CEO Gregory Thornton said it best.
“This is the gift that keeps on giving,” he said.

He’s right on the money. While much is being made of the advances taking place in the city – and the arrival of Harrah’s has a lot to do with that – the one area that still direly needs to be addressed is the city’s flailing school system.

Too often kids in Chester Upland never get the chance that so many others take for granted.

Harrah’s is stepping up to the plate, putting their money where these kids’ futures are.

And they weren’t done.

Apparently intent on playing the role of Santa Claus, Harrah’s officials contacted the newspaper yesterday. They wanted to help out our annual Daily Times Merry Christmas Fund, which helps the local branches of the Salvation Army.

I’d say they did.

Harrah’s announced they are kicking in $10,000 into the kettle.
“They do good things and work with underprivileged kids with their Toys for Tots program,” said Harrah’s exec Vince Donlevie, himself a Delco native.”

The $10,000 gift puts us within shouting distance of our goal of $50,000.

Earlier this week in my print column I pondered the annual task of becoming “imbued” with the Christmas spirit.

This week I found it in an unlikely place. A casino.

A slots parlor? Yep. You can bet the house on it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 19

The Daily Numbers: 3,000 feet, that's the magic number where flight can now veer out over Delaware County, starting this morning.

57,880 bucks a year, salary for the boss of Delaware County Council. Andy Reilly is now leaving as council boss. A new leader will be appointed in January. Put the house on the gavel being passed to Linda Cartisano.

1,300 names of victims of DUI accidents on a memorial wall that made a stop in Ridley Park yesterday. Remember, 'Tis the season. Don't drink and drive.

62 bucks more, what the average tax-payer in Colwyn will be paying next year under the borough's new budget plan.

10,000 dollar check, what a man dropped in the kettle at a Salvation Army bell-ringing station outside Exton Square Mall in Chester County. That's what I call season's greetings.

35,286 dollars that have come into the Merry Christmas Fund, our annual fundraiser for the Salvation Army, as of yesterday. We're looking to get to $50,000.

250 million dollar casino being planned to replace the temporary facility at Philadelphia Park, which was granted a permanent license yesterday. That might siphon off some folks from Harrah's Chester.

2.5 million bucks paid for the license at Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack as ownership of the facility shifted yesterday to a couple of private equity firms that are buying the facility.

500,000 dollar bail for a Philadelphia police officer who has been charged in connection with a home break-in in Pottstown.

68 percent hike in mortgate foreclosures across the nation in November.

6 days and counting before Christmas. Everyone finished their Christmas shopping? Didn’t think so.

2 goal lead blown by the Flyers as they fell again last night, 3-2 to the Coyotes.

4 straight losses for the Flyers. That hot start is becoming a distant memory.

2 Eagles, running back Brian Westbrook and offensive guard Shawn Andrews, named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
March 31. Write it down. That's when the Phils will open their season next season against the Nationals. Wake me when we get there. Or at least when pitchers and catchers report. The Phils will play an exhibition in Allentown against their new farm team, the Iron Pigs, on Sunday March 30. Better pack a sweater.

I Don’t Get It: How low can you go? In Pottstown, police are looking for the Grinches who ripped off a lot a gifts a local church collected for needy families.


Today’s Upper: Proving there really is such a thing as the Spirit of Christmas, a lot of people in the area have come forward to replace the gifts. God bless them, every one.


Quote Box: "We would be disappointed if they went ahead and did this and didn't allow the court to take its course.

-- County Solicitor John McBlain on the move by the FAA to implement its redesign plan today.

It's Redesign Day

Better break out the earmuffs.

Or maybe add an item to those Christmas wish lists. I'm thinking those noise-canceling headphones might suddenly become very popular stocking stuffers.

That's because our friends at the Federal Aviation Administration have decided to move ahead with their airport redesign plan for Philadelphia International Airport.

Beginning at 9 a.m., departing planes from the airport could be diverted over the county at altitudes as low as 3,000 feet.

Right now for the most part jets snake their way down the Delaware River until they get to a sufficient altitude before veering out over land.

That changes today. The FAA proposal, which actually was supposed to go into effect Monday, means that during peak times, 9 to 11 a.m., and 2 to 7 p.m., planes can use the new route.

The FAA stands by its decision, saying its needed to cut down on delays at Philly International, which almost always put the facility near the top of the pack when it comes to delays.

Not happy about this are a lot of people in Delaware County. That would include outgoing County Council Chairman Andy Reilly, who has been on a mission to halt the plan. And new U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, who has crossed party lines to show a united front against the plan.

The county has joined a number of municipalities in several parts of the country to try to stop the plan. They've filed in court for an injunction to halt it. Sestak has gotten the Government Accountability Office to investigate the methods the FAA used in developing the new policy.

Sestak was just on TV from Washington. He did not sound like a happy camper, labeling the move by the FAA to push ahead with the new plan today further proof of its "arrogance." He also called the plan "unsafe," and indicated it would put kids' health at risk.

Of course the FAA sees it differently. Spokesperson Jim Peters insists that the changes are safe and claims to the contrary just don't hold water.

The redesign plan foes now must await a ruling from the court, and cover their ears.

But for now, it appears a lot of county residents are going to finally understand the longtime complaint of the folks in Tinicum, who have struggled for years with noise and other issues related to their next-door neighbor at the airport.

Break out the earmuffs, folks, this argument is about to get a lot louder.

Both in court and out.

No good deed ...

Filie this one under the category of "no good deed goes unpunished."

This newspaper very often comes under criticism because we tend to publish stories that paint the county in a negative light. It goes with the territory.

Actually, the readers often have a legitimate point. Much of what makes the news every day is often what most would consider bad news, very sad stories, negative images.

Very often this kind of criticism is directed at us from the city of Chester, where residents often complain we never miss an opportunity to skewer the struggling city.

Which brings me to Tuesday's newspaper. Our lead story also emanated from Chester. But it was not a negative view of the city.

Instead, on Tuesday our front page screamed "Chester Kids Hit Jackpot." The headline and accompanying photo dominated the page.

Inside the story detailed a new scholarship program for city kids being set up by Harrah's. They're the folks running the new casino in town. It's a great opportunity for Harrah's to put their money where their mouth is. They have often said they want to give back to the city they call home. This is a great way of doing it.

So I was a little taken aback at one of the first phone calls I received bright and early Tuesday morning. It was a reader who wanted to comment about the play we gave the story.

I thought for sure for once I was going to be getting a heart thank-you for something the newspaper did.

Not exactly.

The reader wanted to take the newspaper to task for the photos appearing on Page 1 and inside. She said she was disappointed in the expressions and lack of enthusiasm on the kids' faces. She said the photographer should have done more to show how excited the kids were about this new program. She gave me the distinct impression that we delibately chose the images we used to try to cast the kids in some kind of negative light.

Yep, some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 18

The Daily Numbers: 200,000 dollars in scholarships being put up for students in Chester by Harrah’s casino. That’s what you call giving back to the community.

7 times a man from Clifton Heights has now been arrested on DUI charges. Can you say designated driver?

64, age of woman in Brookhaven who fended off a suspected burglar who invaded her home. He picked the wrong place. She chased him off.

34,786 dollars raised to date in our annual Merry Christmas Fund to aid the Salvation Army. Our goal of $50,000 is within reach with a week to go.

12 cars damaged in the parking lot of a shopping center in Burlington County, N.J., when a van went out of control. NO truth to the rumor that it was started by a race for a rare parking spot.

75 families in Pottstown who are now facing the prospect of an even starker Christmas because some Grinch ripped off presents from a local church that were to be handed out to needy folks.

4, age of boy found shot to death inside his grandmother’s home in Southwest Philly. Police say it was a tragic accident. The boy apparently found a gun in the house and shot himself in the head.

7, age of son who witnessed the horrific scene in Conshohocken in which police say his father beat his mother to death in a dispute over a fast-food order.

1 cent dip in the price of gasoline overnight. Right now the average price of regular in the Philly area is $3.07. That’s still 2 cents higher than the state average.

55 percent of people in the Philly region who will depart for their Christmas destinations this week, according to AAA.

7 days and counting before Christmas. Everyone finished their Christmas shopping? Didn’t think so.

0 chance of making the playoffs for the Eagles, who were eliminated when the Vikings won their Monday night matchup with the Bears.

1 game suspension for Cowboys safety Roy Williams for the horse-collar tackle he used on Donovan McNabb Sunday. They made the rule for this guy after he did the same thing to T.O. a few years back. Guess he just doesn’t get it.

5 wins in 20 shootouts in the last two and a half seasons for the Flyers.

4 more Eagles who suffered injuries in the win against the Cowboys Sunday and are now questionable for the Saints. Not that it much matters.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s official. The Eagles can quit pretending they still have a shot at the playoffs. They got eliminated last night when the Vikings won. They still have two more games, but it’s time to start thinking about next year.

I Don’t Get It: Everybody is all atwitter because a local TV news anchor got arrested. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Yes, there are some downsides to casinos and slot-machine gambling. But it’s hard to argue with the move by Harrah’s yesterday in announcing they would award $200,000 in scholarships to Chester students.


Quote Box: “This is a gift that keeps on giving. What better gift could there be for the holidays.”

-- Chester Upland Schools CEO Gregory Thornton on the announcement by Harrah’s to award $200,000 in scholarships to Chester students.

Making news

When I first started in this business (yeah, I’m surprised I can remember that far back, too) I worked with an editor who had a pet peeve.

This guy was straight out of central casting, or perhaps “Shoe,” when it comes to the crusty, cantankerous newsman.

His “peeve” was the way his industry – newspapers -- fawned over television. It drove him nuts. He could never understand why newspapers consistently gave all kinds of coverage to what amounted to their direct competition.

If it was up to him, he would eliminate the daily TV listings that appear in the paper each day.

That was in the days long before cable TV came to dominate our lives, and make mine miserable as I field calls from readers who want to know why I can’t list their new favorite station.

This guy absolutely hated stories about the “personalities” that populate local TV news. Of course, that kind of coverage is now a stock part of the newspaper, this one not withstanding.

Some things don’t change.

Which is to say, unless you’ve been living under a rock, that another TV news person is making headlines.

Alycia Lane, female anchor along with Larry Mendte on local station KYW (CBS3), got involved in a dustup with some plain-clothes police officers on a New York City street.

At 2 a.m. Sunday.

The bottom line is Lane ended up getting arrested on charges she punched out a female New York City police officer.

Voila! The headline reader now finds herself in the headlines. And it’s not the first time.

Of course, there are two starkly differing versions of the story. The police version indicates Lane and some buds were in a cab behind a slow-moving car. At a red light a guy gets out of the cab and approaches the car and asks them to speed it up. Turns out inside the car is a group of plain-clothes officers. Police get out of the car and start grilling the guy. Anchorwoman then gets out and starts snapping pictures. She gets into a confrontation with a female officer and police say she has some not especially nice things to say, then allegedly slugs her. She’s arrested and spends much of Sunday in the klink.

Lane’s version is different. She denies striking the officer or making any derogatory comments.

In the meantime, Lane is on an early “vacation.”

But I can’t help but think of that old editor, and what his reaction to this story would be.

Forget Iraq, the economy, the holiday season or the immigration issue. Alycia Lane has been arrested.

That’s what people are talking about at the watercooler, or the corner tap room, or in the grocery store checkouts.

My question is why? I think it has something to do with celebrity. It’s a local version of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton.

People who appear on TV are welcomed into people’s homes in a way that newspaper people for the most part never are. It’s something for which I will forever be grateful. I don’t say this is a face that was made for newspapers for nothing.

That person who appears on the TV screen becomes, in many instances, part of the family. They are a familiar, comforting sight that greets a lot of people every night.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t hold it against them. I take a lot of comfort in the anonymity my job affords me. My picture appears in the newspaper, and every once in awhile someone will approach me and ask, “Aren’t you the editor of the Daily Times?” I have a stock reply. “That depends on who wants to know.”

There is a fame, a celebrity that goes with the territory on TV. Alycia Lane is not the first to go there. It’s not even her first trip down this road. Remember the bikini pics she e-mailed to married NFL Network commentator Rich Eisen?

Of course, that’s not exactly the same as being criminally charged for allegedly taking a poke at a Big Apple police officer.

Yes, Alycia Lane’s picture appears on the front page of today’s newspaper. It’s what we call a “teaser,” up in the top left corner. It’s not our lead story. But it is out there.

I imagine a former editor I used to know is likely rolling over in his grave.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The print column, getting 'imbued'

This is a copy of my print column for this week, and what seems like my annual struggle to grasp the holiday spirit.

I am a man who makes a living with words. I take them very seriously. They are not to be used carelessly. That’s because words can have a powerful effect. They are to be caressed and molded, not to be used indiscriminately by those who don’t understand the result words can leave in their wake.

Of course, some words are better than others. Take the word bogus, for instance. It’s a flat-out great word. Not only does it sound great, it gives the you the impression of exactly what it sounds like. It’s one of those words I’d like to see in the newspaper every day. Of course, that’s not always possible.

I have a tendency to equate certain words with certain times of the year, and specific occasions.

If you’re thinking this is working toward our current holiday season, you are certainly not bogus, although I guess some Grinches would consider my sentimental leanings toward Christmas somewhat so.

The word that infiltrates my lexicon every year as we careen into mid-December is one that was imparted to me by my mother.

The word, as Allen Ludden used to say every night on the old “Password” game show, is “imbued.”

Webster’s tells us it means to “permeate,” as with feelings or ideas.
Yep, that about sums it up.

My mother always used to tell her offspring shortly after Thanksgiving it was time to get “imbued” with the Christmas spirit.

Now I’m the one urging my own kids to do the same. I received an e-mail from my daughter last week that was maybe the best Christmas present I could have received.
She’s now at the mid-point of her junior year in college. I know, don’t ask me where the time goes.

She was just checking in, telling me about the Christmas decorations that are adorning her tiny room. She reminded me it was time to start getting “imbued.”
Which brings me to my problem. Talking and writing about being “imbued” is a hell of a lot easier than being “imbued.”

Each year I battle the same feelings, that the meaning of the season is too often lost in an avalanche of commercialism. Call me Charlie Brown if you like. I’ll wear the emblem proudly.

My eyes are assaulted by malls that start putting out their Christmas displays right after Labor Day. My ears are filled with Christmas music that radio stations decide to start playing 24 hours a day right around Halloween.

The traditional start of the holiday, Thanksgiving, is now little more than the precursor to Black Friday, with each year seemingly outdoing the ridiculous starting times of the annual shopping frenzy. 7 a.m. now no longer will suffice.

Some shopping areas now throw open the doors at 3 a.m., others at midnight on Thanksgiving night. And there are always crowds waiting to jam into the stores. Why bother with Thanksgiving dinner at all? Why not just pick up something on the way to the mall? Or better yet, hit the Food Court along the way.

Of course, part of my dilemma is what I do for a living. Working at a newspaper is not the cheeriest occupation. A lot of what we deal with every day around here is unbearably sad. It’s an occupational hazard.

Which is why I was so pleased to read a little story that was tucked into last Tuesday’s paper.

It involved Gwen Runge of Glenolden. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Runge lost her son Joseph in one of those moments of madness that so often dominate the news. He was shot and killed back in 2001 by a co-worker at a fast-food restaurant.

To honor his memory, for the second straight year family members fanned out across the streets of Philadelphia on a recent chilly evening, handing out winter clothes, blankets, cookies and gift cards to the homeless.

Gwen Runge was able to assemble more than 300 blankets, as well as 300 sets of gloves, hats and scarves, all of which made their way into the hands of people who desperately need them.

Her reasoning was beautiful in its simplicity.

“Joseph was a kind, loving person who would do anything for anyone,” she said. “This is our way of remembering Joseph.”

It is a noble effort, one that honors his memory in a lovely manner.
It is also something else. It is called being “imbued.”

To: Gwen Runge. From: Phil Heron.

Thanks for reminding me.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 17

The Daily Numbers: 2 a.m., that’s when police in New York allege Channel 3 anchor Alycia Lane got in a dustup with an office. She’s now facing charges.

115 million development tied to a new soccer stadium in Chester that remains in limbo because of inaction by the state Legislature.

45 mph winds that will continue to whip the region through the afternoon. Bundle up.

160,000 people who were without power as the wind brought down trees and power lines over the weekend.

30 years in prison for a leader of an Internet-based drug ring.

2 special Masses celebrated on his old turf by new Cardinal John P. Foley, a Delaware County native, over the weekend.

2 students from Moorsetown High School killed in car crashes in the past week.

1 person killed in an apparent domestic dispute in Conshohocken.

2 murders in Philadelphia that police have now made arrests in, and they say the key to solving them was getting cooperation from the public.

1 prisoner who scaled a razor fence and then fled the grounds of the Bucks County Prison.

10 days before Christmas when a fire hit a Toys R Us store in South Philly. The store closed overnight but was open again the next day.

7 days and counting before Christmas. Better start thinking about the trip to the mall.

3 interceptions for Cowboys star QB Tony Romo in a loss to the valiant Eagles Sunday.

0 touchdowns for the Cowboys, something that has not happened to them in several years.

1 field goal for Garnet Valley Friday night in their PIAA AAA loss to a powerful Thomas Jefferson team.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
For faithful readers of the blog, you know I pick a score for the Eagles game every Saturday. Let’s just say I was off the mark just a tad this week. Incredibly, the Eagles are still alive – barely – in the playoff hunt.


I Don’t Get It: Spare me the shots of Jessica Simpson, Tony Romo’s new squeeze. Uh, Tony, might want to win something before you go the Hollywood route.


Today’s Upper: A great weekend for Delaware County native Cardinal John P. Foley, who was back on his home turf to celebrates Masses in Sharon Hill and Havertown over the weekend.


Quote Box: “You don’t feel complete until you’ve done what you came in to do.”

-- Linda Pascal, on her decision to go to Iraq with her soldier husband Jeffrey.

The Life of Brian

I call it the ESPN effect.

Cut the music. Da-dad-da, da-da-da!

Accompanying it is always some overpaid athlete mugging for the camera.
It has become the thing to do. The point now is not how you play the game, or even whether you win or lose, but whether or not you make it onto Sports Center each night.

That’s why I grind my teeth every time I’m forced to watch some player going into an overblown celebration while his team is getting smoked.
Yeah, I know. I’m old. I don’t get it. That’s not the way I learned to play the game.

Unfortunately, that’s all the games are about today.

Which is why something truly spectacular happened during yesterday’s improbably Eagles win against the Cowboys.

No, it wasn’t all those shots of Jessica Simpson, Tony Romo’s new squeeze. By the way, the ‘Boys QB seems to squeeze the ball a tad every time one of his lovelies is in attendance. The last time this happened it was with Carrie Underwood. Romo struggled that day as well.

No, this novel feat was handled by Brian Westbrook.

It happened at the tail end of the fourth quarter, with the Eagles clinging to a 10-6 lead. Westbrook took a handoff from Donovan McNabb, burst through a big hole, and suddenly saw nothing but green carpet between him and the end zone.

Then something almost indescribable happened. Westbrook bolted for paydirt, until he got to the 1-yard line. Then he fell to the ground.

And in so doing he reaffirmed my failing faith in pro athletes. You see, the key at that point in the game was not the score. Westbrook easily could have rolled into the end zone and then conducted a celebration worthy of yesterday’s foe, Terrell Owens.

He had more important things on his mind. The key at that point of the game was the clock. Westbrook realized the Cowboys were out of timeouts, and after the two-minute warning could not stop the clock.

All the Eagles had to do was take a knee and run out the clock.
Game, set and match.

I’m guessing there are not a lot of athletes who would have even realized the wisdom of what Westbrook did, let alone given up a chance to pad their stats or make their fantasy football owners happy.

What Westbrook did was selfless, pure and a throwback to another era.

Maybe they’ll even show it on Sports Center.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

If it's Saturday, it must be time for the dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.

There is a sadness that has fallen over Eagles-ville this week.

Anyone remember when Dallas week sparked the No. 1 passion in Philly sports?

Anyone remember what it was like when we used to bump into our old pal, T.O., in another uniform. Now we shrug our shuolders even as Owens rubs it in our face. The truth is he's right. The Eagles botched his situation and are still trying to dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves.

Now they're playing out the string. But that doesn't stop Andy Reid from further insulting fans by talking about playoff possibilities.

We can't even get this Cowboys' encounter over with early. We have to wait until 4:15to be embarrassed in front of another national TV audience.

We can sit inside and gaze out at the lousy weather and sulk about the fact that we won't have a post-season to get us through the post-holiday drudgery.

The Eagles are cooked, and they will look that way on Sunday, as they mail one in against the 'Boys in Big D. They should save the money on the flight.

Make this one, Cowboys 33, Eagles 13.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 14

The Daily Numbers: 3,000 that’s the magic number when it comes to the airport redesign plan. Under the FAA proposal, flights could veer out over the county at that low altitude.

38 homicides so far this year in Delaware County, the latest two being a woman found in her home in Aldan and a man shot to death in Chester.

26 total of homicides in the county last year.

0 increase in real estate taxes for Chester residents under the budget approved by City Council.

29,681 dollars contributed to date to our Merry Christmas Fund. We’re slowly but surely closing in on our goal of $50,000. All funds go to the Salvation Army.

506 million bucks that is sitting in the state’s property tax relief fund, the result of some of the moolah raked in by the state’s new slots casinos. The bottom line? Pennsylvanians should finally be getting for tax relief next year.

1925, that’s when the Swiss Pastry Shop opened its doors in Center City Philadelphia. It closed for good Thursday.

1 stray bullet that struck and killed a store employee as he stood inside a North Philadelphia food market Thursday night.

1 billion pieces of mail that are expected to be handled Monday the U.S. Postal Service, their busiest day of the year.

20 million dollars that will be paid by Montgomery County drug company Merck from three chemical spills that killed more than 1,000 fish and fouled the Philadelphia drinking water.

85 names that appear on the Mitchell Report on drug abuse in baseball that was issued yesterday. They run the spectrum from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to former Phil Lenny Dykstra and journeyman Todd Pratt.

1 game for the whole ball of wax as Garnet Valley plays for the PIAA AAA football crown tonight in Hershey. Go Jags!

12 years and $69 million in a new contract for Flyers Mike Richards. For a hockey player. Unreal.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
How sad is it that they are playing a football game Sunday and nobody cares. Remember when the Cowboys used to mean a week of passion that rivals anything in Philly sports? Remember the last few times we hooked up with our old pal, T.O. Now everyone just shrugs. That should tell the Eagles brass more about their season then anything.


I Don’t Get It: Seems like Clifton Heights is not the only place dealing with racial intolerance. A home rented to a black family in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond section was the target of racial vandals. I don’t’ get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to the pair of SEPTA trolley operators being credited with saving the life of a man who was stricken at 69th Street.


Quote Box: “It has been a long battle, but the county is committed to continuing the battle.”

-- County Council chairman Andy Reilly on the legal tug of war over the FAA’s airport redesign plan.


Who says you can’t fight City Hall?

Well, it gets a lot easier when City Hall is actually doing some of the fighting.
That’s what appears to be happening in the announcement this week from the Federal Aviation Administration that they would not begin to implement their reviled airport redesign plan for Philadelphia International Airport on Monday, as they had been indicating they would.

The move by the feds was a reaction to the latest volley fired from Delaware County on the heated issue, which would send planes at lower altitudes over the heart of the county.

The county went into federal court last week seeking an injunction to stop the FAA from going forward. The FAA had until today to offer a response. This is it.
They blinked, sort of.

The good news is that the plan will not go forward on Monday. The bad news is that the FAA is not saying just how long it will wait. The feds merely are indicating they will hold off implementation “several days.”

Now it appears both sides on this heated issue will await the court’s ruling on the injunction.

The county, which is part of a legal effort that includes 11 other cities and groups from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, is challenging the way the FAA arrived at its recommendation, as well as the environmental effects.
The county also is in court by itself challenging the plan on the environmental issues.

There’s also the matter of the Government Accountability Office, which U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, convinced to do an investigation of the way the FAA arrived at their recommendation.

That proposal would change the current usual practice for departing flights, which most often follow the Delaware River until they are at an altitude well over 3,000 feet.

That’s the key number. Under the FAA recommendations, three new exit routes come into play, one of which would allow planes to veer out to the west over Delaware County as low as 3,000 feet. Another would affect the southern part of the county, and the third takes planes east over New Jersey.

This is all about time (in terms of the reduction in delays the plague the airport). Nobody is saying it doesn’t need to be addressed. But no one agrees that the FAA’s plan will make much of a dent in the problem. At the same time, the county is making the case that the low flights will cause environmental, noise and quality of life issues.

Think Tinicum Township, which has had to live with the constant rumble of flights from their next-door neighbor for years.

For now all the noise will be in court. As one City Hall fights another. It’s county vs. the feds.

This one is going to be a heavyweight bout. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The weather outside (and the forecasting) is frightful

Today we will once again have the thrill of winter weather, and the agony of listening about it on TV.

Yes, it’s going to be wet outside today.

But then, that’s the key. It’s going to be wet. Just as it sometimes is in April, July and October.

Only today it’s going to be colder. So there’s a chance we could see a little icing take place.

But for the most part, it’s just going to a cold, wet, raw day.

Unless, of course, you live in the infamous “northern and western suburbs.” I assume that would include Delaware County.

I am somewhat taken aback that we now inlcude Allentown and the Poconos in that little piece of geography. At least that’s the impression I get from TV, which of course revels in these winter forercasts.

My good friends on TV have only been too glad to tell us for the last 24 hours about the potential conditions in Allentown, as if I care. They are very likely going to have a mixture of rain, ice and snow that will make a mess of things in that region.

I’m still not sure how and when exactly they became a Philadelphia suburb. I’m not buying it.

I think they became a part of the northern and western suburbs because the weather has a tendency to be worse up there. And the worse the weather, the better TV likes it.

They could get 4-6 inches of snow today in the Poconos. Imagine that, snow in the Poconos. There’s some breaking news for you.

In the meantime, the rain continues to fall here in Delco. It likely will continue throughout the day.

No schools have closed. We will have to wait and see if we get any early dismissals. The folks up around Easton and Allentown aren't taking any chances. Several schools up there shut down for the day.

Somehow I think we’ll all survive, at least until Saturday night, when the next storm is on the horizon.

Don’t turn on the TV. Unless of course you want to see someone sticking a ruler in the snow in Allentown.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A familiar lament

I received something a bit unusual when I got into the office Tuesday morning.
Actually, it was something I get every day, but this one had a twist.
It was a voice-mail. Not all that unusual.

From a police chief. I talk to several every week.

It was to thank us for something we did. Now you’re talking a bit more novel.

Darby Township Chief Robert Thompson wanted to thank me for my print column that appeared in the Monday newspaper. In it I said I had a new hero. That would be Arnetia “Billie” Blandford, who has lived in Darby Township for more than 50 years and who is now calling on the community to rally around her call to an end to the violence that plagues all too many of our towns.

She had led a community meeting with the chief. He had called to say he appreciated the column and the decision of the newspaper to shed some light on the issues facing him and, in fact, police chiefs, all over the county.

It took all of one day to see more proof of the daunting task Chief Thompson is facing.

Today’s newspaper details the 37th homicide in Delaware County this year, but the first in Darby Township.

A 67-year-old woman became a victim inside her Clifton Avenue home. Police believe two men who invaded her home were looking for drugs belonging to her son.
Altimese “Autie” Roberts suffered a gruesome death. Police say her hands, feet and mouth were duct taped.

A neighbor called her “one of the nicest ladies on the block.”

It is a familiar story to Thompson. It involves drugs and money, and what people are willing to do for both.

My thoughts continue to be with people like Thompson and Arnetia Blandford.

The job is not getting any easier.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 11

The Daily Numbers: 3 days of filming that kicks off today on the major movie “The Lovely Bones” at the MacDade Mall.

185,000 dollars, how much a Ridley Township man is believed to have swindled from his grandparents, with whom he lived. Jason Metzger will do 15 to 30 months in jail after entering a guilty plea.

5,000 bucks, give to the Merry Christmas Fund by C&H Industrial Services of Chester. Joy to the World!

90 million bucks, the value of a deal that would bring a movie studio to the Tri State Sports complex in Chester Townhsip.

14 age of girl found stuffed in a drum at an apartment complex in Whitpain Township, Montgomery County. The girl’s mother’s boyfriend has been charged in the case.

23 months in the slammer for former star NFL quarterback Michael Vick in connection with dog-fighting charges.

8 percent dip in revenue for Atlantic City casinos in November, as they continue to feel the effects of Pennsylvania’s new juggernaut slot-machine industry.

30 bucks, what a thief made off in a jar from a coffee store in Philly with donations that were supposed to go to the family of slain Officer Chuck Cassidy.

1 teen killed in a crash that police in Moorestown, N.J., say was alcohol-related. The teen driver of the car faces DUI charges.

564 million dollars, sale price of the Claymont Steel site just over the line in Delaware.

3 workers injured in an explosion and fire at the Sunoco refinery in Southwest Philly.

1 Delco high school team still alive in the PIAA football playoffs. We salute Garnet Valley as they play for a state title Friday night.

3 straight wins for the suddenly streaking Sixers. The Ed Stefanski era is off and running.

5 wins and 8 losses for the Eagles. Someone alert Andy Reid. He still thinks his team has a shot at the playoffs. Mathematically they do. They also play the Cowboys Sunday. That should take care of that.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else want to see what this kid Kevin Kolb can do? OK, maybe you don’t start him against the Cowboys. But the last two games of the season, I say let’s see what he’s got. We already know what Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feeley can do, it’s time to look ahead. Andy Reid says McNabb is the quarterback for the rest of the year. Great.


I Don’t Get It: Some times you just shake your head. The boyfriend of the mother of the 14-year-old girl found slain in Montgomery County has admitted he killed the girl. Then he made a wild claim about why. Nice.


Today’s Upper: Don’t look for a red carpet outside MacDade Mall today. But it will see some Hollywood stars there for the filming of some scenes for “The Lovely Bones.”.


Quote Box: “It’s time to put your rear end on the line and be counted.”

-- Gov. Ed Rendell, on the standoff over gun-control legislation in Harrisburg.

Just call us Tinseltown

No, we don’t have a Hollywood sign that looms over our landscape. Yet.
That does not mean Delco is not making its mark on the silver screen.

We recently saw “Invincible,” the story of one of our own, Interboro High grad Vince Papale and his improbable rise to a roster spot on the Philadelphia Eagles, hit the big screen.

Now in the can is “Our Lady of Victory,” the magical story of the national champion Immaculata women’s basketball team, which was chock full of women hoopsters who called Delco home. It will be out next year.

This week, there’s a little slice of Hollywood in, of all places, the MacDade Mall.
Yes, the mall has been a bit down on its luck in recent years. There are only a few stores left of what was one of the first malls in the region.

This week it has been turned into a Hollywood set, as the background for shooting of the movie version of “The Lovely Bones.”

That is not a reference to what’s left of the mall. It’s the movie version of Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel about the rape and murder of a young girl. The book was located for the most part in Chester County. Filming has already been done in Royersford, Montgomery County. This week it’s Delco’s turn as they shoot some scenes in what is the perfect backdrop for a ‘70s-style shopping center.

The movie biz could be an increasingly big-time presence in the county. That’s because negotiations continue to bring a film studio to the Tri State Sports facility in Chester Township.

County Council has been working with Pacifica Ventures, of Santa Monica, Calif., to bring the movie studio to the county.

One of the developers told Chester Upland Scholl District Officials he would continue to push the measure.

The $90 million deal includes a million from the county, $10 million from the state, and $13 million in bonds floated by the county.

Tinseltown, right here in Delaware County. Only in the movies.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A season down the drain

The return of Donovan McNabb could not change the Eagles' fortunes.

It seemed only appropriate when David Akers 57-yard field goal, which would have tied the game and sent the game into overtime, instead clanked off the upright.

The blundering Birds thus dropped still another game, losing to the Giants 16-13.

The return of Donovan McNabb, which looked so promising on a scintillating opening-game drive that put the Birds up, 7-0, then went right back into hibernation.

Yes, A.J. Feeley is a turnover machine.

And Donovan McNabb is still indecision personified. Donovan drops back, he looks, he sees nothihg, he looks some more, he moves a bit, and then either throws an interception or is asacked.

The crisp, quick drops and throws that we saw the last two weeks (yes, many to the other team) are nowhere in evidence.

The season is now over.

The Eagles can start thinking about next year.

And who should be back. Time to start over? Or simply retool a bit.

That is the question Andy Reid faces today, and his stock "we need to put players in a better position to make plays" isn't going to cut it.

There is one overriding question facing this team. Should Donovan McNabb be the quarterback next year. Everything else is simply background music.

Times yours, Andy.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

If it's Saturday, it must be time for the dreaded Eagles pick.

Tomorrow it's the Giants at the Linc, and a chance for the Birds to atone for one of their more egregious displays of the season.

You might remember when the Iggles paid a visit to North Jersey, had to start Winston Justice as the protector of Donovan McNabb's blid side at left tackle, and watched the grinning Giants savage the Birds for 12 sacks.

Tomorrow William Thomas will be back in his familiar spot, but the result won't be much different.

This team is cooked, going thruogh the motions, saying all the right things, even braying about how they are still alive for the playoffs.

Yeah, for about 24 more hours.

Make this one Giants 29, Eagles 13.

Let the rebuilding begin.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 7

The Daily Numbers: 100,000 dollars, that’s how much police now believe Philly’s modern-day “Bonnie & Clyde” ID theft suspects ripped off from their friends and neighbors.

3 beach-front homes in Stone Harbor that were ravaged by fire overnight. One of the homes is considered a total loss.

3 million bucks, what homes on the street are going for even in this depressed real estate market.

7, age of boy who was struck and killed as he crossed a street in Bristol Township last night.

1 as in No. 1, that’s the ranking of Philly International Airport calling it the best airport in the nation for singles to make a “romantic connection.” Maybe it’s because of all the delays. Hey, you’ve got to pass the time somehow.

93 accidents in New Castle County responded to by police during Tuesday’s snow storm.

400 suburban leaders who will be at Bryn Mawr College today for the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project Summit. They are tackling the problems of the inner-ring suburbs such as Yeadon.

7.9 million bucks raised during his successful mayoral run by Democrat Michael Nutter. That’s about a million for every vote for his opponent, Republican Al Taubenberger.

15, age of victim police say was the victim of a gang rape in South Jersey. The star quarterback at Glassboro High is among the group charged in the assault.

21 points down in second half, that’s where ‘Nova was before they started their miracle comeback and beat LSU in the final seconds last night.

100 percent of our fearless pigskin prognosticators in the print edition who are picking Ridley and Garnet Valley to win their playoff football games this weekend.

1 as in No. 1 linebacker in the country. That’s Strath Haven great Dan Connor, who won the Bednarik Trophy yesterday for his work at Penn State.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
How about that Joe Banner. He went on the radio yesterday and he actually had something to say. Banner said he fully expects both Head Coach Andy Reid and QB Donovan McNabb to be back with the team next year.


I Don’t Get It: The incident involving the star QB of the Glassboro High football team that led to sex assault charges against him occurred in April. He played the entire season and the team won the South Jersey Group 1 title. Then he was charged. Hmmmm.


Today’s Upper: If you see a vet today, offer a salute. If you’re in Media, stop by the Veterans Museum, where they will hold an event at 10 a.m. to mark the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s the least we can do.


Quote Box: “This is real. They’re Japanese.”

-- George Smith of Middletown, retelling how he realized he and his fellow troops were under attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Aimee's smile

It’s the smile that gets me every time.

Every time we find ourselves dealing with another story involving Aimee Willard, we go looking for a picture. And every time I am struck by that smile.

It’s been that way since June 20, 1996. I still remember driving into work that day, coming down the Route 1 Bypass, and wondering what all the commotion was about on the exit ramp from the Blue Route.

I soon found out. When I got into the office I heard the name Aimee Willard for the first time.

I must have heard it about a thousand times in the 11 years since.
And every time I think of that smile.

The gruesome details haven’t changed. Willard was abducted and killed after her attacker bumped her car and got her to stop as was driving down the Blue Route.

Too often the stories this newspaper does on Willard are sad ones. Not so this week.
I hold two news meetings every day, one at 11 a.m. and another at 5 p.m. That’s where we discuss what we’re covering each day. At the 5 we make our final decisions on Page One.

On Wednesday I was all set to lead the Thursday paper with another story when I heard our sports editor make mention of a story they were doing.
I was immediately intrigued.

It was a story involving Aimee Willard. And it was a happy one. Or at least one that is not as sad.

That’s how the photo of Aimee’s mom, Gail, as well as her brother and sister wound up on the front page of Thursday’s newspaper.

They were standing in the new gymnasium at The Academy of Notre Dame de Namur. That’s Aimee’s alma mater, where she starred in basketball and field hockey.
They stood under a banner with Aimee’s name and her number, 4, one that will never be worn by another Notre Dame player.

The facility was officially named the Aimee Willard Gymnasium.

There was another image on that front page as well. We cut in a shot of Aimee, that same smiling countenance that has stayed with me these past 11 years.

I can’t think of a more appropriate honor for Aimee than to have a gymnasium at her alma mater named for her. Athletics were so much of what she was.

Aimee is no longer with us. But her spirit is. It will fill that gym every time they turn on the lights.

The same way her smile does.

You tell 'em, Thaddeus

I’m not going to take a stand on the action taken this week in Harrisburg by the Legislative Black Caucus.

Led by Caucus Chairman Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, the group walked out of a crucial House session, bringing work on an Open Records bill to a grinding halt.

Kirkland explained his group was frustrated by the Legislature’s refusal to consider bills targeting gun-control legislation.

Some would call it grandstanding, a publicity stunt that amounts to holding work in the Legislature hostage. The only member of the caucus, which consists of House and Senate members, who remained at his post was Rep. Dwight Evans, a Philly Democrat and unsuccessful mayoral candidate.

“Dwight, as a leader in the caucus, believes that you should work through the process in a deliberate way,” said a spokesperson for Evans.
It’s a perfectly legitimate point.

But you have to feel for the caucus, which has been seeking help reining in the rampant spread of gun violence that is overrunning so many of our cities, including Chester.

Earlier in the week they heard a group of Democrats flat-out tell their leadership they would not support gun-control efforts.

The debate will go on. Whether or not the bills targeting guns will work to cut the violence is not known.

What I do know is this. I work with words. And I know a killer quote when I hear one. The award this week goes to Kirkland, who gave us one of the best quotes I can remember when we contacted him about the walkout.

Kirkland was talking about the effect of the walkout on the open records bill.
“Open records are nice, but we are trying to get people to understand that we’re tired of open caskets.”

That’s called game, set and match.
Well said, Rep. Kirkland.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 6

The Daily Numbers: 1.6 inches of snow, that’s all we got from the first snow storm of the season. Some areas got closer to 3 inches.

2 hour delay in Garnet Valley School District and others across Chester County this morning.

3 people who asked questions at the public hearing on the county budget at the courthouse Wednesday night.

6.23 percent tax hike on tap in Swarthmore.

17,500 in cash found in condo of young Philly couple who are being labeled the modern day “Bonnie & Clyde” for allegedly stealing the IDs of friends to finance their lavish lifestyle.

1 hunter killed in what police now believe was some kind of shootout in Long Pond, Pa. The victim was wearing hunting clothes and carrying a hunting license.

5 year freeze on mortgage rates being eyed by President Bush as a way to ease the crunch that is rocking the housing market and causing the spike in mortgage foreclosures.

9 as in 9th place, where Philadelphia ranks in a magazine’s survey of America’s Top 10 Fun Cities.

92,000 microwave ovens being recalled by GE that have been linked to as many as 35 fires.

12 percent dip yesterday for stock in Comcast Corp. yesterday after they lowered their forecast due to increase competition.

10 percent of the its work force being cut by drug giant Bristol-Myers. It’s also closing 2 plants.

20 years ago, the last time luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers posted a quarterly loss. That’s what they did today, with a loss of 81 million.

1 loss for Ed Stefanski as the new boss of the Sixers. They fell to the Celtics last night, 113-103.

1 goal given up by Flyers netminder Antero Niittymaki as they won again on the road, 3-1 over Minnesota.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yo, Donovan. Shut up and play. Nobody likes a whiner. Especially not here in Philly. You’re the QB. You get the praise when the team wins and the heat when they stink. Right now they stink. Your job is to try to turn that around.


I Don’t Get It: There is a great area in Easton that has been the traditional sledding spot. It’s in a local park. It is now adorned with signs banning all winter activity, including sledding and snow tubing. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos for the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur for naming its new gym for Aimee Willard. Aimee’s mother, Gail, was on hand, as were some other family members and some of Aimee’s old teammates. A cold-blooded killer took Aimee from us. But he could not take her spirit, which will now fill a place she would love.


Quote Box: “What we wanted to do was get people’s attention and I think we did that.”

-- State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, on walkout staged yesterday at the Capitol by members of the Black Caucus protesting lack of action on gun bills.

Another mall, another shooting

The scene is hauntingly familiar.

A sullen figure dressed in camoflauge fatigues, toting a rifle, in a crowded shopping mall.

Wednesday it was Omaha, Neb. Twenty-two years ago it was the Springfield Mall.
It was Mischief Night, the night before Halloween. Sylvia Seegrist was no stranger to police or mental health officials. She was a troubled individual.

That didn’t stop her from acquiring a rifle and opening fire in the mall parking lot. She continued firing randomly at people as she entered the mall. Her reign of terror ended only when she was tackled by a heroic Jack Laufer, who went on to become a state trooper.

Before she was halted, Seegrist has killed a 2-year-old boy and a grandfather, and wounded seven others. Another victim succumbed a month later.

The carnage was even worse in Nebraska.

Clearly troubled teenager Robert Hawkins carried a rifle into the mall, headed for a perch in a third-floor overlook, and opened fire.

Before the 19-year-old turned the gun on himself, eight people were killed and another five wounded.

Hawkins had recently broken up with a girlfriend and lost his job at a local McDonald’s. He left behind a note that read, “Now I’ll be famous.”
He was wrong. Now he’s infamous.

Much like Seegrist, who continues to reside and get care at a state prison, where she likely will spend the rest of her days.

Some things stay with you.

I will forever remember the crackling static that I heard as I sat at the news desk on that late October day. The message was unmistakable: Shooting at the Springfield Mall.

There is never an incident involving a mall shooting that I don’t recall that initial burst from the police scanner in the newsroom.

I thought of it again yesterday when the bulletins first started moving from Omaha.
And I sat in amazement as I realized how, 22 years later, how little had changed.
My guess is there is always going to be troubled people in the world with access to guns. Yes, that includes rifles.

Hawkins entered the mall with an SKS semiautomatic Russian military rifle.
It was the deadliest shooting spree in Nebraska since January 1958.

And it becomes the latest incident involving a shooting at a crowded shopping center.

Until the next one, that is.

And until the next time I think about that horrific afternoon 22 years ago.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 5

The Daily Numbers: 19,000 dollars in income, that’s how much federal prosecutors allege the former chief of staff to Rep. Curt Weldon tried to cover up. Russ Caso is now expected to enter a plea on the charges.

50 members of the community who rallied outside a Clifton Heights business that was the target of racial graffiti. Good for them.

8.47 percent hike in taxes, what will be debated tonight when County Council holds a public hearing on their proposed budget.

15,800 dollars, the settlement going to a Muslim man who sued a Brookhaven Burger King that he alleged fired him because he would not shave his beard.

8 days of the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, that kicked off at sundown last night.

105 million dollars, what the TV shopping network QVC, based in West Chester, took in last weekend.

500 million-dollar surplus in the state’s medical malpractice fund that Gov. Ed Rendell is threatening to withhold in a standoff with the Legislature over health care.

10,000 dollars, what authorities in Delaware claim a Prospect Park charged for the right to harvest timber from land he didn’t own in Sussex County.

15 of December, that’s the date officials say you need to have your cards and parcels in the mail to assure delivery by Christmas.

1 person killed in the crash of a small plane after takeoff from New Castle County Airport yesterday morning.

3 people under arrest, including the victim’s husband, in what police are calling a murder-for-hire plot in Egg Harbor Township.

1 penny drop in price of gas overnight, after it was up the same amount yesterday. Average price in the area now stands at $3.11.

8 players from Ridley and Garnet Valley on the first-team All-Delco Football Team. Not surprisingly, both teams also are still alive in the state title chase.

106 points dropped on Penn last night by the No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina, at the hallowed Palestra.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Ya gotta like the move by the Sixers to bring back Drexel Hill and Bonner grad Ed Stefanski back to run the ship. We wish him luck. He’s going to need it.


I Don’t Get It: Brace yourself for a day of weather hysteria. All for what appears to be a dusting of snow. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Now there’s a Web site where you can go to check for possible lead problems with toys. Just in time for holiday shopping. It’s


Quote Box: “Can you believe how far you parlayed coaching all of us at Bonner?”

-- Former Monsignor Bonner hoops player Joe Kilroy, on learning that his old coach, Ed Stefanski, has been named president and GM of the Sixers.

The madness is upon us

Brace yourself. The madness is about to descend on us.

Actually what’s about to descend on us is a dusting of snow.
In other words, full-blown panic.

The snow is not expected to start until lunchtime. The hysteria is already in full swing.

Take a deep breath. Turn off the radio. And your TV. We will all survive.
There’s no need to storm the supermarket.

Yes, the evening rush hour might be a little bit messy. The snow is not expected to accumulate on the roads.

Winter does not start for another two weeks. Winter-weather hysteria is already upon us.

The Weldon Watch

It was little more than a year ago that a dejected Curt Weldon – his grandchild in his arms – appeared in an equally sullen Springfield Country Club ballroom and announced what was once unthinkable: He had lost re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Weldon fell to upstart Democrat Joe Sestak.

This was new territory for Weldon. He was a 10-term incumbent, a powerful member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Weldon explained to the thunderstruck GOP faithful that night that his campaign’s polling had put him up seven points just weeks before, “then the bottom fell out.”
In a way.

Actually, three weeks before the election, the campaign was rocked by news that the Justice Department was investigating whether Weldon had improperly steered contracts to a firm owned by his daughter and his longtime political mentor, former Springfield GOP boss Charlie Sexton.

The homes of Karen Weldon and Sexton were raided.

Not much has come of the probe since. Federal officials when asked will say only that the federal inquiry is still pending.

But yesterday some news did emanate from Washington, and it involved Weldon’s former chief of staff.

Court documents allege that Russ Caso falsified congressional financial disclosure reports in order to hide $19,000 paid to his wife from a consulting firm.
It is believed Caso will enter a plea in the case. He is due in court in Washington Friday.

The charging documents do not indicate whether the firm in question is Solutions North America, the firm owned by Weldon’s daughter.

Neither Weldon nor the firm is named in the documents. The former congressman faces no charges as yet stemming from the probe. Neither does his daughter. Nor Sexton.
Weldon has moved on. He now works in the private sector, as a consultant for the Exton-based defense firm Defense Solutions Inc.

As we have done now for more than a year, we continue to wait. So does Weldon and the others, for the feds to either file charges or clear their names.
As the feds say, the investigation simply is “ongoing.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Daily Numbers -- Dec. 4

The Daily Numbers: 30,000 people who lost power in the region last night as high winds whipped the area. Most are back on line this morning.

50 mph wind gusts recorded in Wilmington yesterday. Trees and power lines were down all over the region.

90 degree heat, what a Community Service worker was toiling in lifting cinderblocks when he was felled. His family is now suing the county.

1 Penn-Delco School Board member who has entered a plea in all the shenanigans that have gone on in the district. That would be John Green. He pleaded no contest yesterday to an ethics violation. Still to come are former board President Keith Crego and Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn.

75,000 the amount believed swindled from his grandparents by a Ridley man. Jason Metzger waived his preliminary hearing and now faces trial.

11,465 the attendance at last night’s Sixers game. That probably has as much to do with Billy King’s exit as their dismal record. No one cares, let alone goes to the games.

140 racing dates granted to Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack by the state Horse Racing Commission for the 2008 season. The track plans to run from April 20-Dec. 18.

6 percent pay cut in the works for top execs at the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

12 hour shifts, what’s getting the blame for workers at the Peach Bottom nuclear facility falling asleep on the job.

5 Flyers who have now been nailed with suspensions by the NHL because of nasty hits. The latest is Riley Cote, who will now sit for 3 games.

64 yards, length of Brian Westbrook’s thrilling punt return that nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat Sunday. Unfortunately the Eagles needed 78 yards. He got run out of bounds at the 14. He didn’t see the ball again.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Welcome back to Delco legend Ed Stefanski. The Drexel Hill native and Monsignor Bonner star and coach will be named today as the new GM of the Sixers.


I Don’t Get It: There were some people out there yesterday in 50-mph wind gusts trying to rake leaves. Uh, folks, not going to work.


Today’s Upper: Those in the know believe Chester native Danny Murtaugh likely will get into the Baseball Hall of Fame during the next voting. He missed out again this weekend. It will be long overdue.


Quote Box: “It’s time for the district to begin its healing process.”

-- Former Penn-Delco School Board member John Green, after pleading no contest to a felony ethics charge.

A Delco guy leads Sixers

The sports franchise that everyone seems to have forgotten is going to be back in the headlines today.

And there is going to be a strong Delaware County connection.

The Sixers are pulling the plug on the Billy King era. The team is once again struggling, both on the court, and in the stands. After last night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the team’s record now stands at a dismal 5-12.

In his place will be Drexel Hill native and Monsignor Bonner grad Ed Stefanski. He is expected to be named the team’s new general manager at a press conference today.
That 5-12 mark probably isn’t most important number in King being dethroned. No, that would be 11,465. That’s how many people went through the turnstiles last night at the Wachovia Center. The place holds 20,000.

In other words, it was half-empty. That’s been the case on all too many nights this year.

Actually, it’s been pretty much the case since King shipped the team’s marquee superstar, Allen Iverson, to the Denver Nuggets last year for a package of players.
When Iverson packed up his posse and headed for the Rockies, so did interest in the Sixers. The Phils own the town in the summer, and the Eagles dominate conversation year-round. The Flyers have their loyal fan base.

That leaves the Sixers. Remember them? Bunch of tall guys in short pants. Coached by all-time local favorite Maurice Cheeks.

The Sixers hit their high-water mark back in 2001, when, under coach Larry Brown and president Pat Croce (another Delco guy), and led by the dynamo Iverson, they captured the region’s heart by making it to the NBA Finals. They even beat the Lakers in the first game of the series, then lost four straight.

They never managed to capture the magic again.

Now it will be up to a guy who made his bones right here in Delco to breathe new fire into the organization.

Ed Stefanski is a Delco guy, from the playgrounds of Drexel Hill to starring at his alma mater, Monsignor Bonner, before going on to Penn.

He also coached four years at Bonner. He joined the Nets in 1999 and was named GM in 2004.

It’s a huge job. But if it was done by a Delco guy once before with Croce, who says it can’t happen again.

Welcome aboard, Ed. Or maybe we should say welcome back.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Eagles 'err' it out

So much for the A.J. Feeley era.

Feeley, everybody’s darling after almost leading the Eagles to the upset win of the year last week in New England despite throwing three interceptions, reverted to form at a wet, cold, miserable Lincoln Financial Field Sunday as the Eagles lost to the Seahawks, 28-24.

Feeley seemed to have found a new favorite receiver. The problem is that he was wearing a Seahawks jersey. Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu seemed to be reading Feeley’s mind as he picked off three passes that were seemingly thrown right at him, including a dagger in the heart the finished the Eagles off after a thrilling punt return by Brian Westbrook put a dramatic come-from-behind win within reach.

But Feeley had an accomplice in this mess. And you can take that literally.

Conditions at the Linc were brutal, with a constant icy rain falling all day. The new turf was slick, the balls were even slicker and footing was treacherous.

Despite this Andy Reid, with a backup quarterback at the helm, decided to once again show off his offensive genius, throwing the ball 42 times. That’s the same number they threw the week before against the Patriots.

Last week Feeley completed 27 passes. Yesterday he connected only on 19. Of course, he did hook up with Seahawk defenders four times, including the very first offensive play of the day for the Eagles, which he deposited right into Tatupu’s arms. Two early picks put the Eagles in a hole right from the outset.

The Eagles best offensive weapon is Westbrook. He is a threat every time he touches the ball. Reid gets credit for putting him back on that punt late in the fourth quarter. Westbrook almost salvaged another season, much as he did a couple of years ago with a gave-saving return against the Giants.

But Westbrook got forced out at the 14. He didn’t see the ball again. Unbelievable.
Feeley threw the ball 42 times. He handed it off to his best offensive weapon just 21 times.

The guess here is that Donovan McNabb likely will be back behind center this week when the Eagles line up against the Giants. Not sure it will make much difference.
If fans have learned one thing with this team, it’s that to “air” is Andy Reid.

Turns out to err is, too.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The dreaded Saturday pick

Yes, Iggles fans, if it's Saturday, it's time once again for the dreaded Eagles pick.

But first, another confession. I was as surprised as anyone with the way the Birds, and QB A.J. Feeley, played Sunday night against the Patriots. It was clearly their best effort of the season, even in a losing effort.

Feeley's efforts, both in almost puling off a miraculous win as well as throwing several key interceptions that led to the loss, touched off a firestorm of a week swirling arond who will be behind center on Sunday at the Linc.

Our huffy, full-of-himself leader, Andy Reid, doesn't see what all the fuss is about. He also has failed to see for years now that Donovan McNabb's talents are not suited to running his popgun West Coast offense.

I think it's safe to say that Feeley will get the call on Sunday. Reid can simply lay this one off on McNabb, still nursing a tender ankle and bum thumb, not being ready to play.

Then, after the game, our haughty coach can reiterate that Donovan is the starter if he's healthy.

Which won't go down very well after Feeley leads the Birds to a 19-13 win over the Seahawks.

The elements don't look like they're going to be too favorable for offense on Sunday. The weather folks are calling for snow, freezing rain and then rain. Brian Westbrook may have more to do with this win than Feeley.

But a win is a win. The Eagles' playoff hopes will remain alive, and the city will be engulfed in a full-fledged quarterback controversy when Reid makes it clear that he is going back to McNabb.

Ho, ho, ho, indeed!